This is another classic con from the Tory-run Department for Social Security.
Last year, the DWP suspended face-to-face identity checks for Universal Credit, in anticipation of a glut of claims as Covid-19 bit into people’s jobs.
But now the government department has reinstated identity checks – retrospectively – even demanding ID from people who have closed their claims and could not receive the notification.
As a result “significant” numbers of people have failed to provide this information within the DWP’s 14-day deadline and have been judged to have been overpaid amounts up to £13,000.
Worse, people who have uploaded proof of their identity to their online Universal Credit journal have discovered that their claim has still been terminated and demands made for repayment.
And to top it all off, the DWP has arranged with employers to have money deducted from claimants’ pay packets at a rate of up to 20 per cent of their earnings.
The Child Poverty Action Group is helping some of the people affected and said many of the cases involved people who were unaware the DWP wanted retrospective evidence because they were no longer claiming universal credit, and no longer checked their online journal for DWP messages.
CPAG said the DWP had presumed that claimants’ failure to respond to a request for evidence a year after they claimed meant they were not entitled to the award in the first place.
The charity says this behaviour by the DWP is unlawful.
The Guardian approached the DWP for comment and – in typical style – it avoided the issue.
A spokesperson asserted that it is “right and lawful” that the department seeks to recover payments to which claimants were not entitled.
It seems the DWP has nothing to say about the possibility that it is wrongly taking money from people who did not know that any attempt to contact them or prove their identity had been made – until money started disappearing from their bank accounts.
If cash went missing from my bank account, I would call it theft and take appropriate action.
But the best advice, for any of the 99,000 people who claimed Universal Credit and didn’t have a face-to-face interview, who hasn’t – to their knowledge – been contacted, is to get in touch with the DWP yourself.
Contact them by the fastest possible method to find out whether they want proof of ID. Provide some ID pre-emptively if you feel like it. And keep a personal record of the information you send, in case it is (accidentally?) deleted from the Universal Credit journal or a correspondence file.
Then, if anyone tries to deduct cash unilaterally, you’ll be able to provide evidence that you have done your part and it is the DWP that is at fault.
Turn the tables on them. That’ll be fun, won’t it?
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