Not an area that I would normally pick to talk about on here, but it’s a subject that has sprung up recently for me. Quite often going to work is difficult when you’re having a bad spell, either through stomach pains, lack of energy, or when you can’t risk being too far from the toilet. More than likely a combination of these problems are rearing their ugly head at any one time. Over the last year or so I’ve been in the situation where if I don’t work then I don’t earn – one of the big downsides to being self employed. I have been pretty lucky in the sense that I’ve managed to persist with work through the rough times, which I know is not ideal, and is certainly not advisable. But one way or another I’ve done it. Knowing that I had to be off of work for 3 months or possibly longer needed some planning to make sure that I could cover my rent, and other outgoings that carry on regardless.
As much as I really didn’t want to go on benefits due to my stubborn nature, I knew that I needed to look into it. I tried to sort it out before my operation, only to be told that I could not do anything at the time as I was working – it seemed that the concept of forward planning wasn’t a possibility! So after the operation was over, and I had spent some time recovering, I finally mustered the energy to go through the hour and a half phone interview to apply for benefits. I managed to keep my calm when I was criticized for not applying sooner, and battled on with the tedious questions. Once this was out of the way, along with a few trips to the council office and job centre with various documents, I was all sorted. True: what I got was no where near enough to cover my outgoings – not by any stretch of the imagination; but something was better than nothing.
Needless to say I was quite keen to get off of the benefits as soon as I could and pay my own way again. I wanted to know that the money I was spending on living was money that I had earnt. When I finally had that letter through the post from my surgeon to say that I could go back to work, I was over the moon. At that point I was still signed off of work, but as my sick note drew to a close I went into the office, and with a big smile declared that I could go back to work, giving both the council office and the job centre my fit for work letter. Or copies anyway.
All was going well, until last Friday. I had an out of the blue phone call from the work and pensions department, who were questioning my delay in notifying them about going back to work. I was a little confused by this as I went in as soon as my sick note expired, if not a few days earlier. Not being completely satisfied that the matter had been settled over the phone I went into the job centre and explained the situation. The response was quite surprising. According to the computer system, I have received too much money in benefits. The reasoning behind this, apparently, is that although I was signed off of work, the letter declaring I could go back to work was dated earlier than the end of the sick note. So therefore in their eyes I had claimed too much. I gather that I have a nice little letter on its way to me informing me that I have to pay back some of the benefit money, along with a £50 fine. Needless to say: I will be digging my heels in and appealing against this. As I said to the person in the job centre: I do not have the money to pay this back, neither do I believe that I have done any wrong here.
So now: I wait for the letter, and keep calm about the whole affair. In an ideal world, the benefits officer will understand what has happened, and the whole thing will be dropped. However I have a funny feeling that this is far from an ideal world, so the next option to hope for would be to try and split this cost over a period of weeks or months. True to say that I still have this lump of money to pay at a time when money is tight, but at least its spread, and the blow is softened.
Hope that this one wasn’t too moany! Thanks for reading.