Money Support Success - Mark's Story
Sally Farmer has worked for Town & Country Housing Group as a Money Support Officer for the past 18 months covering the West Kent area. Previously Sally worked as an Income Manager and Money Support Officer for 11 years with another large Housing Association managing rent arrears and the prevention of Homelessness.
Our Money Support team gets referrals for many different reasons. Money Support Officer, Sally explains how a simple misunderstanding of the processes under the latest DWP regulations left Mark* in rent arrears.
"Under the latest regulations set by DWP, those in receipt of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) can be requested to attend a Work Capability Assessment (WCA). Even though Mark was suffering from mental health issues, the outcome of his WCA found that he was fit for work. This meant his ESA payments would be ending, so it was recommended that he apply for Job Seekers Allowance (JSA).
"As Mark didn’t agree with the decision, he used the mandatory reconsideration stage 1 of the appeal process to dispute it. A mandatory reconsideration means that you ask for DWP to look at the decision about your benefit claim again. You can either do this on the phone or in writing. Mark made his request in writing so he could keep a record.
"While he was waiting for the outcome of his mandatory reconsideration request, Mark attempted to claim JSA online but his application was declined. Unfortunately the process of how to claim JSA in conjunction with submitting a reconsideration request was not made clear to Mark. As a result Mark stopped receiving any personal income allowance and his current claim for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support payments were suspended.
"It was at this point that Mark started to get into financial difficulty and his rent account fell into arrears. Following a visit from his Income Manager, Mark was referred to the Money Support Team.
"During my visit, Mark explained that he had for many years been suffering from Anxiety and Depression which had been further affected by his lack of income. He had also received correspondence from the DWP that his request for a mandatory reconsideration had been unsuccessful.
"Hearing Mark’s story, I immediately contacted the DWP on the new JSA Claims Line. An appointment was made for Mark to visit his local Jobcentre the following day. The advisor told him what evidence he would need to take to his appointment. He was advised to request for the JSA payment to be backdated to the end of his previous ESA claim.
"In conjunction with this, I also contacted the Housing Benefit and Council Tax departments to explain Mark’s case. Mark worked with me to gather all the relevant information needed by the benefits department to support his claim. The outcome was a total success.
"As Mark was keen to move to the next stage of appeal, I referred Mark to the Paddock Wood Community’s Advice Centre for their guidance.
"Thankfully the appointment at the Jobcentre went ahead without any complications. Mark is currently on JSA while he waits for the outcome of his appeal application.
"If the DWP log his case for a further hearing, Mark will be removed from JSA back to ESA. He will be paid at the statutory rate of £73.10 per week until the appeal process is finalised and the decision made.
The Paddock Wood Community's Advice Centre are now supporting Mark throughout the appeal process."
*name changed to protect identity
What to expect when requesting a mandatory reconsideration
- If you have been notified that you have been found fit for work, but you don’t agree with the outcome, you can request a mandatory reconsideration. You must ask for the mandatory reconsideration within one calendar month of the date on the decision letter.
- However, in order to maintain a continuous income, you must call the new JSA Claims Line 0800 055 6688. The advisor will take your details and make an appointment for you at your local Jobcentre.
- At the appointment you must have a current medical certificate and advise the work coach that you have/are requesting a mandatory reconsideration.
- At this point you can ask for an extended 13-week period of sickness. Only the Jobcentre has the discretion to agree the request.
- If granted, the work coach also has the discretion to determine how often you attend follow-up appointments at the Jobcentre. This can be to discuss your health and/or work opportunities (each case is measured on its own merits by the Work Coach).
- If the mandatory reconsideration outcome upholds the original decision of you being found fit for work, then you have the right to submit an appeal.
- If the appeal is logged for a further hearing date, you will be moved back onto ESA until the final outcome is known.
- If your case is not logged for an appeal hearing, you will remain on JSA and will be expected to look for work, attend appointments etc.