20th July, 2022
Following fierce criticism, from Parliamentary Committees, the National Audit Office, amongst others, DWP introduced a “Risk Review” team (RRT) to re-examine UC awards, made during COVID, to establish whether the award was appropriately made or not and, partly because of doing so, overpayments, during 2020/21, amounted to £6 Billion or 14% of overall UC expenditure!
One such case, involved a tenant of one of our landlord members who, immediately before securing his tenancy, had been a refugee. His award was “suspended” in August 2021 after the RRT asked him to provide a range of information and documents.
Over a period of 9 months, and ably assisted by our client’s staff, the tenant was asked, on multiple occasions, to provide various forms of validation, via his journal, including:
Passport or photo ID; plus copy of photo ID holding it next to face; photo selfie with tenant in front of street sign; photo showing view of the street from the front of is window; selfie photo stood in front of UK plug socket; National Health number; plus, name of his doctors and address of GP surgery he attended.
Despite all the information being provided, at point or another, DWP persistently refused to lift the suspension and restore his “housing costs”. This led to his eviction and an invitation for me to intervene, as a last-ditch effort, to assist him.
Given the gravity of the situation, I raised his case directly with DWP’s Director General’s office, seeking the restoration of the award, and pointing to the fact, his landlord was willing to rehouse him immediately, if this was achieved. The response I received, acknowledged my email, apologised for the delay in responding and ended stating, DWP could not share any information because of GDPR and “confidentiality” reasons. Neither did it give any assurance that the case was nevertheless being investigated urgently.
Angered by the brevity and unhelpful nature of the reply, I wrote again, to Mr Neil Couling, Director General, stating, amongst other things:
“I wasn’t writing as Mr X’s representative, so didn’t need his authority to bring his eviction and homelessness, to DWP’s attention. I was asked to escalate matters by his landlord, due to Mr X’s eviction, his refugee status, lack of English language and anticipation of a much more favourable outcome, that would remove him from the vagaries of homelessness, caused, at least, in part, by DWP’s lack of “decision” to numerous communications over a period of 9 months” – thus denying his right to Mandatory Reconsideration (Appeal)!
I’m pleased to say, the follow-up email worked. DWP restored UC, the award was backdated to the date of suspension, creating £8000 of a credit, which has wiped out 95% of the rent owed and resulted in the tenant being offered a new tenancy.
A good result, but one that should not have been necessary, had DWP acted more reasonably, and in accordance with the law it should have restored his “housing costs” much earlier or made a decision which he could then have challenged.
UC Advice & advocacy Ltd
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