Tag Archives: claimant

Sick and disabled people are dying while trying to claim benefits; Tory press calls them ‘scroungers’ again

A cartoonist’s view of government sickness and disability assessments; ministers set the bar at an impossibly high level.

The Conservatives seem to have launched another attack on sickness and disability benefit claimants – labelling them as “scroungers” again, even though many are dying before they even receive state payments – due to the Kafka-esque assessment process.

Tory lickspittle Andrew Pierce has published a poison pen piece in the Daily Hate Mailaimed at whipping up division between claimants and the rest of the population.

It’s a classic Tory “divide and rule” tactic, that was deployed to devastating effect during the years of the Coalition government. It comes out whenever the government needs to distract people away from its own shortcomings.

So, for example, today you could be asking why the Conservatives ignored warnings that schools built with RAAC concrete were falling down – for 13 years – and only started doing something about it after collapses came to public attention. The Tory answer to that is: “Look at those skiving benefit scroungers!”

The reality isn’t remotely similar to Tory Boy Pierce’s claim.

The reality is that people claiming sickness and disability benefits often die before they receive a penny, because the system already works very hard to deprive them of it – as Labour MP Debbie Abrahams pointed out in a Westminster Hall debate earlier this week:

If a coroner writes a ‘Prevention of Future Death’ report, it means they believe a death could have been prevented but the circumstances in which the deceased had been placed – in this case, a benefit claim process that is so complicated and obstructive that it not only discourages claimants but depresses them and further harms their physical health – actually contributed to or caused their death.

Obviously, if we have a claim process that is actually harming or killing claimants, it should be impossible to suggest that they are lazy scroungers; a lazy scrounger would not put him- or herself through the trial of such a procedure because it would not be worth the hassle.

And the underlying reality is that prime minister Rishi Sunak and Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride want to make the Work Capability Assessment harsher, in order to force a million sick and disabled people back onto the jobs market.

They’re not doing this because those people are actually fit for work and shouldn’t be on benefits.

They’re doing it because more people looking for work means employers can pay less; if a job applicant wants more than employers are willing to pay – like an actual living wage – they can refuse the application on the grounds that they can always find someone else who will take the lower payment.

But you won’t see that fact in one of Tory Boy’s hate screeds.


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If DWP monitors your social media activity, who decides what’s consistent with benefit claims?

This is a little worrying:

[Benefit fraud] investigators may … check … social media accounts and search … online profiles for pictures, location check-ins, and other evidence which may or may not be useful to them. Those who use social media a lot will leave a trail of their life and habits, often allowing investigators to piece together a picture of what that person’s life actually looks like.

If this is not consistent with the details of that person’s claim for benefits, that evidence may end up being used against them.

Who decides what is “consistent with the details of [a] person’s claim for benefits”?

The DWP is currently recruiting, as decision-makers, people who have no qualifications whatsoever for making such decisions.

What do they know about how people with disabilities live their lives – or the people who care for them (like This Writer)?

Terrible mistakes have been made in recent years, with payments withheld from people who deserved them – based on the flimsiest excuses.

Now it seems Tom Pursglove is opening the door for more – and worse.

Source: DWP could monitor social media activity and bank accounts in benefit fraud crackdown – LancsLive


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Call for urgent inquiry into ‘covert surveillance’ in benefit assessments | Disability News Service

I know: one article has the DWP doing something right; the next has it mistreating claimants. That’s Tory government for you.

This is not the same as the plan to record benefit assessments.

I just wanted to put that right at the top.

Here’s what it is about:

MPs are calling for an urgent government investigation into the use of “covert surveillance” of disabled people by the private sector companies paid to assess eligibility for disability benefits.

It comes in a report by the Commons work and pensions committee, following its lengthy inquiry into the assessment system.

The committee received anonymous accounts from disabled people claiming they had been “tricked or tested” by their assessors.

These included claimants who were made to park further away than necessary from the assessment centre to check how far they could walk, and lifts being placed out of order to force claimants to climb the stairs.

DWP told the committee that it has no policy that allows assessment providers Atos, Capita and Maximus to engage in “covert surveillance”.

But DWP guidance does allow assessors to make “informal observations” to check if there are any “discrepancies between the reported need and the actual needs of the claimant”.

In other words, it seems the private firms contracted to assess benefit entitlement are deliberately trying to create traps for benefit claimants, and watching them to see if they fall in.

Is it fair? No.

It’s like the old “ducking-stool” method of determining if someone is a witch: if the claimant manages to attend the assessment, they’re not disabled enough, but if they don’t, they clearly don’t want to continue with their claim.

Vile trickery.

Ask yourself: would you be happy for government employees to covertly monitor your movements on the pretext that you might be lying to them about some aspect of your life?

These are the people who make a fuss about the “nanny state” – but isn’t that what this is all about – taking a supervisory position over you and punishing you for assumed transgressions?

Why do they do it? To meet targets of benefit rejection, set by the government?

That has to be unethical; immoral.

No government employee involved in benefit assessment should be acting in such a manner.

So let’s have that inquiry – as soon as possible (I bet we don’t get it).

Source: Call for urgent inquiry into ‘covert surveillance’ in benefit assessments – Disability News Service


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Now Labour is falsely claiming benefit claimants are stopping others from getting help

Jonathan Ashworth: his claim that a crackdown on benefit fraud could have funded an extra cost-of-living payment is false.

Cast your disgusted eyes over this:

Dr Ryan continues:

It’s true that benefit fraud and error accounted for four per cent of DWP payments during 2021-22 – around £8.6 billion.

But this may be explained by the fact that the Covid-19 crisis was ongoing during much of that time; fraudsters took advantage of the opportunities to claim Universal Credit that the government provided.

For comparison: in the last year before the Covid crisis, 2019-20, the Mirror article states that benefit fraud and error cost £4.4 billion (about 2.4 per cent), so we can see how much it rocketed during the pandemic years.

The Mirror article discusses a Parliamentary report last year (2022) stating that levels of fraud and error in the benefits system were “unacceptably high” and that it “is yet to show any sign of falling back to pre-pandemic levels”.

But that can hardly be surprising, considering the fact that the last Covid-19-related restrictions were not lifted until February that year.

Figures for 2022-23 are not yet available – which is unsurprising as it is less than a week since that financial year ended. It will be interesting to see the estimated level of benefit fraud for that period, compared with the previous year.

It should not be forgotten that the DWP is proactive in claiming back money that has been lost to benefit fraud, and reported savings of £2 billion over the last year due to correcting and preventing fraud and error.

Finally, it should be remembered that the DWP is notorious for underpaying people who are in genuine need. These underpayments amounted to £2.1 billion in 2021-22.

What may we conclude from the facts?

Try this:

The benefit system is almost entirely free of fraud and error, with only around two per cent recorded normally.

Overpayments to fraudsters who entered the system during the Covid-19 crisis are being recovered, with half the amount overpaid in 2021-22 already regained.

Many benefit overpayments are due to errors on the part of claimants whose health conditions make it hard for them to understand the complexities of the system. Those overpayments are caught and claimed back – causing “severe hardship” to the claimants.

The DWP also makes errors that affect payments.

Underpayments to people who deserve more meant £2.1 billion that should have been handed out in 2021-22 was not.

Therefore:

Ashworth’s sums are probably wrong.

But there is another aspect of this that everybody seems to be ignoring:

It doesn’t matter that his sums are wrong because the amount of fraud and error in the benefit system has nothing at all to do with cost-of-living hardship payments.

If the Conservative government wanted to give out an extra £300 payment to those of us who need it, that is what would happen.

It would simply tell the Bank of England to create the money (yes, out of thin air) and that cash would then be spent into our bank accounts at the appropriate time.

Any concerns about inflationary pressures could be eased by taxing a similar amount out of the system. The easiest way would be a wealth tax on the super-rich or corporations, but the way those people are racking up profits at the moment, it probably wouldn’t even be necessary to impose that; an equivalent amount may come back to the Treasury via current tax levels.

So Ashworth’s entire argument is nonsense. He – and the right-wing Labour leadership he represents – should be ashamed of even mentioning it.


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Tory benefit changes mean around 1m people may be forced into work they can’t do

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign].

The Tories are bringing this nightmare back again.

Jeremy Hunt’s Budget announcement that he is ending the Work Capability Assessment has turned out not to be the relief so many benefit claimants with long-term illnesses thought it would be.

He is ending the Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity element of Universal Credit, meaning that people who received it may now have to seek work under the new Personal Independence Payment system.

They’ll need to claim the new UC health element, and to do that they must also be eligible for Personal Independence Payment – and under this system they may also be required to seek work or accept job offers.

Additionally, assessments will now be carried out by work coaches from the Department for Work and Pensions, rather than the (so-called) health professionals who currently carry out the much-maligned WCAs.

There are fears that these civil servants will not have the proper training to identify claimants’ conditions and needs, and may be set target numbers of people they have to try to force into work, which they will impose on disabled people.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies think tank has estimated that a million people could be forced into work and 600,000 could lose an estimated £350 per month in support as a result of the change.

Hunt has been up-front about the intention behind the change: it’s to push people into work who would not otherwise have sought it.

The problem is that it may push people into work who simply cannot do it.

Experience has shown us what happens when the government forces people with long-term illnesses and disabilities to seek work:

They are rejected by employers – or find that they simply cannot do the work. Unsuitable for employment, and unable to claim benefits, they either starve to death or die of their health conditions.

We have seen it before – many times, in the years since the Tories came back into office in 2010.

It is scandalous that Jeremy Hunt is talking up a change that may make unendurable the lives of people who are already among the UK’s most vulnerable.

Source: Disability benefit changes: ‘My disability means I cannot work but I worry I’ll be forced to by the new rules’


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Hunt’s disability plans put a million people at risk of losing £350 a month | The Guardian

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign].

At last it seems we get the facts about the plan to ditch the Work Capability Assessment for people with long-term illnesses – and it isn’t pretty.

It seems an inferior test, for PIP (Personal Independence Payment) will be used instead and up to a million people will lose a lot of money:

Up to 1 million people claiming incapacity benefits could lose hundreds of pounds a month as a result of plans outlined in the budget to push ahead with the “biggest reforms to the welfare system in a decade,” experts have said.

The warning came as ministers unveiled a range of measures to try to drive more people back into the workplace, including scrapping controversial “fit for work” tests for disabled claimants and stepping up the threat of benefit curbs against part-time workers.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said up to 1 million people currently on incapacity benefits could lose about £350 a month as a result of dropping the work capability assessment (WCA), which assesses capacity for work, and using the personal independence payment (Pip) test, which measures only the extra living costs of disability.

It said the logic of the plan meant those who had conditions that prevented them working – such as people with short-term or fluctuating illnesses – but who did not claim Pip, or incur major additional living costs, would no longer receive extra support. Pip tests are widely distrusted and currently take 14 weeks to process.

Source: Hunt’s disability plans put 1 million people at risk of losing £350 a month, IFS says | Disability | The Guardian


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DWP rejects MPs’ plea to pause benefit deductions – hides it behind Queen’s funeral

The Department for Work and Pensions has refused to stop taking money from already-inadequate benefit payments – and has hidden the decision by releasing it while the media were focused on the Queen’s funeral.

MPs on the Commons’ Work and Pensions Select Committee called for the DWP to stop debt repayments being deducted from benefits, back in July.

They said deductions should be restarted only when inflation eased or benefit levels caught up.

It seems DWP chiefs have spent around two months waiting for “a good day to bury bad news”, as the saying goes.

According to Open Democracy,

[MPs] said the debt deductions were causing “hardship” for “households currently struggling with huge financial pressures”, and people needed “breathing space”.

Nearly half (45%) of people on Universal Credit are currently having deductions taken out of their benefits to repay debts, at an average of £62 a month. The debts are typically caused by historic overpayments and other errors, advance payments made during the five-week-wait for Universal Credit, and by arrears on energy costs and other priority bills. Currently the government can deduct up to a quarter of someone’s benefits each month to repay these debts.

MPs heard from charities including the Joseph Rowntree Foundation that these deductions were “a key factor in destitution”. The Trussell Trust said the practice was pushing “people into destitution and needing to turn to a food bank”.

Now brace yourself for the DWP’s nonsense justification for putting people into destitution:

the Department for Work and Pensions said it did not believe pausing deductions was “necessarily in the claimant’s best interest”. It said that if that deductions were paused between now and the April 2023 rise, people might then not notice the impact … when it comes … and people might “feel no better off”.

But they’re not going to feel better-off anyway if the whole uplift has to go towards servicing debts that could be avoided if the DWP simply paused these deductions for a while.

The government also rejected MPs’ calls to bring forward the uprating of benefits, currently not due to take effect till April 2023. In April this year, benefits were increased by an inflation rate that was seven months out of date – rising 3.1%, at a point when inflation was already running at 9%.

So already, people on benefits are receiving far less than they should, simply to keep up with inflation.

Claimants are eligible for additional money to help with housing costs – but this is “not intended” to cover the rent fully in many areas, meaning people have to make that shortfall up from their benefits, too. MPs called for the housing element to be increased, as happened during the pandemic, but the government rejected this call, too, citing its work on helping people on benefits save for a deposit to buy a house instead. According to housing charity Shelter, most private tenants have a shortfall, as the maximum amount is set to cover only the lowest 30% of rents in any given area, and there are other exclusions as well.

It should be easy to conclude from this that the Tory “benefit” system is unfit for purpose and the sooner they are taken out of its administration, the better.

And the reason the DWP is refusing to take action to stop people on benefits from falling into debt and destitution should be clear: that is exactly what the Tory system is designed to do.

Source: DWP rejects ‘cost of living’ plea by MPs to pause benefit deductions | openDemocracy

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Tory ‘divide and rule’: Rishi Sunak jumps on the benefit-bashing bandwagon

Rishi Sunak: after blaming people who miss medical appointments for failures in the NHS, he’s now attacking benefit claimants for the UK’s economic shortcomings – even though most of them are in work.

Here’s another reason Rishi Sunak should never be prime minister – he wants to blame benefit claimants for his own failure to manage the UK’s economy.

The points made by Peter Stefanovic are self-explanatory but, sadly, nobody in the mainstream media or the top rank of UK politics seems to want to amplify them, so the public as a whole are exposed to an echo chamber of claimant blame – when most benefit claimants are actually in work or seeking it.

The fault lies with Sunak – not with the innocent people he is attacking.

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Why has EHRC broken promise to investigate DWP’s role in deaths of benefit claimants?

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has u-turned on a promise to investigate the role played by the Department for Work and Pensions in the deaths of vulnerable benefit claimants, it’s being reported.

Instead the EHRC are now asking the DWP to create new policies in relation to claimants with mental health issues and learning difficulties. Apparently the commission is using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse.

This Site forced the DWP to publish figures showing that thousands of people had died of unexplained causes after being thrown off benefits by that government department and I am deeply concerned by this failure to scrutinise whether the government caused these deaths.

And how many more people have died since I exposed those deaths seven years ago?

I shall be writing to the EHRC today, seeking a meaningful explanation for this u-turn.

UPDATE: Here’s what I have written to the EHRC:

“I was the writer who forced the DWP to admit that thousands of people have died after being thrown off benefits – for no established reason. I am deeply concerned that the EHRC has decided not to investigate the DWP’s role in the deaths of claimants and is choosing only to seek an agreement to better protect claimants – similar to other undertakings that the DWP has ignored in the past, causing more deaths. The DWP will never respect the human rights, or indeed the lives, of claimants unless it is forced to do so. I am writing to you to seek an explanation for your decision that I can publish to my readers. How will you defend this indefensible decision?”

Let’s see what response – if any – I receive.

Source: EHRC Breaks Promise To Investigate DWP Role In Deaths – The poor side of life

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DWP blocks study of links between benefit sanctions and death. What are the Tories trying to hide?

‘Bring out your dead’: this satirical image shows public opinion of the limits of DWP concern for people the Tory government department deprives of the money they need to live.

A groundbreaking study of possible links between benefit sanctions and claimant ill-health – including mental illness and suicide – has ground to a halt because Tory ministers are not co-operating.

After making a big show of supporting the Glasgow University research back in 2019, DWP ministers immediately insisted that new security protocols would be required before they released the necessary data.

It took two years for the new protocols to be completed – and when they reached completion last year, the DWP demanded that researchers should apply for the data all over again.

Prof Nick Bailey, who is heading the Glasgow sanctions project, said that had the data been shared as originally agreed with the DWP in 2018, his research would have been in the public domain by early 2020. It is now five years since the research process for the project was supposed to have started and it has yet to get under way.

“The consequence for both policymakers and benefit claimants is we continue to operate an important policy, sanctions, which has potentially substantial consequences for those affected by it but with very little evidence of the impact of the policy, and almost none on the wider impacts,” said Bailey.

A recent Glasgow University paper analysing international studies of sanctions reported “significant associations with increased material hardship and health problems” as well as evidence sanctions “were associated with increased child maltreatment and poorer child wellbeing”.

The DWP has said it is now “actively considering” the data request that was originally made back in 2018 – nearly four years ago.

But what are we – the public – to make of this?

Does the Department for Work and Pensions have something to hide – such as complicity in the deaths of thousands of benefit claimants?

This Writer – and This Site – forced the government to reveal that thousands of people had died of unexplained causes within two weeks of being denied their benefits, all the way back in 2015.

Nothing was done to research the deaths – or to find out what had happened to people who had been denied benefits after the two-week period the DWP monitored.

And that was nearly seven years ago.

It seems to me that the DWP is deliberately concealing information on behalf of its masters in the Conservative government; the demand for extraordinary security procedures is just an excuse.

And it seems to me that there can be only one reason for hiding the information – that there is a link between benefit sanctions and claimant deaths, and DWP bosses have known about it for many years.

I challenge the DWP – and the Conservative government – to prove me wrong.

Source: DWP blocks data for study of whether benefit sanctions linked to suicide | Benefits | The Guardian

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