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Brentwood family’s British benefit mess

PUBLISHED: 09:00 29 October 2010

Jacqueline Brewster, 59, her son Tony, 25, and his daughter, Kiera, 3 are struggling to live on £93 a week.

Jacqueline Brewster, 59, her son Tony, 25, and his daughter, Kiera, 3 are struggling to live on £93 a week.

Archant

A GRANDMOTHER, father and toddler have been forced to live off a mere £93 a week because the Government said the father did not qualify for benefits – even though he is a British citizen.

Full-time parent Tony Brewster, 25, and his three-year-old daughter Kiera have been living off his mother’s weekly £93.45 income support and sickness benefit – her only source of income – since September 19 because he was told he failed the Habitual Residence Test he had to take to be entitled to financial support.

The test assesses a person’s right to reside in the UK and if they are habitually a resident in the UK.

It means Tony’s mother, Jacqueline Brewster, 59, of Church Crescent, Mountnessing, who has scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and arthritis and is unable to work, is getting further into debt to her bank and Brentwood Council for tax and rent because of the pittance the trio are living on.

Jacqueline said: “I’m living in my overdraft. Even when my money is paid in I’m still in the minus.

Tony – who is separated from his American wife of three years Krystal – was born in Britain, has a British passport and has lived in England all of his life.

He took a trip in March to the US, where Krystal moved after her visa ran out last September, but booked a return ticket because he said he never intended to stay there permanently.

Tony said: “Krystal’s father had a heart attack and had to have a heart bypass operation so I didn’t want her to be on her own.”

During this trip their relationship broke down and the couple decided to separate.

But despite it Jacqueline said: “Tony never wanted to move to America anyway not with his Type 1 diabetes. He said he couldn’t cope with it out there.”

The couple also have a son, Jacob, who now lives with Krystal.

Jacob was born with an enlarged kidney and while visiting America with his father and sister had several hospital appointments.

Tony brought Kiera home to his mum in May and flew back out to be with his son.

Jacqueline claimed child tax credits and child benefit of £75 a week – which she had to wait 16-and-a-half weeks for because the Department for Work and Pensions lost her paperwork – and Tony returned permanently to the UK three weeks later.

Jacqueline cancelled the support she received for Kiera, but when Tony applied he was told he failed the residency test because he made a claim and he’d only been in the country for a day.

Jacqueline said: “It’s ridiculous. You read about people claiming benefits for countless children who don’t even exist and we can’t get a penny for Kiera.

“Sometimes it costs £10 or £20 just on nappies for a week. Then we’ve got food and bills. I must have done £30 in phone calls trying to sort this mess out as well.

“Tony’s even taking diet pills so he doesn’t need to eat as much because we can’t afford to buy enough food for the three of us.”

Tony, who is appealing his refused benefits application, was told “it’s valid” but by law he must wait a further 50 days before it can be resolved.

Tony said: “It’s been almost six weeks already. We’re getting the cheapest stuff but it’s still not enough. I’m supposed to be watching what I eat with my diabetes as well but I can’t.”

The Department for Work and Pensions would not comment because of the ongoing appeal but said Tony could take the residency test again before the 50 days is up.

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