best practice diversity homelessness values

Board memberships and DWP benefits

something has recently come to my attention that i believe merits significant scrutiny. so much so that i’m coming back to my old blog from when i worked around homelessness to post what i know so far. i’ll use this post to update anything new i hear along the way. if you have anything to add to this, please reach out (i’m @feesable on most platforms).

i’ve recently discovered that if you’re on benefits and a Trustee of a CIC, HMRC considers you to ‘own’ a percentage of whatever is in the CIC’s bank account (and possibly whatever assets they might hold). personally, i have been trying to find out if that is true, and if it works the same whether it’s a CIC, CIO, or other forms of Board structure. (i have been invited to become a trustee of a Charity who are about to reconstitute as a CIO, and i am not in a position to shoot myself in my own foot).

the only info i have been able to find so far is vague, at best. one person i heard from was given advice that is considered policy, which isn’t even in the public domain, never mind in the hands of Universal Credit officers. it seems most DWP staff have no idea about any of this, and often simply disregard it (not counting it as income/assets within your accounting with them). technically, that could be viewed as fraud on behalf of the benefits claimant, regardless of it being advice/behaviour initiated from DWP itself. straddling your accounting practices across ignorance which could be considered a legal offence is no way to run a business.

having looked into this for a while to answer my personal question, i realised there’s something potentially far more sinister at play here.

i’ve done a lot of work in the past around social justice. for several years i worked in homelessness after being homeless myself. our work centred on ensuring fair representation of lived experience around tables where decisions were made about their lives. it was good work, and some changes had started to be made across the region i was based, which became models for use in other parts of the country.

one of the things we struggled with was providing fair pay to participants of projects, because giving people with lived experience of homelessness occasional payments for occasional projects risked booting them off benefits… which, even if they were only recently housed, risked making them homeless again.

people organising the projects used workarounds like gift vouchers and cash in hand, but it’s still essentially a thin line between patronising and fraud. even high level DWP reps (who sat round those tables) advised and supported this ‘solution’ 😳

i’ve done a lot of equity, diversity and inclusivity work around other communities (i’m neurodivergent, queer, and gender nonconforming, and have done a bit of work around racial equity). part of all that was recommending that marginalised people of all flavours are invited to sit on Boards.

if this nonsense (being considered to own part of the assets) is true, it’s *surely* against the Equality Act 2010. and if nothing is in the public domain about it, they are effectively setting people up for not just failure, but criminality (we are all bound by the law, ignorance is no defence… even when ‘the powers that be’ obfuscate access to that knowledge).

there’s very little chance of creating more diverse and inclusive Boards if you can’t allow people who are on benefits to sit on those Boards. (not everyone who is marginalised is on benefits, of course, but it’s the principle of the thing). and if your Boards aren’t more diverse and inclusive, there’s even less chance those organisations will improve their diversity and inclusivity (which, let’s face it, is exactly what current ‘leadership’ wants… the status quo maintaining its status quo).

i’m not exactly surprised this is where we’re at in this country of injustice-by-rote, but i’m at very least horrified and disgusted that it’s not more widely known about. people could be not just thrown off life-saving benefits, but also accused of fraud. with no Legal Aid to turn to.

i’m putting this out there publicly not to cause panic, but to gather information and hopefully evidence which can go towards helping those in similar positions as me (do i accept the invitation to become a Trustee of this soon-to-become CIO?), and for those who are already in a similar position and who might end up in serious trouble because of it, purely because they are unaware of the risks, and are being given seriously bad advice by those in positions which allege to support them.

and i’m also posting it because, if true, this is yet another abhorrent display of inequity and intentional injustice, in a country which is already working hard on obliterating any moral and ethical values we might once have believed we had.

please, if you have any info here: get in touch x

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