Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting MERCURY NEWS to 80360 or email us
Westonzoyland man "treated like illegal immigrant" after returning to UK
A BRIT denied benefits after returning home from years working abroad says he is being treated “like an illegal immigrant”.
Steven Lodge, 49, returned to the UK in November, after nine years living with his wife, Louise, in South Korea, where he taught English in schools.
Steven and Louise moved into his sister’s bungalow in Westonzoyland and he applied for Jobseekers Allowance while he looked for work in the Bridgwater area, but he says he was told by the Department of Work and Pensions he had not been back in the UK long enough.
Steven appealed the decision before Christmas, but despite taking tests to prove he plans to stay in the UK long-term, he is yet to be told whether his appeal has been successful.
He told the Mercury: “We left England because it was hard for me to find work here and my wife doesn’t work for health reasons.
“Right from the beginning we meant to come back to the UK.
“We only planned to be in South Korea for a few months but ended up staying because it was so hard to get work in the UK.”
Steven lost his job in South Korea when the economic climate there turned.
He said: “When I was made redundant I lost a quarter of my deposit on my flat, and I had to pay my air fare, so I lost a lot of money.
“It’s very hard. We have no income whatsoever and are absolutely indebted to my sister.
“Before I left England, I paid all my taxes and National Insurance and assumed when I came back, as a British citizen, the safety net of getting benefits as a temporary solution would be there.
“We are being treated almost like illegal immigrants.”
He added: “Whenever you phone the DWP, you never get the same person twice and they don’t call you back when they say they will.”
The DWP said EU migrants and Brits returning to the UK must provide evidence they intend to stay here, to stop them taking advantage of the benefits system.
A spokesman said: “Each case is treated on its own merits, in the light of the person's individual circumstances.”