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Autistic dad Christopher Woodger, from Preston, and two-year-old son nearly evicted after applying for Universal Credit

An autistic man and his two-year-old son were handed an eviction notice after facing difficulties applying for Universal Credit.

Christopher Woodger, 28, who also has ADHD and borderline personality disorder, has spoken out about how a four-month battle to secure the correct level of housing payments almost cost him his home.

The dad-of-three, who lives in Preston and is son Mckenzee’s primary carer, applied for the new benefit - which rolls six different payments into one - in November after splitting up with his partner.

Christopher Woodger with son Mckenzee. Picture: Paul Amos.
Christopher Woodger with son Mckenzee. Picture: Paul Amos.

But administrative errors led to his ex-partner’s name remaining on the tenancy agreement of the house they had previously shared, significantly reducing his housing benefit payments.

Mr Woodger was alerted to the situation in December by Southern Housing, the association that manages his home in Shotfield Close, who informed him his new benefits were failing to cover the rent.

He says that despite persistent efforts to resolve the situation, he was told the payment arrears made it impossible to take his ex off the tenancy, leaving him in a bureaucratic trap.

“They wouldn’t listen to a word I was telling them, with regard to the situation,” Mr Woodger says.

“I must have made over 50 phone calls to Universal Credit and the housing association, but it felt like I was between two brick walls.”

Despite then presenting the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) with a council tax bill solely in his name, with a single occupant’s discount, and making several trips to Canterbury Jobcentre, he was served in mid-March with a letter seeking possession of his house.

The notice, giving him six weeks to clear debts of £1,285 or face eviction, was only overturned last week after Mr Woodger made an appeal to his MP, Craig Mackinlay on March 25.

“I just didn’t know where to turn, or what to do. To say it was stressful was an understatement. My family don’t have the space to accommodate me, so I knew I was potentially going to be homeless,” he said.

“They wouldn’t listen to a word I was telling them, with regard to the situation...” Mr Woodger

“It was my son that I was worried for. They can do what they want to me, but to do that to an innocent child is unbelievable.”

Within a day of bringing the situation to his MP’s attention, his benefits were updated to cover his full rent with agreement from the DWP to make backdated payments.

Mr Woodger added: “The levels of stupidity they have shown beggar belief. I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to go through what I went through.”

The DWP has blamed the issues on errors made by Mr Woodger and his housing provider.

Sasha Harrison, a director at Southern Housing, said: “We’re sorry for any delay in resolving this matter, and for any stress or inconvenience this has caused the customer.”

Last year, the Gazette highlighted how Christine Hopper, widow of the celebrated Soft Machine musician Hugh Hopper, had her benefits stopped after apparently ticking the wrong box on a form to claim Universal Credit.

Research by the Citizen's Advice Bureau has found more than half of Universal Credit claimants are in rent arrears or falling behind on mortgage payments, sparking calls for an overhaul of the much-maligned system.

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

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