A disabled man who was brutally assaulted and neglected at a notorious residential home 20 years ago has been forced to “pay back” benefits that were fraudulently claimed in his name by one of his abusers.
David Jackson (not his real name), who has learning difficulties and high support needs, was tied to a tree, hosed down with cold water, forced to eat meals outside, beaten and deprived of food and toiletries while a resident at the Longcare homes in south Buckinghamshire between 1983 and 1994.
The main perpetrator was the owner of the homes, Gordon Rowe, who killed himself before he could be charged by police. But Rowe’s widow, Angela, was jailed for 30 months in 1997 for ill-treatment and neglect of residents, including David.
David’s horrified sister, Janet, only discovered last year that Angela Rowe – through her maiden name, Angela Adams – had fraudulently claimed the care component of disability living allowance (DLA) on David’s behalf between 1992 and 1995.
Relatives of survivors of the abuse believe the Rowes stole tens of thousands of pounds of residents’ benefits, sold their possessions, and inflated profits by depriving them of food and toiletries.
David, who communicates via basic signs, was not eligible to claim DLA care component because he was funded by a local authority.
When the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) found out about the claim, it demanded that he “pay back” nearly £6,000 out of his own benefits at £4 a week, a tenth of his weekly allowance. He appears to have been paying money to the DWP since 1996.
Despite Janet’s attempts to explain the brutal abuse David had experienced at Longcare, and that there was no possibility that he knew anything about the claim or received any of the money, the DWP refused to reverse its decision.
Thanks to the coalition government’s plans to remove the mobility component of DLA from council-funded disabled people in residential care, David’s weekly allowance is now set to fall to just £22.30 a week in 2012.
Janet said: “I was very, very angry. It was so wrong and quite appalling after all he had been through that he was having to pay the money. We kept coming up against a brick wall when we tried to explain.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said she was “unable to comment on individual cases”, but added: “Where new evidence is received the decision regarding the recoverability of the overpayment can be reviewed.”
John Pring’s new book on the Longcare scandal, Longcare Survivors, is due to be published in spring 2011.