DWP Overlooks SME Advice and pays the cost
Turn a Corner
appa were delighted at the recent successful prosecution of Ethel and Paul Neal, founders of Neals Communication. A Croydon based deaf support company purportedly serving S.E. London and local regions. It is one of a group of companies in an interconnected collection of directors, owners and employees forming a conspiracy of fraud.
The formal details of this case include:
· Paul Neal found guilty of fraud
· Ethel Neal found guilty of fraud
· Russell Peake found guilty of fraud
· Stephen Dering who pleaded guilty at an earlier investigation into fraud in March 2015
An estimated 1 million pounds of government benefit money was scammed from the Access to Work (AtW) budget and a certain level of lifestyle including a holiday home were also listed.
At appa we’ve felt these convictions have taken far too long and could have been avoided. We appreciate that investigators need time to build their cases and gather evidence, as we have actively supported investigators with their investigations. But the frustration for us is two-fold:
1 – Stealing from your own community:
How can any person who is part of a larger minority group, in this case the Deaf Community steal from a valuable resource for that community? This resource is relied upon by many deaf professionals ensuring they have access into the hearing world. They are stealing not only the hard earned tax money that we all pay into the Welfare state but from their own community. People who need these resources to be available so they can continue to have choices and make informed decisions about their lives, careers and futures.
Without these resources would Paul Neal, Ethel Neal, Russell Peake or Stephen Dering had even got their first jobs? Let alone misappropriate money from this program?
2 –Bureaucratic Red Tape/Poor Processes:
DWP, come on! appa had meetings with you 4 years ago on the topic of fraud prevention. And before that as a provider we have continually demonstrated that abuse of AtW can be prevented. It was in 2011/12 our managing Director Imran Umar along with Operations Director and Disability Consultant Kyla Aitken, and our Senior Service Manager Julie Turner had a series of meetings with senior managers at AtW and explained some of the simple steps that could be taken. It was only in late 2015 that just 1 of these steps, to list the name of the interpreter for each booking on DP222 claim forms, was introduced. To take 4 years to make such a trivial change is a big frustration.
Over a million has been lost, which could have provided support to hundreds.
To get that meeting from AtW was not easy, despite the number of complex cases we have supported their case workers with, despite the 18 years of Disability Consultancy experience our Operations Director has, despite the fact we are one of the only multi-faceted support companies out there, despite our thoroughly transparent practise and despite being the only regulated* company in the UK. We are not naive enough to believe that what we offer is a panacea to all fraud but the methods we follow close certainly the door on the trivial methods used in this case.
We recall having an interview with Russell where, with no shame, told us he pocketed £600 a week from the AtW program as his bonus whilst working for Neals Communication. Naturally the interview ended there and AtW informed. Yet it’s been 7 years until this went to trial resulting in the convictions and exposure of fraudulent behaviour. We wonder how many more are abusing this system under the guise of providing services for their own community groups?
At appa we ardently support seamless integration of Deaf and Disabled people into the mainstream hubbub. Individuals within these groups add so much to the UKs diverse network of children, parents, co-workers, business owners and retirees. Let’s not allow people like Paul Neal, Ethel Neal, Russel Peake and Stephen Dering to deplete the resources that those in the deaf community need to engage with the hearing world.
The processes that we have had in place for years at appa reflect our core principles and commitment to transparency and accountability as a business with the Government and private sector. We want SME’s in this industry to move forward and turn the corner.
If you would like to know more about appas processes for your own business or one of our services, BSL interpreters, Support Workers, Job Coaches, please don’t hesitate to pop in, email or call us.
*appa are regulated by the CQC and apply all regulatory practise across all our services, we are also registered with the ICO and are currently being audited for an ISO certificate of quality standards.