Lord Freud, former banker and now minister for welfare reform, has announced that claimants are to be fined £​50 if they negligently fill in a claim form incorrectly or fail to notify a change of circumstances as promptly as they should.

Lord Freud stated that:
“​It is not acceptable for people to negligently give us incorrect information or have no reasonable excuse for not telling us when their circumstances change.”​

At the same time as Freud was making his announcement, the High Court was throwing out an appeal by a local authority who had tried to get a criminal conviction against a JSA claimant who become a student.

The claimant had made a claim for JSA at his local jobcentre which, at the same time, handled his claims for housing benefit and council tax benefit. When the claimant became a student he told the jobcentre, who ended his JSA claim, and he assumed that they would also deal with any changes to his housing and council tax benefit.
Coventry City Council went all the way to the high court to try to ensure that the claimant was made an example of and burdened with a criminal record. However, the court held that the claimant believed that he had acted properly, the jobcentre had failed to explain the system to him adequately and the claim form also failed to make clear how the system worked. Under the circumstances there were no grounds for convicting him of any offence.

Once the new £​50 fines are introduced, however, the DWP and local councils will no longer have to worry about whether they are at fault. They will simply be able to take money from innocent claimants who have been unable to follow the complexities of the benefits system.

DWP press release


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