Minister declares low paid self-employment a "life style choice"

Over the years I've met hundreds of self-employed people who are in debt as a result of poverty pay. Their plight has been lessened by tax credits. Thousands of publicans, hair-dressers, taxi-drivers, and trades people of every kind are in low-paid self-employment propped up by tax credits. Self employed people also get no sick pay or holiday pay.

Now the Government is imposing Universal Credit on self-employed people with low incomes. And with it comes the "Minimum Income Floor" (MIF). The MIF means that self-employed earnings will not be calculated on actual earnings, but by assuming full time minimum wage earnings. So now you know one of the reasons the minimum wage was increased!

The Minister responsible, working for Secretary of State Esther McVey, has declared that this policy will be good for low-paid self-employed people and says that low income is a "life style choice". Here's his letter to Frank Field.

DWP refuses to end "informal observations" for PIP

The DWP has so far refused to end its practice of assessing claimants walking ability on the basis they could get to their assessment. This practice is unfair because claimants are also told that if they don't reach the assessment they will not get PIP.  Faced with this choice claimants who are unaware of the DWP's obligation to make reasonable adjustments will tend to drag themselves to the consulting room in pain only to then find out that this is taken to mean they have walking ability better than the level needed to get PIP mobility. The DWP calls assessors secretly watching claimants get from car parks to the consulting room "informal observations". In a letter to me the DWP says it will not end the practice because claimants "have the opportunity to make the HCP aware" [of the problems they had getting to the consulting room]. This does not tend to have any impact on such "evidence" routinely being used to disallow PIP mobility claims, however, and so we'll continue to challenge this unfair practice. If you're in this situation remember if you can't reasonably reach the proposed consulting venue, even with a taxi arranged by the assessor, then a home visit must be provided.  You can find template letters here.

Independent Case Examiner highlights DWP destroys documents

The DWP has sought to defend a number of my complaints cases by saying it can't investigate due to documents having been destroyed. Anyone who runs any service involving personal information knows that it's essential to keep records for at least 6 years. The ICE Annual Report highlights the issue,

"Complaints with document retention issues as an underpinning factor have also emerged as a theme this year. Despite there being clear guidance about the timescales for retaining information, failure to follow this guidance has led to evidence being destroyed prematurely,which in turn has on occasion severely hindered our ability to conduct a thorough investigation. In the absence of all the information that should be available, it falls to the Independent Case Examiner to determine what is most likely to have happened in a particular scenario".

A cover-up?

Summons for ESA assessment clearly discriminatory

This shocking letter (Discriminatory ESA appointment letter) was sent to a severely disabled man demanding his attendance at an unsuitable venue at short notice.  The DWP was in full possession of the facts of his circumstances when instructing the agent ("Maximus" acting under the banner of "Health Assessment Advisory Service") to call him in.  You'll note the threat "If you don't attend, your benefit may be affected". 

Nowhere in this letter does it say how the claimant can request a reasonable adjustment, or even that any alternatives are available.  In fact they shouldn't even have to request one as the DWP, and any agents acting on its behalf, has an anticipatory duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.  This means, as the DWP is already in full possession of the facts that this claimant has long-term chronic health conditions and severe disability, they shouldn't be even considering a face-to-face appointment anyway.  They can simply review the file and have now been told that.

Thousands of claimants get these ridiculous letters every day - being set-up for benefits removal when appointments cannot be reached.  You'll see from the instructions that the venue is clearly not accessible to many claimants.

Where claimants have their benefits removed because of being set up in this way - i.e. being given an appointment they cannot reasonably be expected to get to and then having their money stopped when they don't go - there is a case for a disability discrimination claim for breach of the Equality Act 2010.

Universal Credit Legal Challenge

Lawyers at Leigh Day attended a group I was a founder member of called the Strategic Casework Group and are doing this - UC challenge .

The judicial review is against the government's use of the Universal Credit (UC) regime to remove a means-tested allowance called the severe disability premium.

Many people are not getting the severe disability premium (SDP) who are entitled to it.  SDP is available in ESA, JSA and income support, but not UC. 

If the following applies to you then you are entitled to SDP

  • Getting Disability Living Allowance (DLA) middle or higher rate care component, or
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP) standard or enhanced rate daily living component, and

 Live without any other non-dependent adults in your household, and

 Have nobody claiming carers' allowance for looking after you.

It's just a call to the DWP department paying your means-tested benefits to get it sorted out.

Shocking ESA decision obviously mail-merged

Am dealing with a case where the DWP has obviously used standard paragraphs that had nothing to do with the claimant.  Throughout the decision there is the pattern <Title><Surname> - and I mean literally that - not the actual name of the person at all!  This reveals the shocking "hatchet job" approach of the DWP to ESA - a formula of reports with standard phrases with the decision makers having the same standard phrases that are then copied and pasted into decision letters with names merged in (or not in this case).  An unlawful approach that completely fails to accurately take individual circumstances into account.  It's decisions like this that kill people.

Here's a copy of some of the offending decision, which the DWP apologised for, although the matter is ongoing as that doesn't put it right in this case: A Dodgy DWP letter



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