Strangers pay pensioner's rent

A kindly property manager crowd-funded nearly $2000 to help out an elderly tenant whose Age Pension had been axed, leading him to fall behind in rent.

The troubles for Darwin pensioner Derek Holbrook, 65, began when Centrelink stopped his payments in the mistaken belief he was receiving a pension from the UK.

Mr Holbrook, who had set up an automatic debit for his rent, was unaware that the payments had stopped and inadvertently began to spend his rent money.

His plight came to property manager Rebecca Want de Rowe’s attention when the rental direct debits were also cancelled.

As Mr Holbrook had served some time in the British military, Centrelink had sent him paperwork to ascertain if he was collecting a second pension.

Overwhelmed by the paperwork, the pensioner kept putting off filling it in and eventually Centrelink stopped the payments.

Ms Want de Rowe told ABC News she went to help Mr Holbrook with the paperwork, but came to understand why he felt swamped by it.

“There were questions that he had no idea how to answer; there were questions from 30 years earlier that he just didn’t have any memory of,” she said.

Eventually, local federal MP Luke Gosling helped restore Mr Holbrook’s payments, but the pensioner’s rent was still in arrears.

Determined to help him out, Ms Want de Rowe approached a number of charities, but claimed she was turned away.

In desperation, she asked members of a Facebook group for suggestions and they decided they would raise the necessary funds from their own donations to help Mr Holbrook pay his debt.

Using the hashtag #SaveDerek, the Facebook members raised $1350 for the rent and another $600 for him to buy basic necessities and a bicycle. He was taken by surprise and overwhelmed by the strangers’ generosity.

Sue Shearer, the chief executive of the NT Council of the Ageing, said she referred Mr Holbrook to local social services when she became aware of the case.

Ms Shearer said while it was heartening to see people working together to help Mr Holbrook, she wished “Centrelink could have a little more empathy, especially dealing with older people who really aren’t totally au fait with technology”.

“(Centrelink) are not user-friendly in any shape or form, and really, they already had all his records.”

Have you ever fallen behind with bills and had complete strangers help you out? Do you know anyone whose Age Pension was cut incorrectly?

Written by Olga Galacho

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