Benefits axed for helping ‘vulnerable’ friend in need

Frank Rivano in his studio flat in Worthing
Frank Rivano in his studio flat in Worthing

A WORTHING man who lost his benefits for helping out an old friend says that his biggest fear is that he will now also lose his home.

Frank Rivano, 51, said that he had no other option but to act as a good samaritan when Sandra Chambers was abandoned by her husband and left with nowhere to live and no money.

The 42-year-old, who has mental and physical disabilities, moved in to Mr Rivano’s one bedroom flat in Wordsworth Road, Worthing, in April. He successfully applied for a carer’s allowance, but his remaining benefits were promptly stopped.

Mr Rivano, who formerly worked for DHL but can no longer drive a truck until he has an eye operation, had been receiving £71 per week income support and around £400 for rent from the council.

He said: “Sandra is an old friend of mine who I have known for more than 20 years and she came down to Worthing from Northampton with her husband, who then took all of her money and left her stranded. This left her very vulnerable and she ended up in hospital.

“She has mental and physical disabilities and she cannot be left for long periods or allowed to walk around on her own.

“I saw no other option but to take her in to my little one-bedroom flat _ I now solely care for her and it seems that I have been penalised for caring for someone in the community.

“All of my benefits have stopped because I have taken in this person and looked after her. I now get a carers allowance of £59.75 per week, but there is no rent involved in that. I am going to end up homeless over this. That is my biggest fear. I do not know how people could make a man homeless for taking care of people in the community that are vulnerable.”

The Department of Work and Pensions also stopped Mrs Chambers benefits.

Mr Rivano said: “Sandra is now in Worthing Hospital due to the stress of all this. She is feeling very guilty about everything and it has made her ill. The police do not want to know and social services are not much better. I cannot understand how people can do this.

“We have been told that we have to register as a married couple, which I have refused to do because I would be committing fraud.

“My girlfriend who lives next door is also not very happy about this. I just find the whole situation ridiculous.”

A spokesman for the DWP confirmed that the system treated couples who are married or civil partners or two people who live together and share their lives in the same way as if they were married or as if they were civil partners, in the same way.

He added: “We assess a claimant’s entitlement to benefit by taking into account their individual circumstances.

“People who are unhappy about the decision made can provide additional information to enable the decision to be reviewed. Claimants also have the right of appeal”.