Caselaw request please – The ‘Council as a whole’

Currently, there are 0 users and 1 guest visiting this topic.
Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
  • Author
  • #283873

    Good Morning

    I am hoping someone will know the judgement I am looking for.

    In essence, customer has a change, notifies our Housing team but doesn’t notify Housing Benefit. Overpayment occurs, they contend “I told the Council” – I believe that our declaration is clear that they need to notify the benefit team but I believe there is caselaw which confirms that ‘the council’ could be a housing or Ctax team but I simply cannot find it – any ideas on which one it could be?

    Peter Barker

    There are two cases issued on the same day in 2008:

    The closer the functional links between the department that had the information and the HB department, the more likely there has been an official error.

    Amanda JB

    CH 2567 2007

    Is this it?


    The general duty is to notify the designated office (not the “designated team”)

    There is HB case law as outlined by the previous posts where it was held that the failure to pass information on could amount to official error, ( and disentangles the cause of overapyments from the persons non disclosure to the designated office of the change of circumsances )

    There is some social security case law which is very relevant to the duty to dislose and which emphasises this point. The Tribunal of Commissioners held at paragraph 28 of R(SB)15/87

    …This can happen, for instance, if an officer in another office of the Department of Health and Social Security or local unemployment benefit office accepts information in circumstances which make it reasonable for the claimant to think the matters disclosed will be passed onto the local office in question. It was in reference to this sort of case that the Commissioner included in paragraph 18 of Decision R(SB) 54/83..

    Mr Commissioner (as then was ) Rowland similarly held in R(A)2/06 (at [13])

    “..Alternatively, the claimant might understand that information disclosed to the officer making the representation would be passed on to the relevant office where disclosure should ordinarily be made. That is a modification of the general rule as to where disclosure is to be made. Such a modification was accepted in paragraph 28 of R(SB) 15/87 and was not excepted from the general approval of that decision by the House of Lords in Hinchy”

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 3 weeks ago by d-stainsby.

    From my experience Tribunals tend to follow the House of Lords Judgement in the case of Hinchy. The claimant must tell the right team in an organisation for it to potentially be an official error.

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 3 weeks ago by pacificdream.

    The significance of Hinchy has been eroded over the years

    In CIS/4422/2002 Mr Commiissioner Howell held at [10]

    10. In any event, there was no evidence of any requirement on him to send any separate notification to any separately identified section of the staff working within what was otherwise presented to him as a single local office of the Department for Work and Pensions, of the activities within that office of any other. As far as that last point goes, the evidence and the findings of the tribunal in this case show that it falls within the same principle as that explained in CSB/677/86 and CIS/1887/02, there being nothing before the tribunal to suggest that the staff in this claimant’s local office had been physically separated as a matter of fact so as to constitute two distinct “offices” of the department albeit in the same building (so as to make the facts analogous with those accepted by the Commissioner in CIS/3700/05, on which the Secretary of State’s submission relied); or that any such division had in any way been identified to the claimant.

    There have been a couple of Northern Ireland decisions (SK-v-Department for Communities (ESA) [2020] NICom 73 and PMcL-v-Department for Communities (ESA) [2020] NICom 21) which suggest that facts on the ground such as development’s in computer systems and centralised call centres may in some circumstances render Hinchy no longer good law.

    Mr Commissioner Stockman held in SK at [47] and [50]-[51]

    47 However, referencing R(SB)15/87, it seems to me that, in order to discharge the obligation to disclose, the issue in these cases is not merely whether the Department knew the fact in issue, but whether the appellant knew that the Department knew it. In addressing what the claimant knew, I consider that judicial notice has to be taken of the technological revolution over the past 30 years. The benefits system is fully computerised. To the extent that Chief Commissioner Mullan is saying that in the 21st century the Department can reasonably be assumed by claimants to have knowledge of the information it inputs on its own computer systems, I agree with him

    50 More generally, I am also satisfied that when he received notice from the Department of the change it was making to his DLA award, the appellant was entitled to assume that all relevant branches of the Department also had received that information. I agree with the reasoning of Chief Commissioner Mullan in PMcL v DfC and support his approach. Lord Hoffman said at paragraph 32 of Hinchy that “the claimant is not entitled to make any assumptions about the internal administrative arrangements of the Department. In particular he is not entitled to assume the existence of infallible channels of communication between one office and another”. However, it is plainly time that the factual circumstances underpinning the House of Lords decision in Hinchy are distinguished in order to reflect the reasonably expected standards of 21st century benefits administration.

    51. I conclude that the tribunal erred in law by rejecting the submission that the Department knew the material fact that the appellant’s DLA award had changed, and that he knew that it knew. The Department was the entity that had brought about the change in circumstances by its decision on DLA. The appellant learned that same information directly from the Department. By holding that the appellant was not entitled to rely on computerised Departmental systems to assume that the ESA branch of the Department knew of the decision that its DLA branch had made, and by holding that he had failed to disclose a material fact, I consider that the tribunal erred in law.

    Amanda JB
    Mike Hughes

    The guidance is just that.

    I’d be surprised nowadays to come across any tribunal following Hinchy unless there was some obvious benefit to the appellant and the rep. had asked them to do so.

Viewing 8 posts - 1 through 8 (of 8 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.