The Department for Work and Pensions has set a worrying precedent for millions of people hoping to get compensation if civil servants get their benefit and pensions payments wrong or don’t inform them correctly by refusing to pay them a penny.
The decision also shows up the weakness of complaining about maladministration to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, Robert Behrens, in cases involving the ministry as it ignores his rulings.
This particular case involved 62 year old Ms U, who lives alone in London borough of Greenwich -one of the few authorities to still have a welfare rights service – who was on incapacity benefit and was moved on to the new employment and support allowance in 2012. This is aimed to be paid to people who cannot work because of severe health problems and is paid at two levels. The lower level is based on a person’s national insurance contributions and the means tested higher level which include premiums and access to other benefits like free prescriptions in England.
Ms U should have fitted into the second category. Ms U suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, arthritis, hypertension, and Graves’ disease an autoimmune condition. But she was wrongly put in the first category. As a result she lost access to free prescriptions and missed out in getting her home insulated under the Warm Homes scheme.
Ms U couldn’t afford to heat her home
Her representative said:” She could not afford to heat her property and could not afford to buy appropriate food to keep healthy. He said Ms U had poor mental health during that period and highlighted links between paranoid beliefs and depression and economic deprivation.
As far as her physical health was concerned, her hair fell out and she lost a lot of weight. Her representative said that since 2012, Ms U’s health had declined markedly: she had recently had a bypass operation, had deep vein thrombosis and poor blood flow in her legs and was due to have a toe amputated.”
Her underpayment went on for over five years from May 2012 to August 2017 before finally her arrears which then added up to £19,832.55 were paid. But she felt she was also entitled to compensation as the error had been committed by the ministry. The Ombudsman agreed in a report she had suffered an injustice and said the Department should pay her £7,500 compensation and interest on the lost benefit of over £19,000.
NAO report forced the department to find 118,000 other cases
She was not alone. An investigation by the National Audit Office found that some 118,000 disabled people had suffered the same fate prompting anger among MPs on the Commons Works and Pensions and the Public Accounts Committee at this huge error. Some £600m has had to be paid in arrears.
The Ombudsman also recommended that the rest of the 118,000 should also get compensation for maladministration and the department should take a proactive approach to deal with this.
It has now emerged that the department has refused to do this – despite the Ombudsman’s recommendation. I am indebted to Professor Robert Thomas at Manchester University and CEDAWinLAW who spotted this in a freedom of information request two days ago. See @RobertThomas223 and his tweet thread of August 5.
He said in a series of tweets:
“This issue is important because @dwp underpaid these people their benefit entitlements and many will have suffered injustice as a result. @PHSOmbudsman recommended that @DWP proactively compensate them. It refused. Affected people must approach DWP instead.
“But many people lack the confidence, stamina and knowledge to seek redress from government. Also, this is a largely vulnerable cohort of people. The result: unremedied injustice because of @dwp
“The underlying issue is, of course, money and almost certainly HM Treasury’s refusal to fund compensation. But the DWP can present itself as being fair: “anyone can contact us” while also knowing that few affected people will actually do so in practice. “
Since seeing this I have contacted Sir Stephen Timms, Labour chair of the Commons Works and Pensions Committee, to see if, as they promised the Ombudsman, the DWP had alerted him to the decision. Initially he said he could not recall getting this and promised to investigate what has happened.
There is another big issue. This could impact on the Waspi campaign and the all party state pension inequality group of MPs to get compensation for women through a report from the Ombudsman. If after the Ombudsman says compensation is due the DWP follows this practice for the 3.8 million – six people will get compensation and the remaining 3.6 million still alive will have to write individual letters outlining their case to the ministry for any money due which will take even more time to resolve. You have been warned.
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Back to 60’s women chronic health conditions never received letter to say pension would be at 66yrs like many other ladies we had paid in to Nat ins to be able to get S.P. To expect us to wait 6 more years is criminal I paid full stamp so what’s there excuse ? Was found to be maladministration by DWP . time we were paid in full also interest they made on withholding our money we demand justice & payment of what’s ours legally many have passed away while GOV & DWP drag there feet .
Shocking negligence !
Why have an Ombudsman then ignore their recommendations. Oh next thing they’ll do away with that role as well.
So does #backto60 and CEDAWinLAW recommend we start drafting the letters whilst we’re still fit enough to fight it??
Why indeed have an Ombudsman Karen. In March 2015, the then CEO of the Patients Association, Katherine Murphy, prepared a report called ‘Labyrinth of Bureaucracy’ which highlighted the failures of the Ombudsman who was eventually replaced in 2017 by the current post holder, Rob Behrens. Katherine actually gave evidence to the Health Select Committee and Chris Skidmore MP, who was at the Cabinet Office at the time, heralded a piece of legislation promising Ombudsman reform. The bill failed to see the light of day due to ‘lack of parliamentary time’.
In June 2020, a group called PHSOtheFacts published a book called “What’s the point of the Ombudsman” (ISBN 9781999929145). I declare making a small contribution to the text. What Katherine Murphy found in 2015 and PHSOtheFacts found in 2020 remains the case today. That is the Ombudsman has sole discretion to decide what and what not to investigate and the various departments of government and the NHS has no obligation to take any notice of him.
A recent letter in the correspondence section of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) website dated 19th July and published on 25th July 2022 illustrates the point perfectly. It is written by the Committee Chairman, William Wragg MP, to Sir James Bevan, CEO of the Environment Agency asking for a reply by 12th September as to why the Agency has not complied in full with recommendations of the Ombudsman.
Add to the mix todays revelation of a leaked report at Dominic Raab’s Ministry of Justice that they are looking to curtail the ability to seek Judicial Review of Government Department actions (the only and expensive course of redress available to the public regarding decisions of the Ombudsman) and the inevitable conclusion is that the whole process is “a swiz”. These were the very words used by Quintin Hogg MP, who led for the Conservatives on the 1967 Ombudsman legislation. He was so right and, as David says, we have been warned. There is a creeping and sinister move to make government less accountable – not more
I also think there is a creeping and sinister move to make government less accountable. Funny how there is never enough parliamentary time to discuss some bills yet there is always time to drone on about brexit and the party leadership campaign.
Hate to bang on about my own case, but I know how it is…they haven’t paid me a penny for over 17 years! Nobody left to complain to…before that years of court proceedings where my landlord basically ignored court orders and illegally evicted me anyway, stealing a circa 4k statuory home loss payment in the process….they then had the nerve to rent out my home for various movies and TV series over the years, most recently Dr Who….Park Hill estate Sheffield.
No hope of getting my life back now and I’m forced to survive off charity all this time, as a slave basically.
It is how it is! They waste millions on these complaint things and court proceedings then g-men ignore orders and findings with immunity. Until perps are gaoled for it’s not going to stop…..they even get to murder people with impunity! They also commit far worse crimes than that….
I am not surprised as DWP I does not compensate for errors. They are incompetent.
more like criminal
Dear David Hencke,
Ladies not members of WASPI Ltd did the letters to the Ombudsman because they were free to download off WASPI’s website and print off.
So the complainants are already beyond 6 ladies, but it is the PHSO that has said they are only looking into 6 ‘sample’ ladies. That is a further maladministration beyond those 6 ladies, because we are all equally complainants.
At no point has the PHSO sent me any update letters of what is happening with my complaint, despite having sent all the letters in the series and gained acknowledgements. Another maladministration.
BackTo60 / CEDAW is not the PHSO complaint at all, but an entirely different campaign about bringing the international treaty of CEDAW rights of women and girls into UK domestic internal law.
My Grey Swans campaign does not campaign into the Tory government or the parties on the opposite parliament benches to get debates to change Tory government’s mind.
My campaign is to gain moral support for a new party to be created, that in government by your kind votes in next general election, to grant £35,000 compensation to 1950s ladies (whatever crumbs given to maybe only a few ladies), pension age 60 for 1960s ladies, works pension age 50 for 1970s born, and so much more for Grey Vote, as well as policies for people aged 50 and over.
www over50sparty org uk
My parents and brother and other members of my family died before receiving their pension’s, I have worked all my life and raised 2 boys on my own,had to wait until 66 for mine, now with health issues and the NHS under staff it’s not easy,waspi women paid in for their pension so as we just get on with it !!! life is hard to as for help, just give us what was promised years ago
just another good reason to drink myself to death before 50 😦
As I have said before, an impotent ombudsman, without teeth, is a total waste of the country’s time and resources. Are these jobs given to Boris’ pals or those whom he owes a favour? I suspect that is the point: a dishonest government like Boris’ will just see our complaints as a good excuse to get rid of them so there is no-one to whom they are accountable for their excesses! Once again, still more distressed at the corrupt country in which we live….
Like many others, I began by following the DWP’s lengthy complaints procedure, and I explained in detail what maladministration had taken place and how it had affected me. Their reply each time was that they were not going to revert to paying women SP at 60, which was never the point. I assume this was a broken record, blocking technique to encourage people to give up, or to delay things long enough so that the majority of 1950s women would be dead before any compensation was paid out. Many 1950s women have died before getting justice, and the government continues to do nothing at all. The rest of us fight on.
Waspi women are not going to be compensated if Liz Truss becomes PM she has just made that perfectly clear on The People’s Forum debate with Alastair Stewart GB News
Rishi has said exactly the same…
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