‘Mandatory reconsideration’ – more money-saving by sending the sick to their deaths

National disgrace: The green benches were almost empty during yesterday's debate on the DWP's new 'mandatory reconsideration' regime - and the potential number of deaths it is causing.

National disgrace: The green benches were almost empty during yesterday’s debate on the DWP’s new ‘mandatory reconsideration’ regime – and the potential number of deaths it is causing.

It is hard to know where to start. Perhaps with DWP minister Mike Penning’s failure to answer the questions raised in yesterday’s adjournment debate on the ESA ‘mandatory reconsideration’ process, despite having prior notice of Sheila Gilmore’s entire presentation? Perhaps with the DWP’s failure to release accurate statistics, which is especially appalling as press officer Richard Caseby attacked a newspaper for inaccuracies very recently? Perhaps with the DWP’s continuing denial of the deaths caused by its increasingly-bizarre and unreasonable attempts to save money?

(Apparently they’re “anecdotal” so they don’t count. Does everybody recall when Iain Duncan Smith used similarly anecdotal evidence to support his claim that his benefit cap was “supporting” people into work, last year?)

The debate was brought to Parliament by Labour’s Sheila Gilmore who, in her own words, has been trying to get a succession of useless Conservative ministers to acknowledge the homicidal nature of their incapacity benefit “reforms” ever since she was elected. This was her sixth debate on the subject.

Yesterday’s debate was about the stress and poverty caused by the government’s decision to impose ‘mandatory reconsideration’ on ESA claimants who have been found fit for work and want to appeal against the decision. The benefit – originally paid at the ‘assessment’ rate – is cut off during the reconsideration period, meaning that claimants have no income whatsoever; housing benefit and council tax reduction claimants have their claims interrupted during this time.

People might be able to accommodate this if the reconsideration period lasted the maximum of two weeks that was implied when the new system was introduced, but it doesn’t take a maximum of two weeks.

The average length of time an ESA claimant – a person who is so seriously ill that he or she cannot work for a living, remember – has to wait for a decision after ‘mandatory reconsideration’ is seven to 10 weeks.

That puts a different complexion on matters.

Ms Gilmore called on Mr Penning to confirm the length of time claimants are being made to wait for a decision after ‘mandatory reconsideration’ – and asked when the DWP will publish statistics on average times and the total number of claimants who are waiting for a decision (rumoured to be 700,000 at this time).

She said the minister had defended a decision not to set a time limit on reconsiderations, despite concern from the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council that the absence of such a limit could have the effect of “delaying indefinitely the exercise of the right of appeal to an independent tribunal”.

Oh yes – claimants can apply for Jobseekers’ Allowance in the meantime – but this has a high level of conditionality. They have to be available for work, actively seeking work, attending work-focused interviews, searching for jobs and making a minimum number of applications every week.

What these Conservative DWP ministers are saying is that sick people waiting for an ESA decision must undergo a process that is itself extremely stressful, can worsen existing physical or mental conditions, and can lead to them being sanctioned or refused benefit altogether for failing to meet the requirements of Job Centre Plus advisors (who are not, let’s be honest, the most sympathetic people in the country).

Most who have applied for JSA have been refused outright or failed to attend necessary appointments due to their various conditions; or they did not apply, either because they could not face the trial of another benefit application or because they did not know they could.

They were forced to turn to the food banks that the DWP has accused of “misleading and emotionally manipulative publicity-seeking” and “aggressively marketing their services”, rather than being vitally important now that the government has reneged on its responsibility to citizens.

Or they turned to high-interest loans – run, undoubtedly, by some of the Conservative Party’s most faithful donors – and amassed debts at such high interest rates that they would struggle to repay them, even after being provided backdated payments. “One constituent sold off his few remaining possessions to survive,” said Ms Gilmore.

The Tories have engineered a situation where people who are seriously ill can be found too fit for ESA and too sick or disabled for JSA.

Ms Gilmore said she had been told by previous minister Mark Hoban – last September – that claimants could request “flexible conditionality”, to ease these pressures – but the DWP’s benefits director acknowledged in April – seven months later – that “not all advisors had been aware of this”.

So claimants had been deprived of a right to extra help because DWP ministers had not provided accurate information to them or to employees.

Ms Gilmore said, “It is hard to have confidence in the Department, given that previous assurances were clearly unfounded,” and it is interesting that this should be revealed in the same week that the useless ex-Murdoch yellow-press spin-machine detritus DWP press officer Caseby (Dick to his… well, to everybody) claimed The Guardian should be blackballed from new press regulation authority IPSO for failing to print, you guessed it, accurate information from the DWP.

Ms Gilmore also pointed out the cost to the taxpayer of all this hustling of claimants between benefits: “There is also an administration cost involved in a claimant receiving the assessment rate of ESA, ceasing to receive it, claiming JSA and then potentially claiming the assessment rate of ESA again. These are significant costs when multiplied by the number of people involved. In addition, if everybody claimed JSA successfully, they would receive benefit at exactly the same rate as they would have been getting on ESA, so if there are any savings to be anticipated, is it because ministers thought that people would, in fact, struggle to claim JSA during the reconsideration process, given that administration costs are likely to outweigh anything else?

“I am sure that cannot be the case,” she added. Of course that’s exactly what ministers wanted.

Her point was as follows: Why not amend the law so that ESA claimants can continue to receive the benefit at the assessment rate during the reconsideration process? “The only way that could be more expensive for the Government would be if ministers expected sick and disabled people to go without any benefit — and I am sure that that cannot be the case,” she said, ramming home her previous point about benefit savings.

Reinstating assessment-rate ESA during ‘mandatory reconsideration’ would be simpler than setting a time limit and may be an incentive for the government to speed up the process, she added.

Finally, she called on Mr Penning to publish the number of successful reconsiderations, rather than lumping them in with original decisions so it is impossible to tell exactly what has happened. She said this was particularly important because the DWP has been celebrating a drop in the number of appeals.

Her claim was that it is premature to celebrate a drop in appeals – or to claim the DWP was making more correct decisions – when the number of successful applications for ‘mandatory reconsideration’ was not known and many cases may still be caught up in the process as part of the enormous backlog built up by the Department.

Mr Penning made no offer to reinstate assessment-rate ESA during the reconsideration period.

He made no offer to impose a time limit on reconsiderations.

He made no attempt to confirm the size of the ‘mandatory reconsideration’ backlog or the length of time taken to reach decisions.

His response was about as inhuman as he could make it, within the Chamber of the House of Commons:

“I would rather have slightly more delays than have decisions incorrectly taken and then turned over at tribunal.”

This is an admission that he would rather push sick people into unendurable poverty, debt, stress and possibly towards suicide than make his department do its job properly.

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  1. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady June 17, 2014 at 1:42 pm - Reply

    Words cannot express what I feel about Penning, the fat fuc*ing pr*ck! I really do think that we all need to write to the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food every time there is a “violation” so that the UN can take action against this government.


    • marionfallon1961 June 18, 2014 at 11:32 am - Reply

      I’ still waiting to go to WCA in another area next week and dreading being turned down and having more grief, signing back on JSA etc. But have made fuss over it, got press involved, my MP, complained to ATOS & even now, Penning has suddenly turned around and said he’s going to now look at getting an accessible office in Norwich for the WCA and I wouldn’t have to be dragged to Ipswich! But as my appointment is next Wednesday afternoon? But now DWP/ESA dept., seem to be on the run and have been phoning me last 2 days to “try to resolve things”, going back to my Doctor to try to get me a home visit, how odd-worried about bad publicity?? But meant to say, thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady, you are right, it needs to go to UN.

      • thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady June 18, 2014 at 4:06 pm - Reply

        What a nightmare Marion, I hope it soon comes to a satisfactory conclusion for you. Well done for bringing it to the attention of your MP and the media. X

  2. Nick June 17, 2014 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    mike i have said for the past 4 years the subject of ESA is dead just like some of those in receipt of it

    all Sheila Gilmore is doing is going round and round in circles getting nowhere

    her best best is to do like i do with the un and keep them up to date with the those that have died over the past 4 years putting the names of those that have died with a picture and any other relevant information for the records

    discussing this topic will get nowhere in the house of commons or lords for that matter that’s for sure but by putting a to z of those that have died together and sending them off to the UN this subject will be far better served

    i should add that by putting a full list together of those that have died with their names attached to the photo is not an easy undertaking and is only recommended under a doctors supervision as although you may feel detached at the time of working on an ever ongoing project of deaths you can be 100% sure you will break down in tears at any point and i often do but press on regardless and this is what Sheila Gilmore needs to do and not leave it all to me and a few others to do like a donkey

    • thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady June 17, 2014 at 2:37 pm - Reply

      God bless you hun x

      • Martin james June 17, 2014 at 3:02 pm - Reply

        This might help anyone who starts that sort of thing.


        • Nick June 17, 2014 at 3:27 pm - Reply

          thank you martin as i missed a couple and am sure i have missed many more but by all of us taking a little time out we can cover most if not all of these tragedies’ apart from those that were living alone at the time of their death with no press release

        • thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady June 17, 2014 at 3:47 pm - Reply

          I forced myself to read that sweetie and I must admit I cried. It just makes me so angry…but we must all keep on keeping on in memory of those that have passed as a direct result of this inhumane government. God is not sleeping and I just know they will get their come uppance X

  3. amnesiaclinic June 17, 2014 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on amnesiaclinic and commented:
    Please ask your MP if they were there at this important debate and if not why not. These are very serious questions that need at the least very different answers so we need to keep requesting a different response than this. At least a definite time scale or that esa is paid during the wait for the tribunal.
    Well done Sheila Gilmore for her perseverance. The truth is still the truth even if MP’s cannot be bothered to attend.

  4. jaynel62 June 17, 2014 at 2:19 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on jaynelinney and commented:
    ““I would rather have slightly more delays than have decisions incorrectly taken and then turned over at tribunal” – Mike Penning Minster for disabled people 16/6/014.

    If this isn’t a reason to Sign & Share the Truth Campaign petition and STOP Ministers spinning statistics whist people starve??? http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/house-of-commons-stop-ministers-spinning-statistics-accept-the-recommendations-of-select-committees-stop-ministers-spinning-dwp-statistics

  5. Thomas M June 17, 2014 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    This government is certainly deeply unpleasant in nearly everything it does. I am not sure if they have managed to do anything right.

  6. jeffrey davies June 17, 2014 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    whot gets me is were are our mps they now they causing deaths suicides loss of homes people going hungery yet only a few are there it becomes clear to those who suffer their abuse we in it together they just aint they just don’t care two hoots about the poor jeff3 its another shame shame shame on you all

  7. Niki June 17, 2014 at 2:41 pm - Reply

    Are there 700,000 people waiting on mandatory reconsiderations? That’s how I read that paragraph, but I thought that 700,000 included people being routinely reassessed?

    And in general, those 200,000 which are people being reassessed not new claimants, just those being assessed due to a change in circumstances or just having reached their end of their 3 years (etc). Or are they (the latter) not counted at all??

    Sorry if that doesn’t make sense, just back from the dentist….and I bet Roger wasn’t there was he???


    • Mike Sivier June 17, 2014 at 3:14 pm - Reply

      Not as far as I can tell from the photographs, no.

      As far as the 700,000 are concerned, I’m going by what was said in the debate, so that’s 700,000 people who have asked for mandatory reconsideration and are waiting for it to be carried out. The routine reassessments, as far as we can tell, are extra.

      Of course the problem here is that the DWP is trying to hide the scale of its disaster by fudging the figures any way it can. I blame Richard Caseby.

      … but I’m sure he blames The Guardian.

  8. Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7) June 17, 2014 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    For Mike Penning, the operation (mandatory reconsideration) was a success, but the patient (claimant) died waiting.

  9. A Gay Mentalist June 17, 2014 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    Shocking that there was a distinct lack of MPs there at the debate from every political party.

  10. clouty June 17, 2014 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    I believe these delays are deliberate, a way of massaging the welfare budget statistics in this pre-election year. There are 700,000 people awaiting ESA decisions and 250,000 people awaiting PIP decisions. That’s got to be £millions if not £billions in delayed payments. The ESA figure alone, given 60% success rate to the groups at £30 approx per week group component x 52 is £655,000. The impact on seriously ill people is horrendous. A couple of posts recently put on our facebook group:

    “I’m on income related JSA waiting for the mandatory recon for ESA. I HAVE get JSA as I’m single with no assets or savings and that’s the only way I can get money. Because I’ve been on JSA for so long, I have to attend a mandatory ‘finding work’ course. If I’m too ill for that, then I’m too ill for JSA is the way it works….I already cancelled an appointment yesterday because I couldn’t get to the jobcentre and apparently I’m ‘allowed’ to be ill till Wednesday before they stop my claim. But I got a phone call from the course provider today and when I said I might not be able to go they said, that could affect your claim! As it is my payments are on hold till I’m well enough to go in again, lovely.”

    “My ATOS Assessment Report was signed and completed within an hour of the assessment. Turned up at DWP 6 months later OUT OF TIME so new Application has to be made because basically it terminated the existing ESA/IB that had a long history. Beware letting the DWP delay things. It seems its possible to have your history wiped out and have to start ball rolling all over again. I’m exhausted with it all… maybe thats the plan of DWP to make me sicker and then hope I die and just be another statistic and of course one less from the number of people on benefits. I dont think I am a human being to the DWP…just a number on some list or computer.”

  11. […] LabA Guide to Grief by Emily FoxWomen Remember: A Roundtable Interview by Mary Robinette Kowal‘Mandatory reconsideration’ – more money-saving by sending the sick to their death… .recentcomments a{display:inline !important;padding:0 !important;margin:0 […]

  12. Bill Kruse June 17, 2014 at 3:08 pm - Reply

    Witness those acres of empty benches. It’s clear hardly anyone cares about the disabled or the sick and ill, the vulnerable in short. Doesn’t inspire much confidence in government, does it? Here are your British values, for all to see…

  13. Dave June 17, 2014 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    Britain – a concentration camp without barbed-wire fences

  14. […] It is hard to know where to start. Perhaps with DWP minister Mike Penning's failure to answer the questions raised in yesterday's adjournment debate on the ESA 'mandatory reconsideration' process, …  […]

  15. Ian Duncan June 17, 2014 at 9:43 pm - Reply

    Can we not kidnap IBS, Penning and McVey and carry out live experiments on them?

  16. argotina1 June 18, 2014 at 10:04 am - Reply

    Reblogged this on Benefit tales.

  17. prayerwarriorpsychicnot June 18, 2014 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on Citizens, not serfs and commented:
    “The Tories have engineered a situation where people who are seriously ill can be found too fit for ESA and too sick or disabled for JSA.”
    This feels like a bad joke, but it is really happening. When did Britain become Nazi Germany?

  18. […] 'Mandatory reconsideration' – more money-saving by sending the sick to their deaths. […]

  19. samara4baghad June 25, 2014 at 10:33 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on Samara4baghad's Blog.

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