A CANADIAN who moved to Scotland to look after her sick father has told how they are now paying hundreds of pounds back per month during a cost-of-living crisis due to a government error.

Lorraine Bell moved from Toronto to Cowdenbeath in Fife in 2016 to look after her dad John, who is suffering from mobility issues as well as COPD and diabetes.

She said that for two years he was erroneously being paid a disability benefit because he was previously living alone. This meant that as well as no longer receiving the benefit, he has to pay the money back. The 82-year-old father has now lost his council tax reduction and housing benefit.

Lorraine said her dad was unaware he was being overpaid.

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She said this means that instead of paying £40 a month on his rent, he pays nearly £400. The former admin worker added that Fife Council agreed to lower the original overpayment substantially.

Lorraine claims this is due to a lack of communication between Fife Council and the DWP.

This is all while Lorraine and her dad struggle during the cost of living crisis, like many people, seeing their electricity bills surge and their food prices rise.

“It’s actually gotten worse for us,” she explained. “We have prepaid lecky and gas metres. My dad used to put £10 a week in each metre. £10 isn’t even cutting it anymore. We need at least £25 for each metre now.

“I’m on universal credit and when they took away the £20 a week uplift, that was a real kick in the pants as well. Especially as it was right at the time when I found out we owed rent arrears.

The National: Lorraine Bell and her father John have been hit with a hefty bill during the cost of living crisisLorraine Bell and her father John have been hit with a hefty bill during the cost of living crisis

“One of the things I was able to do with that extra £20 a week was I was able to at least put £10 a week into my savings account.”

Lorraine said the extra money was tucked away to pay for higher winter electricity bills “but now they’ve taken it away,” she said.

Asked if she felt Rishi Sunak’s £200 repayable discount on energy bills, an effective loan, was enough, she said the last thing she needed was to be in more debt.

“I don’t want a loan from the Government. I’ve just got myself out of debt with this rent arrears.

“And the £150 that was taken off my council tax bill, while I appreciate that, my council tax bill last year was only £38 a month. My council tax this year, because my dad lost his council tax reduction, is £67 a month.”

Born in Glasgow, Lorraine has moved between Toronto and Scotland since she was born.

“It’s been an eye-opening moment for me because I don’t have many friends in Cowdenbeath where I live. I’m not from here.

The National:

“It’s been a huge adjustment for me. I can’t go out unless I pay someone to look after my dad for the day. So I don’t go anywhere right now.

“I worked when I first got here. I was working admin jobs and got a contract with a temp agency. So

I did have a bit of a life getting out every day but as my father’s health started to go downhill, I realised I couldn’t do both anymore because I was out of the house 12 hours

a day.

“In 2018 I finally stopped working to stay at home to look after him full-time because it was getting too much.”

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“I have three college degrees from Canada. One of them is in executive administration, legal administration, and one in early childhood education.

“I miss work. I worked really hard in school to be able to work and be able to be employable.”

Head of Fife Council’s revenue and commercial services Les Robertson said he sympathised with the family’s situation and has apologised for an assessment error.

They said: “We are really sorry that this has happened and have written off the overpaid benefit from 2018 to August 2021 when the error was identified. However, we are required by law to amend the entitlement from the date we realised an error had been made.”

If you have been affected by the cost of living crisis, email Craig.Meighan@newsquest.co.uk or visit thenational.scot