Widower Christine Hopper has lived in Kent for 23 years and raised her daughter there, but claims she is now living on handouts from friends. Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) officials say her Universal Credit was cut because she ticked the box on her paperwork saying she was French after years of saying she was British. An official added the Tai chi teacher from Whitstable couldn’t prove she has lived in the UK continuously for five years, a requirement of EEA nationals wanting to claim benefits.
She said: “I’ve been renting the same place for 20 years.
“But now I haven’t had my housing benefit, and my rent needs to be paid for November and December.
“I’m living on the charity of friends. It was my daughter’s birthday and mine recently.
“She brought me a basket of food – I have food from friends who give me £20 here and there.
“I was in control of my budget until now – I was all right. But now I can’t sleep – I wake every few hours because I’m so worried.”
A letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said: “There is not enough evidence available to say conclusively that Mrs Hopper has resided in the UK in accordance with the Immigration EEA Regulations 2016 for a continuous period of five years.”
She was told she had no right to Universal Credit as she had “not acquired a permanent right to reside in the UK”.
The French national denies saying she was British in a Habitual Residence Test.
She said: “I would never do that – I am French.
“I’m a European person, and we still are in Europe. Brexit hasn’t happened yet.
“How can someone suddenly tell me I have no right to live here? What can I do to feel safe?
“The least I want is an apology – not just for me but for other people who can’t defend themselves.
“I’m lucky enough to live in a lovely town with a lovely bunch of friends to help me.”
A spokesman from the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Universal Credit was originally paid to Ms Hopper after she declared she was a British citizen.
“When her claim was updated, Ms Hopper confirmed she was French and after failing a Habitual Residence Test she was found ineligible for Universal Credit.
“We are looking into Ms Hopper’s case which has now been referred for a mandatory reconsideration.”