GUEST COLUMN: Come to me for help, by Ashfield MP, Gloria De Piero

MP Gloria De Piero
MP Gloria De Piero

I always work hard to get results for my constituents when you come to me with a problem, and I am delighted to say that we have recently had success in two cases.

The first of these concerns a missing winter fuel payment. A worried elderly couple from Sutton contacted me when they found their payment had been stopped, leaving them £300 short of vital funds that they use to help pay their fuel bills.

I immediately contacted the Department for Work and Pensions asking why the payment had been stopped and they responded, stating that the couple had been ‘let down’ by the department’s system.The money has now been paid to the couple and an apology made.

It is essential that pensioners receive the money they are entitled to so that they can pay their gas and electricity bills and keep warm. Figures for the number of people who died prematurely in winter 2014/15 are not yet in, but the Office for National Statistics predicts that they will be two-and-a-half times higher than they were the previous year.

In Ashfield, between December 2013 and March 2014, 30 more people died compared to the average for the rest of the year.

This could go up to 75 if the ONS’s predictions are true, with many of these excess winter deaths being elderly people living in poorly insulated homes.

We need to make sure our mums, dads and grandparents are kept warm this winter, so anyone who is having problems with winter fuel payments should get in touch.

The other case that I have had success in was an HMRC case.

A hard-working lady from Sutton was being hounded by the tax office because they said she needed to fill in self-assessment forms – even though she was employed. She was landed with a penalty of £300 for failing to complete one of these forms and despite countless telephone calls to HMRC trying to explain the situation, they would not back down over their demands.

At this point the lady came to me and I contacted HMRC on her behalf. They agreed to look at her case again and having reviewed the circumstances, withdrew the penalty and said that she no longer has to complete self-assessment forms.

The awful service that the public receives from HMRC when phoning with a complaint or query is well-documented. It shouldn’t take an intervention from an MP to get a problem resolved, but I am pleased that I can get results where an injustice has been done.