30 August 2006

A private sector company recruiting disabled people to serve on a public body is alleged to have offered advice about benefits which, if followed, could lead to disabled people being imprisoned for fraud.

Capita Resourcing, a subsidiary of multinational Capita, are recruiting disabled people to serve on the government's Equality 2025 Network which aims to help the government achieve equality for disabled people by 2025. Earlier this month Benefits and Work pointed out that the £189 per day fee being paid meant that most disabled people in receipt of benefits needn't apply as the payments would spell disaster for their benefits. (See £189 per day public posts for disabled people without experience 07.08.06)

One of our members contacted Capita explaining that they would be interested in joining but explaining their concern about the effect on their benefits. The reply they received from the company was so astonishing that they passed it on to us. They were told by Capita Resourcing, acting on behalf of the Office for Disability Issues which is part of the DWP, that

"The Office for Disability Issues are aware of the potential effect on benefits and this is referred to in Annex 2 of the Information for Applicants document. Members will be paid £189 per day, unless they decide not to accept payment because it may affect their benefit entitlement. Alternatively, the payment could be made to whoever they wish but whoever receives the payment will be responsible for payment of income tax and national insurance contributions. Another option might be to receive expenses only, to avoid an effect on benefits."

In fact, if a claimant chose not to accept payments to which they were entitled in order to keep their benefits the DWP would almost certainly deem them to have received those payments anyway and stop their benefits. In addition, the Office for Disability Issues might well find that, by treating some people doing the same job as volunteers and others as paid staff, it might be breaking the law in relation to the minimum wage and be liable for unpaid tax as well.

Any claimant foolish enough to follow the advice to get the payments routed to someone else would quite simply be committing fraud and could even receive a custodial sentence when found out.

Even the advice to receive expenses only is questionable because, as regular readers will be aware, even lunch expenses have the potential to be treated as income by the DWP.

The kind of ruses which massively paid consultants use to reduce their tax liability may be quietly winked at by the state, but when employed by the most financially disadvantaged members of society they invariably lead to harsh punishment. That such advice is being handed down by an agency acting directly on behalf of the DWP is nothing short of scandalous.

Benefits and Work contacted both the Office for Disability Issues and Capita Resourcing, but have yet to receive a response from either organisation.


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