The assistants abused by the government, the parliamentarians say


Caregiver holding the hands of the elderly person

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Assistants are bullied by the government, says a committee of parliamentarians.

The selection board for pensions and labor states that ministers are harassing people who have made honest mistakes in receiving care allowance.

Longstanding problems within the Department for Labor and Pensions (DWP) have led to a failure to match excess payments.

The government says that while it has a duty towards the tax payer to recover the money, "there are safeguards to protect the applicants from financial difficulties".

Parliamentarians urged the government to re-examine, on a case-by-case basis, whether it is worth pursuing overpayments, given the guilt of the Department of Labor and Pensions and the costs for their recovery.

"Abusers are unable to recognize, much less support, the invaluable contribution they make to our society and the people they care about," said Frank Field, who chairs the committee.

George's story

"The DWP and the courts do not listen," says George Henderson, of Leyland, Lancashire.

He was prosecuted for overpaying over £ 19,000 in assistance payments from the DWP – and had to sell his home.

The 59-year-old began receiving benefits in 2010 while caring for his son John, who has mental health problems and is a heroin consumer.

He asked for the assistance allowance and prevented his son from receiving an alternative benefit, since John's drug dealer "actually had his credit card".

"He knew that when he was paid, he went to get his money from the car, he just gave him drugs," says George.

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It is estimated that George received only £ 100 more in seven years than if he had not claimed his son instead

George admits he made a "mistake" when he applied, stating that he was unemployed when he was actually working for a taxi company.

In 2017, the DWP contacted him to say he was not eligible for the benefit.

He was convicted of fraud, given a suspended 32-week sentence and tagged electronically for 16 weeks.

The DWP then used a proceeds from the crime order to convince George to sell his house.

For seven years, it is estimated that George received about £ 100 more than his son would have been paid if he continued to receive the benefits he was receiving.

"The impact was immense," he says.

"There was no money to be earned.

"If I had known that I was earning too much money, obviously I will not be entitled to the assistance allowance, to take my money away from my son to return it to him daily and then have me scammed.

"I mean, it's ridiculous. It's ridiculous."

For years, the Department of Labor and Pensions ignored an informant's concerns that they could not identify overpayments to thousands of assistants because they had reduced the number of staff working on the allowance.

HM Revenue & Customs was providing the department with data on profits that should have highlighted overpayments, while the confusing nature of the advantage meant that many people were unaware that they were no longer fit.

In April, the National Audit Office stated that approximately two-thirds of assistants with overpayments related to earnings payments exceeding £ 2,500 should have interrupted the overpayments if the DWP had made sufficient personnel.

The assistant's allowance is paid to persons assisting at least 35 hours a week.

The government states that 850,000 people receive compensation, with millions of payments made each year.

It is currently £ 66.15 per week and the recipient is allowed to earn up to £ 123 per week and still receive assistance, although their earnings may be higher if they have child care costs. – but when they earn an extra penny, they immediately become inadmissible and must repay all the benefits they may have received.

The National Audit Office found that the DWP aimed to recover overpayments from 80,000 people, worth about £ 150 million.

Most debts are for less than £ 1,000, but some people have over £ 20,000.

BBC News has discovered that the DWP and the Crown Prosecution Service, which bring the cases to court, are not ordinarily telling the judges that the department could have detected the errors previously.

A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service stated that each case was "carefully examined" but had no duty to disclose "publicly available government reports that do not relate to specific cases".

Welfare experts told BBC News, however, it was unrealistic to expect judges or magistrates to be aware of the changing circumstances surrounding any individual benefit.

The DWP stated that the decisions to prosecute were not taken lightly and were generally reserved for overpayments of over £ 5,000.

"It is a condition to receive the assistant's check that people communicate to DWP if their circumstances change and we work very hard to make the applicants aware of their responsibility to provide correct information," a spokesman said.


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