The benefit disentitlement trick.

M Boyce made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Work and Pensions

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was refused by Department for Work and Pensions.

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

FOI request: JSA disentitlement as a FIRST resort as opposed to JSA sanction as a LAST resort.
In the Gov.UK press release of 6 November 2013 titled: ‘ ending the something for nothing culture’, it states the following:

‘Sanctions are used as a LAST resort and the DWP has put in place a comprehensive monitoring regime to ensure that sanctions are always and only applied where appropriate to do so.’
‘The decision to impose a sanction is taken by an independent decision maker - and everyone has the right to appeal. Crucially, people are always made aware of their right to appeal BEFORE any sanction is imposed.’

So, that’s what happens if a JSA claimant is SANCTIONED (has a 100% reduction in their JSA imposed by DWP) for missing a JSA interview.
But what happens if a claimant is DISENTITLED to JSA ( has a 100% reduction in their JSA imposed by DWP) for missing a JSA interview?
Well, here, the cosy, warm little World of Sanction does not apply - the claimants benefit is stopped as a FIRST resort, without warning, and without good reason.
In the Decision Makers Guide, Volume 6, Chapter 34: Sanctions:
Lower-level sanction
34161
2.1 ‘Claimant fails to participate in an interview at the JCP‘.
34205
‘Claimants will be given the opportunity to explain why they have not complied with requirements…’
The new sanctions regime came into effect on 22/10/12, and within the sanctions guidelines is a particularly unjustified and nasty little surprise.
Under the title : ‘Time to show good reason’
34211 it states:
‘The time a claimant will have to contact JCP where there is a failure to participate in an interview at JCP is 5 working days’
And then Note 1:
‘From 22/10/12 non-participation in the interview leads to DISENTITLEMENT in ALL cases except where the claimant makes contact within 5 working days in which case the DM considers a sanction.’
What all this means is that if a claimant fails to attend a JSA interview (they simply didn’t receive the appointment letter for example) and they didn’t contact JCP within 5 working days to tell them that they hadn’t received the JSA appointment letter (how could they if they didn’t know about it?) then they will be instantly disentitled to JSA (100% reduction) for up to two weeks - as a FIRST resort. There is no right to appeal BEFORE a disentitlement is applied, unlike when a sanction is applied, although both result in a 100% loss of JSA. Even when you find out that JCP has sneakily and secretly disentitled you to JSA behind your back, then there is also no automatic right to appeal, and no automatic right to request a Mandatory Reconsideration ( disentitlement is like being sent to prison without a trial, except the DWP don’t make you wear an orange jump-suit, at least not yet anyway ).The DWP have stitched-up many thousands of claimants in this way, and that is probably a substantial understatement.

Questions:

(1) How many claimants have been disentitled to JSA for missing a JCP interview they didn’t know about, and couldn’t know about, leaving them destitute and reliant on food banks?

(2) If DWP doesn’t record these figures, then can it explain why it does not do so? Is it because you do not want the public to know the TRUE number of claimants being unjustly deprived of JSA by the DWP? Sanctions are just the tip of the food bank iceberg, unrecorded and unaccountable disentitlement is what lurks beneath.

(3) How much money has the DWP saved by unjust disentitlement of JSA claimants?

The DWP knows that unjust disentitlement of claimants goes unmonitored and unchecked. This little gem of deception sits almost unnoticed in the current sanctions regime, and because it is not technically a sanction, though it has exactly the same result, it has been designed to fall outside of the ‘safeguards’ built into the sanctions regime. Very crafty DWP.

Yours faithfully,

M Boyce

DWP freedom-of-information-requests, Department for Work and Pensions

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DWP Strategy Freedom of Information, Department for Work and Pensions

Dear M Boyce,

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request.

You can expect a reply by 6/3/15 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

1 Attachment

Dear M Boyce,

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request. Please fin 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

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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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Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Work and Pensions's handling of my FOI request 'The benefit disentitlement trick.'.

Thank you for your reply to my FOI request.
Unfortunately you have supplied me with incorrect and largely irrelevant information.

I asked for the following information:

(1) How many claimants have been disentitled to JSA for missing a JCP interview they didn't know about?

Claimants are sometimes sent JCP appointment letters through the post that they simply did not receive. The letters are not sent by recorded delivery and letters sometimes go missing in the post. I speak from personal experience. You then state:
'Claimants would not be disentitled for missing an appointment with their Work Coach,'
Well I was.
You should know that your quoted sentence above is not necessarily correct, and the law is clear on this:
'From 22.10.12 non-participation in the interview leads to disentitlement in all cases except where the claimant makes contact within 5 days in which case the DM considers a sanction'.
If a claimant doesn't receive the letter, then they will not know to contact JCP within 5 working days - they will then be disentitled as a first resort, not a last resort - no ifs, and no buts.
Can you please explain why you dispute this very simple fact, and why you and Government ministers keep asserting that sanctions ( and this does include benefit disentitlement in legislative terms) are only used as a last resort. It is just not correct.
(2) I asked about benefit disentitlement figures. Are these figures included in the aggegate sanction figures?
(3) I asked you about the cost savings of stripping claimants of JSA. You did not provide a figure, and this must exist. I did not ask for a panegyric on Mr Duncan-Smiths ideological approach to welfare. If you can disaggregate the disentitlement cost savings from the sanction savings then that would be appreciated.

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

Yours faithfully,

M Boyce

DWP freedom-of-information-requests, Department for Work and Pensions

This is an automated confirmation that your request for information has
been accepted by the DWP FoI mailbox.
 
By the next working day your request will be forwarded to the relevant
information owner within the Department who will respond to you direct. 
 
If your email is a Freedom of Information request you can normally
expect a response within 20 working days.
 
Should you have any further queries in connection with this request do
please contact us.
 
For further information on the Freedom of Information Act within DWP
please click on the link below.
 
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Dear DWP freedom-of-information-requests,

Right, no more messing about with you lot. You will be hearing from the ICO.

Yours sincerely,

M Boyce

Dear DWP freedom-of-information-requests,

Will you finally provide a response to my request for an internal review of my FOI request about unfair benefit disentitlement as a first resort?

Yours sincerely,

M Boyce

Gavin Shaw left an annotation ()

I notice the following section within the information provided that is:

"Where our specialist and independent Decision Makers do impose a sanction they get the majority of decisions right. Decisions overturned at the appeal stage are often because the claimant brought forward new evidence which wasn't made available to our Decision Makers at the time the original decision was made. If a decision is overturned, all benefit is repaid to the claimant"

As for "Where our specialist and independent Decision Makers do impose a sanction they get the majority of decisions right. " On many occasions these people are simply party time students, or JCP Staff relocated to another area, all of which making contact through VOIP numbers where using an 0121 Number for example, could actually be speaking to someone in Manchester etc. A lot of the material given to theses "Decision Makers" are either outdated DMG's or random quotes of "Acts"with reference numbers referring to the benefit that is sanctioned in hope that people simply choose to believe what they are told.

As for Appeals\Tribunals, twice, has there been accounts to which the DWP were relying on what the claimant failed to do "As agreed" in their claimant commitment \ Jobseekers Agreement, yet entitlement to benefit does no solely rely on the claimant to do everything within these agreements, and theoretically, as long as claimants keep to those 2 to 3 steps where they are actively seeking work, then that is all they are required to do.

Still, on both occasions where case law is made present on the Internet, on both occasions the decisions have been anything but accurate, and that'legal advice given after the claimants questioned their case loss.

M Boyce left an annotation ()

Thanks for your annotation Gavin.

The law is clear on benefit disentitlement: if you miss an adviser interview and do not get in touch with JCP within 5 working days then your benefit is stopped. DWP have told me above:
'Claimants would NOT be disentitled for missing an appointment with their work coach.'
That statement is completely wrong. Benefit disentitlement for missing an appointment is there in the legislation (Decision Makers Guides) and it is enforced by Jobcentres. To say otherwise is nothing short of a lie.
I want to know how this can be squared with the DWP assertion that sanctions ( and that includes disentitlement) are only applied as a LAST resort. It is a blatant lie, because the law is clear that benefit disentitlement should sometimes be used, and is being used, as a FIRST resort.

M Boyce

Dear DWP freedom-of-information-requests,

Hello, is there any body there? The lights are on, but there's nobody at home. Hello, hello...

I will email you every working day for the forseeable future until you can be bothered to respond. The ICO will be contacting you separately.

Yours sincerely,

M Boyce

DWP Strategy Freedom of Information, Department for Work and Pensions

2 Attachments

Dear M Boyce

Please find enclosed a copy of our reply sent to you on 4/3/15 at 11.50 am

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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Dear DWP Strategy Freedom of Information,

I explicitly asked for an internal review of my FOI request about benefit disentitlement as a first resort. Nowhere did I ask for you to just send me an exact copy of your original 04/03/15 reply to my FOI request. If I had wanted you to just send me the exact same information I would have asked for it, and I would not have asked for an internal review of the inadequate and inaccurate information you originally supplied.
You are making a mockery of the Freedom of Information Act (2000), and I promise you this, the ICO will be investigating this matter. The Department for Work and Pensions is a Government Department, and you should behave with the dignity and integrity that should be inherent within that office and this position of considerable social and political responsibility.

Yours sincerely,

M Boyce

Dear DWP Strategy Freedom of Information,

In your email to me on the 10/04/15 you state:

'Please find enclosed a copy of our reply sent to you on the 04/03/15 at 11.50 am.
If you have any queries about this letter please contact me quoting the reference number above.'

OK, let's try again.

Dear Mr/Ms 'Me'(DWP Central FOI Team) ref. VTR 500,

Why have you sent me a copy of the letter you sent me in early March 2015? I asked for an internal review of your March 2015 FOI request reply, and I waited a month for you to send me an exact copy of your original reply.
What is going on here?

Again, I will email you every working day until I receive a sensible reply.

Yours sincerely,

M Boyce

DWP Strategy Freedom of Information, Department for Work and Pensions

Dear M Boyce,

Thank you for your recent Freedom of Information review request.

I can see that on the whatdothyknow website there is the Departmental automated response to your review request, however the actual review email did not make its way to myself. I only became aware of the review request when you sent in the chase up emails last week. My apologies for this administrative error.

Your review has been set up as FoI IR 211 and we will endeavour to reply to you as soon as possible 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

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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,

Thank you for your reply.

You state:
'The actual review email did not make its way to myself.'

Can you tell me where, or to who, the email made its way?

You then state:
'I only became aware of the review when you sent the chase up emails last week.'
What about the chase up emails that I sent the week before on the 01/04/15, 08/04/15 and 09/04/15. Did they also wonder off somewhere else?
Can you please let me know if I will have to wait another month for you to reply properly, or indeed at all, to my request for internal review?
What happens if this email happens to go walk about? Perhaps if I tell it not to and with a wagging finger, that might help. Listen email, don't go straying off! There, that should do the job.

Yours sincerely,

M Boyce

H Mansfield left an annotation ()

The DWP's infamous "it must have got lost in the post" excuse. Amazing.

M Boyce left an annotation ()

Yes,its amazing how the DWP can themselves loose things in the 'post' (letters and emails) when it suits them, but if a benefit claimant states that they did not receive a letter sent to them by DWP, then they are loudly shouted down as LIARS. In actual fact this only strengthens my objection to the benefit disentitlement rules - where if the DWP sends an appointment letter to a claimant through the post and the claimant doesn't receive this letter the claimant's benefit is stopped without any chance for the claimant to argue their case. The DWP state this does not happen, but it absolutely does, and it is set down as such in the benefit legislation! No wonder the IDS run DWP don't want to reply - it's the stick the head in the sand mentality.

M Boyce

John Slater left an annotation ()

Take a look at the Interpretation Act 1978. Clause 7 states:

“Where an Act authorises or requires any document to be service by post. Served by post (whether the expression "serve" or the expression " give " or " send " or any other expression is used) then, unless the contrary intention appears, the service is deemed to be effected by properly addressing, pre-paying and posting a letter containing the document and, unless the contrary is proved, to have been effected at the time at which the letter would be delivered in the ordinary course of post.”

If this is good enough for the DWP then it's good enough for us. Keep copies (scans or photos) of docs, correct addressed & stamped envelopes & proof of postage. If DWP loses it then it can pay your costs to provide another copy.

M Boyce left an annotation ()

John,
Thanks for the info on the Interpretation Act 1978. It's interesting. It doesn't, however, really affect the substantive point of my FOI request: that the DWP are sometimes using sanctions disproprtionately and unfairly as a FIRST resort (as clearly enacted in legislation and enforced at JCP offices), and NOT as a last resort. Even if the DWP can argue that because they have posted an appointment letter to a claimant then that claimant has de facto legally received it, that doesn't mean that if a claimant then fails to attend that appointment that means the sanction is applied as a last resort. What were the first,or second resorts? The claimant is also not given a chance to question, dispute or appeal the sanction before it is applied. It is also excessively punitive because the claimant has no chance to challenge it before it is applied, and little chance after, although I appealed and did win, although it took months of relentless battling. There's also the issue that a claimant might just have made a genuine and honest mistake, and forgotten about their JSA appointment. Is it really fair and proportionate to stop a claimant's money for at least two weeks for them making one genuine mistake? Would the Conservatives think it would be fair and just for benefit claimant's to go without food for two weeks for genuinely forgetting about a dental or hospital appointment? This just shows how nasty and brutal the Conservatives really are. We can all make mistakes ( and yes DWP that also includes you!) and in a civilised society (I know the Conservatives think there is no such thing as society, only the strong dispensing myopic justice to the weak) you should not make people dependent on food banks for making a genuine mistake, or because failures or errors in the system have occurred. That is what really annoys me. That is Conservative policy, and they should at least have the courage to openly admit it, instead of displaying a snivelling lack of integity and hiding behind trite slogans like 'benefit sanctions are only used as a last resort'. No they're not, and I intend to prove and show they're not, no matter how long it takes.

Dear DWP Strategy Freedom of Information,

Can you please let me know whether you have received my email of 16/04/15, and if so whether you intend to reply. If my email has got 'lost' again, then I will send follow-up emails every working day until one does not get lost, and I finally get a reply.

Yours sincerely,

M Boyce

Dear DWP Strategy Freedom of Information,

Do you intend to reply to this email?

Yours sincerely,

M Boyce

DWP Strategy Freedom of Information, Department for Work and Pensions

1 Attachment

Please see the attached reply to your Freedom of Information request

Yours sincerely

DWP Strategy FoI team

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Dear DWP Strategy Freedom of Information,

The information you have provided is again incorrect. You confirm that:

'Claimants are NOT disentitled if they do not attend their appointment and do not make contact with the jobcentre plus within 5 working days.'

In Benefit Sanctions Volume 6 is clearly stated the following:

'Failure to participate - sanction applicable

34834 Note 1:

From 22.10.12 non-participation in the interview leads to DISENTITLEMENT in ALL cases except where the claimant makes contact within 5 working days in which case the DM considers a sanction.'

Which part of the above quoted paragraph do you not understand? Why are you denying the legal existence of the above?

I will now send you a separate FOI request to try and find out what is the difference between the following: sanctions, benefit disentitlement, claim closures initiated by Jobcentre Plus as a punishment, low level reserved decisions as a follow-up double-whamy punishment. They all mean the same thing in practice and they are all sanctions in practice, and in law, wrapped up under different names - they all mean that DWP stops a claimant's benefits and leaves them with no money to live on. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it will still be a pig.

Yours sincerely,

M Boyce

K.muller left an annotation ()

Like this one then I see.

Right to be considered innocent until proven guilty

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/2...

M Boyce left an annotation ()

If you're on benefits, then you are guilty until you can prove you are innocent. If the DWP send you an appointment letter that gets lost in the post (and it does sometimes happen) then according to the law you have received it unless you can prove that you did not receive it. Also the DWP are saying they are sending appointment letters out through the post when they are not doing so to save the Government money by then stopping people's benefits for not turning up to interviews they couldn't possibly know about. Even Houdini would have difficulty getting out of that nice little stitch-up. Perhaps we should change the criminal law in this country too, then the little people accused of murder would have to prove that they didn't do it! This wouldn't apply to the rich and well to do, like DWP staff, of course who would still be innocent until proven guilty.

DWP Strategy Freedom of Information, Department for Work and Pensions

Dear M Boyce,

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

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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 M Boyce,

Please find the reply to your FOI Review 211.

Yours sincerely,

FOI Team

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Dear DWP Strategy Freedom of Information,

You state that I have misinterpreted the legislation. I don't agree. You are being deliberately evasive. I will make this as simple as I possibly can. In terms of JSA benefit being stopped for missing a JCP interview: is 34834 Note 1 in Benefits Sanctions Volume 6 correct or is it incorrect when it states that those that miss an interview and do not contact JCP within 5 working days will be disentitled to benefit in all cases? I just want you to state which it is. I don't want you to start playing at being a politician and give me an answer to a question I didn't ask.
Just to make sure you understand what I am asking for I will state it again. Is 34834 Note 1 in Benefit Sanctions Volume 6 correct: yes or no?

Yours sincerely,

M Boyce

DWP Strategy Freedom of Information, Department for Work and Pensions

1 Attachment

 
Please see the attached response to your Freedom of Information request.
 
Many thanks,
 
 
DWP Central FoI Team

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Dear DWP Strategy Freedom of Information,

Under section 16 of the FOIA you have a duty to provide advice and assistance regarding recorded information. You refuse to answer a simple yes or no question regarding misleading/inaccurate/contradictory recorded information.
In what way is that being helpful?
You are being deliberately evasive.
You will be hearing from the ICO

Yours sincerely,

M Boyce