DWP Providers say: “Sign here or face Benefit Sanctions” True or False?

Despite DWP providers, of mandatory Jobcentre schemes, often demanding participants sign documents like Action Plans, Consent and Personal Data sharing forms or face Benefit Sanctions, this is not likely to have any legal basis when a scheme participant is willing to undertake suitably mandated activities, but simply declines to sign documents.

Recently the DWP wrote:

“There is no mandatory requirement for individuals to sign specific forms when participating in Back to Work (BtW) schemes, including Help to Work (HtW) ”
http://refuted.org.uk/donotsign/

Despite this clear opinion from the DWP they recently sanctioned Peter Baker’s Jobseeker Aallowance, for declining to sign Community Work Placement documentation [Action Plan]. Peter challenged the original decision to sanction through the Jobcentre’s formal Mandatory Reconsideration (internal DWP appeal) process which he lost, he then lodged a formal appeal to an independent Tribunal.

On 13/2/15 the Tribunal wrote to Mr Baker to inform him:

“I have been advised that the Appeal’s Officer has revised the decision on your case and that the new decision is more favourable”

the Jobcentre followed up with a letter dated 17/2/15 to explain it’s decision thus:

“Advice has been sought from DMA Leeds who have confirmed a person cannot be sanctioned simply for refusing to sign documentation drawn up by the Provider.
Work Solutions have confirmed that Mr Baker was willing to participate in the CWP scheme and a sanction is not appropriate.

As such Mr Baker has not failed to participate in the CWP scheme and a sanction is not appropriate”

Listen to Peter explain the process he went through after declining to sign a CWP Action Plan, including secret telephone recordings of Jobcentre staff:

Background:

Forum discussion http://unemploymentmovement.com/forum/community-work-placement-programme/11915-cwp-victim-wins-appeal-re-refusal-to-sign-action-plan
Work Solutions sanction referral form: page 1page 2
Jobcentre letter dated 17/2/15
Tribunal letter dated 13/2/15

Associated Freedom of information Act requests

Signing providers community work placement (CWP) forms, like action plans – https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/signing_providers_community_work
CWP Participation – https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/cwp_participation
Follow up to “Sign here, or face benefit sanctions?” –  https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/follow_up_to_sign_here_or_face_b
Sign here, or face benefit sanctions? – https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/sign_here_or_face_benefit_sancti
CWP Provider form(s) and an unlawful decision to sanction benefits for not signing – https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/cwp_provider_forms_and_an_unlawf
Signing providers community work placement (CWP) forms, like action plans – https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/signing_providers_community_work
Mandatory to sign CWP Action Plan? – https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/mandatory_to_sign_cwp_action_pla

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What is the difference for benefit claimants between a sanction, a disallowance and a suspension of benefits?

At times it is easy to get confused about what a Benefit Sanction is compared to a Disallowance of Benefits or  Supsension of Benefits. Today the DWP responded to an FOI request thus:

What is the difference for benefit claimants between a sanction, a disallowance and a suspension of benefits?

How does each of these actions affect entitlement to Housing Benefit on grounds of low or nil income?

Sanction: This has the effect of either reducing benefit or terminating entitlement to benefit consequent on a claimant taking or failing to take action contrary to commitments entered into both when claiming a relevant benefit and as amended during the award: eg. not applying for work, or refusing to attend a training course when in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

Disallowance: This applies where a claim for benefit does not meet the conditions of entitlement for the benefit claimed – the claim is disallowed. Benefit is never put into payment. (This is a term that is sometimes used when entitlement ends after it has been awarded – we will sometimes say that the claim has been disallowed because a change in the claimant’s circumstances means there is no longer any entitlement to the benefit in payment. It has the same meaning as entitlement terminating in this context).

Suspension: This applies is where payment of benefit is stopped, in part or in full, because there is a  doubt about the correctness of the award in payment or a doubt about the actual entitlement to the benefit eg the department receives information about unreported income. Whilst investigating the accuracy of the report payment is suspended to prevent any possible overpayment.

The effect of JSA or ESA sanctions on Housing Benefit depends on whether the sanction means that entitlement to JSA or ESA ceases.

Where income-based JSA or income-related ESA is sanctioned, Housing Benefit would be unaffected, so long as entitlement to the sanctioned benefit remains.

Where a sanction results in cessation of entitlement to JSA or ESA, Housing Benefit would need to be reassessed to take into account the fact that there is no entitlement to JSA or ESA: entitlement to Housing Benefit might then continue on low income grounds.

Where a benefit is suspended Housing Benefit can continue unaffected, although Local Authorities can suspend Housing Benefit if they have a doubt about the correctness of the award in payment or a doubt about the actual entitlement to Housing Benefit. ”

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/dwp_terminology#incoming-620106

The background to this request is from: “We’ll “disallow” your housing benefit for two weeks when you’re sanctioned” http://www.katebelgrave.com/2015/02/well-disallow-your-housing-benefit-for-two-weeks-when-youre-sanctioned-wtf-is-going-on-here/ another FOI request seeks associated clarification https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/sanctioning_housing_benefit#incoming-619192.

Workfare schemes: What information do you need?

Below is a suggested list of information that is needed for every workfare scheme in the  UK, which could help map the extent of UK workfare, enable people to secure and know their rights better, pursue complaints from an informed point of view and facilitate more informed advice and guidance provision to people conscripted into workfare. As well as enable advocacy organisations and activists develop more informed strategies and goals.

Provisional list of information needed, in an accessible format and location, for each and every workfare scheme, like Mandatory Work Activity:

  • Jobcentre guidance to it’s staff, including template letters, documents and forms
  • DWP produced Provider/Contractor guidance
  • Names of all DWP Providers contracted or subcontracted to set up workfare placements and jobsearch facilities
  • Complaint procedures, forms and policies, for:
    – All DWP Providers and subcontractors
    – Jobcentre Plus
    – Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
    – DWP’s Independent Case Examiner (ICE)
  • Benefit Sanctions
    – DWP Decision Maker guidance, tribunal and court decisions
    – self advocacy info, such as via JSSA, AskCPAG and Appeal Tips @ http://refuted.org.uk/2014/08/06/sanctionstips/
    – sources of immediate welfare assistance and food banks
  • Information on how to challenge and appeal against any scheme or it’s specific conditions
  • Details of advice and guidance organisations and law centres
  • Newspaper and online media coverage
  • Freedom of Information requests, disclosures, tribunal and court cases.
  • Local Authority (Council) policies, debates and decisions. (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales)
  • Trade union policies
  • Debates, Questions, Answers and Inquries in the parliament’s of England and Scotland and the Assemblies of Northern Ireland and Wales
  • DWP Data Protection/Security
    – All DWP contractors and subcontractors Data Protection/Security policies, forms and leaflets relating to the sharing and obtaining of claimants personal data.
    – DWP policies on Data Protection/Security
  • Digital services, consent to use and permission based means of communication with claimants
    – DWP and contractor/subcontractor policies and guidance
  • Freedom of Information
    – All DWP and it’s contractors policies of each others mutual Freedom of Information Act duties
  • All DWP contract tenders and specification documents
  • Contact and named person details for:
    – Every DWP contractor and subcontractor, including website, social media, email addresses and  street addresses for local branches and head office’s
  • Claimant forms, letters and documents
    – Specimen copies of every contractor and subcontractors template letters, actions plans, mandatory activity noticies and forms that have an option for a claimant to sign
  • Links to relevant regulations, legislation and case law

If you have any suggestions to add to above list, or comments, please send them to: email@refuted.org.uk in complete confidence.

Some of this information is already published by Boycott Workfare: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?page_id=1820

Securing all of the information would be a significant undertaking, require continual updating and maintenance, but as the UK has become more of a workfare state than a welfare one, could lead to workfare getting more exposure and acting as a
resource to challenge this pernicious form of State sponsored punishment on a more UK wide strategic basis.

refuted has developed similar advocacy and information resources such as those listed above, but this project would need resources beyond it’s present capacity.

Stats: Since 2010 DWP recruited 1600 extra Benefit Sanctions Decision Makers

Whilst the DWP continually says it has no Benefit Sanctions Targets, despite irrefutable evidence, this view now seems even more implausible since today it published statistics that it show they nearly trebled the number of sanction decision makers?

sanctiondecisionmakers

Source: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/decision_makers_4#incoming-614876

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