Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
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In limbo after compliance meeting

SystemSystem Posts: 521

Scope community team

This discussion was created from comments split from: I .have to attend a esa support group compliance interview.

Replies

  • SADLSADL Member Posts: 6 Listener
    I am a 32-year-old married male, Autistic severe anxiety and communication difficulties. I receive ESA on the Support Group and other benefits.
    We received a letter on a Saturday demanding we attend a compliance meeting, about 2 weeks after, that was mandatory and had the usual blurb about losing benefits if we don't attend.
    I suffered a panic attack.

    We rang the DWP: they don't open Satudays.
    Monday, we rang the DWP: they can't discuss it over the phone, the compliance officer may have more information if I ring him direct (his number was on the letter).
    We rang the compliance officer: he was on leave until the following Tuesday.
    I spent a week having panic attacks and fearing the worst. My wife was also concerned we were going to lose my benefits.

    The following Tuesday, we rang the compliance officer and he told us he couldn't discuss it over the phone. Joy (sarcasm)!

    Finally, we attended on the date with our youngest child (the eldest being in nursery), we sat down and he politely explained he was a compliance officer but not an investigator and that the meeting was "informal for now". I was visibly shaking.

    The crux of the matter, the reason for the compliance meeting, why we were there: two things.
    1. I had a wife - yes, we know this.
    She isn't on the application for me ESA - yes, we know this too.
    Why? Well, as the DWP has been told on multiple occasions, my wife is a foreign national with no recourse to public funds and cannot be listed on any of my benefit claims. I only receive the single-applicant amounts.
    Oh. That complicates matters, but I think he partially understood.
    2. In 2017 my wife had worked part-time and they could prove it - yes, we know she worked.
    I need to inform the DWP if my wife works, even if she isn't on my claim - yes, we know this too, that's why we took wage slips in every time she received them and ensured they were scanned to the DWP. Also, if it helps, at the time my wife worked I was receiving CONTRIBUTION BASED ESA!
    Oh, then your wife working actually won't affect your benefit at this time - yes, we know that too.

    So, let's summarise quickly, I was summoned to a compliance meeting for the agent to go on leave meaning that I could ask no one about it, but he refused to discuss it over the phone anyway when he returned.
    The compliance meeting was because the DWP had ignored evidence that we had provided multiple times during the course of my claim.
    That was it.

    We are now in limbo AGAIN because, although the agent has said this should have no bearing on my claim, we have to wait for his investigation to complete before we can receive closure on  the matter.


    Oh, and despite being on the Support Group, the agent did take the point of "educating" us that ESA is only to support people before they regain employment and that I should be seeking work as well as receiving it. ESA on the support group isn't meant to support me for life...
    Maybe it's because my disabilities aren't visible: apart from the intense shaking, sweating, breakdowns and crying.... 
  • Adrian_ScopeAdrian_Scope Testing team Posts: 7,954

    Scope community team

    Hi @SADL and a warm welcome to the community. How long ago was your compliance interview? Did they give you a rough estimate of how long it will take? I hope the investigation is finished soon.
    You probably already know, but you're not under any obligation to look for work while in the Support Group so I've no idea why they would say that to you!

    Hope you're doing okay and that this is all cleared up quickly for you.
    Senior Community Partner
    Scope

    Your feedback is really important to the development of the online community, so please remember to complete our online community annual survey
  • LaughingLollyLaughingLolly Member Posts: 101 Pioneering
    @SADL   it doesn't sound like they actually think you have an issue but that they are just checking.  As long as you have put the evidence in and it's honest it should be fine now. Although do expect them to do this every now and then - just to check your answers all add up. 

    On a totally different note though have you ever used the Scope employment help service? It sounds like it might be useful for you if you have these specific types of issues. 
    A laugh a day keeps the psychiatrist at bay. 
  • SADLSADL Member Posts: 6 Listener
    @LaughingLolly The DWP Compliance Officer did think there was an issue to investigate.

    On Wednesday 18th September I rang back but an automated message informed me the agent was away from the officer (again).
    On Friday 20th September I spoke to a colleague who advised he would take a message for the case officer to ring me back. Eventually that day the Compliance Officer did but said his colleague had not passed on the message for a few hours after my call.

    My case had been closed! I was informed by the agent that, after investigating, there were notes on the system about my wife working but no wage slips could be found anymore, but it did say I was still on Contribution Based ESA at the time of the anomalies.
    The best part about this, though, is that I was informed the DWP do not inform you of the outcome of an investigation as standard procedure. If I had not rung up then I would not have been told, and they do not send a letter confirming their findings.

    Some readers may be curious why you would need a letter confirming findings, surely once a case is closed then that is it.
    Unfortunately, during the same conversation when I was pressing for information, I was informed that the Compliance Officer's case and findings are only kept for 14 months as notes on the system. In essence, therefore, once an investigation has been completed someone else may reopen the complaint and put the claimant through the whole process again 1 year and 3 months later.

    We are hopeful that this process is completed and closed as stated, but I now have lingering anxiety that this process will be repeated every few years as new staff are taken on who decide they think my claim has errors.
    I'm not going to get closure on the matter.
  • LaughingLollyLaughingLolly Member Posts: 101 Pioneering
    @SADL that's useful to know because I've just had a compliance interview and I really don't know what the outcome was so maybe I will phone. Do you know if you can get a copy of it for yourself like a hard copy?
    A laugh a day keeps the psychiatrist at bay. 
  • SADLSADL Member Posts: 6 Listener
    @LaughingLolly We asked about a letter stating the case was closed with findings but were told no.
    You can ask and your compliance officer may say yes, don't know.

    As a last resort, if you want a copy, you could try a Subject Access Request for the case only. The DWP may say that's reasonable, but it isn't something we tried (yet).
  • Adrian_ScopeAdrian_Scope Testing team Posts: 7,954

    Scope community team

    Hi @SADL, thank you for updating us and sharing this, it's really useful to know.

    Senior Community Partner
    Scope

    Your feedback is really important to the development of the online community, so please remember to complete our online community annual survey
  • siobhan1siobhan1 Member Posts: 77 Pioneering
    My partner was getting carers allowance last year, and I was working. He was offered temp work over Christmas for 2 days and it was too much money to turn down. I was getting direct payments at the time and just made an extra contribution myself so my PA could cover when my partner was at work. We tried to call CA but twice in a row he got through to the same person who said he was failing the security questions. Again the day after. The details they held for him were wrong. We just forgot about it, I said he would probably lose entitlement for a week and then get a £50 civil penalty. We made sure to screenshot my phone bill that month showing the calls. We could have written before that but did just genuinely forget.

    He got told to go for a compliance interview some time later, when I was claiming ESA. We were expecting it so weren't worried. However the compliance officer had put 2 and 2 together and got 5 after glancing at our records, and said that my partner had done this work while I was on ESA. There was no computer at the desk in the interview room and he had to keep coming in and out after checking the start date of my ESA claim. He wouldn't go and check at first and kept maintaining we had caused and ESA overpayment as well as carers allowance, until I pointed out it was my partner's interview and the ESA claim was in my name. It was embarrassing.

    Can confirm they do not tell you the outcome, but a long time ago I worked for DWP so I know that they do just send out a notification of overpayment and civil penalty where there is one, and when there is no proof of anything they keep it on file but just don't tell you their findings. Apparently it's because they can't acknowledge that you haven't caused an overpayment, because at a later date they may have more evidence or find that you caused one in a different way for the same period. 
  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,652 Disability Gamechanger
    Thank you for sharing this with us @siobhan1, I imagine it was a stressful meeting!
    Community Partner
    Scope

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