Elearning: Surviving the Benefit Appeals Process by @CPAGUK

“Winning an appeal can help people maintain a basic income or meet the costs of their disability. It is great if you can find an experienced adviser to help. But the chances of winning are good even if you are going it alone, or you are new to advice work or to appeals.

This course is designed to help you to make your own way, or support people, through the appeals process. Through case studies, interactive quizzes and activities you will look at how the system for challenging decisions works:

  • How do you identify the decision?
  • What is ‘mandatory reconsideration’?
  • How to appeal “

http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/elearning-courses

*It is unclear whether fees £ exist for these courses, though when an account is created the message “Free enrolment for Scottish advisers” is shown… and no prices are indicated prior to account creation!

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29 page briefing on DWP JSA and ESA sanctions stats of 13 Aug 14

Download original (.docx) – View online

Briefing extracts:It was always likely that the Coalition’s intensification of JSA and ESA sanctions would lead to fatalities
Up to 31 March 2014 there had been 280,140 JSA Work Programme job outcomes and 503,220 JSA Work Programme sanctions
The annual number of JSA/ESA sanctions has almost doubled under the Coalitionvia @boycottworkfare

Petition: Hold an inquiry into benefit sanctions that killed my brother

Briefing by Dr David Webster Honorary Senior Research Fellow Urban Studies School of Social and Political Sciences University of Glasgow Email: david.webster@glasgow.ac.uk
Webpage: http://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/socialpolitical/staff/davidwebster/

Extensive Tips on JSA and ESA sanction appeals and claiming Hardship Payments

[Extensive #BenefitSanctions info: How to avoid, Deal with hardship and Challenge, from @AskCPAG and Job Seekers Sanctions Advice]

Content

1) JSA or ESA claimant and sanctioned?
1.1) Types of sanction
2) Mandatory reconsideration (Appeal first stage)
2.1) Reconsideration time frame
3) Written statement of reasons
3.1) Be wary of the telephone
4) Second opinion
5) Complain to your MP
6) Hardship payments
6.1) DWP guidance, leaflet and specimen claim form
6.2) DWP Code of Appeal Procedure (CAP) for First-tier & Upper Tribunal
7) Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction/Benefit
8) Keep claiming
8.1) Application of a sanction to a new award
9) Jobcentre adviser is abusive?
10) Tribunal (Appeal second stage)
10.1) Appealing to the Tribunal
11) Sources of advice
11.1) Online self help: Guidance & Template Appeals letters
12) Other points for consideration
13) Emergency help: Food Banks and Council Welfare Assistance
Updates

1) JSA or ESA claimant and sanctioned?
Are you a JSA/ESA claimant and have you been sanctioned? If so, it’s important to take effective action promptly. You have a right to appeal. Currently only one claimant in three appeals a sanction. This is far too few, because the statistics show that the success rate of appeals is currently over 50 per cent. In other words your chance of success is better than evens. In fact, everyone should appeal, because even where sanctions are legally justified, the penalties have become unreasonably harsh.
If you don’t appeal and you then get another sanction within 12 months, the next one will be longer. So you MUST appeal every sanction even if you think you can cope with it.

1.1) Types of sanction

http://refuted.org.uk/sanctions/newregime/

2) Mandatory reconsideration (Appeal first stage)
The process of appealing to the first stage, after the DWP has sent you their Decision Letter, is an internal ‘mandatory reconsideration’ by DWP. It is simple and doesn’t cost anything apart from telephone calls, stamps or fares. https://www.gov.uk/appeal-benefit

2.1) Reconsideration time frame
You have to contact the DWP within 1 month of the Decision Letter to ask for mandatory reconsideration, or 1 month and 14 days if you also asked for written statement of reasons for the sanction. The DWP does not have to respond within any set period, but you should contact them if there is a delay of more than a month to make sure your request is being progressed.  Although you should try to keep to the appeal timetable, you may be able to make a late appeal up to 13 months after the original decision.

3) Written statement of reasons
It’s quite common for the Jobcentre to stop your money without sending you a letter telling you the reason for the sanction. If this happens, or if the reason is unclear, request a written statement of reasons immediately. You cannot draft an effective appeal without knowing for certain why you have been sanctioned. If you ask for a written statement, you get an extra two weeks (14 days) to lodge your appeal. But in any case, if you have not been sent a decision letter, that will be grounds for a late appeal.

3.1) Be wary of the telephone
The DWP Decision Letter will contain a contact telephone number. But even if you discuss the issue over the phone, you should make sure that you submit any Mandatory Reconsideration appeal in writing, in order to have a clear record. Should the DWP telephone and ask you whether you are going to request reconsideration, you should state that you are considering appealing and you will only be responding in writing.
Giving your appeal reasons by telephone risks misinterpretation by the DWP or – worse – you might give the DWP information that appears to support its decision to sanction.

4) Second opinion
Don’t try to appeal without getting a second opinion from someone else as it is vital to say exactly the right things in your appeal statement. There are probably several good sources of advice locally: your Council’s Welfare Rights Team, the Citizens Advice Bureau, or a Law Centre. (See item 11) If you can’t get to one of these, then ask whoever you know who you think can help you the best. There are many grounds of appeal, for instance if you had a good reason for what you did or didn’t do, and your adviser is quite likely to suggest grounds that you hadn’t thought of.

5) Complain to your MP
If you have been treated unreasonably, then you should make a point of complaining to your MP (http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mps/) and insisting that they should fight your case on your behalf. There is no evidence on how many sanctioned claimants are going to their MP, but there is a lot of evidence that the DWP is very afraid of MPs and that once they are involved, it backs off imposing sanctions. The DWP is desperate to keep MPs’ support for the sanctions system. Making sure that your MP knows how unfairly sanctions are being applied is one of the best ways of helping your fellow claimants. The sooner Parliament faces up to the scale of abuse in the system, the sooner it will be reformed.

6) Hardship payments
Even if you are sanctioned, you may still be entitled to ‘hardship payments’. Make sure you get the information on these from the Jobcentre immediately and get your claim in on time. If you apply late you may be able to get backdating. You will only get hardship payments if you continue to sign on for JSA or ESA. Hardship payments are also available under Universal Credit, although  there are some differences in the rules.

6.1) DWP guidance, leaflet and specimen claim forms

Explanatory leaflet (JSA), Claim forms (JSA/ESA/Universal Credit) and DWP guidance http://refuted.org.uk/2014/10/10/hardshiprecoverable/

6.2) DWP Code of Appeal Procedure (CAP) for First-tier & Upper Tribunal

Code of Appeals Procedure https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/code_of_appeals_procedure#incoming-615420

7) Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction/Benefit
You must also contact your Housing Benefit/Council Tax Reduction office immediately you know you’ve been sanctioned. Even if you are sanctioned, you remain entitled to Housing Benefit/CTR, but you may need to make a new claim. There is lots of evidence that many sanctioned claimants are running up big rent arrears as a result of having their Housing Benefit cut off, and not being able to get it backdated. This is an extra penalty you simply don’t need and don’t deserve.

8) Keep claiming
If you are unemployed, you should keep claiming. This means you must keep signing on, and meeting jobsearch requirements, even while you are not getting benefit due to a sanction. There is one possible exception to this, in that even while sanctioned you could be subject to another sanction for not meeting requirements. This would be serious as the Coalition has now introduced a more rapidly escalating scale of penalties for repeat ‘failures’. If you feel your Jobcentre adviser/coach is abusive or cannot be trusted, you should therefore make a complaint about them straight away.

8.1) Application of a sanction to a new award
If you stop claiming but later need to claim again, you may have to serve any balance remaining on the sanction, if the time period for the original sanction has not passed when a new claim is made. For exceptions, examples and explanations: http://refuted.org.uk/sanctions/newregime/

9) Jobcentre adviser/coach is abusive?
If you feel that your Jobcentre adviser/coach is abusive or cannot be trusted, then seek advice immediately from your Council’s Welfare Rights Team, the Citizens Advice Bureau, or a Law Centre (See item 11) or your MP, who should help you to make a complaint and get transferred to another adviser.

10) Tribunal (Appeal second stage)
If you are unsuccessful at the ‘mandatory reconsideration’ stage, then you have the right to make a further appeal, to an independent Tribunal. If you have a strong case and intervention by your MP has not worked, then you should definitely go on to the Tribunal stage. This may sound intimidating, but it is quite informal, There are no fees and you can claim expenses. You have the right to attend in person and you should always do so as many cases are decided on the ‘balance of probabilities’ and the judge is likely to believe what you say even if you cannot prove it. If you are not there, the judge will not be so sure whether to believe you. If at all possible, you should have a representative from your Council’s Welfare Rights Team, the Citizens Advice Bureau, or a Law Centre. (See item 11) as they will know the law better than you do and will help you make the best arguments. There are no fees and you can claim expenses

10.1) Appealing to the Tribunal
There are more details and application form at: https://www.gov.uk/social-security-child-support-tribunal/appeal-direct-tribunal

11) Sources of advice

11.1) Online self help: Guidance & Template Appeals letters

Appeals Pack: Helping you appeal benefit decisions from Glasgow Council

Appeals toolkit: self-help level from CPAG (HMRC and DWP appeals), ‘Winning your benefit appeal: what you need to know’ and elearning on appeals.

Online forum by Unemployment Movement

12) Other points for consideration

DWP Contractors & Requests for Personal Information held about you (Subject Access Requests) If your sanction involves a DWP contractor you can also submit a request for your personal information (Subject Access Request) for copies of any forms or information about you submitted by them to the Jobcentre. See https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-work-pensions/about/personal-information-charter

You can also request copies of any provider letters that notified mandatory activity. Support provided by refuted has more often than not shown these forms, letters and information contain significant mistakes or fail to follow DWP provider guidance or are simply confusing, which can lead to sanctions being overturned or process stopped. However, DWP only has to respond to a Subject Access Request within 40 calendar days. This means that it is not worth waiting for the result before submitting your request for mandatory reconsideration. Any information it reveals will have to be given to your MP or used at a Tribunal.

Jobseeker Directions/Jobseeker Agreements/Claimant Commitments

If your sanction is based upon alleged non compliance with any Jobseeker Directions/Jobseeker Agreements/Claimant Commitments, it is suggested you seek an independent opinion as to whether they are reasonable to your personal circumstances. They can also be formulated in ways that are contrary to DWP guidance or written in ways that are confusing. If they are found to be unreasonable, contrary to DWP guidance or simply confusing, this can lead to sanctions being overturned. The question an appeal Tribunal will look at is whether what you did was reasonable.

Complaints
There are a number of ways in which you can make a complaint about the DWP.
Complain about Jobcentre Plus https://www.gov.uk/complain-jobcentre-plus
Got a complaint about a DWP Work Programme Provider? http://refuted.org.uk/2013/10/13/providercomplaint/
However, you should bear in mind that all of these complaints procedures move very slowly and the amount of compensation, if any, that you eventually receive is likely to be small. You are likely to need help in making a complaint from your CAB. Therefore you should concentrate on making sure that you get your request for reconsideration in, and if necessary complain to your MP.

13) Emergency help: Food Banks and Council Welfare Assistance

Food Banks

Council Welfare Assistance Schemes

Notes: Welfare rights law and DWP guidance, in particular, changes frequently. You may find more recent information via http://refuted.org.uk/category/ or by using the website search facility (top right)

Updates

TUC informs Union Reps it supports workfare, because it is not “exploitative”

Boycott Workfare and Johnny Void have been pointing out that the TUC along with the CBI are now supporting unpaid workfare (*traineeships) after demands that they should be paid, whilst continuing to purse a rights campaign for interns to be paid. On August 4th the TUC issued Guidance for Union Reps on workfare, within this is a curious formulation of words:

The TUC and affiliated unions are firmly against exploitative workfare”  (emphasis added)

this implies that not all workfare is “exploitative” and seems very similar to the Labour Party stance on Zero Hour contracts. Most people thought Labour’s policy was for the complete abolishment of Zero Hour contracts, but in fact all they offered was a “plan to tackle the exploitation of zero-hours contracts” (emphasis added)  which is just another way of saying that not all zero-hour contracts are exploitative.

“Tuc is wrong workfare and traineeships are slave labour schemes we oppose there support for them”
Ian Hodson @IanBFAWU

The TUC is seeking an ideological shift to reframe use of the word workfare to imply that it is not always exploitative, to reinforce it’s own pro workfare agenda.

*Traineeships: “The TUC encourages employers to pay travel and meal expenses” but not a wage.

#UniversalJobmatch: How to handle questions about giving Jobcentre/DWP no access to your account

DWP question: Why do you not want to give us (DWP/Jobcentre) access to Universal Jobmatch?

Jobseeker answer: (Suggestion) Do you need my permission to access my Jobmatch account? (repeat as required)

DWP answer: Yes, but why do you not want to give us access?

Jobseeker answer: Because you need my permission. (repeat as required)

Above transcripts is a suggested way for jobseekers on benefits to respond to questions on why they have, will and do not have to give the Jobcentre/DWP access to their Jobmatch account. Giving fuller explanations could increase conditionality, even though DWP guidance clearly states user “permission” is required to access any users account and access cannot be made mandatory using a sanction based Jobseeker’s Direction.

45. “DWP access to their [Universal Jobmatch] account (…you cannot issue a Jobseeker’s Direction to gain access)” [original emphasis] https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/201552/response/504427/attach/html/3/1138%20Response.pdf.html

“….she asked me why I have not allowed the DWP (JCP) access to my universal job-match account, I told her that I very rarely use the Direct.Gov website to search for jobs, as it’s obsolete compared to many of the other options out there, I spent about 5 minutes explaining…. [emphasis added]

Eventually she just told me straight up that according to the new rules enforced by the DWP I had NO choice but to allow them access to my account, not only that but I would also be FORCED to log in to their piece of shit website 5 days a week” http://unemploymentmovement.com/forum/unemployment-and-job-centre-plus/10499-the-job-center-forced-me-to-allow-them-access-to-my-universal-jobmatch-account

A list of posts mentioning Universal Jobmatch + http://refuted.org.uk/jobmatch/

Anti #workfare activists to become single shareholders to attend corporate AGMs?

The new breed of shareholder activist: taking on the big boys at the AGM http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/aug/01/new-breed-shareholder-activists

Activist shareholder https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activist_shareholder