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Forum Home  →  Discussion  →  COVID-19: Welfare benefit rules and entitlements  →  Thread

DWP to conduct home visits prior to cutting benefits to vulnerable claimants due to non compliance

fk
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Welfare rights - Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest

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Total Posts: 2

Joined: 25 September 2019

Hi all, happy new year, have had (half) a response to an FOI I put in a few months ago with the DWP around safeguarding processes prior to stopping the benefits of more ‘vulnerable’ claimants, which can be found here https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/new_safeguarding_process_before#incoming-1699652

I’ll put the short version up top so more people see it and then a bit more context and detail below. Not sure when this information was issued to DWP staff as they’re currently being a bit difficult about releasing that.

~~

The short and skinny is, in particular with ESA (as the attached guidance is the most clear about when a core visit must be scheduled), if your clients meet the below criteria for vulnerability, their claims should NOT be being stopped due to non compliance without a hefty safeguarding process and quite likely a core visit having taken place.

Any cases you are aware of where that procedure does not seem to have been followed would appear to be grounds for an immediate reinstatement of payments, a formal complaint, and probably a telling off for whoever was involved on the DWP end.

~~

You’ll likely all be aware of the case of Errol Graham who was a vulnerable man who starved to death as a result of his benefits having been stopped. In the wake of this case, the DWP reported that they have issued new guidance which must be followed before stopping the benefits of vulnerable claimants. I’ve been chasing them on an FOI request around this as there are several cases I’m aware of where this has not happened, I suspect you will all have cases on your own books like this too. DWP staff I’ve spoken to have either denied knowledge of any new safeguarding procedure or denied its relevance in cases where they have ended the claim of ESA claimants on long term Reg 35 awards / who are severely affected by mental health conditions, due to things like not replying to reassessment ESA50s which have been sent out (and lost in the covid-19 post).

All of which is a long way of saying, I’m not convinced that they are actually following this guidance, but we do at least now have guidance to quote at them in cases where people have their claims cut off due to non compliance.

The gist of the guidance is :

in the case of ESA,
- if a claimant has not complied with eg. conditionality, a WCA, an appointment, or other such deadlined requirements
- before cutting their benefit off, the DWP is to check whether or not : “the claimant has a mental health condition or learning difficulty that might affect their understanding of their obligations and the consequences of failing to comply, or that might affect their ability to act on that understanding.”
- if so, there is a lengthy process of scheduling home ‘core visits’ - not just one - to try to make contact with the claimant should they live in an area which the department deems it ‘safe to visit’ (yikes @ what their barometer for unsafe is likely to be)

in the case of UC and PIP it’s harder to tell - the first half of the guidance (ie the steps that lead to the DWP deciding this is a case requiring such a home visit) seems to be missing, but a similar process of home visits and consultations takes place with clear guidance not to end any claim on the grounds of non compliance if there is deemed after these consultations to be a safeguarding concern

Hope it’s of some use,
f

[ Edited: 5 Jan 2021 at 12:50 pm by fk ]
Andyp5 Citizens Advice Bridport & District
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Citizens Advice Bridport & District

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Total Posts: 646

Joined: 9 January 2017

fk - 05 January 2021 12:45 PM

Hi all, happy new year, have had (half) a response to an FOI I put in a few months ago with the DWP around safeguarding processes prior to stopping the benefits of more ‘vulnerable’ claimants, which can be found here https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/new_safeguarding_process_before#incoming-1699652

I’ll put the short version up top so more people see it and then a bit more context and detail below. Not sure when this information was issued to DWP staff as they’re currently being a bit difficult about releasing that.

~~

The short and skinny is, in particular with ESA (as the attached guidance is the most clear about when a core visit must be scheduled), if your clients meet the below criteria for vulnerability, their claims should NOT be being stopped due to non compliance without a hefty safeguarding process and quite likely a core visit having taken place.

Any cases you are aware of where that procedure does not seem to have been followed would appear to be grounds for an immediate reinstatement of payments, a formal complaint, and probably a telling off for whoever was involved on the DWP end.

~~

You’ll likely all be aware of the case of Errol Graham who was a vulnerable man who starved to death as a result of his benefits having been stopped. In the wake of this case, the DWP reported that they have issued new guidance which must be followed before stopping the benefits of vulnerable claimants. I’ve been chasing them on an FOI request around this as there are several cases I’m aware of where this has not happened, I suspect you will all have cases on your own books like this too. DWP staff I’ve spoken to have either denied knowledge of any new safeguarding procedure or denied its relevance in cases where they have ended the claim of ESA claimants on long term Reg 35 awards / who are severely affected by mental health conditions, due to things like not replying to reassessment ESA50s which have been sent out (and lost in the covid-19 post).

All of which is a long way of saying, I’m not convinced that they are actually following this guidance, but we do at least now have guidance to quote at them in cases where people have their claims cut off due to non compliance.

The gist of the guidance is :

in the case of ESA,
- if a claimant has not complied with eg. conditionality, a WCA, an appointment, or other such deadlined requirements
- before cutting their benefit off, the DWP is to check whether or not : “the claimant has a mental health condition or learning difficulty that might affect their understanding of their obligations and the consequences of failing to comply, or that might affect their ability to act on that understanding.”
- if so, there is a lengthy process of scheduling home ‘core visits’ - not just one - to try to make contact with the claimant should they live in an area which the department deems it ‘safe to visit’ (yikes @ what their barometer for unsafe is likely to be)

in the case of UC and PIP it’s harder to tell - the first half of the guidance (ie the steps that lead to the DWP deciding this is a case requiring such a home visit) seems to be missing, but a similar process of home visits and consultations takes place with clear guidance not to end any claim on the grounds of non compliance if there is deemed after these consultations to be a safeguarding concern

Hope it’s of some use,
f

It is thanks Finn!!!!!