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Forum Home  →  Discussion  →  Universal credit administration  →  Thread

Correction of UC journal records

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Jon (CHDCA)
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I’d be interested to see if people think this is a problem or not ..

UC make an award based on incorrect info. They later correct their error and create an overpayment, which they go on to recover. When you now go into the journal to look at the award for the month in question, you just see what they should have paid, not what they actually did pay.

So in the attached scan, doc 1 (which we happened to print off at the time) shows what they actually awarded. Doc 2 is what the record now shows, but the claimant never received the £350, she received £608, with the difference now being recovered as an overpayment.

In some cases this sort of silent retrospective alteration of the record is going to make it very difficult to piece together what has happened, unless the claimant happened to print off their journal at the time.

Incidentally, I don’t know whether it’s due to some manual alteration of the record, but the new version of events in this case is even more fictional, in that the amount listed as “take-home pay” is actually the earnings after applying the taper; and they show the rent as £0, but do then correctly include the housing element.

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Phil R
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Personally I don’t think they should be amending it at all as there is then no audit trail. There should be an additional entry. Should they receive a complaint or an MP’s enquiry, how do they gather and report the facts?

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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This is ludicrous and extremely worrying in my opinion. As Phil says, this completely blows away any chance of having an audit trail of decisions, payments made and much more. This system is so unfit for purpose, its almost untrue. The more I hear about how its working in practice, the more concerned I become.

Gareth Morgan
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Paul_Treloar_AgeUK - 10 May 2017 03:47 PM

This is ludicrous and extremely worrying in my opinion. As Phil says, this completely blows away any chance of having an audit trail of decisions, payments made and much more. This system is so unfit for purpose, its almost untrue. The more I hear about how its working in practice, the more concerned I become.

  Agree entirely

past caring
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Is the UC system itself capable of (and does it) record changes and amendments made? Obviously not in the publically visible journal, but in the underlying data - or is ‘old’ data simply deleted with no record of it ever having existed when new entries are made?I’m not a techie, so have probably expressed this badly, but hopefully everyone will know what I’m getting at…..

1. I’m thinking of a FOI request to find out….

2. Assuming that there is legacy data then what about data protection/subject access requests as a way of obtaining/reconstructing the audit trail?

I know this might be a pain but it could, conceivably, prove an even bigger pain for the Department - possibly to the extent that it would be cheaper to modify the system so that previous journal entries etc remained accessible.

None of this isn’t to disagree with any of the previous comments - it’s outrageous - but just thinking out loud about avenues for getting it changed….

Daphne
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I’m going to feed it in via stakeholders and try and get a bit more information that way - will keep you informed of any updates…

SarahJBatty
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I havent worked out how the Payment screens can display the ‘history’ where the date of claim and therefore the MAP has changed.  For example a MAP is set up, and then backdating is agreed, it seems that the MAP does not change, as a payment date is established but a payment is made for the part-month to represent the backdating or to represent that an earlier ‘date of claim’ has now been accepted.  How will this show? 

Test and learn, comrades, test and learn .......

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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past caring - 10 May 2017 04:50 PM

Is the UC system itself capable of (and does it) record changes and amendments made? Obviously not in the publically visible journal, but in the underlying data - or is ‘old’ data simply deleted with no record of it ever having existed when new entries are made?I’m not a techie, so have probably expressed this badly, but hopefully everyone will know what I’m getting at…..

1. I’m thinking of a FOI request to find out….

2. Assuming that there is legacy data then what about data protection/subject access requests as a way of obtaining/reconstructing the audit trail?

I know this might be a pain but it could, conceivably, prove an even bigger pain for the Department - possibly to the extent that it would be cheaper to modify the system so that previous journal entries etc remained accessible.

None of this isn’t to disagree with any of the previous comments - it’s outrageous - but just thinking out loud about avenues for getting it changed….

What would the FOI request ask for? Details of the underlying procedure for saving client records or something? That’s the bit I’m struggling with. Don’t disagree that it might be a good idea for someone to do something on this, just need to be sure that they don’t knock it back on either expense grounds or because they say there’s nothing to divulge.

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Something along those lines, yes.

I’m not that tech savvy and also have no experience of making FOI requests, so it would need someone/an organisation that was up to speed on those things so that the request could be properly framed. But my thinking goes something like this;

1. So far, we only know that changes and amendments to the journal are not identifiable to the claimant and those assiting them. But what can the DWP see?

2. Even if a DWP officer viewing the journal sees exactly the same as the claimant (i.e. the amendments are not visible/identifiable to them either) it is entirely possible - in fact likely - that the UC database/software records or logs the changes somewhere.

3. Purpose of the FOI request is to establish the answers to 1 & 2.

4. Assuming the answers are ‘positive’ - i.e. all changes are recorded and DWP officers are able to view these, or that each stage or ‘evolution’ of the claim and journal can be reconstructed from the database then;

i) every time there is a dispute about payment, overpayment, disclosure of a change of circumstances etc. we hit them with a DPA/subject access request.
ii) in light of the FOI response being public knowledge, you can guarantee that when disputes reach FtT stage, directions requests for DWP disclosure would be a shoo-in and appeals would be allowed where such directions were not complied with.

The cumulative effect could (would), I think, eventually lead to DWP having to make all amendments and changes viewable on the journal…..

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Sounds like a plan. Martin at CPAG was good on FOI enquiries from memory, maybe see if he could help?

Daphne
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I have a phone conference with some people from UC communications tomorrow so I will make some enquiries then to see what information, if anything, they can provide. I could perhaps talk to Martin afterwards to see if something can be put together for an FOI…and maybe chat with you, Sarah and Jon, too as you might have the most experience of seeing client journals?

ClairemHodgson
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i find my jaw on the floor reading this discussion.

we all think of such a journal as recording, in a time consecutive fashion, everything that occurs/that anyone states on it.  similar, if not the same, as a diary.  and i would have no doubt that FTT and UT judges would think of such a thing the same way.

to find that, in fact, the DWP are overwriting/hiding what went before and replacing it with something new, which in fact is what they are doing, is astonishing.  were someone (a benefit claimant for instance) to do that, they may well lay themselves open to a charge of fraud/falsification of records/etc.

Why should it be any different for the DWP?

the record is surely supposed to be the record, and should not be altered in a fashion that obscures/deletes what went before.

Owen Stevens
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Sounds like a good idea.  The pitfall I can see here is that FOIs need to be asking for existing information (I assume some sort of IT guidance) rather than asking questions you want them to provide answers to.  If DWP are not checking this information in any way or if it is not referred to in their guidance then they will not have anything to provide to you.

Daphne
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Good point Owen - I’ll bear that in mind when I try and find out what they do have…

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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Surely there must be date protection requirements in respect of the ICO at play here as well (he says with no real idea if that is the case but I can’t see why it wouldn’t)?

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Owen Stevens - 11 May 2017 02:12 PM

Sounds like a good idea.  The pitfall I can see here is that FOIs need to be asking for existing information (I assume some sort of IT guidance) rather than asking questions you want them to provide answers to.  If DWP are not checking this information in any way or if it is not referred to in their guidance then they will not have anything to provide to you.

I take your point, but as I indicated, am not sufficiently au fait with FOI procedure and scope to know what you can and can’t ask for. I’m just throwing ideas out (and so not taking any criticism personally- it’s helpful to identify what may or may not be possible) - assuming one could find a sympathetic MP, would parliamentary questions and written answers help nail some of this down?

Owen Stevens
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Not criticising at all!  I think it’s an excellent idea, just highlighting something to think about as you draft your FOI.  Yes, I imagine all of the above would help.  Also no harm in a speculative FOI just to see what comes back.

Paul_Treloar_AgeUK
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past caring - 11 May 2017 03:05 PM

assuming one could find a sympathetic MP, would parliamentary questions and written answers help nail some of this down?

There are no MP’s at the moment mate, Parliament’s been dissolved remember?

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LOL. It’s not something that had entirely escaped my attention, aye.

But neither do I imagine that the DWP are going to read this thread and on the strength of it say to themselves “Oops - we dropped the ball there, best get this sorted quick sharp before the MPs get back in June…..”.

And even if the election turns out to be the disaster it’s currently looking, I’m hopeful there might be one or two good eggs left in Parliament happy to ask a searching question or two…...

:) ;)

Jon (CHDCA)
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Daphne - 11 May 2017 02:07 PM

I have a phone conference with some people from UC communications tomorrow so I will make some enquiries then to see what information, if anything, they can provide. I could perhaps talk to Martin afterwards to see if something can be put together for an FOI…and maybe chat with you, Sarah and Jon, too as you might have the most experience of seeing client journals?

I really don’t have lots of experience with UC accounts, and I’m now a bit nervous in this case that there is some other archive record in the UC account that we just over-looked.

For other reasons to do with how UC have managed this award, I am thinking of trying a DPA subject access request for this client to see if the paper or computer records throw any light. I won’t be able to do this very soon, but if anything comes up I’ll post back here.

Altered Chaos
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Jon, the UC helpline confirmed to us yesterday that they ‘see’ far more information than what is on the journal! In the specific case of the client we were calling about, she had lodged an MR on the telephone 11.04.17 and as she didn’t send in written confirmation the UC team ‘closed’ the issue on 18.04.17.

Absolutely none if the above is on the journal but it is on the DWP screen that the UC team can see so a SAR might be useful/relevant.

ClairemHodgson
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Altered Chaos - 12 May 2017 10:44 AM

Jon, the UC helpline confirmed to us yesterday that they ‘see’ far more information than what is on the journal! In the specific case of the client we were calling about, she had lodged an MR on the telephone 11.04.17 and as she didn’t send in written confirmation the UC team ‘closed’ the issue on 18.04.17.

Absolutely none if the above is on the journal but it is on the DWP screen that the UC team can see so a SAR might be useful/relevant.

well that has to be very unhelpful for the individual claimant who sees one thing one day and something wholly different later -  bad for the psyche even for those without mental health issues

if a journal isn’t comprehensive and comprehensible for both parties, what’s the point of it?

Altered Chaos
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ClairemHodgson - 12 May 2017 11:49 AM
Altered Chaos - 12 May 2017 10:44 AM

Jon, the UC helpline confirmed to us yesterday that they ‘see’ far more information than what is on the journal! In the specific case of the client we were calling about, she had lodged an MR on the telephone 11.04.17 and as she didn’t send in written confirmation the UC team ‘closed’ the issue on 18.04.17.

Absolutely none if the above is on the journal but it is on the DWP screen that the UC team can see so a SAR might be useful/relevant.

well that has to be very unhelpful for the individual claimant who sees one thing one day and something wholly different later -  bad for the psyche even for those without mental health issues

if a journal isn’t comprehensive and comprehensible for both parties, what’s the point of it?

Indeed! It also undermines the whole implicit consent argument as that was pinned on the fact that the client’s journal contains ‘everything’!

nevip
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It’s completely unacceptable.  Records should be in one version only with all viewers seeing the same thing at the same time.  All previously applicable data should be clearly visible, amendments should be clearly annotated and there should be on an ongoing summary of the existing state of affairs included at the end of, or the side of, the record.

Elliot Kent
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There is a secret shadow journal - it turns up in appeal responses sometimes. You get a “Copy of claimant’s on-line journal” (which is what the claimant and the DWP can see) and “Copy of DWP notes from claim” (which is what only the DWP can see). Honestly, most of it is innocuous - assigning case managers, recording updates made to CIS etc.

ClairemHodgson
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Elliot Kent - 12 May 2017 12:26 PM

There is a secret shadow journal - it turns up in appeal responses sometimes. You get a “Copy of claimant’s on-line journal” (which is what the claimant and the DWP can see) and “Copy of DWP notes from claim” (which is what only the DWP can see). Honestly, most of it is innocuous - assigning case managers, recording updates made to CIS etc.

well there shouldn’t be.  particularly as this thread started with someone’s journal being altered to overwrite what had previously been there.

Daphne
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Update on meeting -

Jon - they were adamant that the journal can not be retrospectively changed - it forms a pdf and that is it. I’d sent them your two statements already and they are looking into it - I will let you know when I hear anything back on it.

Altered chaos - I raised your point about the MR not being logged or the closure of the issue. Phone calls are not logged on the journal - if you want an MR request logged on the journal you need to do it yourself, so in practice it’s better to request an MR via the journal if you can so that you have an audit trail. However, they agreed that the decision not to follow up on the MR should have been logged in the journal so the claimant was aware of it.

Of course it’s difficult to know whether this is a one off, or if it’s happening all the time. So please do feed back any cases where stuff which the claimant should be able to see is not on the journal, or if records appear to be being altered.  They are keen to have examples so that they can sort things out.

Jon (CHDCA)
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I wonder if I’ve been using the wrong terminology, I’m not sure if the payment statements are actually within the ‘journal’ section, or if they’re accessed through a different bit of the account (the ‘dashboard’?). Sorry, I don’t have a UC account to look at right now, and won’t for the next week or so, but if anyone can confirm or deny what I’m talking about I’d be very grateful.

Daphne
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I don’t think it matters Jon - they shouldn’t be changed anyway - I’ve sent them the print out so if that bit isn’t technically called the journal but the dashboard they should be able to work it out!

Elliot Kent
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I have seen what Jon happens happen a lot, albeit usually in respect of the housing costs element being added rather than money being taken away. I think that the “payments” tab is more accurately understood as a list of currently operative decisions. Describing them as “payments” is inaccurate because they do not necessarily have any connection to payments actually made.

Daphne - I can send you some printouts from a recent case if it would help. Client was refused UC in October. Appealed and won. Arrears were sorted out in April and “payment” records were created in mid April for APs ending in Oct, Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar and Apr. Each of them says that a payment will be made by whatever date it would have been paid if UC were in payment at the time (in reality, the client received one large payment to cover the whole arrears). I printed out the initial records which were missing housing costs. A couple of weeks later, they were silently amended to include housing costs and a second lump sum was paid - I’ve just been given printouts showing the new figures. If you could give me an email to send them to?

SarahJBatty
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I have seen the same Elliott. It seems to me there should be an Awards tab in which the latest ‘version’ of each UC award can be seen, clearly dated with the date of decision (there has to be a decision doesn’t there so it can be challenged/revised if necessary?), with previous versions sitting behind and also clearly dated.

Then a separate tab for Payment which details a statement of actual payments made and relevant dates.

This would enable a situation to be tracked and unravelled by a WR detective or even a claimant without necessitating calls to helpline. Isn’t this THE express intention of UC??