A FORMER welfare rights advisor claims she was left homeless after council staff ‘Googled’ her name, saw articles she had written for The Guardian and cut her housing benefit.
Penny Anderson believes a decision by Glasgow City Council to stop her payments was heavily influenced by “misleading” online checks, despite, she says, being eligible for financial aid and supplying proof of income.
Six months of backdated payments were eventually paid out to her last week, more than a year after her housing benefit was cut and “too late,” Penny says, to prevent her being evicted last year from her flat in the Calton area.
Penny, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and is a former welfare rights advisor, writes for The Guardian on an occasional, freelance basis and is also an artist.
She believes the decision to cut her benefit may also have been influenced by an exhibition she curated for Glasgow Women’s Library, which she says was unpaid and listed online.
A letter seen by the Evening Times sent by the council’s finance department said Penny’s housing benefit was stopped because she failed to supply a tax return form. The council said it then based its decision on the income detail she had supplied as well as, “information widely available on the internet.”
People on a low income, or who are in receipt of other benefits, can be entitled to claim housing benefit to help with rent costs.
Penny maintains she was open and honest about her paid work and explained there would be a delay in submitting her tax return form because she suffers from Dyscalculia, which a difficulty in numbers but says she supplied all the relevant information in another format.
She is no longer claiming benefit and living with a friend but is consulting lawyers about her experience. She believes freelance workers, including artists and writers, face additional scrutiny despite the fact work is often voluntary or poorly paid.
She said: “Glasgow City Council is claiming I didn’t submit information, when my claim was actually stopped because of online ‘information’ they discovered.