Are the DWP rewriting your history?

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Your online journal provides a record of all your exchanges with the DWP. It is vital evidence in case of any dispute – but that won’t help if the DWP has altered or deleted earlier comments. This is what had happened to the journal of a couple who we met outside the jobcentre recently. They are going through a long and complicated dispute, and found that their history had been rewritten. What the DWP had perhaps not calculated on was that they had been careful to keep their own records and copies of everything! (We don’t know how common this is, but we are aware of another example where, after months of correspondence to get the correct benefit, the journal record didn’t show this as the back-payment that was actually received, but instead uprated all the previous payment records to what they should have been.)

The couple reminded us that we had helped them uncover an error some time back, when the DWP had tried to move them wrongly onto Universal Credit. Although they had been making a new benefit claim following a change in circumstances, they have three children, and no new claims were being accepted in the Universal Credit system for families with three children or more. This restriction was supposed to come to an end at the beginning of this month, but like so much else in Universal Credit, the change has been pushed back and won’t now happen until the end of January.  Putting people onto Universal Credit when they should be on other benefits has been a relatively common error; and all errors seem to be absurdly complicated to remedy.

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4 thoughts on “Are the DWP rewriting your history?

  1. From an advice perspective, the digital aspects of UC have always been a concern and this case highlights another disadvantage. Ideally, all claimants should keep a copy of everything they get and give to DWP; however this is often not the case so advisers will have to do a lot of investigation to find out the time line in disputed cases? I recall that when tax credits were introduced, HMRC encouraged claimants to phone them & did not keep full paper records; when things started to go wrong, with lots of formal complaints, the digital system could not cope. No doubt this flaw will become apparent when welfare rights folks start to take disputed UC cases to appeal stage & beyond? In the “good old days”, the law assumed that if the DWP could not provide evidence to back up their assertions then the tribunal should find in favour of the claimant unless clear grounds not to do so. I don’t have recent experience of tribunals/case law but I suspect that this favourable assumption (which underpinned many of the “big campaigns” such as Reg 72, SDP etc) is no longer valid?

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  2. Ian Davidson,

    Here is what the latest Upper Tribunal UC decision says on the matter you raise:

    “If the SSWP produces only records showing a date of a requirement to attend an
    appointment, and no documents showing the wording actually used, this may be
    insufficient to show that a claimant has been required to attend and participate rather
    than merely requested (MB v SSWP [2018] UKUT 213 paragraphs 5 and 7).
    Further, if the SSWP wishes to rely on the presumption of regularity, the tribunal will expect to see proof of what is done in the normal course. It is also to be expected, given the variety of ways in which the SSWP might communicate work -related requirements, that the SSWP will choose a means of notification to the claimant which is capable of being reasonably understood by the particular claimant concerned.”

    It also says that First-tier Tribunals:

    “should consider not just the issue of good reason for failing to comply with a requirement, but also whether that requirement was validly imposed in the first place.”

    And makes the distinction between two types of interview: “work-focussed’ and “connected requirements”.

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