Neil Bateman of Lapland County Council social
services department interviews client Mr S Claus.
I recently interviewed Mr Claus who had
approached the welfare rights unit as part of our take-up campaign
aimed at older people.
Mr Claus told me that he was also known as St
Nicholas and Father Christmas. He says he is at least 500 years
He was eager to discuss his financial
situation, as he says he needs more money to buy toys and he has
hundreds of reindeer to feed.
But he does not appear to be receiving any
retirement pension. From what I can gather, this may be because he
has been self-employed all his life and has failed to pay any
national insurance contributions.
I went on to check his entitlement to other
benefits. He appears to live on a large collection of mince pies
and glasses of sherry. I asked him how he obtained these and he
said that people gave them to him after inviting him to their homes
in the dead of night.
I advised him that this would not affect his
benefit entitlement, as payments in kind are always ignored for
means-tested benefits unless he was involved in a trade dispute. He
did say that about 350 years ago he had a dispute with Oliver
Cromwell who had banned Christmas.
Mr Claus says he has no capital and that he
owns his home outright, having built it with help from various
elves and pixies that he says live nearby. His house certainly does
not look like a typical residential property and is more like a
packaging plant with various small people packing toys in
I asked Mr Claus if he was self-employed. He
did not understand what I meant and said that the little people
were pixies and elves who did the work for nothing because they
liked children. I therefore had to warn him that he ran a real risk
of falling foul of the national minimum wage legislation, as well
as the working time directive, because he said that everyone worked
around the clock all year without any holiday.
However, as a matter of law he does indeed
appear to be self-employed and to be working for more than 16 hours
a week, which will disqualify him from income support. I asked if
any of the little people were his children, as he might then
qualify for working families tax credit, but he said they
He does not seem to have ever received a
council tax bill, so he is not entitled to council tax benefit
either, and obviously has no entitlement to housing benefit because
he does not have any liability to pay rent.
Mr Claus is in excellent health and is well
able to manage all his personal attention needs, and requires no
extra help with cutting up mince pies or bathing, which he says he
does once a year on 26 December because he gets hot delivering
presents all over the world. He has never had any falls and says he
is fit enough to climb up a chimney. He is not entitled to
However, I am extremely concerned about his
mental state and I would therefore be most grateful if colleagues
from the psychiatry or old age team could visit and assess. As he
is intent on staying out all night on 24 December, please could
they do so urgently.
– Sadly, this is Neil Bateman’s final
Welfare Rights column as he has now moved out of the welfare rights
field to become performance management manager for Connexions
Suffolk. Welfare Rights will return on 10 January 2002 with a quiz
looking back on 2001. It will then continue as a regular
fortnightly column written by Gary Vaux.
If you have a question for Welfare
Rights please write to Welfare Rights, Community Care, Quadrant
House, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5AS or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org