Letters

Letters: Our 20-year tax fight with HMRC made us ill

Our article on the DWP reclaiming money from people on benefits, often leaving them in severe hardship, rang a bell for a reader with a similar story to tell

HMRC Central Square, Cardiff. Image: Wikimedia Creative Commons Share Alike 4.0 International

Big Issue readers react to articles on the refugee homelessness crisis, the gender pay gap and distrust in politics and HMRC.

A taxing time

I have just read your article and would like to tell you about our encounter with HMRC. We claimed tax credit from early 2000 until our eldest child left education. Within weeks of ending our claim, HMRC contacted us to say we had been overpaid and owed them £11,000, to be repaid immediately. We took to the internet to see if other people had been affected in the same way and it turned out there were thousands. So many in fact, that a website Tax Credit Casualties had been started with brilliant advice on how to proceed with disputes. We fought HMRC for nearly 20 years. We finally gave in last year as our health was being affected, and also HMRC threatened to fine us another £5,000 if we didn’t. 

We have always compared this fiasco to the Post Office scandal. The system used to work out payments is flawed. I found minutes from Select Committee meetings about the problems from early 2000 where HMRC admitted this.  

There is much more to our story but even writing this makes me feel ill again. I no longer trust politicians or any government department. I hope you will investigate further and I hope more people come forward. Maybe another TV show would make the present government sit up? 

Susan Hanning  

Support network

It was good to read that Adam was finally in supported accommodation and finding a measure of stability. It is distressing to read of the battles individuals face in life, so always good to have a positive follow-up story. I still wonder about Muhammad Irshad Khan, an evacuated Afghan, who built homes for the UK government, but was facing homelessness just weeks before he was due to graduate with a master’s degree from the University of Portsmouth. I certainly hope someone, or some organisation, came forward to help him. He would be such an asset to the country. As always, thank you for your very good journalism. 

Kim Young, Canterbury    

The gender pain gap

I am crying reading your article on hysteroscopies and the stories of women who have suffered and endured painful gynaecological procedures without general anaesthetic.   

Sadly, I am also one of those women. Although not a hysteroscopy procedure, I have had four cervical smears in the last five years that have left me bleeding and in awful pain and two cervical punch biopsies, both administered with no anaesthetic and performed by a female doctor who showed no consideration for the pain I was in, even when I told her that what she was doing was hurting me. On both occasions I’ve been told to take paracetamol. 

I have often felt like a nuisance when I’ve made a point of telling practitioners that I find the procedure deeply upsetting and painful. Every time I come away feeling violated and anxious. But I’m made to feel like I’m the problem. It has to change. No wonder so many women my age opt out of smear tests and gynaecological check-ups. 

Kirsty 

Two years ago, I had to go for a uterine biopsy. I was given a form that asked about my medical history, including any cervical surgery. I wrote this in full. Two procedures to retain pregnancies, one of which was badly mismanaged, resulting in the birth of a disabled child. I was told my cervix was very scarred.   

The consultant took this form and put it to one side without even glancing at it. I was frightened by this. The procedure was excruciating, with pain shooting all the way through my body. I was traumatised. When I was told later I needed a hysteroscopy, I said, “I am not having that without anaesthesia. End of.” Later, another consultant said with a sneer, “You had a biopsy and you didn’t LIKE that?” but finally agreed to it. That was in April, four months after the biopsy. Scans in April and June showed worrying changes that indicate cancer (I wasn’t told this). By October, I still hadn’t had the biopsy so I went private. Grade 2 cancer found. And a week later, after further scans, suspected lung metastases. So Stage 4 cancer. 

I have been treated with utter contempt all along by the consultant. When I said, in complete shock the day I heard I had cancer, “How did we get here?” he said: “You can appoint lawyers or find another team to look after you.” I’ve been gaslit, patronised and lied to at every single step. It has done me huge psychological harm. 

Finally, a new hospital inquiry has been conducted. The person in charge is horrified and complaints are to be raised at the very highest level, 15 months after the event. Currently I am physically well, with no changes in the lung nodules. They are now referred to as “suspected lung metastases”.  All because I wasn’t ‘brave’. Some of my family don’t know this and would be horrified to find out. 

Anonymous 

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