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Distortion With Prejudice: Will we ever get honesty from the Department for Work and Pensions – or just more spin and spiel?

The story about the new mother – and her baby – who are facing eviction because the Department for Work and Pensions cut off her ESA on the grounds that she couldn’t prove she didn’t receive a letter (an impossible task) has sparked a huge reaction.

Jacqui Madonia is now trying to survive on one foodbank voucher a week, a single hardship payment of £80, and the “occasional tenner here and there” from her family, after the DWP claimed she had missed an appointment for a Work Capability Assessment – for which she was not notified.

The Department claims it “can be assumed [the letter]was delivered as there was no evidence to the contrary” – but that’s not how the burden of proof works.

The evidence is clear: The Department for Work and Pensions lies about its activities. DWP officers either deliberately fail to send appointment letters to vulnerable people or they delay those letters until after the date of the appointments. Then they claim they are above suspicion and accuse innocent people of dishonesty.

Ms Madonia had no idea any letter had even been sent, until the DWP sent her one – which did arrive – asking her why she hadn’t turned up to the WCA.

Considering the evidence, including the fact that at least one letter did manage to arrive at her home, it is clear that the burden of proof is with the DWP. Where is the evidence that a letter was written? Where is the evidence that it was sent? And where is the proof that it was delivered to the right address?

Many of us have experienced incidents in which the DWP has failed to contact us at an appropriate time.

Nicol Hart, on the Vox Political Facebook page, put it very well when she wrote:

They DON’T care…!! No-one believes that the letters are even sent out…!! It is a deliberate ploy by the DWP to manufacture a reason to stop paying people benefits…!! I know people who have never had the letters and have had their benefits stopped because they never received any letter informing them of an interview that had been arranged for them. I was sitting in the home of a claimant – when his postie delivered his mail. I watched him open his mail and there WAS a letter there notifying him of an appointment made for him by the DWP…!! The only PROBLEM was – that the appointment was for 2 days BEFORE the letter arrived at his house…!! Another deliberate tactic by IDS and the DWP at the time…?? How is it that any notifications of the appointments are NEVER sent to the mobile phones of the people who the appointments are supposedly made for…?? The NHS – Your Doctor – Your dentist and numerous other organisations, ALL send you reminders of appointments – at least one day before the appointment is due….!! Even taxi company’s and Takeaway delivery company’s do the same…!! The DWP have the mobile phone numbers of their claimants – PROVE that they KNEW about their appointments by sending them a text – Simples…!! IF the appointments EVER existed in the first place…!!

The “delayed” appointment letter is a classic. No doubt many of you have heard of it, if you haven’t experienced it.

Mrs Mike experienced it but, fortunately, we were able to put the situation right before any serious trouble arose.

Another DWP dodge we experienced happened when the DWP unilaterally closed down Mrs Mike’s ESA claim on the grounds that her period in the Work-Related Activity Group had ended and she should be claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance instead, while looking for work.

In fact, she had appealed against being put in the WRAG – on the advice of her DWP-appointed work-related activity coach, who said there was no way she would be ready to go back to work before her time in the group (limited to one calendar year) expired.

The DWP had received the appeal – and then ignored it in every respect other than to put a note on her file, never to contact her again in any way at all.

When I found out, I kicked up such a stink that they shamefacedly agreed to put her on income-related ESA until another assessment could take place. She’s now in the Support Group, where the DWP seems happy to leave her for the time being.

The evidence is clear: The Department for Work and Pensions lies – consciously tells falsehoods – about its activities. DWP officers either deliberately fail to send appointment letters to vulnerable people or they delay those letters until after the date of the appointments. Then they claim they are above suspicion and accuse innocent people of dishonesty.

This has to end.

If the DWP officers responsible for this latest fiasco are really squeaky-clean, let them prove it. Let us see the proof that they wrote an appointment letter to Ms Madonia. Let us see proof of postage. Let them provide evidence that the Royal Mail – or whichever post handling company the DWP uses – delivered it.

If the DWP cannot provide this evidence, then the letter wasn’t delivered and the Department owes Ms Madonia – not only the full amount of her benefit, backdated to cover the period she has had to go without, but also a hefty compensation payment for the inconvenience caused by this civil service department’s dishonesty.

And I have a feeling Ms Madonia is not the only benefit claimant to have suffered this dishonesty at the hands of this government department.

So let’s see other benefit claimants come forward with their stories of similar wrong treatment. Let the DWP explain its behaviour towards them as well. And if it can’t, let us see some serious payouts to cover the injustice done to these people, as well.

David Gauke is the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

If this is how he runs his department, let us have his resignation.

AFTERWORD: The stories are still coming in – here’s one in response to this article, from Anne Gambrell:

“Happened to lone parent family member a couple of years ago. Arrived at usual signing on time. “You should have been here two hours ago, we sent a letter. You’re sanctioned”. “I didn’t get a letter”. “We sent it”. Rang me in tears, told her to go back in and ask to see a supervisor and to ask supervisor to print copy of supposed letter or record thereof, off her file. Wasn’t one, because it was never sent. Payments restored. Trust destroyed.”


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