Tag Archives: maladministration

#DWP bungled #Waspi women’s #pension-age rise. How long must they wait for #compensation?

WASPI protesters: this image is from 2016 and women born in the 1950s had already spent years protesting against the way the Department for Work and Pensions mistreated them.

The so-called Waspi women have finally won recognition that they were mistreated by the government, after an ombudsman found maladministration by the Department for Work and Pensions.

But they won’t get any compensation for it – at least, not yet – because the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has no power to order it.

The PHSO found that the DWP failed to act quickly enough, once it knew a significant proportion of women were not aware that the age at which they would qualify for the state pension was going up.

It should have written to the women affected by the change, at least 28 months – more than two years – earlier than it did.

The ombudsman’s report said

Between 1995 and 2004, accurate information about changes to State Pension age was publicly available in leaflets, through DWP’s pensions education campaigns, through DWP’s agencies and on its website.

[But the DWP} failed to give due weight to relevant considerations, including what research showed about the need for ‘appropriately targeted’ information, what was known about the need for individually tailored information, or how likely it was doing the same thing would achieve different results. Despite having identified more it could do, DWP failed to provide the public with as full information as possible. DWP failed to make a reasonable decision about next steps in August 2005.

It did not ‘get it right’. And its failure to use feedback to improve service delivery meant it did not ‘seek continuous improvement’. That was maladministration.

DWP then failed to act promptly on its 2006 proposal to write directly to affected women, or to give due weight to how much time had already been lost since the 1995 Pensions Act.

It did not ‘get it right’ because it did not meet the requirements of the Civil Service Code, and it did not take all relevant considerations into account. And it failed again to use feedback to improve service delivery and ‘seek continuous improvement’. That was also maladministration.

The maladministration led to a delay in DWP writing directly to women
about changes in State Pension age. If the maladministration had not happened, DWP would have begun writing to affected women by December 2006 at the latest, 28 months earlier than it did (in April 2009).

It follows that affected women should have had at least 28 months’ more individual notice of the changes. For women who were not aware of the changes, the opportunity that additional notice would have given them to adjust their retirement plans was lost.

The investigation is not over; its next stage will consider the impact that the injustice had on the women it affected.

The co-chairs of the All-party parliamentary group on State Pension Inequality for Women, Andrew Gwynne (Labour) and Peter Aldous (Conservative) have both welcomed the findings.

“The DWP must urgently address these findings, and advise 1950s women what actions they will take to right the wrongs committed by successive Governments. For too long 1950s women have been ignored, and this must change,” said Mr Gwynne.

And Mr Aldous added: “We now must see a cross-party effort to sort this problem out. This issue is bigger than any administration and has been raised repeatedly over the last 25 years. The PHSO findings must now be scrutinised by the DWP and parliament, and then we must set out about compensating women for this injustice.”

It seems the DWP itself isn’t ready to comment yet:

Waspi women have already waited many years for an admission that they were mistreated by the government, and that they have suffered loss as a result.

It seems they may not have to wait even longer before getting any compensation for the loss they have suffered and the huge amount of distress it has caused.

Source: Women’s state pension: Compensation closer for Waspi campaigners – BBC News

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Capita u-turns on court appeal over claimant death – opening itself to more claims?

Outsourcing giant Capita has dropped an appeal against a court decision ordering it to pay damages to the family of a benefit claimant who died  after it recommended she be refused the disability benefit PIP.

The company was ordered to pay £10,000 in damages following the death of PIP claimant Victoria Smith after it recommended that her benefit claim should be refused.

Ms Smith suffered from agoraphobia and fibromyalgia, and died of a brain haemorrhage in July last year after a worsening of these conditions. The assessment had taken place in March, four months previously.

While the decision over whether someone receives the benefit is made by a DWP official, Capita’s assessment of how a person’s disability affects their life is a crucial part of the process.

The week after Ms Smith’s death, a social security tribunal decided she had been eligible for PIP. Mother Susan Kemlo took legal action against the company for maladministration – that it had made inaccurate statements – and was awarded £10,000.

Capita had announced a decision to go back to court, aiming to have the judgement set aside on the grounds that problems with its internal mail system meant the firm never had a chance to defend itself.

But now the company has now announced that it “considered this exceptional case on an individual basis [and] decided not to contest the original default judgement”.

It has apologised to the family for any additional distress caused.

Have its bosses realised that they could be opening the way for a series of appeals by family members of benefit claimants who have died after a refusal recommended by Capita?

Who knows how many people have lost their lives in this way?

The Department for Work and Pensions certainly doesn’t seem to – it doesn’t keep records of what happens to claimants for longer than two weeks after a benefit refusal.

But we have seen dozens of news stories about the deaths of claimants, months after being denied benefits.

The court’s decision has set a precedent. This Writer certainly hopes the families of the deceased take advantage of it.

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‘We’ve been wronged’ says outsourcing firm after death of claimant whose benefits were wrongly stopped

It must be great to be so rich you think you can buy justice.

Take government-contract outsourcing firm Capita, that (among other things) conducts health assessments for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), the main disability benefit, on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The company was ordered to pay £10,000 in damages following the death of PIP claimant Victoria Smith after it recommended that her benefit claim should be refused.

Ms Smith suffered from agoraphobia and fibromyalgia, and died of a brain haemorrhage in July last year after a worsening of these conditions. The assessment had taken place in March, four months previously.

While the decision over whether someone receives the benefit is made by a DWP official, Capita’s assessment of how a person’s disability affects their life is a crucial part of the process.

The week after Ms Smith’s death, a social security tribunal decided she had been eligible for PIP. Mother Susan Kemlo took legal action against the company for maladministration – that it had made inaccurate statements – and was awarded £10,000.

Now the firm is taking the case back to court, hoping the judgement will be set aside.

It says problems with its internal email system mean it never had a chance to defend itself.

And court papers suggest that the firm is bringing this costly court action, not for justice, but to offset the reputational damage it has suffered.

In those papers, the company states: “Capita has been on the receiving end of significant negative press which suggests that it has been held liable following a successful claim by the claimant,” it says.

“This causes significant reputational damage to Capita’s business.”

Never mind the merits of the case; it seems to me that Capita is trying to overturn the judgement because it can afford to.

Put the shoe on the other foot; if Mrs Kemlo had lost, would she have the cash to appeal against the decision?

This is about corporate pride, money, and a bid to buy justice.

Source: Capita seeks to reverse ‘reputational damage’ after death of claimant – BBC News

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DWP limbo: We ask Job Centres ‘How low will you go’?

It is as if staff at the Department for Work and Pensions were trying to commit vocational suicide, in pale emulation of the lengths to which they drive their ‘customers’.

Following on from yesterday’s article on the DWP’s sickening response to the latest Freedom of Information request on incapacity claimant deaths come two accounts of the heartlessness of the Department’s staff.

The first is from our old friend Pride’s Purge, and concerns a letter from the DWP to a woman who suffers with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer.

It states, in very poor English: “On whether you have contributed to your medical condition. We have now decided that you did contribute to your medical condition.”

This is physically impossible and DWP staff, who are not medically qualified, had no right to suggest otherwise. The lady’s boyfriend was so enraged by the incident that he posted the letter on Facebook and you can see it below.

ewings-sarcoma

The second is from the Blue Annoyed blog, and runs as follows:

“A sick and disabled man attend[ed] Newcastle JCP to use the phones to make an enquiry when he was attacked by [a] G4S guard for using his mobile when they refused his request… The JCPs are now removing telephones.

“It is now policy that you are intimidated BY G4S security to turn off your mobiles after many used them to film maladministration of JCP staff.

“At the time of writing this blog a complaint has gone in to the manager of this JCP and the police have been informed.”

There’s more, but you should go to Blue Annoyed to read it.

It seems the gentleman involved had previously been made homeless, and his story had appeared in the New Statesman.

He made a video of the attack, using his mobile, which you can see here.

If anyone tells you that benefit claimants get what they deserve, show them this article.

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DWP despotism – you DO have a right to compensation

Honest appraisal: The national opinion of DWP service is reflected in this comment, delivered direct to Iain Duncan Smith by 'pigeon post'.

Honest appraisal: The national opinion of DWP service is reflected in this comment, delivered direct to Iain Duncan Smith by ‘pigeon post’. (Picture: Kevin Marman)

How many times have we all heard of someone being sanctioned by the Job Centre for failing to turn up at an interview, when they were never even notified that it was taking place?

How many stories have we heard of benefit claims being delayed, causing needless hardship to people who had no other means of support by putting them into debt and under threat of eviction?

How many people have died because the pressure they suffered as a result of mistaken decisions to cut off their benefit, made by DWP officials?

I think we all know the answer to that: MANY.

But the overriding feeling seems to be that there’s nothing to be done about it and the Department for Work and Pensions is a law unto itself.

As it happens, this is not true.

The new ‘Claimant Commitment’, announced by the Department recently, places more stringent requirements on jobseekers, that must be met before they can claim their meagre pittance. The announcement made no mention of any reciprocal commitments on the part of the administrators – but they do exist, and they cover every service the DWP is supposed to provide.

Officials offered up the following after Vox Political submitted a Freedom of Information request:

“In general terms, there is one overriding responsibility: to ensure that the claim is received into an environment where a decision can be made which will be correct from the outset… Parliament and Ministers set the policy; the officers and employees create the administrative processes all claims must go through; decision makers bring the process to a close. Ministerial responsibilities are listed on the Department’s page on the gov.uk website: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-workpensions.

“At individual level, these responsibilities are translated into objectives and personal performance is measured against their effective delivery. There are a range of consequences for individuals failing to deliver, from informal performance improvement plans to dismissal. You then have reputational damage. Whether it is benefit specific or across-the-board under performance, be it perceived or real, this will be picked up by the press and Parliament, with Ministers and senior officials having to defend and explain themselves.

“Ultimately there will be a cost to all this because of the re-work involved in correcting decisions; in overpaying claimants because of official error; in retraining decision makers; in improving processes. That is not good for the department or the country.”

That last sentence is absolutely true. One has to wonder if the offical writing those words was aware that DWP decisions that, for example, cost the country £66 million in a single year in Employment and Support Allowance appeals, have sullied the Department’s reputation to a point where it may never recover.

The letter then points to a document detailing the ways in which people may be recompensed for loss of income as a result of such failure by the DWP, its ministers, officers and employees. It’s at http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/financial-redress-for-maladministration.pdf

This document is 17 pages in length, but you don’t get to the good stuff until page five. This starts by saying: “The Department and its operational businesses aim to provide its customers with a service which is easy to access; treats them well; delivers on time and provides them with the right results.”

Does anybody reading this believe any part of that statement accurately describes the DWP’s service? Is it easy to access, or is the preferred method – telephone – run by a private company that puts claimants on hold for long periods of time unnecessarily, racking up their telephone bill in the knowledge that they have little spare cash to spend on the call, and this will put them out-of-pocket?

Does it treat them well, or do Job Centre staff abuse people terribly – like, for example, the ‘advisor’ who told a woman she had to attend an interview in a town many miles from her home, to take place two days after she had undergone surgery on her leg that meant she could not walk, and refused to reschedule it to accommodate her health?

Or what about the claimant who was told he had failed to attend an appointment and must reclaim his benefit? He had never received notification of any appointment, either by mail or telephone, and therefore had no idea what the ‘advisor’ was banging on about.

Does it deliver on time? I can answer that with Mrs Mike’s experience of her appeal against the Department’s decision to put her in the work-related activity group for ESA. The appeal was submitted in March, after she had received expert advice telling her she had been put in the wrong group. A decision was made, wrongly supposing that she was claiming a deterioration in her condition and that a second work capability assessment was required. She was never notified of the decision and no appointment was ever made for the WCA; in the meantime, the benefit – which only lasts 12 months – expired. She was not contacted to prepare her for this, nor was she told what she could do about it.

This example also answers the final question that arises – does it provide the right results? No, it doesn’t. The decision maker was wrong to say she was claiming deterioration since her original assessment. She was saying the assessment had resulted in the wrong decision at the time it was made. Another assessment can only ascertain her condition on the day it takes place and will be useless in determining her appeal. The correct decision was for the matter to go to a tribunal, and it is likely that, had this happened (and this depends on the DWP telling her when it was happening), the matter might have been resolved, long before the money dried up.

All of these examples serve to support the next part of ‘Financial Redress for Maladministration’: “Unfortunately, we don’t always get things right first time. The term “maladministration” is not defined, but is sometimes used to describe when our actions or inactions result in a customer experiencing a service which does not match our aims or the commitments we have given. It applies to situations in which we have not acted properly or provided a poor service. For example: wrong advice, discourtesy, mistakes and delays.”

Wrong advice, discourtesy, mistakes and delays.

Have you fallen foul of a DWP sanction? Was it due to any of these four reasons? If so, then you could be entitled to compensation. The Department describes this as redress, which usually comes in four forms: a “sincere and meaningful apology”, which is nice but doesn’t pay the rent; an explanation of what happened and/or went wrong – ditto; putting things right, “for example a change of procedure/revising published material”, which will help others in the future but does not solve any financial problems suffered by the claimant; and a special payment, known as financial redress.

You can make them pay.

Here’s where it gets tricky, though – there is no statutory framework for making such payments; they are discretionary, a matter of judgement – and the judgement is made by a DWP decision maker.

The difficulty with this should be clear to everyone – if they can’t make a correct decision on a simple benefit claim, they certainly shouldn’t be trusted to administer compensation payments for their own wrong decisions!

Still, there are guiding principles that can help with a case. The very first of these states that “Individuals should not be disadvantaged as a result of maladministration” – so, if you have lost benefit and this has put you into dire straits financially, you have a strong case.

“The purpose of the Special Payment Scheme is, wherever possible, to return the individual to the position they would have been in but for the maladministration”, the document says. In other words, anyone wrongly sanctioned should be able to get back all the benefits they have not been paid, plus any payment to cover, say, overdraft fees incurred as a result of the wrong decision.

It’s a really interesting document. I strongly advise you to look it up.

And, if you have suffered at the hands of these people, I strongly advise you to make a claim.

That goes for relatives of claimants who have died after adverse benefit decisions by the DWP. In fact – especially for them. If their relatives are unaware of this, tell them about it.

The only measure this government and its ministers understand is money.

Make them pay.

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