Housing Systems: Combating poverty and sustaining tenancies.
Claim closed as claimant not verified ID following Covid "easements"
During the pandemic, because of a massive increase in claims, the DWP decided not to require UC claimants to verify their ID, rent, household constitution etc before UC could be awarded: a system called Trust and Protect. 
A “Repair Team” was set up from spring 2021 to contact all UC claimants who claimed under Trust and Protect, and ask them to verify their ID. 

Claimants who have failed to provide sufficient evidence, or whom the DWP have been unable to contact, are having their UC awards closed retrospectively – back to the date of claim – causing huge overpayments. Under UC, all overpayments are recoverable regardless of the cause. There are reports of this happening even where the DWP has not asked the claimants for evidence.

Can the DWP do this?
There are powers under the regulations (Regulation 38 of the UC, PIP, JSA & ESA (Claims & Payments) Regulations 2013 and Regulations 44 to 47 of the UC, PIP, JSA and ESA (Decisions and Appeals) Regs 2013) to suspend and then terminate an award where requested evidence is not provided on time. But the termination can only be from the date the award was suspended - it cannot therefore create an overpayment.

But we believe that the DWP cannot revise their decision to pay UC just on the basis that evidence wasn’t provided: there is nothing in the regulations to cover this: the revision would have to be on the grounds that there was an official error or mistake as to / ignorance of a material fact. 
What they can do however is to draw an “adverse inference” about the facts – ie infer, from the lack of evidence, that there was something adverse going on which meant the claimant wasn’t entitled to UC. 
But once the claimant produces the necessary evidence the DWP’s decision that they weren’t entitled is then incorrect - because the evidence did in fact exist so the DWP should then reinstate the UC award and cancel the overpayment. CH/3736/2006.

What if the claimant wasn’t told they needed to provide this evidence, or wasn’t given enough time to provide it?

The DWP must notify the claimant of their decision, and allow sufficient time to provide evidence before terminating. Regulation 51 of the UC, PIP, JSA and ESA (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2013
And the DWP must allow one month, or such longer period as they consider reasonable, from the date the claimant is told their claim is “defective” to correct this, ie by providing the evidence. Regulation 37 of the UC, PIP, JSA & ESA (Claims & Payments) Regulations 2013. The claim must not be “closed” before such time is given.

So what can the claimant do?

The claimant should of course provide the evidence as soon as possible, or if it is going to be difficult to obtain, tell the DWP and explain the problem, asking for more time. If they were never asked to provide the evidence, or if they were not told the award was going to be terminated, they should state this quoting the regulations above.

They should make a new claim and request a Mandatory Reconsideration of the decision to terminate the award retrospectively and to create an overpayment. They should ask the DWP to provide a written reason stating the regulations that they believe allow them to terminate retrospectively due to failure to provide evidence. See letter UC OP6.
The problem is that as the claim has been closed they cannot write on their journal or access any correspondence on it.

If the claim has not yet been closed they should make a copy of all the relevant notes on the journal before making a new claim. But if it is too late for this, then they can submit a Subject Access Request (http://www.gov.uk/guidance/request-your-personal-information-from-the-department-for-work-and-pensions). The information should be provided within a month. Note that if it’s a joint claim, the SAR should be for both people, otherwise GDPR means some of the records may be missing.

If the DWP refuses to revise then the claimant should appeal to HMCTS.  The Tribunal is likely to require the DWP to establish the basis for their decision to terminate. 
If the DWP delays in responding, or an appeal has been lodged but the DWP are continuing to recover the overpayment, then the claimant’s adviser can use CPAG’s judicial review pre-action protocol template letter where:
1) The request for information/evidence was a request for ID documents and
2) The award has been closed and an overpayment generated for the total amount of UC received for the duration of the award, following failure to provide requested information and
3) No suspension of payment of benefit was put in place prior to the award ‘closure’.
The template is available here.

It would also be a good idea to submit a complaint online: , see suggested wording below;
and if the claimant is willing to share details, submit the case to CPAG’s Early Warning System.

If deductions for the overpayment have started they could contact Debt Management to ask for deductions to be suspended during their MR/Appeal, or for the deductions to be reduced. However Debt Management are under no obligations to do so, and would not reduce deductions without proof of the claimant’s hardship.

Wording for complaint.

I claimed UC on xx/xx/xx. At the time I did not need to provide evidence to support my claim as this requirement was waived during the pandemic.
The DWP have now closed the claim back to the date of claim and said that I have been overpaid/started recovering an alleged overpayment.
However I believe that the DWP did not follow fair and correct procedure in closing my award. 
This is because:
The DWP did not ask me to provide the evidence. 
The DWP did not give me a calendar month in which to provide the evidence. 
The DWP did not allow me a longer time to provide the evidence. I believe this was reasonable as my UC claim had already ended and so I had no way of knowing that I needed to provide this evidence. 
The DWP did not notify me of the decision to cancel my claim. 

Add if appropriate
The DWP have begun recovering the alleged overpayment at £xx per month from my UC award/by an attachment of earnings and this has left me in financial difficulties.

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