Relief as survivors are told payment scheme won’t affect their benefits

Decision comes after months of concern for abuse victims

Friday, 5th November 2021 — By Helen Chapman

Kaya Comer- Schwartz

Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz: ‘In effect, this safeguards the Support Payment Scheme settlements, so they will not affect entitlement to means-tested benefits for those who apply’

THE government has this week written to the council after months of deliberation, saying benefits claimants will not lose out if they are among the survivors who receive an abuse support scheme payment.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has now decided that payments made from the council scheme will be disregarded in their benefits calculations after survivors feared they would have their money cut.

Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey wrote to Islington Council this week to inform them of the decision after the Tribune contacted the government office about the ongoing issue.

It follows council leader Kaya Comer-Schwartz writing to the government in July urging them to come to a decision on this matter.

Donna, who did not want her surname published as she is a survivor of abuse, said: “After the meeting [in October at the Town Hall] I felt quite positive that it was going to be a better outcome for more people.”

She said she will apply for the scheme even though she is not sure if her claim will be successful as she comes under the category of “neglect”.

Donna added: “I will support anybody who needs support, regardless of whether I am successful in my scheme.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “We have already made the decision that payments from the Islington scheme will be disregarded in full, and will not affect those receiving Universal Credit or other means-tested benefits because of these payments.”

Cllr Comer-Schwartz said: “I’m pleased that the Secretary of State has finally made the right decision, months after I wrote to the Minister for Welfare Delivery asking him to resolve this pressing issue which we have pursued for two years.

“We have had extensive correspondence and a face-to-face meeting with the Department for Work and Pensions in a bid to push them to make this critically important decision. In effect, this safeguards the Support Payment Scheme settlements, so they will not affect entitlement to means-tested benefits for those who apply.

“This uncertainty must have weighed heavily on the minds of many survivors and care-experienced adults, and I’m pleased that our close working relationship with local survivors’ groups means we could finally cut through the government’s red tape so the Support Payment Scheme can work as intended.

“Our lobbying, with Lambeth Council, means this decision will be enshrined in law in line with other similar schemes, removing a critical worry for some of society’s most vulnerable people.”

‘Abuse is abuse… money should go to the bereaved’

A WOMAN who grew up in an abusive foster care home with her sister says their childhood contributed to her sibling’s death.

The council support payment scheme was announced in October following a six-month consultation but does not include the families of survivors who died after 2017 and also excludes those who endured abuse in foster care.

Lisa, who did not want to give her surname, said: “I have never been open about my past ever, ever. This is the first time I have ever spoken about it. I am doing it on behalf of my blessed sister.

“She passed away last year but had been severely abused. She ended up with very serious mental health issues and ended up being found on the floor dead last year. Everything about her life, her past, is what contributed to her death.

“She now has a child – I have a nephew who is in care – he might now go through what she went through. Hopefully not but he is going to grow up without a mum or a family. Why shouldn’t her money go to him.”

Lisa’s sister died age 49. It would have been her birthday next week. They went into foster care in 1972. Lisa’s sister came out of foster care in 1982.

Lisa said: “I just don’t get it – abuse is abuse, it doesn’t matter who by, or if it was foster care, like we were, where we were abused over many years. She died because of a result of her childhood in care. Whether in foster care or residential care, the abuse was rife. My sister refused to speak with me for the best part of seven or eight years because of her own grief. I don’t think she felt worthy of having anyone around her.

“I grew up with my sister. She was not like that, life made her like that.

“We lived like slaved black kids in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, with what I would describe now as a very abusive family.

“I got chucked out at 16 with no family and had to find my own way in life.

“I didn’t know about Islington Survivors Network until my sister died. It is something us survivors keep close to our chest.

“I heard my sister was found on the floor dead with the papers scattered all over her. She could have been anyone she wanted to be.

“She was the most gorgeous and beautiful person but she was so troubled with her past that she couldn’t move forward ever. Everything about her was stunning. To watch her demise into this person you don’t recognise is worse than anything. That kind of abuse that troubles a human being until you don’t want to be here. You can’t put a date on it. It is insulting.”

She added: “Just because we [survivors of abuse] are up and can talk and can dress, doesn’t mean we are surviving, it means we are following the path of life. You can die slowly and that’s what my sister did.”

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