The unexpected knock at the door is the DWP rule, not the exception
“I have been awarded Standard care and standard mobility for 3 years, to be reassessed in November 2016! I'm so chuffed and relieved. I can finally sleep at night and feel like a massive weight has been lifted! Thank you to this forum and it's members for the help and support.”
This is our final newsletter until September.
An unexpected knock at the door. Someone standing there with an ID card claiming they have come to check if you are getting the correct benefits and could they please come in?
What do you do?
You don’t have to be guilty of anything to find the possibility of such a visit very alarming – especially if you have a mental health condition made worse by stress and anxiety.
Last month there was a lot of concern about just such visits, prompted by a change to a page on the DWP website which stated:
You may get a visit from a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) officer to check that your benefits payments are correct.
A Performance Measurement review officer may visit you if you’re claiming:
Employment and Support Allowance
Your name is selected at random to be checked. You won’t always get a letter in advance telling you about the visit.
The concern was the addition of the sentence:
You won’t always get a letter in advance telling you about the visit.
Worries about how to deal with such a visit were posted on various blogs and forums and we received numerous requests from members for guidance on how to deal with these visits.
So Benefits and Work made a Freedom of Information request.
As a result of that request we can now reveal that, in reality, the vast majority of people who get a visit do not get a letter in advance – surprise visits are the rule, not the exception. There’s more on this below.
However, we can also reassure our readers that:
- you don’t have to let them in; and
- you can insist on being given proper notice;
- you can insist on having the interview at a DWP office instead of in your home.
And doing so won’t affect your benefits, though refusing to take part in an interview at all may leave you open to a fraud investigation.
In the members' area we’ve published the letter we got in response to our request and 62 pages of the guidance document issued to officers carrying out these visits - though there are a large number of redactions to the guidance. You’ll find the documents in the DWP Guides section of the ESA download page in the members' area.
Only a tiny percentage of claimants receive one of these visits. But the majority who do get one are not given any warning.
In fact, far from ‘You won’t always get a letter’ , DWP staff are actually told:
‘You must make an un-notified visit to each customer, apart from the exceptions detailed in the subsequent paragraphs. If this is ineffective a second un-notified visit must be made.’
If two un-notified visits are made on the same day then another un-notified visit must be made on another day.
After that a letter has to be sent giving you at least 48 hours’ notice of a visit or 24 hours where the letter is hand delivered.
There are also certain classes of claimant who should never receive an unannounced visit, including:
“customers suffering from depression or a medically defined mental illness
customers with an alcohol or drug-related dependency
disabled customers where there is evidence from the preview information that they may be distressed if an MRO calls unannounced. “
However, where the visiting officer suspects, on the basis of your files, that you may be committing fraud they can still carry out an un-notified visit even if you are in one of the categories above.
And it’s important to be aware that one of the things visiting officers will do is look out for any difference between the details given in your work capability assessment medical report and your behaviour at home. The rather bizarre example given is that of a claimant who is up a ladder washing windows when visited, but their incapacity is listed as vertigo.
So, if your condition is a variable one and you’re having a better day, make that very clear - even if you aren’t asked.
FINAL DISCOUNT COUPON - 20% OFF ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP - ENDS MIDNIGHT FRIDAY
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If you’re not already a member, join the Benefits and Work community before midnight on Friday and you can get 20% off the cost of your annual subscription.
Just type the following code into the coupon box when you pay: 5854
Claimants and carers get an annual subscription for £15.96, down from £19.95. Professionals get an annual subscription for £77.60, down from £97.00.
Campaigner Steve Sumpter has lost his court battle to have the 20 metre limit for personal independence payment mobility component overturned. The judge did not accept the argument that the consultation process was so flawed as to be unlawful.
The judge was scathing about the original consultation, calling it ‘mind-bogglingly opaque’ and said that he had the ‘gravest doubt’ that he would have found it to be fair.
However, the DWP held a second consultation after Sumpter launched his legal challenge. This second consultation, specifically on mobility, was deemed just sufficient by the judge.
However, a clear admission was made by the DWP in documents disclosed as part of the hearing that they are aware that PIP will cause suffering to disabled claimants:
“ In developing the PIP assessment we were aware that the vast majority of recipients of DLA were individuals with genuine health conditions and disabilities and genuine need, and that removing or reducing that benefit may affect their daily lives...”
Sumpter’s legal team are considering whether they can continue the fight.
The flaws in the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) system are so grave that simply "rebranding" the work capability assessment by appointing a new contractor will not solve the problems, the Work and Pensions Committee has said in a new report.
Meanwhile a report commissioned by the DWP into benefits sanctions, which saw a fourfold increase for ESA claimants in 2013, has found that the way in which the DWP communicate with claimants is legalistic, unclear and confusing. The most vulnerable claimants are often left at a loss as to why their benefits were stopped and frequently not informed by the DWP about hardship payments to which they are entitled.
However, the report only looked at the way sanctions are communicated, not into whether the system is fair in the first place.
Debbie Abrahams, an MP on the Work and Pensions Committee, has repeatedly called for an independent inquiry into sanctions. She did so again this week, following an inquest into the death of a diabetic ex-soldier who had his JSA sanctioned for missing an appointment and subsequently stopped taking his insulin.
According to the Mirror:
“When David died he had just £3.44 to his name, six tea bags, a tin of soup and an out-of-date can of sardines. His electricity card was out of credit meaning the fridge where he should have kept his insulin chilled was not working.
“A coroner also found he had no food in his stomach.
“A pile of CVs for job applications were found near David’s body.”
The Mirror is reporting that David's sister has launched a petition calling for an inquiry into sanctions.
You can sign the petition here.
OTHER BENEFITS NEWS
IDS is still fighting desperately to prevent the publication of four reports which would show just how badly universal credit is failing and whether the DWP knowingly misled parliament about problems with the new benefit.
So far, the DWP have lost every stage of the battle to prevent the reports being published under the Freedom of Information Act. But with an unlimited amount of taxpayers money to throw at legal challenges and a vested interest in stringing the process out beyond the next election, losing at every stage is not a reason for concern.
And the true cost to the taxpayer will probably never be known, as the politics.co.uk website points out, because the DWP refuse answer Freedom of Information requests on the issue - on the grounds that they don’t bother keeping a tally of costs.
GOOD NEWS FROM THE FORUM
Many thanks to all of you who have kept the good news coming. We really do appreciate it.
ESA Support Group success
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ESA Appeal victory
“Thanks to the fantastic advice from the people on this site my sister has just won her ESA appeal. Thanks to everyone for all their help.”
ESA Support Group
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IB to ESA success
“just renewed my membership for another 365 days thank you benefits & work sure helped me with my incapacity benefit to esa this site is great value for your money and covers every topic”
“Huge, huge thank you…Well ive been crying with relief for an hour now, Thank you so much for your brilliant website and knowledge, I had my PIP decision today…low rate care and High rate Mobility. I can't thank you enough. Wonderful, just wonderful”
Transfer from IS to ESA with a cancelled medical
“I had a call from the Job Centre stating I had full ESA and placed in the support group and a letter would follow …All this in a matter of 3 weeks… So the real reason for this is to thank the Benefits and Work for their help with my claim with the information which is provided on this web site.”
ESA Support Group without a medical
“Many thanks to everyone at Benefits and Work for all their help, hard work and excellent advice. I followed the ESA guides while completing my ESA50 and was delighted that …I was placed in the Support Group without a medical.”
ESA Support Group with no medical
“I'm so pleased that I have been put into the support group without having a medical and I want to say a massive thank you to Benefits and Work as I doubt this would have happened if I hadn't had followed your fantastic guide when completing the application form a year ago! …it is a gigantic weight off my shoulders.”
ESA Support Group without medical
“Just had to say thanks yet again to this site. I have been reassessed for ESA and have been awarded support group again, this time without having to attend medical. I have been awarded Support group for a further two years. Once again, thank you for this site”
Thank you for PIP help
“…may I thank everyone at this site. The help from here has been immensely valuable to me particularly with regards the nightmare that is PIP.”
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