Please can this question be answered by Clare the Solicitor on this site who is familiar with my case.
You answered a question recently about my ESA and a fraud investigation which is on going. Thank you for your answer, it was very helpful. I have a few follow up questions I hope you can help with.
Because an investigation has been commenced by the DWP, this has feed through to my Council who have stopped my Housing Benefit. As a result, the majority of my benefits have been suspended now (both ESA and Housing Benefit) while this investigation is on going. This has obviously put me in a very difficult financial situation and I would like to know what options I have available to me.
1) Regarding the Housing Benefit, I have submitted a Nil Income Declaration to my council a few weeks ago in the hope of re-starting my Housing Benefit. I have not heard anything back. Will this declaration mean the council has to restart my benefit? Even if there is an investigation on going?
2) Regarding the ESA, I believe I can apply for ESA hardship payments. However, this is quite complex given my situation and what I am being investigated for. You may remember from my previous question on this site that I am being investigated about whether I am receiving income based ESA or not. I am aware that the Hardship ESA payment is an income based benefit. My concern is if I apply for this benefit while an investigation is on going, I don’t want to do anything to prejudice my defence i.e. I am claiming for my defence that I did not apply for an income based benefit, but if now start applying for the Hardship ESA (which is an income based benefit) will this affect the investigation? It sounds like I am saying one this and doing another!! Given the investigation is on going, I have have no idea what type of ESA I am on or entitled to and I am scared to do anything to negatively affect my defence. I hope the questions make sense.
Please let me know your thoughts.
I forgot to add in my original question.
Would I be entitled to any back dating of benefits once the investigation is over? Or will all the benefits during this period simply be lost? I was advised that the investigation could take months to conclude.
There has been some new developments today regarding my nil income claim and a letter has been sent to me from the council.
“We have been informed that your Employment and Support Allowance has been suspended while they review your entitlement. We are now awaiting this decision. Your claim will remain suspended to avoid any further overpayment until we have the information required in order to assess your claim”
No reference is made in the above paragraph or letter to my nil income declaration? I thought the whole point of that declaration is for when your benefits have been sanctioned, suspended or investigated you can still receive HB and CTB on a ‘no other income’ basis?
It was also said in the letter that they are reviewing my housing benefit claim from the beginning and have requested financial information dating back to October 2014 (my claim for HB was made in Feb 2015).
I really need to know where I stand on the ‘no other income’ basis for HB because if I can not claim this and the investigation for my HB and ESA could take months to conclude then I really need to get out of my flat ASAP (because I have no income). What do other people do in this situation when their benefits have been stopped but they are committed to rental contracts? Surely the council will not just let them run into arrears and default?
Any advice on the above would be helpful.
That is correct, my only assets at present is the approximately £8,000.
I did have more savings previously, I receive a payment from my previous employer in December 2014 because my employment was being terminate due to ill health. Of course, all this was disclosed to the Council. My savings are lower now because I have had no income for two months while trying to sort all this out.
I went to the council again today to discuss my options and explain that I have no income. The person I spoke to seemed to think there was no help or form of payment they could make to me while my Housing Benefit is being investigated. So the nil income declaration is useless. It sounds like they have complete power and can drag this investigation on as long as they want without any regard for the claimant getting into financial difficulties which is basically inevitable if people are committed to a rental contract. Hard to believe this situation has not been considered by the government and they are happy with the way this process works!