Category Archives: Employment and Support Allowance

Nothing for you if you’re sick, disabled, at school or in care: reaction to the Tory budget

They all do this: but the way Rishi Sunak held the red box indicated there wasn’t much in it. And there wasn’t.

Rishi Sunak’s budget has shown he is a diehard Tory, with concessions for businesses while those of us in need can go whistle.

He has claimed his hands are tied by huge Covid-19-related debts – but we all know that he has already paid them off, by the simple means of creating the money needed to do so.

And his big plans for the future were pathetic: new ‘free ports’ that have always been a bad idea, and an investment bank to replace the one a previous Tory government sold off a few years ago.

We are ruled by intellectual pygmies – and that is being harsh on the pygmies.

I watched the budget speech and commentated on it on Twitter, so I can provide a first-hand account of the announcements – but first, I’d like to go straight to what wasn’t announced, with comments from people who were reading at the time:

So the people who did all the hard work during the Covid-19 crisis will receive no reward for their sacrifices at all – even though many of them sacrificed their lives, contracting the virus and dying because Matt Hancock couldn’t be bothered to supply proper personal protective equipment (PPE) at the right time.

However:

People with disabilities who did not receive the £20 benefit uplift because they are on so-called “legacy” benefits will still receive nothing more, even though the uplift will remain in place until September. After then, it seems people who lost their jobs because of Covid-19 will fall over a so-called “cliff edge”, with the uplift cancelled, forcing them to live on much less.

The Tories have made a major issue of education in the crisis, demanding that our children must go back to school as soon as possible in order to catch up on what they have missed – but Rishi Sunak has provided no extra facilities for this in his budget. It seems it was all talk and – in fact – the plan is to reopen a major vector for transmission of Covid and hope that the increase in infections – and deaths – won’t be noticed amid the falling numbers triggered by the vaccination programme.

And after years of promising to fix problems in the social care system – that became hugely pronounced when 30,000 people died in care homes because of Tory stupidity – Sunak is breaking that promise by offering nothing.

Meanwhile, those who profited hugely from the pandemic – either by being perfectly situated to continue selling goods to people in lockdown or by receiving government Covid-related contracts to provide services at hugely-inflated costs (many of which were not actually provided because the contractors were not qualified to do so) are to get off scot-free because Sunak has backed away from calls to impose a wealth tax.

So, what has he done?

Well, he carped on a lot about borrowing a huge amount of money to pay for Covid-19. That was a stream of lies from start to finish, as I pointed out:

So we were led to expect tax hikes a-go-go. But this didn’t happen:

The refers to income tax, National Insurance and VAT. However – and this is indeed a ‘however’:

This is the amount you earn before you start paying tax, or before you start paying it at a higher rate. Because these thresholds are frozen, it seems more people will pay at a higher rate due to wage inflation, so there will be a de facto increase in taxes. But this depends on people receiving pay rises to cover their costs and Tory policy over the last 11 years has been to discourage that – it’s the reason real take-home pay has fallen by thousands of pounds per year since 2010.

This was the only increase in taxation, and it is only on a tax on profits. So firms that pay corporation tax can avoid it by ensuring that they make no profit from 2023. The best way to do that is to invest in infrastructure and wages (by employing more people, perhaps).

It would be wrong to say that Sunak’s budget does nothing for ordinary people – but it’s all based around existing Covid-related schemes:

Sunak went on to announce plans for government investment. The main points were:

But “free ports” are not new, nor are they likely to help:

Here’s an interesting point:

Mr McDonnell himself promptly answered it:

There was also some muttering about policies that give a nod to the environment but if you blinked, you missed them – and This Writer blinked. They certainly don’t constitute a “Green Industrial Revolution”!

As Tory budgets go, this is not the disaster for working-class people that it could have been – although the main hits have been offset, so it may be a few months or years until we can know the effects for sure.

The lack of any hard taxes or austerity measures suggests a tacit admission that Covid-19 really is bought and paid-for, and there won’t be any real need to pay for it again.

So This Writer is left with a huge sense of anticlimax. I was expecting to be fearful after today; instead I feel let down.

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Sick & disabled people to be subjected to same harm as Universal Credit claimants from April

The Department for Work and Pensions is to run trials on a new “integrated” assessment service, putting sick and disabled benefit claimants under the same conditions as Universal Credit claimants.

What a disaster for people with long-term illnesses and disabilities.

Universal Credit is known to be harmful to its claimants. The five-week wait before anything is paid puts most people into debt and forces them to take out advance loans, meaning that the amount they receive – when they do get it – is much less than their government-assessed need, and continues to be so for many months.

This creates serious mental and emotional stress and otherwise fit and healthy UC claimants have done horrifying damage to their own health as a result.

People with illnesses and disabilities are already suffering damage to their own health. The current system already piles mental and emotional stress on them –

Only yesterday I wrote about “brown envelope anxiety”, that pushes sick and disabled people (especially) to avoid opening communications from the government, in the expectation that the message inside will inflict harm upon them.

– and putting them under Universal Credit conditions can only make matters worse.

I notice that the new trial is set to start in April, when the effects of Covid-19 are expected to be dying down.

Is it the Tory aim to immediately replace one fatal attack on sickness and disability with another?

Source: Justin Tomlinson confirms that the new DWP intergrated assessment service to be trialed in April. – The poor side of life

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Trickster Coffey: she says disabled people should switch to Universal Credit – where they’ll be worse-off

Therese Coffey: you wouldn’t think she was trying to get her jollies by encouraging people to quit legacy benefits for Universal Credit with a false claim that they’ll be better-off, would you?

Did Therese Coffey get her doctorate in lying to people?

Having refused calls to extend the £20-per-week Universal Credit uplift to so-called “legacy benefits” that sick and disabled people receive – Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and others – she has suggested that they should claim UC instead.

People on Severe Disablement Premium (SDP) were unable to make that move until Wednesday (January 27) – when the Tories removed that barrier.

But charities have warned that this is a trap.

People with long-term illnesses and disabilities are more likely to lose money if they switch to UC and, once they have made the move, there is no going back.

It’s just another example of Tory discrimination against people with disabilities, that has reached new heights in the Covid-19 crisis, which they have used as an excuse for persecution.

People who’ve been on SDPs can get £120, £285 or £405 per month in transition payments – depending on their circumstances. But DWP officials have confirmed these payments “will be subject to erosion and cessation” over time.

And the Disability Rights UK group has claimed that, “after transitional help is eroded after time”, Universal Credit will be “significantly less generous” than legacy benefits for disabled people.

So the two-tier discrimination against people with disabilities in fact continues, no matter whether they are on “legacy benefits” or Universal Credit.

This Writer’s advice is clear: stay where you are. Don’t give Trickster Coffey the giggle she wants to get from hurting you.

Source: Fears as DWP chief urges disabled people to switch to Universal Credit from Wednesday – Mirror Online

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Judicial review over DWP starvation death of Errol Graham has begun

People die because of DWP mistakes: Errol Graham starved to death because the department decided to stop his benefit money. The organisation later – secretly – changed its rules in a bid to avoid humiliation in court.

A judicial review has begun at London’s High Court, to determine whether a DWP decision to stop Errol Graham’s benefits breached government safeguarding policy and led to his death by starvation.

Mr Graham starved to death in June 2018 after his Employment Support Allowance (ESA) payments were terminated by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) eight months earlier.

The claim, brought on behalf of the family by Alison Turner (the fiancée of Mr Graham’s son), alleges that the decision to halt Mr Graham’s benefits in 2017 was unlawful and that the DWP’s ESA safeguarding policy on the termination of benefits is still unlawful, despite revisions that were belatedly made following the issuing of these proceedings.

Mr Graham, who suffered severe mental ill-health, was found starved to death aged 57, eight months after his ESA payments and housing benefit payments were halted. He had missed a fitness for work assessment and had not responded when the DWP tried to contact him by phone and in person. The payments were terminated in line with DWP policy, without any effort to contact next of kin or other support services and without considering whether Mr Graham’s known mental health issues could have been the reason for his lack of communication.

When he was found dead, he weighed just four and a half stone.

There was no food in his flat and no credit on his gas or electricity meters. An unsent letter to the DWP was found which pleaded “please judge me fairly”.

Ms Turner is asking the court to give a declaration that the DWP’s decision to disallow Mr Graham’s benefits in October 2017 was unlawful because it was in breach of s.149 Equality Act 2010 and Regulation 24 of Employment Support Allowance Regulations 2008.
She says there were strong indicators that his mental health or disability may have given him good cause for not responding and he was known to have long term depression, and the DWP’s policy should ensure such indicators are identified and considered.
Mind, the leading national mental health charity in England And Wales has submitted evidence in support of Ms Turner’s case and the Equality and Human Rights Commission are formally intervening in support.
Ms Turner said
“The DWP decision to stop paying Errol’s benefits meant that, without money to buy food and to pay for heating and lighting, in the end, he starved to death. Although at first the DWP maintained that their safeguarding policy was lawful, faced with a court case, they have made some changes to the policy.
“But these changes are not enough. It still falls to the vulnerable claimant to make sure the DWP knows why they have good cause not to respond to DWP enquiries. That makes no sense when vulnerable claimants might be too mentally ill to respond. For Errol’s sake, I have to challenge this policy so that other people don’t suffer in the way that he and our family did.”

Her legal representative Tessa Gregory added,

“It cannot be right that it falls to such vulnerable individuals to prove that they had a good cause for not responding and the DWP must require their staff where necessary to make further enquiries before taking the momentous decision of cutting off what is often a person’s only source of income. Unless and until the DWP changes its policies other vulnerable individuals will remain at risk of serious harm or death.”

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said the charity has heard from many other people who have lost loved ones in similar circumstances.

“Mind provided expert testimony to the hearing based on the views of people with mental health problems who we’re in touch with who have had to endure awful experiences at the hands of a benefits system, which is made needlessly complicated and stressful.
“Change can’t come soon enough. The pandemic has caused devastating financial insecurity, with more people than ever relying on the benefits system to keep them afloat through this difficult period. We want to see a fair and compassionate benefits system.”

The hearing is ongoing and is expected to conclude on January 13.

Source: Court Case Regarding Errol Graham To Be Heard | Leigh Day

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Tory message to people on benefits: have yourselves a MISERABLE little Christmas

Therese Coffey: computer says no.

The worst part of this is that Therese Coffey probably didn’t even think about the consequences of her actions.

It is doubtful she gave a moment’s consideration to the fact that the Tory government’s so-called “grace period” exempting many people who claimed Universal Credit due to the Covid-19 crisis from the benefit cap will end this month – right before Christmas.

The number of households affected by the Benefit Cap has doubled since the Covid-19 crisis started – to 170,000. And a further 160,000 will reach the end of the nine-month grace period in the remaining weeks before Christmas.

How nice for them to have to work out how to make up the sudden shortfall just when they are likely to need more!

Still, it could be worse – they could be claiming Employment and Support Allowance, like many people with long-term illnesses and disabilities.

These people were diddled out of a £20-per-week rise in benefits that was given to people on Universal Credit. Coffey babbled a bobbins “computer says no” claim – that changes to computer systems could take months.

For UC claimants, the increase will last at least until next April, although there are demands for it to be made permanent, in the light of increasing uncertainty about the nation’s economic future.

ESA claimants are already £660-a-year worse-off – each – because of Ms Coffey’s computer-illiteracy, and this could almost double to £1,000 if they don’t see the rise in April.

Now for the most insidious part: Ms Coffey hasn’t ruled out the possibility that ESA claimants may get their benefit increase in the future.

But (firstly) she hasn’t said anything about whether they’ll have the rise backdated to cover all the time they’ve had to cope without it.

And (secondly) there’s an enormous orange elephant sitting in the middle of this room: people on Employment and Support Allowance die. One could say it is what they are best-known for.

The most common reason they die, that is known to those of us who check, is lack of money. ESA claimants need more cash because their medical conditions mean their lives are more expensive than those of people who are able-bodied.

And here the Tories have said they are deliberately denying sick people the extra cash that they have said everyone else needs to cope with the extra costs of Covid!

I fear that, for many, that is the equivalent of writing a death warrant.

And, given the Tory record on these matters, I fear that death is exactly what Ms Coffey is hoping will happen to these people – whose only crime is failure to be a “functioning work unit” (as Tory jargon describes the rest of us).

AFTERTHOUGHT: Shortly after I posted this, I received the following comment on Twitter, which I think makes a very good point:

And this:

Source: Two million disabled people set to lose £2 billion in Tory benefits freeze – Mirror Online

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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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Will new inquest into death of ESA claimant Jodey Whiting show failure of DWP safeguarding?

Jodey Whiting, 42, took her own life after her benefits were stopped.

Permission for a new inquest into the death of ESA claimant Jodey Whiting has been granted amid concern that a government department’s role in it had been covered up.

Here is the announcement from solicitors Leigh Day:

“The family of Jodey Whiting has been granted permission to apply to the High Court for a fresh inquest into her death after new evidence was submitted about the effect on her of a Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) decision to halt the benefits on which she was entirely dependent.

“Jodey’s mother, Joy Dove, was granted permission by the office of the Attorney General following her submission that the original inquest into her daughter’s death was insufficient. The new evidence she submitted in support of her application included an investigation into the handling of Jodey’s benefits by the DWP and a report from an independent psychiatrist.

“Jodey, from Stockton-on-Tees, died aged 42 on 21 February, 2017. She took her own life three days after she received her last Employment Support Allowance (ESA) payment.

“She had been informed on 6 February that the payments would stop and the associated housing benefit and council tax benefit payments would also be stopped.

“The decision to halt the payments was made because following a reassessment of Jodey’s entitlement to ESA, begun in 2016, she had failed to attend a work capability assessment (WCA).

“However, 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”.

“The request was refused, the WCA was set for a date in January, and Jodey did not attend.

“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.

“Following the letter giving her permission to apply for a new inquest into Jodey’s death, Joy said: “What a relief to be granted permission for a new inquest into Jodey’s death. It has been a nightmare but I want to thank the hard work of Merry Varney and all the team at Leigh Day and everyone who has been helping me with the Justice for Jodey campaign. This is a big step forward.

““I love my daughter so much and this should never have happened. How could they say she was fit to work? What they put her through was terrible, but I hope that this will mean that Jodey has saved others from the same nightmare.”

“Joy is represented by Leigh Day partner Merry Varney, who added: “The Attorney-General’s decision is very welcome. It is the first completed step in the long journey by Jodey’s family to seek a full and fearless investigation into whether the DWP, and its flawed decision making regarding Jodey’s benefits claim, caused or contributed to her death.

“”We must now apply to the High Court and seek to persuade the Court a fresh inquest is necessary.”

“The application for a new inquest will be made to the High Court within the next 6 weeks and a final hearing may take place by summer, 2021.”

This Site has been covering this case since June 2017 and will report further developments as and when they become available.

Source: Jodey Whiting’s Family Given Permission To Apply For Second Inquest Into Her Death | Leigh Day

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The Tories have started PIP and ESA video assessment trials. Claimants are terrified

What the claimant sees: benefit assessors carrying out video interviews may think they’re being perfectly reasonable but the Depatment for Work and Pensions has created such a stink around its denial-of-benefits system that people with illnesses and disabilities are likely to be terrified by them. And that’s if they can even afford the equipment to take part in video interviews!

People are being put in fear for their lives because the Johnson government has started work trialling video assessments of disability and sickness benefit claims.

The trial arises from a false premise – that people with long-term illnesses and disabilities are as capable as able-bodied people of taking part in video calls with confidence and coherence.

That is not true and, in many cases, the mere fact of taking part in one of the Tory government’s notoriously-rigged benefits “assessments” will be enough to put them off.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey announced the trials at a meeting of the Commons Work and Pensions committee on September 30, saying, “We did try to get some extra capital on video assessments. We weren’t successful in getting additional money, so we have reprioritised some of our capital budget to get that underway.”

A senior civil servant, John Paul Marks, put flesh on these bones: “For video, CHDA has started trialling how to do fit for work decisions by video, so we’re starting that now.

“For PIP we’re trying to also test doing video assessments for about 500 customers.

“So we can understand, does that improve the health care professionals capacity to ensure a positive experience for the customer and be able to get more evidence to support a recommendation on a functional assessment.”

The website Benefits and Work pointed out that many claimants will be “deeply unhappy” with the principle of video assessment:

Some will find the experience of talking on camera provokes considerable anxiety. Some will have concerns about data protection, given that a copy of the video is likely to be saved on a server by the DWP.

At the moment it is not clear whether claimants will have the option to refuse to have a video assessment and insist on either a telephone or, when they become available and safe, face to face assessment instead.

A commenter to the site said the issue would be particularly acute for those with mental health issues:

“This could breach the Equalty Act 2010… Anxiety would make the assessment inaccessible or [the claimant] would suffer an unreasonable experience if required to be video [or] audio-recorded.”

Not only that, but what happens if the claimant doesn’t have the technology to take part in a video assessment, due – for example – to extreme poverty? After all, why would they be claiming the benefit if they didn’t need the money?

Consider this response to This Site’s story yesterday:

Some have already come to the conclusion that this is a quota-filling exercise; that the DWP isn’t interested in whether people deserve Personal Independence Payment or Employment and Support Allowance – the only concern is ensuring that a certain number of people are pushed off the books:

As with any change in a benefit system, it seems clear that video trials will be open to abuse.

This will have to be monitored closely and I will be keen to hear of any experiences.

Source: PIP and ESA video assessment trials have started

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Tories have wasted £120m in two years trying to tell people they’re not disabled

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

What a waste of time and money.

Over the last two years, Conservative governments have spent more than £120 million in taxpayers’ money fighting disability benefit claims – despite losing three-quarters of tribunal appeals.

That means automatic wastage of £90 million – but it is likely that the quarter of claimants who lost their appeals also had valid grounds to claim Personal Independence Payment and/or Employment and Support Allowance but were outflanked by a prejudiced system.

The increase in expenditure is far greater than the 13 per cent increase in applications would suggest. And it is happening at a time when the country can ill-afford to waste any cash at all. There can only be one reason for it: sick cruelty – the Tories are enjoying torturing sick and disabled people to death.

And why are there so many applications for disability and sickness benefits in the UK? Do conditions here – especially working conditions – cause illness and disability?

The new figures are further proof that the Tories’ convoluted appeal process has nothing to do with saving money from fraudsters and everything to do with starving people with disabilities – to death, if possible.

It is now well-documented that claimants initially have to go through an internal appeal process within the Department for Work and Pensions called mandatory reconsideration.

The courts only recently ruled that a Tory regulation forcing claimants to go without any benefit payments, and therefore without any income, for the period of a mandatory reconsideration – no matter how long that may be – was illegal.

Only after the DWP rules that a claim should be rejected can the sick or disabled person take their case to a tribunal.

And it is at tribunals that 76 per cent of PIP claims, and 75 per cent of ESA claims, are upheld.

This means the Tories have needlessly and cruelly deprived these people of their means of survival for the number of months – years in some cases – that these claims have been disputed.

We all know that there is hardly any fraud in disability benefit claims – the last recorded number This Writer saw was somewhere in the region of one or two per cent of claims.

So the huge proportion that the Tories refuse – and the amount of time and money wasted in the appeal process – can only mean one thing:

The Tories hate disabled people and want them to die.

Why isn’t this a national – if not international – scandal?

Source: Government spends £120m in taxpayer money fighting disability benefit claims in two years, figures show | The Independent | Independent

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DWP rejection of benefit increase call proves conclusively: we’re NOT ‘all in it together’

The Department for Work and Pensions has rejected a call by its own advisors to increase benefits and help two million people get through the Covid-19 crisis.

The Tory government promised to increase the amounts of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits payable to claimants, way back in March.

But people on the so-called “legacy” benefits like Employment and Support Allowance have been denied the same courtesy.

Ministers said this is because it would take too much time to implement.

What – a few keystrokes on a computer takes too much time to implement? I don’t believe it.

How do they manage the regular annual upgrades, then?

This Writer reckons the intention all along was to give a false impression to normally-working people who were thrown onto UC by the Covid crisis, that the benefits system provides an ample safety cushion to claimants in need. It doesn’t.

People on the “legacy” benefits already know the system is set up to punish people for being out of work, and therefore are deemed not to need an increase that is only for show, while the Covid contingent is claiming.

In other words: the Covid-related benefits boost is just another public-relations scam.

Getting people through the crisis is only its secondary function.

Its main purpose is to reassure Conservatives in the electorate.

If it dupes enough Tory voters into continuing to vote Tory, it will have done its job.

Source: DWP rejects own advisers’ call to up benefits to help two million through coronavirus pandemic

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