About Joe Hurst

Joe manages our complaints service for the Reform Advice in Westminster project.

Westminster and the mysterious case of the missing Housing Benefit over payment

One of the most common issues Z2K assists clients with is housing benefit over payments. A common cause of rent arrears, the first time a client normally realises they have been overpaid is when they receive an over payment notice and realise their housing benefit has been suspended.

When a client comes to Z2K having been told they have been overpaid housing benefit the priority will be getting their housing benefit back into payment, if it has been suspended, and then appealing the decision or if that is not an option asking for an underlying entitlement. The decision letter sent to the client is crucial in alerting the client about what has happened and allowing us to act on their behalf. This is especially true when the scales are tipped so firmly against claimants in over payment cases. Claimants are liable to repay over payments even if an official error has occurred, unless they can prove that they could not have known an over payment occurred. Councils set that particular bar very high, essentially viewing every claimant as a maths genius moonlighting as a benefits claimant. Continue reading

Driving Ms. Hussein: or how I learned to stop worrying and love the DWP

dwpAt the age of 56 Ms. Hussein found that she was no longer able to work, for the first time in her adult life. A few months previously Ms. Hussein had lost her right eye and become partially sighted in the other. She was struggling to adapt to being partially sighted and frequently fell or bumped into people and objects.  She had also developed severe incontinence as the result of a botched operation. She was advised to make an Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) application and she did so. Continue reading

Case Study: how not to do a mandatory reconsideration

One recent successful Personal Independence Payment (PIP) appeal provides us with a clear example of how the DWP fails to use the Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) stage to properly revaluate their decision.

Mr Tonbridge came to Z2K because he wanted to appeal a decision regarding his PIP award. Having been transferred from DLA he had only been awarded the standard rate for mobility and consequently had immediately lost the use of his mobility car. When a decision is made there is no grace period allowing for appeals and so Mr Tonbridge found himself without the use of a vehicle which had been his only means of getting around. In effect the decision led to a complete loss of independence for Mr Tonbridge. Continue reading

Case study: income support appeal

dwpMs Chaudhary came to Z2K a few months ago very distressed as her Income Support had been stopped and she had incurred an overpayment for the same benefit. Ms Chaudhary lives as a lone parent with 5 children aged between 10 months and 23 years. She received £107.70 a week from income support. Ms Chaudhary is a full time carer for one of her sons and so relies on Carers Allowance, Child Benefit and Income Support as her only source of income.

Ms Chaudhary’s Income Support had stopped because the DWP had decided that on the balance of probability she was living with her former partner, who works more than 24 hours a week. Had this been the case Ms Chaudhary would not be entitled to Income Support. However it was clear that the DWP had made an incorrect decision. Ms Chaudhary has not lived with her former partner for some time. However her partner, who is the father of her children, visits her address on an average of 2-3 nights a week to see his kids. During nights he was on call as a taxi driver. He would often sit up during those nights at Ms Chaudhary’s house waiting to be called out on a job. Continue reading

Improving advice journeys

Welfare Reform LogoThis month the Reform Advice in Westminster (RAW) project released its report into improving the way advice is delivered to vulnerable or disadvantaged individuals. The report focuses on Westminster and is a response to the continuing changes initiated by the Welfare Reform Act 2012. Its release is timely, coming at a point in which the government has confirmed it will be cutting a further £12 billion from the welfare budget. The cuts will hit vulnerable individuals the hardest so it is likely that demand for advice will increase as they come into effect. It is therefore more important than ever that we are able to reach these individuals and deliver the advice they need. The report helps to paint a picture of the difficulties currently faced by advice agencies and how they could work together with other organisations in order to improve the work they do and ultimately the experience of individuals who need their help.

Several key findings have been outlined. Firstly, advice services are overstretched. 17,250 clients accessed advice services provided by the RAW project over a period of 1 and a half years. The clients who used these service tended to be vulnerable because of a combination of low income, unemployment and poor mental and physical health. Continue reading