This is the reason we don’t even trust the DWP to send us letters any more

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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10 thoughts on “This is the reason we don’t even trust the DWP to send us letters any more

  1. Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7)

    [see also] Morning Star :: The mystery of letters that never arrive | The People’s Daily

    If the DWP were an airline, it would be regulated by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, a watchdog with statutory powers. As it stands, there have been more DWP-linked deaths than airline accident fatalities in the UK—and shockingly, the DWP remains unregulated because the Work and Pensions Select Committee lacks statutory powers.

    The DWP is a ‘grave and systematic’ human rights violator and its draconian welfare reforms are prematurely ending the lives of many benefit claimants. We must insist that it be governed by an independent body with statutory powers; otherwise, welfare reform in the UK will remain a ‘human catastrophe’, according to the UN, for sick and disabled Britons.

    We should publicly call for the DWP to be regulated by a watchdog. A Private Members Bill (PMB) could help facilitate this, by eliciting discussion of reigning in this rogue department, which is gravely and systematically violating human rights. I’m well aware that all Select Committees are devoid of statutory powers and that Private Members Bills have virtually no chance of passing. But it will provoke discussion and that alone is worthwhile.

  2. It's Me

    this happened to me. they said the were stoppgin a benefit, said they sent a letter. But they believed me and did not ask to prove it. I don’t think they do send letters out anymore, something to do with saving the money.

  3. Brian

    This could be interesting, will the DWP manufacture evidence, and become liable for perverting the course of justice, or roll over and admit their treachery. No, they will do what they always do, refuse to release records, say mistakes have occurred, that they will learn from. Trouble is, they can’t all hide in Spain when this fiasco ends, and for that day, many can’t & will not wait.

  4. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady

    Section 7 of the Interpretation Act says this: – This is what the DWP rely on. They also use the returned letter scheme (RLS) so if an item of post cannot be delivered it returned to sender. When post is issued a note is pit on the system so if DWP say that they have sent a letter and it’s not been received ask them if it has been returned to sender and ask for a copy of the household notes that show the date the letter was issued. If it transpires that it was not issued and you have been sanctioned do not only ask for a mandatory reconsideration but also make a formal complaint. Formal complaints affect DWP stats and are used by the public accounts committee to change procedures within DWP.

  5. Jane Owens

    Also, it is all too easy for mail to go astray as the postal delivery workers are, nowadays, carrying and delivering a great deal more than letters. Early this week, my ‘postie’ placed into my hands, several small parcels, a couple of letters and a few junk mail leaflets advertising supermarket products and pizza delivery etc. I don’t make a habit of looking at junk mail and as usual, I threw them into the recycling bag; fortunately, I spotted the corner of a brown envelope nestling amongst the leaflets. This turned out to be a letter from the DWP addressed to my neighbour. Two weeks ago, another neighbour delivered a letter addressed to me which she had discovered in her hedge. It had obviously fallen out of the ‘postie’s’ overstuffed bag when he was rummaging for particular items for delivery. The postal delivery workers in my area are kind and helpful folk, but they are practically running in order to complete their routes on time and are carrying and delivering far more than their predecessors ever did. This is a small snapshot, I imagine that across the UK, a phenomenal amount of mail is going astray. The working practices forced upon the postal workers need to improve and adjust to the modern world where everyday items are so often ordered online and are delivered by Royal Mail.

  6. Barry Davies

    It’s all down to the government needing to claim there are more people in work than ever, basically they stop your benefit, then claim you are working because you are not claiming, hence at least 600,000 unemployed desperate people not getting any income at all.

  7. dean stockton

    If they say we sent the letter ask for a watermarked copy of said letter, proof of postage and proof of receipt. Do not accept their BULL**** of we posted it on this date and you should have received it on, or about this date!
    They might like to say we handed it to you on your previous signing on date. Which date? You will have to get in touch with the building owners! More BS! They want to prove you were handed the letter they supply the proof if they cannot you win. Why should you give a description of yourself to Telereal Trillium? They will try and get out of it saying something legal prevents them doing the request, or they destroy the video after so many days.

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