Fraudulent universal credit claims being made to obtain advance payments

NAWRA members have reported via the rightsnet discussion forum that clients have been
contacted by a loan company offering a ‘government grant’.

The loan company then takes information sufficient to verify ID and submit a universal credit claim without the client’s knowledge, arranges an advance and then keeps a substantial amount of it for themselves. The first the client knows is their legacy benefits have stopped, and they find they are now a universal credit claimant with a large advance to repay that they did not receive.

NAWRA has written to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Amber Rudd with our recommendations to prevent this fraudulent activity.

Read our letter and the reply.

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Injustice and the need for advice

Excellent article in ‘The Guardian’ on 2nd January 2018, highlighting injustice in the social security system, delays and obstructions in the appeals system and the impact on individuals.

As welfare rights advisers, these are all issues we are all too familiar with and the article will hopefully highlight these to a wider audience.  NAWRA also gets a mention, in the context of ‘advice deserts’ and the need for comprehensive welfare rights advice for communities.

You can read the article online.

 

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IB and ESA conversion – letter to Damian Green, MP

We have written to Damian Green MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to raise concerns about what we see as the DWPs failure to follow correct legal procedures on conversion of incapacity benefit claimants to employment and support allowance.  The full text of our letter is reproduced below.

Our members have identified many former Incapacity Benefit/Severe Disablement Allowance claimants who have been migrated to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and only been awarded contributory ESA as the Department for Work and Pensions have failed to apply the regulations and their own guidance and undertake a financial assessment to check entitlement to any top up of Income Related ESA.

The DWP guidance states:

Obtaining Information:

45413:  The claimant’s duty to disclose information relevant to their existing award of benefit is modified to enable the Secretary of State to require from the claimant information or evidence for the purposes of determining whether that award should be converted to ESA 1.  [1 ESA (TP, HB, CTB) (EA) (No2) Regs, Sch 1, para 13 (a); SS (C&P) Regs, reg 32 (1)]

 45414:  Enables the Secretary of State to establish whether a claimant whose existing award is IB or SDA and who is not entitled to IS, might be entitled to ESA (IR) as well as ESA(Cont) on conversion.

The legal requirement for conversion decisions from incapacity benefit to ESA to consider entitlement to income-related ESA is confirmed in [2015]UKUT 342 (AAC)

The migration process started in March 2011 and we are calling on the Department for Work and Pensions to revisit all claimants nationally where they failed to adhere to the legal requirement and their own guidance and assess them any entitlement to an income related top up.

Many of our members have taken up cases in respect of individual claimants and found that they have been underpaid by thousands of pounds (see rightsnet discussion thread for more details). This is only the claimants that have been in a position to obtain advice. There are likely thousands more who have had their benefit incorrectly calculated due to DWP failing to follow the law. NAWRA believes that the DWP is obliged to correct those cases and seeks to ensure that the DWP trawl all cases to pick up any outstanding errors of law.

NAWRA strive to challenge, influence and improve welfare rights policy and legislation, as well as identifying and sharing good practice amongst our members.  It is in this vane that we request this piece of work is undertaken to ensure that all claimants receive the correct amount of benefit that is due to them.

We look forward to hearing your response, and the action you will be taking to ensure that any cases where the legislation has not been applied correctly will be picked up and arrears paid.”

We will update members when we receive a response.

 

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NAWRA condemns backdoor cuts to PIP

NAWRA issued the following press release on Friday 3rd March 2017:

The government has announced shock plans to restrict entitlement to the disability benefit, Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

The National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers (NAWRA) strongly refutes the claims made by government that two recent court decisions (1) in any way ‘extend’ or ‘broaden’ the meaning of the PIP regulations as claimed by government. In fact the judges simply seek to confirm the original policy intent of the DWP at the time the regulations were made. (2)

The government’s amendments seek to restrict the ability for people with mental health problems to receive help with getting around. Yet the government response to the ‘Personal Independence Payment: assessment thresholds and consultation’ of January 2012 (3) states in relation to Mobility Activity 1 (help needed with planning and following a journey) –

6.14 Concern was raised that the activity takes insufficient account of the impact of mental health conditions on mobility. We do not consider this the case. Individuals could potentially score in a number of descriptors in the activity if they cannot go outside to commence journeys because of their condition or need prompting or another person to accompany them to make a journey.

The government’s intention was clearly that Mobility Activity 1 would apply in its entirety to people with mental health problems and the judges have merely confirmed this position – there has been no change.

NAWRA asserts that the PIP amendments, both to the mobility descriptors and the daily living descriptors, amount to a substantial cut and a change from the original policy intention.

Chair of NAWRA, Alan Markey said –

‘It is not, as Theresa May has claimed, a change to ‘restore the original intention’ – it is a change to substantially move the goal posts. It is also a falsehood to say current claimants will not be affected – those currently in receipt of PIP are at risk of seeing a cut in their benefit when they are reassessed.’

Notes to editor –

  1. [2016] UKUT 531 (AAC) and [2016] UKUT 530 (AAC) – decisions of the Upper Tribunal of the Social Security Administrative Appeals Chamber
  2. This was clearly shown in the government responses to consultations at that time.
  3. As quoted at paragraph 33 of [2016] UKUT 531 (AAC)
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