It has been widely reported that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted to cold-calling impoverished and disabled people in an attempt to persuade them to take lower benefits than they are legally entitled to.
A large proportion of disabled persons who had appealed a DWP judgement on their benefit claim were approached by DWP employees who gave them “decide right now” incentives to drop their appeal before it reached the tribunal, it was found last year.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) conceded the day before a judicial review challenge was filed in the High Court this week by a disabled claimant who claimed she had been unfairly pressured into accepting a lower benefit offer.
DWP’s approach, according to the complaint, who asked to be named only as “K,” is both illegal and discriminatory.
In many cases, individuals felt obliged to accept the offer, which was hundreds of pounds per year less than they were entitled to, and were not told of their right to appeal or given the opportunity to dispute the offer with representatives.
In 2017, K sought for and was refused the personal independence payment benefit, which was established by the government. She reapplied in 2019 and was awarded a significantly lower sum.
In response to her doctor’s advice that her severe mobility difficulties entitled her for the highest levels of compensation, she filed a judicial review of the decision.
Immediately following the start of the appeals process, she received an unexpected phone call from the DWP from a “withheld” number, informing her that she had one hour to accept a settlement that was higher than her award but lower than she was legally entitled to get.
When she was warned that “tribunals are not nice places to attend,” her supervisor inquired as to if she was prepared to take the chance of losing her whole pay.
K was awarded a settlement that was worth £1,500 less per year than she would have been entitled to if she had won her case in the arbitration tribunal.
K, who suffers from fibromyalgia and epilepsy and requires assistance with daily washing, accepted the offer, but later claimed that she felt forced to do so because she felt driven to do so.
As a result of reading press accounts about the practise, she felt “haunted” by her decision and chose to submit a complaint against the Department of Work and Pensions.
She said: “I wasn’t given the time I needed to speak to my mum or seek any advice. They didn’t give me the information that I needed to work out if it was what I was entitled to, and they didn’t tell me I could accept the offer and still appeal the decision if I wanted.
“It feels as though the DWP has been picking on extremely vulnerable people and using the fear of going to a tribunal or losing an award to pressure people into accepting less than they should be getting.”
Officials at the DWP have been instructed not to make so-called “partial lapse” payments, such as the one issued to K. Staff will also be retrained.