. . . which, really, seems to be unending, with every week seeming to introduce some new element.
This time, if you make an honest mistake on your benefit claim form, the DWP will fine you £50, according to the Telegraph.
The fine is described as a “civil penalty” but hang on a minute – doesn’t a civil penalty need to be imposed by a court, not by DWP staff who are also prone to making errors of their own? We simply cannot have the DWP staff acting as judge and jury here – these are not footling library fines, this is serious money for people on benefit.
And how long has making a mistake been an offence, civil or otherwise? Many people filling in, say, DLA applications, are bemused by the apparent complexity of the form, often through poor education, but frequently simply through being extremely ill – should they be punished for making an honest mistake?
And what if the mistake militates against a successful claim? Isn’t the failure enough punishment? Or will they be fined, too?
And these people are applying for benefit, so how the bloody hell can they be expected to pay a £50 fine, which currently is more than a week’s DLA (higher rate mobility)?
And how is it to be implemented? A parking offence is a civil offence, but you are able to challenge the parking ticket if you feel it’s unfair or just plain wrong. Good luck challenging this. I have little doubt that it will be deducted at source for successful claimants, and the introduction of an appeals system somehow overlooked, but will unsuccessful claimants get a fixed-penalty ticket? If so, my advice would be to challenge it.
Mind you, that won’t be too easy, as I am sure it’s no coincidence that this proposal coincides with the all too likely loss of legal aid – don’t you just love these fuckers, and the way their ferrety little minds work?
And in all seriousness, not to mention fairness, you simply cannot punish the claimants unless some system is introduced to penalise incompetent staff – because they do exist. When I claimed DLA in 1986, my claim was successful and, when I got my back pay (paid back to the date I applied), I was slightly overpaid. So I phoned them and explained, and was told in no uncertain terms that they didn’t make mistakes, and the amount I had was correct. I wasn’t disposed to argue!
The Telegraph goes on to say:-
“The DWP expects that by 2014/15, it will be raising £30.5 million from civil penalties, equal to imposing 610,000 fines.
The Welfare Reform Bill will also create a new sanctions regime for cases of intentional fraud.
The most serious cases of benefits fraud will be punished with a 3 year loss of benefit.”
I’m sorry, but you simply cannot impose such draconian penalties without using the courts – it would be entirely improper for DWP staff to decide a person’s guilt or innocence. Way beyond their competence, too.
And what are people who lose three years benefits supposed to live on? Or will they be expected just to slope off and live on the streets somewhere? Just not in Westminster, thank you very much! Maybe they should do the decent thing and die?
And what of DWP staff who make the most serious errors – will they be subject to three years loss of employment, as well as loss of JSA? In the interests of fairness they should be. But, when it comes to dealing with the sick and disabled, fairness counts for bugger all these days
Reading the comments in the Telegraph – not for nothing often dubbed the Torygraph – I can’t find a single comment in support of this scurrilous scheme, just unanimous disgust which, I have to say, surprised me. It should worry Cameron. It won’t though, nothing does. Despite his expensive education, I don’t think he actually has the intelligence to be worried.