Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The DWP’s ‘Performance Measurement’ visits





There has been some discussion on Twitter about the DWP’s claim here that it may conduct what it calls ‘Performance Measurement' visits, a strangely Orwellian term for what, on the face of it, appears to mean some form of fraud investigation. The discussion has included talk of whether failure to participate in a visit can lead to loss of benefit. The short answer is "no", but it's a bit more complicated than that.

There is no doubt that the DWP has wide powers to investigate fraud, and may conduct visits to premises, including to a person’s home or place of employment. There is no right of entry to a person’s home if the person does not agree. While it has the power to conduct these visits, all this really means is that in doing so, it does not necessarily unlawfully exceed its powers. It does not mean that it can actually compel a claimant's participation.

The DWP also has adequate powers to revise or supersede (technical terms meaning, for these purposes, essentially, stop) awards of benefit where there is evidence the person no longer qualifies. This can be retrospective, leading to an overpayment, which may be recovered.

Where evidence exists that a person might be receiving benefit he isn’t entitled to, the DWP might well want to put the case to the claimant for comment, and if it isn’t satisfied with any explanation given then they would be within their rights to revise or supersede the award on the basis of the evidence held.

However, the key problem with the ‘Performance Measurement’ visits page seems to me to be summed up by this paragraph:-


"Your name is selected at random to be checked. You won’t always get a letter in advance telling you about the visit."


If there is no pre-existing evidence that a claimant’s award of benefit is incorrect, then there seems to be no good reason for a claimant to comply with such a visit. While a person might have no objection to co-operating with random checks, it surely seems only good manners to offer an appointment for such a visit in advance, instead of just turning up without notice. It would seem to me entirely reasonable for a claimant to turn a DWP officer away who had just turned up unannounced for a random check.

The DWP’s only recourse if a claimant refused to engage with the visiting officer would be to argue that it was entitled to draw an inference from the claimant’s conduct. They would then have to conclude that such an inference alone showed, on balance of probability, that the award was incorrect. This would be a staggering leap of logic.

Such a decision would carry a right of appeal, where the burden of proof would be on the DWP to show grounds to remove the award. Since the conditions of benefit are laid down by statute such grounds would simply not exist. Even if the DWP did have pre-existing grounds to suspect the award was wrong, and a claimant did not comply with a visit, the appeal would be a complete rehearing of the facts and the claimant could submit any new evidence even if it was not available to the DWP before.

If the DWP did try to go down this path of revising/superseding based on adverse inference alone, it would be a massive waste of public money on the successful appeals that would ensue, and would arguably amount to deliberate maladministration. I would therefore never expect they would actually attempt this.

I should add for completeness that there is, rightly,  ultimately a sanction for failure to provide information to the DWP. The DWP may require a person to provide information ‘reasonably required’, and may terminate benefit as a punitive measure if the person fails to do so. However, the claimant is entitled to one month to provide the information. Additionally, the request must be in writing and must state that one month is being allowed. It is not enough to have simply demanded paperwork, ID etc. on the doorstep and been sent away, and the one month would not run in such circumstances. The issues around this power, and how it interacts with adverse inferences, are helpfully discussed in Upper Tribunal cases CH/2001/2013, CH/2995/2006, and R(H) 1/09 and these cases remain good law. Although these are local authority benefit cases, the relevant DWP regulations are the same.

The DWP therefore appears to be somewhat misstating the situation.  It clearly seems to be  implying that participation with a visiting officer is compulsory, whereas this is really only the case where fraud is already suspected, and then only to the extent that non-compliance may lead to an adverse inference being drawn. The suggestion that a person visited at random has any meaningful duty to co-operate on the spot does not seem to be correct, as long as any information reasonably required is provided within one month.

4 comments:

  1. As I have highlighted elsewhere, on twitter and facebook etc. The performance management team are pure nudge unit nonsense, social engineering of the worst kind. As you can see here http://r-force.org/blog/?p=143 this so called department is not new. I literally tore them a new one last year when they tried this rubbish on me.

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  2. So imagine the scenario - someone on ESA (support group) because of unstable mental condition. Already living in fear of DWP. DWP turn up on doorstep, drives person into meltdown and leads to at best DWP people feeling threatened, at worst actually attacked.

    What is the legal position of poor claimant who has actually been provoked here?

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  3. The people who are unable to make rash decisions as they are so very, very frightened and can't stop them going in and demanding documents, is going to be quite a high number. This is going to drive people to either become violent and lash out, or it's going to send people to suicide. Vulnerable people should not be treated in this way, but do they care?
    I'd say it's against human rights and hope that this has been passed on to the appropriate people and authorities?
    They will not get into my home and they will not see any documents - the documents alone are a breach of data protection and they could rightly be arrested for this.
    What is actually worse is the fact that most people will become aware of this going on and will do nothing about it - it's going to affect disabled and long term sick (yet again), unemployed and the working benefit claimants - yet the rest of the people will just turn a blind eye to it - that's sickening and shows just how the people of the UK care about their most vulnerable...

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  4. Ive just had one of these visits, having been illegally sanctioned multiple times without good cause and with no written confirmation, yet dwp has repeatedly suspended payment, passing me between jsa and esa, the most recent, was them telling me to claim esa, cancelling my jsa, then suspending my housing benefit (without notiying me) upon enquiring at the housing benefit office I was told dwp had suspended my housing they have also, dreamed up child support arrears, which aren't owed in an attempt the try and get money off me I don't have then falsely accused me of fraud at this performance visit, they have used a little known loop hole, due to changes in housing benefit changes, under the old system my local council paid a set rate of 90.90 per week, this guy who came out used the fact that my housing benefit had ben suspended for a week, due to the above in order to gain entry and retrospectively reduce my housing benefit payments, due to the new payment scheme, the end result is that my weeksly payments have now gone down by £ 10 a week meaning £ 520 a year, after them falsely accusing me of fraud in order to cover for their dodgy tactics used to place me under a different housing benefit claim. they have also repeatedly ignored gp sick notes, and overruled my gp and consultants opinion that I am unfit for work, and repeatedly week after week after week have deliberately and maliciously bullied harassed and worked the head in order to get me to comply with their opinion, despite my gp saying im not fit for work, its an absolute digrace, they have even tried to accuse me of threatening dwp staff, when the security guy was stood behind me if that was the case he would have said something and in reality if I did utter something, with treatment like that then they would have deserved it, lets be honest they are a nasty group of people who bully the most vulnerable and appear to get off on it, which says a lot about their nasty mentality.

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