electronic claim forms

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    Does anyone know if a Benefit form is completed online, can it be submitted online without a signature?


    We’ve looked into this a fair bit and have concluded that it might be convenient, it might be fine for claims made in good faith. However, in law a signature is still a hand written signature and is needed to enter into a legal claim.

    This becomes particularly apparent in cases involving fraud.

    “I didn’t sign that claim form”
    “that’s not the data I entered – it must have got corrupted”
    “That page has been sustituted”
    “I didn’t make that declaration”

    At the moment, despite various e-gov initiatives and laws about electronic trading – we conclude that they are not safe enough for prosecuting fraud.

    There are some fairly simple ways around it – like accepting the claim on-line and posting it back to the customer for signature. The claim could be entered and left pending – awaiting the returned signed copy. But this obviously spoils some of the advantages of the online claim. Plus, if it is printed on separate A4 sheets with no actual handwriting on it, who is to say the pages of different claims haven’t got mixed up. A good barrister could use the same argument as with police evidence statements. i.e. if the individual pages are not [b:04e7ec9b38]all [/b:04e7ec9b38]signed by “the suspect” then they are inadmissable as evidence.

    Having looked at the software forum on this site I notice that East Riding of Yorkshire HB department are working towards on-line claims – AND they have said they are happy to answer questions and share experiences.

    Contact there is “ChrisD” – Revenues Visiting Team Leader.


    I recently helped a client claim carers allowance on line . The form is accepted by simply clicking the mouse to acknowledge that the information is true and complete.

    Carers allowance is a relatively simple benefit and I note that the tax credit on line claim and the pension credit telphone claim still require a handwritten signature

    Darren Broughton

    There is a similar topic to this posted on the HB forum 23Mar04, titled “Tablet PC’s and paperless reviews”

    You may find some of the info here quite useful.

    Julian Hobson

    I am assuming that this will appear on the Commissioners website shortly and might be useful.

    In this case there was a claim made via the ONE service, and as ONE sites will know LA’s get a “clone” of the intigrated benefit form. That clone doesn’t include a signature. At tribunal: the fact that we did not present a signed declaration was relied upon by the appelant’s rep as significant because we could show no misrepresentation, the decision was that we could not show an OP because there was no signature.

    I took this to Commissioners and was asked for observations on two matters:

    1. [b:1429dd8243]Was the tribunal correct that a signature on a declaration was required to show that the claimant had presented the information on the claim form as being correct and complete ?[/b:1429dd8243]

    My reply:

    [i:1429dd8243]2.4 I will now turn to the question as to whether a signature was required in order for the provisions of regulation 62(1) to be satisfied. The requirement must be broken down:

    “the claim is made in writing” : I do not think that the term in writing can be construed as meaning that it must also be accompanied by a signature. Elsewhere in Social Security legislation the requirement for a signature is explicit, for example regulation 20(1)(a) and (b) of The Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations 2001 have the combined effect of drawing a distinction between the requirement for the appeal to be in writing and the requirement for a signature.

    20(1) An appeal or application for an extension of time must-

    (a) be in writing on a form approved for the purpose by the relevant authority or in such other format as the relevant authority may accept;
    (b) be signed by the person who has a right of appeal under paragraph 6(3) of schedule 7 to the Act;

    “on a properly completed form” : in such cases there is no reason for the relevant authority to dispute that the form has been properly completed. The provisions outlined above show that there is provision for ONE claim to be made to the “designated authority” and that it is the designated authority’s responsibility to ensure that each “relevant authority” receive the information required to process the benefit that they administer.

    2.5 Commissioner Howell considers the issue of the making of complete and valid claims in CIS 540/02. In short it is for the relevant authority to make a decision as to whether the provisions of regulation 62(1) are satisfied in each case, the relevant authority is not prevented from accepting a claim as complete notwithstanding any deficiency, if the relevant authority accept it as being sufficient.

    2.6 ………. Given that the matter of the signature did not form part of the original appeal and was not a matter upon which the authority relied, the authority ought to have been given an opportunity to present the information which would have allowed the tribunal to make a finding of fact. Commissioner Howell refers in paragraph 45 of CIS 540/02 to decisions as to the completeness and validity of claims as being at the “fact-finding” end of the spectrum, they are “pre-eminently matters involving the determination of an objective state of fact on the evidence in a particular case, and applying to it a set of prescribed legal rules”. [/i:1429dd8243]

    2 [b:1429dd8243]Even if there has ben an official error, should the claimant have realised that she was being overpaid[/b:1429dd8243]

    My reply:

    [i:1429dd8243]3.2 If it is established that the award was in consequence of an official error and that the official error was that an award of Council Tax Benefit had been made to a person that had not made a claim for Council Tax Benefit, It would be reasonable to reach the conclusion that the excess benefit was none the less recoverable.

    3.3 Regulation 84(2) of the Council Tax Benefit (General) Regulations 1992 makes excess benefit allowed in consequence of an official error unrecoverable where the “claimant or a person acting on his behalf or any other person to whom the excess benefit is allowed could not, at the time the benefit was allowed or upon receipt of any notice relating to the allowance of that benefit, reasonably have been expected to realise that it was excess benefit.”

    3.4 I submit that irrespective of whether xxxx is defined as “a claimant” , Regulation 84(2) would allow recovery of the excess benefit from her as an “other person to whom excess benefit is allowed”. The only question remaining is whether xxxx could have known that she was receiving excess benefit upon receipt of any notices or at the time the benefit was allowed. If xxxx had not made a claim for Council Tax Benefit she would not expect any reduction in her Council Tax Liability nor would she expect to receive letters detailing the assessment (pages 18/19 and 35/36 of the papers refer). It would be reasonable to have expected xxxx to have queried whether her liability was in fact correct and why she was being advised of entitlement to a Benefit that she had not claimed.[/i:1429dd8243]

    Unfortunately the fact that reg 84 allowed recovery from the person to whom the benefit was paid meant that the issue of the signature was not explored by the commissioner (because he didn’t need to). The final analysis in this case was that because the tribunal failed to consider reg 84, it erred in law allowing a rehearing. That rehearing meant that the commissioner could consider evidence not before the tribunal, namely a copy of the signed declaration and so the decision was no official error and recoverable OP.

    Whilst I am happy that the right outcome was obtained I would have loved to have had an answer on the issue as to whether a signature was required.

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