An unexpected knock at the door. Someone standing there with an ID card claiming they have come to check if you are getting the correct benefits and could they please come in?
What do you do?
You don’t have to be guilty of anything to find the possibility of such a visit very alarming – especially if you have a mental health condition made worse by stress and anxiety.
Last month there was a lot of concern about just such visits, prompted by a change to a page on the DWP website which stated:
You may get a visit from a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) officer to check that your benefits payments are correct.
A Performance Measurement review officer may visit you if you’re claiming:
Employment and Support Allowance
Your name is selected at random to be checked. You won’t always get a letter in advance telling you about the visit.
The concern was the addition of the sentence:
You won’t always get a letter in advance telling you about the visit.
Worries about how to deal with such a visit were posted on various blogs and forums and we received numerous requests from members for guidance on how to deal with these visits.
So Benefits and Work made a Freedom of Information request.
As a result of that request we can now reveal that, in reality, the vast majority of people who get a visit do not get a letter in advance – surprise visits are the rule, not the exception. There’s more on this below.
However, we can also reassure our readers that:
you don’t have to let them in; and
you can insist on being given proper notice;
you can insist on having the interview at a DWP office instead of in your home.
And doing so won’t affect your benefits, though refusing to take part in an interview at all may leave you open to a fraud investigation.
In the members' area we’ve published the letter we got in response to our request and 62 pages of the guidance document issued to officers carrying out these visits - though there are a large number of redactions to the guidance
for more info please check the following page