Legal Update

The Department for Work & Pensions have long operated a phone line where confidential information can be given on so-called “benefits cheats”.  The aim is to ensure that only those genuinely entitled to benefits should claim them.  Another tool used by DWP is to look at Facebook postings to see whether (for example) holiday snaps might show someone claiming benefits for disability who should not be able to dive into swimming pools from the high dive platform nor be up on the dancefloor jiving for hours!  These campaigns have been very successful.

 

GENUINE CLAIMS ONLY

 

I have sat in on numerous occasions at DWP Fraud Investigators’ interviews under caution.  Quite often clandestine video footage is also shown to the person under caution – and often it has been quite incredible what comes up.  The moral of the story is only to claim what you are genuinely entitled to claim.

 

NHS FIGHT BACK

 

The same goes for people who make claims through the Court for compensation for accidents caused by the negligence of others.  The NHS have paid out billions in compensation, and are now adopting a much tougher response to those they regard as lying claimants.  They do this to send out a message to all that easy and illicit pickings are not there for the taking.

 

A man from Birmingham has just been jailed for three months for a fraudulent claim.  He claimed that he had had treatment at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary in 2008 resulting in finger and facial injuries.  He was a part-time disc jockey and claimed that he had lost strength in his hands and dexterity in his fingers, all of which affected his ability to continue as a DJ.  It also prevented him working as a courier driver.

 

VIDEO EVIDENCE

 

He made a claim for £837,000 for personal injuries.  Video surveillance evidence produced by the NHS Trust, however, showed in fact that he had absolutely no problems driving, lifting and carrying, and was able to continue to work without any apparent difficulty.  He was also able to carry on his career as a DJ under a stage name.  To cap it all he even featured in 2011 with dancers and musicians in a music video.

 

JAIL SENTENCE

 

The NHS Trust had in fact tried to settle the claim by offering him £30,000 plus his costs.  Such was his greed, however, that he turned it down.  The NHS took him to Court for contempt.  The Judge gave him an immediate custodial sentence and said that the sentence handed down was a warning to all.  The Judge said “I take into account that you have already been in the media spotlight as a result of my findings of contempt.  That, I am afraid, is part – and a necessary part – of the punishment for such conduct because it is only in that way that the public comes to learn of the seriousness of such conduct, and the seriousness of the consequences for those who indulge in such conduct.”

 

DETERRENT

 

As well as giving this man a three month jail sentence, the Judge made a further costs order of £75,000 against him, but warned the NHS Trust that their chances of getting these costs back were very much open to doubt.  That probably doesn’t bother the NHS too much given that it sends out such a powerful message.  This was the first contempt case brought by NHS Trust.  Their representative said that the sentence “sends a very clear message that the NHS is not an easy target and that you cannot submit fraudulent claims with impunity.  This landmark decision demonstrates that fraud against the NHS will be investigated by NHS Resolution and, significantly, dealt with robustly by the Court.”  Hopefully this powerful message will get across to the cheats and fraudsters who think that they can take anyone for a ride.

 

HOUSE PRICES

 

The UK house price index indicates that the average house price in England is now £240,949.  This is an increase of 4 per cent on the previous year’s figures.  In London the average price is £471,944 (down 0.7 per cent on last year).  In Wales, in contrast, the average price is £152,999 (a rise of 3.5 per cent annually).  Sales in the UK fell by 12.9 per cent in the UK in the year to January 2018.

 

RELEVANT FACTORS

 

The house buying market is affected by many factors.  Amongst these is the fact that consumer confidence remains low.  Halifax reported that the number of new sales instructions fell for the 25th successive month.  Buyer enquiries have also seen a fall, with enquiries falling for the 12th consecutive month in May.  Rightmove say their figures show that prices have continued to reach record levels in 7 of 11 regions.  They counsel, however, that sellers need to price sensibly if they are to find a buyer – taking a punt with an astronomic selling price well above local averages will not find a willing and able buyer.  Land Registry data show that there were 463 residential property sales valued at £1 million or above in England and Wales.  Not surprisingly, 275 of that number were based in Greater London.  The average price for property in the South West was £249,839.

 

LIFETIME MORTGAGES

 

Rather than committing themselves to expensive sales and subsequent property purchases, many house owners are now looking at the benefit of lifetime mortgages.  This is a convenient way of boosting retirement income, and means that money can be obtained without the need to down-size.  Recent data show that the number of single women taking out lifetime mortgages is up by 12 per cent since 2016.  The bulk of lifetime mortgages are still taken out by married couples.  They comprise 42 per cent of all applicants.  With single women accounting for 35 per cent of applicants, single men have accounted for the lowest proportion at 23 per cent.

 

RETIREMENT INCOME BOOST

 

Women are looking to unlock money in their property to boost their retirement income.  It appears they take out lifetime mortgages of £88,000, having put savings away in the order of £70,000.  Annual income expectation is in the order of £20,000 for women of 55.  By taking out a lifetime mortgage, they are future-proofing themselves against any increases in the cost of living, and will be able to pay for treats which they no doubt richly deserve.  One commentator said “It is heartening to see more women are becoming confident to take advantage of the wealth locked up in their properties.  Many lose out on opportunities to save more for retirement, as they are the primary care givers, taking career breaks to raise children or care for an ill or elderly relative, and so inevitably, end up with less money for retirement.  A lifetime mortgage means they can access the equity in their home, gaining an additional income, which they can then use to enjoy their retirement.

 

GENDER PAY GAP

 

Recent research has also revealed that the average amount of retirement income a woman can expect if she retires this year will be £4,900 below that of her male counterparts.  The so‑called “gender pay gap” stands at 29 per cent.  Men can anticipate a yearly sum of £21,800.  That figure shrinks to a more miserly £16,900 for women.  The minimum income for a single pensioner, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s minimum income standard, should be at least £9,982 a year.  Their figures show, however, that one in ten men and 16 per cent of women will not reach this particular threshold.

 

ACTION

 

If you need help on any legal matters then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us here at Busbys.  You can contact us on 01288 35 9000.

 

John Busby

Busbys Solicitors

Bude & Holsworthy

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