Do you know anyone who has lost benefits due to surveillance by the fraud and error prevention service? GMWRAG thinks you probably do.

The Guardian reports that

“A 26-year-old man with multiple sclerosis has been told to pay back thousands of pounds after being deemed not disabled after being under surveillance by the Department for Work and Pensions, despite medical confirmation of his diagnosis.

The Fraud and Error Prevention Service, part of the DWP, secretly followed Michael Forsyth in Lanark and concluded he “deliberately misrepresented his needs” after looking through his Facebook account and recording him walking his dog. Forsyth was diagnosed with MS at the age of 20 and was in a wheelchair for his PIP assessment in 2015. “The nature of the illness means I can’t say what I’ll be able to do from day to day,” he says in The Sunday Post.

Forsyth has appealed the decision and has a letter confirming his diagnosis from his neurologist at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow which details symptoms such as: “worsening leg weakness, arm weakness, dysarthria (speech problems) and double vision”.

Share your experiences
If you have been under surveillance by the FEPS and your benefits have stopped the Grauniad would like to hear from you. What happened? Did you have to pay the money back? Have you appealed the decision?

You can get in touch by filling in the encrypted form at https://guardiannewsandmedia.formstack.com/forms/lost_benefits_due_to_surveillance – anonymously if you wish. They’ll feature some of your responses in theirreporting. Your responses will only be seen by the Guardian.”

GMWRAG cannot imagine that members have not at some point come across the joy of DWP fraud and error prevention and especially their fantastically high quality interviews under caution and video recording. Off you go.

Any sarcasm detected in the last paragraph is entirely in the eye of the beholder.

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ESA Income Related backdating Appeals; Section 27 – your cases needed.

DWP is applying to strike out appeals against their decisions that backdating of the Income Related element of ESA should be limited to October 2014 in IB to ESA conversion cases.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service hope to deal with these applications en masse.

City of Wolverhampton Council Welfare Rights Service has been told that their case is now the lead case. They have been asked to collate as many examples of DWP applications to strike-out similar cases as possible and forward the details to HMCTS.

If you have a case the DWP is attempting to strike out please forward the appeal reference number to dan.manville@wolverhampton.gov.uk. NAWRA expect case management directions in due course.

These cases should not be struck out at present, as depending on what is decided in an ongoing case R(DS) v SSWP in the Upper Tribunal it may be that there is merit in these appeals. We need to alert the First-tier Tribunal to as many relevant cases as possible and seek to persuade them that the appropriate use of its powers under the Tribunal Procedure Rules is to stay similar cases pending the outcome of R(DS) v SSWP.

EHRC looking for evidence re: the impact of explicit consent within Universal Credit.

It was predicted at our Oldham GMWRAG meeting that the requirement for explicit consent by DWP in Universal Credit was likely not a sustainable position in the face of the Equality Act 2010 requirement for ‘reasonable adjustments’; the oft overlooked fact that it’s for the claimant to determine what consent is given as regards their own data and the obstructive unhelpful nature of the approach which flies directly in the face of all DWP talk of “partnership”.

In light of this we are pleased to report that Jake White from EHRC is gathering evidence about the impact of the explicit consent requirement with a view to potential judicial review proceedings. The evidence accrued will determine whether such proceedings are an option.

Jake can be contacted on 020 7832 7820  or emailed via Jake.White@equalityhumanrights.com.

 

CPAG challenge to the two child limit succeeds but only in part.

CPAG have issued a statement today which reads as follows:

On 18 August 2017, CPAG issued a claim for judicial review in the High Court against the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (SSWP) to challenge the two child limit, introduced by the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016. Permission was granted on 17 October 2017 and the case was heard across two days on 6 and 7 February 2018.

Judgment was given on 20 April 2018 allowing the challenge in part.  The Court accepted CPAG’s arguments that the ordering restriction on the kinship care exception was perverse and therefore unlawful.  The wider challenge to the policy as a whole was dismissed.  CPAG is looking to appeal this aspect of the case. Read the judgment.

The case is brought on behalf of two lone mothers, who each already had more than one child born before 6 April 2017 and gave birth to an ‘additional’ child after that date, as well as a household who would be exempt from the policy but for the fact that the child being looked after under a child arrangement order was taken in as the family’s second child before the couple went on to have a natural child of their own (the family’s third child).

Grounds of challenge are:

(i) Direct breach of Article 8 (right to private and family life) and Article 12 (right to marry and found a family) given that the policy is intended to influence intimate behaviour and bring about smaller families;

(ii) Discrimination of children with multiple siblings in respect of Article 8 and Article 1, Protocol 1 given that a child with no siblings or only one sibling has their subsistence needs met through the social security system, while a child with 2 or more siblings does not; and

(iii) The ordering or sequencing requirement to qualify for an exception is unlawful for the same reasons given in (ii) above, as well as being irrational.

In the two claimant households headed up by lone parents, one is on income support, the other on WTC. Neither of the lone mothers intended to get pregnant with the ‘additional child’, indeed one of them was on the pill at the time, but equally for moral reasons neither of them was prepared to consider terminating the pregnancy.  In the third claimant household, the father works full-time while the mother is currently on maternity leave from her part-time job.

Background

On 6 April 2017, new rules came into force limiting the child element of child tax credit (CTC) and universal credit (UC) awards to two children. In CTC, this limit only applies to a third or subsequent child born on or after 6 April 2017; in UC the limit applies from 6 April 2017 (irrespective of when the child was born) though transitional protection currently applies to third or subsequent children born before 6 April 2017. There are a limited number of exceptions to this 2 child limit meaning that it does not apply to a third or subsequent child in the following circumstances: multiple births, adoption from local authority care, kinship care and children likely to have been conceived as a result of rape or a coercive or controlling relationship.

CPAG considers that the 2 child limit unlawfully discriminates against a number of different groups including, but not limited to, children with multiple siblings, large families and those with a religious or moral objection to the use of birth control. Further, the principal policy justification for the limit is logically flawed. In its impact assessment, DWP referred to the 2 child limit as ‘ensur[ing] that the benefits system is fair to those who pay for it, as well as those who benefit from it, ensuring those on benefits face the same financial choices around the number of children they can afford as those supporting themselves through work.’ However, 70% of those claiming tax credits are already working severely undermining such a fairness objective.

It is estimated that more than 250 000 children will be pushed into poverty as a result of this measure by the end of the decade, representing a 10% increase in child poverty. A similar number of children already living in poverty will fall deeper into poverty. Given such a severe impact on child poverty, the policy is in breach of the UK’s obligation under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to give primary consideration to the best interests of the child. In these circumstances, the discriminatory treatment cannot be justified.

DWP decide best way to tackle overwhelming psychological distress is to pretend nothing has happened.

DWP have issued a FAQ for stakeholders in light of the MH decision. GMWRAG is of the view this is less than helpful and perhaps even less helpful than that. Our view is that the law is now the descriptors without the words ‘for reasons other than psychological distress’ included on 1c, d and f – and that is what should be applied. DWP appear to be of the strange view that they can’t implement anything until they have issued new guidance and so in the meantime they will continue making decisions in line with the November 2017 guidance which reflects their alleged original policy intent. This is despite a court decision which, amongst many other detailed findings, noted that there was simply no evidence of this alleged “original policy intent” at all.

It would appear DWP  are therefore intent upon making further decisions which are clearly outside the legislation and are equally intent upon repeating the mistake they made on the IB to ESA conversion.

Advisers who find that the correct wording of the activity means someone doesn’t get a new award or the right amount, or is refused a revision or supersession will need, sadly, to use the entire argument which was used in MH to challenge such decision, pending the issuing of guidance which GMWRAG cannot see saying anything other than “as you were”. Of course if, as we can probably anticipate, it does try to attempt to navigate its way beyond anything other than a full reversion to the original wording then that’s a whole other argument to be had.

GMWRAG will of course publish the new guidance as soon as it’s “out there”. We anticipate it will very much be “out there” but perhaps not as DWP intended.

Improving Lives: The Future of Work, Health and Disability – a brief part 2. There will doubtless be more to follow!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We do know it’s snowing on the GMWRAG web site. We do know it’s only the 1st of December. We do know a number of you will object because it may even be snowing and inconveniencing you as we write. Anyway…

Following on from our recent piece on the governments somewhat under thought response to the existence of the disability employment gap which, if you haven’t read it already, can be found at  https://gmwrag.wordpress.com/2017/11/30/the-nightmare-before-christmas-improving-lives-the-future-of-work-health-and-disability, GMWRAG is pleased to see the BBC stepping to the fore with it’s first article on the subject not being an analysis of what will or won’t work amongst the many small proposals.

Instead the BBC have published this pertinent little article that ignores most of the proposals and instead focuses on a point made in the original GMWRAG article and indeed made by many responding to the original green paper. The plain old problem of transport to and from work (see the next to last paragraph in our article.

Disability employment: The challenge of getting to work in a wheelchair is worth 5 minutes of your time next time and can be found at the link above.

New Universal Credit freephone numbers.

Following the announcement by David Gauke that call charges for calls to Universal Credit would be scrapped it appears that the new freephone numbers have been published on Twitter. You can find the actual tweet at https://twitter.com/rightsnet/status/935754885794058240. Rightsnet think these could be free from today. They are as follows:

Universal Credit Live Service

Telephone: 0800 328 9344

Textphone: 0800 328 1344

Universal Credit Full Service

Telephone: 0800 328 5644

Textphone: 0800 328 1344

All numbers are available Monday to Friday between 8am and 6pm so it looks like little account has been taken of those people on UC and in employment. The very people who will mostly only be able to ring at lunch times or on their way home. Ah yes, employment. The thing UC was meant to incentivise!

Calls to these numbers have been free on all providers since 2015. However, GMWRAG has already noted that the textphone number for live and full service is the same. The potential for confusion for when dealing with hearing impaired clients should be obvious, but apparently not. Granted the tweet does says that “If you don’t have a Universal Credit online account and contact us by phone you are using Universal Credit live service… If you have a Universal Credit online account and contact us via your online journal you are using Universal Credit full service.”

QUICK UPDATE:

GMWRAG is highly amused that “building a welfare system that is fit for the modern world”  doesn’t seem to include spending money on having phone numbers which automatically re-direct so, yes, you guessed it… anyone unaware of the new freephone numbers will of course ring the old numbers and will have to listen to a message telling them to ring the new numbers. Will the original phone call still cost? No answer as yet but we think we can guess.

Next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group – Questions for the DWP.

The next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group (NWMHWRAG) takes place on Friday the 24th of November 2017 as detailed on their pages within the GMWRAG site. Minutes of the last meeting remain available for download but we’d like to remind attendees that the November meeting should include a session with DWP Partnership Managers for full service Universal Credit areas. NWMHWRAG are asking for questions in advance in order to minimise the need for questions to be “taken back”.

Questions should be directed to Helen Rogers at Stockport by no later than Wednesday the 1st of November 2017. This does not prevent questions being asked on the day. It just maximises the chances of having full answers on the day.

Attendees should already know how to contact Helen. GMWRAG is generally reluctant to put contact details such as email addresses and phone numbers on this site as we have history on this opening up inappropriate lines of contact for clients looking for advice as well as resulting in advisers being spammed.

Invitation to take part in research into bereavement and funeral poverty.

With thanks to our friends at NAWRA for passing this on.

You are invited to participate in a study relating to bereavement and funeral poverty. The aim of the research is to understand how the change to Bereavement Support Payment may affect claimants and to consider the adequacy of the support available overall to bereaved families. Your views would be valuable, whether or not you have much experience in this area or with the new benefit.

Participation involves an online questionnaire. It will take around 10 minutes. All questions will be completed anonymously; the researcher will not know who has completed the questionnaire. The researcher is Jennifer Cowen and she can be contacted at c032915c@student.staffs.ac.uk. If you have any further questions about anything to do with the questionnaire, or the research in general, please feel free to contact her.

If you would like to participate, click on the link below to the research questionnaire and further information on the study: Take the survey or the URL below into a browser: http://staffordshire.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_4GccGX3KdhbwHJP