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Facebook checks

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Colin Hannon
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Sustain - Helena Partnerships

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I recently represented a client over a PIP appeal , the appellant had both physical & Mental Health problems , as you can expect the appellant felt stressed which became worse under cross examination from the panel . The appellant was asked did they ever use Facebook a question aimed at both cognitive and interllectual functioning , the appellants reply was ” now and again ” .

After the tribunal had finished as always we went back to the waiting room and when called back in the tribunal judge said the appellant had lied ? The medical member was on their smart phone reading from the appellants Facebook account which incidentally was used by the appellants partner but registerd in the appellants name , gobsmacked wasn’t the word a statement of reasons has been sent pending a reply

Has anyone ever experienced or heard of this type of behaviour by a tribunal as I thought all evidence must be made available to all parties in advance of a hearing .

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

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In CIB/3788/2008 it was found that the tribunal had over-stepped itself by deciding to telephone the appellant’s GP surgery to query some evidence (”The function of tribunals is ... to decide the appeals on the evidence put before them, not on the evidence collected by them on the day of the hearing and not put to the claimant.”). On the other hand, in CE/146/2014 it was found that consulting an online resource such as google maps to challenge an estimate of distance was permissible, as long as the appellant was given chance to respond in the hearing.

Checking the contents of the appellant’s facebook page seems a bit more like the former case than the latter to me. In any event, springing it as a gotcha after the hearing is surely an error.

Colin Hannon
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Thanks Jon , the first commissioners decision does appear applicable to my case and should be useful in my application to set aside .

Kind regards

Colin

BC Welfare Rights
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The Brunswick Centre, Kirklees & Calderdale

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Colin, your post made you famous!  And I have just had to answer 2 email enquiries from clients asking whether they should now stop using Facebook (whatever that is)  :-)

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/3172-pip-refused-for-spending-too-much-time-on-facebook?utm_source=iContact&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Benefits and Work&utm;_content=+v2+21+October+newsletter+2015

Ruth_T
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It is fairly common for prospective employers, organisations and Government Departments to check up on people using Facebook.  Everyone should be circumspect about what they post.

We recently had a client who received a large IS overpayment and LTAHW decision after she posted holiday photographs on Facebook showing her on holiday in Turkey with her parents, her children, siblings and her former partner/father of the children.

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

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The DWP fraud guide states:

The Internet Desk based at Glasgow Operational Intelligence Unit (OIU) has been set up specifically to assist Fraud Investigation Service (FIS) in the gathering of intelligence/information from those sites routinely blocked due to departmental policy. This will include access to social networking sites, such as; Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Friends Reunited, where justifiable.

From that list, I suspect that facebook might just net them the most evidence ...

edit: thought better of including something ...

[ Edited: 26 Oct 2015 at 11:07 am by Jon (CHDCA) ]
Mike Hughes
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Senior welfare rights officer - Salford City Council Welfare Rights Service

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There are of course reverse possibilities. It’s perfectly possible to walk into a tribunal room; establish the membership of the panel and then Google them. Social media profiles do indeed throw up some interesting things, particularly in relation to medical professionals and their “interesting” perspectives about which some of them are no less circumspect than claimants.

Every cloud n’all that.

Mr Finch
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Another problem is that ‘now and again’ is far too open to interpretation to really ever amount to a lie in response to an open-ended question, it could mean once a year or every day.

[ Edited: 22 Oct 2015 at 01:40 pm by Mr Finch ]
Mike Hughes
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Billy Durrant - 21 October 2015 06:51 PM

Colin, your post made you famous!  And I have just had to answer 2 email enquiries from clients asking whether they should now stop using Facebook (whatever that is)  :-)

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/3172-pip-refused-for-spending-too-much-time-on-facebook?utm_source=iContact&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Benefits and Work&utm;_content=+v2+21+October+newsletter+2015

I think we should stop using B&W. They keep stealing stories from here :)

Advisor_1
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Byker Community Trust

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Ruth_T - 21 October 2015 08:22 PM

It is fairly common for prospective employers, organisations and Government Departments to check up on people using Facebook.  Everyone should be circumspect about what they post.

We recently had a client who received a large IS overpayment and LTAHW decision after she posted holiday photographs on Facebook showing her on holiday in Turkey with her parents, her children, siblings and her former partner/father of the children.

Im dealing with an appeal now for exactly this. Client has been overpaid £72000.00 in Income Support with Deferred Tax Credits, and part of the evidence used was photos of her on holiday with her former partner. She was shocked to know that DWP could access this information.

Den DANES
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DIAL Lowestoft and Waveney

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We were only jesting about the potential for this at our last Team meeting. I know that some DWP, JC+ and HMCTS staff look at Rightsnet - some for very positive reasons, but what worries me about this thread is how much we as reps could also be ‘followed’ on social media? My settings are v private and I am careful not to mix work and private life but it is still worrying and something we should all be aware of and making our clients aware of.  Is there anything to stop first stage decision makers doing the same thing. I can just imagine ‘What we used to make our decision…the claim form, the Face to face assessment and your Facebook page’.  May be I’m just getting paranoid.

Mike Hughes
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In circumstances best not posted on here it was made known to me that an employer can certainly access social media accounts regardless of privacy settings in certain circumstances. I have been made aware in the past of a local employer taking action against an employee off sick but seen at a party of Facebook. I can’t see why DWP et al wouldn’t be doing that as well. That paranoia is nothing of the sort I’m afraid to some extent.

That said, such evidence could not be considered at appeal stage unless it’ss in the papers so… that would be “interesting”. Screen shots would be needed and lots of very specific permisions confirmed.

 

Gareth Morgan
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An awful lot of people make everything public.  If you deliberately publish details about your life then, on your own head be it.

Mike Hughes
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Senior welfare rights officer - Salford City Council Welfare Rights Service

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That’s the line frequently pedalled by the police to justify not taking action against threats, bullying and harrassment on social media!!! Indeed, I have had the police repeat that exact line to me in respect of a disability hate crime. They backtracked rather rapidly when I started citing the relevant legislation at them.

That aside, it’s an odd perspective in some senses in as much as we live in a world where your data is taken and details of your life are taken whether you like it or not. It has become increasingly apparent that the extent to which you publish details of your life is largely an irrelevance in terms of the data gathering which takes place. In any event the reality is that the majority of people do publish. It is a minority who do not and even then the extent of data gathering really is beyond most peoples imagination.

First Manchester can tell you every bus journey I’ve taken in Manchester. Metrolink can do the same for every tram. Tesco and Waitrose can tell you when and where I shop and how much I spend on what. Costa Coffee even allow me to see that data. My employer can tell you when my pass opened the door into work and when I left. My iPad can track where I am even when GPS etc. is turned off.

Let’s not confuse acts of stupidity (partying or working whilst off sick) with the fact that data collection is all pervasive.

I’m working at home at present should anyone think of burgling me 😊

Gareth Morgan
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Mike Hughes - 26 October 2015 01:10 PM

I’m working at home at present should anyone think of burgling me :)

I know.  Don’t like the wallpaper.

Mike Hughes
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Senior welfare rights officer - Salford City Council Welfare Rights Service

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Gareth Morgan - 26 October 2015 01:23 PM
Mike Hughes - 26 October 2015 01:10 PM

I’m working at home at present should anyone think of burgling me :)

I know.  Don’t like the wallpaper.

That would have been even funnier if I actually did have wallpaper…

... but if you’d followed me on social media you would indeed know that I hate

- wallpaper
- glitter
- the ukelele

but possibly not in that order :)