A MUM is demanding answers after a blunder saw her vulnerable son wrongly branded a criminal and having his benefits stopped.

Mark Hughes, aged 36 and of Wrexham, had meningitis as a child and was left with cerebellar ataxia as a result.

Ataxia refers to a group of disorders that affect co-ordination, balance and speech - and in Mark's case is irreversible.

As such, he has been awarded benefits for life to enable him to live independently.

His mum, 65-year-old Linda Williams, is his appointee and helps him by handling his paperwork.

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She was horrified to receive a letter from the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) team stating that as her son was "in prison" his benefits had been stopped.

The letter, seen by the Leader, reads: "We have been notified that you're in prison - we now have all the information we need and because you are still in prison or legal custody, we cannot pay you PIP."

Of course, her son was not in prison, Mrs Williams said, adding: "My husband took Mark down to the benefits office in Wrexham and we thought; we're going to have to prove he's not in prison.

"The lady there said there must have been a misunderstanding somewhere."

The Leader: Part of the letter Mrs Williams receivedPart of the letter Mrs Williams received (Image: Mrs Williams)

After investigating, Mrs Williams found out that for some reason, her son's address and national insurance number had been logged on the records of an inmate at a prison in Lincoln who had the same name and date of birth as him.

"Someone at the prison or PIP screwed up here," she said.

"This was a serious case of mistaken identity and so far we have had no apology or explanation as to who was at fault.

"Luckily the PIP has now been reinstated, but this shouldn't have happened - Mark's never been in trouble with the police and when you get a letter like that, saying he's in prison, it is scary.

"You think the worst. And because there was no further explanation of why or what prison on the letter, I thought it was a joke at first, or a hoax.

"But it was real. It's absolutely disgraceful.

"And Mark was left with no money for three weeks.

"He's lucky he has a caring mum and dad, but there are people who don't have anyone who wouldn't know what to do.

"To just leave someone in that position without checking first - they didn't even come to Mark's house."

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Mrs Williams is also concerned about the impact this mistake could have for her son in the future.

She has sought help from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to investigate the error and to look into her son's data, where it is being held and how it is being used.

"I want his data to be put back to his data," she said, "and for him not to be tarred for this thing that's happened."

The Leader approached the DWP and Ministry of Justice to respond to Mrs Williams concerns.

A Government spokesperson responded: “We apologise for the inconvenience caused in this instance and have already taken action to resolve the situation.”

The ICO confirmed to the Leader that Mrs Williams' complaint has been received and it will be looked into.