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Claimant Commitments: Light-touch regime

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Claimant Commitments: Light-touch regime Empty Claimant Commitments: Light-touch regime

Post by Welfare-Champion on Wed Sep 09, 2020 9:38 am

The meaningless term(s) often used by DWP inappropriately have little significance in law, for example, ‘light touch’.

Supporting claimants in the light-touch regime. In this case, the term is used in regards to people who are already working:

DWP policy specifies more clearly what the regime entails:

Claimants in the light-touch regime are required to participate in two Work Search Interviews (by telephone, only re-arranged as face-to-face when phone contact is unsuccessful) at day one and week 8 in the regime. There are no further mandatory requirements. Claimants are not required to attend further Work Search Reviews, and all other work-related activity is agreed as part of a voluntary action plan.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/301588/response/743734/attach/3/FOI%204794%20part%201.pdf
The pandemic woolly arrangements:

The Secretary of State has recently confirmed that DWP is not actively seeking to apply sanctions during coronavirus outbreak.

I am conscious that a lot of this will be a light touch element of claimant commitment. It's not our intention to particularly go out actively seeking to impose sanctions or similar and I expect if there are any applied at all it will be very rare

https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/welfare-rights/news/item/secretary-of-state-confirms-that-dwp-is-not-actively-seeking-to-apply-sanctions-during-coronavirus-outbreak

A clearer response but no specific detail to date?

Universal Credit
Question for Department for Work and Pensions
UIN 62431, tabled on 22 June 2020

Question
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether universal credit claimants will be required to start actively looking for work once the suspension of conditionality ends on 30 June 2020; and whether Jobcentre Plus appointments will be resumed on that date.

Answer

1 July 2020
DWP are supporting those who have lost jobs or have reduced hours in this pandemic, promptly processing new claims and getting money into the accounts of those in urgent need within days.
Now our focus is rightly switching to getting Britain back into work. From July, people will be able to make an appointment with their Work Coach if they can’t get the help they want online or over the phone. Work Coaches, as part of the individualised approach, will be calling all claimants to engage with them.
From 1 July, we will reintroduce the requirement for claimants of UC, NS and Legacy JSA to accept a claimant commitment as part of any new claim. For existing claimants, we will review and update their claimant commitment as capacity allows. This is so we can provide tailored support to help them find work or increase hours.
Claimant commitments must be reasonable for the ‘new normal’, acknowledging the reality of a person’s local jobs market and personal circumstances to prepare them for getting back into work.
https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2020-06-22/62431
I should imagine there will be pressure placed upon claimants to apply for jobs where there is high demand, such as Care, delivery drivers, warehouse/ factory operatives and zero hour contracts (UC claimants).    
The legal question is whether there is good reason for not fulfilling the UC or JSA Claimant Commitment.

DWP officials have a duty to take into account the claimants circumstances as well as the prevailing labour market.  In the present circumstances, there are several good reasons:

• Limited vacancies available in the labour market
• Concerns about safety in the work place
• Mental health issues arising from the pandemic
• Limited resources, particularly for legacy benefit claimants who have not received an extra £20 per week to help them during the pandemic, which is not going away any time soon.

The following case highlights the importance of giving claimants the benefit of any doubt that may reasonably arise and, due to the severity of sanctions sanction decisions must be scrutinised carefully before benefit is stopped.  The appellant had to wait a great deal of time to get her money back.

5.Thirdly, tribunals must always bear in mind that the UC sanctions regime involves a financial penalty, and so the provisions should be strictly construed (see by analogy DL v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (JSA) [2013] UKUT 295 (AAC) at paragraph 14). Putting the matter another way, I subsequently suggested that “there is an argument in sanctions cases that the claimant should be given the benefit of any doubt that may reasonably arise” (CS v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (JSA) [2015] UKUT 61 (AAC) at paragraph 19). I do not suggest that in the present case there is any need to give the Appellant the benefit of the doubt. However, especially with the increased severity of the UC sanctions regime, as compared with the previous arrangements, tribunals need to scrutinise sanctions decisions with considerable care.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5a27bd1940f0b659d452009f/CUC_1808_2017-00.pdf

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Post by MrFrankZola on Wed Sep 09, 2020 12:07 pm

Have a recording of UC claimant and coach, from September 2020.

Here's one quote from the Coach "at the moment there is no obligation to work if that changes we will obviously let you know
...with Universal Credit...we pay you for looking for work till you get back in employment but
as I said we are not forcing people back into work in the current market"

The 'light-touch' regime referred to in
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/301588/response/743734/attach/html/3/FOI%204794%20part%201.pdf.html
From 10 December 2015
Via https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/uc_intensive_work_search_and_lig#incoming-743734

Does not appear to mbe what is being referred to in this Video by @theresecoffey on 22 July 2020, who said
Jobcentres are now using "a light-touch element of claimant commitment" Claimant Commitments, with #BenefitSanctions being "very rare"
Video: https://video.twimg.com/ext_tw_video/1286252685566586881/pu/vid/704x392/08HF-lsVARoqI5qP.mp4?tag=10
Full transcript
Extract
"I am conscious that a lot of this will be a light-touch element of claimant commitment. It is not our intention particularly to go out actively seeking to impose sanctions or similar, and I expect if there are any appliedat all,it would be very rare. That is my expectation
https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/759/default/ (pdf)
Via https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/164/work-and-pensions-committee/publications/

Light Touch "element" Claimant Commitments?
https://web.archive.org/web/20200904190037/https://twitter.com/a4ehighpark1/status/1301586256879648770
https://web.archive.org/web/20200904185943/https://twitter.com/keybIxde/status/1301947454372425733

Current DWP spotlights on first Claimant Commitments by phone and Work Search reviews
"Claimants are only expected to do what is reasonable. When workcoaches are considering expected hours of work search and workrelated requirements, they must include the impact of coronavirus. Work coaches should not take any action if the claimant has not met all their work related requirements, but can show a reasonable level of activity"
https://mrfrankzola.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/dwp-universal-credit-spotlights-on-first-commitments-by-phone-and-work-search-reviews.pdf
Via https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/guidance_issued_to_work_coaches#incoming-1633156

It is clear the DWP is being very deceptive on it's approach of Claimant Commitments at present and it's guidance does not reflect the realities being experienced by actual claimants.

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Post by Welfare-Champion on Wed Sep 09, 2020 3:58 pm

I think there will be insufficient Work Coach capacity at this time to revise /prepare new Claimant Commitments.  

It is a rational decision not to expect people to undertake the same level of work search/ preparation prior to the pandemic.   It would be helpful if the ‘light touch’ regime in relation to CCs was mentioned and defined within the policy document above.

Claimants with a new CC are only expected to undertake the actions within their current CC in light of their present circumstances and WC’s must take into account the impact of the pandemic as per the policy document.  It is inevitably policy will not be followed diligently 100% of the time.

New claimants may not even have a CC in place yet, so no activity will be expected other than on a voluntary basis.

I read somewhere, that when there is a doubt about work related activities work coaches are expected to undertake a case conference before making a referral to the Decision Maker.  This should reduce the number of sanctions if any.

Frank Zola wrote:
Here's one quote from the Coach "at the moment there is no obligation to work if that changes we will obviously let you know
...with Universal Credit...we pay you for looking for work till you get back in employment but as I said we are not forcing people back into work in the current market"

Another unclear message.   I think it means the claimant will not be mandated to take a job for now.

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Post by MrFrankZola on Thu Sep 10, 2020 11:42 am

Tip: Check what your Claimant Commitment (CC) actually says is a requirement.

Social Media and claimant forums are full of evidence that Work 'Coaches' are lying on an institutionla basis, with new and pre-pandemic UC claimants, by suggesting they have to do Work Search 35 hours a week. When in fact, upon viewing their CC no such requirement exists. Have been unable to find anyone being subjected for formal Work Search reviews.

Unsure what your CC means, check out https://claimantcommitments.org.uk/ or seek advice and support via advicelocal.uk

Noting

Jobcentres are now using "a light-touch element of claimant commitment" Claimant Commitments, with #BenefitSanctions being "very rare"
Video: https://video.twimg.com/ext_tw_video/1286252685566586881/pu/vid/704x392/08HF-lsVARoqI5qP.mp4?tag=10
Full transcript
Extract
"I am conscious that a lot of this will be a light-touch element of claimant commitment. It is not our intention particularly to go out actively seeking to impose sanctions or similar, and I expect if there are any appliedat all,it would be very rare. That is my expectation
https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/759/default/ (pdf)
Via https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/164/work-and-pensions-committee/publications/

This claimant
https://web.archive.org/web/20200904185943/https://twitter.com/keybIxde/status/1301947454372425733
was made to believe they are required to spend 35 hours a week on Work Search, had been doing so and the 'Coach' was checking such despite the CC saying:

"You will not get a sanction if you cannot keep your commitments...
If your commitments say you should search for work, or be available for work, your work coach will not check that you are
doing this"

Above claimant experience is far from uncommon.

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Post by MrFrankZola on Thu Sep 10, 2020 11:52 am

The use of Jobcentre 'case conference' concerns ending a 'vulnerable' claimant's benefit/s, due to likes of non attendance to a Work Capability Assessment of a Jobcentre appointment/contact (virutual or face-to-face) and less about Benefit Sanctions.

Case conferences are discussed in:
Oral evidence: Safeguarding vulnerable people
https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/759/default/ (pdf) Via https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/164/work-and-pensions-committee/publications/ linked referred to in https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/welfare-rights/news/item/secretary-of-state-confirms-that-dwp-is-not-actively-seeking-to-apply-sanctions-during-coronavirus-outbreak

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Post by Welfare-Champion on Thu Sep 10, 2020 2:07 pm

Where there is doubt that a claimant has not done reasonable work related activities, work coaches should case conference with their site leader to consider whether a referral to a Labour Market Decision Maker is appropriate.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/688458/response/1632044/attach/3/Spotlight%20on%20Fortnightly%20work%20search%20reviews.pdf?cookie_passthrough=1

The CC must be reviewed to ensure it is current, particularly, job goals which may no longer be appropriate due to the impact of the pandemic as well as changes in circumstances etc.

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Post by Welfare-Champion on Thu Sep 10, 2020 2:21 pm

The importance of challenges and appeals

Fortunately, it is possible to appeal against the imposition of a sanction, to seek a review by the DWP and an appeal to the Lower Tier Social Security Tribunal.  

Imposing a sanction is discretionary – the DWP do not have to do it. Sanctions  have to be reasonable in law and should take your health and  financial position into consideration.

This was stated by the Welfare Minister Lord Freud in 2012 (see Hansard 25th January 2012 Col 1061) regarding  government’s intentions in respect of DWP decisions:

‘Decision-makers will be required to follow guidance when applying the law to the facts of the case where they consider a decision about a claim, sanctions for non-compliance with work-related requirements, a civil penalty or the recovery of overpayment. We spoke about the Wednesbury principles at our seminar; decision-makers will have to consider all relevant matters raised by the claimant within a particular time period, including information about a claimant’s health condition and financial circumstances.

(The ‘Wednesbury principles’ date from the judgment Associated Provincial Picture Houses v Wednesbury Corporation [1948] 1 KB 223 – decisions must be reasonable, based on facts and not perverse and unreasonable).

Decision makers should look at whether it is reasonable to remove income and consider all factors relevant.

The impact of covid-19 and the effects on employment prospects need to be considered and form part of reasonableness today.

If you are sanctioned, you should appeal in writing against the sanction. Give your reasons when appealing and you can quote the statement of Lord Freud.

It can be worth involving your Member of Parliament if you are appealing as they can often cut through bureaucracy and speed up the process of re-consideration.

https://www.nucleus.org.uk/%EF%BB%BFbenefit-sanctions-return-as-jobcentres-re-open/

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Post by MrFrankZola on Thu Sep 10, 2020 3:01 pm

Welfare-Champion wrote:
Where there is doubt that a claimant has not done reasonable work related activities, work coaches should case conference with their site leader to consider whether a referral to a Labour Market Decision Maker is appropriate.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/688458/response/1632044/attach/3/Spotlight%20on%20Fortnightly%20work%20search%20reviews.pdf?cookie_passthrough=1

The CC must be reviewed to ensure it is current, particularly, job goals which may no longer be appropriate due to the impact of the pandemic as well as changes in circumstances etc.

Thanks for link to
'Spotlight on Fortnightly work search reviews.pdf'
It is much better to link to the actual request https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/spotlight_work_search_reviews_by#incoming-1632044 and not a PDF only. A
PDF prevents seeing full information disclosed in a DWP Freedom of Information Act request, the request itself and
the date the info was disclosed

Summary: Read your Claimant Commitment, to understand the current requirements, as under the pandemic many
do not include any Work Search or being available to Work requirements. To repeat, the DWP and it's 'coaches' are
'as policy' routinely lying about Work Search and Work Availability requirements. Though have seen UC claimants Journal messages that more or less say job and training info 'is for information only' and no response or action is required by claimants.


Trivia:

"in one area of greater manchester it is 1 [Work 'Coach'] to 10,000 claimants, so I guess this [doubling of Work 'Coaches'] will bring it up to a staggeringly impressive, 2 to 10,000 claimants. One person providing personalised tailored support to 5,000 people..."
https://web.archive.org/web/20200910140656/https://twitter.com/TenPercent/status/1304015663678345216


Check info on claimantcommitments.org.uk and or seek help from advicelocal.uk

Had not realised the info:

"Where there is doubt that a claimant has not done reasonable work related activities, work coaches should case conference with their site leader [glorified 'ask a manager' before making sanction referral] to consider whether a referral to a Labour Market decision maker is appropriate"
Was disclosed August 26th via https://mrfrankzola.files.wordpress.com/2020/08/dwp-universal-credit-spotlights-on-first-commitments-by-phone-and-work-search-reviews.pdf (only had PDF then!)

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Post by Welfare-Champion on Fri Sep 11, 2020 12:59 pm

It is inevitable that there will be delays in the decision making process, so it important to prevent any potential referrals and unnecessary stress.

Complaint letter

Amend as necessary

Name:

Address:

Your email & telephone number

National Insurance No:
Date

Address to your MP

https://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP
Send an email to expedite your complaint.

Dear [name of MP]

To prevent unnecessary delay I wish to make a complaint regarding a referral made to the DWP Decision Maker by [name].

My Grounds of complaint  

1. The decision to make a referral to the DWP Decision Maker does not adequately reflect my circumstances.

2. DWP officials should look at whether it is reasonable to remove income and consider all relevant factors.

3. The impact of covi-19 and the effects of employment prospects need to be considered and form part of reasonableness today.

4. DWP policy requires that Work Coaches must arrange a case conference with a site leader before a referral to a LMDM is made.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/spotlight_work_search_reviews_by#incoming-1632044

I had good reasons for not doing [specify] and provide all relevant details, for example, health, caring responsibilities, change in circumstances etc.  

For these reasons, I believe there are no grounds to make a referral to a Decision Maker with a view to reducing my entitlement.

I look forward to receiving a swift response.


Yours faithfully


Signature

Copy to your local office by hand if possible

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Post by MrFrankZola on Fri Sep 11, 2020 4:05 pm

Additional reference to 'Case conferences'

"Case conferencing

A case conference should take place when the claimant:

▶ has complex needs
▶ is vulnerable; or
▶ has multiple sanctions applied in the past 12 months

A case conference takes place between a wok coach and their team leader before making a referral to a Decision Maker."
https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/forums/viewreply/77803/
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jul/22/dwp-to-increase-support-for-vulnerable-claimants-after-series-of-suicides

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Post by Welfare-Champion on Fri Sep 11, 2020 5:14 pm

Thanks!

Many claimants do not identify themselves as vulnerable or having complex needs and rely on officials to gather the information.

DWP’s own research last October found that some staff had found it difficult to support vulnerable claimants because they “lacked the time and ability to identify claimants who needed additional support” and “lacked the confidence to apply processes flexibly and make appropriate adjustments”, says the report.

https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/dwp-is-failing-vulnerable-claimants-of-universal-credit-says-watchdog/

http://www.edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/DWP-Vulnerable-claimant-instructions.pdf

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/unpublished_info

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Post by MrFrankZola on Fri Sep 11, 2020 7:07 pm

'The DWP: 22 "does not have all the information it needs to track vulnerable claimants and ensure its support is effective..."
2.14 'DWP does not hold data on whether a claimant is disabled'
July 10, 2020
https://www.nao.org.uk/report/universal-credit-getting-to-first-payment/

Advice for decision making
Refs to 'vulnerable'
K1 016 & K1 169 (complex needs)
K2 004
K3 174
K5 076
U2 202 & U2504 + U2741
P6 006
C1 680
A4 123
ADM Memo 15/18
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/advice-for-decision-making-staff-guide
Extracts: https://pastebin.com/iHKXdjcB


DWP outlines safeguarding procedures for vulnerable benefits claimants
https://www.leighday.co.uk/News/Press-releases-2020/July-2020/DWP-outlines-safeguarding-procedures-for-vulnerabl

References to Safeguarding is more embedded across Central and Local Gov, with relevant guidance, policy and bodies being involved. As the National Audit office has noted the DWP do not seek info on 'vulnerability'.

Worth saying that no evidence Benefit Sanctions 'work', so this much of these concerns would become an irrelevance when ended without exception. And
how DWP and it's Work 'Coaches' actually make people 'vulnerable', to food insecurity, mental health problems, self-harm and suicide and more, by implementation of it's hostile conditionality and sanctions regime.

Situation reminds me of:

ON LAWS

THEN a lawyer said, But what of our Laws, master? And
he answered: You delight in laying down laws, Yet you
delight more in breaking them. Like children playing by the
ocean who build sand-towers with constancy and then destroy
them with laughter.

But while you build your sand-towers the ocean brings more
sand to the shore, And when you destroy them the ocean
laughs with you. Verily the ocean laughs always with the in-
nocent.

But what of those to whom life is not an ocean, and man-
made laws are not sand-towers, But to whom life is a rock, and
the law a chisel with which they would carve it in their own
likeness? What of the cripple who hates dancers? What of the
ox who loves his yoke and deems the elk and deer of the forest
stray and vagrant things?
https://archive.org/stream/TheProphetByKhalilGibran/The_Prophet_by_Khalil_Gibran_djvu.txt

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Post by Welfare-Champion on Fri Sep 11, 2020 7:22 pm

I was identified as a 'vulnerable' person. I found out from my NHS records.

Even the professionals can miss safeguarding triggers. Assessing vulnerability and individual need requires time and expertise. In many cases it obvious, but it is still missed by DWP staff/others.

I notice a DWP whistleblower has divulged that Disability Employment Advisers are being moved to mainstream positions.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is refusing to confirm that it is about to announce controversial plans to remove staff from their roles as specialist disability employment advisers (DEAs) and move them into mainstream positions.

https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/dwp-silent-over-whistle-blowers-disability-job-adviser-claims/

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