Category Archives: Assessment

People in Scotland with lifelong disabilities will no longer face benefit tests

Nicola Sturgeon: doing more for people with disabilities than Boris Johnson.

The UK’s Conservative government – particularly its prime minister – are first to disparage the Scottish National Party but fall behind that organisation in the implementation of policy.

The Tories have been promising to ditch benefit reassessments of people with lifelong conditions but look at this – the SNP got there first:

Disabled people in Scotland with serious lifelong conditions will no longer have to attend reassessments to continue receiving their benefits.

The Scottish government will begin taking over adult disability benefits from the UK government next week.

Currently, people with lifelong conditions such as being blind have to be reassessed to keep their benefits.

The Scottish government said it would have a more “compassionate” approach.

The pilot for the new payment will begin in Dundee, the Western Isles and Perth and Kinross from 21 March.

People already receiving Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) from the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions do not need to apply for the new payment from Social Security Scotland.

They will be automatically transferred on to the new system from the summer, the Scottish government’s social security minister Ben Macpherson said.

He said the new Adult Disability Payment would make a number of changes to assessment.

Mr Macpherson said: “If they have a disability or a long-term health condition that is unlikely to change, we are looking to provide indefinite awards, which means that people will not need to reapply for their benefit or be reviewed.”

Source: Lifelong Disabilities Will Not Face Benefit Tests | Same Difference

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#DWP has been wrongly rejecting #benefit claims at a record rate

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign].

There are only a very small number of news stories about the benefit system as administered by the UK’s maliciously inept Department for Work and Pensions.

There’s the story about the DWP wrongly denying benefits to people (usually large numbers of them at a time).

There’s the one about loss of benefits (allegedly) leading to the death of a UK citizen (or indeed thousands, as I was able to force out of the department back in 2015).

There’s the one about the DWP promising to improve its performance so it gets its decisions right first time.

There’s the one about the appeal system either being unfit for purpose or finding in favour of huge numbers of claimants.

There’s the one about the costs of a system that aims to penalise people rather than pay them being far more than if everybody was just paid without question.

And there are mixtures of several or all of the above.

This story is a mixture.

It seems the DWP has been wrongly denying benefits to people, the appeal process has been demonstrating this at huge cost, and questions have been asked about why the department isn’t getting its decisions right, even after all these years:

The government is finding a record number of disability benefits claimants have been wrongly rejected by its own assessments as the cost of correcting these errors soars, new figures show.

Campaigners have pointed to “flaws in the system” that led to almost 80,000 Personal Independence Payment (Pip) decisions being overturned at initial review last year.

Meanwhile, separate figures show the cost of these reviews has surged by 26 per cent in the last two years, despite the fact that the number of reviews carried out by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decreased by 23 per cent over the same period.

The rate at which these appeals have led to a decision being reversed has surged from 22 per cent (46,580 of 236,720) three years ago to 43 per cent (78,390 of 182,880) last year, according to data obtained via freedom of information (FOI) laws.

Separately, figures published by DWP minister Chloe Smith in response to a written parliamentary question show that the cost to taxpayers of mandatory considerations for Pip stood at £24.8m last year, compared with £19.7m in 2018/19 and £13.7m in 2016/17.

Of course the upshot of this is that the DWP is unreasonably harming people’s quality of life.

And this leads me to the final aspect of DWP stories that keeps getting repeated, which is the following:

The DWP is meant to harm claimants’ quality of life. That is the purpose of the benefit system, as far as your Tory government knows.

The ultimate intention is to be able to say that a benefit system is available, while paying out no benefits at all.

Yes, this is extremely harmful to claimants, as we have all seen over the last 12 years. Fatal, in many cases.

And there’s only one way to change it.

After so many years of being told the DWP will learn the lessons of its failures, we can only conclude that it is not learning anything at all – or that the lessons it is learning are about how to harm people in less visible ways.

This is not going to change under the Conservatives*. We need a change of government.

*And no, it won’t change under Labour or the Liberal Democrats either. Please don’t delude yourself with that fantasy for the sake of an easy life.

Source: DWP admits wrongly rejecting disabled people for benefits at record rate | The Independent

Did Tory distraction tactics make you lose track of the DWP’s strange plans for sick and disabled people?

Distractions, distractions: the Tories love them and try to cause as many as possible.

Even while the fuss over the Downing Street Christmas party last year is embarrassing for them, it means you may not have noticed other harms they are inflicting on sections of the population.

For example: the Department for Work and Pensions.

1. It seems the government is quietly pushing through proposals to change the assessment of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – the main benefit for people with disabilities – even though it only put them out for consultation a short while ago.

The plans to expand the Special Rules for Terminal Illness and to remove the proposed 18-month minimum award period for people receiving PIP were part of a Health and Disability Green Paper and the government ran a consultation on them that ended on October 11, just two weeks before they appeared in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget statement as schemes that will definitely go ahead.

The Tory government expects to save £70 million over three years by doing this.

Labour has demanded clarification, smelling another Tory stealth cut. And it is true that the plans will have an impact on people with protected characteristics, so Sunak needs to explain why they are not mentioned in the ‘Impacts on Equalities’ section of the Budget.

Of course, it is entirely possible that the impact in this instance will be a good one.

The proposal is to replace the systems that are being cut with “better triaging of cases and testing a new Severe Disability Group”.

While the DWP has a poor history of doing anything “better”, the plan for a “Severe Disability Group” is now quite well-known and would put people with progressive, lifelong conditions into a group where they would never have to face reassessment for the benefit.

It is entirely possible that the whole of the £70 million projected saving would come from this change. This Site – and others – has spent years pointing out that the DWP spends more on constant reassessments that try to find ways to exclude people with disabilities from the payments that make their life worthwhile than it would if it left them alone.

It may be that the government has actually listened for a change and is doing the right thing for once.

I know – it’s a slim chance. But watch this space.

2. Sadly the reliability of any evidence provided by the DWP on proposed savings comes into serious doubt when one learns that the department withheld evidence that the work capability assessment, used to determine whether people are eligible for sickness benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), was linked to 590 suicides:

Dr Paul Litchfield said: “If I had had that evidence available to me, or indeed been told that it was there – you can only ask for stuff if you know that it exists… I would certainly have looked at it and taken it into consideration.”

The information includes secret DWP reviews into benefit-linked deaths and two reports sent to the DWP by coroners aimed at preventing future deaths of claimants.

The revelation suggests that the DWP deliberately tried to prevent its reviewer from suggesting changes that would have saved lives.

3. Dr Litchfield also criticised the DWP as “odd” because, while it accepted his recommendations on policy, the operation side of the department continually and consistently dragged its feet when he proposed changes:

He said he believed the government department was stalling – waiting for the next review, with a different set of proposals, to come along so it wouldn’t have to change anything.

But how far can we trust him on this?

He said the government should develop a new assessment, based on the discredited biopsychosocial (BPS) model of disability. It already is.

This is the idea that the illnesses that prevent people from being able to work are all in the sufferers’ minds, and that they were perfectly capable of having jobs. This in turn led to the “scrounger” and “skiver” lies put about by the Tory and Liberal Democrat coalition government of 2010-2015.

It is important to remember that these beliefs informed New Labour policy on benefits when that party was in charge of the DWP. Current shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, as Work and Pensions Secretary under Gordon Brown, enforced rules that docked assessment points from amputees if they could lift objects with their stumps, while she said claimants with speech problems who could write a sign would receive no points and deaf claimants who could read such signs would have no points for hearing loss. Anybody with mobility issues would be assessed using “imaginary wheelchairs”. She also removed half the mental health descriptors from the assessment, hugely increasing the possibility of suicides if the benefit was withheld.

Dr Litchfield said a new, independent reassessment of the benefit was long overdue. This Writer agrees – but this gentleman and his ideas should be kept very far away from it.

4. Underlying all of this is the question of whether the DWP has a duty of care to benefit claimants.

The department has denied this for many years, so it was welcome to learn that PIP review Paul Gray believes this duty is implicit in all of its work:

But This Writer strongly disagrees that it is a “learning process”. The UK government has been providing benefits to people for many decades now and should be entirely capable of showing proper care for their well-being.

The fact that thousands – possible tens of thousands or indeed hundreds of thousands – of people have died after being denied DWP benefits suggests that there was a failure of care, and that this was a political decision.

5. What are we to conclude from all of the above?

It can only be that the Department for Work and Pensions is a chaotic dis-organisation that fails to uphold its duties properly, with the result that many thousands of people have died who should have been receiving the benefits, and the respect, that is due to them.

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Woman tests positive for Covid-19 – and is threatened with sanction if she doesn’t attend Job Centre

Habitual cruelty: if you thought the Tories stopped persecuting people with long-term illnesses and disabilities during the Covid-19 crisis, think again.

This is the UK in 2021, summed up in one series of tweets:

I don’t know where this Job Centre is, but its staff are clearly trying to create another Jodey Whiting.

Jodey had incurable conditions – they could only get worse – and failed to attend a benefit re-assessment interview because she was in hospital with a brain cyst at the time.

All her benefits were cut off – even though the interview can only have been to work out whether her conditions had worsened enough for her to require increased payments.

She took her own life soon afterwards. A coroner ruled that it could not be described as suicide because there is reason to believe her action could have been a cry for help.

This Writer has no doubt that Ms Whiting was pushed towards taking her own life by the Department for Work and Pensions.

If somebody on benefits contracts Covid-19, fails to attend a benefit interview, and the DWP cuts off all her payments – in the full knowledge of what happened with Ms Whiting – doesn’t that indicate, to you, that this government department is hoping for the same end result?

It does to me.

Let’s hope it doesn’t get that far.

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Jodey Whiting had an incurable condition. Why did the DWP try to force her into a benefit reassessment?

Death by DWP: Jodey Whiting.

This is a good question – triggered in This Writer’s mind by a reference to a different case.

Please read the following Twitter thread, which was prompted by a tweet referring to the death of DWP benefit claimant Philippa Day:

Yes, why does the DWP force people with incurable or terminal conditions to prove that they still have a lifelong disability or are still dying?

Reading those words, I thought about Jodey Whiting. She had a number of disabilities, including scoliosis which – as far as I can tell – is an incurable condition that requires constant treatment for the length of the sufferer’s life. If untreated, it could be life-threatening.

So it was pointless to demand that she attend a work capability assessment, because it was impossible for her condition to have improved. It could only worsen.

There is an argument that a WCA could take place to ascertain whether a claimant’s payments should increase – but that cannot be used as justification in Ms Whiting’s case because her benefits were stopped.

The DWP’s Green Paper on Disability, released in July this year (2021), acknowledges that it is pointless to keep reassessing people with lifelong and/or terminal conditions and proposes the creation of a Severe Disability Group (SDG). People put in this group would not have to face reassessment.

If the DWP is admitting that it is unreasonable for people with lifelong conditions to face constant reassessment now, then it would also be unreasonable to suggest that they should have faced constant reassessment in February 2017, when Ms Whiting took her own life.

Strangely, this does not seem to have been considered by the High Court when it rejected an appeal for a second inquest into Ms Whiting’s death, last month (October).

I wonder why the court did not consider that the absence of necessity for the assessment that led to Ms Whiting’s benefits being cut was a material consideration in her case.

There’s now a second appeal for another inquest. Perhaps the point could be made this time around?

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Fresh application lodged for second Jodey Whiting inquest. What does the DWP have to hide?

Death by DWP: Jodey Whiting.

A second application has been lodged for permission to appeal against a decision not to allow a second inquest into the death of Jodey Whiting.

Mother Joy Dove has made the application after an earlier attempt was refused by the High Court on October 11.

The High Court had previously found that new evidence that had been discovered since the first inquest did not require a fresh inquest to be held in the interests of justice.

Ms Whiting died in February 2017 after the DWP withdrew her benefits for not attending a Work Capability Assessment.

At the time of the assessment, she was housebound with pneumonia after having been in hospital, and had found out that she had a cyst on the brain.

The permission to appeal application is brought on the grounds the High Court was wrong in that finding, and that it was also wrong to find that Article 2 of the Human Rights Act, the right to life, was not engaged by the circumstances of Ms Whiting’s death.

Ms Dove said:

“It seems to me that there were obvious failings in the way the DWP treated Jodey, which were proved and documented by the Independent Case Examiner, and it is ridiculous that this has not been fully and publicly investigated.

“How can lessons be learned, and future tragedies prevented, if no one examines this properly?”

Merry Varney, of law firm Leigh Day added:

“The possible link between the DWP making repeated errors in the handling of Jodey’s welfare benefits claim shortly before her death, which left her without income, housing benefit and council tax benefit, and her death has never been publicly investigated.

“Having obtained the Attorney-General’s permission to apply to the High Court for a second inquest, it is disappointing the High Court rejected our client’s application on all grounds and we hope the Court of Appeal will allow her the opportunity to overturn this decision.”

Ms Whiting took her own life on February 21, 2017, after being told that her Employment and Support Allowance payments would stop, along with associated Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit payments, because she had not attended a work capability assessment.

Ms Varney, commenting on the case earlier, had said: “Jodey had requested a home visit for the WCA as she rarely left the house because of her severely poor health. She suffered multiple physical and mental health difficulties, took 23 tablets a day and was entirely dependent on welfare benefits.

“She had made in clear in her request for a home WCA that she had “suicidal thoughts a lot of the time and could not cope with work or looking for work”.

“After Jodey’s death, an inquest was held three months later, 24 May, 2017, which lasted less than an hour. The coroner declined to consider the potential role of the DWP and their acts or omissions in Jodey’s death. Jodey’s family were unrepresented and were unaware that they may have been entitled to publicly funded legal representation.

“After the inquest a report by an Independent Case Examiner concluded that the DWP had made multiple significant errors in how it treated Jodey. Some of the failings had not been known to Jodey’s family, who were horrified to learn how many failings had occurred in the handling of Jodey’s benefits.

“The opinion of an independent Consultant psychiatrist, sought by Jodey’s family, confirmed that the DWP’s failings would probably have had a substantial effect on Jodey’s mental state at the time she took her own life.

“Joy argues that the manner in which Jodey was treated by the DWP, and in particular the withdrawal of her ESA, caused or materially contributed to her death and that, had this not occurred, Jodey’s death would not have occurred when it did.”

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A wrong disability benefit decision is overturned every minute of every working day

Philippa Day: Capita paid her family an out-of-court settlement after a court heard her mental illness had been “exacerbated” by the way her benefits were processed.

The Department for Work and Pensions is riddled with incompetence with a wrong benefits decision being overturned every single minute of every working day, according to new analysis.

Readers of This Site may find nothing surprising in the revelation from disability charity Scope about assessment results for Personal Independent Payment.

It’s doubtful that it is incompetence, of course. There is a wealth of information that the DWP deliberately approves wrong decisions by benefits assessors from outsourcing firms like Capita.

Capita, of course, has just agreed to pay off the family of a disabled, mentally-ill woman who died of a drugs overdose after being messed about by the company and the DWP over a period of months.

So why does the DWP – and its outsourced assessment firms – get away with it? Simple: they have cleverly managed to avoid a court making a decision that they are guilty of an offence due to their activities.

Most recently, Capita made an out-of-court settlement to avoid a judgement on the death of Philippa Day.

According to Disability Rights UK,

Thousands have to fight every month to get the main disability benefit Personal Independence Payment.

Scope has demanded urgent action from Government after publishing the analysis which shows that on average, more than 12,000 Disabled people are successfully overturning wrong Personal Independence Payment (PIP) decisions every month.

Disabled people can appeal if their PIP claim has been turned down or if they are awarded less financial support than they had expected.

Scope found that between July 2019 and June 2021, on average there have been 12,579 successful appeals (including mandatory reconsiderations and tribunals) every month – equivalent to 600 every day. Since July 2019 and June 2021, there have been a total of 301,899 successful appeals. 70% of PIP tribunals are successful.

Figures also show the Government spent £120 million fighting disability benefit claims for PIP and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) between 2017 and 2019.

Scope has launched a new petition calling on the government to make sure disabled people get the right benefit decision, first time.

The petition calls for disabled people to have the right to request an appropriate assessor who properly understands a claimant’s condition.

Will it get anywhere? Doubtful.

Therese Coffey – and all the Tory ministers before her, going back to 2010 and Iain Duncan Smith – enjoy killing off vulnerable people too much.

Source: Disability benefits: one wrong decision overturned every minute of every working day | Disability Rights UK

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Benefits assessor pays off family of dead claimant – is this the new trend?

Death by DWP: Philippa Day.

Is this the new fashion for the Department for Work and Pensions and its privately-hired assessors: pay off the families of people who have died and sweep their cases under the carpet?

Philippa Day is the second deceased benefit claimant this week whose case is being ended with a payment by one of the organisations involved in pushing her to her death.

This time, benefit assessor Capita is paying up in an out-of-court settlement after Ms Day’s family started a lawsuit. In the other case, the DWP itself paid more than £16,000 to family members of another claimant after being ordered to do so by an Independent Case Examiner (ICE).

Coroner Gordon Clows delivered a damning indictment of Capita and the DWP at the inquest into Ms Day’s death in January this year.

He said her mental illness had been “exacerbated” by the way her benefits were processed: “Were it not for this problem, it is not likely that she would have [taken the act which ended her life].”

And he said a lot more. See This Site’s previous article – here – for all the damning details.

Now Capita is paying an undisclosed amount – out of court – meaning there will be no UK court verdict against the organisation or the Department for Work and Pensions to show that they drove a vulnerable woman to her death.

Do you think that is fair? I don’t.

Nor, it seems does solicitor Merry Varney, who acted for the Day family on behalf of law firm Leigh Day.

She said: “Capita has shown acceptance of their failures and a willingness to ensure their mistakes are not repeated, however there remain too many examples of the DWP, which controls the financial circumstances of the majority of people too sick to work, acting inhumanely to those receiving benefits and a continued resistance by the DWP to transparent investigations into benefit related deaths.

“Until the DWP changes its attitude, people like Philippa and her family remain at risk of gross human rights violations and ‘benefit related deaths’ are just another example of preventable deaths of people with disabilities occurring without any proper investigation or scrutiny.”

Somebody needs to take a court case through to the end. Otherwise the DWP and its assessment firms will keep dodging responsibility for the thousands of deaths they are causing.

Source: Capita pays compensation to family of woman who died after benefits cut | Welfare | The Guardian

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Did DWP torture this disabled benefit claimant until he died?

There are many kinds of torture – not just physical but also psychological.

This Writer has to ask whether the Department for Work and Pensions used psychological torture on a disabled benefit claimant by its own failures to carry out its duties properly.

DWP officers had left the claimant to be supported by an elderly, disabled parent – his appointee – who also needed daily carers and meals delivered.

Departmental guidance states that they should have found another appointee – but they did not do so. Why not?

Instead, the claimant’s ESA and PIP were repeatedly stopped due to failure to attend assessments, because letters were sometimes sent to the claimant’s address and sometimes to his parent’s.

The benefits were restarted after interventions – but the DWP has apparently lost the evidence showing why the claims had been restarted.

There are supposed to be safeguarding procedures to protect vulnerable benefit claimants but – as we discovered after the death of Jodey Whiting – nothing has been done to encourage officers to follow them.

In this case, the DWP repeatedly failed to follow its own safeguarding procedures, despite the fact that officers knew the claimant was vulnerable.

In addition to physical health problems, this claimant had severe depression. At one point, a sibling contacted the DWP to say that the claimant’s GP had sent them for psychiatric assessment due to a deterioration in their mental health.

The sibling explained that they had been to the claimant’s house and found unopened post and said they weren’t fit for a PIP assessment, but another such interview was arranged – by letter.

The result was predictable: the claimant didn’t answer the door and their PIP was stopped. The same also happened in relation to their ESA claim.

The claimant died – underweight, “unkempt and dirty” – after having been denied ESA for three months and PIP for three weeks.

His parent had been providing cash for food, even though that person had their own care package, meals prepared and carers attending daily.

The claimant’s sibling complained to the DWP and the government department made a payment of ESA arrears and £3,000 of backdated PIP.

Unsatisfied, the sibling took the matter to the Independent Case Examiner, who ruled that a further payment of £10,700 in PIP be paid to the claimant’s estate and a consolatory payment of £2,500 to the family.

And a fat lot of good it dead the deceased man!

But think how much the DWP saved; one-off payments totalling £16,200 – which included arrears, remember – is much less than might have been handed out if the claimant had remained alive.

So I have to ask: did DWP officers deliberately push this claimant to death?

They knew he suffered from severe depression but chose to mess him around.

Brown envelope phobia is a known phenomenon in which depressed people avoid opening letters from the DWP – so they sent him letters that they knew he would never read.

They deliberately failed to find a new appointee, and sent important notifications to the claimant’s former appointee – knowing that he would not be able to read them.

Another known behaviour of depressed benefit claimants is aversion to confrontations with DWP-appointed benefits assessors; they believe (justifiably, as many documented cases show) that they’ll be cheated out of payments.

But these DWP officers still sent an assessor to this claimant’s address anyway. Is it really credible for them to say they did not expect what happened?

Or were they deliberately inflicting psychological torture on a man with severe – mark that: severe – mental health problems?

To This Writer, the evidence is clear: the problem at the DWP is systemic – people there are encouraged to ignore their duty of care to claimants.

But with the Court of Appeal refusing to allow another inquest in the case of Jodey Whiting, it seems impossible to bring the evidence needed to prove it into the light of day.

Is the whole of the UK’s benefit and legal system rigged to push vulnerable people to their deaths and then hide the facts, simply because they happen to be sick and/or have a disability?

Source: Disabled claimant died underweight, ‘unkempt and dirty’ after ESA and PIP wrongly stopped | Disability Rights UK

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DWP confirms ESA £5,000 underpayment update next month

The Department for Work and Pensions office in London.

This is fairly straightforward – although when the DWP announced it was doing this, I was among many who thought it was a cover for yet another purge of benefit claimants.

I wonder… When the report is published on July 8, will it include a section on the number of people the Department found to have been overpaid or wrongly paid, and from whom it is now clawing money back?

That might be interesting.

The DWP confirmed it will release a final update on progress of checking 600,000 Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) cases for underpayments next month.

In a brief statement on the GOV.UK website, the DWP announced the statistics will be available from 9.30am on Thursday, July 8 as part of the completion of the exercise – reports the Daily Record.

In the last update, DWP reported that 600,000 ESA claims started the reassessment journey, with 112,000 claimants receiving arrears payments.

The UK Government has already paid out a total of £589million in backdated payments, with claimants receiving an average of £5,000 in January 2020.

Source: DWP confirms ESA £5,000 underpayment update next month – Liverpool Echo

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