Tag Archives: proof

Child charity says DWP is unlawfully demanding Universal Credit repayments

Any opportunity to persecute: the DWP has found a way to force suffering onto people who had to claim Universal Credit because of Covid-19.

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?

Source: Universal credit claimants were sent unlawful demands to repay, says charity | Universal credit | The Guardian

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Cameron seems keen to join the ranks of British war criminals

Reyaad Khan (L) and Ruhul Amin (R), who were killed in a drone strike by the RAF in August.(YouTube)

Reyaad Khan (L) and Ruhul Amin (R), who were killed in a drone strike by the RAF in August.(YouTube)

Someone should tell David Cameron that getting his retaliation in first is not an act that is recognised by the law; people need to commit crimes before being punished for them, and even then the punishment must be appropriate according to the law.

It seems strange to be discussing the Cameron-supported killing of Reyaad Khan, a Cardiff man alleged to be a member of Islamic State, so soon after This Blog expressed concern over the legality of the killing of Osama Bin Laden by US troops, supported by President Obama – but that is how recent events have transpired.

Cameron has told us that Khan was planning terror attacks on the UK, so the Conservative Government ordered his death in a drone strike on August 22.

How do we know this man was planning terror attacks on the UK? Where is the evidence? Is it in another ‘dodgy dossier’, similar to that in which, according to Tony Blair, he had evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

Had this man participated in previous terror attacks? If so, when? Where is the proof that shows him taking part?

Cameron said the UK had taken action in “self-defence”, invoking the right to do so under Article 51 of the UN charter – but Article 51 specifically states that an “armed attack” must take place against a UN member state before any such response.

Apparently, under the ‘Caroline principle’, a pre-emptive strike is permissible if the “necessity of self-defence was instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation”. We have no evidence to show that this was the case.

“It’s extremely alarming that the UK has apparently been conducting summary executions from the air,” Kate Allen, Amnesty International’s UK director told International Business Times. “In following the United States down a lawless road of remote-controlled summary killings from the sky, the RAF has crossed a line.”

On the information we have, she’s right. We’ve seen no evidence of any prior attacks, nor have we seen evidence of the need to prevent future attacks.

All we have seen is an act of murder against a UK citizen by his own government.

Even more worrying is the claim that defence secretary Michael Fallon has a “kill list” of alleged terrorists operating in the Middle East. He is on record as having said the Conservatives “wouldn’t hesitate to do it again”.

Until we see the evidence of terrorist activity, the British public should not see the death of Reyaad Khan as anything other than a war crime.

The onus on David Cameron, Michael Fallon and their co-conspirators is to deliver this evidence at once – or deliver themselves to The Hague for trial.

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Food bank blow is new low for the Mail on Sunday

Who do you bank with? This piece of public opinion was picked up from Twitter [Author: Unknown].

Who do you bank with? This piece of public opinion was picked up from Twitter [Author: Unknown].

Isn’t it a shame that on of our national Sunday newspapers has chosen to disrupt everybody’s enjoyment of our Easter eggs with a specious attempt to expose abuses of food banks and make operator the Trussell Trust look hypocritical?

Isn’t it also a shame that the Mail on Sunday didn’t make a few inquiries into the procedure for dealing with people who turn up at food banks without having been referred?

The paper’s reporters and editor could have, at least, opened a dictionary and looked up the meaning of the word “charity”.

Under the headline, ‘No ID, no checks… and vouchers for sob stories: The truth behind those shock food bank claims’, the paper today (April 20) published a story claiming that Trussell Trust food banks are breaking their own rules by allowing people to take food bank parcels without presenting a voucher from an approved referrer, and that they are allowing many times more than the maximum permissible number of repeat visits.

Unfortunately for reporters Simon Murphy and Sanchez Manning, both situations are – in fact – allowed, because food banks must be flexible in the way they deal with individual cases. They would have known that if they had done their homework – as yr obdt srvt (who’s writing this) did at several meetings on the organisation of food banks here in Powys.

The paper’s investigation claims that there were “inadequate checks on who claims the vouchers, after a reporter obtained three days’ worth of food simply by telling staff at a Citizens Advice Bureau – without any proof – that he was unemployed”.

It turned out that this person had to fill out a form providing his name, address, date of birth, phone number and the reason for his visit before an assessor asked him why he needed food bank vouchers. In contradiction of the introduction to the story, he explained – not simply that he was unemployed, but that he had been out of work for several months and the harsh winter had left him strapped for cash and food. He said his wife had left her job and was not earning and that they had two children. These lies were sufficient to win food bank vouchers.

What the report didn’t say was how the details given by reporter Ross Slater would have been used afterwards. The CAB would have booked him in for a further interview with a debt advisor, to which he would have had to bring documentary evidence of his situation. When he didn’t turn up, he would have been identified as a fraud. The food bank would also have taken his details, to be fed back into the referral system. Job Centre Plus would have picked up on the fact that he isn’t unemployed. From this point on, he would have been identified as a fraud and refused further service.

You see, it is true that food banks run on a voucher system, but that is only a part of the scheme. The questions asked of people who need vouchers are used to ensure that they get the help they need to avoid having to come back – that’s why they’re asked. They also weed out abusers like Mr Slater.

If the paper’s editor had looked in a dictionary, he might have seen charity defined as “voluntary provision of help to people in need, or the help provided” in the first instance. However, reading further, he would have seen “sympathy or tolerance in judging” listed as well. It seems the Mail on Sunday would have no such sympathy and would have deserving cases turned away to starve.

It is telling, also, that the paper had to go to Citizens Advice to get its evidence. Far more food bank vouchers are handed out in the Job Centre Plus, where all a citizen’s circumstances are available to advisors. But not one word is said about the fact that the vast majority of food bank referrals are for people in real need and not newspaper reporters.

The paper also stated: “Staff at one centre gave food parcels to a woman who had visited nine times in just four months, despite that particular centre’s own rules stipulating that individuals should claim no more than three parcels a year.”

It continued: “Individuals experiencing severe financial hardship are able to claim food vouchers but there are no clear criteria on who should be eligible. Once received, the vouchers can be exchanged for three days’ worth of food at an allotted centre.

“The Trussell Trust has a policy that an individual can claim no more than nine handouts in a year, but undercover reporters found this limit varied in different branches.”

No – it is far more likely that it varied according to the circumstances of the person who needed the help. Rigid rules, such as one that limits people to only three visits, mean those who need the most help would be cut off while they still needed assistance. People working in food banks would be aware of who these were, and would be more likely to be tolerant towards them.

Meanwhile, the other support services – Job Centre Plus, Citizens Advice, Social Services and so on – would be working to help them. With some people, it simply takes longer. It should be easy for anyone to think of reasons why this may be the case.

This may also explain the situation in which a worker at a Trussell Trust food bank said people “bounce around” locations to receive more vouchers. The assessment system is a way of monitoring these people and determining whether they need extra help.

It is not true that the criteria are not clear – the paper is misleading with this claim. Food banks, the charities running them, and referring organisations all have to agree on the circumstances in which they permit people to receive parcels. You really can’t just walk in the door and expect to get a free handout. That’s why the questions are asked and forms filled out – they will check up on everybody.

Another claim – that “volunteers revealed that increased awareness of food banks is driving a rise in their use” is unsubstantiated, and is clearly an attempt to support the government’s claim that this is the case. But it is silly. Of course starving people will go to a food bank after they have been told it exists; that doesn’t mean they aren’t starving.

And the paper wrongly said the Trussell Trust had claimed that more than 913,000 people received three days’ emergency food from its banks in 2013-14, compared with 347,000 in the previous financial year. This is a misreading of the way the charity records its work, as the Trussell Trust records visits, not visitors. It would be hard to work out exactly how many people attended because some will have visited just once, others twice, a few for the full three times, and some would have required extra help.

The claim that many visitors were asylum-seekers is silly because food banks were originally set up for foreign people who were seeking asylum in the UK and had no money or means of support.

Of course it would be wrong to say that nobody is trying to abuse the system. There are good people and bad people all over the country, and bad people will try to cheat. Look at Maria Miller, Iain Duncan Smith (Betsygate), George Osborne (and his former paddock), Andrea Leadsom’s tax avoidance, Philip Hammond’s tax avoidance, Charlotte Leslie who took cash to ask Parliamentary questions – to name but a few.

The Trussell Trust has agreed to investigate the newspaper’s allegations – but it is important to remember that these were just a few instances of abuse, and only claimed – by a newspaper that is infamous for the poor quality of its reporting.

Nothing said in the article should be used to undermine the vital work of food banks in helping people to survive, after the Conservative-led Coalition government stole the safety net of social security away from them.

UPDATE: Already the Mail on Sunday is facing a public backlash against its ill-advised piece. A petition on the Change.org website is calling for the reporter who claimed food bank vouchers under false pretences in order to make a political point to be sacked. Vox Political has mixed feelings about this – it targets a person who was sent out to do a job by others who are more directly to blame for the piece, but then he did it of his own free will and this action brings all newspaper reporters into disrepute. Consider carefully.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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A word of caution on the ‘Bedroom Tax exemption’ victory

bedroomtax

Campaigners in the UK have been celebrating after they found a little-known regulation that exempts many social housing tenants from the Bedroom Tax.

The Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Consequential Provisions) Regulations 2006 state (in not so many words) that, if you have been in receipt of Housing Benefit since before January 1, 1996, then you are exempt from the Bedroom Tax.

The relevant part is on pages 32 and 33 of the PDF file, and schedule 3 (4) (3) (b) (ii) states that a break of up to 4 weeks in the continuous period is allowed.

Many people have seen this as a considerable victory, as it may affect a large proportion of the 660,000 households hit by the spiteful tax. Everyone who has lost money because of it has been urged to check whether they can appeal on these grounds.

Some have noted, with sadness, that people who have died – like Stephanie Bottrill  – might still be with us if we had earlier knowledge of the regulation.

Now here’s the bad news: You have to have proof that you have been in receipt of HB since before January 1, 1996, or the authorities will ignore any exemption request.

Or, as a Vox Political commenter put it: “Just been on to HB as we should be free of this bedroom tax and they just told us we need proof of being here since this time scale which after all these years we don’t. And they said their records only go back six years. My God, they just won’t have it, will they? So stuck again as no proof as housing and DHSS don’t go back to 1/jan 1996.”

How many others are in the same situation?

Worse still, look at this comment from a DWP spokesman, published in the Morning Star‘s coverage of the story: “”We are aware of a potential regulatory issue in relation to pre-1996 social sector housing benefit tenants and the removal of the spare room subsidy,

“We are looking at this carefully and will take any necessary action to clarify our position as soon as possible.”

We all know what a DWP clarification is; it’s legislation to ensure that the regulation is removed – in order to ensure that the cock-up is erased from history and there continues to be no obstacle to Iain Duncan Smith’s plan for the impoverishment of the masses.

That’s what he tried with Workfare, after all – even if he couldn’t get it right.

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