Thursday, 3 May 2012

A selection of recent events and news which illustrate just how dreadful things in welfare-world have become.

How to create Northern ghettos and socially cleanse central London: Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea (The "Royal Borough"), and Westminster Councils are reported as proposing to to offer homeless people on benefit a take-it or leave it move to low rent areas - presumably places such as Burnley, Hull and Liverpool.  Of course, this will nicely disrupt the educational chances of the children involved, break up extended family and community support networks for such families and ensure they never get a job again by packing them off to places with lots of empty housing.  The reason the houses are empty: far fewer jobs, and so people have moved out.

Heads we win. tails you lose:  Client obtains medical evidence from his GP showing he has a serious illness with a grim outlook.  DWP officials quickly passport him through to the Support Group of Employment and Support Allowance.  That's the way it should be.  Also tries to get his Disability Living Allowance increased to reflect the new prognosis.  Now, often DWP staff dealing with DLA applications take a sneaky look at people's ESA applications and quickly use any negative evidence (even if it's inaccurate) to justify refusing DLA.  But no, his positive ESA decision was not considered relevant, so an ATOS Healthcare "professional" is asked to give advice. And lo and behold, without examining or even meeting the client, without seeing his medical records and doubtless with less clinical experience than the GP, comes up with a different prognosis (clinical practise by telepathy, methinks) DLA increase refused.

Ignore the rule book:  DWP Compliance Officer insisting on seeing evidence of capital which the law clearly states he has no right, nor any need to see.   And he asked to see it within 14 days - see below.

Nothing's urgent: Client facing prosecution.  Have pointed out errors in the amount overpaid and sentencing hearing is looming.  Made request that DWP revise the figures, setting out in some detail, why they are wrong.  So far it's taken the DWP 7 weeks to just get the papers into one place.  Was told today they have now assembled the file and next week ill allocate it to a decision maker to reconsider - which might take up to another four weeks.  And this is with the helpful input of a manager to move the thing along.  I just pray that the hearing doesn't get listed before.

Client claimed Income Support back in November 2011.  Nothing has been heard.  The matter eventually much later, comes my way.  I've written chasing up on 13th April.  Still not a sausage.  So will just have to escalate with a  formal complaint.  Yes it will take up more of their time, but what else does one do?

Snakes and ladders: Phone call from a DWP appeals officer.  Alleges that my notice of appeal and a chasing letter were never received by them.  But my subsequent letter of complaint was.  Long discussion where I try to educate them that letters sent by post are, in law, deemed to have been received and that Royal Mail say that 99.99% of all mail is delivered, so it is inherently improbable that not one, but two letters never arrived.  I also point out that everyone knows that the DWP regularly lose correspondence and that the cutting of administrative assistant grades has made it a lot worse.  At which point appeals officer relents  and agrees that things are awful and that my letters probably were received.  In the meantime, they no longer have any decent information about the client and have wiped the client's records because she hit age 61 and the problem I was appealing against has gone away...or so I thought until client's daughter phoned to say they had just had a letter saying mum has been overpaid benefit.  Back to square one.

Patience: Still waiting for a reply from the DWP's Permanent Secretary to my carefully written and detailed complaint about the client who was convicted and sentenced for a £22,000 benefit fraud.  I had pointed out all along that it was nearer £5,000.  She was so petrified about prospect of going to jail, she tried to kill, herself two weeks before the sentencing hearing.  DWP dismissed my report as irrelevant and inadmissible.  Anyway, two months after she was sentenced (thankfully, a wise and  enlightened judge who didn't quite believe the DWP's figures, suspended her jail sentence), I had a call from a DWP appeals officer to say "Yes Mr Bateman.  You're absolutely right.  it's a closed period supersession.  Overpayment is £5,000".  Anyway, my complaint has been with the Permanent Secretary (and also IDS himself following input by client's MP) since the end of January.  Still we wait.  It appears that the DWP lawyers are playing very hard to get and won't explain what they did or why.  A question in the House looms. 

Absurd: Off up north next week to do an appeal.  Client has horrendous long term health problems with a list of chronic and painful serious illnesses as long as your arm.  Hasn't been able to work since 1984 when he was fired for not telling his then employer about his health condition.  DWP sweep him up as part of welfare reform and assess him for ESA, declare he is fit for work and can go back to work within 3 months. Since then client is also diagnosed with angina.  Let's hope it's like the one I did last week where I got client moved from nil points into the Support Group.  As is standard, DWP didn't even bother to respond to my written Tribunal submission nor to attend the Tribunal to justify their decision.  Outrageous.  Even more outrageous that such behaviour is now the norm.

No comments:

Post a Comment