DWP On The Warpath : CARERS In The Frame ! Sweep Nets 80,000+ ! Caught Up ? PLEASE REPORT ON THIS THREAD !

All about money
70 posts
Well ... edited highlights will be made available.

Don't blink ... all of 5 seconds !!!
This is the article about Carers Allowance overpayments in the current issue of Private Eye (page 39 if you're looking for it in the actual magazine!)

CARE IN CRISIS
Dire DWP

The incompetence of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in saddling tens of thousands of hard-pushed carers with huge benefit debts was exposed in grim detail in a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) last month.

To qualify for a meagre £66.15 per week to provide care for an elderly or disabled loved one, carers must provide at least 35 hours per week support and not earn a penny more than £123. That's not always easy to monitor for those on zero-hours contracts or in other irregular work, whose income varies from week to week - and nor is it properly explained to claimants.

In addition, a new government IT system designed to flag up overpayments early on backfired spectacularly because the DWP didn't have enough staff to investigate the highlighted cases. As a result, some overpayments went unnoticed for years. The NAO report found that if the DWP had deployed just 40 extra staff between 2011 and 2018 - at a cost of less than £1m a year - it could have stopped two-thirds of overpayments and saved taxpayers at least £30m a year (£210m over the 7 years).

Worse, the NAO found that back in 2010, senior DWP managers had ignored warnings from a whistleblower of staff shortages and the burgeoning problems. The whistleblower also alerted two DWP Permanent Secretaries and, more recently, the former minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton. Despite warnings the system was failing carers, the DWP still pursued criminal cases for fraud against some of them - most genuinely unaware that they were "overclaiming".

The NAO report showed that DWP either prosecuted or imposed administrative penalties - fines of up to £5000 on top of clawing back any overpayment - on at least 1600 carers a year in each of the past 5 years. Some families, already in dire financial straits, now face years of debt repayments they can barely meet.

The report also says the DWP's uselessness led to huge backlogs of new claims and changes in circumstances running out of control in recent years, peaking at 52,000 outstanding new claims in September 2017 and 104,000 changes in circumstance in November 2018.

The Civil Servants who have tricky questions to answer when MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee start to scrutinise Carer's Allowance this week include Graeme Wallace, since 2013 the DWP's Director of Retirement Services, which includes Carer's Allowance. Wallace was awarded a CBE for "services to welfare reform and pensioners" in the 2017 New Year's Honours. Another is Richard Cornish, who's in charge of counter-fraud, compliance and debt since 2017 - though he may just have escaped in time to join Natural England as chief operating officer next month.

Whoever carries the can should expect a roasting, Frank Field, the committee chair, has already made clear his views on DWP bungling and "its stark human cost" He said " Not for the first time, we see DWP squeezing those least able to afford it. It will chase down carers who provide such and immense service to our society, potentially cutting their income for decades - when it knows that a large part of the responsibility lies squarely at its own door."
Thanks Simon.

( Looks like just you and me as custodians of this one ? )

Odd ... not as " Cutting " as I would have expected from The Eye.

Oh well , even the mysteries of the DWP are not as eye catching as other sectors on The Eye's radar.

Just ask Jeremy Hunt ... and his troubles with the doctors !
The Select Committee hearing was also mentioned briefly in the political sketch in The Times today:

"Down at the Work and Pensions Select Committee, senior civil servants tried to explain why Whitehall was for years neglectful of overpayments in Carers Allowances'. This scandal is creating anxiety for carers who are facing repayment demands. Sir Peter Schofield, the department's permanent secretary, was accompanied by his "director general of service excellence." Such titles they give themselves.

Sir Peter was so chillaxed he sounded coldly blithe to the scandal. "It's really good to have this challenge," he murmured. "There is some challenge about the quality of communication." Asked why nothing had been done for six years - six blinking years! - after the overpayments were first reported by a whistleblower, Sir Peter said blandly that this was an example of "action through the management chain". Sir Mark Sedwill, head of the civil service, will be proud of him."
For any reader not having watch the Parliament tv broadcast ... straight faces , slight smiles.

As if they were defending leaving the cat out all night.

Concern ?

They're paid civil servants ... what else do you expect for your monies ???
A few weeks on and ... virtually nothing to report.

6 posters so far identified as being caught ... none have returned to let us know how they got on.

Nothing from the CUK Advice Team nor mention of the Purge in the recent benefits session on the forum.

( One poster's exchange with the CUK Advice Team ... worthy of surfing back in this thread to read ! )

Newspapers quiet ... I still trawl for anything.

( Even searched the Daily Chuckle to see if any were put on trial by them as " Benefit scroungers " who have been caught ! )


Those who know more just aren't telling.

Virtually a standard reply to anyone coming in ... CAB or CUK Advice Team / link to this thread as background.

Nothing else we can do.

Diarise forward.
The Work and Pensions Select Committee's report into Carers Allowance overpayments was published today, link here:

https://www.parliament.uk/business/comm ... ion-17-19/

The Committee says that DWP are bullying carers by continuing to pursue these overpayments which DWP are culpable for because of administrative failure.

Good BBC article here, heard it on the Today programme this morning :

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-49198255
Thanks Simon :

Carers saving Treasury £billions every year “ Set up for a fall ” by design of Carer’s Allowance.

The Work and Pensions Committee calls on DWP to completely reassess its approach, consider writing off debts due to its own protracted administrative failures in its report on the Overpayments of Carer’s Allowance.



Carers are being disproportionately heavily penalised for years of DWP administrative errors or their own honest mistakes, in a confusing and outdated system where the IT cannot even adapt a basic information letter within a year, says the Work and Pensions Committee in a report published today, Friday 2 August 2019.

I have always worked and a few years ago I was put in a position that turned my life upside down. My mum had dementia and Alzheimer’s. I accidentally did too many hours, I was caring for my mum and my mentally ill son and holding down my job, I wasn’t aware that I’d done wrong until I was called for an interview at the job centre. I was charged with fraud and taken to court, I was given community service of 180 hours unpaid work as if I didn’t have enough to deal with. My son went into care because I couldn’t cope, and I have now had to give up work and care for mum. I had to move in with her and give up my home, my job, my life. I am now having to pay the money back. My own health has suffered, and my finances are rock bottom. I feel my life has been in a downward spiral and I haven’t been able to cope since.

( Respondent with overpayment of £3,000 )

Chair's comments

Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said :

“Carers are damned if they do, damned if they don’t: penalised as soon as they earn even a pound over the threshold, and punished by the Department’s own administrative failures and hopelessly outdated systems. The Department sets itself no targets for tackling fraud and error for individual benefits, yet jumps on struggling carers for every honest mistake. DWP has got its priorities all wrong. Bullying carers is no way to recognise, much less support, the invaluable contribution they make to our society and the people they care for, or the hundreds of billions of pounds they save the taxpayer. Will the Government now please get off the back of carers? They have important work to do.”

It is estimated that there are around 7 million carers in the UK (around 1 in 8 adults) – set to rise to 9 million - who make an unpaid contribution of £132 billion to the UK economy every year. Most people will become a carer at some point in their lives, caring for a partner, parent, friend or disabled child who cannot cope without their support.

Many of these people find it difficult to make ends meet. According to Carers UK’s 2019 ‘State of Caring’ report, 39% are in financial hardship and 73% of carers on Carer’s Allowance (CA) are unable to afford to save for retirement. The Committee previously reported on the need for the Government to make changes in the benefit system and in the workplace better to support carers to both find work and stay in employment. With the number of carers at an all-time high, saving the Treasury billions of pounds annually, it is even more vital that the Government provides carers with both the support and recognition they deserve. Instead, administrative failures by DWP have led to substantial overpayments which the Department is now clawing back as debt, leading unsurprisingly to substantial distress and hardship for carers.

The Committee says :

- The earnings threshold “cliff edge” in CA means that carers can be heavily penalised when they make small, honest mistakes. If a claimant fails to report a rise in their earnings of even £1 above the weekly threshold, the Department counts this as overpaying them by the full rate of £66.15 a week. This is compounded by the fact that the Department has, for many years, allowed overpayments to build up because of administrative failures and a prolonged lack of resources. The Department has belatedly decided to remedy its past failures, but pursuing these debts can be costly for both the Department and the carers affected.

- The Department places the burden of reporting even minor changes in their circumstances on carers. It provides information on this to carers in a long and complex annual letter containing a lot of information but which still fails to inform carers of the basic, central fact that if they earn even £1 over the £123 a week threshold, they will lose their entire week’s Allowance of £66.15 or be considered to owe it back to the Department as a debt. An extraordinary letter from DWP minister, echoed in evidence from the Permanent Secretary, explained that the Department is using a computer system which makes it almost impossible to update the information letter for at least 12 months.

- In theory, the Department should be spotting these errors, because it has access to data about carers’ earnings from HMRC. But problems with its systems, compounded by prolonged staff shortages, have led to substantial backlogs in the checking process.

- The Department has previously rejected this Committee’s recommendation to introduce a taper for CA, which would reduce the impact on carers if they make honest mistakes and overpayments occur. However, the fact remains that the design of CA sets carers up for a fall. The Department must do more to minimise the risk for claimants: it should look again at the different options for introducing a taper into CA as the only real way to address this systemic source of error. If it will not do this it should adapt its approach to be more proportionate to the scale of the error: where claimants’ earnings are within 5% of the earnings threshold, the Department should limit the period for which an overpayment is recoverable to one month.

- The Department has an outdated understanding of the causes of overpayments in CA. Its most recent figures suggest that most overpayments are fraud, but the NAO has questioned this and indeed the Department has not conducted any analysis of rates of fraud and error in Carer’s Allowance for over 20 years. Using these “last century” estimates the Department thinks that 89% of overpayments are caused by claimant fraud or error, blaming the vast majority (80%) on claimant fraud. However, data on the overpayments it identified in recent years suggest that this is not the case. The NAO noted that less than 10% of overpayments were referred to the Crown Prosecution Service for prosecution or had an administrative penalty—an alternative to prosecution—applied over the last five years.

- The Committee heard that carers—often already struggling financially—can suffer considerable stress and anxiety as they face substantial financial debts - which in some cases may take years or even decades to repay, compounded by the Department’s approach to debt collection. The Department needs a new approach - it should now:

conduct a review of the individual cases where it is seeking to recover overpayments of CA and where its own administrative failures have allowed overpayments to accrue.

consider on a case by case basis whether overpayments are worth pursuing given its culpability, the cost of recouping the overpayments and the impact on the lives of carers and those who they care for.

start with cases of overpayments worth over £2,500, the majority (two-thirds) of which its internal audit team found it could have detected earlier, and decide whether it should be writing off amounts where the claimant has made an error in failing to report changes in their circumstances: errors that are easily understandable given the complexity of the rules around CA and unclear advice issued by the Department.

- In some cases of overpayments to carers, the disabled person for whom they care would have been entitled to a similar amount in disability benefits if Carer’s Allowance had not been claimed. In those individual cases and with the consent of the carer and the disabled person, the Department should seek to resolve the situation without the circular, unnecessary extra expense of clawing back the money from the carer, only to pay a similar amount to the person they were caring for.

- The Department could, and should, have got to grips with the problems in Carer’s Allowance much more quickly. Instead it took the action of a whistleblower—who first raised concerns over issues in CA in 2010—over many years, an NAO investigation and a select committee inquiry to persuade the Department of the urgent need to act and to listen to carers’ representatives. The result is that thousands of carers are now being asked to pay back large sums of money, and are experiencing distress and hardship as a result. Government should set out, in response to this report, an action plan for improving the Department’s capacity to listen—to its own staff, to its customers, and to outside organisations—and how it will measure success.

In evidence to the Committee the Permanent Secretary at DWP refused several times to apologise for the hardship and distress caused by repaying overpayments, on the grounds that the Department offers flexible repayment plans—known as hardship rates—to claimants who are struggling financially. However, the NAO noted that just 1,000 carers were in receipt of these hardship rates and that the Department “does not know how these repayments [of overpayments] affect carers or the disabled person they care for, as it has not assessed the impact of these repayments.”

Carers—who often lead very stressful lives and whose invaluable contribution saves the taxpayer substantial costs—can suffer considerable distress and face financial difficulties when they have to repay overpayments that they often had no idea they were accruing. The Committee says it is unacceptable that the Department has stuck its head in the sand and done nothing to assess how these repayments affect the lives of carers and those that they care for. The Permanent Secretary’s refusal to apologise for the Department’s role in creating this problem, and to accept that the result is hardship for many carers, is profoundly disappointing.


FULL SP AVAILABLE THROUGH THIS LINK ... ON PAR WITH THE SELECT COMMITTEE 2008 REPORT :

https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/c ... 177202.htm


TO POST IN FULL IS A MASSIVE JOB ... GIVE ME TIME AND I WILL DO SO !!!

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BBC article :

Carers bullied by government, MPs say.



The Work and Pensions Select Committee says ministers are harassing people who have made honest mistakes when receiving carer's allowance.

Long-standing problems within the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) led to a failure to spot overpayments.

The government says while it has a duty to the taxpayer to recover the money, "safeguards are in place to protect claimants from financial hardship".

The MPs have urged the government to review, on a case by case basis, whether overpayments are worth pursuing, given the Department of Work and Pensions' culpability and the cost of recouping them.

"Bullying carers is no way to recognise, much less support, the invaluable contribution they make to our society and the people they care for," said Frank Field, who chairs the committee.

George's story

"The DWP and the courts are not listening," George Henderson, from Leyland, Lancashire, says.

He is being pursued for an overpayment of more than £19,000 of carer's allowance by the DWP - and has had to put his house up for sale.

The 59-year-old first started receiving the benefit in 2010 while caring for his son John, who has mental health problems and is a heroin user.

He applied for carer's allowance and stopped his son receiving an alternative benefit, as John's drug dealer "actually had his bank card".

"He knew when he got paid, he went and got his money out of the machine, gave him the drugs and that was it," George says.

Image

George admits he made a "mistake" when he applied, stating he was unemployed when he was actually working for a taxi company.

In 2017, the DWP contacted him to say he was not eligible for the benefit.

He was convicted of fraud, given a 32-week suspended sentence and electronically tagged for 16 weeks.

The DWP then used a proceeds of crime order to make George to sell his home.

Over seven years, George is estimated to have received about £100 more than his son would have been paid if he had continued to receive the benefit he was on.


"The impact has been immense," he says.

"There was no money to be made.

"If I'd known that I was earning too much money, obviously I'm not going to claim carer's allowance, take money off my son to give it back to him on a daily basis, and then get myself done for fraud.

"I mean it's just ludicrous. It's laughable."

For years, the Department for Work and Pensions ignored a whistleblower's concerns they were failing to spot overpayments to thousands of carers as they had cut the number of staff working on the benefit.

HM Revenue & Customs was providing earnings data to the department that should have highlighted the overpayments, while the confusing nature of the benefit meant many people were unaware they were no longer eligible.

In April, the National Audit Office said about two-thirds of carers with debts for earnings-related overpayments over £2,500 would have had their overpayments stopped earlier if the DWP had put in place sufficient staff.

Carer's benefit is paid to people who provide at least 35 hours a week of care.

The government says 850,000 people receive the allowance, with millions of payments made each year.

It is currently worth £66.15 per week and the recipient is allowed to earn up to £123 per week and still receive carer's allowance, though their earnings can be higher if they have childcare costs - but the moment they earn a penny more, they immediately become ineligible and have to repay any benefit they may have received.

The National Audit Office found the DWP was aiming to recoup overpayments from 80,000 people, worth about £150m.

Most debts are for less than £1,000 but some people owe more than £20,000.

BBC News has discovered the DWP and the Crown Prosecution Service, who take the cases to court, are not routinely telling judges the department could have spotted the errors earlier.

A Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said every case was "carefully considered" but it did not have a duty to disclose "publicly available government reports that do not relate to specific cases".

The DWP said decisions to prosecute were not taken lightly and were generally reserved for overpayments of more than £5,000.

"It is a condition of receiving carer's allowance that people tell DWP if their circumstances change and we work extremely hard to make claimants aware of their responsibility to provide correct information," a spokeswoman said.
CUK's response ... posted elsewhere on this site :

Responding to the report Emily Holzhausen OBE, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK, said :

“Carers who have been impacted by overpayments of Carer’s Allowance - many already struggling financially - are experiencing considerable stress and anxiety, facing debt that could affect their incomes for years to come on top of demanding caring responsibilities.

“The Department must urgently consider writing off overpayments where its administrative failures have allowed them to accrue. They should also assess the impact of their recovery of overpayments to ensure they don’t push people into further financial hardship.

“It’s clear that the current design of Carer’s Allowance places a huge administrative burden on carers and causes a lot of confusion. Carers need a solution to the sharp cliff edge of the earnings threshold that currently means their earning even £1 over the threshold sees a 100% loss of benefit.

“It is the DWP’s job to provide frequent and clear information about the earnings threshold and they must introduce a simpler way for carers to track and report their earnings.”


In essence , regurgitating what others have already said ... on safe ground , perhaps ?

Needless to add ... with momentum now established within the House ... what better time to seize said momentum and join
forces with the Carers Trust for a sit down with the DWP with just one item on the agenda ... FINANCES ... and a rerun of the
2008 meeting with emphasis now on a NEW DEAL for carers ... ancillary to the forthcoming Green Paper on social care.

https://www.carersuk.org/forum/support- ... 0committee

NEVER HAS THE TIME BEEN MORE RIPE FOR OVER A DECADE !

Failure to do so will condemn over 4 MILLION of us to continued poverty for a generation ... or more.
South Normanton carer was overpaid £7k in benefits.

A South Normanton woman who was overpaid £7,452 in benefits by doing part-time work was caring for her poorly mum and grandparents, a court has heard.



Amy Hunt failed to notify the DWP about part-time jobs she held between December 2015 and April 2017, and this affected the amount of housing benefit and carer's allowance she was entitled to, said prosecutor Ali Zaki.

Donna Purslove, mitigating, said Hunt had been the main carer for her mother since she was 15, and is now looking after both her grandparents.

"The money has not been spent on anything lavish," she said, adding that Hunt was evicted from her rented home after reporting damp in the kitchen to the environment health department.

"She flits from trying to work shifts whenever she can to her caring responsibilities.

"Her mum will eventually be in a wheelchair. Her grandfather has been diagnosed with terminal cancer."

She said Hunt was currently repaying £80 per month to the benefits agency.

Hunt, 24, of Carter Lane East, admitted two counts of failing to notify the DWP, when she appeared at Mansfield Magistrates Court, on Wednesday.

District judge Jonathan Taaffe said: "In view of what I know about your background, this is a sad case."

He handed her a two year conditional discharge, with £85 costs and a £20 government surcharge.



What message ... and fine ... does that send to carers ????
70 posts