Reduced verification of a bank account

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    Hoping to get a sanity check on a case. We have a pensioner whose social worker applied for HB on her behalf in June 2021. At the time we were using reduced verification under COVID and the £11k that was declared in a First Direct Account was taken at face value and never followed up. The claimant has mental health issues. She has been selected for a HBAA review in July last year and we have asked for her bank account to be verified but she resolutely refuses to engage with her social worker and her support workers. Its now gone to our adult safeguarding team. Her landlords have been very patient but clearly have no where to go now other than an eviction.

    We have used the safeguarding principles to do a TransUnion check but no accounts came up.

    From the HB perspective, we can’t really invoke reduced verification as the bank account has not been verified in the past. I am thinking there is no other avenue other than to keep the claim cancelled…..but hoping someone has a bright spark idea to resolve this under HB rules.

    Peter Barker

    This is a good example of how words like “cancel” can obfuscate the decision making process. It might very well be the case that what you have done is correct in substance, but you do need to be satisfied that there is a proper legal basis for it.

    First, for the avoidance of doubt, is she on Pension Credit? If she is, there is no need to verify her bank account balance. Assuming it’s not a Pension Credit:

    Do you think she has unreasonably refused to cooperate with your enquiries, and have you followed the correct procedure to suspend and then terminate HB under Regs 11 – 14 of the Decisions and Appeals Regulations? If so, it would be correct to terminate HB, but there does seem to be a question over what is reasonable in her case.

    Does she have a formal appointee or deputy? If so, has that person done everything that they could reasonably be expected to do to verify the bank account? I’m guessing there is no deputy, otherwise they would have access to the bank account.

    Even if there has been no unreasonable non-cooperation that would justify termination, do you have nevertheless have reason to think her capital might well now be more than £16,000? If so, that would justify an adverse inference about the bank account, which would be appealable by producing the evidence.

    But saying the case is “cancelled” after it was “selected for a HBAA review” might not pass muster as a sound decision if it were ever to find its way to a Tribunal.


    OK Peter. Excuse my clumsy terminology. To clarify:

    No she’s she is not on pension credit

    We made a request for further information which involved filling in a review form and providing current evidence to support her claim. She did not respond. Her claim was suspended and notified of the suspension. She did not respond. Her claim was then terminated in accordance with the HB Regs. She has not appealed against that decision. Since then her landlords have approached us and she has been visited. She has unreasonably refused to co-operate with her support worker and our visiting officer when they attempted to get the review completed (in fact she became very aggressive with them when they tried to resolve the issue).

    The original balance in the bank account was never verified in the first place so yes, there is a significant possibility that there is more than £16k in the account. There may have been more than £16k in there in 2021 but we have no way of knowing as we are just taking the information declared by the social worker (who has now left the authority and we cannot trace where he got this information from).

    Peter Barker

    Well that’s fair enough then: you have a decision in place terminating HB and it has not been appealed. You could revise that decision if you were persuaded that “any time” grounds for revision had been made out, such as an official error (but no reason to think there has been an official error). You don’t need an application for revision from the claimant, you can do it on your own initiative … but only if there are grounds to revise. Even if you were generous and took the view that there was some procedural irregularity in the way you went about the termination, thereby justifying an any-time revision on the official error ground, you would still have the substantive question as to exactly how much capital she has.

    So I would tend to agree that there isn’t a basis on which to revise the termination decision as things stand.

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