German forced to head home as he can’t get benefits

Carsten says goodbye to ex-wife Elizabeth and his Scottish family before heading back to Germany. Picture: Michael Gillen
Carsten says goodbye to ex-wife Elizabeth and his Scottish family before heading back to Germany. Picture: Michael Gillen

A family were heartbroken to lose the man they came to see as their dad and grandad after his arrival from Germany a decade ago.

Carsten Steenvinkel (43) simply could not afford to stay with his extended family in Grangemouth and flew back to north Hamburg on Monday to live with his parents.

He leaves behind an ex-wife, who is still a close friend, three step-daughters aged 23, 21 and 16 and four grandchildren ranging in age from three years to just a few months old.

Carsten’s ex-wife Elizabeth Robertson (44) said: “He is a fantastic man. He is part of our family and this is the last thing we wanted. It’s been soul destroying. How do you explain to a toddler that his grandad is gone?”

The situation arose when Carsten, who suffers from cardiomyopathy, applied for employment and support allowance (ESA).

As he is a German citizen the DWP had to ascertain if he was habitually resident in Scotland or not. Carsten failed his habitual residence test and did not meet the conditions to be able to receive benefits.

The family took the matter to a tribunal, but the court upheld the DWP’s decision.

Eilzabeth, of Inchyra Place, Grangemouth, said: “The DWP and the tribunal’s decision has completely ripped this family apart. My daughters are losing someone who has been a massive father figure and the support he has given my kids throughout his life here has been outstanding.”

Before he left for the airport on Monday, Carsten said: “I’ve tried to learn the language and the customs in Scotland, I went to my first Burns Supper earlier in the year.

“I don’t have the money to live here, to pay my rent. The only reason I was able to stay on a little bit longer was due to my parents giving me money.”

Carsten came to this country in 2005 following an online friendship with Elizabeth and the couple were married.

Working in Asda warehouse when he first arrived, Carsten left his job to care for Elizabeth, who had issues with her health.

Despite his own health issues Carsten was able to complete an accounting course at Falkirk College and applied for a number of office-based jobs but without success.

The family has started their own Bring Grandad Home campaign on Facebook. Visit www.facebook.com/carstenbrinkmannsteenvinkel for more information.