Another Social Security Tribunal hearing....
The latest Social Security Tribunal hearing on 27 February was open to the public. The applicant was asked outside the room if he objected to the public being present and he confirmed that he had no objection. So yours truly attended and can report as follows.
The dispute with the Social Security department arose because the applicant had been awarded a 10% long term incapacity award for a shoulder problem. This amounted to a lump sum payment of about £1300 for the period from October 2013 to March 2015.
He had previously been awarded a similar 10% award and received the money without any difficulty but since then has been claiming Income Support and he has another ongoing 70% award, paid as a regular payment (not a lump sum) with his Income Support, for kidney failures (for which he receives dialysis).
He is 52 year of age and unable to work (but the 10% award was made without any further Medical board examination. It was based upon previous information as the applicant explained to yours truly after the hearing).
Unfortunately, having accepted the £1300 and used it to settle some outstanding debts ( including a loan of £800 towards his parents’ funeral etc and a JEC bill) the Social Security department decided that it should be treated as “income” and duly proceeded to re-claim it ( except for 6% “disregard”) from his Income Support award.
The result is that the applicant is no better off. The 10% award has actually created problems because he has settled debts which could have been spread over time and the money used for other essential purposes.
The letters from the SS Department were discussed in some detail – were they clear enough? Did the applicant understand what they said etc?
In fact the SS law had been changed in 2011, presumably under Francis Le Gresley’s direction – so that Long Term Incapacity awards (LTIA) were no longer to be treated as “capital” for Income Support assessment purpose but were considered as “income”. The applicant’s original award at 10% was “capital” but the current one was “income” and so was clawed back...
The applicant explained how he was unaware of this and would have had the award paid on a regular basis instead of a one off lump sum if he had known.
But the SS Department explained that a 10% award must be taken as a lump sum – it cannot be paid with Income Support like the 70% award.
There is no discretion either – the SS Department must pay the money out too because the law demands it. In other words the applicant cannot refuse to receive it (unless appealing against the decision itself) although there is a bit of a grey area if the money is paid out and the applicant then appeals within the 3 months period allowed...
The SS Officers explained that there was some discretion available to them regarding redundancy payments or where a property value diminished to become a “negative equity” but in this case there were no exceptional circumstance and it was a common place occurrence. Many others have been treated in the same way they explained...
All due notifications had been made they said and there was no reason to change the decision (which had been confirmed by the Second Determining Officer in accordance with the Department’s own internal reconsideration process).
The Decision and other things.
The Tribunal members - Chair Advocate Thacker with Mrs S Le Monnier and Mr A. Hall - agreed and rejected the appeal. There were no exceptional circumstances.
They did though raise the question of the letters sent out by the SS Department and whether these needed to be phrased more clearly and they did advise the applicant that the Minister does have an ultimate discretion to reconsider or change decisions and that he could approach him.
As is usual, the Tribunal’s findings will be sent to the Department – but what happens to all such decisions is a mystery to yours truly. There does not seem to be an archive for the public to look at or to enable such important decisions to be analysed and discussed.
It is the usual “Jersey way” of sloppy and incomplete administration...
The Tribunal hearing lasted about 45 minutes and the decision was delivered after a short retirement. It was well conducted and the applicant presented his simple case well.
There was one other person present in the “public” seats who appeared to be an observer for the SS Department. No “accredited media” attended.