Disabled woman to sue DWP over ‘immoral’ automatic deductions | Advantages
A woman with a disability must take the Department of Work and Pensions to court over what she calls its “immoral” policy of allowing homeowners and utility companies to automatically make deductions from monthly benefits without the consent of the worker. applicant.
Helen Timson, 50, of Leicester, said the third party deduction scheme, which allows up to 25% of monthly means-tested benefits to be diverted at source to pay arrears, was illegal and could lead to many people without enough money to buy food. and pay rent.
At least 200,000 UK households are facing deductions from their benefits as water, gas and electricity companies have entered into automatic payment of customer arrears with the DWP – and there are fears that the rise higher energy prices will result in more families being subject to the regime. .
In current practice, the DWP does not seek the consent of the claimant for these deductions if they are below a 25% threshold. It also does not conduct means tests or attempt to agree realistic payment plans with creditors.
Timson said she had twice had deductions made without his consent. This happened once when his water supplier tried to charge him £ 2,200 because of a faulty meter; and again when an energy company deducted £ 80 per month even though it was not a customer and had no arrears.
Because of the deductions, she was pushed into near destitution and unable to pay her rent. On one occasion, she had to cancel an appointment for an NHS cancer scan because she did not have enough money to pay for a taxi.
“Payment of arrears should not leave benefit claimants destitute and unable to pay for basic necessities,” said Timson, who is currently receiving disability unemployment benefits. “There must be a viable way for third parties to organize a realistic repayment schedule with the consent of the debtor, rather than allowing utilities and homeowners to help themselves with a quarter of the benefits of the debtors. people – including errors where no money is owed.
She said: “It is immoral and indefensible that utility companies push people further into poverty, leaving them without enough money for rent or food, while earning interest on the money they owe. is paid in error.
The case should be heard in the coming months.
A DWP spokesperson said: “Safeguards are in place to ensure that deductions are manageable for customers and they are encouraged to contact DWP if they believe a deduction from their service should not be made.”