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The Independent Online
ROGER BALDWIN, a newly redundant computer expert, has been put in an impossible position by Direct Line, the telephone insurance company. By trying to improve his job chances, he has become ineligible for payments from his insurance policy.

For seven years Mr Baldwin, who does not want his real name to be used, has paid Direct Line a fee of 2 per cent of his outstanding monthly credit balance for cover on his Visa credit card with Royal Bank of Scotland.

In theory, once he became unemployed, Direct Line should have met a minimum 5 per cent monthly payment on any balance still owed until he found work again. In practice, Direct Line refused to pay out.

As a result, Mr Baldwin's credit card bill continues to mount up.

The reason? Mr Baldwin found a place on a three-month advanced computer course at Liverpool University, paid for by the European Union Social Fund. The course, designed specifically for people who need to develop their skills in order to improve their job chances, is full-time. This meant he was not available for work and consequently he signed off the unemployed register.

Mr Baldwin said: 'The EC pays me the same unemployment benefits as I would be entitled to from the state, although in practice I lose out a little because of travel and some small amounts towards course materials and so on.

'The course is much better than anything from the Department of Employment and, given that I need to be able to convince potential employers that I am highly skilled, is vital to my job-hunting.'

Yet when he applied to Direct Line for his credit card debts to be met, he was turned down.

'They wrote saying the only course they can recognise is one officially organised by the DoE. I must also be on the unemployment register,' Mr Baldwin said.

When contacted by the Independent, the company had a change of heart. A Direct Line spokeswoman said: 'The dilemma seems to have been that the details we had about the course were very sketchy and he was not signing on.

'In the light of new information that we have received, we will be in touch with Mr Baldwin. If he can verify one or two small things about his claim, I believe it will now be considered sympathetically.'

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