29, 35, allowance, definitive, Department, DWP, employment, ESA, exceptional, fit for work, Pensions, regulation, substantial risk, support, support group, WCA, work, work capability assessment, Workfare
At the same time as a major film is released, criticising the Department for Work and Pensions over its treatment of the sick and disabled, the DWP alters its guidance to make it easier to threaten their lives.
It concerns ESA regulations 29 and 35. Many people have relied on these regulations to save them from potentially life-threatening demands by the DWP. Now, it seems, the rules have been watered down.
Meanwhile, Iain Duncan Smith is telling anybody who will listen that I, Daniel Blake is nothing but a work of fiction and the DWP actually wants what is best for people with long-term illnesses.
Someone should ask him why he thinks an early grave is the best thing for these people.
A leading psychiatrist who helped the government draft guidance that protected mental health service-users who were threatened with forced work has refused to criticise major changes to the guidelines that have risked the lives of thousands of benefit claimants.
Disability News Service (DNS) reported last month that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had secretly made major changes that watered-down guidance given to “fitness for work” benefits assessors, and then “lied” about what it had done.
Ministers appear to have decided that it was worth risking the loss of some lives in order to cut benefits spending and force more disabled people into their discredited back-to-work programmes.
The guidance explains how assessors should translate employment and support allowance (ESA) regulations 29 and 35, which concern whether decisions to find someone fit for work or able to carry out work-related activity would cause a substantial risk of harm to an ESA claimant.
A DWP response to a freedom of information request, obtained by DNS this week, shows that new guidance was sent out to healthcare assessors working for the discredited US outsourcing giant Maximus in early December last year.
The month after the new guidance was sent out, the proportion of claimants placed in the support group of ESA – and therefore not forced to take part in work-related activity – began to fall sharply.
For claims completed in December 2015, 56 per cent were placed in the support group; the following month that fell to 48 per cent, and then to 33 per cent in February, and 33 per cent again in March.
The previous version of the guidance, published as DWP’s Work Capability Assessment Handbook in February 2015, included six indicators of “substantial risk”, which were marked “D” for “definitive” – including someone who was currently sectioned, who had active thoughts of suicide, or had had a documented episode of self-harm requiring medical attention in the last 12 months – to show that that person should be placed in the ESA support group.
But the latest edition of the guidance says only that such indicators “might” give rise to a substantial risk in “exceptional circumstances”.
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