A paraplegic woman who got a job for eight hours a week, which is allowed under UK welfare benefit rules, has had her Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) stopped, despite having got permission of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) – according to The Independent newspaper.
It seems to be another example of bureaucratic inefficiency from the ministry. It makes me wonder if they set out to recruit staff with no requirement for common sense. And it proves that, while dishonesty is obviously wrong, honesty doesn’t pay either when dealing with government departments.
The report, by Sadi Levy Gale, explained that the woman had been penalised by the DWP after resigning from a part-time job that she had sought herself but was unable to continue due to ill health. She had her benefits stopped after she gave up working eight hours a week for a consultancy agency.
The DWP allows disabled people to receive sickness benefits if they are employed fewer than 16 hours a week and earn less than £115.50 for it.
Speaking to the Guardian under the pseudonym Sarah Jones, she said she received written permission from the DWP to start work.
But by March, Ms Jones told the DWP she had to resign because the job was taking a toll on her health.
A month later, the DWP fraud department accused her of working without permission.
Ms Jones was asked to fill in a “permitted work” form – a PW1 – and send the DWP her bank statements and pay slips if she wanted to keep her Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
But when Ms Jones sent the paperwork she received a letter from the department stating her benefits would be stopped because she had not “complied” by sending in all requested information. Ms Jones had lost her January payslip so had not been able to provide it.
After finding the payslip and making it available, the DWP then told Ms Jones her benefits had been discontinued because she had earned too much to qualify for ESA in January.
Ms Jones told the Guardian her boss had paid her Christmas pay in January rather than December, explaining the inflated payment.
“A quick call to my employer or myself would have clarified this,” she said. “But no: they just stopped my benefit.”
Ms Jones said she has been without ESA for four weeks while the DWP decide whether she can claim benefits.
“I’m powerless. I did everything by the book. I was totally honest and upfront… but because I’m disabled and poor, no one wants to listen,” she said in the interview.
When contacted, a DWP spokesperson said: “People claiming ESA are able to undertake some paid work without it impacting on their benefit entitlement. If further details of this case can be provided we will investigate.”
Now, I feel confident in predicting that the woman’s benefits will be reinstated by the ministry in the light of ‘further details’ or ‘new evidence’ that it receives. Will it ever admit it made a mistake? I would not suggest that you hold your breath waiting for that – or for an apology.