Category Archives: Disability

What is the point of Remembrance Day when the government lets down our veterans so badly?

Contempt: at the national Remembrance Day commemoration service in 2019, Boris Johnson showed contempt for our Armed Forces by laying his wreath face-down. Is this merely symptomatic of the Tory government’s attitude to veterans generally?

I pass this on without comment. Do I need to amplify it further?

Disabled ex-armed forces personnel are being let down by the welfare system, with many experiencing stress and anxiety brought on by the struggle to access social security benefits, according to the Royal British Legion.

The charity said frontline Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff were insufficiently aware of their obligations under the armed forces covenant, which requires public services to give special consideration to injured ex-service personnel.

Among the difficulties reported by veterans to a Royal British Legion survey was the failure of benefits officials to understand post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when carrying out and scoring health assessments for disability benefits.

study by a Salford University academic published last year found many armed forces veterans with complex needs reported overwhelmingly negative experiences of universal credit, disability benefits assessments and benefit sanctions.

Source: Disabled veterans being let down by benefits system – Royal British Legion | Benefits | The Guardian

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Thousands of disabled people could be eligible for £4,600 a year – in tax credits

If you have a disability and are receiving Personal Independence Payment, then you could be eligible for a bonus – from the taxman (or woman).

If you are still able to work, you might also be able to get the disability element of Working Tax Credit, totalling up to £3,220 a year, or up to £4,610 if your disability is severe.

Gov.uk’s tax calculator can help you find out how much you could receive – you can do it here.

It is true that tax credits have been replaced by Universal Credit for most people, so usually you can only make a new claim for tax credits if you also receive the severe disability premium, are entitled to it, or if this was the case within the past month.

If you can’t make a new claim for tax credits, you may still be able to apply for Universal Credit (or Pension Credit if you and your partner are State Pension age or over).

You have nothing to lose.

Source: Are you eligible for PIP? Thousands of claimants could be missing out on an extra £4,600 – Chronicle Live

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Thousands of disabled students could get Universal Credit after woman wins legal fight

Tactical cruelty: perhaps DWP bosses realised they were going to lose a court case so they changed the law in order to ensure that disabled students would continue to be unable to claim Universal Credit.

This is good news for many – but not for everybody:

Tens of thousands of disabled students could qualify for Universal Credit after 22-year-old mostly-blind Sidra Kauser won a legal victory over a loophole saying she could not claim Universal Credit.

To receive the benefit, she would have had to take a work capability assessment – but the DWP’s rules contained a bizarre ‘Catch-22’ that she could not take the test, because she is a student.

As a result, she could not be found to have limited capability for work, and therefore couldn’t receive the benefit.

The High Court has quashed the DWP’s decision, saying it breaches the Tory-run government department’s own regulations, dating back to 2013 – and ordered it to pay Ms Kauser’s legal fees.

But this fight is not over because the Tory government changed the law on August 5, ensuring that disabled students claiming Universal Credit after that date would not be invited to a work capability assessment and therefore would not be eligible for the benefit at all.

That will have to be challenged in a future court case.

But this is another victory for crusading lawyers Leigh Day, who explained the case:

Sidra Kauser, aged 22, from Halifax, is visually impaired and is currently studying for a masters degree at York University.

She received Personal Independence Payment (PIP) but that, combined with a student loan, was not enough to provide her with an acceptable standard of living. After payment of her rent, she had £120 a month to live on.

She applied for universal credit, but because she was a student, she was refused a Work Capability Assessment (WCA), which meant she was effectively disentitled from claiming universal credit.

Sidra applied for a judicial review of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) policy (which stated that disabled students shouldn’t be invited to a WCA), arguing that the law required the DWP to conduct a WCA to determine whether she had limited capability for work, in which case she would be entitled to universal credit.

Now, after the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Therese Coffey, told the court in July, 2020 that she would not be defending Sidra’s claim, a high court judge has ruled that the SSWP had acted unlawfully and has quashed the decision to refuse Sidra’s claim for universal credit.

Sidra will now be given a WCA, and if she is deemed to be unable to work, she will be entitled to make a claim for universal credit.

The court ruling also has an impact on those disabled students whose applications for universal credit had previously been unsuccessful because they had been refused a WCA.

However, on 5 August the DWP changed the law so that other disabled students who made a claim for universal credit after that date would not be invited  to a WCA and would not therefore be able to establish their limited capability for work.

Ms Kauser said: “I am glad I decided to take a stand and pursue my claim for judicial review of the DWP decision to refuse me a WCA. Hopefully other students will benefit from the court ruling.”

Leigh Day solicitor Lucy Cadd added: “Sidra made a brave stand against the decision to refuse her a WCA and it has proved successful. It has been estimated by the charity Disability Rights UK that the Secretary of State’s unlawful policy, which has been in operation since 2013, could have adversely affected 30,000 disabled students. Other disabled students who were refused a WCA prior to 5 August 2020 and therefore lost out on their claim for universal credit, should ask the Secretary of State to revise her decision.

“Although the DWP has callously changed the regulations to prevent more disabled students being entitled to a WCA, there may be scope for legal challenge to the new regulations.”

Source: Disabled student wins right to be considered for universal credit

The Tories have used Covid to abandon children with disabilities and their parents

Money, money, money: Boris Johnson’s government says it is spending billions to help children with special educational needs and disabilities weather the Covid crisis – but they aren’t seeing it. So where is it going?

It may be hard to accept, but Boris Johnson and his cronies have been weaponising Covid-19, using the crisis as an excuse to take support away from vulnerable children.

Parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities have been particularly hard-hit, as Metro‘s report shows:

An Ofsted report into the impact of the first lockdown published this week found that some children lost basic skills and learning as a result of school closures and restrictions on movement.

Turning to SEND children, it found the pandemic has presented ‘serious and far-reaching’ challenges for families, with some feeling ‘isolated’ from existing services.

One parent who spoke to Metro branded the situation a ‘national disgrace’ and said her three-year-old son had received no physio or occupational therapy for nine months.

Another told of a ‘pressure cooker’ environment and the ‘terror’ parents face with no end in sight, as they struggle without services they had previously relied upon in their day-to-day lives.

The response from the Tories’ Department for Education spokesperson gives great emphasis to the amounts of money that have been allocated to help parents and children in this situation.

It mentions “£37million this year to help thousands of low-income families raising disabled or seriously ill children with the challenge they face staying at home”, a “£1billion Covid catch-up fund”, and “increasing high needs funding for local authorities by £780 million this year and a further £730 million next year”.

But who actually receives the cash and what does it actually pay for?

This year we have seen the Tories waste no less than £12 billion on a Covid-19 test, track and trace system that not only doesn’t work but is actually a contamination risk.

So quoting amounts of money allocated to particular projects means nothing.

It is clear from the stories here that these parents and children are not receiving the support they need.

And I, for one, would like to know what the Tories are really doing with that cash.

Source: Exhausted parents of disabled children feel ‘abandoned’ in lockdown | Metro News

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Disabled comedian Rosie Jones shames Tories with damning verdict on disability law and benefits

I didn’t see this when it was aired on the BBC’s Question Time last Thursday – and I’m sorry because it was one of the few times that sad rag of a show would have been worth watching.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act, comedian Rosie Jones, who happens to have cerebral palsy, was asked to comment on what it has meant for herself and other people who have disabilities.

She didn’t hold back. Her comments about the benefits Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and its successor Personal Independence Payment (PIP) were scathing.

And all through, Health Secretary Matt Hancock sat like a nodding dog. At the end, he was even smiling at the torment his government forces people to suffer:

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DWP disabled sanctions extension shows great tragedy is due to timing, too

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

The Department for Work and Pensions has employed its usual subtlety and tact – and has extended benefit sanctions against people with disabilities in time for the new English lockdown.

People with long-term illnesses and/or disabilities who fail to take part in telephone work capability assessments are now to be sanctioned. The change was brought in on November 2, days before the new lockdown began.

The change has been attacked by mental health charity Mind as an “abandonment of their responsibility to keep people safe”.

Mind’s Ayaz Manji said:

We need to see a compassionate response to this pandemic.

That has to mean removing benefit sanctions and cancelling reassessments for disability benefits so that people with mental health problems don’t face the prospect of going without income this winter.

Sadly, we are not going to see any compassion from the Department for Work and Pensions while it is under Tory control.

The Department has said nobody will be sanctioned without being contacted first – which raises interesting questions if assessors can’t even phone up a claimant properly:

People will be contacted to ask them to explain why they did not, or could not attend or participate in the assessment and where good cause is provided and accepted, support will continue.

We don’t want to sanction anyone and our absolute priority is to ensure people continue to receive the support they are entitled to.

We will contact anyone who hasn’t engaged in a telephone appointment and their support will absolutely continue if they have a good reason for not attending or participating.

We’ve heard it all before. Expect a slew of articles about the DWP failing to follow this simple routine.

Source: DWP extends benefit sanctions against disabled people just as new lockdown begins – Mirror Online

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Tribunal highlights corruption of disability benefit assessments as DWP tries to rely on disgraced assessor’s lies

 

The Department for Work and Pensions tried to use the lies of a disgraced and dismissed assessor as a reason to deny disability benefits to a claimant.

The corrupt and cruel Tory-run DWP tried to prolong a seriously-disabled claimant’s four-year fight for benefits by saying an upper-tier tribunal should accept an assessment by Alan Barham.

Barham was discredited after an undercover investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches in 2016.

Private assessment firm Capita dismissed Barham and he was found guilty of misconduct by a professional standards tribunal in 2017.

But the DWP still argued that a hearing by the upper tribunal should rely on his evidence – this month.

The claimant, previously on the higher rate of both components of DLA, was refused PIP based on an assessment by Barham.

On appeal to the first tier tribunal the claimant was awarded the standard rate daily living only. So the claimant appealed to the upper tribunal.

The DWP then produced a new assessment report dated 2017, which was still based in part on the original report by Barham.

The DWP argued that, if the upper tribunal sent the case back, it would be a up to a new tribunal to decide what weight to attach to the report.

Fortunately, our legal system is staffed by intelligent people, and the judge dismissed that DWP’s demand, saying it was

not good enough, because the criticisms of Mr Barham meant that his purported observations and purported examination could not be relied upon.

The judge ended up telling the DWP there was “a wealth of evidence” already in the papers from other health professionals and if that wasn’t enough for the DWP they could order a new assessment.

There was no reason for the case to go back to a new tribunal, the judge said, so either the DWP should come to an agreement with the claimant or the judge would decide on an award.

The DWP climbed down, and the claimant was awarded 11 points for the daily living component, giving them the standard rate, and 12 points for the mobility component, giving them the enhanced rate. The award runs for 10 years from the date of the original decision.

The problem is that the DWP will have absolutely no qualms about trying the same dodge, using material by the same discredited assessor, next time it has the opportunity.

There is no penalty applied to the DWP when it tries this dodge to get out of paying people the benefits they deserve, so there is no disincentive to stop it being used.

And the difference in the stakes is enormous. For a benefit claimant, the difference between no benefit award and an enhanced rate of PIP is often the difference between life and death; for the DWP it is just another day at the office.

This case ended well; the claimant got what they deserved. What happens if the next claimant doesn’t? And when will the DWP take responsibility for the injuries its decisions cause?

Source: DWP slammed by judge for trying to rely on evidence of disgraced Capita assessor

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Was online appeal system just another way to delay payment of disability benefits?

Tribunal: before anyone comments, I know that UK courts don’t use the gavel. This is for illustrative purposes.

A bid to decide some appeals against refusal of Personal Independence Payment benefit applications online has been closed down by HM Courts and Tribunals service.

The intention was to give claimants and the Department for Work and Pensions an idea of the verdict they were likely to get at appeal. If both agreed with it, then the appeal was completed. If not, then the matter went on to a normal appeal hearing.

You can probably see the problem with this.

For many, it would cause another delay before they had a chance of seeing any cash – and we all know that the DWP already puts far too many hurdles in the way of people with disabilities.

This seems to be borne out by the disappointing take-up. The process – known as COR (Continuous Online Resolution) was originally set for trial with 1,000 appellants in the Midlands, Sutton and North-West Tribunal Panel area.

But only 254 claimants accepted the invitation to join the pilot and, of these, only 145 cases were considered suitable.

Ultimately, 69 cases were resolved by an online panel and all but one of these increased the DWP’s award.

According to Benefits and Work, claimants involved in the pilot had mixed feelings:

Those who got a decision they were happy with from the online panel were positive about the experience. Those who had to go through the online process and then on to a normal appeal were frustrated and disappointed.

Some appellants said they accepted a preliminary decision that they were not happy with simply because “they felt they had waited long enough already and did not want a further delay caused by waiting for a face-to-face hearing.”

This fits the thesis that the scheme delayed justice rather than helping it.

And it seems it was even a burden to HMCTS, which stated: “A substantial admin resource was required to support COR in selecting, sifting and onboarding cases, as well as carrying out time-consuming tasks which were not automated by the COR system.

“This therefore had resource implications for any scaling up of the pilot on a national basis, particularly given the low levels of suitable cases.”

HMCTS said it will continue to look for ways to carry out appeals online.

Let us hope the next attempt will speed matters, rather than worsening delays.

Source: Online appeal system scrapped before it begins

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Starmer’s Tory-supporting crackdown on his own party makes him a danger to people with disabilities

[Image: @Rachael_Swindon on Twitter.]

Apologists for Keir Starmer who reckon he’s easing the way for Tory legislation to make them “own their mistakes” will have a hard time justifying this.

Starmer and his team are working behind the scenes to stop Labour MPs from criticising the Conservatives.

After significant rebellions against one-line Labour whips on the Overseas Operations Bill and the Covert Human Intelligent Sources Bill (the so-called ‘Spycops’ bill that allows government agents to commit crimes including murder, torture and rape), the whips office has broken party protocol to issue written reprimands to the rebels.

The letters stipulate a reprimand period of six months, to be extended to twelve if the recipient continues to break the whip.

They have been shared with Labour’s parliamentary committee – a group of backbench MPs elected by the parliamentary Labour party (PLP), and currently dominated by the right – which will determine whether to inform the MP’s constituency Labour party (CLP), as well as the party’s national executive committee (NEC).

This information could then be considered when an MP seeks reselection ahead of a general election.

“That’s the fear factor,” one MP told Novara Media. “This could impact your reselection [and] it might be over a one-line whip. It’s intimidation plain and simple.”

A number of those who received letters are seeking legal advice from union representatives, the MP added.

But that’s not all.

It seems someone in Starmer’s office has taken it upon themselves to water down criticism of the Tory government’s failure to protect people with disabilities by reducing the disability employment gap and mitigating the effect of the Covid-19 crisis on them, and in its new COVID-19 guidance for people placed in the “clinically extremely vulnerable” group.

Someone in the office of the shadow minister for people with disabilities, Vicky Foxcroft, sent a draft of her comments to John Pring of Disability News Service which differed significantly from the official version of her comments released by the Labour Party.

The changes include the removal of a reference to the “vital” role played by trade unions in protecting disabled people from discrimination, along with any reference to disability discrimination.

Read the DNS article and see for yourself. It states,

Responding to the new pandemic guidance… her official statement said that disabled people were just “anxious” rather than “extremely worried”. Her call for disabled people who might need to shield again needing to be “properly compensated and not left without enough money to survive” had vanished.

This represents a serious policy change from Labour – back to the indifference to anti-disability discrimination that marred the New Labour years and Ed Miliband’s leadership.

People with disabilities can no longer rely on Labour MPs to stand up for them because it seems the party leadership now supports the Tories’ campaign to punish them, just for existing.

Starmer seems determined to let Boris Johnson’s corrupt Tories do whatever they want – harm whoever they want – while threatening to sabotage the careers of anybody in his own ranks who dares to protest.

The big question is: What is to be done about this?

The union Unite has already cut its funding to the Labour Party by 10 per cent, and the decision to remove a supportive reference to trade unions from an official comment could be interpreted as an attack – or even a retaliation. Should that union – and others – cut support for Labour even more?

And what about constituency Labour parties? The threat to MPs – which includes sanctions that could lead to their deselection (to be replaced by right-wingers parachuted in by head office, no doubt – that was Tony Blair’s practice) – is also an indirect attack on the power of members to choose their representatives.

Will they act? Should they?

What do you think?

Source: Keir Starmer Has Launched an Unprecedented Crackdown on Rebel MPs | Novara Media

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If PIP assessments are now being audio recorded, can claimants have copies?

Days after This Site noted that the Department for Work and Pensions is running trials of video assessments for Personal Independence Payment – and other benefit – claims, we find that the Tories are already recording telephone assessment interviews.

This is very interesting because the recording of assessments has been a roasting-hot potato ever since it was first suggested.

The most recent statement of the situation was that, in order to have an assessment recorded, a claimant needed to bring a piece of tape-recording equipment worth around £1,400 to the interview, capable of recording on two tapes at the same time, with one to be held by the interviewer and one by the interviewee.

The DWP – and by extension, assessors at Atos and Capita – has a small number of these devices, but their scarcity meant it was hard to be sure of securing one for an interview.

This led to some charitable people buying the equipment in order to lend it to benefit claimants who needed it. I’m sure it also led to less charitable people renting the same equipment out for money.

With the announcement that Atos is recording telephone assessments, though, hasn’t that situation changed?

If the assessment company is making recordings unilaterally, does it still have to use the same equipment as in previous stipulations?

Will it have to provide claimants with copies?

If it doesn’t have to use the prescribed equipment, why not? And does this mean claimants don’t have to use it either and can make their own recordings? If not, why not? There must be a level playing-field for these matters.

Here’s Benefits and Work on this:

IAS (Atos) have begun recording telephone assessments for personal independence payment (PIP) Therese Coffey, secretary of state for work and pensions, told the Work and Pensions Committee on Wednesday 30 September.

Coffey told the committee that IAS had begun recording the assessments on 21 September.*

“But that has not yet started with Capita. That is under, I can assure you, active management to get Capita going quickly on this

claimants must ask to have their assessment recorded, it will not be done automatically.

You are likely to need to arrange this in advance. The earlier you request a recording the better, as a new appointment may need to be arranged.

I note that the website’s authors say the DWP will not give permission for claimants to make their own recordings – and say they should do it themselves, clandestinely, if they feel they need to:

You may still consider it sensible to record the assessment yourself just in case the DWPs recording goes astray. Though you will need to do this covertly as the DWP will not give permission.

We would still strongly recommend that claimants consider making a covert recording of their assessment, just in case the DWP’s copy goes astray when you challenge a decision.

The suggestion that copies of assessors’ audio recordings can go “astray” indicates that the DWP and its privately-contracted assessors are as untrustworthy as ever (75 per cent of benefit refusals are now being overturned at appeal).

This is worth chasing up. I’ll ask the DWP what’s going on and let you know the answer.

Source: PIP assessments now being audio recorded

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