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Ali M-W
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3558 Posts

Posted - 16/03/2009 :  08:13:32  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Some really interesting stuff on the CPAG website:

"New pages have recently been added to the Revenue's manual for debt management staff, including several chapters on recovery of tax credits overpayments....The section on recovery of tax credits includes the following points:

Mental health cases: If information or evidence is received from a third party about the mental health problem of a claimant the Revenue can agree not to pursue that claimant for payment."

Other goodies too!

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Note that it says, "can" and not "will". HMRC are not great users of discretion. It's up to us - and our GPs, CPNs Social Workers and anyone else willing to argue a mental health need - to give this "information and evidence" strongly, in support of a write-off!




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Ali M-W
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3558 Posts

Posted - 16/03/2009 :  08:16:39  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
We need to also argue the case for a full write-off when there are significant physical health issues, too. Jane Kennedy has said:

“Where it seems that a customer's financial circumstances are unlikely to change, for example because they are on long-term benefit or are seriously ill, HMRC will remit the debt.”

This doesn't seem to be happening, so maybe we should ask our MPs, Brown, Darling and Timms WHY?


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Alan the Geordie
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3032 Posts

Posted - 16/03/2009 :  18:36:41  Show Profile Send Alan the Geordie a Private Message
Before we can ask "Why" we'll need to be able to cite actual cases.

"The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible
reductions. In this way the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed."

Adolf Hitler
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Ali M-W
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3558 Posts

Posted - 17/03/2009 :  08:39:31  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Thanks, Alan, for pointing that out. Perhaps I should explain: we've had a spate of people recently with health issues contacting us. Not only do people have health issues predating their claim for tax credits, but there are situations where the stress of a sudden tax credit overpayment demand and HMRC's strongarm recovery tactics - untempered with any suggestion than a dispute and re-examination of the case is possible - have actually caused the ill health or heightened the symptoms (heart attacks being a real risk at times of acute stress).

So perhaps I should rephrase my suggestion/request on this forum. If a tax credit overpayment victim also has a serious illness or medical condition which ought to call for some compassion and a quick resolution to what would otherwise be a prolonged and stressful dispute that they find too daunting, with their current health, to face, one solution may be to ask their GP for a letter (or another health or social care professional, eg. CPN, Community Nurse, Social Worker, Occupational Therapist, Consultant etc.) describing the state of their health and the impact of the stress of recovery action on their wellbeing and livelihood (some have reported now being unfit for work they used to be able to do!), and sending this to the Prime Minister, Chancellor or Financial Secretary to the Treasury asking why discretion is so rarely shown and the TCC - to which it may be helpful to say you belong- knows of no-one who has won a write-off on health grounds (if indeed, this policy is ever practiced).

That's what I meant - sorry folks if I confused anyone.

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Ali M-W
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3558 Posts

Posted - 17/03/2009 :  08:55:29  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
It seems to me that there are two ways of looking at this.

Either Stephen Timms and Jane Kennedy do believe that what they say happens actually does happen, or they know that that is not quite the case but are trying to justify the current stance on recovery by maintaining that the system is less cruel, abusive and unjust that it currently is.

If they believe that the system is justified in fiercely pursuing most people, because enough discretion and compassion is shown in those cases where there is the greatest need for better treatment, they will need to be continually shown where those caees are, so that their actions can truly match their assertions and are not just empty promises.

If they are being "economical with the truth", then they will not want to admit that there are too many exceptions to their cosy, rosy view of things.

There was once a time when I thought Brown wasn't putting the tax credit system right because he had seen - or been allowed to see by HMRC officials - so few signs of disorder that he could genuinely be a good man who was simply "in the dark" about how things truly were. The secret was to enlighten him, and then he would live up to the message he gave America recently of being a "Good Samaritan" who would not just walk by on the other side if there were problems.

Sadly, after four years of trying to enlighten him about tax credits, I can see that his interest in the subject is minimal. He does not see any significant problem because he does not want to see any significant problem.

That's why we need to quiz the politicians about their assertions. Timms about his belief (and he is a Christian Socialist!!!!!) that claimants do not have overpayments recovered if they notified HMRC of problems in advance. And Kennedy about her apparent belief that money is not recovered from the significantly unwell and dying.

Does anyone remember that case where the Ombudsman wrote off an overpayment after the poor man bringing the dispute had died of his "significant illness"? What does that case say about HMRC ethics and compassion for people with severe health conditions?

Let's test them! If it is just rhetoric, they will deny and hide from the truth. If it is lack of knowledge, we have the experience to show and teach them.

And that is why I am urging people to take Timms and Kennedy up on their promises of some shred of tax credit justice. Maybe they will come good yet?

(typos corrected)

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Edited by - Ali M-W on 17/03/2009 08:58:48
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n/a
deleted



240 Posts

Posted - 18/03/2009 :  18:40:23  Show Profile Send n/a a Private Message
Hi Ali, agree it should be tested, however and unfortunately those in most need with illness etc are usually too stressed out (or ill) to be bothered to write again and again and again. Perhaps a template for some would be useful?

Sure many in this category would really appreciate this type of advice (then the letters could be edited and sent off -in droves by recorded delivery)
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Ali M-W
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3558 Posts

Posted - 19/03/2009 :  09:12:16  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Good suggestion, Rosie - and good to see you back!

This any good?


Your Name
House,
Street,
Town,
Post Code
Phone Number

MPs Name
House of Commons,
London,
SW1A 0AA

19th March 2009

Dear

As a constituent and Tax Credit Casualty (see You must be logged in to see this link. ), I would like you to write to HM Revenue and Customs and to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Timms asking for a full write-off of my alleged overpayment of £

As you will see from the enclosed medical/professional/welfare agency statement(s), I have a mental health diagnosis and it is not in the public interest to pursue recovery of this sum. If I were well enough to pursue the dispute route taken by claimants who do not have mental health needs, I feel strongly that I would eventually be able to prove to HMRC’s satisfaction that I was fully compliant, did nothing wrong, and am a victim of HMRC’s own maladministration. Unfortunately, my mental health is currently so poor that I have more than enough to contend with in my daily life without having to pursue a lengthy and stressful dispute, with all the associated fear and uncertainty taking its daily toll on my health.

Those parts of the Tax Credit Manual which are accessible to the public, which are not obscured by a note saying that “text has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000”, clearly state that HMRC can choose to write off an alleged overpayment for a claimant who has a mental health condition:

“If you receive information/evidence about the mental health problem of a claimant you can agree not to pursue that claimant for payment. This is to prevent any detrimental effect or unreasonable distress to the claimant… In the majority of cases, the initial contact about a claimant’s mental health problem will be from a third party on behalf of the claimant, such as from a doctor or psychiatric nurse. Organisations such as MIND and Citizens Advice Bureaux can also be involved.”

You will, I am sure, be aware that the Disability Discrimination Act requires providers of services to make “reasonable adjustments” to how they deliver these in order not to discriminate against people with disabilities. I am sure you will agree that a “reasonable adjustment” to the usual, long, painstaking and stressful dispute process would be for HMRC to take responsibility for its own shortcomings and not exacerbate my mental health needs by putting these intolerable pressures on me knowing full well that I am unable to wage a lengthy dispute, but to wipe the slate clean and allow me to live my life free of this additional, undeserved burden.

I note that the previous Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Jane Kennedy, said:

“Where it seems that a customer's financial circumstances are unlikely to change, for example because they are on long-term benefit or are seriously ill, HMRC will remit the debt.”

Sadly, the user group to which I belong - Tax Credit Casualties - sees scant evidence of this, and a shocking lack of understanding of the needs of those who have disabilities or physical health conditions, which brings HMRC into disrepute and serves nobody well.

As my MP I am confident that you can challenge this injustice on my behalf, and increase awareness of this important issue.

I look forward to your swift resolution of this matter.

Yours sincerely
Your Name





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Ali M-W
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3558 Posts

Posted - 19/03/2009 :  09:29:42  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
The enclosure should give the following evidence, according to HMRC's manual:

DMBM555620 – Tax Credits overpayments: Mental Health cases: Evidence required


The Disability and Discrimination Act 1995 defines a person with a disability as someone with a ‘physical or mental impairment which has a long-term adverse affect on his/her ability to carry out normal day to day activities’. This definition should be used when considering the effect of the mental health problem on the claimant’s ability to repay.

The evidence should include the nature of the illness and as far as possible, whether the illness is likely to be long-term (for example schizophrenia) or where the prospects for recovery are expected to be good (such as depression).

If the initial approach is a letter from the third party explaining the mental health problem, or includes such a letter from the claimant or third party, treat this as evidence obtained, see DMBM555630.

If the required evidence is not initially available, you should write to the claimant or third party asking for documentary evidence about the nature of the illness and its prognosis (likely outcome) from the claimant’s



community psychiatric nurse
general practitioner (Note: some GP’s charge a small fee for this service)
psychiatrist
mental health social worker
other healthcare professional.

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n/a
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240 Posts

Posted - 19/03/2009 :  19:42:27  Show Profile Send n/a a Private Message
Absolutely brilliant, as always.

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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 23/03/2009 :  09:14:20  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
That's kind! I've also written a draft letter for people who advised HMRC of errors in their award only to be held responsible for HMRC failing to correct them:

Stephen Timms MP
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
House of Commons
London
SW1A 0AA

Dear Mr Timms,

Recently in the House of Commons you stated, “If there is an overpayment as a result of an official error, but the customer has met his or her responsibilities as I described, by checking the accuracy of the information on the award notice, the overpayment will be written off” (see You must be logged in to see this link.). I am writing to ask you to intervene with HM Revenue and Customs to ensure that my own overpayment is written off in full, since it only arose because HMRC did not correct its own errors which I had previously pointed out. I have met my responsibilities, but HMRC has unfortunately not met its own. I refuse to be held accountable for someone else’s incompetence.

(Give details of your own case – where you had advised HMRC of errors you discovered from an award notice but HMRC had not acted promptly on this advice.)

In the same Tax Credit debate you offered the following invitation to Jo Swinson: “If the hon. Lady’s constituents have informed the tax credit office of errors on the award notice and if those errors have led to an overpayment, that overpayment is not recoverable. If she would like to draw my attention to any examples of that kind, that would be the outcome.” This statement implies that if a claimant has pointed out errors which have not been corrected which lead to an overpayment, that overpayment cannot be recovered, and if attempts have been made to recover moneys in such a situation, you wish to know so that you can ensure that the alleged overpayment is promptly written off. Please accept this letter as my own invitation to you to do just that on my own behalf. Since I am not your constituent, and in case your intention was solely to deal with referring MPs, as you can see, I have copied this letter to my own MP so that (s)he can formally request your intervention on my behalf if this should be what you require in order to act. I hope that the courtesy offered to Jo Swinson is similarly available to other MPs and their unfortunate Tax Credit Casualty constituents?

I look forward to hearing from you shortly that this sum is not to be recovered. Since you have promised elsewhere that “claimants can now expect disputed overpayments to be dealt with within four weeks”, I trust that you can confirm to me within a calendar month that I am finally debt-free?

Yours sincerely,

Cc to: your own MP.
Paula Dean, Tax Credit Casualties.






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n/a
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3 Posts

Posted - 24/06/2009 :  16:30:16  Show Profile Send n/a a Private Message
thank you i have evidence i have psychaitric report i receved DLA high rate and i am on incapacity benefit .
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 13/01/2010 :  06:33:23  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
It's been some time since we spread the word here about other organisations "out there" which can offer support to tax credit casualties facing other difficulties, eg. living in poverty, overcoming disabilities, with mental health issues, etc.

We are working on this again, so please watch this space. And don't forget, this is YOUR forum and if you have links with any supportive agencies, please feel free to contribute here.

Morpheus: I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it.
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Ali M-W
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3558 Posts

Posted - 08/03/2010 :  07:34:20  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Don't forget, Disability Alliance and the Child Poverty Action Group have both taken legal action AGAINST the Tax Credit Office on behalf of claimants in the form of Judicial Reviews (different to when HMRC take US to court, which needs to be avoided at all costs as it is not a fair trial and we are not allowed a defence, believe it or not in the 21st century!). This tends to be a later stage, I believe, once the intermal dispute process, Adjudication and the Ombudsman routes have been exhausted, but this may be an option for some people.

Morpheus: I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it.
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Ali M-W
Mod



3558 Posts

Posted - 17/03/2010 :  08:53:37  Show Profile Send Ali M-W a Private Message
Got a few links here for people - some of the organisations which apparently signed up recently to Citizens Advice's call for a fairer tax credit system and writing off of at least those overpayments originiating from those particularly error-prone early years. You might want to contact them and applaud their support - or use theirt services (some of which will include support with disputes to a greater or lesser extent). I have included a bit of blurb as it may relate to tax credits:


Advice UK - Our members work in some of the poorest parts of the UK, helping people to solve legal and social welfare problems. We are the membership network for organisations who give advice, and we can help put you in touch with the right one to help you.
mail@adviceuk.org.uk



Barnardos – Barnardo’s works with some of the most vulnerable children in the UK and witnesses every day the impact of living in grinding poverty on them and their families…We believe it is outrageous that children in the fifth richest country in the world still have to suffer the consequences of poverty.
info@barnardos.org.uk



Church Action On Poverty – Church Action on Poverty is a national ecumenical Christian social justice charity, committed to tackling poverty in the UK.

info@church-poverty.org.uk



Citizens Advice

guide on tax credit overpayments
You must be logged in to see this link.




CAB Scotland -

Get old tax credit overpayment debt written off
Old tax credit overpayment debt is still causing stress and hardship for many. If you have outstanding tax credit overpayment debt from 2003/04 or 2004/05, you should consider challenging the recovery of your overpayment. Not only could challenging recovery help you personally, but it will support our campaign - if enough people challenge these old debts, we send a message to the government that they cannot get away with ignoring them and are better off, writing them off.
If you want to challenge an old tax credit overpayment debt, see the Tax credit overpayments guide on the adviceguide guide website or visit your nearest citizens advice bureau. For more information about the campaign, please email


matthew.lancashire@cas.org.uk



Community Links – Numerous amendments and changes to the UK benefits, tax credits and tax systems, has resulted in a complex system which is difficult to administer. Our Need NOT Greed Campaign proposes new solutions.

info@community-links.org



Child Poverty Action Group - CPAG is the leading charity campaigning for the abolition of child poverty in the UK and for a better deal for low-income families and children.
Kuntal Biswas
CPAG Policy, Rights and Advocacy Team
Tel. 020 7812 5216 or 07816 909302
kbiswas@cpag.org.uk


Crisis – (Homelessness charity) “… despite the budget deficit, 75% of the British public want the Government to address the growing gap between rich and poor.
enquiries@crisis.org.uk


Depaul UK - Depaul UK helps young people who are homeless, vulnerable and disadvantaged. We are passionate about what we do, working in the very heart of local communities.
depaul@depauluk.org



DIAL - DIAL information and advice services are based throughout the UK and provide information and advice to disabled people and others on all aspects of living with a disability.

informationenquiries@dialuk.org.uk


Disability Alliance - Disability Alliance is a national registered charity with the principal aim of relieving the poverty and improving the living standards of disabled people. Our eventual aim is to break the link between poverty and disability.
…We play an important role in advising and lobbying MPs and peers on the effects of new and existing disability benefits.

office@disabilityalliance.org



Gingerbread - Gingerbread is the charity which works nationally and locally, for and with single parent families, to improve their lives. We achieve change by championing their voices and needs and providing support services.

info@gingerbread.org.uk



Housing Justice - Housing Justice works for a decent affordable home for everyone.

info@housingjustice.org.uk


Joseph Rowntree – Examining the root causes of poverty, inequality and disadvantage and identifying solutions.

info@jrf.org.uk


Leonard Cheshire Disability – Our vision
A society in which every disabled person can enjoy their rights and has the opportunity to fulfil their potential

info@LCDisability.org



Macmillan - Macmillan Cancer Support improves the lives of people affected by cancer.

webmanager@macmillan.org.uk


MIND - Debt is not just a financial problem. Mind research shows it can have a serious impact on a person's mental health leading to anxiety and stress, depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and isolation from society…We want…improved advice and support services for people with experience of mental distress.
contact@mind.org.uk

RNIB - an organisation of blind and partially sighted people, passionately committed to ending the isolation of sight loss…We seek radical change in policy and provision to deliver independence, inclusion and an end to the scandal of unnecessary sight loss.

helpline@rnib.org.uk



RNID - Our Legal Casework Service works for deaf and hard of hearing people, providing support to individuals and organisations.

welfarerights@rnid.org.uk


Morpheus: I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it.
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