The DWP left a family so ‘desperate’ the father went on an armed robbery spree

DWP logo and Andrew Robinson
Steve Topple

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was ‘clawing back‘ so much money from a family of six that the disabled father committed a string of armed robberies to stop them losing their home. Now, he’s been jailed for five years. He stole a total of around £230.

A “wrangle” with the DWP

As Chronicle Live reported, Andrew Robinson lives with osteoarthritis in his knees.

His educational attainment should be irrelevant. But the court heard he was a former boarding school pupil, “star” rugby player and graduate. Then, his “prospects crumbled” due to his illness. After what Chronicle Live called a “wrangle” with the DWP, it reduced his family’s benefits from £200 a week to just £93.

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The Centre for Research in Social Policy has a questionnaire that works out the ‘minimum income standard’ people should have. It says for a family of six with two children at primary school and two at secondary school, the amount is £961.74 a week. This is based on the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s research [pdf, p1] into a “socially acceptable living standard”. The government, meanwhile, is evasive about the amount it legally has to give people to live on.

Robinson, desperate for help, had gone to Citizens Advice and even wrote to his MP. But seemingly no one came to his family’s aid.

He then took out high-interest loans to stop his family from being evicted. But as his lawyer described, Robinson had “reached the end of his tether”.

A family in “desperate need”

So on 15 March, he walked into a local Nisa shop armed with a hammer. He threatened staff into handing over around £80. Then, on 23 March, he did the same in a Shell garage but with an imitation firearm. He got around £150 in cash and goods. Finally, later that day, he attempted to rob a third store with a hammer, but the owner chased him off.

All this for £230.

His lawyer told Newcastle Crown Court:

[Robinson] just completely reached the end of his tether. He didn’t know what to do and how he was going to stave off the eviction.

He was doing it to try and support his wife and four children, who were in desperate need.

While the judge said he felt “sympathy” for Robinson, he also had to think of the “impact” on his victims:

It is terribly sad…

You are someone who has worked hard until you suffered knee problems.

You had serious money problems… and were receiving very limited… benefits as a result of a clawback from the DWP.

The judge sentenced Robinson to five years in prison.

Social media reacts

Reactions to Robinson’s case on Twitter were telling:

Meanwhile, people’s reactions on Facebook were mixed:



It is unclear what will happen to Robinson’s wife and their four children – except that this whole, tragic incident will probably affect them for the rest of their lives.

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– Support DPAC and Black Triangle, campaigning for disabled people’s rights.

Featured image via UK government – Wikimedia and Chronicle Live – screengrab

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