Life Certificatesare Mandacious, Bullying and Vindictive

The Truth about Life Certificates

You might have thought that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should have learned a lesson after its obfuscations, misinformation and downright lies about frozen pensions were “outed” by Freedom of Information questions and persistent investigations by pensioners around the world.

Not so! Such behaviour, and the patronising ‘don’t-question-us’ attitude of superiority seems to have become institutionalised within the department, to the extent where the pedants think they can get away with absolute lies … and perhaps they can!

Such is the case with Life Certificates. These mendacious documents were promoted by Iain Duncan Smith during the Coalition Government from 2010. They were promoted on the premise that “Britain loses £28 million a year from ex-pat pensioner fraud”. At this time there were one million ex-pat pensioners (though not all were targeted for Life Certificates). At the same time, the Government admitted that it collected only £42 million in pensioner fraud from a UK pensioner population of 14 million. It seemed odd that DWP could collect only £42 million from a population of 14 million pensioners (average £3 per head) but expected to collect £28 million (because that is what it lost and was targeting) from a maximum population of 1 million (£28 per head).

This anomaly suggested two possibilities:

That DWP considered ex-pat pensioners were more than nine times more dishonest than UK pensioners (this figure of course doubles for frozen pensioners only)

That DWP had its decimal point in the wrong place, in which case the loss was a similar average of £3 per head. This might be reasonable though I would argue that people living in a foreign country tend to keep on the right side of the law since they want to remain in their country of choice.

 More Freedom of Information questions revealed the source of the problem – DWP had absolutely no statistical evidence of any ex-pat pensioner fraud; DWP did not collect any evidence whatsoever on ex-pat pensioner fraud! A request for investigation to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, about the fact that DWP had committed perjury in Parliament by stating that they were losing £28 million (since they had no evidence of that) and that Life Certificate were a sham that was probably costing the taxpayer more than DWP could collect in fraud, resulted in a response that “a loss of £28 million did not mean that DWP could save £28 million and therefore there was no reason to investigate”! This piece of political chicanery was supported by HM the Queen, David Cameron as Prime Minister, and the leaders of both houses. All of them closed ranks to cover up the Department for Works and Pensions’ lies! More about this later!!

Turning now to the infamous DWP letter attached to the Life Certificate, which states that you have eight weeks from the date of the letter to have your response back at Newcastle, or your pension (which you paid for all your working life) will be stopped! As I write this letter there is a rumour that this has changed to sixteen weeks but I have seen no hard-copy evidence of that so far. In fact, at a point when I was submitting my completed Life Certificate last November, people in South Africa were told verbally (during telephone calls to Newcastle) that extra time was being given to South African residents because of the local postal strike. As you will read below, that was not the case … unless of course I am being singled out for special attention because of my parity-pensions activities??

As a result of yet more Freedom of Information questions, it came to light that the eight weeks’ allowance was in fact far less, because:

Following the issue of the letter it could take up to seven days for it to get into the postal system

It has been reported by one of our pensioner network that mail from The Pensions Service is directed through Netherlands (presumably to save money)

Mail received by The Pensions Service takes one working day to register in the DWP “system” and then a further ten working days are allowed for it to be “actioned”.

So, the eight weeks you are supposedly allowed (and we all know that overseas mail is notoriously slow, both in and out of England) is not eight weeks at all – it is more like five weeks!

By chance this came home to me when, in November 2015, I mailed my completed Life Certificate back to UK with enough time to get to The Pensions Service before the eight weeks’ deadline. Coincidentally, I mailed all my Christmas cards to the UK on the same day. Within a few days I received responses from all the addressees telling me they had received my Christmas good wishes, and I was confident that The Pensions Service had received my Life Certificate in good time.

And then they stopped my pension!!! That, of course, was because of the ten working days allowed to deal with a Life Certificate received in the mail. That, of course, is unacceptable! The certificate was returned on time, but not actioned on time, which meant that it was not acknowledged in time to stop my pension – unless of course I am being singled out for special attention because of my parity-pensions activities?? That is a distinct possibility on which I am keeping an eagle eye because a few days after sending me the usual Life Certificate stuff, they sent me another set – duplicate attention for me!!

Back to DWP’s aim “to save money by identifying ex-pat fraud”. As a result of a letter I wrote to HMQ asking her to speak up for people of her generation who were being discriminated against by her government because they had retired to her Commonwealth (you will not be surprised that she refuses to act against the piper who pays her substantial expenses) I received a response from DWP actually stating that they aimed to save £20 million in 2014-15 and £25 million in 2015-16. So much for the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s decision that a loss of £28 million did not mean a similar saving!

More Freedom of Information questions about the statistical source of the data from which these “savings” had been calculated brought forth the following gobbledegook:

Costings are based on Management Information (MI) supplied by the “Fraud, Error and Debt Strategy and Policy Team” in DWP. The same information is accessed to determine the “what would have been delivered” and “the actual savings” amounts.

Data Matching MI for the current month - sourced from the Customer Information System (CIS) to identify deceased cases, and the Pension Strategy Computer System (PSCS) which is accessed to close cases not already closed.

Life Certificate MI for the current month supplied by HP Enterprise Services (IT processing is outsourced), including reinstatement information from National Pension Centre (NPC) data.

Counterfactual” refers to the baseline state, i.e. the savings that would have been achieved if no additional interventions were put in place. This is used in all savings estimates to work out additional savings that a new policy might achieve on top of what is already being saved (i.e. the baseline).

E.g. X = The amount of savings achieved BEFORE improvements were made to data matching and life certificates were put in place

Y = The amount of savings achieved AFTER improvements were made to data matching and life certificates were put in place

Z = Y – X, the difference between the increased savings AFTER improvements were made compared to savings achieved BEFORE improvements were made

In this case X is the counterfactual.

To save you the time going over all that again, trying to interpret the crap put out by DWP, I can tell you that “counter-factual” means what it says – it is counter to the facts; it is fiction; it is another pack of lies! Furthermore, it is further evidence that DWP have no statistical evidence whatsoever of any ex-pat fraud.

This means that, as a saving mechanism, Life Certificates have no basis in fact.  They are nothing less than a spiteful, mendacious, bullying, vindictive, autocratic tool with which to beat frozen pensioners who are complaining and trying to get the pensions they paid for.

Needless to say, DWP “does not hold data on recoveries due to Life Certificates” so they have no means of checking if the Life Certificate policy is working and worthwhile. For UK taxpayers (and some of us are part of that group) they are a waste of public money since the distinct probability is that DWP can never “recover” from ex-pat fraud the cost of running the Life Certificate process!

In fact, the only known fraud in this matter is that perpetrated by DWP which pursues already vulnerable pensioners using a policy based on lies! And fraud means corruption - corruption at the heart of the British Government!

There you have it: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There is no better example than the Department for Work and Pensions of the British Government.


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