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Family of Northfleet grandfather Andrew Kirchin told he was dead while he was on holiday in South Africa

By Messenger Reporter

A grandfather has spoken of his shock after returning from holiday to find a letter telling his family he was dead.

Andrew Kirchin, 63, has spent the past month fighting to prove he is alive after a case of mistaken identity meant his pension was stopped.

Gravesham council wrote to his family saying they were “sad to hear of their recent bereavement” on February 7 after it was given wrong information by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Andrew Kirchin got a letter informing him he is dead. Picture: John Westhrop
Andrew Kirchin got a letter informing him he is dead. Picture: John Westhrop

The letter also stated that the housing association they worked with would be taking back his house as it was now empty.

The letter was opened by his daughter Susan, 30, who feared the worst and tried to get hold of her father.

"My daughter is still worried about the whole thing. Imagine what it would have been like when she opened a letter telling her I was dead. It is shocking” - Andrew Kirchin

She was relieved to find he was alive and still enjoying his holiday in South Africa, visiting his brother Bryan.

But when Mr Kirchin returned to the country on March 1 he was left fighting to prove that he was still alive.

He was left even more shocked when, two days after his return, he received another letter addressed to his family from the HMRC.

They again passed their condolences to his family before asking whether or not the retired factory worker had paid all his tax before he died.

Mr Kirchin has now had a visit from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) but said he is “livid” at the entire situation.

The grandfather of 14, from Northfleet, said: “Nobody has told me how it happened and what the knock-on effect could be. I don’t know if my driving licence or passport is invalidated.

Susan Kirchin also got a letter telling her that dad Andrew was dead. Picture: John Westhrop
Susan Kirchin also got a letter telling her that dad Andrew was dead. Picture: John Westhrop

“At first I tried to laugh about it but actually I am livid. My daughter is still worried about the whole thing.

“Imagine what it would have been like when she opened a letter telling her I was dead. It is shocking.”

“The letter was sent after the council received official notification from the Department for Works and Pensions of the ‘death’" - Gravesham council

Mr Kirchin said he became suspicious that something was wrong when he logged on to his bank on the internet and realised he had not received his pension.

Upon his return he claims he struggled to prove he was still living after finding the address, date of birth and national insurance numbers were all his.

It was not until an inspector from the DWP came to check his documents that the record could be reversed.

A government spokesman said they had now apologised to the family after an “administrative error”.

He said: “Mr Kirchin’s pension credit was temporarily stopped due to an administrative error.

“We apologise for any distress caused to him and his family. We rectified this, and issued his full benefit payment immediately.”

Susan Kirchin with her father, Andrew. Picture: John Westhrop
Susan Kirchin with her father, Andrew. Picture: John Westhrop

A council spokeswoman said they had also said sorry to the family and said they were notified of the death by the DWP.

She said: “Gravesham Borough Council has apologised personally to the tenant for this distressing error.

“The letter was sent after the council received official notification from the Department for Works and Pensions of the ‘death’.

“This was then double-checked with the DWP before the letter was sent.”


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