Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
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Anyone else had ESA say they need to send someone out?

AndrogenAndrogen Member Posts: 67 Connected
I live in a house share with a friend (opposite sex) of mine, and we both get ESA and PIP

ESA stopped paying her at the end of May, and when we called to ask why they've said that only one of us is allowed to claim ESA, and they've said we have to prove that we're not a couple, and that they need to send someone out to our house to check?

I feel like this wouldn't be an issue if we were both the same sex... and also we've been living together for over 2 years now and they've only just decided it's an issue?

Replies

  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,652 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi @Androgen, I am sorry to hear this. As far as I know, two people can be in the same household and be on ESA. What type of ESA are you on? I hope you are able to get this sorted soon!
    Community Partner
    Scope

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  • Liam_AlumniLiam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 1,113 Pioneering
    edited September 2018
    Hi @Androgen,

    I'm afraid I'm not too sure how ESA payments are affected by joint tenancy.

    @BenefitsTrainingCo, would you be able to advise, please?
    Liam
  • AndrogenAndrogen Member Posts: 67 Connected
    We're both on Income related, I've been on it since 2013, she got it in 2016, after we moved in together, and they've been paying both of us properly for the first 2 years, then suddenly stopped hers after asking her to apply for the Severe disablement allowance thing and now they've said we need to prove we aren't a couple (how?) and that they'll have to send someone to our house to check if we are a couple
  • Liam_AlumniLiam_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 1,113 Pioneering
    Hi @Androgen,

    I found a page on EntitledTo's site about couples and out-of-work benefits, and how only one OOW benefit can be claimed between the two of them, but I'm not too sure what the situation is in this case with two friends living together as tenants.

    Hopefully our benefits advisors will be along to help clarify things for us soon. :)
    Liam
  • poppy123456poppy123456 Member Posts: 22,218 Disability Gamechanger
    Hi,

    The things they will look at that prove you're not a couple are things like, do you both pay your share of the rent? are you both named on the tenancy agreement? bills should be halved, do you have separate bedrooms? do you eat together, or do you do everything separately? all of these things they will want to look into. They'll most likely want to see bank statements too. 
    Proud winner of the 2019 empowering others award. This award was given for supporting disabled people and their families for the benefit advice I have given to members here on the community.
  • axwy62axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    Two co-habitees who are relatives had the same issue - it's almost impossible to prove you aren't a couple and actually, it should be up to DWP to prove that you are.
    Indications which they look for are joint bank accounts or other joint finances, going out socially together as a couple etc. They absolutely CANNOT ask if you share a room or have an 'intimate' relationship, and they have no right to look around your home - be suspicious of requests to use the bathroom.
    That said, if you have nothing to hide you might consider whether inviting them to look at your separate rooms would be helpful.
    The relatives with the same issue were honest and open when interviewed and DWP were satisfied that they aren't a couple, though it probably helped that they're 77 and 78, and both recently widowed.
  • AndrogenAndrogen Member Posts: 67 Connected
    We do have separate bedrooms, but we also do have a joint bank account, as it was easier than having to deal with bills from each account, so we both pay in the same amount (it was all set up on direct debit by my appointee) and all the bills come out of that, so I'm not sure if that would count against us?
    we do also have our separate bank accounts
    and we do eat and go out together because we have the same friend group and we have someone to help us with cooking/housework etc. so it would be weirder not to I think, and we don't travel well alone, but that's disability-related so I don't see how it would be fair for them to decide we're a couple based on that
  • axwy62axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    Explain it all how you've explained here and you should be fine. Your appointee needs to be present - DWP shouldn't speak to you at all unless they are there.
    If either of you has or has had a relationship with someone else since you started sharing a house, you might also mention that.
    It's not at all unusual for friends to house share and also share the same friendship group, going out together isn't a problem unless you present yourselves as a couple.
    If you're comfortable with doing it, invite them to have a look at your rooms to confirm that you do not share.
  • AndrogenAndrogen Member Posts: 67 Connected
    We have no issues with them seeing our rooms, we quite obviously don't share, but they've requested that we send them evidence that we're just sharing and not a couple, but I don't understand what evidence they think we can send them?
    I don't know if separate housing benefit letters will count, and our tennancy agreement is from 2016 so it might be too old for them to accept it as current evidence?
  • axwy62axwy62 Member Posts: 140 Pioneering
    Ask them what evidence they would consider as proof - I can't personally think of anything that would count other than sending them your current boyfriend/girlfriend!
    Maybe send them a letter setting out that you are just house sharing, you have separate rooms and separate bank accounts other than the one used to pay the bills, and then ask what they would consider amounts to proof that you aren't a couple.

  • AndrogenAndrogen Member Posts: 67 Connected
    We'll have to try sending them a letter and our housing benefit stuff

    We both filled out ESA forms at the start of this year stating we don't have partners but apparently they don't trust that we know if we're dating or not...
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Member Posts: 6,001 Disability Gamechanger
    axwy62 said:
    Two co-habitees who are relatives had the same issue - it's almost impossible to prove you aren't a couple and actually, it should be up to DWP to prove that you are.
    Indications which they look for are joint bank accounts or other joint finances, going out socially together as a couple etc. They absolutely CANNOT ask if you share a room or have an 'intimate' relationship, and they have no right to look around your home - be suspicious of requests to use the bathroom.
    That said, if you have nothing to hide you might consider whether inviting them to look at your separate rooms would be helpful.
    The relatives with the same issue were honest and open when interviewed and DWP were satisfied that they aren't a couple, though it probably helped that they're 77 and 78, and both recently widowed.
    This is both out of date and incorrect advice. 

    Co-hab cases can be long-winded and occasionally complex but they’re very winnable provided you fully disclose your circumstances and explain why for each issue. There are a whole set of things they look at in order to determine whether you’re living together as a couple and these have long been decided in case law but no one single thing will decide it one way or the other. The totality is what matters. 

    Whilst they’ve no right to look around your home it would be stupid to not let them do so and to talk them through what you’re showing them. However, case law has long existed which means they have every right to ask about your living arrangements and sexual relationship/history. The more you disclose the more accurate the decision is likely to be. However, if you want to present your case properly you’ll need access to face to face and an adviser who knows their way round a CPAG book and recent co-hab case law.
  • PhilipPhilip Member Posts: 36 Courageous
    By law people of the same gender can be classed as living together as husband & wife. You say you have a house share, do you both have documentation to show this? If not then someone may come out & look at your living arrangements, if you satisfy that person that you are to single people sharing a house & not in any relationship then you can claim your own individual benefits
  • AndrogenAndrogen Member Posts: 67 Connected
    I don't know what documentation we would have that proves we're not living together as a couple
    we have a joint tennancy agreement because it was easier than getting two separate ones, but we've never had this problem with any other benefits (PIP/Housing Benefit) and it's taken them 2 years, and they never even sent a letter to say, they just stopped paying her after 2 years
  • poppy123456poppy123456 Member Posts: 22,218 Disability Gamechanger
    You definitely need further advice from a benefits adviser face 2 face and that's something no one here can give you. If you have an appointee then you shouldn't be dealing with this yourself, your appointee should be doing that for you. 
    Proud winner of the 2019 empowering others award. This award was given for supporting disabled people and their families for the benefit advice I have given to members here on the community.
  • AndrogenAndrogen Member Posts: 67 Connected
    My appointee is also appointee for 3 other people, and the main reason she's my appointee is because I can't hear properly, so I can't deal with the people over the phone like they insist, but she's currently also dealing with a transition from DLA and a transition to UC so I was hoping to find some advice on here to make life easier for her since we can't see anyone for a while, and we don't know when they're planning to send someone out
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Member Posts: 6,001 Disability Gamechanger
    There is no requirement for any kind of documentation and a lack of some specific document would not ordinarily be conclusive of anything nor trigger an investigation. That’s just scaremongering. As I posted previously, there are specific areas which get explored but it’s the totality which matters not a single thing. 

    As @poppy123456 and I have both said - face to face advice.
  • BenefitsTrainingCoBenefitsTrainingCo Member Posts: 2,692 Pioneering

    Androgen
    Androgen,

    I'm sorry to hear this is happening - it sounds very daunting. However, as Mike & Poppy have said, if you give the DWP all the possible information about your situation (including letting them look around), then it should be ok.

    I don't necessarily think you need face to face advice unless one of you gets a decision to say that they think you are cohabiting. Whilst it would be good to get face to face advice for your friend whose income-related ESA has stopped, as far as I can tell it sounds like a suspension rather than an actual decision to stop it That's the sort of thing it's easier to sort out if someone can see the paperwork & ring ESA whilst you are present, but if you can't see anyone for a while, I think it's ok.

    If it is a suspension, then once the home visit has happened & hopefully they see that you are friends sharing and not a couple, her irESA should be restored (with back pay).

    I think Mike & Poppy have both covered what factors are looked at but just to summarise again: 
    financial arrangements (you have separate bank accounts & the shared one is for convenience because you share a house; you do not support each other financially)
    you don't have a sexual relationship (sorry to be so direct but it helps, although it is still not conclusive, to show you are not cohabiting)
    you have a stable relationship but as FRIENDS - the things you do together are because you have the same group of friends & in some instances because of disability (eg travelling together)
    you DON'T present yourself as a couple socially, in public or in any other way. Eg, as you've said, you've consistently claimed benefits separately including Housing Benefit.

    As Mike has explained, it is the totality of all the factors which are looked at. So I strongly agree that the more you show them, the more likely the DWP are to come to the correct decision. 

    Finally, as regards your disability generally and the main reason you have an appointee, do bear in mind that you have rights under the Equality Act. Unless there is someone to help you with hearing it may be difficult to understand what the DWP want when they come round - if so, you could try asking them to be more specific about when the visit might happen & allow you time to find someone who can be with you. That's a basic principle of them making sure their service is accessible and doesn't discriminate against you.

     If you or your friend does get a decision to stop irESA because the DWP think you are co-habiting, that's the point where face to face advice becomes more essential (if you can get it). But in any case the decision should be challenged quickly - let's hope it doesn't come to that.

    Let us know how you get on.

    Will

    The Benefits Training Co:
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    Michael Chambers
    Will Hadwen
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  • AndrogenAndrogen Member Posts: 67 Connected
    So far we've sent them a letter explaining that we house share and that she claims HB for her half of the rent, and we've not had anything back from them (been over a week so far) so may or may not have been accepted as evidence?
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Member Posts: 6,001 Disability Gamechanger
    Nothing like this gets dealt with in a week.
  • poppy123456poppy123456 Member Posts: 22,218 Disability Gamechanger
    When it comes to DWP nothing is ever dealt with within a week. You'll be very lucky if they receive what you sent within a week.
    Proud winner of the 2019 empowering others award. This award was given for supporting disabled people and their families for the benefit advice I have given to members here on the community.
  • AndrogenAndrogen Member Posts: 67 Connected
    Shall have to wait and see

    Last time we sent a letter on Friday and they called us the following Wednesday to sort it out so they should have had the letter
  • mikehughescqmikehughescq Member Posts: 6,001 Disability Gamechanger
    It’s a cohab issue. Please re-read the previous posts, One letter will not sort it out.
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