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Forum Home  →  Discussion  →  Income support, JSA and tax credits  →  Thread

Sanctions - no written decisions and uninformative MRNs

Andrew Dutton
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Welfare rights service - Derbyshire County Council

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Has anyone else come across this - ?

In JSA sanctions cases, very few claimants have a written decision [this is an old phenomenon]

When we ask for a copy of the decision, not much is forthcoming. Hard to do an MR request as such, but we have a go.

MRN comes back without any details or DM reasoning - unfavourable MRN simply states the decision is unchanged.

So all too often we only see the decision itself if and when we get an appeal submission.

Many decisions are revised and the appeal is lapsed- and we are not told what the new decision is.

I understand that DWP may have instructed DMs to give as little detail as possible on Mandatory Recon Notices.

All in all, this makes the decision making process more than slightly opaque. I’m not feeling generous, so I will call it deliberate.

Thoughts?

1964
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Deputy Manager, Reading Community Welfare Rights Unit

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I agree. Sanction decision letters are worse than useless and- as you say- if it isn’t changed at the MR stage (and we’re finding a surprising number are- probably because whoever made the deciision was seriously chancing their arm) the MR notice again provides next to no info. I think it’s a deliberate policy.

Pernish
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Even where a decision letter is issued the relevant information can be well buried. My illiterate client had a four page JSA entitlement letter. The first two and a half pages consisted of “you are entitled to £x from 2011”  (start of his claim) and all subsequent uprating periods to September 2015. The decision that his JSA was sanctioned for three years appeared after that and, in three lines, stated only that he had failed to take advantage of a job opportunity with a named employment agency. Since the client can’t read he had no idea what it said until a kindly JC+ character told him he was sanctioned for 3 years and not 3 months as he had believed.
On calling DWP I learnt that there was also a 6 month sanction for which client had had no letter about at all - no information and no chance to provide good reason. Both these sanctions were then rolled up by DWP and sent to the Disputes Resolution Team to consider MR(s?). Someone called today. DWP in the course of my call 2 days before asked me to write a letter explaining client’s problems which I did and sent it the same day. I asked if my letter had arrived (knowing it hadn’t) and the DM admitted not but said there was a target for MRs and could I just tell him the gist over the phone so he could make his decision today.. I read the letter out and he then told me that the ground of the sanction was not that client hadn’t applied by writing or online but that he had had a verbal direction to call a potential employer and had not done so and when asked had said he’d forgotten. Moreover the employer was not the one named in the letter (which was an agency). Client denies that any such verbal direction was given or that he said what was attributed and I believe him - ultimately though this is a conflict of evidence and there will be no notes or recording nor any chance to ask questions of the DWP official. How can a tribunal judge?
I suspect that the outsourced job coach produced this reason because I had already put in a request for MR for a 3 month sanction imposed on 28 July and pointed out client’s illiteracy. That is now subject of an appeal but the following two sanctions were imposed on 11 August and 5 September. The speed with which DWP has moved to sanction this client seems extraordinary - a 57 year old illiterate man (employed for 33 years) now faces 3 years with no support at all…

Benny Fitzpatrick
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I too believe that the lack of information on decision and MR notices is deliberate, to obscure the iniquity of the sanctioning process, and to make appealing as difficult as possible.

I am of the opinion that a claimant and adviser should have to sign to confirm any direction given. That way we could avoid the scenario above, also the classis “change the date of the appointment but don’t tell the claimant” trick.

Daphne
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Acknowledgement of failure to always send written notices and introduction of a pilot to give a 14 day warning notice for claimants to challenge a sanction before it is imposed - announced today in House of Commons -

http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2015-10-22/HCWS259

Andrew Dutton
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Looks like good news, but hey, it’s all the fault of the last Labour government!!! Faints with amazement!!!

Jon (CHDCA)
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Welfare benefits - Craven CAB, North Yorkshire

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https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/jobseekers-allowance-sanctions-leaflet/jobseekers-allowance-sanctions-how-to-keep-your-benefit-payment (Updated 22 October 2015)

5. What should I do if I think DWP hasn’t notified me of a sanction?

If you’ve been sanctioned, you’re entitled to written notification of the decision, and of your right to appeal.

We’re writing to a small number of people who may not have received this notification.

If you don’t receive a letter by 7 December 2015, you don’t need to take any action. However, if you’ve evidence that a sanction was applied to you, but you weren’t notified and didn’t have the opportunity to appeal, then you can phone us on 0345 600 3080 (textphone 0345 608 8551).

You’ll need to have your National Insurance number, date of birth and original sanction details to hand.

1964
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Deputy Manager, Reading Community Welfare Rights Unit

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Bumping this topic.

Client was ‘one of the small number’ who (apparently) wasn’t issued with a series (4) of related sanction decisions (dating back to early 2013). Decisions were issued in December 2015, she came to us for advice and we requested MR of all 4 decisions. Nothing happened and on chasing up we were told client was outside time limits to challenge. We complained- recieved cut &  paste response stating the same. We lodged further complaint in tandem with duplicate MR request. Have now received call from a DM who has stated that whilst client wasn’t issued with 1 of the 4 decisions the DWP now believes the other 3 were issued at the time (and therefore client is outside time limits to diispute). When challenged to produce said decisions DM stated they had been destroyed but that ‘system records’ confirm they were issued..

Evidently the DM is going to ‘put it in writing’ so we shall see what response is, but on presumption DWP is refusing to carry out MR in relation to 3 of the decisions on basis client was out of time, how best to proceed? It seems to me that even if DWP could prove the decisions were issued at the time (which from the sound of it they can’t) the fact that they issued ‘new’ decisions would give client fresh dispute rights. In which case I suppose we shall have to try to pursuade TS to accept an appeal without a MR decision (and fall back on JR proceedings if we can find someone to take it on).

Thoughts? Tactics?

Dan_Manville
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Mental health & welfare rights service - Wolverhampton City Council

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Andrew Dutton - 07 October 2015 04:24 PM

Has anyone else come across this - ?

In JSA sanctions cases, very few claimants have a written decision [this is an old phenomenon]

When we ask for a copy of the decision, not much is forthcoming. Hard to do an MR request as such, but we have a go.

MRN comes back without any details or DM reasoning - unfavourable MRN simply states the decision is unchanged.

So all too often we only see the decision itself if and when we get an appeal submission.

Many decisions are revised and the appeal is lapsed- and we are not told what the new decision is.

I understand that DWP may have instructed DMs to give as little detail as possible on Mandatory Recon Notices.

All in all, this makes the decision making process more than slightly opaque. I’m not feeling generous, so I will call it deliberate.

Thoughts?

Subject Access Requests for each and every case. I get the ESA55 for every WCA conducted for our clients on appointeeship. Takes 5 minutes and keeps them on their toes.

ikbikb
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LSD WB supervisor - Bury District CAB, Lancashire

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. CPAG page 1123 Claimant must be sent written notice of any decision that carries right of appeal. (Universal Credit….. ETC (DA) 2013 Reg 51.) Previous regs do the same. The DM appears to concede one decision was not issued but states the other three were on the basis of a computer printout.  Consequently you can argue that on the one decision that was not sent out no time limit has started to run. Thus any request for review if sent now would be in time. That leaves three others. Did your client do anything at the time when his claim was sanctioned that could be counted as a request for reconsideration of any sort? If they did and no reply was issued you can argue again no time limit has started to run, or request ‘any time’ review on grounds of official error. (CPAG 1265) You could argue that if one decision notification was defective then on the balance of probabilities so were the others. This could be that they were not sent or that the ‘decision’ notice did not contain the required information. You would need to do some research on sanctions and decision notices to show that these are often not sent on time or at all as evident from previous posts. SAR requerst would also be relevant. It would not be enough just to state this. You need to check which system of reconsideration you decisions came under. MR came into effect from 28.10.13 (CPAG 2013/14 page 1350) Finally if you are able to argue that your decision are within jurisdiction of a FTT under Tribunal Procedure (FTT) (SEC) Rules 2008 reg 22 arguments under article 6 ECHR can be made to allow appeals outside the absolute time limit. This is only in exceptional cases and only where the appellant has done everything possible to act within the absolute time limit. (Sweet Maxwell Vol III foot notes to above reg page 1601) and paragraph 39 in https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2011-0180-judgment.pdf


Good luck.

[ Edited: 12 May 2016 at 09:26 am by ikbikb ]
1964
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Deputy Manager, Reading Community Welfare Rights Unit

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Cheers- I expect we’ll need it.

Client has no memory of receiving any of the 4 sanction decision letters but (a) it’s a long time ago and (b) she has literacy issues and a learning difficulty and tends not to deal with correspondence effectively.  However, our feeling is that if 1 of the 4 wasn’t issued chances are the same applies to the other 3 especially as the sanctions were linked.

Watch this space…

Dan_Manville
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Mental health & welfare rights service - Wolverhampton City Council

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