It is only a week since I wrote about the way the DWP hassled 18-year-old David Brown into suicide by threatening to take away his Jobseekers’ Allowance.
The DWP said it would examine the circumstances that led to the young man’s death, implying that they were extraordinary – but today I am reporting similar behaviour against a young man in Scotland – who, fortunately, has his mother to look after his interests:
A severely disabled young man who is unable to talk, read or write and needs round-the-clock care has been targeted yet again by the Department of Work and Pensions because of Tory government changes to disability benefits.
Last year The National revealed how Stuart Chester, who has Down’s syndrome, epilepsy and autism and is unable to feed or wash himself, was sent a 20-page work capability assessment form to fill in to assess his fitness for work and whether he deserves his Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefits.
His mother Debbie McKenzie, 51, said receiving the form had caused her “undue stress” and after filling in the form last August she was told he would have DLA for life because his condition was never going to change.
Now the DWP has dropped another bombshell and sent Stuart a 42-page form to fill in to prove he is severely disabled and entitled to the the new PIP (Personal Independence Payment) that is replacing the DLA.
To the best of my knowledge, Down’s Syndrom, epilepsy and autism are congenital conditions, that is, they are integral parts of Stuart Chester – as opposed to being diseases or conditions that may come and go.
So, what did the DWP think could possibly have changed about them in the last year?
Not only that, but after mother Debbie McKenzie filled out the new form – with all the further stress it entailed – included contact details of Stuart’s social workers and doctors and made it clear that the DWP could use all the details on the previous form… she received notice that it wasn’t the DWP’s job to gather evidence from medical professionals.
Why request those people’s details on the form, then?
The comment from a DWP spokesperson contradicted much of the behaviour we have seen in this story. “It’s really important that we get all the information to ensure people get the right support,” we are told.
Why give claimants this idiotic runaround, then?
“There is support available for claimants who need help filling out the form” – but this is never volunteered; people have to demand it, and this is hard to do when you don’t know it exists.
Furthermore, all the guidance from people who genuinely want to help claimants says the last thing anyone should do is seek help from the DWP in filling out one of its forms. This is a sure route to rejection of a claim.
We are left with Ms McKenzie’s comment: “Maybe the DWP are hoping it is so difficult for people to fill in the forms they just won’t bother.”
That is the conclusion many of us formed, several years ago. It is bizarre that the message still has not filtered through to the general public.
But the main issue is that this is another case of DWP harassment against a claimant, completely separate from the David Brown case and many miles away.
It proves that the harassment of claimants is systemic; it is DWP policy, and the intention is to do harm.
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