Disabled man’s red-tape nightmare after coming home to South Shields from New Zealand

Tony Ilott who is struggling to settle  in South Tyneside.
Tony Ilott who is struggling to settle in South Tyneside.

A disabled man says he feels like a second class British citizen since returning to South Tyneside after living in New Zealand.

Tony Ilott grew up in Harton, South Shields, but when he was 11 his parents decided to emigrate.

I feel like a second class citizen.

Tony Ilott

Now, aged 55, Mr Ilott, who has cerebral palsy, wanted to return to the borough and arrived back in his native South Shields on October 9.

But while he was aware it would take a while for documents to be sorted, Mr Ilott says he is now in a catch-22 situation.

The Department for Work and Pensions has said it could take up to three months for his claim for disability allowance to be approved while it’s proven he’s passed the Habitual Residence Test – which will prove Mr Ilott intends to settle here.

Until then he is unable to qualify for South Tyneside Homes’ social housing and has to pay £170 a week out of his savings to stay in a B&B.

In turn he cannot apply for a job, as he has no fixed abode to place on his CV and private landlords class him as a risk – with no guaranteed income.

He said: “I genuinely feel like a second class British citizen, if I had realised it was going to take three months then I think I may have reconsidered trying to come home.

“On the forms I am having to fill, I am being placed alongside refuges and asylum seekers. But I’m not seeking asylum, I just want to return to the place where I grew up.

“I never thought it would be this complicated to return back to my home town.

“My savings are swiftly running out and I am now in two minds to use what’s left to buy a plane ticket back New Zealand.”

Mr Ilott previously worked within the clerical field and hopes to find a similar job in England.

He decided to return to South Shields as he’d experienced a number of tragic deaths within recent times.

Mr Ilott said: “There was too many memories there and I’d experienced a lot of loss from people very close to me.

“I’ve been back and forth to South Shields many times over the years and I decided I wanted to start a new life again here.”

A spokesman for the DWP said: “It’s always been the case that people returning to the UK who want to claim benefits, must prove that they have strong ties to this country in order to pass the Habitual Residence Test. These rules came into force on 1st January 2014.”

A spokesman for South Tyneside Homes added: “Social housing can only be allocated to qualifying people and the demand for most of our properties is high.

“We have acknowledged Mr Ilott’s local connections to the borough and advised him that, once the necessary information is received, we will process his application in the Band 1, high need category for a council house.

“Band 1 priorities are allocated for a period of three months, during which time the applicant is expected to place bids on suitable properties.