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Grieving pensioner was declared dead by Cornwall Council

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: July 17, 2013

  • Gillian Tuckman, with the letter from Cornwall Council. BOTL20130711A-002_C

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A GRIEVING pensioner, who was declared dead when she is very much "alive and kicking", is seeking answers.

"How on earth can this happen?" These are the words of shocked Gillian Tuckman, of Blowing House Hill, St Austell.

Nearly a fortnight ago the St Austell grandmother received a letter from Cornwall Council, addressed to her executors, offering its "sincerest condolences" and stating that following the notification of her death, Miss Tuckman's benefit entitlement, council tax support, had been "terminated".

Most hurtful to Miss Tuckman was that in the mix-up the date recorded for her death was in fact that of her son's – Michael Halton – whose body was discovered at his home in Eastbourne Road, St Austell, on March 19.

The 66-year-old also discovered her monthly pension had been stopped because the Department for Works and Pension (DWP) had her listed as deceased.

"First I was shocked and then there was annoyance. How on earth have they got this mixed up? Surely they need a death certificate?

"I am very much alive and kicking."

Miss Tuckman told the Cornish Guardian she wants to highlight the mistake in the hope the authorities will be more careful in the future.

Worst of all, she said, was the connection with her son's death, a recent tragedy the family is still trying to come to terms with.

"It brought it all back. It felt like they had really gone to town."

After receiving the letter, Miss Tuckman contacted the council which said the mistake would be put right straightaway.

She also contacted the DWP which said her pension would be "fast-tracked" into her account.

However, it still took a further phonecall to its offices and the defence that it was "just a glitch" before her pension landed in her bank account on Friday.

Miss Tuckman said: "If I was a shrinking violet I could have been very upset. I am just very cross because of the inconvenience and I have not been offered any explanation as to how and why this happened."

A council spokesman said it apologises "unreservedly" for the "unfortunate error".

She went on to say its staff had acted on information supplied by the DWP, who supply regular electronic updates to local authorities to inform them of changes of circumstance.

The council then followed its standard protocols and wrote to Miss Tuckman's executors based on the information.

Following Miss Tuckman's call to the council letting them know of the "true position", the case was referred to an assessor and her benefit reinstated the same day.

She added the inconsistencies in the letter will also be addressed with the member of staff involved.

"Once again, the council apologises for the distress caused to Miss Tuckman at what is already such a difficult time."

A DWP spokesman said it accepts mistakes were made and apologised for the distress it has caused.

She added: "We are looking into insuring that it does not happen again."

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