Policy on habitual residence test for those returning to the UK due to ebola

Martin Williams made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Work and Pensions

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The request was successful.

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

The Secretary of State was asked and answered the question below:

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): I thank the Minister for his decision to ensure that my constituents who fled Sierra Leone because of Ebola were able to claim benefits and were not affected by the habitual residence test. Will he therefore reinstate the old rule whereby people who were advised by British embassies and high commissions to come back to Britain will have the habitual residence rule waived?

Mr Duncan Smith: The moment I heard the hon. Lady’s question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health, I immediately said to the Department, “Let me have the news on this”, and I changed the policy on that specifically for Ebola. I am keeping the matter under review to look at whether it is necessary to make a wider exemption, depending on what the embassies say, and I will come back to her about that in due course. I was horrified to see what had happened to her constituents.
Hansard:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa...

Please provide me with a copy of the amended policy to which the Minister refers and any guidance or operational notes issued to DWP decision makers on this matter.

Yours faithfully,

Martin Williams

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DWP Strategy Freedom of Information, Department for Work and Pensions

Dear Martin Williams,

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request.

You can expect a reply by 4/2/15 unless I need to come back to you to clarify your request or the balance of the public interest test needs to be considered.

If you have any queries about this letter please contact me quoting the reference number above.

Yours sincerely,

DWP Central FoI Team

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Your right to complain under the Freedom of Information Act

If you are not happy with this response you may request an internal review by e-mailing [DWP request email] or by writing to DWP, Central FoI Team,
Caxton House, Tothill Street, SW1H 9NA. Any review request should be submitted within two months of the date of this letter. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office for a decision. Generally the Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted our own complaints procedure. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow Cheshire SK9 5AF
www.ico.org.uk/Global/contact_us or telephone 0303 123 1113 or 01625 545745

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DWP Strategy Freedom of Information, Department for Work and Pensions

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Dear Martin Williams,

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request. Please find enclosed our reply.

If you have any queries about this letter please contact me quoting the reference number above.

Yours sincerely,

DWP Central FoI Team

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Your right to complain under the Freedom of Information Act

If you are not happy with this response you may request an internal review by e-mailing [DWP request email] or by writing to DWP, Central FoI Team,
Caxton House, Tothill Street, SW1H 9NA. Any review request should be submitted within two months of the date of this letter. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office for a decision. Generally the Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted our own complaints procedure. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow Cheshire SK9 5AF
www.ico.org.uk/Global/contact_us or telephone 0303 123 1113 or 01625 545745

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Dear DWP Strategy Freedom of Information,

I would be grateful if you could review this decision. You may have misunderstood my request.

To clarify, I do not seek release of the correspondence the Minister may have had with his officials or other members of Government about this issue (eg information pertaining to the development process of the policy).

Rather I seek a copy of what the policy on applying the habitual residence test to those coming to the UK due to ebola issues. The minister stated in Parliament that he had changed the policy- I want this policy to be released.

The contents of the policy seem to be relevant to the right of certain people to claim benefits in the UK. As such they are matters of public interest- it is inimical to the rule of law to have secret policies which effect the rights of citizens or others - such people are entitled to know the law and policy that should be applied to them.

CPAG write the Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook which details the rights to claim benefits which people have under the law and policy applied by the DWP- if aspects of this change we need to know so that it can be put in this publication to enable people to assert their rights.

I note that the DWP already publishes its policy on the application of the habitual residence test (in for example the Decision Maker's Guide). The Minister has stated this policy has changed and there is no reason why that policy should not be made public- and powerful public policy interests such as the rule of law which means it should be made public.

It may be the case that the MInister mis-spoke in Parliament and any change to the policy has not in fact yet been made. If that is the case then you could simply reply to say that no new guidance has been issued to Decision Makers and nor has the law been changed in ebola related cases where the habitual residence test needs to be applied.

Many thanks for your consideration of this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Williams
Welfare Rights Adviser
Child Poverty Action Group

DWP Strategy Freedom of Information, Department for Work and Pensions

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Dear Martin Williams,

Thank you for your Freedom of Information review request. Please find enclosed our reply.

If you have any queries about this letter please contact me quoting the reference number above.

Yours sincerely,

DWP Central FoI Team

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Your right to complain under the Freedom of Information Act

If you are not happy with this response you may request an internal review by e-mailing [DWP request email] or by writing to DWP, Central FoI Team,
Caxton House, Tothill Street, SW1H 9NA. Any review request should be submitted within two months of the date of this letter. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office for a decision. Generally the Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted our own complaints procedure. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow Cheshire SK9 5AF
www.ico.org.uk/Global/contact_us or telephone 0303 123 1113 or 01625 545745

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Dear DWP Strategy Freedom of Information,

Many thanks for your reply. I note that you state that the information I request is still under policy development. I accept that this is the case with regard to how the regulations might be amended in the future.

However, the first paragraph of your reply is in the present tense and seems to refer to something that is already policy (although the last sentence then returns to future tense):

"Please note, anyone returning to the UK as a result of the Ebola virus
who meets the prescribed conditions does immediately receive a payment from the DWP, rather than having to satisfy the three month residency condition. The prescribed conditions in this case refer to the claimants'circumstances (not the HRT). The conditions are that a claimant is directly returning to resume residence in the UK from Sierra
Leone, Liberia, Guinea or any country that the Ebola epidemic subsequently spreads to and who is returning specifically because of
the Ebola epidemic.These claimants will be exempted from having to
meet the three month residency requirement for JSA(IB)"

The three month "living in the UK" test is in fact a prescribed condition of entitlement for JSA and a condition precedent on satisfying the habitual residence test as set out in the JSA Regulations 1996.

For the avoidance of doubt, I would be grateful if you could clear up the position for someone who returns for example TODAY from an ebola affected area- does that person need to meet the three month rule? As far as I can see there is nothing in the law that would prevent them from having to do so. If it is the current policy that they do not in fact have to do so, then I assume that the current policy is to make an ex-gratia payment in such cases? It would be great if you could let me know whether that is correct.

If that is not the case, it does rather seem that when the Minister mentioned that he had changed the policy in Parliament what he in fact meant was that he had taken steps to have the policy changed but it had not yet been changed.

Anyway, it would be great if you could just clarify what the current position is (ie whether an ex gratia payment would be made in such circumstances or if not how someone would not presently be disadvantaged under the rules)- I do not think that doing so involves any disclosure of policy planning as it relates solely to the current position which your reply seems to indicate is already operational.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Williams

DWP Strategy Freedom of Information, Department for Work and Pensions

Dear Martin Williams,

Thank you for your Freedom of Information review request.

Please note that it is our internal target to answer reviews within 20 working days unless I need to come back to you to clarify your request, or the balance of the public interest test needs to be considered which we will keep you informed about.

If you have any queries about this letter please contact me quoting the reference number above.

Yours sincerely,

DWP Central FoI Team

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Your right to complain under the Freedom of Information Act

If you are not happy with this response you may request an internal review by e-mailing [DWP request email] or by writing to DWP, Central FoI Team, Caxton House, Tothill Street, SW1H 9NA. Any review request should be submitted within two months of the date of this letter. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office for a decision. Generally the Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted our own complaints procedure. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow Cheshire SK9 5AF www.ico.org.uk/Global/contact_us or telephone 0303 123 1113 or 01625 545745

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DWP Strategy Freedom of Information, Department for Work and Pensions

1 Attachment

Dear Martin Williams,

Thank you for your Freedom of Information review request. Please find enclosed our reply.

If you have any queries about this letter please contact me quoting the reference number above.

Yours sincerely,

DWP Central FoI Team

show quoted sections

Your right to complain under the Freedom of Information Act

If you are not happy with this response you may request an internal review by e-mailing [DWP request email] or by writing to DWP, Central FoI Team, Caxton House, Tothill Street, SW1H 9NA. Any review request should be submitted within two months of the date of this letter. Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner’s Office for a decision. Generally the Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted our own complaints procedure. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow Cheshire SK9 5AF www.ico.org.uk/Global/contact_us or telephone 0303 123 1113 or 01625 545745

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Please use this email address for all replies to this request:
[FOI #247293 email]

Disclaimer: This message and any reply that you make will be published on the internet. Our privacy and copyright policies:
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If you find this service useful as an FOI officer, please ask your web manager to link to us from your organisation's FOI page.

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