THE DAUGHTER of a 90-year-old pensioner sent a threatening letter, including the threat of court action, by a city charity for the elderly has branded its actions ‘appalling and inexcusable’.
Liz Sommers has spoken out against Age UK Coventry after her elderly mother – who is afraid to be named – was sent a letter threatening legal action by the charity.
The letter, signed off by the charity’s Head of Finance, Gary Turner, accuses the pensioner of ‘refusing to pay’ an outstanding bill of £12.70 for gardening work she received from the ‘Helping Hand’ service in July 2014.
Accusing Ms Sommers’ mother of refusing to ‘resolve this matter amicably’, the letter reads:
“My understanding is that you do not dispute this invoice, but are merely refusing to pay it.
“Consequently, we are claiming the sum of £12.70 plus any costs which we will incur in subsequent court action.”
Mr Turner then directs the pensioner to a piece of legislation – warning her that it “gives the courts the power to impose sanctions” on her if she fails to comply or respond to the letter before the claim.
It concludes: “Should we not receive a reponse to my letter within this time frame then I anticipate that court action will be commenced with no further reference to you.”
But a statement from the charity’s ‘Helping Hand’ service (pictured) clearly states the Stivichall-based OAP has already settled the bill – despite not believing she owed the money in the first place.
When daughter Ms Sommers, from Cheylesmore, tried to contact Age UK Coventry, she says she was ‘fobbed off’ by Chief Executive Michael Vincent, who said Mr Turner was on holiday and unable to respond to her complaint.
“The Chief Executive hasn’t even bothered to get back to me,” said Ms Sommers.
“And I’ve heard nothing back from him or Mr Turner.
“But he accepted that under no circumstances would a letter like this – quoting the law over a measly £12.70 – be acceptable.
“What appalls me is that someone employed in a senior position in Age UK, whose salary is paid out of public donations, thinks this is an appropriate way to treat a 90-year-old.”
Describing her mother as a ‘tough cookie’, Liz went on to argue that other elderly Coventry residents could have received threatening letters too and not have family members to fight their corner.
She added: “What if the amount quoted was for hundreds of pounds? What if they didn’t complain – would other elderly people be bullied into paying?
“I find it unbelievable that somebody who works for a charity, in a position of responsibility, could consider this an appropriate way to deal with a trivial issue.”
“And what is particularly saddening is that Age UK is a charity with old people at its heart.
“I’m not sure that people who donate to the charity would like their money to be put towards bullying the elderly.”
Issuing an official apology to the family, Age UK Coventry Chief Exec Mr Vincent, said: “Age UK Coventry is very sorry and apologises for the distress caused to Ms Sommers and her family regarding the final payment letter she received.
“While we did initially contact Ms Sommers to apologise and explain the situation, we recognise we should have followed this phone-call up more promptly.
“As a result of this case, we would like to reassure Ms Sommers and her family that we have reviewed and changed our procedures so the payment process for our services is improved in the future.”