Tag Archives: Benefits and Work

WCA reviewer condemns claimants to five more years of misery – Benefits and Work

WCAcartoon

How do we feel about this, from Benefits and Work?

The fifth and final review of the work capability assessment (WCA) published yesterday, appears to conclude that the WCA is perceived as being so unfair that it cannot survive into the next decade. The report’s author, Dr Paul Litchfield, favours a period of stability for the present test whilst a completely different system is brought in to replace it by around 2020.

Past its prime
In his report, Dr Litchfield points out that the WCA has been in operation for six years and has been in a state of constant change throughout that period. And yet ‘despite these changes and some undoubted improvements, there remains an overwhelming negative perception of the WCA’s effectiveness amongst people undergoing an assessment and individuals or organisations providing support to them.’

The author questions ‘whether an assessment designed in the early part of this century will best meet society’s needs in its third decade.’

If a new test is designed, he goes on to say, ‘then sufficient time must be allowed and suitable expertise must be deployed to create and test a tool which is both robust and meets the requirement for perceived fairness. In the meantime, my counsel would be to let the current WCA have a period of stability – it is by no means perfect but there is no better replacement that can be pulled off the shelf.’

Sadly, for current claimants, this means at least another five years of unfair and ineffective assessments.

Support group mystery
Dr Litchfield also points out the increasing number of claimants being placed in the support group – up from 10% to 47% – and the fact that the most common justification for support group entry is now regulation 35 (2) (b): that there would be a risk of harm to the claimant or someone else if they were not placed in the support group.

In many cases the claimant has a mental health condition which is judged to mean that they may be at risk of harming themselves or others.

Litchfield goes on to point out, disapprovingly, that two thirds of the claimants who are placed in the support group because of regulation 35 are not subject to a face-to-face assessment, the recommendation is made on the papers only. Dr Litchfield comments that:

‘The Reviewer understands from personal clinical experience how difficult it is to arrive at a sound judgement in this type of situation and is surprised that so many colleagues feel able to offer a professional opinion without the benefit of a face-to-face assessment. This would appear to be an area that warrants early further investigation by the Department and its provider.’

The preponderance of paper-based recommendations could be due to the fact that they are quicker and cheaper than face to face assessments. It might be because many Atos health professionals do not have the experience and confidence in their skills to carry out face to face assessments of people with more severe mental health conditions. It might be due to prejudice. Or there may be some other explanation entirely.

Whatever the reason, Dr Litchfield’s comments are as close to open criticism of Atos as you are likely to find in any formal review of the WCA.

You can download the final independent review of the WCA from this link.

When Dr Litchfield was appointed to replace the openly-critical Professor Malcolm Harrington, the mood in the social media was that the DWP had hired a yes-man. Now we have proof that he was nothing of the kind – and this is great news. His criticism of the benefit system isn’t a moment too soon.

But he reckons the current system should continue for around five more years while the government cooks up another scheme – and we have no guarantee that anything better will result (in fact, if we get another Tory Parliament, you can bet that it’ll be a lot worse)!

Also important is the fact that support group membership has rocketed because there would be a risk of harm to the claimant or someone else if they weren’t put there. Is this a tacit response to the appalling number of deaths the DWP still won’t admit have been taking place?

What’s the solution? Sack the people in the backroom (U know who they are – *n*m) who are providing all the bad advice?

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‘Benefits and Work’ request on ESA deaths stalled by DWP

Distortion With Prejudice: Will we get some FACTS from the Department for Work and Pensions - or just more spin and spiel?

Distortion With Prejudice: Will we get some FACTS from the Department for Work and Pensions – or just more spin and spiel?

It seems our friends at Benefits and Work are a little behind the times.

In an article headlined ESA death statistics – DWP say they will publish details, but won’t say when, BaW detailed the (lack of) progress enjoyed by a Freedom of Information request it sent in after Yr Obdt Srvt lost his case at a tribunal over a previous attempt to wrestle up-to-date figures from the hands of the bureaucrats.

“The tribunal ruled against Sivier on the grounds that he had urged readers of his blog to submit similar requests for the information, saying that ‘There is strength in numbers’. This action, in the view of the tribunal, made the request a vexatious one which could properly refused,” the article stated.

“Nonetheless, the tribunal also found that had Sivier not tried to get others involved, his request would have been reasonable and even adding that ‘We have considerable sympathy for the Appellant’.

“Based on this decision, Benefits and Work made an application to the DWP for exactly the same information contained in the original request and drawing the DWP’s attention to the tribunal’s findings.”

That request was made on May 15. It seems odd that BaW then had to wait months for its reply, which only arrived after the DWP had responded to a renewed Vox Political request for exactly the same information, made on May 28. VP had its response on August 12; the DWP responded to BaW on September 10 – almost a month after the information in its response became available and nearly four months after the request was originally made.

By law, FOI requests must be answered within 20 working days. Unfortunately, there is no legal penalty for failure to respond.

“In relation to the request for the information about ESA deaths the DWP pointed out that they published the total number of deaths in July of this year.”

VP had that, too. It’s only a total number of deaths if nobody on ESA has died since the end of March 2012. Otherwise we can dismiss this feeble attempt to fob us off with the wrong figures.

“The response went on to say that: ‘We can confirm that we do intend to publish further statistics on this topic and these will answer a majority of your questions. As the statistics are intended for future publication this information is exempt from disclosure under the terms of Section 22 (Information intended for future publication) of the FOIA,’ the BaW article stated.

“However, the DWP added that ‘We do not have a definite publication date at this stage but we will pre-announce the agreed date here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/announcements.’

“We have now requested a review of this decision and made it clear that if we do not receive a response within the statutory period we will immediately forward the correspondence to the Information Commissioner without further notice.”

This is exactly what Vox Political had from the DWP, and this blog has two observations to make:

Firstly, anyone making a Freedom of Information request of any kind to a government department should read this article, which shows how FoI legislation has been undermined by the bureaucrats.

Secondly, guidelines from the Information Commissioner indicate that the DWP has acted wrongly in using the s22 exemption to withhold the ESA death statistics from Benefits and Work and Vox Political. VP is happy to forward this information to Benefits and Work, to help that site with its own request.

If nothing else, the fact that Benefits and Work made its own FoI request after the failure of the ‘vexatious’ attempt by Vox Political proves that there is strong public support for the release of this information. VP knew nothing of the BaW request until yesterday (September 18) – who knows how many other requests have been made – only to have the DWP sit on them, illegally, for months on end?

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Over 90% fall in JSA & ESA appeals as process made more difficult – Benefits and Work

People queuing outside Jobcentre Plus. Pic courtesy: The Guardian

The DWP’s attempts to make it as difficult as possible to appeal a benefits decision appear to be succeeding, according to the latest tribunal statistics released today, according to the Benefits and Work blog.

There has been a drop of 92% in employment and support allowance (ESA) appeals and 93% in Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) appeals in April to June 2014 compared to the same period last year.

A new system of mandatory reconsiderations before appeals was introduced by the DWP for ESA and JSA on 28 October 2013.

Some of the reduction in appeal numbers is likely to be due to decisions being changed in favour of the claimant at the reconsideration stage.

However, figures have yet to be published by the DWP to show how many reconsiderations result in a change of decision.

The strong possibility remains, therefore, that many thousands of claimants are being left waiting for months for their reconsideration to take place whilst others fail to successfully lodge an appeal because the system is now so complex.

The full appeal statistics can be downloaded from this link.

You can read the full article here.

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DVLA Website STILL Lets People Check Neighbours’ Benefits – Benefits and Work

[Image: ipayroadtax.com]

[Image: ipayroadtax.com]

Here’s an important warning from the Benefits and Work blog:

The DVLA is still letting visitors to its website find out if their neighbours are claiming certain disability benefits, in spite of assuring the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that it is no longer doing so after the ICO held that “releasing this information unnecessarily reveals the personal circumstances of individuals using their vehicle”. The DVLA vehicle check service is now receiving over 1.5 million visitors a month.

At the beginning of July we warned readers that a new vehicle check service on the DVLA website allows visitors to find out whether their neighbours, friends or relatives are receiving the higher rate of the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) or either rate of the mobility component of personal independence payment (PIP).

We argued that disclosing this information was a breach of the data protection laws. Initially, DVLA denied that this was the case.

However, after multiple complaints to DVLA and the ICO by Benefits and Work readers it seems that DVLA have now quietly made changes to their site. Unfortunately, we have been contacted by several members already to say that the changes have made no difference.

It appears that the tax class category has now been removed from the DVLA look-up service.

But at the top of the screen there is an entry entitled:

Vehicle excise duty rate for the vehicle.

For people in the disabled tax class this, we understand that this states:

12 month rate: £0.00

In other words, it is still possible to work out who’s claiming disability benefits from this website.

Read the rest of the article on the Benefits and Work website.

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