Tag Archives: benefit

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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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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Coffey’s not your mate! Watch her dodge duty of care to vulnerable benefit claimants

Therese Coffey: she’ll dodge any implication that she has a duty of care to vulnerable benefit claimants – remember, she couldn’t care less about a human being who starved to death because of the decisions of her Tory colleagues.

This is very revealing.

Questioned on whether the Tory government has a duty of care towards vulnerable benefit claimants – think “people with disabilities”, “people with mental health issues”, “people with long-term illnesses” – Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey could only say that no such duty has been written into the statute books.

She avoided giving an opinion on whether she had a moral duty to look after the interests of people claiming state benefits:

Well she would, wouldn’t she?

Since 2010, the Conservatives have presided over – no, they’ve precipitated – the deaths of uncounted numbers of people: with disabilities, with long-term illnesses, with mental health problems, in care homes, in their old age, and I’m sure I’m missing a few categories.

They have deliberately avoided any effort to count the dead, saying once people have been pushed off benefits, the government has no responsibility for them.

But that isn’t true.

There’s a question of whether the government is right to deny benefits to people, or to make them so low that people starve, or fall into despair, and die.

That’s where the moral question is useful.

Is there a likelihood that a person’s health will suffer as a result of benefit denial?

If so, shouldn’t the government monitor their progress?

If not – how does the government know, and shouldn’t it monitor them anyway, to make sure they have other means of support – both financial and mental?

That’s the question Ms Abrahams was asking.

Ms Coffey’s response tells you everything you need to know about her, and the Tory government she represents.

They say they aren’t killing anybody, but it’s only because they aren’t actually stabbing or shooting people. The effect is the same.

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Rishi Sunak thinks taking cash from the starving poor is the way to pay for Covid-19

Remember this? It led to a huge rise in Covid-19 infections. Now Sunak is planning to make the poor pay for his mistakes.

The absolute state of this.

The Chancellor who told us to “eat out to help out” – triggering an exponential increase in Covid-19 infections that led to new restrictions – is now trying to work out how the UK will pay for his government’s mistakes.

And of course he isn’t going to ask the filthy-rich corporates who have made a fortune while the crisis has been happening to pay a bit more.

No – he wants to grind you further into the dirt:

Rishi Sunak has looked at a freeze on benefits and public sector pay to fight the spiralling cost of the coronavirus crisis, it is reported today.

Sources failed to rule out the crushing blow to millions of workers and the poorest – just a few years after long austerity freezes finally ended.

The Chancellor is also said to be trying to persuade Boris Johnson to suspend the “triple lock” on pensions, reports the Mail on Sunday – amid fears it will artificially rise due to the economic turmoil.

So he’ll freeze wages and benefits at a time when his boss Boris Johnson’s international law-breaking Brexit is likely to cause massive price increases on basic food items.

And he wants to freeze pensions as well, to put the pensioners who were left after his government’s Covid-19-fuelled cull into the same predicament.

It has all been about protecting the super-rich, of course. The lockdown that was supposed to kill off Covid-19 didn’t, because Sunak, Johnson and their gang wanted to get us all back to the coalface, making money for the big corporate bosses who donate to the Tory party.

Now, despite the fact that this corporates have increased their riches steadily over the course of the pandemic, Sunak still doesn’t dare tap them to help pay for the results of their government lackeys’ efforts to keep them in gravy.

And this creep was supposed to be the great white hope of the Conservative Party?

Source: Rishi Sunak ‘considers freezing benefits and wages’ to pay for Covid crisis – Mirror Online

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Court brands ‘no benefits’ rule by landlords illegal in disabled dad’s landmark case

A disabled dad suffered unfair discrimination when he was made homeless because a landlord did not accept people who receive state benefits.

The ‘no benefits’ rule meant Stephen Tyler was banned from viewing properties advertised by a Birmingham estate agent, purely on the grounds of receiving housing benefit.

Mr Tyler, 29, had been involved in a road accident in 2016. He was made homeless because of the estate agent’s “no benefits” rule.

Birmingham County Court ruled that the estate agent had breached the Equality Act because the rule disproportionally affects disabled people, who are more likely to need some support with paying their rent.

Judge Mary Stacey ruled that: “There is no doubt that there was a blanket policy that no one in receipt of housing benefit would be considered for the three properties. It put the claimant and other disabled people at a particular disadvantage when compared to others.

“To be told simply, because of his benefit status, that he could not apply for three properties which were perfectly located for his children’s school, his GP and health needs, and extended family support, […] would be distressing.

But “no benefits” discrimination is still going on (sometimes it is called “no DSS”, in reference to the former government department responsible for benefits.

This case was brought with help from homelessness charity Shelter, which has vowed to keep campaigning until the discrimination is completely stamped out.

Source: Disabled dad wins high court battle after estate agent banned him for claiming benefits – Mirror Online

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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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Inhumanity of the Tories’ Covid-19 benefit sanctions is revealed

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Sanctioned during lockdown: it seems the Tories allowed benefit sanctions to run on through the early lockdown months, meaning people were deprived of cash with no means of supplementing their income.

The Tories took food out of the mouths of more than 36,000 people after they said they had halted benefit sanctions.

Ongoing sanctions were allowed to run on after the Covid-19 lockdown began.

Some of the people affected were left with no money at all, and some had been deprived of their income for nine months.

Official figures show 36,277 Universal Credit claimants were under a sanction in April, as Covid-19 was peaking, when the lockdown was at its height and when there were absolutely no opportunities for alternative income. That comparable with the averages between January and March.

And 25,460 were still under sanction in May.

More than 1,700 of those released from a sanction in May had been on it for no less than six months.

It seems a miracle that many of these people didn’t die of starvation.

Or have they?

Experience shows that the Tories would not check, even if they had been warned that this might happen.

The last thing they want is to actually prove that they have been causing benefit claimant deaths by cash deprivation.

Source: DWP docked 35,000 people’s benefits at height of coronavirus despite ending sanctions – Mirror Online

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Prejudiced Tories are unfairly denying benefits to people whose relatives die of Covid-19

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Sanction centre: it isn’t a sanction as such, but anyone receiving compensation for the death of a relative due to Covid-19 will be automatically denied state benefits.

Doesn’t this show how sly, sneaky and underhanded Boris Johnson and his Tory friends are?

If any low-paid frontline NHS and social care workers die of Covid-19, their relatives are entitled to claim a £60,000 lump sum under a Tory compensation scheme.

But if they are already claiming benefits and they do this, they will lose their entitlement to those benefits, meaning they could not claim Universal Credit, Housing Benefit or Pension Credit.

Some of you might think that’s fair; £60,000 is a lot of money, after all.

But this is at a time when Boris Johnson has been dishing out huge sums – £563,400 to consulting firm McKinsey for ‘advice’ that is likely to see the new National Institute for Health Protection sink without a trace, £150 million on face masks that can’t be used, an unspecified amount to Public First for the ‘A’ level results fiasco. Why should benefit claimants lose out when these fat Tories are making such a killing?

Perhaps more to the point, other compensation schemes such as those for the Windrush scandal and the Grenfell Tower fire do not affect entitlement to state benefits. Why should this be different?

The Tories have no answer to this question. Their spokesman is quoted as saying, “It has always been one the central principles of Universal Credit that decisions on awarding the benefit should take into account individuals’ existing ability to meet their basic needs, so that we maintain our focus on supporting families in most need.”

But the Windrush and Grenfell schemes are exempt from being taken into account.

It seems the Tories have created a hierarchy of merit – and relatives of Covid-19 victims have been ruled undeserving, even while ministers’ cronies are mopping up the last coppers from the Treasury that Johnson has emptied.

Source: UK families bereaved by Covid-19 lose eligibility for welfare benefits | Universal credit | The Guardian

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MP of the Year award attacked over harmful corporate sponsor. Time for a campaign to remove it?

KPMG: this corporation, part of the Atos group that has done so much harm to sick and disabled people, sponsors the Patchwork Foundation’s MP of the Year awards, Should it?

It seems the only element likely to stop Jeremy Corbyn from winning the Patchwork Foundation’s MP of the Year award is the fact that it is sponsored by corporations that have contributed to the oppression of the poor and vulnerable.

Mr Corbyn is on the shortlist of MPs for whom the public is asked to vote.

But some supporters of the former Labour leader – including his own former Shadow Chancellor – are having nothing to do with it because it is sponsored by firms including KPMG.

The controversy sprang up on This Writer’s Twitter feed overnight, springing from discussion over whether certain vested interests would allow Mr Corbyn to win, after their success in ousting last year’s popular left-wing candidate, Chris Williamson.

Paula Peters, a popular campaigner for people with disabilities and friend of This Site, raised the alarm:

It was confirmed by others:

Atos is the company that – now under an alias – carries out assessments of benefit claimants’ ability to work, when they claim sickness and/or disability benefits. It took over KPMG in 2002, and it seems some have little to say in its favour.

The firm’s record for refusing benefits to people who genuinely deserve them – who have then gone on to suffer extreme hardship and, in many cases, death – is well-documented on This Site and elsewhere.

It reflects extremely poorly on the Patchwork Foundation that it would seek – or allow – sponsorship of any of its work by a firm of such character.

KPMG’s sponsorship of the award is not well-signposted; it appears as one of many on a tickertape at the bottom of the awards’ web page.

Paula’s tweet sparked strong responses:

For This writer, the most telling comment in the discussion is Paula’s below:

So perhaps that is what should be done.

Obviously I am too busy with annoying distractions like my two court cases to take on another campaign, but would anybody like to launch one calling on the Patchwork Foundation to decline sponsorship from organisations that are known to cause harm to people?

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.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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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

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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