Update on new posts and info

Update 19/8/21: New resources added on DWP’s £3bn Restart employment ‘support’ scheme: https://mrfrankzola.wordpress.com/restart/ RE: Copies of providers diagnostic and action plan tools and new FOI requests for participant Induction Packs.

Due to covid19 there will be no more new posts.
However, details of new resources, reports, documents and FOI releases will be posted below and on twitter @mrfrankzola as and when able.

DWP FOI Watch https://mrfrankzola.wordpress.com/dwpfoiwatch #DWPfoiWatch

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New two-tier UC and JSA #BenefitSanctions policy introduced, as only some claimants will be subject to sanctions, depending upon where they live in the UK

Today the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has provided more details (report paper 24) of the DWP’s and DfC’s Benefit Sanctions policy under the coronavirus crisis. The SSAC report confirms some policies outlined in previously published DWP documents, but gives more details of internal processes used by Jobcentres and Work ‘Coaches’, some extracts are shown below and are the subject of FOI requests.

If understood correctly , the SSAC report implies likes of Universal Credit (UC) claimants in Northern Ireland will not be subject to Benefit Sanctions, but UC claimants in England, Scotland and Wales will be once a new or revised Claimant Commitment is in place.

Therefore DWP and DfC appear to have created inconsistent two-tier Benefit Sanctions regimes that are significantly different, specifically “For new claims made from 8 July 2020, DfC [Northern Ireland] will instigate “light-touch” discussions without the threat or potential of a sanction” and “From 1 July 2020 DWP [England, Scotland and Wales] began to reintroduce new and updated claimdant commitments for UC, on a phased approach as capacity allowed, and have told us that only once a claimant’s new or updated claimant commitment is in place can claimants receive a sanction for failure to meet the commitment without good cause.” The “DWP has a developed a Discretion Framework that is available to DWP staff. While an internal discretion framework can help guide consistency on how conditionality might be eased”. The SSAC report goes on to say:

“The approach by DfC is that the reintroduced work search conversations and the claimant commitment for new Universal Credit claimants will involve a light-touch discussion that will seek to support and help those new to Universal Credit, and that it will not involve the threat or potential of a sanction for non-compliance.

In the interim, it is unclear what the elements of pre-pandemic claimant commitments DWP and DfC regard as reasonable for claimants to follow or not follow, and at what point claimants will be failing to meet their commitments and therefore be liable for sanctions”

The report then makes a recommendation that seem muddled or may just reflect how inconsistent the DfC and DWP Claimant Commitment/Conditonality/Sanctions policy approaches are.

Recommendation 3:

DWP and DfC should communicate clearly with those whose pre-lockdown claimant commitments have not yet been updated to identify what it is reasonable to expect them to do under their existing claimant commitment. DWP and DfC should also ensure that there is consistent treatment with those who have updated claimant commitments so that no sanctions are applied for something that would not be sanctionable under an updated claimant commitment.

It remains unclear what status the DWP statement below has:

“During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak,
you will not get a sanction if you cannot keep
to your Claimant Commitment
See ”No Claimant Commitment #BenefitSanctions the during Covid19 outbreak? + All Universal Credit guidance published (179 docs)” for more background on this quote.

Work coaches should not take any action if the claimant has not met all
their work related [Claimant Commitment] requirements, but can show a reasonable level of activity

Source: DWP ‘Spotlight on: Fortnightly work search reviews‘ – disclosed 29 September 2020

Independent report: A review of the COVID-19 temporary measures:
occasional paper 24
Published 18 November 2020
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-review-of-the-covid-19-temporary-measures/a-review-of-the-covid-19-temporary-measures-occasional-paper-24

Extracts: “Our review of these measures and the potential challenges of unwinding them covers 6 themes:

  1. Conditionality and the unwinding of the easements

DWP and DfC reinstated these conditionality measures, stating that:

“The reintroduction of the claimant commitment represents a return to business as usual, not a policy change”[footnote 13]

“Claimant commitment requirements will be reasonable taking into account current circumstances”[footnote 14]

DWP has told us that Work Coaches will work to ensure that commitments made by claimants are reasonable and allow them to adhere to continuing local and national public health advice in regards to COVID-19, while also doing what they can to engage with the labour market.

From 1 July 2020 DWP began to reintroduce new and updated claimant commitments for UC, on a phased approach as capacity allowed, and have told us that only once a claimant’s new or updated claimant commitment is in place can claimants receive a sanction for failure to meet the commitment without good cause.

For new claims made from 8 July 2020, DfC will instigate “light-touch” discussions without the threat or potential of a sanction, in recognition of the challenging circumstances people still find themselves in.

Assurances of reasonableness in taking account of current circumstances are welcome, as is the Department’s expectation that its Jobcentre managers and Work Coaches will work with claimants appropriately.

DWP’s commitment that conditionality and sanctions policies will continue to be tailored in light of the ongoing public health situation…

“DWP has a developed a Discretion Framework that is available to DWP staff. While an internal discretion framework can help guide consistency on how conditionality might be eased…

Reviewing commitments for other claimants

For other claimants, the commitment agreed pre-lockdown may not be suitable under current circumstances. While new claimant commitments are being prioritised, it will take time to revise those claimant commitments that were developed pre-pandemic. DWP and DfC have both said they will review and update these claimant commitments as capacity allows.

As DWP has told us, in some cases it may take some time until claimants have a revised claimant commitment, but that there is an expectation that claimants will do everything they can reasonably do to prepare and look for work before then. On this basis, DWP has said that once their new or updated claimant commitment is in place, and work-related requirements agreed and accepted, claimants can again receive a sanction if they fail to meet those requirements without good reason.

The approach by DfC is that the reintroduced work search conversations and the claimant commitment for new Universal Credit claimants will involve a light-touch discussion that will seek to support and help those new to Universal Credit, and that it will not involve the threat or potential of a sanction for non-compliance.

In the interim, it is unclear what the elements of pre-pandemic claimant commitments DWP and DfC regard as reasonable for claimants to follow or not follow, and at what point claimants will be failing to meet their commitments and therefore be liable for sanctions.

Footnotes

  1. UK Parliament, Social Security Benefits: Disqualification: Written question – 66869
    https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2020-06-30/66869
  2. UK Parliament, Social Security Benefits: Written question – 70412
    https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2020-07-07/70412

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DWP insults Disabled People, Carers and Unemployed by fully explaining why they did not deserve the weekly £20 coronavirus emergency payments

After an FOI request [1] the Social Security Advisory Committee finally publishes the 2020 minutes of it’s meetings. They contain the truly insulting reasons why the DWP considers people on legacy benefits (ESA, JSA and Carers Allowance) do not deserve the £20 coronavirus emergency paymens provided to millions of Universal Credit (UC) claimants, like the 3.2 million that claimed UC during the UK wide lockdown.

The DWP suggest that the reason it did not make £20 payments to disabled people on ESA, Carers on Carers Allowance and unemployed on Jobseeker’s Allowance was because they are not facing the “most financial disruption” [like newly unemployed workers] during the covid19 crisis, the IT system was too “complex” and how “Safeguarding the benefit system was their priority“.

Social Security weekly payments:
Universal Credit – £94.50 per week – £79.08 Single and under 25
(including the £20 covid19 payment)
Carers Allowance – £67.25 (For providing a minimum of 35 hours a week of care)
Jobseeker’s Alowance – £74.35 (Up to age 24 £58.90)

Social Security Advisory Committee
Minutes of the meeting held on 13 May 2020

(a) Why was the treatment for legacy benefits inconsistent with Universal Credit (UC)? What was the rationale for the increase to the work allowance in Universal Credit (£20 perweek), and no increasefor legacybenefits?

The Government made decisions that could be quickly and effectively implemented. The Universal Credit IT system was more flexible than the legacy benefits systems that had complex interdependencies and interactions. The Government’s view was to have a balanced package across the board and made changes to the benefit system to allow it to prioritise and pay claimants quickly.

(b) Could you elaborate on the “people experiencing themost financial disruption”, for example in Universal Credit?

A significant number of people were claiming and were new to the system. [like newly unemployed workers] New claimants appeared to be facing the most financial disruption at the current time. The Chancellor of the Exchequer also made the decision to increase Working Tax Credits(WTC) to help those still in work.

(c) Was the rationale because the previous level of benefits were not enough?

The current increases were to provide additional support for people who were facing the most financial disruption from the effects of Covid-19 outbreak.

(d) What was the justification for not increasing Jobseeker’s Allowance(JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance(ESA)?

Ministers hadmade their decisions and their reasons had been given. Safeguarding the benefit system was their priority.

(e) How would it be differentiated to give people more money and/or support (Carers Allowanceand other benefits)?

The Government’s first priority for carers was to make sure that they did not inadvertently drop off Carers Allowance, so it had relaxed break in care rules and allowed “emotional support” to count towards the 35 hour a week care threshold. DWP continued to monitor the position. In terms of the rate of benefits paid to carers,the Government believed that most help should be provided to those carers in most need through Universal Credit which was means tested. Carers Allowance was not means tested (but was uprated by Consumer Prices Index(CPI)) and so recipients might have other financial resources to help support them. Carers on Universal Credit would benefit from the increase the Government had made.The extent to which people would benefit was based on specific combinations of benefits people were entitled to. There was a complex interaction between benefit systems that needed to be considered. The Government was responding to a rapidly developing environment that could change.”

Source: May 2020 Minutes – The Social Security Advisory Committee – accessed 14/11/2020

Reference

[1] “The minutes of SSAC should be public. They have not been published for over a year which is a disgrace.”
Source: ‘How the ” emotionally attached ” architect of Universal Credit will now be its chief DWP scrutineer‘ 18/10/20

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No Claimant Commitment #BenefitSanctions the during Covid19 outbreak? + All Universal Credit guidance published (179 docs)

Stats: Universal Credit benefit sanctions: July 2020: 7 (Seven) – July 2019: 22,565

DWP Official Statistics – Benefit sanctions statistics to July 2020 (experimental) – 10 Novermber 2020

“During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak,
you will not get a sanction if you cannot keep
to your Claimant Commitment
See footnote below for the history of this quote.

Compliance
Claimants are only expected to do what is reasonable. When work
coaches are considering expected hours of work search and work
related requirements, they must include the impact of coronavirus.
Work coaches should not take any action if the claimant has not met all
their work related requirements, but can show a reasonable level of
activity

Source: DWP ‘Spotlight on: Fortnightly work search reviews‘ – disclosed 29 September 2020

Universal Credit (UC) guidance (179 docs)
DEP2020-0646, committed on 29 October 2020
https://depositedpapers.parliament.uk/depositedpaper/2282591/files – Past copies: https://mrfrankzola.wordpress.com/all-universal-credit-guidance/

Always cross check the above DWP guidance with information on gov.uk, Advice for decision making (ADM), Decision maker’s guide (DMG) and Understanding Universal Credit. As well as FOI disclosures as they often have more relevant information from a Social Security claimant point of view, such as how UC Claimant Commitments (CC) are more relaxed due to Covid 19 and associated effects on CC Compliance and Benefit Sanctions.

Caveat: The above sanctions information is the subject of an FOI request and wider discussion. The Social Security Advisory Committee, The Commons Library, The Work and Pensions Committee and a few MPs have been requested to investigate these matters.

Footnote

1.10 Sanctions
During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, you will not get a sanction if you cannot keep to your Claimant Commitment.
“Updated 6 April 2020”
https://web.archive.org/web/20201016103130/https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-and-you/draft-uc-and-you
Accessed 09/11/2020:
“Updated 20 October 2020”
1.10 Sanctions
During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, you will not get a sanction if you cannot keep to your Claimant Commitment.
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-and-you/draft-uc-and-you
Archive https://web.archive.org/web/20201109162631/https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-and-you/draft-uc-and-you (copied 09/11/2020)

Hat Tip for Benefit Sanctions info above (1.10) Anita Bellows twitter.com/AnitaBellows12 @AnitaBellows12 (October 2020)


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Facts: DWP states new UC & JSA JETS support “voluntary”, but can be mandatory if you do not volunteeer and you can get #BenefitSanctions as a volunteer

Loking at the DWP Job Entry: Targeted Support (JETS) contract specification it highlights the twisted logic the DWP uses when it refers to ‘voluntary’ employment support.

In the Spec it says JETS is “primarily voluntary”, but then says “DWP Work Coaches may mandate some claimants to attend and participate in the initial appointment” and then for a JETS ‘volunteer’ it says “Work Coaches may set mandatory Work Focussed Interviews (WFIs) to discuss measures which potential voluntary Participants could take to enhance their employment prospects” and goes onto to state mandatory “WFIs may also be conducted with voluntary Participants if they cease to engage with JETS”

JETS ‘volunteers’ who fail to undertage Work ‘Coach’ mandated appointments or Work Focussed Interviews will be referred “to the DWP Labour Market and Decision Making Team, who will decide if a benefit sanction is appropriate”

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Why are 13,500 new DWP Work ‘Coaches’ never informed of the central role they have forcing people they ‘coach’ to survive below an existential minimum in accordance with human dignity, with 100% Benefit Sanctions, until they start working at a Jobcentre?

DWP confirms today that during the recruitment of 13,500 new Jobcentre Work ‘Coaches’ at no stage are candidates advised of the role they have imposing benefit conditionality and severe financial penalties (100% benefit sanctions).

“DWP Work Coach adverts we do not explicitly refer to benefit conditionality as part of the recruitment process. At the interview stage, it would not be appropriate as we are looking to test candidates against a set of essential criteria and key skills for the role of the Work Coach.
At the offer stage, again, we do not cover any aspect of benefit conditionality”
Source: DWP – ‘Your vacancies for Work Coaches not appear to mention any role in sanctioning claimants benefits?‘ FOI 2020/52894 – 2 November 2020

How can any ‘coach’ start with the DWP with zero insight of their unavoidable role making people destitute by arranging for 100% of their JSA or Universal Credit ‘Standard Allowance‘ to be removed by Benefit Sanctions?

UC work coaches setting conditions and applying sanctions
Source: Office for Budget Responsibility: ‘The role of UC work coaches‘ January 2018

In November 2019 the German Constitutional Court found 100% benefit sanctions to be a breach of the Basic Law (1949) right to an “existential minimum in accordance with human dignity” and now no Benefit Sanction can be higher than 30% of the Standard Allowance. Yet in the UK a Work ‘Coach’ is required by law to make benefit claimants destitute by removing 100% of their Universal Credit or JSA Standard Allowance, when the ‘Coach’ alleges they have failed to meet their Social Security Commitments.

I. Basic Rights
Article 1 [Human dignity]
(1) Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.
Source: The Federal Government – ‘Basic Law‘ – accessed November 2nd, 2020

Under Universal Credit, Benefit Sanctions are consecutive and can therefore be indefinite and are still being applied during the current Covid19 pandemic, including 35,000 people having their benefits cut during the UK wide 3 month ‘lockdown‘.

It seems very strange that a new Work ‘Coach’ can start working in a Jobcentre and never be informed beforehand of the central role they have forcing the people they ‘coach’ to survive below an existential minimum in accordance with human dignity, via 100% Benefit Sanctions?

Related research

Conditions, Welfare and Responsibility
“profoundly negative personal, financial, health and behavioural outcomes triggered by benefit sanctions”
https://www.york.ac.uk/research/impact/welfare-conditionality-project/

Punitive benefit sanctions, welfare conditionality, and the social abuse of unemployed people in Britain: Transforming claimants into offenders?
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/spol.12577

Welfare sanctions and the right to a subsistence minimum: A troubled marriage
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1388262720940328

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Stop Press – DWP are again relaxing the #BenefitSanctions regime, due to local Covid19 ‘lockdowns’

Update: Jobcentre guidance says a Claimant Commitment (CC) should relfect the ‘impact of coronavirus’ and crucially “Work coaches should not take any action* if the claimant has not met all their work related requirements, but can show a reasonable level of activity“. With claimants being helped this means requirement to evidence spending 35 hours a week of Work Search and Work Preparation has been relaxed and a ‘Coach’ is looking for claimants to do “a reasonable level of activity”, based upon the local labour market and local covid19 restrictions.
*IE: Refer a claimant to a Decision Maker to consider applying Benefit Sanctions for failing to meet all requirements set out in a CC.

Have recently been helping a number of Universal Credit claimants to challenge their Claimant Commitment (CC), as DWP is reviewing millions of CCs. [see footnote] Of note is one supported challenge that includes a Second Opinion of their CC, this was undertaken today and the new Commitments show that conditionality and therefore Benefit Sanctions are again being relaxed, this is related to the claimant living in an area with the highest Covid19 restrictions (Tier 3) and having the highest level of conditionality that can be applied.*

More information will be posted soon, once personal data can be anonymised (with claimant consent) and to give more time to put this all in the context of DWP statements, published policy and Freedom of Information disclosures.

*They are in the ‘All work-related activity group’
“You have to do all you can to find a job or earn more. This includes looking for jobs, applying for jobs and going to interviews”
https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/universal-credit/what-youll-need-to-do-on-universal-credit/claimant-commitment-what-group/
Which also means they would normallybe required to spend 35 hours per week undertaking Work Search and Work Preparation Activities.

Footnote

“26. Between 30th June 2020 and the date that a claimant accepts a new or
revised claimant commitment, they will be expected to do what they
reasonably can to search for and be available for work. Claimants will not be
subject to sanctions for failing to comply with these obligations until they
accept their new or revised claimant commitment”

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/691073/response/1648002/attach/html/3/Equality%20Analysis%20for%20Reinstatement%20of%20Conditionality.pdf.html

UC Claimant Commitment: How to get a Second Opinion to amend it

The Claimant Commitment (CC) is central to Universal Credit (UC) and save for exceptional circumstances one must be accepted by a claimant to get UC. A CC contains the conditions to maintain the claim or face the possibility of severe financial penalties (Benefit Sanctions) for failing to complete any of the mandatory CC requirements.

Related post:Stop Press – DWP are again relaxing the Benefit Sanctions regime, due to local Covid19 ‘lockdowns

Advice and guidance: Check out claimantcommitments.org.uk as it can help to ensure a CC reflects the unique circumstances of a claimant, or seek help via advicelocal.uk and if you have “any limitation due to illness or disability” the ”Template letter to use when UC claimants are asked to accept a Claimant Commitment and to avoid #sanctions‘ could prove invaluable.

Many claimants report they have CCs that are unreasonable or difficult to understand, in these circumstances a claimant can ask a Work ‘Coach’ to amend the CC but they may be unwilling to do so.

What is often not mentioned is that claimants can request a Second Opinion (SO) of a CC, which will probably be undertaken by another ‘Coach’.

The Second Opinion process relates to when a new CC is created and during the 7 calendar day ‘cooling off‘ period [see ‘Resources‘ below] before a CC has to be accepted a SO can be requested. Below are details onasking for a SO for the first or ‘initial‘ CC. It is suggested that it is best to seek advice (check advicelocal.uk) if you are being asked to accept a newer “On-going” CC after the first/initial one has been accepted, as a claim can be closed if the SO considers the “On-going” CC is reasonable and does not need to be amended.

A pragmatic approach is to accept any CC and then tell a ‘Coach’ why it needs amending, the claimantcommitments.org.uk site can help assess whether a CC is actually reasonable and if it reflects the unique circumstances of a claimant. Claimants can also lodge a formal complaint if a ‘Coach’ declines to amend a CC after it has been accepted.

Below is a copy of the DWP’s internal guidance on requesting a Second Opinion (SO), if you seek a SO of your first/initial CC this has the least risk to UC claim and it’s payments. If you have had more than one CC, referred to as an “On-going” CC by the DWP and want it amended you can ask your Work ‘Coach’ to amend it and explain the reasons why, a ‘Coach’ should change a CC if there has been a change in a claimant’s circumstances or there are other reasons it is difficult to undertake the requirements set out in the CC or is otherwise unreasonable.

If a ‘Coach’ is unwilling to amend an On-going CC you can ask for a Second Opinion, but it is recommended to seek independent advice (check advicelocal.uk) before making a formal SO request for a On-going CC as a UC claim can be closed if the SO considers the CC is reasonable and does not need to be changed.

Notes: Due to the covid19 lockdown, since June 30th 2020, the DWP is arranging for millions of UC claimants to have a new CC [see footnote].

On claimant’s UC accounts this is being presented as a “first” CC and therefore the guidance below suggests these CCs are “Intial” CCs and therefore the guidance below that refers to an “Intial” CC should apply. If you are unsure about asking for a SO, seek independent advice (check advicelocal.uk) and or use the UC account Journal functions to request a ‘Coach’ to explain what a SO is and what could be the possible outcomes and consequences of one being arranged.

You could also ask for a copy of the DWP latest guidance on SOs, as the version below might have been updated.

The claimant’s option to request a UC Claimant Commitment Second Opinion is not mentioned by the DWP on https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-work-pensions nor https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/ or for that matter of any advice agency website anywhere in the UK!

Resources

April 2019: Universal Credit guidance published (157 documents)
mrfrankzola.wordpress.com/april-2019-universal-credit-guidance-published-157-documents/

DWP Second Opinion guidance

Initial commitment: If the second opinion agrees that the original requirements are considered to be reasonable,the original commitments remain unchanged. If the claimant now choses to accept this commitment date of claim will be from the date the commitments isaccepted.If they refuse to accept it the claim is closed. If the requirements are considered unreasonable the claimant must be offered a new commitment to accept. They cannot ask for a further second opinion and there is nofurther cooling off period. It the clamant refuses to accept their commitment the claim will be closed. If they accept their commitment, the original date of claim is used.

On-going commitments:

If the second opinion agrees that the original requirements are considered to be reasonable,the claim is closed from the start of the assessment period in which the change was generated. The claimant will need to submit a new claim.

If the requirements are considered unreasonable the claimant must be offered a new commitment to accept. It the clamant refuses to accept their commitment (either the revised one or the original) the claim will be closed. If they accept their commitment, the claim continues.

Claimant Commitment – conduct a second opinion interview
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/343998/response/847335/attach/html/8/Claimant%20Commitment%20conduct%20a%20second%20interview.pdf.html

Requirement to accept a claimant’s commitment
Accepting the Claimant’s Commitments
Cooling off period
Second Opinion

Temporary lifting of requirement to accept a claimant commitment
Permanently lifting of requirement to accept a claimant commitment
3 page pdf
http://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/Files/DEP2019-0465/Requirement_to_accept_a_CC-temp_removal_v6.0.pdf

Claim closure and re-claims
“The claimant may however request a second opinion on whether the requirements of their Commitment are reasonable before they accept them”
http://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/Files/DEP2018-0759/Claim_closure__re-claims_v5.0_.pdf

Claimant Commitment not accepted
If a claimant refuses to accept theirCommitments,the following options are available to them:
a cooling off period
a second opinion

refusal to accept theirCommitments
http://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/Files/DEP2019-0980/30._Commitment_not_accepted_v2.0.pdf

Footnote

“26. Between 30th June 2020 and the date that a claimant accepts a new or
revised claimant commitment, they will be expected to do what they
reasonably can to search for and be available for work. Claimants will not be
subject to sanctions for failing to comply with these obligations until they
accept their new or revised claimant commitment”
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/691073/response/1648002/attach/html/3/Equality%20Analysis%20for%20Reinstatement%20of%20Conditionality.pdf.html

Universal Credit: How to get your secret ‘Claimant History’, ‘Claimant Profile’ and deleted records – to help challenge a Work ‘Coach’, Benefit Sanctions, decisions and to support complaints

If you want to challenge a Work ‘Coach, an adverse decision or benefit sanction, or make a complaint, you can ask for a copy of your Universal Credit (UC) Claimant History, as:

“Claimants cannot see Claimant history on their account. This information is only visible to staff”

and your history record gives the DWP a secret:

“audit trail of the action taken – for example, information about work or appointments, evidence for decisions and appeals”

and getting a copy could expose factual inaccuracies or misrepresentations that could help with any challenge or complaint against the DWP.

Claimant profile and notes

Claimant history also uses ‘profile notes’ to record complex needs:

“The claimant profile must always be the first place you look when
dealing with a case and interacting with a claimant. This information is
used in conjunction with other information in the journal to ensure you
have the most up to date claim details and claimant circumstances.
It is essential to identify claimants with complex needs quickly and
accurately so that we can tailor the way we deliver the service to meet
their needs”
Spotlight on: Using the claimant profile to record complex needs: October 2020

DWP complaint: Online form for UC and JSA
https://makeacomplaint.dwp.gov.uk/
Complaint procedure: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-work-pensions/about/complaints-procedure

DWP document: ‘Claimant history’
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/690963/response/1647993/attach/html/3/FOI2020%2052319%20Claimant%20history%20guidance.pdf.html

Get a copy of your personal data

The Data Protection Act (2018) and GDPR also gives you a number of rights, such as objecting to incorrect history being used and or having it rectified (corrected). As well as the basic right to ask the DWP for a copy of your personal data they hold, which includes your Claimant History and copies of your deleted records discussed below. It is also worth remembering that you can also ask for a copy of any telephone call the DWP has recorded, it is understood all calls to Universal Credit are recorded.

DWP: online form to request your personal data
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/request-your-personal-information-from-the-department-for-work-and-pensions

Your deleted records

There has been a number of concerns being raised about Journal entries on a Universal Credit account being deleted by a ‘Coach’. However, the DWP has confirmed:

DWP Work Coaches cannot delete journal messages from claimants
FOI reply:  ‘UC Journal and recovery of deleted claimant entries‘ – 23/4/19

The FOI reply goes on to say:

“Deleted text entries [entered by a ‘coach’] can be recovered within the life of the claim and for up to 14 months following claim closure. Only DWP staff with specific privileges can view and recover deleted entries. Deleted entries are retained in line with the whole data set. Universal Credit (UC) retains  data for 14 months post claim closure. “

Recording phone calls

Due to the covid19 pandemic most contact with UC, the DWP and Work Coach is via digital channels (online account, email, sms and over the phone). You may find it helpful to record all you phone calls, especially those with a Work Coach, as what they say may contradict the ‘Claimant Commitments‘ you have accepted in return for UC. A Coach, over the phone, might be more honest about the real difficulties doing work search and work preparation activities, in the current context of the covid19 pandemic and the DWP planning for an expected 4 million people to become unemployed.

You are not required to inform anyone of an intention to record a phone call, when it is used for personal and domestic purposes. If you do want to use a phone recording, it can be useful to intially provide a transcript of the call before considering disclosing the actual recording. If you have difficulties remembering what is discussed over the phone, you can also formally request for the DWP to record the call and provide you with a copy. When all parties to a phone call have a duplicate copy this helps overcome disputes that can be raised about a recording’s authenticity. DWP staff can also be given the choice not to undertake phone calls that are recorded.

Related post

#UniversalCredit: Your Work Search. A ‘Coach’ can require you to supply your evidence in a “particular way”?
(Post onto your Universal Credit account?)
What about your CV?
(Upload to your UC account?)

Resources

advicelocal.uk
Your local guide to help with benefits, work, money, housing problems and more

claimantcommitments.org.uk

ucfightback.wordpress.com
The Universal Credit (UC) Fight Back: How to stop your home and devices becoming a digital workhouse and fight the UC rule to spend 35 hours a week searching for work

Updated 13/3/2020 to include section on the UC ‘claimant profile’

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