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Friends housing Benefit and ESA for a couple intending to move in together?


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I have used this forum a couple of times for myself but this time am enquiring for a friend who has MS and leukemia and is highly anxious at present.

 

She had been on ESA until March, having been forced out of her teaching job in quite harrowing and underhand fashion a couple of years ago. She was put onto JSA and has been supplying bank statements to the Benefits Office here. She had been paying her rent out of rapidly dwindling savings until her savings fell under the limit preventing a housing benefit claim very recently.

 

Despite her condition she has in the year that I've known her continued to apply for work in teaching, and is registered with at least three agencies. She has had interviews and trials which have come ot nothing. It does seem the MS is the likely reason. My friend has run herself into the ground pursuing these jobs and is clearly upset at not winning them. She is a genuine and ethically-minded person. It's clear that stress is affecting her symptoms, and this week's events have really been out of order.

 

She has just had a 'compliance meeting' this week which has not gone at all well. The person carrying out the interview is from the 'Fraud and Error' department. The DWP employee does not seem to have been very sensitive in the way he handled things, and my friend brought the meeting to a halt and said she wanted a witness present. She then rang me. I've never heard her in the condition she was in. Despite her condition she is a tough thing and represents herself well normally, with proper assertiveness and self-respect. I scarcely manage the same myself. I got the the Benefits Office about half an hour later and the meeting was resumed. We had asked ot record the meeting. The employee said he wasn't sure that could be done and would have to get advice, and we ended up settling for my being present as a witness - my friend is burying he rmother in the next week or so and doesn't want things dragged out with all that's going on. My friend and I both referred to the misconduct we have expeienced in the last year, which is from the housing department of the council and the DWP alike, in both our cases. My friend's Maximus assessment for example was carried out by someone who was then sacked, and I've seen the lie-strewn report he wrote on my friend, a not-quite-separate matter that will be attended to.

 

A statement was typed in by the employee and my friend asked me to read it, as she was getting befuddled both with the stress and as part of the MS. She signed the statement.

 

It was a pretty awkward meeting. The fella didn't really seem to know what he was doing, and I would hope he feels bad for the distress he caused my friend.

 

We would like some things cleared up. This DWP employee used the phrase 'deprivation of capital' in reference to my friend's having gifted her son with money. He did not explicitly say that the gifting would be viewed as such but it was muddily expressed, and we're wondering how arbitrary the notion of 'deprivation of capital' is. My friend is a single mother in her 50s with one son, who has mental health troubles and seemingly something on the autistic spectrum, and has been neglected by professionals. After her divorce from a man who wasn't the boy's father she has been very supportive of her son including financially. I think anyone would be the same and that my friend's gifting him money should not be viewed with cynicism. Ordinarily as far as I know - and I think I read this this week in relation to something else - there is no limit to money being gifted. The amount since my friend has been claiming JSA I would think is all that is relevent too. In no way has the gifting been a dodge of any kind, but is of a compassionate basis that it would be shocking to have to explain.

 

The other question is asked because my friend is worried about being treated as a fraud case. We think we've established that either all or almost all of the period she claimed JSA, her savings fell under the threshold. But she also submitted all those bank statements, and from March till now nothing was said. (Weirdly today she has been asked for the bank statements again by this man, who is sitting in the building where the DWP's copies are held - why can't he just access these?) So if there was any period, say for a few weeks or so, where she recieved JSA but had over the threshold amount, this can't become a fraud case can it? She declared everything. She was in receipt of the lowest JSA amount and was looking for work. At worst this is an employee's error isn't it? She was put on JSA when the ESA ended.

 

I understand there are two different sets of criteria for JSA but presumably my friend has fallen inisde one of them to have been put on JSA.

 

Sorry I haven't been able to make this shorter, but it would mean a lot to my friend and me also if we could get good response on this. I'll see the friend tomorrow and would like some good, calming news if possible.

 

Many thanks.

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Going to try and think back to my old processing days.

Deprivation of capital may be considered here if your friend had capital that exceeded the limit for benefit claims.

Normal everyday expenses are ok for this but anything that is not everyday is considered individually.

Gifting money is one of the things to be considered as they have to consider if she gave away the money to intentionally lower her capital to claim low income/income related benefits.

I know it is about age concern but there are a couple of interesting facts in there that are better explained than I would be able to do at this late hour!

http://www.ageuk.org.uk/Documents/EN-GB/Factsheets/FS40_deprivation_of_assets_in_the_means_test_for_care_home_provision_fcs.pdf?dtrk=true

 

The timing may be due to a scan of claims that does happen between HMRC and DWP, but I haven't been in that side for quite some time now and moved out of the JCP environment at the beginning of the year and I am sorry but I have forgotten a lot when having to learn things for my new role.

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thanks for having a stab, and I've passed on the link you cited to my friend.

 

She now finds she was briefly over the limit to receive JSA, for about six weeks I think. It stands that she was wrongly advised when transitioning from ESA to JSA, but I would think at worst that she would be due to pay back in hopefully manageable instalments, JSA for that six week period. Doesn't this seem likely? A middle-aged disabled woman who had a twenty year career teaching littl'uns is hardly fitting a profile of fraud, I would hope the DWP staff could see.

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When did she get the capital in relation to when she made her claim?

There is no real profile of benefit fraudster- certainly her age and profession will make no difference one way or the other.

 

If the capital has gone, the DWP will need to make a decision re deprivation of capital

Please do not ask me for advice via PM as I will not reply.

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I'm not sure of the dates at the moment and she is not available. It occurs to me though, that the fact she unknowingly sent her balance above the threshold about a month into her JSA claim and for six weeks or so runs counter to any suggestion that she was trying to effect deprivation of capital. As I think I was saying, she handed over bank statements all along, so there was no attempt to hide anything. The DWP, it seems to me, couldn't claim she was trying to get her money down to the amount that would allow her to get JSA if there was this period where her balance briefly went over. To me this is a clear sign of naivety consistent with what my friend tells me. True enough the DWP might approach this cynically, but it wouldn't make a lot of sense, and MS specialists would have input if it came to court.

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If it's only six weeks it is unlikely to go to court.

 

Deprivation of capital may be one area they look at and another question she has to answer may be the offence of failing to report a change in circumstances.

 

How much did she have and where did it come from (depending on the source there may be a disregard).

Please do not ask me for advice via PM as I will not reply.

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She closed an ISA, believe it or not purely to pay her rent, being not entitled to housing benefit. To her mind just rational resourcefulness. As she was handing over bank statements hopefully this shows mere non-malicious naivety - she had shown a change of financial circumstances in doing so. Well anyway I suppose it's in the DWP's hands now, though the health situation and the reality of her condition as testified by MS specialists should come into it.

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So if she closed the ISA, she had the asset in the first place. They will probably go back to the time she had the ISA, so potentially longer than six weeks. Did she declare the ISA when she claimed?

If the case stays with the compliance officer then she won't face court but may well get a £50 fixed penalty.

If it is transferred to criminal then she may well be interviewed under caution.

 

Why was she not entitled to HB?

Please do not ask me for advice via PM as I will not reply.

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  • 1 month later...

I need to make this enquiry for my friend, a woman in her mid-50s with multiple sclerosis who is hoping to set up home with her partner who is himself able and in work. My friend was a teacher and has tried to get back into teaching only to find that both the illness and the post-Gove era are thwarting her attempts. Her last week of classes made her symptoms unmanageable and she withdrew from the post with some pretty abusive-sounding treatment from the headmistress.

 

My friend currently gets contribution-based ESA of about £70, though a letter she got this week says it will go down to £60 next January. She has just over £6000 savings and there seems to be a new hurdle of this amount affecting entitlement?

 

She gets housing benefit covering about 4/5ths of her rent and is topping that up to of the dwindling savings. A spate of sad incidents has complicated things, like the death of my friend's mother and then her partner's surviving parent had a fall which has become a life-changing injury bringing forward the issue of her care.

 

We've talked about how the chips are stacked against them but we don't know the facts about benefits entitlement. My friend is making a fresh ESA claim having mystifyingly lost a fight at tribunal despite an inch thick pile of medical papers and what must have been the utter obviousness of her physical and emotional/mental struggle to the tribunal officials. It seems very sad that this couple, who met a year ago, might have quite a challenge ahead. Despite knowing where the government have taken things we find it hard to believe they could be prevented from having a relationship and living arrangement many can take for granted.

 

My friend still feels she wants to work, though friends and even some DWP staff have expressed the view that she shouldn't be, and she really does seem like pride and being currently stuck on £70 a week is causing her to be run into the ground in her attempts to work in schools. (It seems to me that if she was in the Support Group she could do some less stressful tutoring such as she has done, and manage on a small income and ESA.) I am on more ESA and in the Support Grup myself, short-term, and though I'm unwell and struggling have less to contend with than my friend. It's pretty unfair and random-seeming.

 

I don't mind processing some links and so on myself for my friend, who due to the MS can get overwhelmed with piles of information, but equally some summaries of rights and options would be great for me to pass on to my friend.

 

Many thanks in advance for any assistance.

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HI Id

 

Try turn2us - https://www.turn2us.org.uk/Find-Benefits-Grants

The benefit calculator maybe of some use to determine what they are entitled to.

 

We could do with some help from you.

 

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Can someone also tell me about this £6000 limit thingy? For example if someone won £7,000 or even £20,000 compensation in a legal claim, or inherited £7,000 or £20,000, would that mess up benefit entitlements or is there some exemption for money like this depending on its source? (Similar to how someone isn't penalised for having a whole paid-up house...)

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Do they not assess any equity in the house as assets? TB

 

No, not if the house is your sole or primary residence. If you have a second house then its value will be counted as capital regardless of any amount outstanding on a mortgage, but your main home is fully disregarded.

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Can someone also tell me about this £6000 limit thingy? For example if someone won £7,000 or even £20,000 compensation in a legal claim, or inherited £7,000 or £20,000, would that mess up benefit entitlements or is there some exemption for money like this depending on its source? (Similar to how someone isn't penalised for having a whole paid-up house...)

 

If the money is an inheritance or (for example) a lottery win then it will be fully taken into account and your entitlement to income based benefits will be affected. There are special rules for certain other types of capital that are a bit too complex to go into unless we know the specific details. I think, off the top of my head, that compensation payments count as income rather than capital, but don't quote me on that.

 

So I think what has happened is that your friend is (or was) in the Work Related Activity Group of ESA. For people in that group, contribution based ESA© is limited to 365 days. Capital does not affect ESA©, but once the 365 days are up she would need to be considered for income based ESA(IR). It looks like she would have some entitlement but that it would be reduced by an amount because of her capital. Of course, this is all somewhat theoretical if she has been found fit for work by the tribunal. If she were found not fit for work and placed in the Support Group then the 365 day limit would not apply.

 

This matters because if her partner has income of his own then it would be taken into account if she were to claim ESA(IR) but would be ignored for ESA©. I hope that makes a degree of sense. My feeling is that we'd need to have some idea what her partner earns to really understand the situation and advise.

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