Discretionary Assisstance Fund website criteria

The request was partially successful.

Dear Welsh Government,

This request is directed to Welsh Government as their logo apears at the top of the website in question, if you are not the responsible public body please indicate this and pass to the relevant body or advise me where to direct my request.
My client group contains many individuals who need to make applications for assistance through the DAF.
Having attempted to make an on-line application for a number of my clients I have found that one must first go to the "Eligibility Checker" one is taken there even if you click to go to "Make On-line Application".
It appears from the clients I have assisted that only applications made for EAP are taken to the online application whereas applications for IAP are deemed "unlikely" to be awarded and no option for online application is possible.
This problem is made worse as the eligibility checker does not ask about people returning to the community after following a Support Programme following an unsettled way of life, although this is clearly a criteria that needs taken into account appearing in section 3C of the application - as this question is not asked in the eligibility checker it always determines "unlikely" for people making an application on this basis.
My questions
1 Will the online system allow an online application for someone who has not reported a "disaster or emergency" in the eligibility checker
2 Can people still apply online even if they have been deemed "unlikely" of success - e.g. if they are trying to apply based on returning to the community having followed a Support Programme
3 If the answer to Q2 is "yes" then how is this done
4 If the answer to Q2 is "no" are there any plans to make this possible - given the UK Government's urging to make benefit related applications online
5 Again if the answer to Q2 is "no" please supply details of how, when and by whom the decision to prevent online application in these circumstances was made
6 Are the "buttons" on the opening page of the online system for "Eligibility Checker" and "Make online Application" supposed to be links to the same target or is this an error
7 Have there been any successful online applications for IAP since the scheme started

Yours faithfully,

Paul Malpas

Lawson, Philip (LGC - Communities),

Hi Anne,

Please see the request for information below from Mr Malpas.

Could you please respond directly to Mr Malpas with the information he
has requested?

Many thanks,

Phil Lawson

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Department for Local Government and Communities / Llywodraeth Leol a
Chymunedau
Welsh Government / Llywodraeth Cymru
Merthyr Tydfil / Merthyr Tudful

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Paul Malpas left an annotation ()

Only a few hours to go and still no reply (the only thing I've had is been cc'd into an e-mail of one civil servant asking another civil servant to deal with my request - not even had the decency to write to me directly)
Was on the phone today to Northgate trying to make an application for a client - I explained that I had to make the application either on the phone or by post because of the problems with the service - the lady I spoke to suggested (not sure if this is official policy or not) I tick the box to make it look like there had been an emergency / disaster to be allowed to make on-line application and then change the information when I actually got access to the form.
I suppose that's way round the problem but I can't believe that applicants are actually being encouraged to give false information just so they can use the on-line service (and here I was thinking Northgate had been contracted because they are systems expert!!)

Dear Welsh Government,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Welsh Government's handling of my FOI request 'Discretionary Assisstance Fund website criteria'.

You have not responded to my request within 20 working days as prescribed by law, nor have you given any explanation for a delay. The only correspondence I have received from you was being cc'd into an e-mail which was not directly addressed to me.

If I have not received a satisfactory reply (both to my original request and this IRR) within the next 20 working days then I will pass this matter to the ICO.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/di...

Yours faithfully,

Paul Malpas

Dear Lawson, Philip (LGC - Communities),

Please note I have sent a request for an Internal Review to the main FOI address. This mail is by way of letting you know as you appear to have been the first person to handle my request.

FYI I have asked for a review as I have not recieved the information requested within the 20 working day time fram and have not received any form of explanation for a delay - further the only acknowledgement of my reuest was being cc'd into an e-mail you sent asking someone called "Anne" to send me the information requested.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Malpas

Dear Lawson, Philip (LGC - Communities),

To remind you, the response to my FoI request is now a week overdue and I have yet to receive an acknowledgement of my request for an Internal Review.

Should I have to refer this matter to the ICO then a full history of my request including the IR request and reminder mails such as this will be forwarded to them.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Malpas

Lawson, Philip (LGC - Communities),

Dear Mr Malpas,

Apologies for the delay in receiving a response to your request for
information.

I have chased the response for you with Northgate Public Services who
administer the Discretionary Assistance Fund on behalf of the Welsh
Government and they will be in touch with you today.

Regards,

Phil Lawson

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Department for Local Government and Communities / Llywodraeth Leol a
Chymunedau
Welsh Government / Llywodraeth Cymru
Merthyr Tydfil / Merthyr Tudful

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Dear Lawson, Philip (LGC - Communities),

Thank you for your reply, I look forward to receiving the information shortly.

It may be of interest for you to note the annotation I recently wrote on the thread (on WDTK website). Essentially I recently had to make another application and had the same problems highlighted in the background section of my original request. When I spoke to Northgate Services on the telephone I was advised to tick the box on the "Eligibility Checker" indicating that the application was because of an emergency (i.e. for Emergency Award Payment) and then to change this information once I had access to the on-line application so it reflected a non-emergency (i.e. for Independence Award Payment) - although this advice was helpful for my client and ultimately resulted in them being able to make an on-line application (we ensured that having given false information it was corrected and only true facts remained by the time the electronic declaration was signed) I find it hard to be believe that this process is necessary, sanctioned and advised to claimants.
I thought you and your colleagues should be aware of this when evaluating the performance of Northgate in administering this service.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Malpas

LWP No Reply,

Dear Mr Malpas, 

 

Apologies in the first instance for the delay in our response and also for
not advising you of the time frames for a response. Thank you for your
email in which you have expressed concerns and requested further
information on the Discretionary Assistance Fund.

 

Firstly, we would like to address the concerns you have raised prior to
your list of questions.

 

Northgate Public Services are working for and on behalf of the Welsh
Government to deliver the Discretionary Assistance Fund.

 

The eligibility checker is only part of the application process for both
online and telephone applications. The eligibility checker serves as a
guide for eligibility and indicates if an applicant is likely or unlikely
to qualify for an award from the fund.

 

In relation to specific applicants you have personally provided assistance
to complete an application and have been advised by the eligibility
checker that the applicant is unlikely to qualify (for an Individual
Assistance Payment), on the Money Made Clear Wales website. What I can
explain is that, an applicant must be in receipt of a means tested benefit
and have an urgent need to enable a vulnerable person to live
independently or support them self in the community or to remain living
independently in the community.

 

It is difficult for us to comment on applications you have supported and
therefore, we will not be able to provide a detailed response to the
issues you have reported. We suggest, if you are experiencing problems
with establishing eligibility, please contact one of our telephone
advisors for assistance on 0800 859 5924, available on the website. 

 

You stated within your email, that the eligibility checker does not:

 

...‘ask about people returning to the community after following a Support
Programme following an unsettled way of life’...

 

At the present time the full questions are not available online but
re-settlement programmes are fully explored in Section 3c of the paper
application and this is due to be fully implemented online from the end of
August this year. In terms of the current online application, these
additional questions are asked as part of a follow up call to online
applicants.

 

Response to your questions:

 

1.    Yes the online system will allow for an applicant who has solely
reported a disaster or an emergency to continue to a full application (as
long as they also have indicated they live in Wales).

 

2.    If an applicant is deemed to be unlikely to qualify online, they
would then be unable to proceed to a full online application

 

3.    The advice given to the applicant is for them to contact the
Discretionary Assistance Fund on 03301015000 or 08008595924, to make a
full application.

 

4.    We understand digital inclusion is a key issue, potentially eligible
applicants are able to independently complete and submit an application
online. For those applicants who do not fit within the eligibility
criteria, we direct the applicant to complete an application with guidance
from one of our telephone advisers.

 

5.    We understand that it is sometimes difficult for all applicants to
capture circumstances which would support an application on a computer
system. This is the reason we offer our telephone number after the
eligibility section.

 

6.    Just to confirm, the ‘eligibility checker ‘button and the ‘make an
application’ buttons link to the same target is not an error. The
‘eligibility checker’ button is intended for those applicants who wish to
solely check their eligibility at that time. The ‘make an application’
button is for those applicants who intend to carry out the full
application process. 

 

7.    We can confirm that 80% of applications made to the Discretionary
Assistance Fund are Individual Assistance Payments. We receive a number of
online applications daily, which have resulted in an award. 

 

Please contact us if you need any further assistance or information,
additionally you can find all details regarding how to make an
application, eligibility criteria and other useful guides on: 
[1]www.moneymadeclearwales.or.uk (go into the Benefits section and select
the Discretionary Assistance Fund link).

 

Thank you.

 

Regards,

 

DAF Fund Wales

 

 

 

 

 

 

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References

Visible links
1. http://www.moneymadeclearwales.or.uk/

Dear LWP No Reply,

Please note I received an e-mail from Philip Lawson on 14th June 2013 apologising for the delay in responding to my FoI, he gave an assurance that Northgate Services would respond to me that same day. I have now received a response from “LWP No Reply” on 17th June 2013 – again there was an apology for delay but no explanation for the cause of this delay.
Despite the delay in receiving a response you have failed to fully answer my questions.
1 Will the online system allow an online application for someone
who has not reported a "disaster or emergency" in the eligibility
checker
Your answer:
1. Yes the online system will allow for an applicant who has solely
reported a disaster or an emergency to continue to a full application (as
long as they also have indicated they live in Wales).
Please note my question was in regard to someone who has NOT reported a disaster / emergency
5 Again if the answer to Q2 is "no" please supply details of how,
when and by whom the decision to prevent online application in
these circumstances was made
Your answer:
5. We understand that it is sometimes difficult for all applicants to
capture circumstances which would support an application on a computer
system. This is the reason we offer our telephone number after the
eligibility section.
Please note your answer is not an answer to my question, can you please answer the question asked.
6 Are the "buttons" on the opening page of the online system for
"Eligibility Checker" and "Make online Application" supposed to be
links to the same target or is this an error
Your answer
6. Just to confirm, the ‘eligibility checker ‘button and the ‘make an
application’ buttons link to the same target is not an error. The
‘eligibility checker’ button is intended for those applicants who wish to
solely check their eligibility at that time. The ‘make an application’
button is for those applicants who intend to carry out the full
application process.
For this question you have submitted an acceptable response however you have not given any indication as to the difference (if any) selecting either button makes – you have said that one button is for an applicant whose intention is (a) and one button is for an applicant whose intention is (b) – you say that both buttons take the applicant to the same target – can you confirm that whichever of these two buttons is selected the applicant is delivered to exactly the same place.
In addition you have supplied some additional information in response to my background to the request.
You have stated
“You stated within your email, that the eligibility checker does not:

...‘ask about people returning to the community after following a Support
Programme following an unsettled way of life’...

At the present time the full questions are not available online but
re-settlement programmes are fully explored in Section 3c of the paper
application and this is due to be fully implemented online from the end of
August this year. In terms of the current online application, these
additional questions are asked as part of a follow up call to online
applicants.”
I do not believe this information is correct, although there are no questions regarding returning to the community having followed a Support Programme in the Eligibility Checker there are questions on this topic on the on-line application (as well as on the paper application as you confirm) – so it is wrong to they are not available on-line, they are merely inaccessible as your Eligibility Checker won’t allow progress to the on-line application. As I do not believe you are intentionally lying about this I can only assume that the author of my response is not aware of what is or is not on the on-line application.

I am attempting to send this reply to where the response originated but as the address is “LWP No Reply” I am also sending it to Philip Lawson and the main FoI address for Welsh Government.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Malpas

Dear Lawson, Philip (LGC - Communities),

Please note I received an e-mail from Philip Lawson on 14th June 2013 apologising for the delay in responding to my FoI, he gave an assurance that Northgate Services would respond to me that same day. I have now received a response from “LWP No Reply” on 17th June 2013 – again there was an apology for delay but no explanation for the cause of this delay.
Despite the delay in receiving a response you have failed to fully answer my questions.
1 Will the online system allow an online application for someone
who has not reported a "disaster or emergency" in the eligibility
checker
Your answer:
1. Yes the online system will allow for an applicant who has solely
reported a disaster or an emergency to continue to a full application (as
long as they also have indicated they live in Wales).
Please note my question was in regard to someone who has NOT reported a disaster / emergency
5 Again if the answer to Q2 is "no" please supply details of how,
when and by whom the decision to prevent online application in
these circumstances was made
Your answer:
5. We understand that it is sometimes difficult for all applicants to
capture circumstances which would support an application on a computer
system. This is the reason we offer our telephone number after the
eligibility section.
Please note your answer is not an answer to my question, can you please answer the question asked.
6 Are the "buttons" on the opening page of the online system for
"Eligibility Checker" and "Make online Application" supposed to be
links to the same target or is this an error
Your answer
6. Just to confirm, the ‘eligibility checker ‘button and the ‘make an
application’ buttons link to the same target is not an error. The
‘eligibility checker’ button is intended for those applicants who wish to
solely check their eligibility at that time. The ‘make an application’
button is for those applicants who intend to carry out the full
application process.
For this question you have submitted an acceptable response however you have not given any indication as to the difference (if any) selecting either button makes – you have said that one button is for an applicant whose intention is (a) and one button is for an applicant whose intention is (b) – you say that both buttons take the applicant to the same target – can you confirm that whichever of these two buttons is selected the applicant is delivered to exactly the same place.
In addition you have supplied some additional information in response to my background to the request.
You have stated
“You stated within your email, that the eligibility checker does not:

...‘ask about people returning to the community after following a Support
Programme following an unsettled way of life’...

At the present time the full questions are not available online but
re-settlement programmes are fully explored in Section 3c of the paper
application and this is due to be fully implemented online from the end of
August this year. In terms of the current online application, these
additional questions are asked as part of a follow up call to online
applicants.”
I do not believe this information is correct, although there are no questions regarding returning to the community having followed a Support Programme in the Eligibility Checker there are questions on this topic on the on-line application (as well as on the paper application as you confirm) – so it is wrong to they are not available on-line, they are merely inaccessible as your Eligibility Checker won’t allow progress to the on-line application. As I do not believe you are intentionally lying about this I can only assume that the author of my response is not aware of what is or is not on the on-line application.

I am attempting to send this reply to where the response originated but as the address is “LWP No Reply” I am also sending it to Philip Lawson and the main FoI address for Welsh Government.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Malpas

Dear Welsh Government,

Please note I received an e-mail from Philip Lawson on 14th June 2013 apologising for the delay in responding to my FoI, he gave an assurance that Northgate Services would respond to me that same day. I have now received a response from “LWP No Reply” on 17th June 2013 – again there was an apology for delay but no explanation for the cause of this delay.
Despite the delay in receiving a response you have failed to fully answer my questions.
1 Will the online system allow an online application for someone
who has not reported a "disaster or emergency" in the eligibility
checker
Your answer:
1. Yes the online system will allow for an applicant who has solely
reported a disaster or an emergency to continue to a full application (as
long as they also have indicated they live in Wales).
Please note my question was in regard to someone who has NOT reported a disaster / emergency
5 Again if the answer to Q2 is "no" please supply details of how,
when and by whom the decision to prevent online application in
these circumstances was made
Your answer:
5. We understand that it is sometimes difficult for all applicants to
capture circumstances which would support an application on a computer
system. This is the reason we offer our telephone number after the
eligibility section.
Please note your answer is not an answer to my question, can you please answer the question asked.
6 Are the "buttons" on the opening page of the online system for
"Eligibility Checker" and "Make online Application" supposed to be
links to the same target or is this an error
Your answer
6. Just to confirm, the ‘eligibility checker ‘button and the ‘make an
application’ buttons link to the same target is not an error. The
‘eligibility checker’ button is intended for those applicants who wish to
solely check their eligibility at that time. The ‘make an application’
button is for those applicants who intend to carry out the full
application process.
For this question you have submitted an acceptable response however you have not given any indication as to the difference (if any) selecting either button makes – you have said that one button is for an applicant whose intention is (a) and one button is for an applicant whose intention is (b) – you say that both buttons take the applicant to the same target – can you confirm that whichever of these two buttons is selected the applicant is delivered to exactly the same place.
In addition you have supplied some additional information in response to my background to the request.
You have stated
“You stated within your email, that the eligibility checker does not:

...‘ask about people returning to the community after following a Support
Programme following an unsettled way of life’...

At the present time the full questions are not available online but
re-settlement programmes are fully explored in Section 3c of the paper
application and this is due to be fully implemented online from the end of
August this year. In terms of the current online application, these
additional questions are asked as part of a follow up call to online
applicants.”
I do not believe this information is correct, although there are no questions regarding returning to the community having followed a Support Programme in the Eligibility Checker there are questions on this topic on the on-line application (as well as on the paper application as you confirm) – so it is wrong to they are not available on-line, they are merely inaccessible as your Eligibility Checker won’t allow progress to the on-line application. As I do not believe you are intentionally lying about this I can only assume that the author of my response is not aware of what is or is not on the on-line application.

I am attempting to send this reply to where the response originated but as the address is “LWP No Reply” I am also sending it to Philip Lawson and the main FoI address for Welsh Government.

Yours faithfully,

Paul Malpas

Lawson, Philip (LGC - Communities),

Dear Mr Malpas,

I am sorry to read in your email that the response you have received
from Northgate Public Services has not fully addressed your questions in
respect to the Discretionary Assistance Fund. I have taken the
opportunity to access the online application and eligibility checker for
the scheme today and there does appear to be a fault in respect to
checking eligibility and making applications for Individual Assistance
Payments.

I have asked Northgate to investigate this fault as a matter of urgency
today and to put in place measures to rectify the situation. Once they
have identified the reason for this problem and provided a solution I
shall address your outstanding concerns personally. I would hope to be
in a position to do this by the latest tomorrow (19th June 2013), but I
will update you either way.

Regards,

Phil Lawson

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Department for Local Government and Communities / Llywodraeth Leol a
Chymunedau
Welsh Government / Llywodraeth Cymru
Merthyr Tydfil / Merthyr Tudful

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Dear Lawson, Philip (LGC - Communities),

Thank you for your quick reply and for taking a personal involvement in this matter, I must admit I was starting to become a little frustrated.

I look forward to hearing the results of your investigations soon.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Malpas

Lawson, Philip (LGC - Communities),

Dear Mr Malpas,

Further to my email of 18th June 2013 Northgate Public Services have now
identified and corrected the fault that was affecting applications for
Individual Assistance Payments. I have run some tests today and these
applications are now progressing through to the full application stage.

In respect to your outstanding questions, I have requested Northgate
Public Services to investigate why it is that applicants who are advised
that they may not be eligible are unable to continue to make an
application online if they wish to do so. I should have a response on
this issue next week. I can confirm that both the 'eligibility checker'
and 'make an application' buttons take the applicant to the same target.
In future it may be simpler to have one button entitled 'check
eligibility and make an application' and I have asked Northgate Public
Services to advise me on this.

Can I thank you for bringing these matters to my attention Mr Malpas. As
soon as I have a response on the outstanding question I will contact you
personally. In the meantime if you are experiencing any further problems
when making applications online please do not hesitate to contact me on
my direct email address below.

Regards,

Phil Lawson

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Department for Local Government and Communities / Llywodraeth Leol a
Chymunedau
Welsh Government / Llywodraeth Cymru
Merthyr Tydfil / Merthyr Tudful

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