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Our FOIs: Universal Credit - Challenging Decisions
Below are a selection of FOIs we have, over the past few years, sent to the DWP with the answers
We hope you find these useful.

Just click on the FOI you are interested in to see the full question and the answer.


QUESTION
I would be grateful if you could forward any documents- internal guidance and those for the public- on the exact procedure that a claimant should undertake, and that the DWP staff should follow, when someone in a Full service area wishes to request a mandatory reconsideration of a Universal Credit decision.
I particularly need confirmation of this issue:
Does a claimant needs to phone the service centre as well as writing on their journal, and how are they notified of this - including are claimants made aware of this before they request an MR? (we have been told by Trafford Welfare Rights Service "A client from our advice line has requested an MR via her journal 3 times and had no response so when she rang the service centre - she was told that she had to ring them to request an MR and that it why no action had been taken")

ANSWER
You asked whether it is necessary to phone a service centre as well as writing on the journal to request a Mandatory Reconsideration.
I have copied the extract below from the Universal Credit Full Service (UCFS) guidance which states:
‘A claimant is able to request a Mandatory Reconsideration:

  • over the phone

  • face to face

  • by putting a note in their journal

  • in writing’


You also asked about what procedure DWP staff should follow when someone requests a Mandatory Reconsideration of a decision.
Please see below an extract from UCFS learning guidance:
‘Revising decisions – Decision Maker consideration
A claimant does not have to supply evidence or give reasons why they think the decision is wrong to request a decision be reconsidered. The original decision can be revised on any ground.
This includes if:
  • a different conclusion about the facts of the case are reached

  • the original decision was based on a mistaken view of the facts

  • the original decision was based on an incorrect interpretation of the law

  • the original decision was based on insufficient evidence

  • there are new relevant facts which were not known at the time the decision was made

As well as offering Mandatory Reconsideration, the decision notice offers the claimant the option of seeking an explanation of the decision and requesting a Written Statement of Reasons. Neither is necessary before an application for revision can be made – it is the claimant’s choice.
The explanation details why the decision was made and the law used to make the decision. The revision and appeal process including time limits is also explained. This will be dealt with by the DM or another suitably trained officer.
The Written Statement of Reasons includes justification of how the DM came to the decision, and outlines the evidence and law used to make the decision.
When considering an application, it should be ensured that all existing evidence is looked at carefully and, where necessary, further evidence obtained. If the claimant provides fresh evidence this must be looked at carefully. In looking at the decision afresh it is only necessary to look at issues raised by the application. If other errors are noticed then they must be corrected.
Should further evidence be required the claimant should be contacted by the most appropriate method such as by telephone, letter, office interview or visit. They have one month to reply (or a longer period as appears appropriate).
If the evidence is supplied then this is considered with any existing evidence when the decision is made. If there is no reply the decision is made using the evidence that is held.’

In addition, you asked how a claimant is notified about how to request a Mandatory Reconsideration.
In any UCFS decision letter, it states the following:
‘What you can do if you disagree with this decision
If you disagree with this decision, you (or the person who has the authority to act for you) can call or write to us to request a written explanation. You’ll need to do this within 1 month of the date on this letter.
If you have new information that may affect your claim or you think some information has been overlooked, you can request a mandatory reconsideration. You must do this within 1 month of the date on this letter.
We’ll look at the decision again and you’ll receive a mandatory reconsideration notice telling you the outcome. You can only appeal a decision after a mandatory reconsideration. Your mandatory reconsideration notice includes details on how to appeal.’

UCFS guidance relating to ‘Mandatory Reconsideration’ can be found here.
Guidance about Challenging a Benefit Decision (Mandatory Reconsideration) can be found here.
Click here to see the original FOI.


QUESTION
You have stated in FOI 4859 that the Fifth Principle of the Data Protection Act states:
'Personal data for any purpose or purposes shall not be kept for longer than necessary for that purpose or those purposes.'
And that for UC:
"new claims will be held open for 14 months if there are no changes in circumstances."
Whereas In response to FOI 4843 you stated:
“UC claims are kept open for 6 months in live service. The UC claimant can then retrieve their data via a Data Protection Request. UC full service accounts can currently be accessed indefinitely."
Could you explain this apparent contradiction - is the FOI 4859 response this is purely talking about keeping a UC claim open ( eg so that it can be returned to under a Rapid Reclaim) or whether it also applies to the retention of data including journal entries.

ANSWER
A claimant’s Universal Credit account cannot be accessed indefinitely. If a claimant is reclaiming within 6 months, they can reclaim and access their Universal Credit records.
Anything outside of the 6 months period; claimants will have to start the process of claiming again.
A claimant’s Universal Credit account will not be open for 14 months; our data retention period is 14 months. The reclaim period is 6 months.
Click here to see the original FOI.


QUESTION
If someone's UC award has been closed but they then make a new claim, can the DWP Full Service computer system deal with there being both a closed claim (with presumably data being held on it for up to 14 months) and a new claim in respect of the same person?
In that - can someone put in a mandatory reconsideration of the decision to close the claim (or a MR of any other issue relating to the closed claim such as how much was paid, overpayment etc ) - while simultaneously being a new UC claimant?
Will they be able to access data (eg journal entries, award amounts for previous assessment periods) on the old UC award while having a current award?

ANSWER
1. Yes the full service computer system can deal with a closed claim and a new claim in respect of the same person.
2. The data required for any mandatory consideration request will be available on the system in these circumstances.
3. A claimant can still access their data relating to journal entries and previous awards.

Click here to dee the original FOI.


QUESTION
In speaking about explicit consent in his letter to 'The Welfare Advice Sector' on 20th January 2017, Neil Couling of DWP stated that a UC claimant can give 'explicit consent' in one of three ways:

  • Telephone consent - and if the claimant is in a different location to the adviser a three way call can be set up.

  • Online consent - via their online journal.

  • In person in a Jobcentre.

Could you confirm that explicit consent can also be given in writing, where the claimant cannot access online and it is impracticable for them to travel to a job centre or to the rep's office, to use 3 way phone call?

ANSWER
The online account is a fundamental part of the Universal Credit service. We no longer have a ‘paper claim’, which means we cannot verify that written consent is actually from that claimant. As such, consent can be given through a claimants account, over the phone or in person. In addition we want, wherever possible, third party representatives to help claimants to self serve and understand what is happening with the claim themselves.


QUESTION
Please could you set out the procedure which DWP should undertake following a request for a mandatory reconsideration of a decision submitted in writing?
In particular it would be useful if this specified which job role does what and the timescales, and whether this differs under Universal Credit from other DWP decisions eg under JSA.

ANSWER
A Mandatory Reconsideration can be requested either by telephone, face to face or in writing. Each Mandatory Reconsideration request will be dealt with appropriately. A request in writing does not require a telephone call answer.
Guidance here

More on changes in circumstances and how they affect a UC claim can be found here.

Click here to see the original FOI.