Are you a JSA/ESA claimant and have you been sanctioned? If so, it’s important to take effective action promptly. You have a right to appeal. Currently only one claimant in three appeals a sanction. This is far too few, because the statistics show that the success rate of appeals is currently over 50 per cent. In other words your chance of success is better than evens. In fact, everyone should appeal, because even where sanctions are legally justified, the penalties have become unreasonably harsh.
If you don’t appeal and you then get another sanction within 12 months, the next one will be longer. So you MUST appeal every sanction even if you think you can cope with it.
A) JSA legislation
- higher level sanctions (for example for leaving a job voluntarily) will lead to claimants losing all of their JSA for a fixed period of 13 weeks for a first failure, 26 weeks for a second failure and 156 weeks for a third and subsequent failure (within a 52 week period of their last failure)
- intermediate level sanctions of 4 weeks for a first failure, rising to 13 weeks for a second or subsequent failures (within a 52 week period of their last failure) may be applied following a period of disallowance for not actively seeking employment or not being available for work
- lower level sanctions (for example for failing to attend an adviser interview) will lead to claimants losing all of their JSA for a fixed period of 4 weeks for the first failure, followed by 13 weeks for subsequent failures (within a 52 week period of their last failure)” https://www.gov.uk/government/news/benefit-sanctions-ending-the-something-for-nothing-culture
B) ESA legislation
The Employment and Support Allowance (Sanctions) (Amendment) Regulations 2012
(Summary and explanatory note: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2012/2756/note/made)
“The new sanctions regime for people on ESA in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) was introduced from 3 December 2012. Under the new rules ESA claimants in the WRAG who fail to comply with the conditions for receiving benefit receive an open ended sanction, followed by a fixed period sanction when they re-comply. The fixed period sanction will be 1 week for a first failure, 2 weeks for a second failure and 4 weeks for a third and subsequent failures in a 52 week period.” https://www.gov.uk/government/news/benefit-sanctions-ending-the-something-for-nothing-culture
C) Decision Makers Guidance: JSA DMG 37/12
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/decision-makers-guide-memos-staff-guide (Contains examples of how sanctions are applied and ended)
64. Application of a sanction to a new award.
Example: “A sanction decision has been made on Karen’s award of JSA. This sanction is due to a disallowance on availability grounds on a previous award of JSA. The sanction is due to end on 12.11.12 but Karen finds remunerative work and her award of JSA ends on 26.10.12. Karen’s temporary job comes to an end and she makes a new claim for JSA with a date of claim of 8.11.12. This award of JSA will be sanctioned with a sanction running from the date of claim to 12.11.12 because there was still an outstanding sanction on her last award of JSA…
68. From 22.10.12 if a claimant becomes re–entitled to JSA after being in employment for
- 26 weeks or more or
- more than one period of employment where the total of those periods amount to at least 26 weeks
the balance of the most recent sanctionable failure will be lifted and not applied to the new award.
The process of appealing to the first stage, after the DWP has sent you their Decision Letter, is an internal ‘mandatory reconsideration’ by DWP. It is simple and doesn’t cost anything apart from telephone calls, stamps or fares. https://www.gov.uk/appeal-benefit
You have to contact the DWP within 1 month of the Decision Letter to ask for mandatory reconsideration, or 1 month and 14 days if you also asked for written statement of reasons for the sanction. The DWP does not have to respond within any set period, but you should contact them if there is a delay of more than a month to make sure your request is being progressed. Although you should try to keep to the appeal timetable, you may be able to make a late appeal up to 13 months after the original decision.
It’s quite common for the Jobcentre to stop your money without sending you a letter telling you the reason for the sanction. If this happens, or if the reason is unclear, request a written statement of reasons immediately. You cannot draft an effective appeal without knowing for certain why you have been sanctioned. If you ask for a written statement, you get an extra two weeks (14 days) to lodge your appeal. But in any case, if you have not been sent a decision letter, that will be grounds for a late appeal.
The DWP Decision Letter will contain a contact telephone number. But even if you discuss the issue over the phone, you should make sure that you submit any Mandatory Reconsideration appeal in writing, in order to have a clear record. Should the DWP telephone and ask you whether you are going to request reconsideration, you should state that you are considering appealing and you will only be responding in writing.
Giving your appeal reasons by telephone risks misinterpretation by the DWP or – worse – you might give the DWP information that appears to support its decision to sanction.
Don’t try to appeal without getting a second opinion from someone else as it is vital to say exactly the right things in your appeal statement. There are probably several good sources of advice locally: your Council’s Welfare Rights Team, the Citizens Advice Bureau, or a Law Centre. (See item 11) If you can’t get to one of these, then ask whoever you know who you think can help you the best. There are many grounds of appeal, for instance if you had a good reason for what you did or didn’t do, and your adviser is quite likely to suggest grounds that you hadn’t thought of.
If you have been treated unreasonably, then you should make a point of complaining to your MP (http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mps/) and insisting that they should fight your case on your behalf. There is no evidence on how many sanctioned claimants are going to their MP, but there is a lot of evidence that the DWP is very afraid of MPs and that once they are involved, it backs off imposing sanctions. The DWP is desperate to keep MPs’ support for the sanctions system. Making sure that your MP knows how unfairly sanctions are being applied is one of the best ways of helping your fellow claimants. The sooner Parliament faces up to the scale of abuse in the system, the sooner it will be reformed.
Even if you are sanctioned, you may still be entitled to ‘hardship payments’. Make sure you get the information on these from the Jobcentre immediately and get your claim in on time. If you apply late you may be able to get backdating. You will only get hardship payments if you continue to sign on for JSA or ESA. Hardship payments are also available under Universal Credit, although there are some differences in the rules.
Explanatory leaflet (JSA), Claim forms (JSA/ESA/Universal Credit) and DWP guidance http://refuted.org.uk/2014/10/10/hardshiprecoverable/
Code of Appeals Procedure https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/code_of_appeals_procedure#incoming-615420
You must also contact your Housing Benefit/Council Tax Reduction office immediately you know you’ve been sanctioned. Even if you are sanctioned, you remain entitled to Housing Benefit/CTR, but you may need to make a new claim. There is lots of evidence that many sanctioned claimants are running up big rent arrears as a result of having their Housing Benefit cut off, and not being able to get it backdated. This is an extra penalty you simply don’t need and don’t deserve.
If you are unemployed, you should keep claiming. This means you must keep signing on, and meeting jobsearch requirements, even while you are not getting benefit due to a sanction. There is one possible exception to this, in that even while sanctioned you could be subject to another sanction for not meeting requirements. This would be serious as the Coalition has now introduced a more rapidly escalating scale of penalties for repeat ‘failures’. If you feel your Jobcentre adviser/coach is abusive or cannot be trusted, you should therefore make a complaint about them straight away.
If you stop claiming but later need to claim again, you may have to serve any balance remaining on the sanction, if the time period for the original sanction has not passed when a new claim is made. For exceptions, examples and explanations: http://refuted.org.uk/sanctions/newregime/
If you feel that your Jobcentre adviser/coach is abusive or cannot be trusted, then seek advice immediately from your Council’s Welfare Rights Team, the Citizens Advice Bureau, or a Law Centre (See item 11) or your MP, who should help you to make a complaint and get transferred to another adviser.
If you are unsuccessful at the ‘mandatory reconsideration’ stage, then you have the right to make a further appeal, to an independent Tribunal. If you have a strong case and intervention by your MP has not worked, then you should definitely go on to the Tribunal stage. This may sound intimidating, but it is quite informal, There are no fees and you can claim expenses. You have the right to attend in person and you should always do so as many cases are decided on the ‘balance of probabilities’ and the judge is likely to believe what you say even if you cannot prove it. If you are not there, the judge will not be so sure whether to believe you. If at all possible, you should have a representative from your Council’s Welfare Rights Team, the Citizens Advice Bureau, or a Law Centre. (See item 11) as they will know the law better than you do and will help you make the best arguments. There are no fees and you can claim expenses
There are more details and application form at: https://www.gov.uk/social-security-child-support-tribunal/appeal-direct-tribunal
DWP Contractors & Requests for Personal Information held about you (Subject Access Requests) If your sanction involves a DWP contractor you can also submit a request for your personal information (Subject Access Request) for copies of any forms or information about you submitted by them to the Jobcentre. See https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-work-pensions/about/personal-information-charter
You can also request copies of any provider letters that notified mandatory activity. Support provided by refuted has more often than not shown these forms, letters and information contain significant mistakes or fail to follow DWP provider guidance or are simply confusing, which can lead to sanctions being overturned or process stopped. However, DWP only has to respond to a Subject Access Request within 40 calendar days. This means that it is not worth waiting for the result before submitting your request for mandatory reconsideration. Any information it reveals will have to be given to your MP or used at a Tribunal.
Jobseeker Directions/Jobseeker Agreements/Claimant Commitments
If your sanction is based upon alleged non compliance with any Jobseeker Directions/Jobseeker Agreements/Claimant Commitments, it is suggested you seek an independent opinion as to whether they are reasonable to your personal circumstances. They can also be formulated in ways that are contrary to DWP guidance or written in ways that are confusing. If they are found to be unreasonable, contrary to DWP guidance or simply confusing, this can lead to sanctions being overturned. The question an appeal Tribunal will look at is whether what you did was reasonable.
There are a number of ways in which you can make a complaint about the DWP.
Complain about Jobcentre Plus https://www.gov.uk/complain-jobcentre-plus
Got a complaint about a DWP Work Programme Provider? http://refuted.org.uk/2013/10/13/providercomplaint/
However, you should bear in mind that all of these complaints procedures move very slowly and the amount of compensation, if any, that you eventually receive is likely to be small. You are likely to need help in making a complaint from your CAB. Therefore you should concentrate on making sure that you get your request for reconsideration in, and if necessary complain to your MP.
Information from: http://refuted.org.uk/2014/08/06/sanctionstips/
Advice from the CAB
If you want to challenge a decision made about a benefit, you need to make sure you follow the right procedure if you want to try and get the decision changed.
This page tells you more about the appeals process you should follow for benefits paid by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). For benefits paid by HMRC, the procedure to follow depends on when the decision was made.
These pages do not cover challenging decisions on Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction.
Benefits paid by the Department for Work and Pensions
Benefits paid by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are:
Disability Living Allowance
Employment and Support Allowance
Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
Personal Independence Payment
Severe Disablement Allowance
Social Fund payments
Benefits paid by HM Revenue and Customs
Child Tax Credit
Working Tax Credit.
Challenging a DWP benefit decision
When was the decision made
It is important to check the date when the decision about your benefit was made. This is important because if you want to challenge the decision, you must do so within certain time limits.
Your decision letter will tell you the date of the decision and also whether you have the right of appeal.
Asking for the decision to be looked at again
If you want to change a DWP benefit decision, you have to ask the DWP to look at the decision again before you can appeal. This is called mandatory reconsideration.
You must normally ask for a DWP decision to be looked at again within one month of the date of the decision. This deadline may be extended if there are special circumstances why you couldn’t apply within the time limit.
The DWP decision letter will say whether mandatory reconsideration applies and tell you how to ask for it. You will usually be able to ask for a reconsideration over the phone or in writing, but it best to apply in writing or to confirm your phone call in writing.
You can’t appeal until you get a decision from the DWP on your request for a reconsideration. This is called a mandatory reconsideration notice.
Appealing against a DWP benefit decision
If you disagree with the outcome of the reconsideration, you can then appeal directly to an independent tribunal. You must send a written appeal directly to HM Courts and Tribunal Service, not to the DWP. This is known as direct lodgement.
If you decide to appeal, your appeal must arrive at the Tribunal Service within one month of the date on your mandatory reconsideration notice. This time limit can only be extended in special circumstances.
Challenging an HMRC benefit decision
When was the decision made?
It is important to check when the decision on your tax credit or HMRC benefit was made so you can work out which appeals process to use.
For decisions made on or after 6 April 2014
You will have to ask for a mandatory reconsideration of your benefit or tax credit decision before you can appeal.
The time limit for asking for a mandatory reconsideration is:
30 days from the date of the decision for Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit decisions
one month from the date of the decision for Child Benefit and Guardian’s Allowance decisions.
These time limits may be extended in special circumstances.
For decisions made before 6 April 2014
In most cases, it is too late to challenge a decision that was made before 6 April 2014.
However, HMRC can accept late challenges on a decision using the old appeals system up to 13 months after it was made if you have a good reason why your challenge is late. This could be, for example, because you’ve been in hospital, coping with bereavement or living abroad.
If the time limit for challenging the decision has run out and you are not sure what to do, you can get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
More useful information
For a copy of the HMRC factsheet ‘Tax credits: if you think a decision is wrong’, including a reconsideration request form, go to www.gov.uk.
For a copy of the HMRC factsheet ‘Child Benefit or Guardian’s Allowance: if you think a decision is wrong’, including a reconsideration request form, go to www.gov.uk.
HM Courts & Tribunals Service
The Video the UK Government want banned….
Published: Jun 30, 2012
Sue Marsh wrote about a video by the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) that had been taken off YouTube again. The video was pulled after less than a week, on the orders of senior officials. Independent benefits expert Neil Bateman discovered that the video was taken down after employment minister Chris Grayling emailed the ministry complaining about it.
Why does Chris Grayling find the video offensive? Because it tells claimants:
They are twice as likely to win their appeal if they appear in person rather than having a paper hearing;
That the DWP doesn’t normally send a representative to the hearing;
To send additional evidence to the tribunal, when Grayling wants it sent to the DWP.