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Sarah Newton: The Conservative minister for disabled people once said there was no “hostile environment” for benefit claimants. The seven reviews of wrong decisions carried out by the DWP within the last 12 months suggest otherwise.

As I write this, I, Daniel Blake is on the TV – its television premiere. The scene involves the title character’s work capability assessment (he’s claiming Employment Support Allowance), with a “healthcare professional” who does her level best to avoid discussing the heart attack that put him in front of her, and also to avoid explaining how she is qualified to handle his case.

The implication is clear: The assessor isn’t qualified to deal with him and doesn’t want to talk about his genuine health problem because she wants to deny him any benefits.

Aaaaand sure enough, he’s just been found fit for work. Falsely, of course.

I mention this because the Department for Work and Pensions has been forced to launch a seventh expensive review of its own records to find details of disabled people unfairly deprived of benefits.

This particular review isn’t about people being denied benefits because of wrong assessment decisions – it’s actually more appropriate to the situation faced by single mother Katie (Hayley Squires), who is denied a chance to sign on because she arrives late at the Job Centre.

Disability News Service explains: “The latest review is necessary because of an upper tribunal ruling in the case of a claimant moving from disability living allowance (DLA) to personal independence payment (PIP) who had his DLA stopped because he had failed to attend an Atos face-to-face assessment.

“The upper tribunal found that the claimant, OM – who had long-standing psychosis, and became agitated and aggressive around people he did not know – had “good reason” for not attending the PIP assessment that the government contractor Atos had told his wife he would have to attend in one of its London centres.

“The upper tribunal found that OM should have his DLA reinstated until a final decision was made on his PIP claim, while he should also receive backdated payments from the date DWP stopped his DLA.”

The new review means the DWP has to apply the same approach to other cases in which DLA claimants had their benefits stopped because assessors said they did not have “good reason” for failing to attend or take part in interviews or to provide necessary information or evidence for their PIP claim, but were later found to have had a “good reason” after all, by the DWP or a tribunal.

Of course, the operative question here is, why were all these people denied benefits, based on a false premise?

And, if no fewer than six other reviews have taken place to find other people who have been wronged by the DWP, I have to ask: Were these really mistakes? Or were they deliberate policy decisions designed to harm the people DWP is meant to be helping?

I think anyone who’s seen the film will know the answer to both those questions.

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