According to a recent report from Child Poverty Action Group CPAG) claimants are being forced to repay their full Universal Credit (UC) award despite being entitled to it.
Why Are The DWP doing this?
During the pandemic the DWP temporarily changed some of the evidence rules to complete UC claims.
As detailed in the report by CPAG in January 2021 the DWP started to look into the claims that were made during the pandemic.
Whilst doing this the DWP have been changing the entitlement decisions given to claimants declaring that many claims have been wrongfully awarded.
Why This Shouldn’t Be Happening
CPAG have expressed their concerns that the process of retrospectively deciding claimants were not entitled to UC and beginning recovery is unlawful.
In addition, the DWP is asking for evidence of entitlement via the online journal, even from claimants that are no longer getting UC and would have no reason to check their journal.
Some claimants only find out about the alleged overpayment when they receive a letter from DWP Debt Management.
They therefore miss the one month deadline for challenging a decision and often don’t know that they could make a late challenge if they have good cause.
Shockingly, this process is set to be ramped up dramatically.
The DWPs Reaction
The DWP are employing a team of 2,000 staff to look again at 2 million claims over the next five years including, but not limited to, claims made during the pandemic.
The thought that a government department that tramples on claimants’ rights in this way is to be given powers of search, seizure and arrest, as revealed in our last newsletter, is truly frightening.
It’s very concerning that the government gives the DWP the authority to stamp on a person’s legal rights in this manner.
Not only are they able to stop a claimants payments without any notice they are also set to be given powers of search, seizure and arrest, as detailed in an earlier blog post.
DWP decisions such as these are life changing and literally leave people without the ability to eat, pay their rent and to keep warm.
Combined with this is the mental toll that this puts upon claimants leaving them in a state of distress not knowing where to get help.
Claimants deserve to be treated with respect and should be given the right to reply before any permanent decisions are made by the DWP.
Not only is it morally wrong to change decisions retrospectively, moving the goalposts when it suits the DWP is despicable and should be challenged at all times.
You can find the full copy of the report here https://cpag.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/briefing/demands-repay-impact-and-legality-dwp-reverification-uc-claims
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As reported by Benefits And Work the EHRC (Equality And Human Rights Commission) has broken its promise to investigate the role that the DWP (Department of Work And Pensions)have played in the deaths of vulnerable claimants. This has left the DWP not needing to answer any questions as to the role that they played in their deaths
Instead the EHRC are now asking the DWP to create new policies in relation to claimants with mental health issues and learning difficulties. This will replace the promised investigation.
This is despite promises made by the EHRC in 2019 that they would start an investigation into the deaths of vulnerable claimants.
The EHRC used the pandemic as an excuse to not start the investigation.
The Commission has now declared that it only intends to enter into a Section 23 agreement under the Equality Act 2006. This will oblige the DWP “to commit to an action plan to meet the needs of customers with mental health impairments and learning disabilities.”
Keep in mind that the DWP are a much larger organisation that receive more funding than the EHRC.
This will no doubt result in the DWP will dragging their heels in creating so called policies that will be nothing more than good intentions that probably won’t be actioned upon.
Whilst I don’t have any details as to why the EHRC have changed their minds I can say that at best they’re very niave putting far too much trust in the DWP to do the right thing.
The DWP has an appalling track record of discrimination against vulnerable claimants, ignoring their basic human rights and making life extremely hard for them.
Despite my disappointment with the EHRC’s decision I’m not surprised. The DWP will do anything to avoid any actions taken against them making promises that they’ve got no intention of keeping whilst doing the bare minimum to comply.
Once again thanks go to Benefits And Work for their hard work and inspiring this article.
A huge thanks to everyone that likes, shares, reads and supports both my blog and campaign.
I don’t receive any payment for the work that I do and it’s a struggle to say the least.
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The DWP is effectively trying to block essential and possibly life-saving university research. This research undertaken by Glasgow University with it’s purpose is to find out whether there is a link between benefits sanctions, ill health and suicide.
The research involves Glasgow University linking anonymised DWP data with NHS records. This could and most likely reveal that people that have been sanctioned have been prescribed antidepressants and people that already have existing conditions have resulted in their health declining. The research will also reveal the figures for those attempting to take their own life and sadly for those that have taken their own life.
When Glasgow University informed the DWP that they were starting their research in 2019 the DWP suggested that they would support the project. However since the project began the DWP have continually placed barriers up to try and stop this research to continue.
This comes as no shock to campaigners like myself. The DWP know how badly sanctioning people affects both their physical and mental health..
The DWP have spent years giving excuses to Glasgow University demanding that the research needed tighter security which they complied with. After these measures were put in place the DWP moved the goal post again insisting that Glasgow University must apply for permission to do the research all over again.
This has caused huge delays for the project. Professor Nick Bailey stated that the research should have been completed in 2020, but it has yet to start.
The chair of the Commons work and pensions committee, Stephen Timms told the Guardian “This emerging pattern of obstruction suggests that a culture of secrecy is entrenched in DWP. It must wake up to the harm that it is doing and commit to a new spirit of openness.”
There’s little doubt that the government will either delay or prevent any project that reveals the reality of how people suffer when they’ve been sanctioned.
It will continue to be the case until politicians stop ignoring the immense suffering of thousands of people. Although there are some politicians that don’t ignore this such as Debbie Abrahams who regularly speaks and campaigns against the cruelty of the DWP and their policies.
Ignoring the suffering of thousands of people will result in thousands more deaths. What is needed is for the opposition to start actively opposing the government on DWP related issues.
This isn’t likely to happen in the near future and MPs like Debbie Abrahams are loan voices in parliament trying extremely hard to change things. In the absence of this sadly DWP related issues and problems are going to get worse.
What is needed is for the opposition instead of concentrating about the ‘world of work’ they need to also concentrate and campaign on behalf of those unable to work.
Something has to happen and soon. With energy bills set to rise again in April and people already struggling I fear that thousands will die as a result of being cold and hungry.
It’s impossible to budget money when you have none in the first place
The conservative government has blood on their hands and they’ll never be able to wash it away.
A massive thank you to everyone that subscribes, reads and shares my articles. This makes a massive difference and it raises awareness.
This week was the first aniversary of my sons death. I’ve found it very hard to cope with but I’m still here.
Thank you to Benefits And Work for uncovering this story and for the hard work that they do.
I don’t receive any payment for my work and to say it’s a struggle is massive understatement. I’m reliant upon donations to continue to blog and campaign.
If anyone would like to donate and can afford to there’s a donate button at the top and side of this blog post.
A huge thank you to everyone that has helped me. You’ve literally kept this going and I’m eternally grateful.
A friend of mine that volunteers at a foodbank has just sent me the below images. They asked if their anonymity is kept and of course I’m respecting this.
The photos were taken as they were arriving for their shift at the food bank. It wasn’t open for some time, but the queue was already massive, people arriving early to make sure that they’d get some food.
As you can see the queue consisted of People, all differing in their needs. What can’t be missed is the people using wheelchairs queueing for food parcels.on Christmas Eve.
Also in the queue are elderly people and families with children.
You don’t need me to tell you that this shouldn’t be happening , it’s heartbreaking.
You can always find the measure of a country by seeing how they look after the poor, young, elderly and disabled.
The conservative government is blatantly failing on this front. As a country we can’t be proud of this either.
Being proud of a country is about being proud of what it actually does right, and how it treats those in need. It’s not about waving flags and singing the national anthem.
We can however also look back on history and also be ashamed for the very same reasons. Ignoring the fact that the UK government is causing direct harm to people won’t make it go away.
Whilst the government has been focusing on ridiculous things like blue passports people are dying, thousands are becoming homeless and many are becoming ill from poverty related illnesses.
Meanwhile the public are bombarded with images of the royal family having a lovely Christmas, the people queuing at this foodbank and others won’t be able to celebrate.
Its simply not acceptable.
I messaged the volunteer that took the below images and this is what they said
It felt like a slap in the face for them too. It’s a reminder of their privilege. Because despite having their own difficulties they can sit in a warm house, with food, having just wrapped presents for their family.
They went on to say that it makes them angry and sad that this is happening, that they wished that they could do more to help. There’s more that many could do, so let’s do it.
Helping others doesn’t have to cost a penny. A kind word, saying hello in the street makes the world of difference to someone that lives alone and hasn’t spoken to anyone for a long time.
Being a friend costs nothing also, sharing what you no longer need doesn’t either. Of course I realise that many people have nothing to give to someone else.
Let’s spend the festive period and the coming year to be kind and thoughtful towards each other. We need to do this because the government won’t ever care about you.
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A huge thank you to everyone that has and is supporting my blog and campaign. I really appreciate it and I couldn’t do this without your support.
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As we quickly approach Christmas and a cold hungry winter once again the DWP are going to bring back the cruel sanction system.
They never miss a chance to make Christmas even more harder do they.
Sanctions relating to the claimant commitment had been suspended due to the pandemic.
It is very clear that the DWP are now back to business including sanctioning sick and disabled claimants.
According to Touch base the DWP are quoted as saying“This week a change was made to bring the obligations in new style JSA and ESA benefits in line with those in Universal Credit”
“This will mean that, as is the case for Universal Credit claimants, if someone in receipt of new style JSA and ESA fails to do what they have agreed to in their Claimant Commitment without good reason – such as having or caring for a child, or a change to a health condition – their payments may be reduced for a set period. This is known as a sanction.”
“All Claimant Commitments are tailored to a person’s personal circumstances and local jobs market, and claimants affected by this change are being informed of the introduction of the new process. Sanctions are only applied as a last resort when a claimant is not engaging with the commitment they have made. If someone disagrees with a decision they can ask for it to be looked at again.”
This is all rather scary as the government have now passed on the onus of sanctioning decisions to the Job Coaches and not a decision maker.
Sanctions aren’t always a last resort decision and I’m speaking from years of experience helping people to appeal sanction decisions. Also since when have the DWP taken children into consideration… They haven’t.
I’m sure that many of you reading this have had so called Job Coaches that take an obvious dislike you you. I’ve also experienced this and I know exactly what it’s like. It’s soul destroying.
I’ve experienced having a Job Coach that clearly hated me. She would find holes in everything that I did and tried to sanction me at every opportunity that came her way.
Luckily I was able to make a complaint about her which involved my local MP.
I changed Job Coaches but she would glare at me every time that I walked past her. I have mentioned this in a previous blog post.
My question is this… How many innocent people are going to be wrongfully sanctioned because of this very reason?
It’s also worrying that there could well be even more sanction targets (offloads). Therefore the need to reach these targets will cause the suffering and distress of thousands of people.
Basically the whole sanctioning process could well be ramped up a whole lot more..
Opinion isn’t fact and there are many valid reasons why a claimant has not been able to to fulfill their claimant commitment.
Illness, lack of money for essentials such as no money to top up mobile phones or to have access to the internet at home.
Access to libraries is fast becoming a rarity these days. The DWP demands that claimants have access to the internet at all times.
Essentialy if an Job Coach decides in their opinion that a claimant hasn’t done enough then they’ll sanction them.
Remember once again opinion isn’t always fact and this is a very dangerous precept to use.
The whole sanction system should be abolished. There’s absolutely no reason why a person should have their very basics for survival to be snatched off them by the click of a button. Which is based upon the opinion of a Job Coach. Remember opinion isn’t always fact.
Whilst we are still in the midst of a pandemic the government and the DWP have now returned to normal. Don’t expect them to care because they obviously don’t.
Keep a good written and digital record (if you can) of everything that you’ve done to fulfill your claimant commitment.
If you’ve been ill or suchlike also try to keep a record of whatever you can to prove that you’ve been ill.
It’s important that you do all this because sanctioning you will be a whole lot harder if you keep a good record of everything.
If you are in the Greater Manchester area please have a look and even join in with Greater Manchester DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) activities. You can find them here at https:\\manchesterdpac.com
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How am I? I’m ok apart from catching a sickness bug yesterday hence my blog being late. My apologies.
A huge thank you to everyone that has supported my campaign and blog. I really couldn’t have done it without you.
I don’t receive any payment for any of the work that I do. If anyone would like to donate there is a donate button at the top and side of this blog post.
Dear readers and subscribers, I’m very sorry but there’s not going to be a blog post this week.
I was told that my son had died on Friday and I’m trying to deal with it and organise his funeral etc.
I will be writing a new blog post as soon as I’m able.
There is a crowdfunding page relating to this on both my Facebook and Twitter account.
Thank you , solidarity Charlotte.
Dear readers and subscribers, you I get have realised that Ive been pretty much out of action this past week. I apologise for this, I feel awful about it and I hope that it doesn’t happen again.
Ive been struggling to get through this last rebound due to needing more meds and waiting for them to be processed.
I’ll be honest with you, I’m feeling pretty low at the moment. This past year has been a complete nightmare and so far it doesn’t appear to be easing.
My health is pretty rubbish at the moment, it takes me much longer to do tasks that I didn’t used to think about. My daughters more than fed up with me being ill and I do feel like I am to blame for this. Being a single parent is tough when you’re ill.
Yesterday I learnt that the support that I was getting will be ending next week. This was very difficult for me to process because I’m still needing help.
Ive noticed that many essential support networks and general support services locally are ending next week because apparently everything’s going back to normal.
It’s rather foolish to believe that because this latest lockdown is ending that Covid 19 has ended as well. So many people are still ill with it and are suffering from long covid.
It’s very neglectful of any support network to believe that this latest lockdown ending is the last lockdown that we are going to have.
Already the numbers of children that are infected with covid 19 are rising along with the schools re opening. Combine this with the majority of the population have only had one vaccination leaving others still waiting for their vaccination dates it arrive.
Not long ago Boris Johnson declared that we would ‘have to get used to people dying’. I for one can never get used to that. He should never have uttered those words.
To be honest the only things that have been keeping me going recently are this blog and your support. I need your support more than I ever have before.
I want to be better, maybe these latest meds will work. I don’t want to be in the position that I’m in now. It’s pretty dire tbh and I expect that thousands of other people are feeling the same as I am now.
If any organisations are reading this blog post, please reconsider stopping support just because the latest lockdown is ending. So may of us are, not by choice dependent upon this help.
I feel that Ive been totally honest with you, I needed to get this worry off my chest so to speak and I want people to realise how tough it is for long covid survivors.
One day, hopefully soon this nightmare will be over and I’ll be back to my normal self. It’s been so long since I’ve been there.
Please read, share and tweet my blog. I really want to get the reality of our situations out there for everyone to read.
For anyone that would like to donate to keep both my blog, myself and the campaign going theres a donate button at the top and bottom of this blog post.
I really need your support and I thank everyone that does and has supported my blog and campaign.
Dear readers and subscribers, you may have noticed that I’ve been quiet this week. My aim is to produce at least three blog posts a week. I want to provide more newsworthy content as well as my weekly blog which is personal to me.
I have failed to do this because once again I’ve rebounded. I’ve got yet another chest infection that has hit me extremely hard, not only physically but mentally.
I really thought that I’d beaten my long covid symptoms, and for the most part I have. What I didn’t count on was that I could get another chest infection which has made me feel so ill.
I felt the symptoms up to about 14 days ago, I get pains in my right lung which are hard to describe. I stupidly ignored these symptoms because I didn’t want to be ill again, I didn’t want to have to say that I’m ill again because I’m sure that everyone is fed up of me saying this.
I carried on as usual until last Sunday when my body told me that I couldn’t continue like I was doing. My sats dropped to a low level and just doing the most basic chores made me breathless and tired.
I admitted defeat and spoke to my doctor. They diagnosed another chest infection and advised me that I should really go to the hospital. Easier said than done though when you’re a single parent and your child is totally dependent upon you.
I explained my situation and I was prescribed anti antibiotics and more inhalers. My consultant has been notified and I’m waiting for an appointment to see him.
There’s no doubting that I was extremely foolish to ignore my symptoms, don’t ever do this. For anyone in a similar situation to me, please act upon your symptoms and get help. I can’t believe that I was so stupid.
I think the main reason as to why I ignored my new symptoms is because I had such a long run of better health. I wasn’t struggling as much and I was seriously considering the fact that I would be well very soon.
I wanted to hold onto that hope, to become normal once again, to be included in future plans and to have ambitions of achieving my goals.
My goals aren’t particularly hard to achieve for an able bodied person. I love walking, I used to walk miles everyday and I so wanted to walk to Hartshead Pike once again with my daughter. Maybe one day I’ll achieve this.
Luckily I think that my antibiotics have started to work and my sats are much better than they were. Not perfect, far from it but acceptable for both myself and my doctor and consultant.
I know that the Covid 19 virus has damaged my lungs, especially my right lung and I have to accept that I’m more vulnerable to getting chest infections, but it’s impossible for me to live in a covid free environment. My daughter returned to school and with that came the spread of viruses brought home through no fault of her own.
So yes I’m struggling, yes I’m fed up of complaining about my health but this week has certainly been a big challenge for me. I want to do more, to eat more healthily and to have a better lifestyle but it’s impossible when I’m dependent upon such a low income.
I’m not only worried about my physical health I’m worried about how on earth can I juggle things around to provide everything that I need to get healthy again. It’s bloody impossible but I’ll try my best to do this.
For now my goals are low. I would first like to once again achieve my goal of more blog content because I love to write and I love to hear from all of you, because you are important.
As for my health, I’m back to taking it a day at a time, hopefully achieving small goals along the way. I’m grateful to be alive, to have survived Covid19, and to still be here talking to all of you.
Please keep safe, wear a mask and don’t for one minute think that this virus has gone away. It hasn’t and we still need to be careful.
Please read, share, tweet and email my blog. Every time that my blog is shared results in more people reading about the truth of our life’s, our struggles and how shitty life is for us at the moment.
I don’t get any funding for writing my blog and at the moment I’m really struggling financially. For anyone that would like to donate theres a donate button at the top and side of this blog piece.
Every penny enables me to continue to blog and it really helps my campaign. I want to be back to normal again I really do.
A huge thank you to everyone that shares and supports my blog and campaign. I really couldn’t do this without your help. It would be impossible. Thank you all so much.
Most people that claim Universal Credit find themselves in debt through no fault of their own. The five week wait for a new claim to be processed ensures that they’re going to accrue debts.
At the time of writing the DWP can automatically take high level deductions from a persons universal credit payments personal allowance for court fine payments, council tax debts and suchlike.
The DWP has a blanket policy of always cutting benefit by the maximum amount possible which is given regardless of personal circumstances. This leaves already financially vulnerable people struggling to buy food and to pay bills.
Yesterday the High Court has today ruled that this policy and practice of taking high amounts of payments from a persons Universal Credit is unlawful.
In February 2020, Shelter launched a legal challenge on behalf of four people, all of whom had a history of rough sleeping and therefore are hugely impacted affected by deductions being taken out of their Universal Credit payments.
Shelter challenged the DWPs deductions policy and all decisions to apply the ‘maximum deduction rate’ to universal credit. They also challenged this for all court fine payments regardless of the claimant’s personal circumstances.
The DWPs policy of deducting the maximum amount of 30% from the Universal Credit standard allowance leaves claimants with as little as £51 per week to live on., that is unless they have more deductions taken from their payments for other debts such as DWP loans etc.
These payments ensure that claimants cant afford to heat and or eat, pay for transport to get themselves to appointments and to buy essential phone credit to fulfil their required Universal Credit job searches.
Shelter argued in court that the DWP’s deductions policy and approach to deductions unlawfully removes an important discretion prescribed by law. Regulation 4 of The Fines (Deductions from Income Support) Regulations 1992) provides the DWP discretion to deduct a minimum of 5% from peoples’ UC to pay back court fines (and a maximum of £108.35).
The DWP’s blanket policy removes this discretion by setting a fixed maximum deduction of 30% and doesn’t allow claimants to request a lower deduction even in exceptional circumstances where they’re facing hardship.
The DWP’s defence of this policy is that in theory Universal Credit claimants can return to the magistrates’ court to request a direct repayment plan.
In reality this is impracticable. Most claimants aren’t aware that they can do this and the DWP aren’t exactly helpful if a person wants to do this.
The deductions regime is an effective means of repayment of debts, however as it stands the high level of repayments pushes a claimant even further into debt and poverty because repayments aren’t set at a reasonable level, taking into account a claimants financial circumstances.
Shelters case was heard at the High Court before Mr Justice Kerr via a remote hearing on 12 and 13 January 2021. Shelter’s claim was also heard together with a second claim brought by Hackney Community Law Centre acting on behalf of a disabled UC claimant.
The court found that DWP’s deductions policy is unlawful because it ‘fetters discretion’: i.e. it prevents decision makers from taking a UC claimant’s personal circumstances into account when setting the deduction rate.
The court ruled that by setting a fixed rate for deductions from UC for fines, and the DWP’s inflexible approach in making decisions on these cases, removes the discretion provided for in the relevant legislation. This is unlawful.
Responding to the DWP’s defence of an ‘alternative route’ through the magistrates’ court, Mr Justice Kerr states:
‘The deductions regime is paternalistic: the debtor cannot be left to pay off court fines voluntarily; they must be made to do so, for their sake and society’s. The Secretary of State’s passivity leaves unperformed the duty upon her to make that happen in appropriate cases.’
The High Court ruled that the DWP’s policy and practice in its present form was not lawful. The judge ordered that the relevant section in the deductions policy relating to fines be amended to reflect the judgment.
This judgment means that the DWP will have to change the deductions policy and their guidance must include discretion for DWP decision makers.
This will mean that Universal Credit claimants will be able ask the DWP to lower the amount deducted for court fine payments if they are struggling financially to pay them.
In reality nothing is changing regarding this legal decision yet because the DWP are as usual appealing the courts decision, but I will keep you posted about this.
This ruling has the opportunity to change Universal Credit claimants financial situations for the better, but you can bet that the DWP will drag this out for as long as possible.
My apologies for the lateness of this weeks blog. Yesterday was so busy for myself and my daughter and I’m once again unwell again.
I will endeavour to do my best to not let this happen again.
I’m so fed up with being unwell, not only does it impact me health wise it impacts my relationship with my children and it hits me hard financially.
I am doing my best to get well again because I hate feeling like this.
Please take care, keep safe and be kind to yourselves.
Please read, share and tweet my blog. Every time that you do this helps the truth to get out there which is extremely important.
A huge thank you to everyone that supports both my blog and campaign.
For anyone that would like to donate toward my blog and campaign theres a donate button at the top and side of this blog post. Every donation makes a huge difference and enables me to continue with both my blog and campaign.