Concerns Raised About DWP’s Mandatory Reconsideration Forms

Concerns have been raised by a welfare benefits specialist about misleading information in a DWP form.

Earlier this month we wrote about the DWP mandatory reconsideration form they don’t want you to use.

The 7 page form can be downloaded to your computer, filled in and then printed off, signed and sent to the DWP.

However, the form also tries to encourage people to phone and make a verbal request rather than complete the form. This is something we would strongly advise people not to do as it means you have no evidence of what you said or even of whether you asked for a reconsideration at all.

Since publishing the article we’ve been contacted by Neil Bateman, a specialist adviser in welfare rights and social policy.

He points out another troubling aspect of the form. On page three it encourages people to ask for an explanation before challenging a decision, because “This can be much quicker and if we find a mistake, we will look at our decision again.”

The next section goes on to say:

“If you’ve had the decision explained to you but still don’t agree with it, you can ask for a Mandatory Reconsideration.”

In fact, we have always advised people not to ask for an explanation because it can be used by the DWP as an opportunity to try to talk claimants out of challenging their decision.

But Neil is concerned that the form gives the impression that you can only ask for a reconsideration after you’ve had an explanation.

And indeed, in the past, claimants have wrongly been told by the DWP that they will cannot accept a mandatory reconsideration request unless the claimant has had an explanation of the decision first.

Neil told us:

“I thought we had killed off this bit of unlawful, obstructive behaviour a few years ago, but like an insidious virus, it recurs.

“It has been raised very recently with DWP via one of the policy fora and a response is awaited, but I thought you and your readers might be interested.”

So, please do be aware that there is no legal requirement to ask for an explanation prior to asking for a mandatory reconsideration, no matter how much the DWP would like you to believe otherwise.

 

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DWP Produces Mandatory Reconsideration Form They Don’t Want You To Use

The DWP have published a 7 page mandatory reconsideration form which can be used with any benefit, but they make it clear they would rather you didn’t use it.

The 7 page long form can be downloaded to your computer and completed offline before being printed off, signed and posted.

According to the notes on the form it can only be saved and opened in Adobe Reader XI or newer versions. The DWP say it will not save in other pdf readers such as Preview on a Mac or Foxit on a PC.

The form, however, tries to discourage people from actually making use of it. Instead, the DWP make it clear that they would much rather you made a verbal request for an MR:

69% Of Claimants Win PIP And ESA Appeals

“It is easier to call

You can ask for a Mandatory Reconsideration over the phone. Your claim will be looked at in exactly the same way. It’s much quicker and you can explain why you think the decision is wrong over the phone, without needing to fill anything.”

Benefits and Work would always advise claimants to make their MR request in writing, so that you can give precisely the information you wish and do not have to justify what you are saying to a potentially discouraging DWP staff member.

If you do ask for an MR by phone, perhaps because you are very close to the deadline, it is still worth confirming in writing the fact that you made a telephone request.

You do not have to use this form to make a written MR request. If you prefer, you can still do so in a letter.

We would be interested to hear from anyone who does make use of the form. Please let us know if you encounter any technical – or other – problems.

You can download the form from this page.

I volunteer to help vulnerable people the jobcentre lets down

A broken universal credit system means local volunteers hand out food parcels and give advice to those with nowhere to turn

People walking into a jobcentre
Every week, we see a steady stream of people who need our help to navigate the DWP’s complicated system.

I’ll never forget the day myself and a team of volunteers decided to stand outside Ashton Under Lyne jobcentre on a weekly basis.

It was 2014. My daughter, who was 19 at the time and heavily pregnant, had just attended her weekly appointment at the jobcentre. Her advisor sanctioned her for three years for attending a workfare appointment and telling the interviewer she was expecting a baby. In the week that followed, we encountered a further three pregnant women who left the jobcentre distraught because they too had been sanctioned for various reasons.

I was told ​have been told ​by ​​one lady that going to prison is less stressful than the DWP regime

Ashton Under Lyne is a small market town in Greater Manchester. It is run down in parts, unemployment levels are high and opportunity is low. Many people experience poverty – Tameside Hospital was the first in the UK to have its own food bank situated on site.

In 2013 the town became one of the first to pilot the universal credit system, along with Oldham and Wigan. It came with a strict set of criteria that, as universal credit has been rolled out elsewhere, seems much harsher than elsewhere in the country. Our evidence for this is largely anecdotal but Ashton Under Lyne was often top of the controversial league tables for the number of sanctions it imposed.

Four years later, the misery has been clear for us to see. Every week, a team of up to 10 volunteers supports a steady stream of worried, stressed, undernourished people. Most claimants don’t sleep well because they’re so worried and are often dressed inadequately for the weather. Three quarters of the people we speak to are hungry and making the daily choice between eating or paying to heat their homes. The instability of having no income is brutally punishing.

 I worked at a jobcentre – I’m so sorry for the way we treated you

Some claimants will be sanctioned for missing an appointment, even though they didn’t receive the letter. It’s not until they go to withdraw their payment and find there is nothing there that they realise what has happened. They then have to meet with an advisor and request an appeal. Some can’t cope and take themselves off the system, leaving them with no support at all. I was told by one lady that going to prison is less stressful than the DWP regime.

As volunteers, we offer solidarity, advice and leaflets for support services, because these are things not offered by the jobcentre. Most are simply handed a piece of paper with telephone numbers on it, despite the fact they don’t have the ability or means to make a telephone call. We have a good relationship with organisations like Citizen’s Advice and Welfare Rights and help signpost people to their services when they feel they have nowhere to turn. We also help people fill in long, complicated forms, and hand out food parcels. Some are embarrassed to take them but I’ve no doubt this has kept many people alive.

I wasn’t surprised to see the findings of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, which said shortcomings in the ESA and PIP assessments were causing “untenable” human and financial costs. An estimated 290,000 people only receive the correct award after challenging DWP’s initial decision. We’ve helped a lot of people through that process. The main complaint we hear is that the assessor has lied and said they’re able to work. Many people aren’t told they can appeal and resign themselves to looking for a job, even if this is physically impossible. Others are put through endless assessments and become worn down by the stress and stigma they suffer for something that’s outside of their control.

The system as it stands is failing people because it isn’t built to help them. It has no regard for individual situations, or someone’s ability to navigate the various rules . It’s too complicated, departments don’t communicate with each other, and the punishments are punitive and extreme. It also assumes that all claimants have access to the internet at all times, which is rarely the case, or that they know how to use a computerised system. They are almost treated like criminals because they have dared ask for help.

I do not deny that DWP staff are also put under immense pressure themselves but they could do more. There shouldn’t need to be an army of volunteers outside jobcentres to provide the assistance that wasn’t offered inside. We see the desperate need to stop and scrap the benefits system and to develop a fairer way of supporting the most vulnerable. Until that happens, volunteers will always be needed to fill the void.

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Outside the jobcentre, on the front line of poverty

I am an avid reader of Charlotte’s blog and it distresses me to read about all the people that are in dire straits [mostly caused caused by our “friend” the DWP, you can find her blog here, she also has a donation page because they give out food parcels and other items. GN


CHARLOTTE HUGHES describes a recent day she and her fellow campaigners had helping jobseekers any way they can

FOR over four years, I have been campaigning against universal credit outside Ashton-under-Lyne jobcentre with a few others.

We offer people going in and out of the jobcentre any help and advice that we can and provide food parcels and solidarity.

We are seeing an unprecedented number of people living in extreme poverty. Many of the people that I speak to every week are desperate not only for food and heating but also compassion.

We are living in a world where the demonisation of the poorest and most vulnerable is becoming the norm, but we must do whatever we can to challenge this.

To highlight this, I’d like to describe a recent day for us outside the Ashton-under-Lyne jobcentre.

I arrived at the jobcentre and was almost immediately met by a lovely lady by the name of Vicky. She had travelled all the way from Salford with some extra food parcels containing goodies such as fruit, UHT milk and margarine. When you have nothing, these essentials become luxuries and you treasure them.

I was then joined by Gordon, who brought some food parcels and later on by Roy who wasn’t feeling very well, but he still came along to help people.

The first to ask for our help was a woman and man I had met before. She, her partner and children had been illegally evicted the week before Christmas. They lost everything, including all the Christmas presents for their children. We gave her some milk and a food parcel.

Even though the work we do is welcomed, it shouldn’t distract from the fact that we shouldn’t have to do it in the first place. If there were enough social houses, then people would not find themselves in need of our help.

I spoke to a young man who was very shy at first, but after a while he opened up and told us his situation. He went to check his bank account for his benefits payment over Christmas but found it empty.

He managed to contact the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) but was told that he had been sanctioned because of an appointment he missed the previous year.

He missed an appointment over 12 months ago and was now being punished for it. He had no food over Christmas and was forced to rely on the kindness of others. When I offered him some food, the first thing that he said to me was: “I haven’t got any money. I can’t pay for this.”

I told him that money wasn’t needed and tears ran down his face. I urged him to appeal against his sanction. It is abhorrent that the government continues to target individuals like this.

Later, we also spoke to an older lady who had failed her Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) medical and had been forced to sign on.

She’s 63 years old and has numerous medical conditions. She simply should not be in this situation. She must be entitled to her pension.

We advised her to appeal against the medical and she replied saying she didn’t even know that was possible. It seem her adviser has told her nothing.

I stopped and spoke with another man and woman entering the jobcentre later that day. The man was only wearing one shoe and his ankle was twisted slightly. He was also using a makeshift walking stick.

I asked them if they were ok and they told me that it was their first time signing on and they had been warned that they must attend.

Getting medical attention should have been their top priority not attending a jobcentre appointment. However, the man and woman were afraid that, if they cancelled the appointment and went to accident and emergency instead, then their claim would be dismissed. I informed them of their rights and handed them a leaflet.

The benefits system has been designed to punish people like them. To put it simply, the whole thing is inhumane. The amount of control the government has over the poorest and most vulnerable in society is obscene.

Their first thought is that they must comply with a system that hates them, that actively discriminates them and abuses them, much like an abusive relationship, but a person cannot walk away from the system.

The only way of escape is to find a well-paid, full-time job, but there aren’t many of them around any more, especially for people without many qualifications.

At the end of the day, I spoke to a lady who leaving the jobcentre. She asked me if it was usual for the advisers to ask lots of probing questions about her children.

“No, that isn’t usual,” I told her. “They should not be prying into your personal life.”

“It’s not fair,” she said. “I know that I’m doing everything right; I’m not stupid. Just because I’m young and have children doesn’t mean that I’m stupid. I’m just glad that I could prove her wrong and I challenged her. Others might not have done.”

I advised her to make an official complaint and how to do so. I’ve had to do this once before and it works. So, if you are reading this and undergoing the same problem, then please make an official complaint. If you have a decent MP, then do it through them.

Even though there were only a few of us there that day, we helped lots of people and I hope we gave them some hope, support and solidarity.

We also provided food and some warm packs that had been donated. We handed out approximately 12 food parcels in two hours. That’s a lot, but they were needed and are needed every week.

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Esther McVey’s policies hurt the people they should help’

Esther McVey’s breaches of Health and Safety law as a company director to her reckless & cruel policies at the DWP, which have driven many to suicide should have her behind bars, never mind in charge of the DWP. Even the United Nations slammed the DWP for their treatment of disabled people. All this goes to prove that there’s a callous and cruel attack upon sick, disabled and poor people causing the United Nations to call it a A human catastrophe.

What heartless monsters could invent such atrocities as the: 


‘Your policies hurt the people they should help’: Labour letter slams Esther McVey’s record defending cruel Tory benefit cuts

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams has published an open letter to Ms McVey, challenging her to defend some of her ‘ill-advised’ actions

Image result for Esther McVey as the grim reaper
Labour today raised serious concerns about Theresa May’s new Welfare chief, Esther McVey over her previous record of defending cruel Tory benefit cuts.

Esther McVey, who was a junior minister for jobs and disabled people under former Welfare secretary Iain Duncan Smith, was given the top job in the Department for Work and Pensions last week, in Mrs May’s shambolic reshuffle.

But today, Labour’s Debbie Abrahams published an open letter to Ms McVey, challenging her to defend some of her “ill-advised” actions.

The Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary said Ms McVey, a former TV presenter, saw through cuts in support to more than 300,000 disabled people when Disability Living Allowance was replaced by less generous Personal Independence Payments.

She said Ms McVey had suggested in the House of Commons that the hated Bedroom Tax was about “fairness” and not saving money and denied the increased use of foodbanks was not caused by Conservative cuts to benefits for the most vulnerable.

Debbie Abraham’s letter to Esther McVey challenging some of her ‘ill-advised’ opinions

In the letter, seen by the Mirror, Ms Abrahams wrote: “You will be my fourth Work and Pensions Secretary in 18 months, but I do hope we can work constructively to ensure that the social security system your Government presides over, provides dignity and security for all people whether they have fallen on hard times, are sick or disabled or are elderly.

The new DWP Secretary’s firm put workers at risk of ‘serious injury’

Related image

“Unfortunately, it is clear from evidence across the country that this is not the common experience of people who are reliant on the social security system.”

She said the culture developed by Ms McVey and her predecessors in the role had “meant that instead of feeling supported and enabled, people feel demonised and even dehumanised.”

Debbie Abrahams said the culture fostered by Esther McVey meant people felt ‘demonised and dehumanised’ (Image: Getty)

“Your policies are hurting the people they should help most,” she added.

Ms Abrahams also urged Ms McVey to look again at the so-called “rape clause”, which forces victims “prove” their children had been conceived as a result of sexual assault in order to claim child tax credits for more than two children.

And she called on the new Work and Pensions Secretary to guarantee, as her predecessor David Gauke did, that there would be no further cuts to the social security budget.

She added: “I am willing to work constructively with you in the best interests of the country.

“However continuing down the current road will only cause more misery.”

SOURCE


MORE MCVEY MAYHEM

Thousands of PIP claimants with Multiple Sclerosis told they are ‘not disabled enough’

New figures show the huge number of people with MS – a progressive, long-term condition with no cure – who have claims for PIP rejected

Theresa May is under pressure to shake up the entire assessment process for PIP

Thousands of benefit claimants with multiple sclerosis have been told they are “not disabled enough”, a charity warns today.

New figures show the huge number of people with MS – a progressive, long-term condition with no cure – who have claims for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) rejected.

The benefit pays up to £141 a week to help people cover the extra costs of being disabled or long-term sick.

But since it launched in 2013, 31% of new claims by people with MS – 4,100 in total – have been “disallowed”, it’s claimed.

Thousands of people with a long-term progressive condition are being rejected (Image: Getty)

The figures, obtained from the government under Freedom of Information laws by the MS Society, come after a string of complaints about the quality of assessments for the benefit.

Protesters say medical evidence is often missed in the process, and 65% who appeal to an independent tribunal win their case.

Thousands of people who scored no qualifying points at all in assessments have won appeals to get PIP.

Thousands of people who score ‘zero points’ for disability benefit win fight to get it back

MS sufferer Bethan Thorpe, 41, who was denied the benefit in 2014 only to win the highest rate of PIP at a tribunal, said: “The assessor wasn’t aware I had MS and obviously hadn’t read my medical reports.

“When I saw my report of the assessment, I was shocked to see I’d been marked down for being able to shake the assessor’s hand, and for carrying a handbag.

“I was made to feel like a liar about my condition; it was so demoralising.

“For almost a whole year I had no income while I was fighting this decision.

One woman said: “I was made to feel like a liar – it was so demoralising” 

“My health suffered tremendously in that time, as stress makes my symptoms worse. Without PIP I couldn’t even get to my hospital appointments.”

Today the MS Society warns the entire system of assessments – which private firms carry out at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds a year – is “fundamentally flawed”.

“The Government needs to review the whole system to make sure it works more effectively for those it’s designed to support.

“Having MS is hard enough; it shouldn’t be made harder by a welfare system that doesn’t make sense.”

Nearly One Third Of Those With MS ‘Disallowed’ Vital Support Under PIP

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) source said new evidence in Ms Thorpe’s case was only submitted a month before her appeal hearing.

A spokeswoman said: “PIP assessments look at how individuals are affected by conditions such as multiple sclerosis over the majority of days in a year, rather than just assessing ability on a single day.

“Under PIP, 36% more people with multiple sclerosis receive the highest rate of support than under the previous DLA system.

“More than 2.6 million PIP decisions have been made, and of these 8% have been appealed and 4% have been overturned. In the majority of successful appeals, decisions are overturned because people have submitted more evidence.”

HELPFUL PDF’S ON CLAIMING & APPEALING PIP

PIP-the-Laymans-Guide

HOW TO WIN A PIP APPEAL

 

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Tories confirm Millions of people will have their benefits frozen for another year, 21 minutes after Royal engagement

Despite scrapping the cap on public sector pay rises, Theresa May has kept the freeze on benefits to slash £3.5billion a year by 2020

Theresa May is raising public sector pay and pensions –

Millions of people will have their benefits frozen for another year, the Tory government has confirmed.

The announcement was made this morning – with a standard e-mail alert arriving in the Mirror’s inbox 21 minutes after the Royal engagement was revealed.

Ministers had always planned to make the announcement today, but the timing means many people may have missed it.

It re-confirms the policy pioneered by welfare-slashing Tory George Osborne to freeze working-age benefits for four years from 2015/16.

As food prices rise, the state pension is going up by 3% from April 2018 thanks to the government’s ‘triple lock’ – and the 1% pay rise cap in the public sector is being scrapped.

Yet despite this, Theresa May has kept the freeze on benefits intact to slash £3.5billion a year by 2020.

That means apart from pensions and carers’ allowance, the vast majority of benefits will be worth less as prices shoot up.

How much will the Tories pay towards their wedding!

Just weeks ago inflation reached a five-year high of 3%, adding to the pressure on families.

Welfare minister Caroline Dinenage said benefits “linked to the additional cost of disability” would be exempt.

But the small print reveals this does not apply to thousands of people on sickness payment Employment and Support Allowance.

Only carers, people in the ESA “support group” or those receiving enhanced or severe premiums for disability will see a rise in benefits from 9 April 2018.

The confirmation of the freeze was buried at the bottom of a written statement by Ms Dinenage that said she was “pleased” to announce new rates.

Woman in wheelchair waiting at station platform
Disabled people will see an uprating in benefits 

Disability and carers’ benefits, including all those on Personal Independence Payments (PIP), will rise by the CPI measure of inflation.

The changes will take effect within months of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding next spring.

It is not yet known what cost their wedding will have to the taxpayer, if any, but it is likely to need heavy policing – partly due to the enthusiastic crowds it will attract.

Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions spokesman Stephen Lloyd said: “The Tories seem to be shamelessly using the Royal engagement to bury bad news. Millions of hard-pressed families are set to be pushed over the edge into poverty by these cruel cuts.”

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said: “Once again the Prime Minister has failed to make good on her promise to help those struggling to get by.

“By continuing to freeze working-age benefits at a time when inflation is soaring, the Government is subjecting 10.5 million households to an average cut of £450 a year.”

Labour has “committed to lifting the freeze”, she added. The party says this because of extra money it would put into the system, but it has not committed to a direct uprating of all benefits with inflation every year.

Key benefit rates from 9 April 2018

Attendance allowance: £85.60 (up from £83.10)

Benefit cap: £23,000 London / £20,000 for others (frozen)

Carers’ allowance: £64.60 (up from £62.70)

ESA work-related component: £29.05 (frozen)

ESA support component: £37.65 (up from £36.55)

Housing benefit: £73.10 for many (frozen)

Jobseekers’ allowance: £73.10 over 25, £57.90 under 25

Maternity allowance: £145.18 (up from £140.98)

PIP daily living enhanced: £85.60 (up from £83.10)

PIP daily living standard: £57.30 (up from £55.65)

PIP mobility enhanced: £59.75 (up from £58.00)

PIP mobility standard: £22.65 (up from £22.00)

State pension: £164.35 (up from £159.55)

Universal Credit: Most rates frozen

For full rates paid for every type of benefit this year and next year, click here.

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