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Sending benefit forms or evidence by any kind of recorded delivery.

mikehughescqmikehughescq Member Posts: 6,008 Disability Gamechanger
Been pondering this post for a while. It comes up across multiple threads as a recommended action and it’s one of those things that’s easy to buy into because, on the surface, it makes perfect sense. I want to take some time out to explain why it doesn’t make any sense at all in most contexts and should not ordinarily be part of the vocabulary of things to do when you’re making a claim or challenging a decision. There are some circumstances where it may be appropriate but they are nowhere near the number of situations most benefit claimants would envisage. 

So, why do people believe that some kind of recorded delivery is appropriate? This seems to start with the idea that post gets lost but, more specifically, that DWP lose more post than other organisations. Why do people believe this is the case? Is there any evidence for it? 

Why people believe this is basically social media. Nowadays the lack of recourse if post is lost is a story that repeatedly and easily gets posted onto the internet. To counter this narrative I have never yet seen an internet post where someone has posted about their post arriving; being dealt with in a timely manner and getting a satisfactory outcome. Go look. Those sorts of posts don’t exist, Go look on here; Mumsnet; MoneySavingsExpert or other forums and only the first story exists. People have every right to post when things go wrong but this skews the picture to begin with. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of post does arrive but we only read about the bad stuff.

Is there evidence DWP lose more post than is the norm? No, literally none. They are a huge organisation with lots of potential for things to go wrong but in terms of post being lost more often than other organisations of comparable size then there is literally no empirical evidence at all. As has been famously stated many times, the plural of anecdote is not evidence. Just like fraud everyone knows someone who knows someone. Largely this is just hearsay and scaremongering. Does it happen? Yes. Is there evidence it happens a lot? No. How do we know how bad it is? We don’t.

Well hang on then. That sounds like I’m making a case for sending stuff by recorded delivery. Why not if it reduces a perceived risk that we can’t quantify? Well, no. Have a look at the statistics for the amount of post lost by the Royal Mail. The first thing you’ll notice is that there aren’t really any reliable stats at all. There’s lots of scare stories once again but the reality is that Royal Mail have no accurate stats at all. Their only real measures are when people complain or when a wedge of stuff no-one knew was missing suddenly turns up. These latter stories tend to be outliers. People who worked for them and either stole or hoarded. Where that leaves us is that we have no more idea of how likely our post to anyone is to go missing than we do our post to the DWP. Do you send every single thing you post by special delivery? Using this logic you should because you literally have no idea whether it’ll arrive or not. Yet, most of us absolutely don’t post everything using Royal Mail by special delivery precisely because we understand that the aberrations are likely to be outliers. The way social media works makes us think it’s the norm with DWP and yet factually there is literally no known difference between posting a letter anywhere than posting it to the DWP. 

What do you get then if you do post by recorded or special delivery? 

Recorded delivery gets you “Proof of delivery including a signature from the receiver”. I’ve always been intrigued by this. What do you get apart from the signature then? As far as I can tell, nothing. More importantly this offers no guarantee that the “receiver” is the person to whom you intended the post to go to. As long as “someone” signs then you have no recompense at all if the post doesn’t make it to its final destination. 

DWP and now HMCTS post goes first of all to mail delivery centres. These are where post is first received and then sorted for distribution to the correct part of the DWP. If the security guard signs for your post then Royal Mail have delivered their part of the bargain - it has been signed for by someone who has received it - but your post had yet to go anywhere near the DWP. What has been gained? You’ve paid to learn that your post has made part of its journey. You’ve no proof it has arrived with DWP. You can prove it arrived at the address DWP asked you to use, which may be useful, but even that could be argued. DWP could simply say that the signature had not been identified as belonging to someone who worked for them or was contracted to work for them. Then what?

Special delivery perhaps? It seems it offer greater guarantees and compensation. Does it really? Again, it requires a signature and you get some extra tracking. Whose signature? This time it has it be a named person. You can’t send DWP post to a named person. So, who signs for it? Yes, the receiver! Same issue all over again. There’s actually an argument that Royal Mail are mis-selling special delivery if you can’t name an individual as a recipient. 

You could of course pay even more and use their tracking services. This story - https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/sep/22/fraudsters-hijack-ebay-parcels-postcode-scam?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other - will tell you all you need to know about the wisdom of that.

Fundamentally there is simply no reason to recommend sending post to DWP or HMCTS by any kind of signed for or tracked delivery. It offers no guarantees and, contrary to the many assertions made, it doesn’t even provide reassurance. 

In light of this there is a strong argument that it’s also a poor thing to recommend to anyone on a low, fixed income such as social security benefits. The outlay simply isn’t justified. The only truly solid advice to anyone needing to send a form or evidence in is to make sure you have high quality copies of  every aspect of what you send and better still get it sent by an advice service. At minimum they will have recorded their involvement and the sending of your post. Ideally they’ll have also retained an electronic copy. 

Now, I am perfectly willing to accept that certain people with certain health conditions will be absolutely unpersuadable from the idea that signing or tracking is valuable and a good use of their money. That does not make it responsible advice to suggest such things to such people in the first place. Arguably it exploits their vulnerability to paranoid or recycling thoughts and suggests to a vulnerable person that they could get piece of mind if only they did it. There is simply no such guarantee. Please do not offer recorded or special delivery as a default response. It is poor advice. 

Replies

  • woodbinewoodbine Community Co-Production Group Posts: 3,824 Disability Gamechanger
    Someone from the DWP advised me many years ago not to use recorded delivery just to get proof of posting and if you want to then phone after a week to make sure they have received it.
    my advice is given freely and is correct to the best of my knowledge.
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