It seems the DWP is automating persecution of benefit claimants – to limit responsibility for deaths?

If you thought the Department for Work and Pensions was a slaughterhouse with people running it, when they let machines administer benefit claims we’ll see some real maladministration!

That’s my opinion, anyway.

We live in a society in which more than seven-tenths of appeals against benefit denial are successful – indicating a serious procedural failing that the Conservative government has ignored entirely.

Worse than ignored, in fact.

It seems the Tories are diverting millions of pounds away from benefit payment, to develop artificial intelligences capable of cocking up claims in worse ways than even the human beings currently assigned to that task.

In fact, I’m wondering whether one of these automated systems has been deployed to screw up Mrs Mike’s claim for ESA.

We received a letter last week, retroactively refusing her claim for income-related ESA from August 2012, on the basis that I had been working more than 24 hours per week.

I’m on Carers’ Allowance; Vox Political is a sideline that I carry out in my spare time which – so far – has provided me with earnings within the limit placed on people in receipt of that benefit.

And on the date mentioned, it was just a hobby; I wasn’t trying to earn money with it and I wasn’t carrying out any other work either.

It is an entirely false claim.

Sure, it may be possible for a human being to make such a mistake – especially a human being working for the DWP. I think it is even more likely that a machine could do so.

And I’m not alone:

The UK government is accelerating the development of robots in the benefits system in a digitisation drive that vulnerable claimants fear could plunge them further into hunger and debt, the Guardian has learned.

Claimants have warned the existing automation in UC’s “digital by default” system has already driven some to hunger, breakdown and even attempted suicide.

One described the online process as a “Kafka-like carousel”, another as “hostile” and yet another as a “form of torture”.

Several said civil servants already appeared to be ruled by computer algorithms, unable to contradict their verdicts.

There is evidence of rising error rates in parts of the welfare system that have already been automated.

A system of realtime data-sharing between the HMRC tax office and the DWP about universal credit claimants’ earnings is triggering more and more disputes, with the rate rising fourfold between May 2017 and October 2018, according to the government’s own figures, with up to 5,700 people a month affected.

Serious questions are being asked about the validity of the sources being used by the automated systems:

The DWP has refused freedom of information requests to explain how it gathers data on citizens.

The ministry has previously told parliament it gathers data from private credit reference agencies, the police, the Valuation Office Agency, the Land Registry and the National Fraud Initiative, which gather information from public and private bodies.

But it is now declining to update the list, claiming it would “compromise the usefulness of that data”.

It seems more likely that it would reveal the uselessness of that data, and the DWP is trying to hide the use of false information to wrongly push people off-benefit.

I’ll keep you all updated about my own case.

Hopefully we’ll know something conclusive before anybody else dies.

Source: Benefits system automation could plunge claimants deeper into poverty | Technology | The Guardian

EXTRA (October 15): I’ve received this on Twitter – and it is chilling:

I would appreciate your comments on this development.

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8 thoughts on “It seems the DWP is automating persecution of benefit claimants – to limit responsibility for deaths?

  1. Julia

    My heart goes out to you both. I supported my sister through the switch from IB (which let us not forget was originally a benefit fraud of sorts carried out by Thatcher to massage the unemployment figures at the time) to ESA.

    She eventually won the third tier appeal after having to go to court like a criminal. If I hadn’t had experience of benefits advice in my job I know she would have fallen by the wayside.

    I won’t bore you with the details, but it is an ever present shadow over her life wondering what hoop she will have to metaphorically jump over next. Anyone who hasn’t been through the Kafkaesque nightmare the benefits system has become just cannot imagine the horror of it.

    My sister’s problems are physical – she now has mental health issues which she didn’t have before and the irony of it is that the DWP’s treatment of her has made her even less able to work. Can a machine be any worse than the heartless monsters at the DWP I wonder!

    Good luck to you both.

    1. sharon athy

      My heart goes out to you. I have been under the cosh of the DWP for over 20 years. Nobody has ever heard my cries of ” why would I choose this life over the fulfilling life I had before chronic illness ” the brown envelope sends me into complete panic. I even had a nervous breakdown several years ago and although my illness is physical, my mental health has suffered to the point where I question whether my life is worth anything. I don’t want my legacy to be the sick anxious one that was always fighting for benefits.
      What a sad country we live in.

  2. trev

    It’s a very worrying development. If Universal Credit is anything to go by, their venture into ‘digital by default’ has been a shambles. Good luck in overturning their stupid and incorrect decision (which should never have happened in the first place).

  3. Mark allinson

    I started my appeal before the DWP bribed the citizens advice with money I had my court case against the DWP over 5 months ago after my relationship finished I defended myself
    the judge adjourned the case at Workington for more medical from my new doctor and also because I argued with the judge because the DWP said they lost my UC50 form the citizens advice have destroyed the evidence because it breaks the contract with the DWP because they filled in the UC50 form but also the DWP used my ex partners medical records against my own so on paper it looks that I claim to have these medical problems but when I had my assessment iam only claiming the true medical problems I have so the judge adjourned the case but pointed out that a new court date would be set so I appear at Carlisle court. But this time I’ve got a benefits person who is a council worker helping me on my case and will appear in court with me On the 11/10/19 I got a letter from the courts they have not got a court date for Carlisle they want me to appear in Workington again the DWP know only far to well that holding the case in Workington means the person who is helping me can’t defend me in court as it’s out of her area plus the courts and the DWP never sent her a letter about the new court date so I’ve had to photocopy my letter for her and she was going to ring them up iam just wondering if this is the DWP using dirty tricks I already have the job centre work coach telling me to drop my appeal and look for work when my own doctor states iam unfit for work and the spine specialist at Newcastle RVI more will follow to this story. Thanks for everyone who reads this and it would be interesting if this has been done to other people Aswel tricks by the citizens advice and also the DWP.

  4. Sylvia Mallion

    I worked for DWP for about 8yrs back in the days of IB/IS & through the introduction of ESA. I left because I hated the way claimants were treated, where I processed claims on a first come basis others did them according to which claimant wld scream, swear and shout abusively the loudest. I was on IB myself along with DLA at the high rate due to severe mobility problems. It took me almost 20yrs before my GP finally talked me into claiming DLA. About 2wks before my birthday last yr PIP came to my area,had it waited just 2more wks & I wld have been left on DLA. Had my assessment by a young nurse who obviously didn’t know anything about any of my long established debilitating conditions. Took me 20mins to walk,with two sticks into the room for my exam,the furthest room away from the seating! None of my answers or responses were listed,my carer was also ignored,he never made eye contact,didn’t even look at me. He told me the medications I was on as I didn’t recall them then put down that I had excellent recall of all my meds,didn’t need assistance to walk,sit or rise from a seat and moved with ease!!!!! I have osteo arthritis in hands,feet,hips,knees,neck,spine and both shoulder joints. I have scoliosis and sciatica. I’ve had three lots of reconstructive foot surgery for congenital deformities and a spinal fusion,I’m on strong pain relief as well as anti inflammatory tablets and 11 other meds Inc one for my heart. When I scored zero I was shocked! I requested they look again and I put in a formal complaint against him but was told the decision stood and was correct given his observations and my responses which I’d already told them were not what I said or did. As my mobility car lease was due to expire 8wks later at my DLA end date I was forced to take out a credit card and put a £7500 car on it. I’m paying almost half my wages and now working into retirement to pay the car as I’m alone and have no public transport where I live. Without that extra help I can no longer afford the acupuncture and other treatments that were really helping me, I barely manage to buy food and if it weren’t for free issue breakfasts at work I’d have to go all day without. I can’t afford the heating and air with a hot water bottle and several blankets to stop me freezing at night. I couldn’t afford a car with heated seats which had helped me so much in past yrs,I have to have an automatic due to my hips. They’ve left me in more pain,in debt for the first time in my life,and in really poor health as I try to cope with no help. I only claimed benefit for 12yrs and never did anything but be 100% truthful. Thank God for people like you who get information out there. This country has gone down the toilet!

  5. SteveH

    Home Office ‘infiltrating’ safe havens to deport rough sleepers

    Attendees at ‘immigration surgeries’ at churches and centers told it won’t involve enforcement

    The Home Office is using information gathered in “immigration surgeries” at charities and places of worship to deport vulnerable homeless people who are told that attending will help them get financial support,

  6. Stu

    It any proof was needed that this is a bad idea, look at the many cases of millions in fraudulent Universal Credit Advances that were faciliitated by the very automated system that was set up supposedly to prevent such actions.

    Also under the all too familiar “guise” of fraud prevention we are expected to give up any right to privacy when making a claim and every single aspect of our lives from internet history to purchasing a bag of crisps is scrutinised and analysed.

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