Does the DWP have a case to answer in Access to Work fraud?

Nicky EvansNicky Evans is a BSL/English interpreter and the co-founder of the Stop Changes to Access to Work campaign (www.stopchanges2atw.com). The campaign was established in November 2013 to oppose cuts being made to the government’s Access to Work (AtW) scheme which provides the support Deaf and disabled workers need to access employment. 

Does the DWP have a case to answer in Access to Work fraud?

Before we get into it, I’d like to make one thing very clear: I do not condone fraud. It is wrong and the people involved must be held accountable for this and brought to justice.

But what of the DWP’s role in all this?

Here is a system that isn’t accessible (to an extent that the end customer (the Deaf Access to Work user) can’t always understand the forms and needs support completing these), relies heavily on the customer to do the bulk of the administration and where any contact with the DWP has become so stressful that they feel unable to ask for support or advice when needed.

Having been involved in Access to Work campaigning in various guises over the years, I have been continually frustrated by the DWP’s lack of response to our concerns over fraud. I have attended meetings over the past three years with various senior DWP staff/Ministers and have fed back the concerns of both the deaf community and interpreters. Information being provided by advisors is continually inconsistent and interpreters who work for three different clients could be paid using three different processes.

Three years on and several fraud cases later the claim system has seen little or no improvement. 

Interpreters have asked continually for improvements to be made to the DWP’s finance system: our remittance notice often doesn’t arrive (it is still usually sent by post) so we can’t check amounts received or know which clients these relate to; a remittance notice often doesn’t record our invoice numbers; and we can’t speak to AtW to sort any of these issues out (as we are told we have to go through the deaf person – adding to their stress and workload).

Only this year I have been overpaid by a large amount of money and have spent the past two months trying to return this – to no avail. I am not the only interpreter to be overpaid. Interpreters are regularly overpaid, underpaid, part paid, not paid at all, owed late payment fees (which despite being a statutory entitlement, the DWP don’t seem to think it applies to them)… I could go on….

All this raises the question: what role has the DWP had in recent fraud cases? 

There has been a failure to respond to concerns or develop tighter financial controls as a result of these. As I said at the beginning, I do not condone fraud, but I do feel that the DWP must accept some responsibility for this. Systems so open to abuse following several cases of fraud have remained wide open. For a government who continually tell us there is a need for austerity and to balance the books, they should perhaps start by examining their own internal processes.

Letter from DWP on the privatisation of Access to Work

If you missed the news in the Mirror and the Stop Changes campaign letter… it’s worth catching up here and this is the response from DWP…

STOP CHANGES TO ACCESS TO WORK

You may remember our letter which we sent to DWP in response to the article in the Mirror last week about the privitisation of Access to Work. See our post here: http://stopchanges2atw.com/2016/02/04/privatisation-of-atw-letter-to-mr-duncan-smith/

Dear Sir/Madam

Thank you for your email of 4 February to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP, concerning Access to Work.

I hope that you will understand that Government Ministers receive a large volume of correspondence and are unable to reply personally on every occasion. I have therefore been asked to respond and I hope that the following is helpful.

On behalf of this Department, I would like to confirm that no decisions have been made on the future delivery model of Access to Work and there are no current plans to privatise the service.

The Autumn Spending Review settlement awarded Access to Work with a real-terms increase in resources and…

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Profit over equality? Another outsourced contract fails

Atos, the company awarded work capability assessments has terminated its contract early and agreed financial settlement with the DWP. If you were on benefits due to long-term illness, you had to have your back to work assessment by this company.

For Deaf people, Atos created additional barriers to these work assessments, as they did for disabled people.

Before you could even get an assessment you had to phone a number to book an appointment. There were no alternative means of communication. Not even through a dusty old textphone.

It’s medical assessors, not trained doctors, were known for testing Deafness by asking people to turn around and shouting at them to see if they were Deaf.

Interpreters used for these appointments were rarely qualified or registered.

An outsourcing nightmare bites the dust. If only the same would happen with the MoJ contract for interpreting.

If only government contracts had stipulated within them the needs for equality over profit.

If only contracts would be monitored to check that what big companies say they will do, actually happens.

If only.