As some of you may know, I have real concerns about the way in which DWP try and shoehorn EVERYONE into using computers in respect of claimant jobsearches, form completion etc. I know that some of you feel the same way.
It seems we may have been right to have those concerns.
Two recent cases in the First Tier (Tax) tribunal which rules against HMRC insisting on traders filing their VAT returns on line, could well have implications for other government departments.
I think it would be a good idea for claimants to be aware of these cases and quote the relevant extracts from them when informing DWP that you cannot use a computer for any reason, such as age, disability, computer literacy and remoteness of location.
It’s helpful to note that in the second case, the judge stated that the failure to take account of a persons ability to use a computer was a breach of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR)
I have included some useful extracts (in bold italics – with my interpretation/opinion in italics) from the two cases that a claimant can either include in a letter or indeed quote verbally to DWP.
It should be remembered that first tier tribunal decisions are what is termed “persuasive” It is only upper tier tribunal decisions that are deemed binding on the lower appellate courts.
However, HMRC have not stated that they are going to appeal these decisions, so those decisions stand.
This case related to an exemption of e filing on religious beliefs;
Mr Blackburn and his wife chose instead to shun computers, the internet, television and mobile phones. They were not directly required to do this by their church. Nevertheless, as Mr Blackburn explained it to me, their religion required them to live in accordance with the teachings of the Bible. He cited a large number of Bible passages to me which he interpreted as requiring him to shun computers, television and mobile phones.
13. My understanding of what he said was that he had a number of reasons for this interpretation. He wished to protect his children from bad influences. The content of some television programmes and internet websites were contrary to the Bible’s teaching as he understood it. But in addition, he considered computers and television as a whole as forms of “worldliness” which might seduce people away from “righteousness”. This, as I understood it, was also the reason for his objection to mobile phones. He considered that people were obsessed by them, almost regarding them as “idols”. He had no concerns with landlines and had one in his own home. He considers that modern media and in particular the “screen” has “blinded the minds of non-believers” and that people’s time is so taken up with electronic communications that they no longer have time for religion in their lives.
14. For all these reasons, he and his wife have chosen to entirely shun computers and television. They do not possess a computer or television. They do not use them. Mr Blackburn gave unchallenged evidence that he would regard it as incompatible with his beliefs to go to the library to use a computer to make a VAT return or to ask someone (such as an agent) to make his online VAT return on his behalf. They will not use computers nor have someone use them on their behalf.
It should be noted that this case went into the effect of the persons belief, not that of whatever religious organisation they happen to be involved with.
I have found that because of its disproportionate application to persons who are computer illiterate because of their age, or who have a disability which makes using a computer accurately very difficult or painful, or those who live too remotely for a reliable internet connection, that the regulations were an interference with Convention rights under A1P1 and A8 combined with A14 which was not justified.
I think the thing to bear in mind is that as long as a government department receives the information required/requested, then the method by which that is achieved (undertaken by the claimant) is immaterial, you cannot be mandated to provide that requested/required information in a particular way and by the same token, you cannot be sanctioned because you have not provided the requested/required information in a particular way.
I hope that this will be helpful