Skip to content
Tel: 0116 222 5005
Advertise here
Facebook Twitter Twitter YouTube
Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living

DWP accused of offering disabled people 'take it or leave it' benefits

Date: 4/3/2020
Summary: Vulnerable and disabled people are being pressured to accept unrecorded telephone “deals” paying thousands of pounds less in benefits than they may be legally entitled to, charities and lawyers have said.

The Department for Work and Pensions has been accused of making “decide right now” offers to people who have appealed against a decision to deny them benefits. In some cases the people say they were told the offer would be withdrawn if they did not accept it within minutes.

It is claimed that by making the lower offers over the phone, the DWP is trying to settle cases that could lead to payments of significantly more each year if they go to a tribunal. Around 70% of such appeals go in favour of the people who bring them.

Several charities and law firms said they were aware of more than 100 phone deal cases between them. They accused the DWP of targeting those deemed to have a strong chance of success at a tribunal over personal independence payments (Pip) and employment and support allowance (ESA). Claimants may be susceptible to accepting a lower offer because of long tribunal waits and having no income in the meantime.

The Law for Life charity reported that it had heard from 57 claimants and 58 welfare rights advisers of cases where disabled people were telephoned and offered awards below what they could expect at appeal. The Law Centres Network, the Public Law Project, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Scope also reported having clients who had received the same calls. In many of the reported cases there was no official record of the offers.

The DWP said that if someone accepted an offer they could continue to pursue their appeal, and would have any award at a higher rate backdated to ensure they did not miss out. But lawyers and charity workers told the Guardian they were aware of many cases where claimants were not told of their right to continue with their appeal, and others where they were told of their right, but were either too vulnerable to understand or felt so worn down by the process that they simply accepted.

Claimants, some with significant cognitive disabilities, receive unannounced phone calls in which they are given an offer and told they will be called back in an hour or less and asked for a decision. This occurred even in cases where a vulnerable appellant would need support or may be unaware of their legal right to take advice before making a decision. Some were given a number of days, but only when they argued they needed more time to decide.

In many cases offers appeared to have only been put in writing after the claimant agreed to the deal; a breach of typical DWP practice. There were also claims that the DWP called vulnerable claimants directly, rather than their carers or appointees.

Other recent news items: