Thanks to Benefits and Work for this post.
A shocked welfare rights worker, posting on Rightsnet, has revealed how his client had their personal independence payment (PIP) appeal refused because of the amount of time the claimant allegedly spent on Facebook.
Accused of lying
The claimant had appealed to a first-tier tribunal about the decision on their PIP claim and attended an oral hearing with a representative.
Whilst considering their mental health, the claimant was asked by the panel whether they ever used Facebook. The claimant replied that they did so ‘now and again’.
After all the evidence had been taken, the claimant and their representative returned to the waiting room while the tribunal made their deliberations.
However, when they were called back before the panel to hear the decision, the claimant was accused of lying to the tribunal. The medical panel member had the claimant’s Facebook page open on their smartphone and was reading from it, clearly taking the view that the number of posts was too frequent to be regarded as ‘now and again’.
Because the evidence gathering phase of the appeal had ended, the claimant was not allowed to respond, they could only listen to the decision of the tribunal in shocked silence.
Thus they were given no opportunity to challenge the accusation that they were lying or to explain that their partner also used their Facebook page.
Instead, they must now go through the lengthy process of asking for a statement of reasons from the tribunal judge – which can take many weeks or months to be provided – before asking for the decision to be set aside or appealing to the upper tribunal.
Breach of natural justice
There is a very strong probability that the decision will be overturned because it is such a flagrant breach of natural justice: the decision was based on evidence acquired by the panel itself from elsewhere and the claimant was given no opportunity to comment on it.
But, as well as leaving a big question mark over the quality of training for tribunal members, this episode also raises the possibility that claimants’ use of social media may in the future be used as evidence when making decisions on benefits entitlement.
If all the facts are collected and the claimant is given the opportunity to comment on them, this may just be another indignity that claimants are expected to learn to live with. Either that or claimants will need to make sure that their online life is kept as private as possible.
But if decisions are made based on partial evidence and wrong assumptions, as in this case, it will simply lead to more unfairness and injustice for sick and disabled people.
5 thoughts on “PIP refused for allegedly spending too much time on Facebook”
How did these tribunal people get into the client’s Facebook page? Were they given the password. If not it is flagrant breach of privacy.
Talking about privacy. there isn’t any.
MI5, MI6 and GCHQ are expected to be granted new rights to tap devices under the Investigatory Powers Bill – which could be presented next month.
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Anyone can call up a Facebook page, it depends on the security setting whether strangers can see what you have put on your timeline. Normally most people have their security open enough for their friends and family to be able to pop by and see what’s new and interesting and leave messages etc… you can however leave it totally open so anyone can see everything… must have happened in this case.
Although FB expects people to have one account and for only one person to use that account, quite often families use one account and share it so that all their pictures and comments are in the one place…
Have to say Social Media is very much the replacement for making phone calls, writing letters to family and friends, having the family snaps developed and sent out to all the grannies and aunties, popping out to meet friends for a coffee at lunchtime everyday, buying hobby magazines, finding cookery recipes, watching video clips of new films etc… and it keeps you in touch with the police, neighbourhood watch, women’s institute, the council… All the things you do or did before you were ill are still available in a virtual reality…a lifeline to the sick, convalescent and the housebound.
If this panel would like to comment on the benefit claimant’s telephone calls, letters, visits from and to friends, chats with the local bobby, local councillor, MP… and decide whether those activities are too much…
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MY GOB HAS NEVER BEEN SO SMACKED, THIS IS WAY MORE THAN BIG BROTHER WATCHING WHERE DOES THIS SIT LEGALLY IN THE FRAMEWORK OF DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION ACT??? I OFTEN GET CHALLENGED DAY TO DAY ON SIMILAR MATTERS AND ALL CLEARLY SIT NEGATIVELY WITHIN THE DDACT BUT WHEN YOU ARE GENUINELY DISABLED IN WHATEVER SPHERE ARE THEY NEXT GOING TO SAY ” WELL U ARE CLEARLY STRONG ENOUGH TO CHALLENGE THIS MATTER???
CLEARLY TYHE CONS”ARTISTS PARTY HAVE NO TRUE UNDERSTANDING OF DISABLED PEOPLE,THEIR NEEDS THEIR RIGHTS TO PARTICIPATE FULLY IN SOCIETY AK THEIR RIGHTS????
THIS IS TRULY A BLATANT VIOLATION AND WE AS A GROUP SHOULD SHOW OUR FEELINGS AS HOW AND WHERE WE CAN SURELY ???