Holding the DWP to account and how to complain when your benefits go wrong

Nick at The Complaining Cow

 

 

Nick Dilworth writes a guest post on the state of the benefits system and what to do if you have problems with benefits.

Holding the state to account
Having helped many hundreds of people battle with the Secretary of State over benefit decisions which are often full of flaws, badly reasoned and which are all too often overturned by independent Tribunals allowing appeals in favour of the claimant, I am increasingly concerned about the gross erosion of access to justice following cut backs in legal aid and cuts backs in the advice sector.  As a front line benefit specialist we are fully stretched in trying to help more people than our limited resources can adequately properly provide for.

I’m seeing large numbers of people turn to social media in an effort to find online solutions, its soul destroying to see so many people out on a limb and alarming that much of the advice available simply isn’t right.

So here’s a few handy hints.

What should you do if you find your benefits stopped, reduced or subject to sanction?

  • In all cases you should try and get help from a reputable advice agency such as the CAB or a recognised law centre. Despite savage cut backs the advice sector is still there to help you and even if they can’t offer you one to one help you can access updated advice resources which enable some people to resolve their problems by empowering them to follow the correct procedure.  Agencies have proper indemnity insurance if anything goes wrong and rigid training is in place for staff who provide advice, so speak to someone in the know.
  • Make sure you know which process to follow. If your benefits have stopped or been reduced or you are subject to a sanction, you will generally have a statutory right of appeal and a right to request written reasons as to how the decision was arrived at.  Most statutory authorities use fairly standard stock phrased letters, sometimes it pays to ask for more detailed information so you can be sure of exactly what it is that you disagree with.  Many disputes have to be resolved by initially requesting a ‘mandatory reconsideration’.  After this you should be sent a ‘mandatory reconsideration notice’; if you still disagree with the decision you can request a formal appeal to an independent tribunal arranged by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS); you’ll need to send a copy of the mandatory reconsideration notice with form SSCS1 to the HMCTS Appeals Centre to the address given on the form.  These types of disputes are known as formal reconsideration requests, revisions/supersessions and lodging formal appeal.
  • Always put your reconsideration request, request for reasons or formal appeal in writing, keep a copy and send it by some form of recorded mail so you have proof of postage and receipt. Authorities try and resolve disputes of this nature by telephone, by all means use it to speed things up but always back everything up in writing and make sure you keep a record of when the call was made, what was said and who you spoke to. Why you should write not phone. If you have been given a valid email then use it as it enables you to show evidence of communication. Do everything in the time limits, if this isn’t possible then provide some reasons for lateness.
  • Top 20 Tips for complaning gives more advice on how to write a complaint

Complaining

  • If you are unhappy over treatment you have received from a statutory agency you can complain. This may be appropriate in cases of delay, where standards expected fall below what they should be or where you believe you have been mistreated or treated unfairly.   Write to the Customer Complaints Manager of the department concerned and set out your complaint to provide a brief history followed by specific grounds under different headings followed by a summary and an idea of what you consider to be a suitable remedy.  Remember to be clear between the process of disputing/appealing and complaining otherwise your appeal may get lost in the wording of a complaint.  Break your letter down in to concise sections setting out the complaint in such a way that it is relevant, easy to follow and likely to draw attention to what’s gone wrong and who you consider to be at fault.  Set a timescale in which you should expect a reply.  Refer to any guidance of the department as to their complaints procedure.  You can always complain to MPs and other statutory bodies if you remain dissatisfied with trying to sort things out with the agency involved.
  • Contact details for key personnel responsible and for the DWP can be found here.

 

Discretionary

  • Some agencies and disputes, often concerning tax credits for instance, may be subject to a discretionary code where you don’t have a formal right of appeal. This doesn’t apply in all tax credit cases but for the majority you will need to follow the HMRC Code of Practice (COP 26) and set out your dispute in writing, you should argue your dispute and seek to persuade the agency on using their discretion to resolve it in your favour, it’s always good to cite the code and illustrate how it applies.

Caution when complaining Caution!

In cases involving a large loss of money, where the impact on you is serious, when being investigated or where issues of law arise you should always seek proper professional help.

About the author
Nick Dilworth is a welfare benefit specialist of over 20 years full time experience, alongside his day job in the advice sector he writes for the popular online website ilegal.org.uk where’s he’s received over 2 million views for his many articles tracking the chaotic reforms of the DWP and taken apart many government statistics to enable people to get a better concept of what’s really going on in the world of welfare.

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25 Responses to Holding the DWP to account and how to complain when your benefits go wrong

  1. Frank Zola says:

    Don’t forget ‘Compensation for poor service: DWP staff guide’ https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/compensation-for-poor-service-a-guide-for-dwp-staff

    Financial redress for maladministration: staff guide
    Ref: ISBN 978-1-84947-532-7 PDF, 99.2KB, 17 pages
    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/422425/financial-redress-maladministration-apr-15.pdf

  2. Sean Madden says:

    I am sure they are trying to kill me. 😘

  3. Fiona McCormick says:

    I went to Tribunal and won. No matter how much they threaten me., I would not hesitate to go to Tribunal again.?

  4. Jon Raab says:

    What can you do when there has been such bad maladministration that the the DWP refuses to acknowledge or reply to complaints.? After 3 years of gross abuse while I had diminished responsibility from dementia it turned out the diagnosis was incorrect and I recovered. The way I was treated while easily manipulated was disgusting, I was put to forced labour. Tribunal judges ruling was ignored, my pension was stolen from me . My benefit payments were stopped without any reasons. I was left to starve, I was forced to abandon medication and encouraged to become an injecting drug user. All to entertain certain individuals. As I recovered and it was realised that I would be complaining a war of paperwork began designed to prevent me from escalating my complaints. Then professional advocates begun to write in on my behalf demanding explanations for the way my claim was handled or why no assistance was Offerred or why I was not identified as being vulnerable and doctors letters ignored. These are simply ignored and usually followed by another bunch of fires being being lit beneath me tomeithervpunish me or to give me yet another complaints process to deal with. The latest Is that I am to be prosecuted for fraud for failing to notify the DWP of a change of circumstances brought on by a decision made by the DWP. They have also ignored a tribunal judges request to provide paperwork he needs for my PIP case when the assessor lied on every question including the reason I was making the claim. My case has been adjourned 3 times now and I have been housebound for over a year since my DLA was transferred to PIP , the disability component of ESA has been cancelled because it was an interim payment while awaiting my tribunal and they have decided not to wait any longer but have still not responded to the tribunal requests for documents.
    They have contradicted themselves on several comments and made illegal decisions but will not reply to letters asking which one is correct or why decisions were made with no intention of notifying me or with no options for appeal or they inform me that complaints have been escalated when they have not in the hope I will forget. I have had 4 consolatary payments for maladministration and harassment but my treatment gets worse and they refuse to consider reparation for actual loss as a result of their abuse of position. They even mocked the CAB who said They had placed me between a rock and a hard place. They replied “yes that is correct, we have”

    • Melz says:

      So sorry you had such a bad time, I can confirm that claimants are ignored and frequently misled. As well as ‘losing’ vital documents…and claiming to find them again after I demanded speaking to a manager. This was the 3rd ‘missing’ GP sick certificate and left me penniless for 3 months. Without proof, I strongly suspect these are deliberate acts.

    • Jim Brown says:

      This is a shocking story. To take advantage of you when to were in mental distress is unforgivable. I hope you can sue them for as much as you can get. We are currently in a fight over Pension Credit and we are just beginning to realise the depth of maladminstration and downright bullying that is happening.

  5. Bill Hasan says:

    It’s been nearly a year since my Income Support was stopped FOR NO REASON. All their own fault. I wrote the Job Centre a letter, no reply received. I am only receiving my disability benefit. I phoned them on 26th August 2016 and was told by them that i had to make a fresh claim which was filled out by them over the phone and took about 1 hour. I was told they could only back date my benefit to about 4 months after being without my benefit for nearly a year and having to borrow money to live on . WHAT A BIG RIP OFF BY OUR THIEVING GOVERNMENT. Just imagine how much money they are saving by doing this to people. This is all because of the sick government we have running our country.

  6. Joanna Burkitt says:

    I had my SDA stopped as they did away with the benefit. I had a wca assessment & was awarded no points. I took it to the tribunal & was put in the WRAG group ESA for just a year. That is up & I am waiting for another ESA assement. I had a pip assessment which has turned down I again got no points despite needing help in a lot of care. I don’t even get mobility even though I cannot get out of the house unless mum drives me there as the bus is innaccessible to me. I got the Cab to help & they think I should have 24 points but knew the DWP wouldn’t give me that. But I got nothing.
    I will probably not qualify for my blue disability badge now either.

  7. david clark says:

    cows with guns would do a better job at running the dwp,it was bad enough when ian duncan smith was running it but since he resigned its got ten times worse,they just dont have a clue and dont care about any one apart from themselves,as long as they get paid at the end of the day,disgusting the way they treet people,i tried phoning them today and was on hold for over an hour then they just hung up the phone on me which really pissed me off big time,rediculous behaviour from clowns running the country.

  8. Roger Smith says:

    I was working for 29 years and have received a four month sanction as a thank you . The English working public are being lied to, they don’t mind taking our money and dishing it out to people who have never paid anything in their life. The government and rich have been mocking the working class for years its about time they had a real wake up call, they will one day maybe in my lifetime. I have served my country and been a taxpayer all my life and I’m about to lose my house, everything I said has fallen on deaf ears they even laughed and asked if I was homeless yet! I think everyone should get their tax and national insurance back and lets go private pension and private insurance and see how they like that. Would suit me fine I have paid about half a million in tax I could retire with that, instead I will turning to crime and living on the street at my age, something that I know nothing about. Thank you, I hope you get what you deserve you filthy scum.

    • Rosie says:

      Omw reading your comment has also made me feel cross again with dwp as I feel so sorry for you and the rest of the folks out there I know how you all feel as I’m suffering same thing. How dare they say are you homeless yet! I just hope it happens to them nasty rats.

  9. Theda Bara says:

    Is there an email address or an online form where I can make a complaint against the DWP, please? I am writing on behalf of someone who is entitled to Pension (guaranteed) Credit, and who is being denied a decision. They first applied at the beginning of the year, and despite phoning on a weekly basis are still no nearer to a decision. They are having to survive by living with relatives.

  10. Tony says:

    When I made my claim online I did not get the call ball to set it up correctly, waiting weeks for it to be resolved, then when I attended the JCP for the initial appointment the advisor set it all up wrong so the payments could not be processed. In this time I could not apply for the21 day advance due to all the fumbling about. The JCP had me ringing the contact centre, the contact centre had me going up the JCP blaming each other. Then after that It took almost 6 weeks after my Child Benefit was allowed for the JCP/Contact centre to set the claim up again correctly and for me to get a payment issued for my children. In the midst of all this I was ringing up daily, cost me a fortune in calls. The contact centre kept saying they would ring me back but were unable as they had/have the wrong contact number on there computers and none of the staff I have spoken to know how to change it on your systems….. And now, only last week, I get a letter saying I have had a payment of £93.40 paid in to my account. I have not received it. After 4 days of ringing the contact centre, then them telling me to ring Debt Management & 3rd Party deductions amongst many of there solutions with noone really having a clue who sent me the money or from where, it turned out they paid it in to my ex-partners bank account who is not even on my claim, so no idea why they have done this. So I had to track her down to get it. The service Ive had in the last few months is nothing short of a bloody joke.

    This is the complaint ive just sent to the DWP about my last few months of treatment. Its got to the point im not sleeping through the night now as i am always feeling stressed and it sdonly been this way since this claim has had me up the wall.

  11. ricky stokes says:

    I got sanctioned for arguing woth a woman about some warning but she didnt sign me. I had to rebook appointment were I was sanctioned for not having my jobsearch “I had it on my appointed day when argued with woman but not on my rebooked day.”
    Advisor told me Im being sanctined for today and not the argument with the woman but my sanction start date is 1 week before I argued with woman up untill this day with advisor? bare in mind both them times I had my jobsearch and logged into universa jobmatch and monster.
    I told my advisor I want revision or appeal. Not had 1 letter from these guys.
    I complained to MP the day f the argument as I seen this coming as they have attempted this kind of provoking before so I made dwp complaint and complaint to MP.

    Dwp has not replied and been over a week. Ive not had a call which they say will be with in 2 days. Ive had no reply from MP and have made a 2nd complaint to dwp.

    I have to sign tomorow after a month of no money at all nothing! if I had a home I wouldve been sitting in dark for 4weeks! byt of course they already took my home 6years ago over BS and till this day im paying back for that flat when I claimed my housing benefit they say they dont get it.
    Done several housing benefits with citizens advice eventually started getting the rent arrears down and they took my home as abandoned and threw everything I owned away.

    Im looking to smash my adviser head in tomorrow. If be better off in jail atleast id be warm and have meals.

    Oh I had to claim hardship and tomorow I sign for that still had not 1 letter from jobcentre or dwp in regards to revision or appeal.

    This is HULL jobcentre im talking about.
    Im ask my adviser why he lied and sanction from 27 october and not 17 november. I believe that he deliberatley made me go with out money and has deliberatley made sure I can not revision or appeal. damn I didnt even get any paper saying what ive even been sanctioned for !!!

    Told mrs last time I should of took a camera but I read people get perma banned for that and this jobcentre already far enough as it is.

    I have no doubt I will win my appeal as adviser said il lose my revisions with out a doubt “see how he so sure,” he said theys call over next day for revision and to sort appeal, been a week now.

    My only option is smash his head or wait outside jobcentre as im getting mowere with complaints or even getting any kind of paper work. Almost like this is something they know they can do and know there nothing you can do.

    Im try stay cool and ask for different adviser ut already I notice when I attend jobcentre extra security follow me up and have some bs to say to me. last 2 times I practicly been escorted in and out.

    I dont want to go no more. anxiety is unreal but I got no other way. Im basicly getting sanction for jot having jobsearch on days I did have my jobsearch.

    Ive savedmy sent emails. sent 2nd complaint to dwp yesterday. Got a feeling this going to be like my house and council situation were im end u0 going ombudsman and they going to do nothing too so Im thinking I got no choice but to hurt this guy. his took food from my mouth, if i had a home, wouldve left me with no electric, gas or anything for nearly a month and im suppose to sit there and be friends with him tomorow?
    no fkn way. he lucky last time very fkn lucky because i didt have my search form on that day but now ive seen he doing me for times were I did have my search and this day I didnt have my search was not my signing normal adviser day.

    I cant have this. I cant be treated like this not when im good person. I cant look at his smug face knowing what his done and if he answers my question wrong im looking to take him out on the spot or wait for home time because this aint a joke.

    Life is hard enough on jsa never mind this BS!! my emails in the bottom feel free to message any suggestions but im pretty sure theres sweet fk all I can do as they all cover each others back. Its like a mafia has took over government.

    • The Complaining Cow says:

      Please see the post above for how to complain

      • Pat clarke says:

        No sorry nothing good to say ,but blame the government DWP just morons that are employed to to do the governments dirty work.
        They do not have a clue what they’re talking about pass the buck to a different apartment . Your claim if you have to go to a mandatory is not even really looked at just refused so you have to wait months to go to a tribunial ,just a heap of crap.
        We were even sent a tribunial email before the mandatory had taken place ha think that says it all.
        I work full time and am punished for that my husband who has worked all his life ,the got ill with emphasimia.has had his claim stopped fit for work .
        What a joke he couldn’t even walk to the bottom of the road .
        But I work so no other claim can be made .
        I don’t earn enough to pay mortgage and living expenses ,but hey ho do the government give a shit .No they don’t utter bastardsp

  12. Tony says:

    8 days on and still no reply from my complaint even though it stats they will phone me within 2 working days. fucking jokes they are.

  13. Tracy McMillan says:

    I feel very down hearted reading all these experiences and less than hopeful to get a reply. Is there anyone out there with a ‘happy ending’ or any tips for getting acknowledged in a reasonable time (currently been waiting 6 months to transfer from DLA to PIP for my disabled son ………….

    • The Complaining Cow says:

      Follow advice in post above for complaining

      • Pat clarke says:

        Go to your mp bombard DWP pips etc with complaints ,just keep fighting .
        They are appalling Go direct to the House of Commons we need to stand together Tell them your story keep complaining don’t give up that’s want they want you to do.
        Good luck I wish you the best
        Pat

  14. Bill Hood says:

    I had to have an operation so I told job centre they made me sign off and claim ESA. I did this and was then told I could not get ESA has I was assessed fit for work a year before. I appealed on the grounds that I was recovering from an operation and they had a sick note as well. They told me they me they would let me know within a month but after two months I still hadn’t contacted me. Igor in touch with my MP and he spoke to them and the next day they said I would now be getting ESA. I lost 3 weeks payments and housing benefits thanks to them and even had to go to a food bank. They have sent me another health assessment questionnaire so I am expecting to go to another meeting and be told that i am fit for work. The last time I went through their assessment I asked them who would employ a man of 62 years of age who cannot stand for longer than 10 minutes, do any lifting or bending and had to use a toilet frequently. To which they said I’m sure there’s a job out there for you. It seems to me that they want to stop everyone claiming ESA and they would prefer you to die instead.

  15. P .I says:

    It’s the same time and time again what’s happening ,if your sick and need help your made to feel its your fault from getting a sick ,note having previous heart attack and on lots of tablets yes have worked after one ,but now off with depression spondellosus,uncontrolled pains in legs ,and restless legs pain all night not controlled which doctor says not a illness only people who suffer with it will know how painful, so end of day its can’t see your pain so your fit so fit for work so
    every day its what letter will arrive today to stress you out basic sick money stopped so going to tribunal then they send letter to doctor give no more sick notes so means after working 42 years so where’s the help ,so a life mean nothing to these people that’s making these rules told by accessment heart problem not life threatening I am thankful I am still here ,but all this stress how much can one take just had to tell what I’ve been through and know theirs people going through the same .

  16. Alan says:

    Totally agree with comments,I have brain damage which has left me with Ataxia,and memory loss,I have had brain scans which show damage.All information given to joke shop Atos plus many more side effects all to no avail,I cannot walk more than a few yards,loss of balance yet Atos said I can,the assessor never saw me do that I simply can’t the list goes on,they go against top neurologist and scan?i got welfare rights and MP involved so fingers crossed,I 60 worked all my life never claimed a penny paid hundreds thousand tax thought I paid nat.ins as safety net what a joke!oh and most assessors nurses,not qualified doctors pee pot emptier and bed makers! Pathetic

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