The DWP’s twitter account contained a lovely Valentines message. The picture was pink with hearts flowers and clouds, and the message scrolls in “Declaring your Love tomorrow? Don’t forget to declare your TRUE LIVING ARRANGMENTS too – tell us your change of circumstances.” Followed by the ominous “Don’t get separated from your Valentine”.
It is a fairly crass way of highlighting benefit fraud, and the tweet links to an even crasser and inaccurate article the DWP has placed in the Daily Express – which plays the usual tricks to exaggerate fraud.
Exaggerating fraud (again)
The article in the Daily Express talks about fraud but the third sentence quotes the much higher figure for fraud and error. The fifth sentence gives a number for “overpayments recovered” – this number is high because it includes all overpayments, i.e. those due to fraud, claimant’s error and most significantly DWP error. So we arrive at the unjust but familiar place where the DWP’s errors are used as evidence against claimants.
The Churches demanded that the government stopped these cheap deceptions in its own documents back in 2013, however no such minimum standards apply to press articles instigated by the DWP.
When should you tell the DWP you are a couple?
But let’s talk about the problem the DWP has chosen to highlight – not declaring when you are a couple. This is important as although taxes are assessed individually benefits are assessed by household. Another person in the family will almost certainly reduce the benefit entitlement. This will either … Continue reading
At meeting in Glasgow last year I sat beside a woman who had been investigated for this particular fraud. She had a boyfriend who stayed over some nights and not others. Was she in a couple according to the DWP? She was investigated for a number of months, during which time her benefits were reduced and her private life was delved into. Eventually she was found not guilty. The question of the point at which the relationship should have been reported didn’t arise as the romance did not survive the trauma of the investigation.
You would expect the DWP to have clear guidelines to answer this question. For example, report your relationship when you live exclusively in the same house; when you stay over the majority of nights; when you share finances. But look at the rulebook, the Decision Makers’ Guide, and you won’t find much clarity.Decision Makers Guide Ch11 especially paragraphs 11101 to 11152 set out the things the DWP takes into account. It is quite a funny read until you realise the impact this strange an woolly attempt to … Continue reading
How the DWP decides if you are “Living Together as Married”
Instead of clear rules you get a meandering list of characteristics that are “like being married” – which, disappointingly for Valentine’s Day, we learn can include not having sex, and being in an “unsatisfactory” and “unhappy” relationship. Perhaps more surprisingly a person can also be deemed to be in a couple with someone whose gender they are not attracted to.
Instead of clear rules as you might expect, the Decision Maker is told “It is essential to have as much information as possible on all the points” including the nature of your sexual relationship, your finances, your “faithfulness” and your “devotion” and weigh them up. The decisions also don’t set a precedent adding to the overall uncertainty.
The result is people don’t know. People are afraid to ask. People trying to find the happiness) celebrated on Valentine’s Day (other than by the DWP) have another worry nagging at the back of their head.
Just rules are clear and easily understood
Just rules are easily understood and those who breach them should know they are doing it.
My idea is that if the DWP really wants to reduce the problem of people not reporting relationships to them, then, rather than producing crass twitter memes linking to fraudulent Daily Express articles, they should instead set out clearly when in a relationship you need to call the DWP, and stick to the rules they set out.
|↑1||This is important as although taxes are assessed individually benefits are assessed by household. Another person in the family will almost certainly reduce the benefit entitlement. This will either be because couple’s rates are lower than 2x single rates, or because the new family member will have financial resources which will count against the family’s entitlements.|
|↑2||Decision Makers Guide Ch11 especially paragraphs 11101 to 11152 set out the things the DWP takes into account. It is quite a funny read until you realise the impact this strange an woolly attempt to define marriage has on people’e lives https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/658225/dmgch11.pdf|