DWP Sanctions. What can you do if you do get sanctioned? If you aren’t able to access help, this document gives advice on how to appeal & gives CAB information for BANES.

Sanctions can also make it harder for unemployed people to find work; travel to interviews, purchase suitable clothes and can “de-motivate people from engaging with the system”.

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “The Government has assured us that benefit sanctions are only for those who refuse to play by the rules. But evidence is mounting of a punitive and deeply flawed regime.

“Sanctions are cruel and can leave people at severe risk of homelessness – cold, hungry and utterly destitute. At the same time, people who are already homeless can struggle to meet the conditions of the regime. Many are trying to rebuild their lives, and losing the support of benefits can be disastrous.

“This isn’t helping people into work. It’s kicking them when they’re down.

We know it doesn’t happen exactly as this page may imply but we hope it can sign post you, on what to do, if you (or anyone you know) does get a sanction.

The first thing to establish is why you are being sanctioned. The DWP should issue a letter explaining their decision which will give their reasons.

What should you do if you are wrongly sanctioned?

You need to appeal in writing against the decision. Put a letter into the DWP office stating that you wish to appeal. Keep a copy and telephone them afterwards to check they have received it. In practice, DWP rules require that any letter that mentions an appeal should be treated as such.

How long do you have to appeal?

You must appeal within one month of the DWP letter.

What happens when you appeal?

Sometimes the DWP will reverse their decision on receiving your appeal letter. If they reject your appeal, then the matter will be sent to the Tribunal Service which arranges hearings.

What happens next?

The Tribunal Service will write to you asking if you want to go ahead. You should reply in writing and the Tribunal Service will list a date and place for the Tribunal to be heard near you.

What will the DWP do if the case goes to the Tribunal?

The DWP draws up a bundle of documents which are sent to you via the Tribunal Service. Don’t be put off by the size of this.The DWP bundle will only give details of law which is favourable to them. However, it won’t include cases or points which are favourable to you or any facts in your favour.

You have to tell the Tribunal the facts and your point of view which is important.

What is the Tribunal?

Following changes, social security appeal tribunals are now known as the ‘Lower Tier Tribunal’. In the past the tribunals used to have three members but increasingly they are now heard by a legally qualified Judge who sits alone.

What arguments can be used at the Tribunal?

There are lots of potential arguments, and in most case there will be an issue which the DWP has overlooked, known as “failing to consider a relevant fact”. In a number of cases, sanctions should not be imposed where there is good cause for the claimant doing what he/she did – in other words there are reasons or mitigating circumstances.

For example, if you are sanctioned for being late at an interview or not turning up, you may have what is called ‘good cause’ for not having done what you were told or what was expected of you. For example, in one recent case, a person was sanctioned for missing an interview when he was actually undertaking a DWP approved study course at the time. In other cases, the DWP may simply lose the information you have sent and cut off benefit.

Good cause is not defined in law, so there may be all kinds of good reasons why you should not be sanctioned which the DWP decision maker did not know about.

What happens at the Tribunal?

Appeals are heard before a single Judge and can be dealt with quite quickly. Tribunals concentrate on finding the facts. In a lot of cases, the DWP do not turn up for the hearing. They tend to be informal, being held sitting round a table at the Tribunal office and are thus different to courts. However, they are serious proceedings and the Judges have wide powers to correct DWP errors.

Can a friend come with you?

You are entitled to have a friend or relative to come along to the Tribunal with you. They can be an adviser or representative, or support – what is known as a “McKenzie friend“. They can help you take notes and present your case, and give you confidence and support.

What evidence should the Tribunal look at?

The Tribunal Judge will look at your appeal letter and the documents from the DWP and then ask questions. Anyone who knows about your circumstances can give evidence. A lot of evidence is given by simply answering the questions from the Judge. However, the tribunal should look at any other evidence you bring along.

What sort of evidence can be considered?

There is a wide range of evidence which can be considered. You can bring witnesses who can confirm what you say or talk to the Judge direct. If you are on medication, bring a doctor’s letter, hospital letters and examples of all your medicines to show the tribunal. Potentially any document, film or photo can be used as evidence.

What happens at the end of the hearing?

The Tribunal Judge makes a decision. Sometimes it will be given to you immediately. Sometimes it will be later and a copy is always given in writing. If you succeed in your appeal then the sanction will be cancelled and any money restored.

Are there further rights of appeal?

Yes, there are further rights of appeal, on points of law beyond the Tribunal, and cases eventually can reach the Courts.If you are appealing, wherever possible get legal advice or guidance from any advice or support agency. Useful books on all aspects of social security law are issued by the Child Poverty Action Group.

The Government ought to be worried about the impact of the appeals, not just on claimants but also about how DWP centres will cope if they get lots of appeals. Recently, one DWP employee stated his office would struggle with more than 6 appeals in a month. In fact it seemed to collapse with just one!

 

 

CITIZENS ADVICE CONTACT INFORMATION – BATH & NORTH EAST SOMERSET

If you decide to appeal against a decision about your benefits, you can get support from your local Citizens Advice office – see contact details below :-

CITIZENS ADVICE NATIONAL GUIDANCE WEBSITE : www.adviceguide.org.uk   This is an excellent website, containing a huge amount of information about benefits, housing, employment, debt, family/ relationships, consumer rights and immigration. As it is a national resource, it is updated regularly.

TELEPHONE ADVICE TIMES – MONDAY TO FRIDAY 10.00 – 16.00

You can call Citizens Advice on 0344 848 7919 to have an introductory interview over the phone to help decide how you can best be advised. This could be followed up by either a face-to-face appointment in a local Citizens Advice office or via the phone at a later date. Please note that if you call outside of open hours you will receive recorded advice. Calls to Citizen’s Advice phone service will be charged at five pence per minute from a landline and may cost considerably more from mobile and other phones.

 

CITIZENS ADVICE DROP-IN SERVICES IN BATH, MIDSOMER NORTON AND KEYNSHAM : OPENING TIMES AND GENERAL INFORMATION

When you drop in to one of these offices, you will be offered an initial assessment interview lasting about 15 minutes. The staff may be able to help you straight away or, in more complex cases, will arrange a longer appointment – either face-to-face in one of our local offices or over the phone.

BATH OFFICE : One Stop Shop, Lewis House, Manvers Street, Bath BA1 1JG .

Opening times : Mondays, Wednesday & Fridays, 9.30 – 2.00pm

KEYNSHAM OFFICE : One Stop Shop , Keynsham Civic Centre, Market Walk, Keynsham, Bristol, BS31 1FS

Opening times : Mondays & Thursdays, 10.00 – 2.00pm

 

MIDSOMER NORTON OFFICE: The Hollies, High Street, Midsomer Norton, Somerset, BA3 2DP.

Opening times : Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Fridays, 9.30 – 2.00pm

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