Tag Archives: allowance

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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DWP crashes to another court defeat over sickness benefits

The High Court – also known as the Royal Courts of Justice – in London.

The High Court has just ruled that a rule allowing the Department for Work and Pensions to force some benefit claimants to wait – unpaid – for a mandatory reconsideration before they can appeal against refusal is unlawful.

The system previously demanded that, if a claim for income-related Employment and Support Allowance was refused, claimants would have to wait for a “mandatory reconsideration” of their case to take place before they could appeal.

This could take weeks, and has often taken months, in which the claimant – who is claiming because of serious illness, remember – has no income on which to survive.

Mr Justice Swift ruled that the demand that a mandatory reconsideration must take place before a claimant can appeal is a “disproportionate interference with the right of access to court” – in some cases.

This case was brought by law graduate Michael Conner, with crowdfunded aid from the website Benefits and Work – and represents a considerable victory for the claimant, the website, and crowdfunded legal proceedings in general.

Mr Connor had been forced to wait 18 weeks while the DWP carried out a mandatory reconsideration of his ESA decision. During this time he had no right to claim ESA.

If he had been able to lodge an appeal, he would have been paid ESA on a probationary rate, dependent on the provision of medical evidence by his doctor.

The judge said that after his benefit was cancelled on October 18, 2018, Mr Connor applied for a mandatory reconsideration.

But, in an “error” of the kind that benefit claimants have come to expect from the DWP, he said “no action was taken in response… The request for revision was incorrectly entered onto the Secretary of State’s electronic document management system.

“The document was not recognised or recorded as a request for reconsideration, and instead was classified as ‘unstructured whitemail'” and “it was not until 6 March 2019 – 4 months after Mr Connor’s request had been received – that it was identified as a request for revision.”

Mr Connor had managed to claim Income Support and Carer’s Allowance in the meantime, so he decided not to appeal the decision. Instead, he informed the DWP that he intended to challenge the legality of the rule making him unable to appeal until a mandatory reconsideration had happened.

He pointed out that:

  • The rule creates an open-ended deferral of the right to appeal that could leave claimants without income for an unlimited period – as evidenced by his own case.
  • Its effect is anomalous as ESA is payable before a decision is made and while an appeal is taking place, but not while the DWP is going through the mandatory reconsideration process [or, more likely, forgetting about it – in the opinion of This Writer].
  • If an appeal is started, there is no provision for back payment of ESA to cover the period of the revision decision while an appeal is ongoing.
  • So the interference is disproportionate because “it places benefits claimants, such as him, who are vulnerable, in a position of ‘legal and financial limbo, distress and destitution’ for the duration of the revision process that must be pursued before an appeal can be commenced” – and there is “no limit on the time permitted to the Secretary of State to determine an application for revision.”

In his ruling, Mr Justice Swift said: “It is anomalous that the payment pending appeal arrangements for ESA … do not extend to ESA claimants who are required … to request the Secretary of State to revise a decision and await her decision on that request before initiating an appeal.

“At the hearing of this case I gave the Secretary of State the opportunity to … explain why no provision exists to pay ESA to claimants… None of this further information provides the answer.

“My conclusion is that [the regulation in question] is a disproportionate interference with the right of access to court, so far as it applies to claimants to ESA who, once an appeal is initiated, meet the conditions for payment pending appeal.

“The advantage permitted to the Secretary of State by [the] regulation … comes at a cost to ESA claimants. There is no explanation for that.

“There is no evidence to support a conclusion that the objective pursued by [the] regulation … would to any extent be compromised if payments like the payments pending appeal made to ESA claimants who are pursuing appeals to the Tribunal, were made to them while they waited on the Secretary of State’s revision decision.

“In the absence of payment equivalent to payment pending appeal, the application of [the] regulation … to ESA claimants does not strike the required fair balance, and for that reason is an unjustified impediment to the right of access to court guaranteed by ECHR Article 6.”

Benefits and Work has stated: “Sadly, the ruling does not apply to other benefits such as PIP or DLA.

Nonetheless, it is an important victory and it means that ESA claimants, who are often faced with the prospect of many weeks without funds if they wish to appeal, are now in a much better position when challenging a decision.”

It will be interesting to see what will happen now.

The ruling is that the current situation is unlawful but no further remedy has been put in place beyond a statement to that effect.

What will happen to ESA claimants who must go through the mandatory reconsideration process now? Will they be paid while their case is reviewed?

That seems the logical course.

But I fear the DWP may find a way to duck out of it.

Source: Connor, R (On the Application Of) v The Secretary of State for Work And Pensions [2020] EWHC 1999 (Admin) (24 July 2020)

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Did Tory-run DWP change rules on cancelling benefits to avoid humiliation in court?

Errol Graham: he starved to death after the Department for Work and Pensions cut off his benefits.

The Department for Work and Pensions has quietly changed its rules on stopping benefits of vulnerable claimants – after relatives of a man who died of starvation won the right to have a judicial review.

Relatives of Errol Graham were granted permission for a judicial review of DWP policies after the department failed to review and revise them itself, following his death.

The DWP ignored its own safeguarding advice to deprive Errol Graham of his benefits, This Site reported previously.

Left with no income, Mr Graham starved to death.

He had been receiving incapacity benefit, and then ESA, for many years as a result of enduring mental distress that had led to him being sectioned.

The DWP stopped Mr Graham’s Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) entitlement – and backdated that decision to the previous month – after making two unsuccessful visits to his home to ask why he had not attended a face-to-face Work Capability Assessment (WCA) on August 31, 2017.

He had not been asked to fill in an ESA50 questionnaire, though.

The government department managed to stop an ESA payment that had been due to be credited to his bank account on October 17, the same day it made the second unsuccessful safeguarding visit.

Its own rules state that it should have made both safeguarding visits before stopping the benefits of a vulnerable claimant.

Not only that, but the DWP had needed – but failed – to seek further medical evidence from Mr Graham’s GP, in order to make an informed decision about him.

In fact, it seems this would not have made much difference as Mr Graham’s GP had not seen him since 2013, or recalled him for vital blood tests or issued prescriptions since 2015, despite medical conditions including significant, long-term mental distress and hypothyroidism.

Because he had lost his entitlement to ESA, Mr Graham’s housing benefit was also stopped.

When bailiffs knocked down his front door to evict him on June 20, 2018, they found a dead body that weighed just four and a half stone. The only food in the flat was a couple of out-of-date tins of fish.

Mr Graham was 57 years old.

Solicitors Leigh Day, acting for Mr Graham’s family, revealed they had won the right to have a judicial review last week.

And on Tuesday – the day before Parliament rose for the summer recess – the DWP told Parliament’s Work and Pensions committee that it had changed the rules.

Permanent Secretary Peter Schofield said: “If we tried all of that [contacting the claimant by phone and carrying out two safeguarding visits] we would then take that back and have a case conference about the individual and particularly, obviously if it’s someone with vulnerabilities that we know about, then we would seek to involve other organisations that might have a different way of knowing about that individual.

“And then we would seek to understand what do they know about that individual and how can we support them.

“And if that fails that could then be escalated to the safeguarding leads. And in that way basically what we’d seek to do is provide support not removal of benefits.”

Do you believe that?

Tessa Gregory of Leigh Day seems sceptical, still: “Today’s announcement that the procedures have changed is news to us and news to our client.

“Whilst we cautiously welcome the announcement, it is imperative that the Secretary of State publishes the relevant guidance immediately so that our client and the public can see whether it actually requires decision makers to liaise with different agencies in cases like Errol’s and whether enough has been done to ensure that the vulnerable are adequately protected.”

This Writer thinks the best way to achieve that aim is to go ahead with the judicial review. Why were these changes only brought in when the Tory government was facing humiliation in court?

Source: DWP chiefs quietly change rule on stopping benefits after man starved to death – Mirror Online

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Court showdown for DWP over Errol Graham – who starved to death after his benefits were axed

Errol Graham: he starved to death after the Department for Work and Pensions cut off his benefits.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will have to answer questions in court about the legality of its safeguarding policies after a family challenged it over the death of a vulnerable man.

The DWP ignored its own safeguarding advice to deprive Errol Graham of his benefits, This Site reported previously.

Left with no income, Mr Graham starved to death.

He had been receiving incapacity benefit, and then ESA, for many years as a result of enduring mental distress that had led to him being sectioned.

The DWP stopped Mr Graham’s Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) entitlement – and backdated that decision to the previous month – after making two unsuccessful visits to his home to ask why he had not attended a face-to-face Work Capability Assessment (WCA) on August 31, 2017.

He had not been asked to fill in an ESA50 questionnaire, though.

The government department managed to stop an ESA payment that had been due to be credited to his bank account on October 17, the same day it made the second unsuccessful safeguarding visit.

Its own rules state that it should have made both safeguarding visits before stopping the benefits of a vulnerable claimant.

Not only that, but the DWP had needed – but failed – to seek further medical evidence from Mr Graham’s GP, in order to make an informed decision about him.

In fact, it seems this would not have made much difference as Mr Graham’s GP had not seen him since 2013, or recalled him for vital blood tests or issued prescriptions since 2015, despite medical conditions including significant, long-term mental distress and hypothyroidism.

Because he had lost his entitlement to ESA, Mr Graham’s housing benefit was also stopped.

When bailiffs knocked down his front door to evict him on June 20, 2018, they found a dead body that weighed just four and a half stone. The only food in the flat was a couple of out-of-date tins of fish.

Mr Graham was 57 years old.

Now, solicitors Leigh Day tell us:

“Mr Graham’s son’s partner, Alison Turner, has been granted permission to a full judicial review challenging the legality of the current safeguarding policies and the failure of the DWP to review and revise those policies as promised at Errol’s inquest.

“Alison will argue that the safeguarding policies are unlawful as they create a significant risk of breaching the human rights of vulnerable individuals like Errol and she will seek a declaration that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Therese Coffey, has unlawfully breached her legitimate expectation that a review would be carried out resulting in revised policies.

“Following the Court Order the DWP now has 35 days to serve her Detailed Grounds and Evidence defending the safeguarding policies and explaining why Ms Coffey has not reviewed and amended those policies as promised at Errol’s inquest.”

Yes, there was an inquest – at which the Assistant Coroner decided not to write a “Regulation 28” report demanding changes to DWP safeguarding procedures to “prevent future deaths” because the DWP claimed it was already completing a review of its safeguarding, which was supposed to finish last autumn.

No such review has ever seen the light of day.

The court has ordered that a two-day hearing be listed to consider the case.

Ms Turner said: “Errol had a long history of serious mental illness which left him severely incapacitated. When the circumstances of his death came to light we had hoped – and from what the DWP stated at the inquest, we had expected – that the department would review their safeguarding policies and involve us in that review.

“But, incredibly, that has not happened. We deserve answers and those answers need to be public for the sake of other families and other vulnerable benefits claimants who suffer similar mental health difficulties.

“No one else should be put at risk in the same way Errol was because adequate safeguarding measures are not in place.”

Ms Turner is represented by Tessa Gregory, who said: “Our client believes that the DWP’s current safeguarding policies are not fit for purpose as they expose vulnerable individuals to a significant risk of harm, as was so tragically illustrated by Errol’s death.

“The DWP committed at Errol’s inquest to reviewing the applicable policies but two years after his death and one year after the inquest, nothing has changed.

“Our client therefore feels she has been left with no option but to bring these proceedings to … force the Secretary of State to take steps to ensure that no other families have to suffer in the terrible way her family has.”

Source: Family Of Errol Graham Granted Permission For Judicial Review Against DWP

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Try telling Errol Graham that ‘Black Lives Matter’. Oh you can’t – he’s dead

Errol Graham.

What? You think Errol Graham only died because he was ill? Your Conservative government is multiply-prejudiced and can ensure that people die for any number of trumped-up and ridiculous reasons.

Consider this:

Fair point?

Errol Graham was starved to death by a prejudiced Conservative-run benefit system.

My report on Mr Graham states:

He had been receiving incapacity benefit, and then ESA, for many years as a result of enduring mental distress that had led to him being sectioned.

The DWP stopped Mr Graham’s Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) entitlement – and backdated that decision to the previous month – after making two unsuccessful visits to his home to ask why he had not attended a face-to-face Work Capability Assessment (WCA) on August 31, 2017.

He had not been asked to fill in an ESA50 questionnaire, though. Why not?

The government department managed to stop an ESA payment that had been due to be credited to his bank account on October 17, the same day it made the second unsuccessful safeguarding visit.

Its own rules state that it should have made both safeguarding visits before stopping the benefits of a vulnerable claimant.

So the Tories cut off his benefits early, after a botched benefit reassessment procedure.

Here’s the clincher:

On an ESA form years before, he had told the DWP he could not cope with “unexpected changes”, adding: “Upsets my life completely. Feel under threat and upset…”

He said: “Cannot deal with social situations. Keep myself to myself. Do not engage with strangers. Have no social life. Feel anxiety and panic in new situations.”

The DWP had needed – but failed – to seek further medical evidence from Mr Graham’s GP, in order to make an informed decision about him.

In fact, it seems this would not have made much difference as Mr Graham’s GP had not seen him since 2013, or recalled him for vital blood tests or issued prescriptions since 2015, despite medical conditions including significant, long-term mental distress and hypothyroidism.

It was known that Mr Graham’s condition made him fear contact with people he did not know – like benefit assessors who turned up on his doorstep unannounced. But they still did it. And they still demanded that he attend a work capability assessment in a place full of people he did not know, without even having sent him a benefit claim form first.

They treated him unfairly. Isn’t that the whole point of the Black Lives Matter movement – that people of colour are treated unfairly?

As a result, he starved to death.

And the only reason we know this is his Housing Benefit was cut off at the same time as ESA, so he stopped paying rent. His body was found by bailiffs entering the house to repossess it.

The Tory-run Department for Work and Pensions would never have checked up on his well-being.

We already knew this. When I submitted a Freedom of Information request to find out how many people had died after the Tory government had cancelled their sickness benefit claims, the Department for Work and Pensions said it was unable to provide information for anyone whose claims had been cancelled more than two weeks before their deaths. It is government policy to leave these people to fend for themselves with no support at all.

Of course, leaving someone to starve to death in their home is not as dramatic as beating them to death on the street (or asphyxiating them, in the case of George Floyd).

But it is still prejudicial treatment.

So, what is the current outcry saying, if it does not include sick/disabled people like Errol Graham in its outrage?

Is it really saying some black lives matter more than others?

Let’s change that.

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People with disabilities: do YOU want IAIN DUNCAN SMITH influencing how government treats you?

Iain Duncan Smith: apparently he isn’t demonstrating what he’d like to do to the throats of disabled people, although that isn’t clear from his record.

Iain Duncan Smith – his very name still triggers hate and fear in people with long-term illnesses and disabilities, in roughly equal measure.

It is now nearly five years since This Writer demonstrated that his Department for Work and Pensions had been responsible for more than 100,000 excess deaths of people claiming sickness and disability benefits.

The deaths had happened after he became Secretary of State and changed the way benefit entitlements were assessed, making it much more difficult for people who deserved them to make a claim.

And he perverted the appeal system into a labyrinthine, Kafka-esque nightmare designed to drive people to despair or starvation before ever seeing a penny.

Now, the right-wing think tank that this vile creature founded – and still chairs – is trying to interfere in the lives of vulnerable people once again.

The shockingly-misnamed Centre for Social Justice has launched what it calls a “Disability Commission” which it hopes will influence the Johnson government’s strategy for dealing with disabled people.

According to Disability News Service:

The commission appears set to focus on the role of business, employment and the free market, with CSJ calling on the government to use the disability strategy to “prove that only a market economy delivers sustainable social justice in a way that enables everyone to realise their potential”.

So it seems the plan is to throw people with disabilities into a free-market nightmare in which any skills they have will be ruthlessly exploited to make cash for the already extremely wealthy, while paying them as little as possible.

(Remember when Lord Freud suggested paying them as little as £2 per hour because they were “not worth the minimum wage”? That is what Tories think of the talents of people with disabilities.)

There appear to be a few names on this “commission” who have spoken out against Tory “reforms” in the past, but these seem to be token placements, intended to lend credibility to the project.

This can only be bad news for people on Personal Independence Payment, Universal Credit and/or Employment and Support Allowance.

Source: Thinktank responsible for universal credit launches ‘Disability Commission’ – Disability News Service

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Spain approves Universal Basic Income – and it’s more than UK sick and disabled get

Universal Basic Income: the Spaniards are getting it (in Euros, obviously) – why can’t people in the UK have it?

Only a few weeks ago, Tories were delighting in claiming that no other nation had adopted a Universal Basic Income scheme in response to calls for the UK to adopt it during the Covid-19 crisis.

Now they can’t say that any more.

And the amount being provided to Spanish citizens will be more than people on the normal rate of Universal Credit, on Employment and Support Allowance, or on the lowest rate of Personal Independence Payment (if I recall correctly) – around £95 per week.

If anyone is wondering how we reached a point where Spain supports its people better than the UK, just remember we’ve had more than 40 years of right-wing governments and they have laid us low.

Spain’s cabinet has approved the creation of a national minimum income, according to a government spokesperson.

Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias told a news conference on Friday the creation of a minimum income worth €462 (£416.92) a month will target some 850,000 households or 2.5 million people.

The government would pay the monthly stipend and top up existing revenue for people earning less so that they receive at least that minimum amount every month, he said.

Source: Spain approves national minimum income scheme | The Independent

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Coronavirus is concentrating discontent with the benefit system – but does that include sickness and disability?

It seems the knives are out for Universal Credit.

But while academics think in terms of justice for all, Tories don’t.

Even if they accept changes to their flagship benefit, how likely is it that they will allow an end to their favourite pastime – torturing people with long-term illnesses and disabilities?

As for bringing in a UBI – Universal Basic Income that will mean nobody goes without food, clothes or a home… The Tories are sure to tell us: go whistle.

Or am I reading them wrong?

Radical changes to the welfare system are historically associated with major crises and events such as wars, civil unrest, famines or epidemics. There is no reason that it will this time be any different, says a new paper from Dr Stephen Davies, Head of Education at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Redefining the State of Welfare argues it is very probable that Coronavirus will bring to a head discontent with the existing system that has been growing for some time and will lay bare its weaknesses, particularly that of its central element: Universal Credit.

Source: ‘Very unlikely’ Universal Credit will survive the Covid-19 pandemic – Welfare Weekly

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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