Good morning

A recent case I dealt with, provides yet another example of DWP making a pig’s ear of a perfectly legitimate claim, creating wholly unnecessary worry and anxiety for both tenant & landlord. The intervention of a District Judge helped ensure my client’s “housing costs” were reinstated and an “alleged” overpayment of £5000 vaporised.

Ill health, Loss of employment and family issues

My client first started renting a flat on his own from his parents in 2014. The parents then purchased a 2-bedroom house which he occupied with his partner from mid-2015. The parties agreed a joint tenancy, including his partner’s name. The young coupe later had a baby boy who was delivered by Caesarean section, weighing just 1 pound eight ounces. Baby remained in hospital for 3 months until his weight increased to 5 lbs.

When 18 months old, he developed leukaemia and spent a year in an NHS Children’s Hospital. He experienced many complications, plus 3 years of chemotherapy, and to this day, still attends monthly clinics to monitor his health.

During this time, my client tried to hold down his job, while travelling to hospital daily to support his partner & child. Ultimately, the stress was too much for him. He developed type 1 diabetes, depression, was signed off sick, and was forced to resign his post. This and other factors, like a lack of financial resources, led to the couple splitting in 2018.

He remained in the property through all these challenges. The couple agreed a “Co-parenting” arrangement for bringing up their son, which, to their credit, they’ve managed to maintain.

New tenancy agreement

In August 2020, he submitted a new tenancy agreement, solely in his name, to DWP. A Decision Maker subsequently agreed to make an award, with payments being made direct to his landlord, due to his poor financial status, difficulty with budgeting, and knowledge he had already accrued rent arrears.

Retrospective revision of award creating overpayment

Completely out-of-the-blue, his case was reviewed by the DWP team set up to re-examine claims made during lockdown. The review led to his award being cancelled retrospectively, creating a £5000 overpayment. Unable to cope, my client turned to his elderly parent landlords, who helped submit a Mandatory Reconsideration (MR). This proved unsuccessful, so they contacted me to assist.

DWP’s rejection of the MR included one of the most bizarre explanations I’ve ever read. So bad was the decision, I immediately appealed, copying in one of DWP’s Directorate, hoping they would intervene to remedy the clear injustice my client had suffered.

Result achieved

When that didn’t work, I wrote asking a District Judge to intervene, in the hope of having an expedited hearing. Within a week of me making the referral, including my appeal submission, DWP conceded, accepting they had no grounds for disallowing the case, in the first instance.

Both my client & his parents are delighted by the quick and successful outcome and the relief this has brought. However, this case, like so many others I come across, daily, should never have arisen in the first case. My fear is, until DWP’s hierarchy accept they need to invest more time and resources, properly training frontline and Decision-Making staff, this problem will continue to escalate.

Bill Irvine

UC Advice & Advocacy Ltd