The harsh and legally questionable cruelty inflicted on unpaid carers by the DWP provides incontrovertible evidence that the department must never get the police powers they so desperately crave.

A series of articles by the Guardian has highlighted not just the cruelty with which unpaid carers are treated but also shows that the DWP:

  • knows when carers have gone over the earnings limit, but allows their claims to continue, often for months or even years before recovering the full amount and threatening carers with jail terms;
  • has used laws designed to strip drug dealers of their property to snatch money from carers;
  • unlawfully ignores judges’ directions in order to maximise the amount they can claw back from carers;
  • misled MPs for years by promising that new technology meant large overpayments would no longer happen and so MPs did not need to take any action;
  • is refusing to publish a report on the effects of overpayment recovery on claimants, years after it was completed.

The Guardian highlights the shameful treatment of Vivienne Groom who cared for her frail, elderly mother who had dementia and had suffered a stroke. 

Groom got a 16 hour a week, minimum wage job at the Co-Op in 2014 and was told by a social worker she didn’t need to declare it as she was below the earnings limit.

In 2015 the Co-Op increased her hours and Groom called the DWP to say she no longer wished to claim carers allowance.

A DWP call handler told her “We’ll have to look into this and get back to you.”

She never heard back from them until 2022, when she got a letter from the DWP telling her she was being prosecuted for fraud.

Groom agreed to pay back £30 a month.

But after her mother died and left her £16,000 the DWP prosecuted Groom using the Proceeds of Crime Act, intended to take expensive cars and large houses from drug dealers, to threaten Groom with up to seven years in prison and to take all of her inheritance.

On three occasions at separate hearings, judges in the case told the DWP to calculate how much carers allowance Groom would have been entitled to if she had declared her earnings.  The DWP failed to do so and on the fourth occasion the judge appears to have simply given up and allowed the DWP to take the whole legacy, even though the calculation may have showed she owed less.

Groom herself was given a 12 month community order.

The unfair treatment was compounded by the fact that Groom was refused legal aid to defend herself because she had £16,000 in capital.  Yet the DWP had frozen her bank account on the day the money was paid in, meaning she had absolutely no way of accessing it.

If Groom had been able to get legal representation it is unlikely the DWP would have got away with ignoring judges’ directions and clawing back money they may not have been owed.

And, in this case, as in many others, the DWP was aware of the overpayment and did nothing about it for years. 

In fact, the Guardian carried a story way back in 2019 about the failure of the DWP to act when they discovered overpayments of carers allowance or when carers told them about a change of circumstances, sometimes allowing them to build up overpayments for years before suddenly moving to recover the money.  The article followed on from a Commons Work and Pensions Committee report on the same subject.

However, at the time the DWP assured MPs that they now have technology that can flag up when a carers income goes over the threshold and so large overpayments would not happen in the future.

In reality, although  the DWP does have such IT systems, they are failing to follow up on red flags in many cases and large overpayments followed by fraud prosecutions continue to happen.

In a final insult, the DWP commissioned a report into Carers Allowance and the effect of overpayment recovery on carers, but they are refusing to publish it, in spite of the huge public interest in its findings being made public.

It is clear that MPs must act to force the DWP to take responsibility for informing carers when they exceed the earnings limit and to refrain from recovering innocent overpayments.

It is equally clear that the culture of bullying, intimidation and ignoring the law whenever they can get away with it makes the DWP utterly unfit to ever hold powers of search, seizure and prosecution – no matter how desperate they are to get them.

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    colcs · 1 months ago
    absolutely abhorrent behaviour yet again by the dwp and yet again nothing is being done about this and they get away with it .

    It is about time our mp's got involved in this in helping people .
    I hope dwo are never given the powers they crave ,because if they do pity help us all . 
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    Amanda · 1 months ago
    I think that these 2 pages of comments should be sent to a decent MP (if there is one) asking them to follow up on what is happening to people.
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    Corrine turner · 1 months ago
    I just think the DWP are just beyond cruel persecuting unpaid carers for a pittance of support but at heart of it the Tories are to blame most MPS commit fraud but there never pulled up as anything goes for the filthy rich.
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    Arthur · 1 months ago
    Considering the absolute nightmare of The Post Offices Horizon scandal it should be warning enough to anybody that giving large faceless organisations any amount of power to pursue people for supposed criminal activity is a very bad idea.
    Any suspicion 

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    Pat · 1 months ago
    Remember, the DWP do not record phone calls made by decision makers to claimants, only the calls claimants make to the DWP.

    As far as I'm aware, the only record of the decision is what the decision maker writes internally. The only way to know what they've written is to put in a subject access request. 
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      Anon · 27 days ago
      @Pat They do record calls to them and they are automatically recorded on a system so there would be a record of her call and if she did call she would not need to repay the money as it would be an official error
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    Anon · 1 months ago
    They wouldn't have persued this case so harshly if she didn't have her inheritance or savings. They just saw her as an easy target to get some money back quickly.
    If only they pursued tax evaders with the same verocity 
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    AG · 1 months ago
    I can’t believe how cruel this is. This lady’s mum left her that money to make sure she is looking after her after her death. I am also astonished by the judge who ruled in favour of the DWP when Vivienne had contacted them on 3 different occasion's and their legal team ignored this. If anything the judge should have thrown this case out in favour of Vivienne as she did everything to try and rectify this situation and DWP ignored this. If anything she should have been awarded compensation off them because of the stress and anxiety that they put her through. I really hope her local MP is aware of this and will do something about this and she is seeking legal advice. I wish her all the very best. 
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      Ash6f · 23 days ago
      @AG So now they have taken her money she would now qualify for legal aid can she not appeal the judgement and claim the money back if she wins 
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    Lymie · 1 months ago
    A slight tangent here. If the Post Office is prosecuted for manslaughter relating to the Postmaster suicides, could there be similar cases brought against the DWP?
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    Tan · 1 months ago
    Not as quite relevant to this particular case but back in 2014 my carer was my partner at the time. The relationship was that of a domestic violence nature, whereby he tried to kill me. When I finally got rid of him I contacted DWP to advise that this person was no longer my carer and that he needed to be removed as such and all payments coming out of my PIP going to him needed to stop. You would think as the claimant this would be an easy task but to my disgust I was not allowed to remove him as my carer and only he could do this, which clearly he was not going to do. For six months this went on and they took payments from my PIP to pay him as my carer, so effectively DWP allowed the domestic abuse to continue. Six months down the line after speaking to manager after manger and at a cost to my financial, mental and physical health they advised that they would send the form addressed to him at my home address and that hyperfectively if "he" was to sign the form than the payments would stop. So I basically had to sign the form myself as "him" in order to stop him receiving payments for caring for me. I might add that even though it stated on the form the date when he stopped caring for me, I was never refunded the back payments that they had taken from my PIP to pay him. This just shows the level of intelligence and compassion that the DWP have towards claimants who are suffering domestic abuse. How as the claimant you are not allowed to change your carer unless the present one informs them and signs a form to that effect is beyond me. So in my opinion any additional powers that they are given is going to be determental to both claimants and genuine carers as DWP needs to be shaken down form the top and restructured before things get better. It seems that they are a rule onto themselves and no-one governs them whatsoever.  Sorry for not being quite relevant to the topic but just sharing an experience with you all. 
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      Anon · 27 days ago
      @Tan They don’t take money from your PIP for a carer at all 
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    mave · 1 months ago
    I've had this happen to me twice the first time I went back into work I informed the DWP sent in all the paperwork, before everything was digital. 4 years later I got a demand for nearly £1,000 for alleged overpayment, they informed me that I did not declare income. I was able to prove that I had declared everything properly (fortunately I kept records of everything) and refused to repay money I did not owe. There was months of going back and forth in the end I was lucky that someone with sense actually read my records and realised that the mistake was thiers. Eventually I received a letter that on this occasion they were not going to take things further - even though the fault was entirely thiers. The second time was again a change in employment in the amount of hours I was working, I informed every department immediately, told by all of them that it would be recorded and all benefits adjusted accordingly. Then I get a bill for nearly 3k again I argued and kept arguing that I informed them when the change occurred that the error was thiers not mine. After a while they dropped it and I never heard from them again, that is not to say that they could still come out of the woodwork years later. I am a full time carer and I do have complex health issues myself, I would like to turn a little hobby into a business but the rules are so complex, like many others on here you are so afraid of doing anything that would trigger this mob to come after you that you end up trapped in the system. Every time you read about people like the most recent case reported all over the news and that they could get even more powers it instils real fear into those they are supposedly meant to help and support.
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    Ralph · 1 months ago
    Can you please tell me who actually runs DWP .
    How do they get away with all the atrocities that they do.
    And why is it that they will hound the small people that unknowingly have done something , but tend to ignore those that play the system. 
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    Pauline · 1 months ago
    My husband is my carer and we got reduced rates until last November when we got a letter saying this had been suspended, I  had had a small amount of money to get new wardrobes for a downstairs bedroom from my private pension the reason my husband had just had a stent and had become quite ill and needed to be downstairs and now on oxygen 16 hours a day. The council said it was suspended as they did not know we had these pensions the DWP had alerted them to this and said the fraud squad had picked this up and then as of 23rd December a 2nd letter came they wanted the money back for  5 years amounting to £8500.00 by the 9th of January and where taking it out of our account even though  they could not have cared if have it or not the stress was unimaginable we contacted the council and where treated like criminals  the woman who we spoke to through CAB was horrible  she said we did not inform them we had these pension. We  ourselves thought we had but we were the ones obviously in the wrong .We did not have any money out of them but they said we could have so They went back to the beginning and 
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    Nadine Rees-Harris · 1 months ago
    This is truly disgusting. I can not express in words how dispicable this is?! 😡 To treat people in such a manner is truly criminal and I hope they never get those powers?! 
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    Camille · 1 months ago
    The behaviour of the DWP is just disgusting. They should not have these powers as they do not take the responsibility that goes with them. Carers allowance is insultingly low and yet it saves the country millions of pounds. 
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    I King · 1 months ago
    My heart goes out to this lady but I'm not surprised by the cruelty of DWP at all. This Government simply doesn't care about the plight of people being treated in this way because they know they'll be gone shortly. They're actually actively trying to do as much harm as possible it seems. Why are MPs not standing up for their constituents, they can't all be cowards surely? 
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    Kate · 1 months ago
    And this is the Goverment dept that is suppose to help the most vunerable members of society and those that care for them, which more often than not saves the country money be doing that caring and they are are treating those people appallingly and bullying  them. Disgusting and no one at the DWP or Goverment gives a dam about this.
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    Ali · 1 months ago
    The DWP should NEVER be allowed to have access to claimants bank accounts. without a court order obtained through a court after giving a valid reason. The government should be protecting the electorate from devious and criminal actions not condoning it. the proceeds of Crime act should be amended to block DWP access. The DWP have proved time and time again to be incompetent. 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Anon · 27 days ago
      @Ali They do need a court order they can’t simply go into someone’s account
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      Jane · 28 days ago
      @Ali The government WANTS the DWP to act like this because "cracking down on benefit fraud" is a vote winner. Even though it is something like 0.2% of claims and dwarfed by the amounts that could be claimed if only people were told about it and fairly assessed.
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    Andrew · 1 months ago
    CSA are similar bullies out of control

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    Jane1965 · 1 months ago
    Many people don't know that even if they only earn a penny they must let carers know, most think it is only when they earn over the limit.  I have had many problems with this department. What I struggle with is they never reply to letters or questions.  I have also been told the people that answer the phone are not exactly DWP employers but paid extras just to take phone calls. To speak with someone with authority you have to ask to " escalate" the problem. I have been writing to the them on and off for years to ask exactly what they count as work related expenses that can be taken off your wages. They won't reply and one time they said it varied monthly!  How can you work when you are only told of half the rules?  I understand that some people will abuse a system but nearly all of us are just trying to make ends meet while caring full time and would not dare do anything wrong as the payment is vital to survival. 
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      Anon · 27 days ago
      @Jane1965 The phone operators are not paid extra and it’s easy to check online what are allowable expences
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    GB · 1 months ago
    DWP truly are a law unto themselves. I went through a tribunal as they stopped my mobility allowance. It took over a year to get through the process but eventually I was awarded enhanced mobility that should have been backdated. Instead they took the whole amount to pay off an overpayment from 8 years ago that I knew nothing about which, technically, they would have been getting back in installments had I been working but instead they told me that not only was I not getting the money I should have been entitled to but they wanted me to pay them monthly installments from my benefits to cover the rest. I could have taken legal action as I would not have had to pay it back in that timescale if they had been paying me properly from the beginning but I was honestly too exhausted by the whole process
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