Stevenage pensioner receives death letter from council

A PENSIONER cannot eat or sleep after a council blunder led to a letter being sent to her home, addressed to the executors of her will, expressing sympathy over her death.

Mildred Rapley, of Bude Crescent in Stevenage, read the words in a letter from Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) in sheer disbelief: “I am sorry to hear of the death of Mrs M Rapley, please accept my sincere condolences,” it began, before going on to ask for the repayment of overpaid housing benefit to the tune of �168.20.

“I read it again and again and thought ‘it is my name’,” said 84-year-old Mrs Rapley.

“I was quite upset by it. I have not been able to eat or sleep and I have felt really ill. It’s knocked me for six.”

She said she contacted the council but the employee who signed the letter was unable to tell her where the erroneous information came from, and failed to apologise for the mistake.

“My daughter’s furious – the letter could have killed me,” said Mrs Rapley.

“It shouldn’t happen. They need shaking up.”

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The letter, posted last Thursday, followed a letter from Stevenage Homes, posted two days earlier, informing Mrs Rapley that her rent was in arrears due to her current claim for housing benefit having stopped.

“Now I understand why it was stopped,” she said. “The council thought I was dead. I look pretty well for a dead person, don’t I?”

A spokesman for SBC said: “Due to an administration error, Mrs Rapley’s housing and council tax benefit was cancelled and letters issued.

“This was an unfortunate error and we have reviewed our internal procedures to reduce the chances of such a mistake happening in the future.

“As soon as the situation was brought to our attention we offered our apologies to Mrs Rapley and immediately reinstated her benefit. In addition, our benefits manager is writing to Mrs Rapley to apologise.

“We deal with around 21,000 change of circumstances per year and mistakes of this type are extremely rare. We are sorry for any distress caused.”