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zDWP-Vulnerable

A claim by the Department for Work and Pensions that jobseekers with mental health problems are not classed as vulnerable and may be sanctioned with impunity is false, documentary evidence has shown.

Welfare Weekly revealed last week that JSA claimants with even the most serious mental health illnesses are not considered vulnerable by DWP. This has a knock-on effect when their Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) is reduced or stopped.

In that circumstance, everyone can apply for a hardship payment totallying up to 60 per cent of their JSA, to help cover the cost of food and bills while they have no other means of support.

Those classed as ‘vulnerable’ can normally claim this vital support immediately, but others may have to wait at least two weeks, and then go through what could be a lengthy application process.

In the case of claimants with mental health problems, that two-week wait could be extremely dangerous.

According to the article: “DWP guidance on hardship payments states: ‘Requests for hardship payments may be made by people who say they have a mental condition. A person will only be a member of a vulnerable group if the condition causes limitation in functional capacity because of a physical impairment.’

The guidance goes on to clarify that mental health problems without physical impairment include: “Affective disorder, Agoraphobia, Anorexia nervosa, Anxiety, Bipolar Affective disorder, Bulimia nervosa, Depression, Dissociative disorders, Nervous Debility, Neurasthenia, Neurosis, Obsessive-compulsive disorder, Panic attacks, Paranoia, Phobias, Phobic anxiety, Psychoneurosis, Psychosis, and Schizophrenia.”

Oh, really?

Vox Political has received information showing that both the Department of Health and the Home Office disagree with this definition – and the DWP has in fact made itself vulnerable to accusations that its own guidance is encouraging decision makers to abuse vulnerable adults.

The Department of Health/Home Office paper No secrets: Guidance on developing and implementing multi-agency policies and procedures to protect vulnerable adults from abuse adopts and confirms a broad definition of a “vulnerable adult” from a 1997 consultation paper entitled ‘Who Decides?’, that had previously been issued by the Lord Chancellor’s Department.

It defines a ‘vulnerable adult’ as a person “who is or may be in need of community care services* by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness; and who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation” [bolding mine].

The paper adopts as a “starting point” for its definition of abuse, that it is “a violation of an individual’s human and civil rights by any other person or persons”.

“Any other person or persons” includes officials working for the Department for Work and Pensions.

It seems the DWP has a huge amount of explaining to do.

Please publicise this widely and pass it on to anybody who is vulnerable due to mental health issues, along with anybody dealing with such people in a professional context (including carers). Everybody needs to know about this.

Of course, anyone with serious mental health problems should be receiving Employment and Support Allowance rather than JSA, but of course the work capability assessment process used by the DWP is hopelessly inadequate at identifying people who need the alternative benefit – it was designed to be that way.

Anyone affected by the DWP’s discrimination against the vulnerable should also consider campaigning against the work capability assessment.

*For the purposes of this guidance ‘community care services’ will be taken to include all care services provided in any setting or context.

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