I accompanied someone to a compliance interview today. Let’s call her Sally. The DWP compliance office is concerned with investigating possible benefit fraud.
Well, we hardly had to say anything. The Compliance Officer was visibly upset, and very apologetic. She explained that the DWP has software that allows it to trawl through private bank records to find accounts in the name of benefit claimants that had not been declared. Where this happens a letter is sent automatically, warning of a forthcoming telephone compliance interview.
She told us that the DWP seems to have made a decision to target the most disabled and vulnerable people (those in the support group) who have set up small ISA savings accounts to try and put a bit of money aside. Last week all she saw was people who were so vulnerable that they had case workers and similar with them.
She explained that a similar situation had happened with pensioners, where very frail old people had ended up at her desk for triflingly small second bank accounts. She had to call an ambulance for some of them. She eventually told her bosses that she refused to do any more routine compliance checks on frail elderly pensioners.
She has seen the same thing happening in the last week or so with the most vulnerable disabled people. She said she is going to refuse to see any more of these cases, they should not be being brought in for interview. She felt it completely inappropriate to be carrying out these compliance interviews by phone.
There used to be a system that exempted some categories of people from these interviews. The officer was vague about what these categories are, but one was of people who had been given 6 months or less to live. She wasn’t even sure that these exceptions still exist but was going to find out. She felt it was all wrong to have hauled Sally up for a compliance interview, and had a gut feeling that Sally falls into one of these categories.
Sally had received one of these letters threatening a telephone compliance interview. Sally suffers from a whole raft of physical and mental health issues that leave her confused and very anxious. A friend brought her to our local group, and I was able to ring the compliance service and have the interview switched to a face to face interview, where I would accompany her.
Sally presented her bank statements, showing the piddlingly small amount of money in her savings ISA. Her bank had persuaded her to open this account which is actually completely inappropriate for her as she does not pay income tax, but she gets confused. She had hoped to be able to make a small saving each month but had been unable to keep this up. Like so many others, she struggles to find the money for heating and there is nothing left to save.
Th compliance officer was required to request a statement of Sally’s savings account back to 2013. The DWP wants to know that there haven’t been huge sums of undeclared money entering and leaving the account. The Compliance officer said that Sally needn’t go through the stress and the disruption of returning a second time with these documents, I could come to the interview without her.
I wonder how many other people are being hit with this? I know of several.