The Fail has struck again with a comically inaccurate piece about benefit appeal tribunals.
“Benefits claimants cheats (sic) are able to keep money they are not entitled to because government officials fail to turn up to legal hearings,” thundered the piece by MailOnline political editor Matt Chorley, who should know better – both in terms of grammar and logic.
“The Department for Work and Pensions sent lawyers to just four per cent of tribunals held last year to rule on decisions to cut benefits.
“It means that in many cases people are able to successfully argue in favour of keeping their money, because the government has failed to turn up to challenge it.”
No – that’s not what it means.
If the DWP has made a decision not to send lawyers to defend the cancellation of a claimant’s benefit, it means they expect the facts to speak for themselves…
View original post 524 more words
> Another erosion of your rights…
The government has recently granted HMRC new powers to help itself to whatever is in your bank account.
Chancellor George Osborne recently announced as part of his 2014 Budget that the tax authority will be able to bypass any scrutiny or due process and take money directly from your account if they feel that it is necessary.
Previously, they had to have a court order and prove that you owed them money, or they would first have to take out insolvency or debt collection proceedings against you. Now, the burden of proof lies solely with the individual concerned, who will be forced to claw back the money from HMRC if they feel that the judgement was made in error.
Of course, the only realistic way for an individual to defend themselves in such circumstances would be to take HMRC to court, but by then they will have already helped themselves to the money in your account, leaving you with no money to pay a lawyer.
The law is frightfully similar to the powers afforded to the much-maligned IRS in America which has the same powers and has come under fire in many well-documented cases where families have been forced into homelessness after having their bank accounts raided by the IRS.
The IRS also has the power to freeze any assets or money attached to an individual or businesses name – meaning that even if you did have money left over to challenge them – you would not be allowed to access it. HMRC have the same powers.
But it has defended these new powers which it has awarded itself by saying that they can only be used once you’ve received a couple of letters and a phone call.
They also claim that this will only apply to people with more than £1,000 worth of debt and they are required to leave at least £5,000 in your account.
Once the money has been grabbed from your account, it is then put on hold for 14 days and you will then have to agree to a payment plan.
But its powers do not end there. It is also able to snatch money from you if it thinks that it may win a legal battle against you.
In other words, if you are in a dispute with them about how much money you owe, they can take the legal expenses out of your account on the proviso that they give it all back to you if you win.
In other words, you can now face sanctions before a case has been proven against you. Not only does this break every single legal foundation that our current laws are based upon, it also sets a very dangerous precedent indeed, and represents a significant power grab from a government department that has just made itself less accountable.
(The bank account confiscation power is in Section 1.208 and the future confiscation power is in Section 1.200 and 1.201. You can access the full Budget document here.)
Source – Akashic Times, 29 March 2014
If children cannot read, write or add up well enough by the age of 14, he says, their parents should be denied state benefits and made to live on food vouchers.
That is the proposal of Lord Digby Jones, the only person to have ever served as a minister in Her Majesty’s Government without being a member of a political party.
> I think with views like that he’s an honourary member of all the main parties anyway…
And it is a good job that he has no political allegiance, because he is scathing about Labour’s pledge of a bankers’ bonus tax as the solution to the country’s woes and would certainly have faced a few awkward questions were he sitting at Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet table.
He has little time for any politician who pledges low taxes and high spending and believes Labour, Liberal Democrats and Tories alike to be guilty of such empty promises.
This is Asia’s century, he tells an audience of business people and academics in Wolverhampton.
The former minister for trade under Gordon Brown is adamant that there is no way for British manufacturers and service providers to compete with India and China on price alone.
The solution, he says is to offer better quality. And the only way to do that is a skilled workforce.
But there is a problem. Kids are not coming out of school with high enough standards of literacy and numeracy.
As the 58-year-old gives his speech at the University of Wolverhampton Science Park he says he knows that the left-leaning newspaper the Guardian ‘will say shame on you’.
He says it anyway.
“If children can’t read and write by the time they leave formal education the teaching profession has failed,” he says.
“The teaching profession will say they have kids who go home and they don’t see a book again until they are back at school the next day.
“If you have kids who can’t read and write to the appropriate standard by the time they are 14, you should have your benefits stopped.
“You can have food stamps. But the extra bit, the Sky dish, the fags, that stops until the kids can read and write.”
> Yeah ? But what if the kids who can’t read come from a family NOT receiving benefits ? Even, god help us, a rich family ?
Already it’s a two-tier system. Benefits = punish them, rich = oh, never mind, our connections will get him a job in the city even if he is as thick as a brick.
Speaking with the Express & Star, he also suggests that schools could lower the age that children can leave to 14, particularly if they are disruptive in class.
“You could solve youth unemployment if the education system could send young people out of school at 16 able to read, write and add up.
“I would have them out at 14 if they want to come. Get them out into the world of work.”
> Oh for fuck’s sake – THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH JOBS TO GO ROUND AS IT IS. And this guy advised the government ? My god… no wonder we’re in a mess.
He says he would want them to be given some form of vocational training or an apprenticeship if it suited them better than studying in a classroom.
“Having skills doesn’t mean a PhD,” Lord Jones says.
> So tell that to all the employers who seem to regard paper qualifications far more highly than time-served practical skills.
His frustration at the level of ‘functional illiteracy’ among young people in Britain goes hand in hand with his concerns that the country must change the way it does business if it is to compete with developing countries and the new economic powers of China and India.
In his speech Lord Jones suggests that Britain is on the verge of a calamity, even invoking the image of the ‘doomsday’ clock used to explain how close mankind is to some form of nuclear or environmental catastrophe.
“The Guardian will say shame on you. But this is five minutes to midnight my friend.
“This is Asia’s century.”
Lord Jones believes the employers have to innovate and add value to their products and services.
“If all you compete on is price, then China will have your lunch and India will have your dinner,” he says.
The 58-year-old former lawyer was director general of the CBI from 2000 to 2006. He was made minister of state for trade and investment in 2007 but did not join a political party, instead being made a life peer.
> “He was made minister of state for trade and investment in 2007 “ – just before things really started going pear-shaped. Coincidence ?
Innovation, he says, is not just about invention.
“It was a Brit who invented the World Wide Web, a Brit who invested the television, penicillin, the telephone.
“We remember how good we were at invention but who leads the world on this now? It’s about innovation, taking an idea to the market.”
> It was a Brit who invented Universal Credit and all the other “innovations” that don’t work but continue to swallow cash by the billions.
He tells his audience that politicians of all parties in all countries have ‘lied’ ‘every day in every way’.
> Well, can’t argue with that… but then he spoils it by repeating all the old crap about benefits and jobs and stupid, lazy people. He’s a political party all on his own.
And it will be those who innovate in the public sector, such as the councils now drawing up deep cuts, who get themselves back on track.
“Whether it was Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Labour, they all told us we can have it all. They told us we can have high public spending, low taxation.
“But ‘vote for me and I will cut your spending’ is not the greatest election slogan of all time.
“Tax the bankers? Rubbish. It will never deliver enough money. We all have to understand that the party is over.
> “Tax the bankers? Rubbish. It will never deliver enough money.”
Read that as : “Tax my mates ? Rubbish. It will never deliver enough money. Screw the poor instead.”
“The public sector has to do it in a different way. There will never be the same money around. We have to cut our cloth accordingly.”
He also warned about the pressures of Britain’s ageing population as he made a plea for people to get the skills and training they needed to get a job and have a long career.
> In a world of part-time, short contract, zero-hour contract jobs ? Its all short term nowadays – does anyone really want a life-long career doing zero-hour shifts for Poundland ?
“If you have a system of government where you’re going to be looked after for longer than you were putting into the state, you will go bust.
“People will live longer and with the scourge of dementia.
“No-one costs more to care for than a physically healthy but mentally challenged older person.
“Where are we going to get the money from? And don’t say just tax bankers’ bonuses. That doesn’t solve it all.”
> It’d be a bloody good start, though…
Source Wolverhampton Express & Star, 27 Feb 2014
The highly confrontational former managing editor of both The Sunday Times and The Sun has been named as the new director of communications at the Department for Work and Pensions.
Richard Caseby takes over after former comms boss John Shield was hired by the BBC last September.
Gosh, what an incestuous world we live in! The BBC, now confirmed as little more than a mouthpiece for the Conservative Party in its political news content, hires the former press officer for the Tory-run DWP. The DWP then hires an executive from Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, previous home of – oh, yes – former Number 10 press supremo Andy Coulson, currently on trial for criminal offences allegedly committed while he was employed by the same firm!
Murdoch, the government, the BBC – these people like to stick together, and they like to put their people in positions of influence.
There is no evidence…
View original post 442 more words
Ah yes… the Jobseeker’s Agreement (JSAg). What exactly is it ?
The JSAg form itself informs us that : “This agreement sets out my availability for work and the things I will do each week to actively seek work”, which all sounds reasonable enough, and indeed would be if that was all it was.
Unfortunately, since the Jobcentre’s role has shifted from “helping you to find work” to “stopping your benefits by any means”, it has become another instrument of sanction, with advisers pushing claiments into signing JSAgs which effectively set them up for sanctions.
YOU SHOULD BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN SIGNING A JSAg.
If you dont agree with what they present you with, don’t sign it. Your Jobcentre adviser may give you the impression (or even tell you outright) that you must sign it or face a sanction. This is not true. With a little determination you can negotiate something you feel you can live with.
Have you considered what the JSAg is on a legal level ? I was wondering about that and have been trying to work out exactly it’s standing is, and how that might affect us, the potential sanctionees.
I must say outright that I have no legal background, and everything herein is just how things appear to be to me, having researched the subject to the best of my ability – if you have experience that counteracts anything here please add it to the commments. However, I am in the process of testing the theory right now in my own JSAg negotiations (I’ve stretched them out to 3 sessions so far !) so I am at least putting my money where my mouth is.
That said, it seems to me that the JSAg is a contract, a legal document, and therefore subject to English common law. This is important, because it gives you certain protections. Your adviser is not above the law (although they may seem to think they are) but they probably have little or no understanding of what they are actually doing legally. This gives you at least a little leverage.
In order for a contract to be formed, the parties must reach mutual assent – that means you have to agree to it. If you dont, refuse to sign and attempt to negotiate the points you dont like.
Basically, it seems to boil down to this –
A party must have capacity to contract –
The purpose of the contract must be lawful
The form of the contract must be legal
The parties must intend to create a legal relationship
The parties must consent
I think we have to assume that you (and your adviser) are mentally competent, and that the form of the contract is legal. The purpose of the JSAg and whether both parties intend it to be legal are grey areas.
The last one is the most important here – the parties (plural) must consent. So if you dont, for whatever reason, do not sign.
There are what are described as a “ variety of affirmative defenses that a party may assert to avoid his obligation”. These are –
Incapacity, including mental incompetence and infancy/minority
Misrepresentation or fraud
Frustration of purpose
Duress, Undue Influence and Misrepresentation seem the most likely reasons for refusing to sign a JSAg in my experience. Indeed, the adviser I’m currently negotiating mine with has attempted all three !
Some people will suggest that you write “signed under duress” on any JSAg you sign but dont agree with. Better by far NOT TO SIGN AT ALL, but I realise people react differently and you may not feel able to stand up to a bullying adviser. Hopefully this may help give you some confidence, knowledge is power.
Remember – it’s down to you. No-one else can do this for you.
Duress in the context of contract law is a common law defense, and if one is successful in proving that the contract is vitiated by duress, the contract may be rescinded, since it is then voidable.
Helpfully duress can be divided into Physical duress and Economic duress. Assuming your adviser hasn’t actually threatened you with a thumping if you dont sign, economic duress is most likely to be your friend –
A contract is voidable if the innocent party can prove that it had no other practical choice (as opposed to legal choice) but to agree to the contract.
The elements of economic duress
Wrongful or improper threat: No precise definition of what is wrongful or improper. Examples include: morally wrong, criminal, or tortious conduct; one that is a threat to breach a contract “in bad faith” or threaten to withhold an admitted debt “in bad faith”.
No reasonable alternative (but to accept the other party’s terms). If there is an available legal remedy, an available market substitute (in the form of funds, goods, or services), or any other sources of funds this element is not met.
They might argue that an alternative income is available by getting work. However, you might counter that you wouldn’t be claiming if you could find any, and would be left without an income without benefits. If the adviser infered your benefits would be stopped if you didn’t sign, then I’d say that was exconomic duress. But of course I’m not a lawyer.
The threat actually induces the making of the contract. This is a subjective standard, and takes into account the victim’s age, their background (especially their education), relationship of the parties, and the ability to receive advice.
This might be a viable reason for some, and advisers are known to target the more vulnerable.
The other party caused the financial distress. The majority opinion is that the other party must have caused the distress, while the minority opinion allows them to merely take advantage of the distress.
Misrepresentation has some potential too –
Misrepresentation is a concept in contract law referring to a false statement of fact made by one party to another party, which has the effect of inducing that party into the contract.
So if they say you must sign there and then – that’s misrepresentation.
Generally, statements of opinion or intention are not statements of fact in the context of misrepresentation. If one party claims specialist knowledge on the topic discussed, then it is more likely for the courts to hold a statement of opinion by that party as a statement of fact.
An adviser, I would think, certainly claims specialist knowledge – its inherent in the term adviser.
Well, there’s some points there for you to consider. I repeat that I have no legal training, but I think the above is correct so far as it goes. At least it gives you a slight advantage (as your adviser probably knows none of this) and a slight leverage. It would hopefully give you an advantage if you go as far as an independent appeal (as I intend to do if necessery).
Remember – the aim is not to take the DWP to court – it’s to negotiate a JSAg that you can live with and one that’s not going to set you up for a sanction.
I’ll be publishing my on-going JSAg negotiation experiences over the next week or so, check back to see how the theory fares in reality.