Saturday, 21 August 2010

Hundreds of claimants unjustly imprisoned each year.

Apt message from a friend of mine:

While David Cameron and the ConDems have been banging the 'targeting benefit thieves' drum lately, it is worth bearing in mind that Labour have not been guiltless in such matters. The item below was published 13 November 2009.
"Hundreds of claimants unjustly imprisoned

"Many hundreds of claimants are unjustly imprisoned every year because overpayment amounts are being ‘wildly exaggerated’ by the DWP, welfare benefits expert witness Neil Bateman has told MPs . In one case he assisted with, a woman prosecuted for a £47,000 overpayment had in reality under-claimed benefits.  

"The shocking revelations were made in written evidence to a House of Commons committee currently examining the standard of DWP decision making.

"According to Bateman, criminal judges and defending solicitors do not understand benefits law and it is very rare for a welfare rights specialist to be involved in defending claimants.  As a result, the DWP get away with massively inflating the amount of benefit a claimant has been overpaid.  Where this is more than £20,000 a prison sentence is the likely outcome, with the DWP getting positive press coverage for exposing the criminal...."

The above is from evidence given to a DWP Select Committee. It would seem from the contents of the DWP 'consultation paper' '21st Century Welfare' and all the spin that has gone on around it, that DWP senior civil servants never really learn that sort of thing. Or am I being too kind?

It is extremely worrying that this backdrop of untruth is a basis upon which many of the 'vox populi' suggestions for voting on at the 'Spending Challenge' website are based.

Should we not interpret a Crown Court judge's statement that the DWP "had not done its job properly" -- thereby leading a claimant to risk of harm -- as "criminal negligence"?

Alan Wheatley
GPEW Spokesperson on Disability and Social Care Services

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