Government assessment delays are causing deaths – are ministers trying to shift blame?

He knows he's in trouble: Mike Penning, staring down the hole in his claims about Atos.

He knows he’s in trouble: Mike Penning, staring down the hole in his claims about Atos.

The Liverpool Echo has reported the death of a woman who had been ordered to claim the new Personal Independence Payment – and was then denied any benefit payments for six months.

At the same time, we have learnt that disabilities minister Mike Penning has been caught giving false evidence to a Parliamentary committee on the way contracts for the assessment of disability benefits have been awarded.

The two are not unconnected, it seems.

Annette Francis was found dead at her home in Garston on May 22. She had been suffering severe mental illness but had not received a single penny of disability benefit for six months, since the Department for Work and Pensions had stopped her claim for Disability Living Allowance and told her to apply for PIP.

She did so – but was still waiting for her first payment at the time of her death. She leaves an 11-year-old son, who is currently in the care of his great-aunt.

Problems with the private companies that carry out work capability assessments for benefits including PIP and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) were discussed with disabilities minister Mike Penning in December last year – right around the time Ms Francis’s DLA was being cut off.

He told the Commons Work and Pensions Committee that problems with the firm carrying out the assessments – Atos – were created because it was not possible to make a profit on the contract it signed with the previous Labour government.

He said: “We are picking up the mess behind that.”

If he was telling the truth, he didn’t pick it up quickly enough. But it seems more likely that he was lying.

According to Sheila Gilmore, a Labour MP who sits on the Work and Pensions committee, “he is not entitled to access advice given to the previous Government on the assumptions Atos made as part of their tender”. In that case, he could not possibly have been aware of the terms under which Atos was employed by Labour and was therefore lying to his fellow MPs.

Readers of this blog know that – unless rectified by a timely apology and correction – this is an offence for which any MP may be expelled.

So we are left to ask which situation is worse – one in which a woman has died because a private company carrying out a public service was upset that it couldn’t make a profit, or one in which she died because the same public service has been unforgivably delayed while the private company and the government have been arguing about how much profit it should make?

Either way, unless Penning gets his apology and correction sorted out quickly, he should be booted out of Parliament in disgrace.

His boss is Iain Duncan Smith, who will be appearing on the BBC’s Question Time on Thursday. Do you think this will get a mention?

Neither do I.

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33 thoughts on “Government assessment delays are causing deaths – are ministers trying to shift blame?

  1. Nick

    and so these errors go on mike but it will take hundreds or thousands DWP deaths more for the penny to drop and for the public to take note

    1. Nick Wild

      Me and my partner sat and discussed whether suicide would be our best option. That’s two adults who have worked in caring jobs within social care since our teens, seriously contemplating death as a viable option to feel better!

      We’ve already waited a year for his PIP decision. We get eviction notices and I even had to beg for food last week.

      Feel alone and having to fight for everything is so tiring. No one listens and because so many people are suffering, it feels like we are just lost in the ocean of everyone else’s misery.

      1. clouty

        Mike’s right, get your MP onside – find them here and email them with your tales of woe, your NI number (so they can hassle the DWP on your behalf) your address (so they can see they need your vote). There’s an election coming, they’re duty bound to help anyway, and there’s an MPs hotline that works wonders at the DWP.

        Just write the timeline, the stress, how it has had a detrimental effect on your health and poverty you are enduring ..and that you want them to act on your behalf find out what the hell is going on ..copy the DWP into the email – if you can find an email address online… Don’t forget your full name and address with NI number ..

        If you need more help, try
        *The CAB (but they are often hard to raise on the phone, in that case you need to be on their doorstep when they open in the morning)
        *Your local DIAL group – you can find them here or call on 0808 800 3333
        *Your council may have a welfare rights officer – search the net using “Welfare rights (name of your council)”
        *Your local law centre – find them here
        *Search on ‘welfare rights (your town) and it might throw up more and…
        * is a search engine for local advisors

    2. Chris

      I have to be re assessed Next year but i’m not optimistic after hearing all the nasty things these private firms are doing. Are we not a caring society anymore, People are dying others losing there homes. Sometimes like another Poster i think Death would be more preferable, but not pracitcal.

  2. Smiling Carcass

    Reblogged this on SMILING CARCASS'S TWO-PENNETH and commented:
    They should all be expelled- every last one of ’em.

    No coalition govt. should be allowed to make the sweeping changes to benefits and other legislation that this un-mandated shower have.

    I’d like to see that in a Labour manifesto.

  3. Alistair Ralph Lazenby

    i’m disabled myself, have been for 11 years now, this tory government has made me feel ashamed not wanted, i worked all my life from 17 years old when i left school, never ever did i think this would happen to me, but it does illness & disability can hit anyone, that’s were my NI contribution comes in, but cameron & co make me feel it’s their money and i should be grateful for it.Why CAN’T WE TAKE PRIVATE SUMMONS AGAINST CAMERON IDS, it’s killing by law… murder. you can use my name, i don’t care

    1. Nick

      IDS knows full well all about ATOS and about all deaths he is informed by the UN on each death as each death is recorded he will stand trial if proved at any point that he could have foreseen these deaths over many years but deliberately allowed them to continue for further deaths to occur

      1. Nick

        His secretary confirmed to me mike that he was well versed on all deaths as i report them to her via the phone and likewise i do the same with Anne begg there can be no let off the hooks as all is recorded from many avenues not only in this country but worldwide so it would be stupid for him that is IDS to say he was not aware

        if i were a lawyer he would already be standing trial so that the public could understand these deaths in more detail and also to pass their own judgement on his actions IE are they lawful and if yes in what way and if no then it’s off to prison for a very long time

        these are the questions the public need to be asking as failure to do so and get a grip of which we have all failed to do the past 4 years just gives a Green light for IDS to harm many others

      2. Mike Sivier

        You report four deaths every three hours over the phone to them? More than 220 every week at last count – and that count being in 2011?
        That’s dedication.

      3. Nick

        The deaths are recorded mike but not the figures that you have I only give over the deaths that I come across on a monthly basis like I have done so over the past 4 years

        I agree that this is not the best way of recording this type of information, but at least it’s acceptable to the UN of which I’m thanked for

        It would be nice to do this type of undertaking with a lawyer or someone suitably qualified, but likes all things that are complexed no offer is forthcoming

        There are others that also record the DWP deaths and every now and then we confirm that we are up to date but i also know that many deaths are missing from our listings but until someone can come up with better way for keeping the records accurate i have to stay as i am

        personally i would like it centralised so just one blog held all the information and that it was secured by the UN on face book for example

        what we have at this time is just piecemeal with many people involved, just recycling the deaths of people and not keeping any records

        or people posting the deaths in blogs or forums that i don’t know about so that they then get missed and then go unreported to the UN

        I should add it’s a very distressing piece of undertaken and that the vast majority of people could not get involved in te keeping of those that have died so this is not for the faint hearted

      4. Mike Sivier

        The fact is that the DWP keeps its own record of every benefit claimant who dies mid-claim, and therefore – yes – Iain Duncan Smith should be entirely aware of how many deaths his policies have caused. More aware than anyone contacting his office.
        It’s this exact number that I and others like me have been trying to get his department to reveal.

      5. Nick

        There’s no way IDS will give anything away, he’s in this position for the long term another 6 years and whose policies will have killed more people then any other policy any UK government have ever had over the past 60 years

        He’ll and up with being one of the worst killers of his people since the war and there wont be anything to stop him in a democracy

      6. Mike Sivier

        Thank you Mr Sunshine.
        Still, there it is, folks. If he isn’t stopped, Iain Duncan Smith could cause one of the worst genocides ever. Do we want that on our consciences if our votes can stop it?

  4. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    Yet another death of a poor, vulnerable individual directly caused by this government and its absurd and wretched welfare reforms. The time’s long past when IDS or Penning could smarm such incidents away with smooth phrases about how it was all due to teething problems, or similar platitudes to assure people that this is all just some minor blip or hiccup, which will be ironed out. This is a government that has killed, and continues to kill, hundreds, if not thousands every year through poverty and starvation caused by the stoppage of their benefits. Because of this, a mentally ill woman has died, leaving a boy without a mother. There is no mention of a father, only that the lad is being cared for by an aunt. This is an outrage. Penning and his vile boss, IDS, should be sacked and the DWP purged of the supporters of their policies and reformed. It is unfit for purpose at any level. And the door should be slammed shut on further privatisation of the welfare services, with legal proceedings launched against ATOS for culpable criminal negligence.

  5. Mrs M Ross

    These people have NO qualms whatsoever about causing undue heartache, pain and distress to those who are in need. It takes a heartless being to do this job. I witnessed one of their women interrogating my son who is bi polar. He was hit by a car a few years back and has metal plates in his head and jaw and the accident left him with memory loss, confusion, and forgetfulness This woman treated him like a liar and asked him why he kept changing his answers to her repeated questions.

    During everyday conversations my son will tell me something, then a few minutes later will tell me the same thing again, forgetting he’s already done so.

    He is ashamed that he’s like that. There is no way he could hold down a job and, more importantly he is NOT PLAYACTING nor is he making it up.

  6. kittysjones

    Eugenics is now an economic act, carried out by a government that has rigged the neoliberal ‘market’, the act of murder simply requires policies that leave the vulnerable without support to meet their basic survival needs, denial from government that this is happening, and then it’s just a matter of them withholding or hiding the evidence.

  7. Leslie Bailey

    If there is, as it seems, a dispute going on between Private company processing PIP claims and the government, it does beg the question: Is there a deliberate go slow or work to rule situation going on that is leading to these kind of deaths? not union backed, but company backed.

  8. Mike Sivier

    I’ve trashed a comment from Tom Gill, who seemed to want to blow the whistle on someone he thinks is a benefit cheat.
    That is not the purpose of this site.

  9. Bring back immediately women's state pension at 60 / Against loss age related tax allowance at 65

    Amongst the disabled / chronic sick are the majority of women aged 60-66 not listed in unemployment figures, who are unemployed due to their health problems.

    If you lose benefit, you cannot get a voucher for a food bank.

    You are still within working age by raised retirement age, so forced onto Workfare for nil wages, with no bus pass to get you there.

    Labour has not put in its election manifesto that it will revoke all this welfare reform, assessments, Workfare, benefit sanctions, Pension Bill/Flat Rate Pension (leaving women above 60 with nil food money for life) that is causing the massive rise in starvation sufficient to need hospital admission, as reported to The Lancet by doctors at the beginning of last month.


    1. Mike Sivier

      I think it’s questionable whether Penning was accurate in what he said about the original contract. Bring a new contract into it and we’re into a whole new dimension of nonsense!

  10. daniel saloman

    Its so sad the people in need are dying everyday due to ian duncan smith policy’s and yet nothing is being done to have this man convicted for manslaughter cos lets face it thats what it is.
    im so sick of what this countrys become and people its only going to get worse under this tory shambells..stop deaths and vote labour!!!!!!!!

  11. Chris

    I have no faith in Labour/ Tory or Lib dem. All we get is more Tax and Benefit cuts. No jobs for older people. rising Prices. Basically I feel the Country is infested with greedy people at the top

    1. Mike Sivier

      I think you’re right.
      I put my vote with Labour because I think they’re the least worst, and I joined the party because I knew I couldn’t effect any change from outside.

Comments are closed.