Terry Moore, Partner and head of Private Client Law of the local Hull firm, Burstalls, has received a written apology from The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) concerning its treatment of one of his late client’s Estate.
The Hull Solicitor, who is also the Chairman and Founder of the Hull Probate Practitioners’ Group (a body of approximately 55 Hull and East Riding Lawyers specialising in Wills and Estate Administration work) became angry and frustrated at the practice and procedures of the National DWP when assessing whether a person, who had died, had during their lifetime wrongly been receiving DWP benefits.
Whilst Terry agreed with the need to “protect the public purse” he noticed that over the last 10 years or so the DWP always asked Lawyers questions of fact which could not be answered e.g. to produce bank statements going back to 6.10.2003 (when Pension Credits were introduced) even though Banks only keep records for six years.
The DWP’s repeated inappropriate and misinformed enquiries set off “a merry-go-round” of correspondence and telephone calls to the DWP which were dealt with dismissively by their employees as they failed to appreciate the problems they posed.
This resulted in great delay and distress to the Executors and beneficiaries of the Estate as the administration of the assets and liabilities could not be completed until it was known whether there was any need to repay any wrongfully received benefits.
Terry suggested to the Executors of the particular Estate he was dealing with that he should refer the matter to his local MP, David Davis. He requested that Mr. Davis contact both the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the waste of public funds and Iain Duncan Smith, the responsible Minister for the DWP. Mr Davis readily agreed to do this and was keen to help.
Burstalls are delighted to report (for the benefit not only of their late client’s Estate but also all future Estates where an innocent overpayment of benefits may have arisen) that they have received a two page written reply from Mrs. Alison Cunningham, OBE MA Chartered MCIPD Group Manager of the DWP in Gloucester. This letter contained both an apology to Terry’s client for the inordinate delay and inadequate performance of the DWP and confirmation that the DWP is now conducting a full review of all its procedures for these cases and hopes to report back to David Davis, Iain Duncan Smith and Terry before the end of December 2015. DWP have given an assurance to Terry that the necessary improvements will be implemented without delay.
Terry comments “hopefully we may have both a prompt, relevant, efficient service in the distressing circumstances of death to the benefit of the family of the deceased as well as the saving of considerable funds in the DWP budget that could be used for proper purposes. This must surely be preferable to mere paper-pushing without any tangible benefit”.
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