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Forum Home  →  Discussion  →  Universal credit migration  →  Thread

Not us guv’nor…..DWP and responsibility for advice

 

Andrew Dutton
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Derbyshire Welfare Rights Service

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I have made a complaint where a UC claim was delayed by alleged DWP incorrect information (over the course of about seven separate phone calls)

The claimants needed to know if they should complete an ESA3 when one of them ceased work owing to illness and the other was already on CESA.

They were sent an ESA3, returned it with supporting evidence, but after some delay they were then told to claim UC. The ESA3 was never processed. UC will not backdate the claim (appealed).

The complaint has met with this response:

‘In cases where a customer enquires about the benefits that they receive, the advice given by staff does depend largely on the information volunteered by the customer, and on the specific questions asked. I should point out that it is not the responsibility of staff to advise customers on what they should claim.’

The reply then goes on to say that DWP ‘does what it can’ through ‘information-providing services’ to ensure that people are aware of what benefits are available, and that ‘benefit claim forms will offer advice on other forms of assistance that may be available’.

‘Information on benefits is also available at [gov.uk] this is the best source of information for anybody concerned about what might be available given their particular circumstances’ and it adds that it is ‘simple, fast and clear’.

I wonder if DWP isn’t distancing itself rather too much from a situation of its own making – the introduction of UC and the rococo details of natural migration are all DWP’s own work, after all, imposed upon claimants and not well explained.

I don’t think there is any ‘simple, fast and clear’ information on gov.uk which would have told these people what to claim. there is no proper explanation of natural migration at all.

If a claimant telephones DWP to ask if they should be making a change of circumstances claim for ESA or a new claim for UC, they should surely be able to rely upon the advice of the department which originated the changes that they are attempting to navigate???

     
Ianb
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Macmillan benefits team, Citizens Advice Bristol

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Andrew Dutton - 11 February 2019 01:21 PM

They were sent an ESA3, returned it with supporting evidence, but after some delay they were then told to claim UC. The ESA3 was never processed.

I don’t understand why this would be the case anyway. I thought it should be possible to have an existing C-ESA reviewed for I-ESA and including a new partner.

     
Ruth_T
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“It is not the responsibility of staff to advise customers on what they should claim”

Then why does the DWP inform people who are found not to have limited capability for work, for ESA, that they have to claim UC now?  They could be better off waiting for an MR to be turned round and to submit an appeal, so they have ESA assessment rate pending hearing of their appeal.

     
Andrew Dutton
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Ianb - 11 February 2019 05:28 PM
Andrew Dutton - 11 February 2019 01:21 PM

They were sent an ESA3, returned it with supporting evidence, but after some delay they were then told to claim UC. The ESA3 was never processed.

I don’t understand why this would be the case anyway. I thought it should be possible to have an existing C-ESA reviewed for I-ESA and including a new partner.


I agree. DWP says that supporting evidence was never provided, clients say they provided reams and had callbacks from ESA about it. Something is badly amiss, but DWP is managing the matter by disclaiming all responsibility. The matter is on its way to ICE.

     
Andrew Dutton
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Ruth_T - 11 February 2019 07:52 PM

“It is not the responsibility of staff to advise customers on what they should claim”

Then why does the DWP inform people who are found not to have limited capability for work, for ESA, that they have to claim UC now?  They could be better off waiting for an MR to be turned round and to submit an appeal, so they have ESA assessment rate pending hearing of their appeal.

Yep. It appears to be ‘It’s not our job to tell people what to claim except when we shove ‘em on to UC’.

     
John Birks
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Without wishing to sound ‘off.’

Why would anyone think the DWP gave advice on claims?

I know it’s a common mistake but you don’t seek legal advice from the Police although they may, on occasion, confer it.

There’s nothing in law that I can think of that would compel the DWP to give ‘best advice.’

     
Andrew Dutton
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What we are pointing out is the inconsistency on show here.

And if DWP can’t advise on the changes that it has forced through, who can?

The Police don’t make the law. DWP does.

     
John Birks
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Parliament makes the law.

The Civil Service supports & advises HM Gov and implements their policy.

I think I’m right on that.

The current iteration of the Ministry of Health are trying to fulfil too many roles in the one department.

i.e. friendly to the public, serving the public but carrying out duties on behalf of the Crown and HM Gov.

 

     
Andrew Dutton
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Hmmmm - DWP writes its own rules and generally gets ‘em though Parliament.

DWP is also quite content to advise people on their claims, as long as it’s to abandon legacy benefits and claim UC. It also spends a lot of time boasting about its successes.

I think we are agreed that DWP is perhaps trying to face too many ways at once.

In the case referred to, they advised one thing and then another, and then, when challenged, said it was the claimant’s problem. They can’t have it both ways. If they’d have said ‘We can’t tell you what to do, go and see CAB’ at the very start, then possibly fair enough.

But I think the onus is very firmly on DWP to help people when it is driving through changes that have a very widespread effect, are convoluted and immensely complicated and subject to almost endless tacking as they realise their previous errors rather too late. Who can keep up with that? Why wouldn’t people think that DWP should know?

And I don’t think they can get away with claiming that all the information one could ever need is on gov.uk. It just isn’t.

 

 

     
John Birks
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I’d hope and wish it was different.

But it’s not.

Opinions can be justified and expert opinions can differ.

Until there’s a legal duty to provide ‘best advice’ things will remain the same.

Personally I’d like to see a change where some decision making is made on the basis of prospective decisions (a bit like a reverse assessment period) where the change is factored in to an advance date. This would work well where challenging decisions is a swifter process but in any case would remove the we stopped your money last week scenario.

     
Andrew Dutton
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‘Personally I’d like to see a change where some decision making is made on the basis of prospective decisions (a bit like a reverse assessment period) where the change is factored in to an advance date. This would work well where challenging decisions is a swifter process but in any case would remove the we stopped your money last week scenario.’


Now that would be good.