21 January 2010
A rebranded benefits service, almost certainly run by a criminal already convicted of perverting the course of justice, allegedly charged a disabled claimant £1,500 for completing a DLA claim pack.
Paul Brennan, of Preston, Lancashire previously ran Disability Advice & Information Services Ltd. based in Chorley, Lancashire.
It was whilst running this agency that Brennan wrote to a client advising her to lie to a tribunal in order to get a hearing adjourned. However, he mistakenly sent the letter to the tribunal instead of the claimant and was subsequently arrested and charged with acts tending to pervert the course of justice. He was found guilty and jailed for six months in December 2008.
However, there is strong evidence that Brennan is now behind another benefits advice service: www.BenefitAnswers.co.uk
The site claims on its home page to offer free expert advice on all benefits matters. However, another page reveals that the company actually charges 40% of any back pay that a claimant receives when a claim or appeal is successful. Given the enormous delays that are now a regular feature of an overstretched benefits system, this can amount to a great deal of money.
According to an email being circulated to benefits advisors, one client of the company was charged 45% of their back pay and ended up paying Brennan £1,500 for completing a DLA claim pack and a carers allowance form. This amounts to somewhere between £300-£500 an hour in fees.
We put these claims to BenefitAnswers via email. They did not deny the amount charged, but simply told us:
“The email is inaccurate – any fee we charge is a maximum of 40%. Without knowing the identity of the client we cannot comment further – however if the alleged client is from, say, Surrey we would not have visited to complete a claim form. This is very vague and misleading.”
BenefitAnswers is owned by a limited company, Benefits Information Services Ltd, registered in 2006 and based in Chorley, Lancashire. Paul Brennan was listed as a director of the company, along with his wife Suzanne, when it was established. He resigned as a director on 22 December 2008 following his criminal conviction, but he is still listed at Companies House as company secretary and his wife remains as director.
We emailed BenefitAnswers and asked if Paul Brennan was still a member of the agency. We received an immediate response in the form of an unsigned email stating that:
“We can confirm that Paul Brennan is NOT a Director of this company.”
We emailed back, noting that the question of whether Brennan was still involved, rather than still a director, had not been answered and asking if the writer of the unsigned email was, in fact, Paul Brennan. The following day we received this three word reply:
“No I’m Joe”
Well . . . perhaps. But it does seem highly probable that Paul Brennan is still the man behind Benefits Information Services and behind the BenefitAnswers website.
As one testimonial on the BenefitAnswers website says: "I didn’t think there was still such nice people in this world.” In truth, it seems there are an ever increasing number of ‘such nice people’ in the benefits world. We advise readers to exercise a great deal of caution if they are considering making use of BenefitAnswers.