A grandmother who has lived in the UK since since she was five is on the verge of becoming homeless with her granddaughter after authorities told her she’s not a UK citizen.
Gwendolyn Banks, 62, was born in America but moved to Aston, Birmingham, when she was a little girl before working in the city most of her life.
After her daughter Sinead died suddenly at the beginning of this year, Mrs Banks became a full time carer for her four-year-old granddaughter Sienna.
Gwendolyn Banks, 62, is on the verge of becoming homeless after being told she’s not a UK citizen
The grandmother now faces losing the home she’s lived in since the age of 21 because she is not being classed as a UK citizen.
Mrs Banks, who cannot work due to ill health and is a full time carer for her ex husband, was told she needed to claim for Universal Credit for her benefits to continue.
She was previously receiving Employment Support Allowance (ESA) but contacted the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) because she required more financial help to support her four-year-old granddaughter, Sienna.
But the DWP closed Mrs Banks’ claim because she had failed the Habitual Residency Test.
She is now going through the appeal process.
Mrs Banks in now struggling to survive on just £80 per week, compared to the £200 per week she was previously getting.
She is also no longer receiving Housing Benefit (around £80 per week towards her £90 rent bill) or help towards her council tax and still has to pay £13 Bedroom Tax.
Mrs Banks said: ‘I could not believe what they were telling me.
‘I was told I needed to change from ESA to Universal Credit and then they close my claim because they cannot class me as a British Citizen.
‘While I appeal this, I have limited money coming in and I can’t afford to live. I was born in America but England is my home.
‘I have no family I know in America and i don’t even have an American accent, it’s ridiculous.’
Mrs Banks looks after her granddaughter Sienna, four, who also faces being evicted from her home
Mrs Banks’ 24-year-old daughter, Sinead, died suddenly in January this year after suffering a cardiac arrest.
‘I am still trying to come to terms with the sudden loss of my daughter.
‘And when I enquire for extra financial help to look after my granddaughter, they drop this bombshell on me.
Mrs Banks has not received her full benefits entitlement since the beginning of this month and is now in rent arrears, as a result.
She has been summoned to court and told she is at risk of losing her home.
‘As soon as my claim was closed, my benefits stopped,’ she added.
‘So my arrears have built up and gone over the £1,000 limit, which means I could lose my home in a matter of weeks.
‘I have lived here most of my life and I do not want to give up my home.
The grandmother has lived in her home in Aston, Birmingham, since the age of 21 and has lived in the city since she was five
‘Where will we live? I can’t even afford to feed my granddaughter.’
Mrs Banks’ parents met in Ireland and moved to America for a brief period before bringing their young family to England. The 62-year-old has an American passport.
A recent letter from the DWP to Mrs Banks stated: ‘We have closed your Universal Credit claim from 19 March 2018.
‘This is because you have not passed your Habitual Residency Test.
‘This means that you won’t receive any further payments of Universal Credit.
‘You’ll have to make a new claim and provide us with full information to show you are entitled to Universal Credit.’
A DWP spokesperson said: ‘Ms Banks’ case is currently being reviewed by a specialist decision maker.
‘People who have moved to the UK may be asked to provide certain documents when they make a new claim to benefits and this has not changed under Universal Credit.’