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Department of Work & Pensions 'Harassment'

SMW83SMW83 Member Posts: 91 Courageous
Hello all,

This is a long and protracted issue so I will try and keep it as factual and to the point as possible.

I underwent reassessment for Personal Independence Payments (owing to suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Agoraphobia, Depression & Anxiety) in July 2016 where my benefits were cut substantially. 

I appealed this and won in December, with the courts deciding in my favour owing to 'extensive and comprehensive medical evidence in support of my claim' .

During this process, I contacted my local MP due to a catalogue of 'malpractices' I had been subjected to by the Department of Work & Pensions during the process, who contacted them in a 'formal capacity' regarding these issues.

Since my 'win' just over 2 months ago and my MP's involvement, the DWP have contacted me on 3 occasions claiming that due to a change in my circumstance (which there has not been) I will have to undertake the process to claim for PIP again, providing me with the complete PIP2 form on each occasion, in spite of being given 'award' until September 2020 in December. I am now also having to be reassessed for my Employment Support Allowance which I can understand to an extent due to my appeal 'win' but still question this considering the timing and such.

I cannot help but think that due to me highlighting their 'malpractices', failing to follow their own rules and regulations and involving my MP, I have somehow 'put a target on my back' and am now being in essence harassed for doing so. Either that or this is a tactic the DWP employ to essentially force a claimant to concede any claim to benefits or diminish a claimants will to 'fight' these processes until they take more drastic action. Considering I have been fighting their decision since July 2016, with no real respite, having to deal with almost daily issues arising from my appeal and with no real support whilst doing so, should I have to undertake this process again in the immediate future especially if I was have to endure the appeals process again, I do not feel able to continue to do so and will have no alternative but to yield to the DWP, which will leave me in an untenable situation, with my only alternative being ending my life.

Has anyone else been subjected to, what in my opinion, seems to be either coercion or an imperious strategy to dissuade a claimant from claiming benefits to which they are entitled by the DWP? Or can anyone offer advice as to what action they think I should take to stop me being 'targeted'.

Thanks in advance.

Replies

  • MarkmywordsMarkmywords Member Posts: 421 Pioneering
    SMW83 ,
    If your Tribunal judgement did not cover future reassessment then the DWP may review your claim at any time.

    If you believe a reassessment is unreasonably soon you will have to repeat the entire process once you get the new entitlement letter. Even if it does not change, you can still appeal against the review time alone.

    While the court would review your claim in its entirety, they would not be likely to overturn their own earlier decision. It sounds as though the DWP would not be able to provide any new evidence since the first case and would therefore lose.

    Ask the court to impose a fair and reasonable time before you are reviewed again.

    I would advise everyone to incorporate the review period into all Tribunal appeals. Mine went from two years to unlimited.

    My battle took even longer than yours. They are relying on you giving up. It's not personal to them, it's just work.
    I don't understand how presumably decent people can go to work and become brutal and abusive to vulnerable people. These are civil servants for goodness' sake!

    You could always get a solicitor to deal with it. It would pay eventually compared to giving up your lawful claim.
  • SMW83SMW83 Member Posts: 91 Courageous
    Markmywords, thank you for your reply.

    Just for clarification, you are advising that I should undertake the process again and should it go to appeal again, ask the courts to impose a time frame before I can be reassessed again? Is there no way of doing this without having to undertake the process again. Does the fact the court 'awarded' me the benefit until September 2020 have no bearing on this? 


  • SMW83SMW83 Member Posts: 91 Courageous
    edited February 2017
    This is a long and protracted issue so I will try and keep it as factual and to the point as possible.

    I underwent reassessment for Personal Independence Payments (owing to suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Agoraphobia, Depression & Anxiety) in July 2016 where my benefits were cut substantially. 

    I appealed this and won in December, with the courts deciding in my favour owing to 'extensive and comprehensive medical evidence in support of my claim' .

    During this process, I contacted my local MP due to a catalogue of 'malpractices' I had been subjected to by the Department of Work & Pensions during the process, who contacted them in a 'formal capacity' regarding these issues.

    Since my 'win' just over 2 months ago and my MP's involvement, the DWP have contacted me on 3 occasions claiming that due to a change in my circumstance (which there has not been) I will have to undertake the process to claim for PIP again, providing me with the complete PIP2 form on each occasion, in spite of being given 'award' until September 2020 in December. I am now also having to be reassessed for my Employment Support Allowance which I can understand to an extent due to my appeal 'win' but still question this considering the timing and such.

    I cannot help but think that due to me highlighting their 'malpractices', failing to follow their own rules and regulations and involving my MP, I have somehow 'put a target on my back' and am now being in essence harassed for doing so. Considering I have been fighting their decision since July 2016, with no real respite, having to deal with almost daily issues arising from my appeal and with no real support whilst doing so, should I have to undertake this process again in the immediate future especially if I was have to endure the appeals process again, I do not feel able to continue to do so and will have no alternative but to yield to the DWP, which will leave me in an untenable situation, with my only alternative being ending my life.

    Having posted elsewhere on the site, I have been advised to undertake the process again and whatever the outcome, appeal the decision and ask for impose a fair and reasonable time reassessment to be imposed before I am reviewed again. Is there not a further appeal I can make further to the courts decision to have this time frame implemented or a 'higher body' I can appeal to rather than having to undertake this long and torturous process again?

    Many thanks in advance.
  • MarkmywordsMarkmywords Member Posts: 421 Pioneering
    I would have to see the wording to be sure.

    If the court did specify a time in their first judgement regarding the period of the award then that is a different matter.

    If so then the DWP is in contempt of court. Probably best to get a solicitor in that event. A strongly worded legal letter the the DWP would then silence them. It wouldn't cost much either.
  • SMW83SMW83 Member Posts: 91 Courageous
    The paperwork from the First-Tier Tribunal/Social Entitlement Chamber reads exactly as follows;

    Decisions Notice

    1. The appeal is Allowed
    2. The decision made by the Secretary of State on 07/09/2016 in respect of Personal Independence Payments is set aside.
    3. (My Name) is entitled to the daily living component at the standard rate for 07/09/2016 to 29/08/2020.
    4. (My Name) has limited ability to carry out activities of daily living. He scores 8 points. He satisfies the descriptors.
    5. (My Name)is entitled to the mobility component at the standard rate from 07/09/2016 to 29/08/2020.
    6. (My Name) has limited ability to carry out mobility activities. He scored 10 points. He satisfies the descriptors.

    By reason of depression, anxiety, agoraphobia and PTSD (My Name) is significantly limited. As a result (My Name) qualifies for the above award of Personl Independence Payment. In reaching its decision the Tribunal placed particular reliance upon the evidence of the appeal bundle.
  • MarkmywordsMarkmywords Member Posts: 421 Pioneering
    It's contempt of court, pure and simple.
  • SMW83SMW83 Member Posts: 91 Courageous
    edited February 2017
    Thank you so much for your assistance @Markmywords. You have been a tremendous help. Should they proceed with the requests for reassessment, I will seek legal advice.
  • Chris_AlumniChris_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 695 Pioneering
    Hi @SMW83, I've moved your thread to our expert benefits advisors' section as they will be able to provide you with some guidance on this.

    I was also wondering if you've called the DWP directly to check whether these later PIP claim forms have been sent to you in error? 

  • SMW83SMW83 Member Posts: 91 Courageous
    @Chris_Scope The first reassessment was stopped after my MP intervened, the second blamed on a clerical error and the third is ongoing with me being contacted by Capita before even receiving any notice of intention for the DWP to reassess me, with Capita now referring this back to the DWP as they themselves could not understand the need for reassessment considering the short period of time between my appeal win and the subsequent requests for reassessment.
  • MarkmywordsMarkmywords Member Posts: 421 Pioneering
    You are welcome.

    Every person I can help is another stab back at them for me :D

    The irony is that if my elected representative said "The country is broke we must reduce all welfare by 10%" then I'd accept that. As long as it was the same for every last person in the country.
  • Chris_AlumniChris_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 695 Pioneering
    Though I should stress that I'm not knowledgeable in this area, it definitely sounds like a bureaucratic error of some kind has taken place, and I would try not to worry unduly at this point (though I realise this may be difficult). I'm sure @BenefitsTrainingCo will have some good advice on how to resolve this.
  • SMW83SMW83 Member Posts: 91 Courageous
    edited February 2017
    @Markmywords  I completely agree with you. I understand the country is in 'crisis' financially but it seems the most vulnerable are being targeted. It is absolutely abhorrent how the disabled and such are treated.

    The processes they have us undertake to access benefits to which we are entitled are torturous, demeaning and degrading. In my appeal, especially in my case where I am virtually housebound and unable to shop for myself etc. I stated that it would have been easier for me to go out and commit a crime which would have resulted in me being institutionalised and therefore would not require benefits or such, than undertake the debasing and agonising process I have had to undertake. It is a sad state of affairs when a life of criminality and being imprisoned is seemingly an easier option than a disabled person accessing benefits.

     
  • BenefitsTrainingCoBenefitsTrainingCo Member Posts: 2,692 Pioneering
    Dear SMW83,

    The short answer is that there isn't an appeal you can make to prevent the reassessment - the PIP regs are clear that the DWP has the power to reassess your claim at any time. The only positive decision on this is some case law pointing out that this doesn't mean they can change your PIP award, unless they have grounds for changing it ([2016] UKUT 537 (AAC)). The decision I'm afraid makes it clear they can reassess you at any time, but that doesn't mean they can take away your benefit, they have to be able to show what has changed.

    I can see however that this isn't very comforting for you - but it does mean, if the decision didn't go well and you could show there was no change, you could quote that case law, and you might not need to go through the whole appeal process (a mandatory reconsideration request might be sufficient). 

    You can't ask for a reasonable time reassessment to be imposed, I'm afraid. It doesn't work that way - the regulations allow the DWP to look at the decision again 'for any reason and at any time'. So even if an award is made for a particular period, they can still do this.

    Given that many people are unlikely to see an improvement in their condition, that is clearly not sensible, and it's very very stressful. I'd recommend you go back to your MP on this matter, and see if they would be interested in lobbying the relevant minister to change the law. 

    Turning to ESA, you may have seen in the news that the government did say they wanted to stop retesting people who have life-long conditions. They haven't really given any more details of this though, and it's unclear what conditions would be included, though you can see what they said in the link. I can't see why you winning your PIP appeal would necessarily be a change of circumstances for ESA, but unfortunately, the ESA regs also allow the DWP a pretty wide power to retest (it can be in order to check whether there has been a change of circumstances, or simply whenever at least 3 months has passed since the last decision that you have limited capability for work). 

    So for both benefits, I think the route is that you would have to challenge any adverse decisions you got (although I'd be hopeful you wouldn't have to go all the way to an appeal hearing this time). I also think you should consider using the complaints process, particularly when it comes to the PIP reassessments, as 3 times is simply too many, and cannot be reasonable. And I would involve your MP in supporting the complaint (which you should take as far as you feel able to do). I'm really sorry, but other than the complaints process or a change in the law, there is no way to prevent reassessments of PIP.

    If you do complain, I would definitely include what you say above about the stress of the situation being so acute that going through the appeals process again seems impossible. The fact that the DWP's actions have led to you considering having to go without money & ultimately, consider taking your life is simply not acceptable. I really hope that with the help of your MP you can highlight the huge distress caused by reassessments and get things changed. I'm sorry that there isn't a legal process as such to appeal the process of reassessment before it goes ahead.

    The only other thing I can think of is that as the decision to reassess you is a discretionary one, a solicitor could perhaps ask for a judicial review of the way that decision was made, arguing that the DWP are exercising their discretion unreasonably, and didn't use it in a lawful way.

    That is really beyond what I can advise on here, but again, you could mention it to your MP who might know of a solicitor who would be interested in this point. One possible option is the Public Law Project - they cannot advise you directly, but your MP could refer to them. 
      
    I hope this gives you some ideas for the way forward.

    Will
    The Benefits Training Co:
    Paul Bradley
    Michael Chambers
    Will Hadwen
    Sarah Hayle
    Maria Solomon
    David Stickland
  • SMW83SMW83 Member Posts: 91 Courageous
    @benefitstrainingco Thank you for your reply.

    I was of the understanding that I could be reassessed at any point, I just did not expect it either so soon after my appeal 'win' nor the three times in less than 2 months.

    The aspect I find most incomprehensible is that this process has cause my health to deteriorate further, which my GP and CB Therapist proffered medical evidence to this effect, to the court and yet the DWP continue with this process even after my appeal win, causing my health to decline further and therefore, in essence prolonging my 'dependency' on state benefits.
  • BenefitsTrainingCoBenefitsTrainingCo Member Posts: 2,692 Pioneering
    Hello SMW83

    I think you have received a full reply to your post on a different thread - do let us know if i've got this wrong though or if you have any further questions.

    Thanks
    David
    The Benefits Training Co:
    Paul Bradley
    Michael Chambers
    Will Hadwen
    Sarah Hayle
    Maria Solomon
    David Stickland
  • SMW83SMW83 Member Posts: 91 Courageous
    Hi guys,

    Just an update on this issue. 

    Having sought legal advice I have been advised that by law the Department of Work & Pensions can opt to reassess a claimant at any time, requiring no reason or justification (Yes, even 4 times in 2 months). The only 'action' I can take is to complain to the DWP (which in itself seems ridiculous considering it is them who I would be complaining about and surely there should be an impartial, independent body I should be able to complain to). However I fear that I may just be drawing further attention to myself by doing so, so do not feel this is an option. 

    I am now getting to the point where my health is suffering owing to what seems to be a constant and ceaseless onslaught from the DWP to prevent me from obtaining the benefits to which I am entitled. I am self medicating and drinking heavily to be able to deal with this incessant 'harassment' and considering conceding my 'right' to benefits, which will leave me and my future untenable. Should this be the case, I would like to make it clear that the Department of Work & Pensions have taken what would have likely been a temporary reliance on benefits due to 'circumstance' and their actions have impaired my recovery and in fact caused my health to regress (which I have medical evidence that shows this)  and have eroded and diminished any 'fight' I had left. Although I do not wish to be another statistic on just how badly the Conservative government is letting down our sick and disabled, but their 'conduct' is leaving me with virtually no alternative.
  • BenefitsTrainingCoBenefitsTrainingCo Member Posts: 2,692 Pioneering
    Dear SMW83,

    I can only agree that yes it is ridiculous to assess someone so frequently, but they do have the power to do that. I wouldn't underestimate the power of a complaint in your situation but you might have to take it some way to get any redress. To answer your question, you do have to start your complaint with the DWP itself, but after you have exhausted the internal complaints system you can take it to ICE (the independent case examiner), or with the help of your MP, to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. 

    Given your MP has helped you this far I am sure they would want to know about the continuing problems you've had. I think I gave this advice on your other thread - but I do understand your frustration. I haven't come across so much re-testing before. 

    I can see how absolutely exhausting it must be to have to continue to fight. However, I hope you can see from the above that the complaints procedure is, eventually, impartial - it's just that you do have to through the DWP first.

    Finally as I think I mentioned on the other thread, do consider whether the Public Law Project might be interested in challenging the decisions to keep re-testing you. Those are discretionary decisions (the law doesn't say the DWP has to do this, only that they can), and so I do wonder about judicial review. Your MP might be willing to refer you?

    Will
    The Benefits Training Co:
    Paul Bradley
    Michael Chambers
    Will Hadwen
    Sarah Hayle
    Maria Solomon
    David Stickland
  • BenefitsTrainingCoBenefitsTrainingCo Member Posts: 2,692 Pioneering
    I completely agree with the irony of the situation, which is why I think keeping your MP involved would be useful as they should (I hope) flag up that the system just isn't working and is making people's health worse.

    Do have a look at my response to your other thread too, although it is mostly the same advice. 

    Will
    The Benefits Training Co:
    Paul Bradley
    Michael Chambers
    Will Hadwen
    Sarah Hayle
    Maria Solomon
    David Stickland
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