A Buckhaven man faces the real possibility of going to prison and seeing his children put into care as a result of a new cap in household benefits from the Conservative government.
Boyd Lamont (59), who lives on Randolph Street, is a single parent of five children and has had his housing benefit slashed from £98 per week to just 50p.
In 2008 Mr Lamont was fined £20,000 following the death of one of his employees in an industrial accident at Tullis Russell in 2004.
Now, following the introduction of the new cap, which reduces total household annual benefit income from £26,000 to £20,000 for families not in receipt of working tax credits, pension or disability benefits, Mr Lamont can no longer afford to pay the fine and will face a judge in the next couple of weeks to plead his case.
He says that despite having paid back £7000, and never having missed his fortnightly payment of £140, he expects to receive a custodial sentence and see his children, whose ages range from six to 15, taken into care.
He said: “Telling my two youngest that I might be going away and they might be going into care is really hard, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Why should they have to pay for something I did?
“I don’t want them to suffer anymore but this is the final nail in the coffin.”
Five years ago Mr Lamont was a company director of three different businesses in the oil and gas industry but the tragic death of his employee destroyed his reputation.
“As a result of the publicity my companies failed,” he said: “I couldn’t get any work and I spilt from my partner. Shortly after Social Services asked if I would like custody of our five children and of course I took them rather than see them go into care.
“All the benefits I receive, which is £140 a fortnight, have been going towards paying the fine so we have to live off money I receive for the children. We’ve had four different houses in three years and each one is getting smaller. I’m in a converted attic here. It’s overcrowded with three bedrooms and I sleep on the settee in the living room. This is what we’re reduced too.”
Mr Lamont said when he received the letter telling him of the cut, he thought it was a mistake.
“I contacted the DWP who said there’s nothing they can do about it,” he said.
Now he fears he could be jailed for up to a year.
“When I was sentenced I was given the choice of the fine or a year in prison,” he said. “Obviously, because I had the kids, I took the fine.
“If the kids are placed into care, which would cost the council £10,000 a month for five of them, they’ll all be split up.
“They’re all I’ve got and I’m all they’ve got. I’m not bothered about me but they’ve been through an awful lot in their lives already and don’t deserve this.
“I’m worried sick about them.”
A spokesman from CARF (Citizens’ Advice Rights Fife) said the service had not received as many calls about the benefit cap as it had expected and said this was because the majority of its clients were exempt from the cap.