Widower left in limbo by benefits rules

A grieving South Tyneside man is facing a cash crisis after returning to the UK.

 Eric Lugg, 57, who was born and raised in Jarrow, returned to his home town this month after the death of his Dutch wife, Corrie.

The couple lived near Breda, in southern Holland, for five years, but Mr Lugg, who works in the building trade, decided to return to his native Jarrow after his 58-year-old wife died of cancer late last year.

However, because he does not yet satisfy new, tougher UK residency rules, he cannot claim benefits, and is desperately seeking work in the building trade.

And he fears he will lose his one-bedroom flat in St Paul’s Road, Jarrow, because he has no money for the next £360 monthly rent payment, due on July 9.

But Mr Lugg stresses he is still a British passport holder and worked and paid taxes in the UK all his life, until moving from Murton, in County Durham, to Holland, with his wife five years ago.

He said: “I’m in limbo because of the benefit rules. I literally have no money left, and spent all I had on Corrie’s funeral in Holland and on the deposit on my flat. But the rent is due in two weeks’ time and I will not be able to pay it, unless I can find work in the building trade locally.

“I have worked and paid taxes all my life, but I cannot get a penny in benefit until I have been resident in the UK for three months.

“I’m not looking for hand-outs, but I paid insurance and taxes and all the rest in this country before I lived in Holland, but that counts for nothing.

“A friend helped me decorate the flat, but I cannot be a burden on my family in Jarrow.

“Life was far too expensive in Holland, but I need help to find a job, otherwise I don’t know what I will do. I literally have no money left and must find work in the building trade, if anyone can give me a start.”

Mr Lugg has contacted Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn for help after his application for Jobseeker’s Allowance was rejected by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

A DWP spokesman said: “It is absolutely right that we have strict rules in place to protect the British benefits system and make sure it is not abused.

“As has always been the case, anyone who chooses to live in another country for a long period of time – and so isn’t contributing in Britain – must, if they return to the UK and want to claim benefits, prove that they have strong ties to this country in order to pass the habitual residence test.”

The new DWP rules, which came into force on January 1 this year, mean that someone has to be living in this country for three months before they can take the habitual residence test.

The rules apply to migrants from the European Economic Area (EEA) countries coming here to look for work – including British nationals returning to the UK after a period living abroad.

Source –  Shields Gazette, 20 June 2014

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