Yesterday, April 5th I had a telephone call from a lady with whom I have been in regular correspondence over the last fifteen years, although we have met only twice face to face; while attending the same meetings as supporters for the same campaign. Sufficient to say she’s a tough and feisty individual in her eighty-first year and suffers ill-health because of a chronic lung condition as well as profound deafness, and has had to contend with more than a few adversities in her lifetime.
Four years ago she moved from Newbridge-on-Wye, Powys, in Wales to Swindon in Wiltshire. Newbridge-on-Wye is administered by Powys County Council (PCC). When Margaret left Newbridge-on-Wye for Swindon, she duly gave notice to PCC and also paid Royal Mail to have her mail redirected. That was the start of yet another nightmare.
Her mail from PCC did not get forwarded because their official envelopes have a logo – NOT TO BE REDIRECTED. As a result, letters notifying Margaret that she was in arrears and owed money to PCC did not get to her so PCC hit on the bright idea of deducting £10 per week from her state pension - ad infinitum. Since she cannot get anyone at PCC to give her more details, she does not know how long this will continue.
She has sought help from the local Citizens’ Advice Board (CAB) – which requires her to change buses twice in each direction from her home, but her interviewer, a man, was so unsympathetic and overbearing she had to leave; her breathing became so laboured she became frightened of something worse happening.
To whom and where else can this poor lady turn? This was the kind of problem that we in COPP (Carmarthenshire Older People’s Partnership) used to try to help deal with, but since we disbanded in 2010, there has been a vacuum.
When the Welsh Government announced they were appointing the first The Older People’s Champion, it was hailed as a great step in the right direction. It was a false hope. The appointee was a great talker, but did little more than talk. I was contacted by several people who were given the same bland response to their plea for help – ‘Sorry, the commissioner cannot get involved with individual cases.’
This was untrue as I sat on the advisory board responsible for drawing up the parameters within which the commissioner would operate. We made it clear that the commissioner WOULD/MUST be involved at individual level because no two cases are exactly the same.
Some MPs get involved in such cases, but it seems that they have limited influence – or perhaps they have as much influence as the effort they are prepared to expend. If anyone has more ideas or avenues that Margaret can explore, please get in touch and I will pass on the information. Sadly, the lady is not on the internet so we depend on the telephone or the postman.