Rugby mum hounded for £14,000 after being wrongly accused of benefit fraud

Nicola Cook with her daughters Shanice and Aleesha Foster
Nicola Cook with her daughters Shanice and Aleesha Foster
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A mum of four who was hounded for £14,000 after being wrongly accused of fraudulently claiming benefits has spoken out about her ‘absolutely awful’ ordeal.

Nicola Cook’s nightmare started when her now ex-partner was sentenced to six years in prison in 2011.

It makes you feel worthless when you can’t provide for your children

Nicola Cook

She began claiming a single allowance as she was living at home with her four children in Rugby. But two years later she received a letter from HM Revenue and Customs which claimed her ex-partner was still living with her.

The 34-year-old, who turns 35 tomorrow (Friday), explained that her ex-partner was in prison and she had declared a single person claim at the job centre, but she was told that she should have still be claiming a joint allowance and was accused of fraudulently claiming the money.

Her money was stopped for nine weeks and she struggled to pay bills, feed her family and keep on top of debts.

“It makes you feel worthless when you can’t provide for your children and they will never appreciate how much it affected us as a family,” Nicola said.

“My daughter’s shoes ripped and I couldn’t afford to buy her a new pair - I just broke down in tears. But I refused to pay a penny back because I knew I was right and I fought it all the way. It’s been absolutely awful and my children have missed out on so much because of it.”

Nicola recently received an apology from HM Revenue and Customs after it was found that she was in fact claiming the correct amount of money. She received £50 in compensation for the delay in her appeal.

“I had to take out loans just to get by and my mum was the guarantor, so when I couldn’t re-pay it she had to. They don’t take that into account when it comes to compensation or the things my kids missed out on like swimming lessons and trips out.”

A HM Revenue & Customs spokesman said: “We are unable to discuss individual cases for reasons of taxpayer confidentiality.”