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Genuine case of distress - please can you help? DWP Investigation


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I've also posted this in benefits forum as I'm not sure which is right, apologies to administrators, please advise if I need to remove either posting.

 

Hi All

 

This one is urgent as I'm genuinely worried about the mental state of the subject.

 

Long one this, writing on behalf of somebody else who is in genuine need of some urgent advice. I am not familiar with benefits or their correct terms so apologies in advance if I sound like I'm not sure what I'm talking about!

 

A relative of mine (46 year old lady) has several illnesses and disabilities, but works part-time and is also a student. The illnesses include stage 3 kidney failure, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic asthma (3 x medication and machine is required), anxiety and depression (treated for 4 years).

 

The lady has received mobility for 17 years and was awarded it for life about 10 years ago. Due to working, also receives Disability Tax Credits. No carers allowance is claimed as the lady can do most day to day living activities on her own and only needs assistance when things get very bad.

 

About 2 weeks ago, she received a letter from the benefits agency (I assume DWP) saying that she was being investigated and had to come in today (4th Nov) for an interview under caution. She was really stressed but unsure what it was about and they refused to discuss by telephone and wouldn't move the appointment to a sooner time. Having suffered two weeks of stress, not sleeping and not eating, she went with her daughter today for the interview.

 

They produced a stack of photographs taken over the Summer months of her going about her activities, the most physical of which was putting shopping in her boot and carrying her baby grandchild from the house to the car. They also produced statements from her employers stating that she has never told them she was disabled (she always chose not to as she didn't want to be treated differently, pitied, and her job is not physical). If ever they changed her duties to include anything physical she would have told them at that point to allow them to make reasonable adjustments, but it was completely unnecessary up to now. Her attendance is good but she only works 14 hours per week on two 'shifts'.

 

In the interview, they were really aggressive with her, trying to bully her into saying she was guilty of fraud. They'd stopped her benefits from now. She got really distressed in the meeting but just kept telling them that she is genuinely ill and is entitled to what she claims and to her mobility car, without which she would be stranded. (they said they accept fully that she has all of the medical conditions) but claim that she is more mobile than she made out in her last forms 2.5 years ago. She explained that she is, as she has lost almost 3 stone in weight and has new medication, but is still disabled, immobile and has no quality of life without the car. She became so upset and distraught that her daughter had to beg them to give her a break.

 

Off tape afterwards, they told her they will likely prosecute and she needs to plead guilty now to save herself the distresslink3.gif as the courts will find her guilty on the evidence and if she pleads guilty now, they will deal with it quickly for her. They also said that if she doesnt go and hand the car back in, she'll be paying for it herself from now (an expense she can not in anyway afford). They said she needs to write in to them within the next week and plead guilty to make it easier on herself.

 

Since she came home, she can hardly speak between sobs, won't eat and we're all really worried about her. She's decided she has no choice but to lie down and let them treat her this way and she will not be a prisoner in her own home with no car, so her quality of life is over.

 

We've pleaded with her to fight and to go and see a solicitor but she's believed their bullying tactics and thinks its over before it's begun and letting it go to court will just make it worse for her and she'll go to prison.

 

Is there anybody that can please advise us on what is the best way to handle this so that we can try to convince her that she has the right to fight and it's not automatically over. Can she keep the car while we look into this or has she no way of keeping her mobility going throughout?

 

This is genuinely not a case of a sponger milking the system for a free car and benefits. Please help advise us if you can.

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Hello I think this is best posted exclusively in the benefits forum to save confusion so as there are not yet replies will delete the other thread.

No doubt there will be some response here later as at this time the site is a little quiet.

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OK, this is a tricky one - I don't know about the specifics (like, for example, the possibility of conviction or the likely penalties) but there is one key point to take from all of this. She must not enter any plea, guilty or otherwise, without taking legal advice from a suitably experienced solicitor. I can't stress this enough. Even if she intends to plead guilty, she should talk to a solicitor before doing so.

 

It is in the investigators' interests to bully her into something that will make their lives easier, but it's not in hers.

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Sorry, should add just a little more. There are two reasons why I took the approach in my previous post. Well, three, actually.

 

1) I understand from your description that you do not consider her to be guilty of fraud. I'm not qualified to judge that, though I'm certainly sympathetic to your point of view. But there are consequences to pleading guilty even if she were factually guilty (I repeat, I'm not saying that is the case) involving defendants waiving various rights and so on. She needs to be aware of this even if she is minded to plead guilty - an act which, if she believes herself to be factually innocent, seems unwise in the extreme. Which leads me to:

 

2) A solicitor might help you talk her out of pleading guilty. Certainly, no responsible solicitor would advise a client to plead guilty without a basic understanding of the facts of the case.

 

And one other thing. Although your post was detailed and clear, there are differences between admitting an offence to a DWP inspector and accepting some form of penalty (which can indeed avoid the whole criminal prosecution route), and actually taking the matter to trial in a criminal court. The court is required to presume innocence, for example; the DWP isn't. So for that reason also, she needs legal advice. My reading of the situation you've described is that she is being asked to confess to fraud to the DWP fraud team in exchange for not being prosecuted. That's not quite the same as "pleading guilty" in the criminal trial sense, but since you and she believe she is not guilty, it still seems that it would be unwise.

 

Short version of all this? She needs to speak to a lawyer before doing anything at all.

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Hello there. Your poor relative.

 

A good place to try is the local CAB. They should have contacts with lawyers who have the right experience.

 

Please let us know how it goes.

 

My best, HB

Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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The lady has received mobility for 17 years and was awarded it for life about 10 years ago.

 

Irrelevant. It doesn't matter how long the award is for. Any changes in the way the illness/disability effects you must be reported.

 

but claim that she is more mobile than she made out in her last forms 2.5 years ago. She explained that she is, as she has lost almost 3 stone in weight and has new medication.

 

So your relative has admitted not reporting a change. The last review form, photo evidence & employers statement will just back this up.

 

 

If she is invited back for another IUC then an solicitor with benefit experience would advisable, but if the case has already been set to a decision maker it's going to be a long waiting game for the next few months.

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Her attendance is good but she only works 14 hours per week on two 'shifts'.

 

She can't claim working tax credits if she only works 14 hours. You have to work 16 hours (I think there's something about averaging it out over 4 weeks if your hours vary) a week to qualify.

 

has no quality of life without the car.

 

She can't use this as an argument. There's criteria to meet.

 

Any changes in the way the illness/disability effects you must be reported.

 

It tells you this on any letter you receive from DWP.

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Thanks everyone for your advice.

 

There hasn't been a change in her mobility as such, that should affect her rights anyway. She was originally awarded mobility due to the chronic asthma as it was that bad, she couldn't walk more than 300 yards without getting out of breath. She used to often be hospitalised years back but now has a home machine and a car one. This condition is still the same and she has to drive everywhere. We went shopping at a huge shopping centre once and even though there was disabled parking, part way round the shopping centre she was so bad, she was on her knees and security had to help us get her car to a loading bay to get to her machine. DWP invesigators have no photographs of her walking anywhere - because she doesn't.

 

Since she was first awarded it, she has also developed rheumatoid arthritis - but this can't be treated with the normal medication due to her chronic asthma, so she has to have injections instead. When she first has them, she is more mobile and then gradually deteriorates until the next one. Last year, she was diagnosed with duplex kidneys and after being admitted to hospital again, was found to be in stage 3 kidney failure.

 

When she filled the forms in, she explained her usual asthma conditions, which are unchanged and that she had developed arthritis too, which makes mobility more difficult and she struggles to lift and carry things (and she does when it gets bad with both cold/damp weather or when due an injection into her spine). She didn't claim to be less mobile in an attempt to qualify for mobility, she had it anyway due to her asthma condition, she was merely updating them on her medical problems and her mobility was affected more then. Her doctor advised weight loss to help with the spine and she was on a medicated programme and lost 3 stone which has eased her problems. This was in the last year and she didn't even think to report it as a change in circumstances because really, it isn't, not one which changes her needs anyway.

 

So in effect, although her symptoms have eased in the last two years for some of her conditions, they were not the conditions that she was awarded the original mobility for and wouldn't affect her claim, but she did detail them all on the form as an update as that was how the questions were based.

 

She has always maintained her own day to day living needs, shopping, cleaning etc and has almost always worked.

 

The photos they have show her shopping and carrying her grandchild in her arms to the car. She is not running a marathon, skiiing or even doing the Lambeth Walk.

 

Without her car, she goes nowhere and now has to give her job up too, she can't get there on public transport but we wouldn't allow it anyway because she isn't well enough.

 

Her job is working in a womens refuge. She arrives late at night to take over the evening worker, goes to bed and sleeps through the night. She has her machine with her and hasn't seen her employers in over a year. She is 'on call' from her bed in case of incidents and gets called up on average once every two or three months if they have a nuisance visitor or a very late admittance. It is 16, not 14 hours that she works, but sleeps the shift.

 

They haven't asked her to plead guilty in return for not going to court, they have said if she pleads guilty, they will rush the case through court for her to make it easier, but if she pleads not guilty and is found guilty, she may go to prison. She is terrified.

 

Another main concern is that she is now stranded, without her car she can't go anywhere and with the anxiety and depression, we are scared that being a prisoner at home will tip her over the edge. She has two children who both work fulltime and so do I, so it's hard to keep an eye on her. She has no partner.

 

We are heavily encouraging her to see a solicitor but is there any appeal system whereby she can keep the car (and therefore her job too) whilst she awaits the court case?

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High rate mobility is for the most severe walking difficulties. They must be pretty sure she does not meet the criteria to mention court.

I am suprised she did not tell her employer if she is to be relied to deal with problems in a refuge and yet might find her condition affects that role on occassions, the employer would need to have been told, hence their suprise that she was ill.

She really needs to see a solicitor and talk to her doctor to see if he considers her as severe walking impaired.

 

I thought to qualify for high rate you cant walk 100m, might be wrong.

 

Its not the illness itself that gets the award but how if afects on day to day basis, If they have watched her for some time and seen no evidence of illness or discomfort they would have queried high rate and why she had not told them she had a change of circumstance as previously said life awards mean nothing, everyone is being reviewed.

Edited by watchinginvestigation2011
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http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/MoneyTaxAndBenefits/BenefitsTaxCreditsAndOtherSupport/Disabledpeople/DG_10012424

Did she notify that her medication had been changed? It is ine of the change in circumstances that needs to be reported as potentially health conditions can either improve or deteriorate.

Although I can understand her not telling her employers about her conditions as she didn't want to be treated any differently it doesn't look good if she is claiming for HR mobility which is there to help people with mobility issues for day to day living.

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Thanks Watching. Her doctor has always said she is severely impaired for walking due to the distance she can cover and it was actually her doctor who suggested registering as disabled originally as she hadnt realised that she could get assistance for chronic asthma. Her doctor has always fully and strongly supported her claims and supplied detailed medical information about her abilities in the past.

 

I work in HR and I always assumed that she had made her employers aware that she was disabled but she said when she applied for the job, she was scared that they wouldn't give it to her because they thought she might be absent often so she never told them and hasn't since. She tells me that she would have told them if her job role ever changed in a way that would affect her ability to do it properly but it never has. She is fairly niaive and honestly thought that saying she was ill would affect her job. both at application stage and since. However, she is also a student and her college are fully aware of her condition and made adjustments for her. Students can't use the lifts for example but she has a pass and can also park in the compound near the building. She admits that she told her college and not her employers because the college wouldn't disqualify her because of her needs but she assumed her employers would. When she is called up in the night due to an incident, her role is to call the emergency services for an unwelcome visitor or to complete the paperwork to admit an emergency case. She has to do nothing physically demanding. In a morning she completes a report about anything that happened (or not) in the shift and then goes home.

 

The puzzling thing to me is that the talk of 'plead guilty' and we'll make it easier for you, this is going to court etc and they even told her she will be found guilty as if they are the jury and will go to prison as if they are the judge! All of this conversation happened off tape after the interview and if they were not bullying or misleading her, why not say it all while the tape was running?

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Thanks Flump. her medication has changed a few times for different conditions but her asthma medication and use of the machine (which was the basis of her mobility award for several years) hasn't changed. I think that her problem here is that she was awarded disability (I really don't know whether this is HR or any other rate, I'm not familiar with the terms) but anyway, she was awarded it for her asthma and this has never changed, neither in medication or ability. She has added other conditions to her forms as they have arose but has genuinely never understood that these have any significance to her award as such because she was awarded it for the one condition originally. Conditions since have arose, medication has changed, abilities have changed for the worse and better throughout, but nothing has changed about her original condition and I think this is where she has failed to update as it wasn't relevant in her mind to the original problem. I personally think that's a fair defence but I'm not legally qualified.

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I think then, Watching, that's it's the higher rate as I know she uses the motability scheme at a local dealers. Her condition means that she can get in and out of the car ok, walk normally etc, but a few hundred up the road walking or after climbing more than one storey of stairs, she will suddenly go bright red and purple in the face, her breathing becomes difficult and when severe, she drops to her knees and can't move until her handheld medication starts to return her breathing to normal enough for her to get up or return to her car. This isn't an occasional thing, it happens fairly frequently and is worse in the Winter and damp weather. Our fear is that her Grandma and her Mother both died very young (Grandma was 34, her Mum was 36) from chronic asthma attack and her Dad died young (50) from lung disease. She has the same condition as her Mum and Grandma and it's made worse by the same environments. her doctor has always detailed her illness as severely impairing her walking, not because of her physical ability to walk, but for the affect it has on her chest.

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I thought to qualify for high rate you cant walk 100m, might be wrong.

 

It also depends on speed, manner, etc. So, if you can walk 100m but it takes you 10 minutes and you have to constantly stop, you may qualify. It's 100m before pain, discomfort, etc.

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Thanks Nystagmite. I think that's why she qualified. On leaving the house/car she can walk 100m with some ease, but when she has an attack, the walk back to the vehicle/home/assistance is more of a crawl and takes a long time with lots of stops. I know that this issue was assessed some time ago, as in the fact that she can walk 100m etc without difficulty, but not in reverse. I understand that years back, her doctor did a detailed report about why her walking difficulties were not of 'the norm' as they were not as apparent and she had to go for a DWP medical assessment to explain. The photographs were all taken in the Summer months anyway when she is more well, but she knows that she had several incidents throughout the Summer and can't understand why they would only show her photographs of her shopping etc and not have taken pictures of her becoming ill while out because she knows that she definitely has several times over the last few months. Do they 'cherry pick' the evidence or is this not a practice they perform? It just seems too much of a coincidence to us that they happen to have not being watching her on all of the days that she became ill while out. She has been helped back to her car by strangers on more than one occasion during the 'investigation' period.

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I dont know anything about disability claims, but i have had interview under caution, and im sure theyre not allowed to say things like that when tape has stopped ? Bit wrong! She shoukd def seek legal advice, and surely reports from gp, consultants who deal with her bad illnesses etc should write a report for her, she should ask them! Thats gotta help surely. Good luck. I know how she feels with the anxiety, its awful waiting :-( im still waiting for my tribunal.

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have taken pictures of her becoming ill while out because she knows that she definitely has several times over the last few months.

 

On average, how often per week does this happen? In order to claim DLA, you need help for at least 4-5 days a week.

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  • 6 months later...

Try telephoning the Benefits Advisory Group, independent of the DWP, they came out to my home when DWP did the same fraud interview **** with me, took photos of my paperwork, lodged and appeal, which I won. 0845 345 0310. good luck. ps, ALWAYS get legal advice when attending an interview under caution., they are pressuring her to plead now as they know they are in the wrong here. Dont give up, or they will mess you around and give you a criminal record for the rest of your life!! xkx

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Angry Sikred, the people you mentioned are in Dartford and their website seems to say that they only help people in that area.

 

If the OP doesn't live near you, the information may not help.

Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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