Tag Archives: claimant

If PIP assessments are now being audio recorded, can claimants have copies?

Days after This Site noted that the Department for Work and Pensions is running trials of video assessments for Personal Independence Payment – and other benefit – claims, we find that the Tories are already recording telephone assessment interviews.

This is very interesting because the recording of assessments has been a roasting-hot potato ever since it was first suggested.

The most recent statement of the situation was that, in order to have an assessment recorded, a claimant needed to bring a piece of tape-recording equipment worth around £1,400 to the interview, capable of recording on two tapes at the same time, with one to be held by the interviewer and one by the interviewee.

The DWP – and by extension, assessors at Atos and Capita – has a small number of these devices, but their scarcity meant it was hard to be sure of securing one for an interview.

This led to some charitable people buying the equipment in order to lend it to benefit claimants who needed it. I’m sure it also led to less charitable people renting the same equipment out for money.

With the announcement that Atos is recording telephone assessments, though, hasn’t that situation changed?

If the assessment company is making recordings unilaterally, does it still have to use the same equipment as in previous stipulations?

Will it have to provide claimants with copies?

If it doesn’t have to use the prescribed equipment, why not? And does this mean claimants don’t have to use it either and can make their own recordings? If not, why not? There must be a level playing-field for these matters.

Here’s Benefits and Work on this:

IAS (Atos) have begun recording telephone assessments for personal independence payment (PIP) Therese Coffey, secretary of state for work and pensions, told the Work and Pensions Committee on Wednesday 30 September.

Coffey told the committee that IAS had begun recording the assessments on 21 September.*

“But that has not yet started with Capita. That is under, I can assure you, active management to get Capita going quickly on this

claimants must ask to have their assessment recorded, it will not be done automatically.

You are likely to need to arrange this in advance. The earlier you request a recording the better, as a new appointment may need to be arranged.

I note that the website’s authors say the DWP will not give permission for claimants to make their own recordings – and say they should do it themselves, clandestinely, if they feel they need to:

You may still consider it sensible to record the assessment yourself just in case the DWPs recording goes astray. Though you will need to do this covertly as the DWP will not give permission.

We would still strongly recommend that claimants consider making a covert recording of their assessment, just in case the DWP’s copy goes astray when you challenge a decision.

The suggestion that copies of assessors’ audio recordings can go “astray” indicates that the DWP and its privately-contracted assessors are as untrustworthy as ever (75 per cent of benefit refusals are now being overturned at appeal).

This is worth chasing up. I’ll ask the DWP what’s going on and let you know the answer.

Source: PIP assessments now being audio recorded

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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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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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Cynical: Tories pilot 30-minute phone appointments for ‘claimant commitment’ interviews – to impose sanctions quicker?

Isn’t it amazing how the Tories can go straight into action on some plans, while others take forever?

So we see them testing fast-track phone interviews lasting a brief 30 minutes to get up-to-date claimant commitments for Universal Credit claimants.

This is because the Tories promised not to sanction anybody’s Universal Credit payments until up-to-date claimant commitments were established.

They had suspended conditions attached to receipt of Universal Credit during March, meaning that the millions who have claimed the so-called benefit since then have never been subjected to the sanctions that have so badly harmed the finances of so many poverty-lashed claimants.

Well, they’re about to find out what it’s like!

You can tell that the haste with which this measure has been imposed means the Tories are just itching to start taking food out of the mouths of needy people who they can label as undeserving.

In its Coronavirus Touchbase Special, the Department for Work and Pensions promised that nobody would be asked to do anything “unreasonable”, particularly “claimants who are shielding, have childcare responsibilities because of COVID restrictions, etc.” – so you know that these people will definitely be asked to do unreasonable things.

Times may have changed but the Tory-run DWP remains the same.

Source: DWP confirms that it is testing 30 minute telephone appointments for claimant commitment interviews – Rightsnet

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Did 3,000 people HAVE to die penniless while the Tories fought court case over PIP for the terminally-ill?

Lorraine Cox: she has motor neurone disease, but was denied PIP because she could say she would die within six months. It seems 3,000 others who also couldn’t predict their own deaths have died without receiving PIP in the last year.

It is one year since the Tories pledged to review their rules on which terminally-ill people could claim Personal Independence Payment – and it seems more than 3,000 would-be PIP claimants had to die before they were forced to do it by a court ruling.

They died without receiving PIP, because they could not predict when they were likely to die.

This Site celebrated like many others when Lorraine Cox won her case demanding a judicial review of the rules that said only people with particular terminal illness could claim PIP – and only if they knew they would die within six months.

Now we discover that – if recent trends have continued – then 3,000 people died between the Tories pledging a review that seems not to have happened and the Tory defeat in the Cox case.

I asked what happened to those people while Ms Cox was fighting her case in court.

Well, now we know.

According to The Mirror:

DWP figures show 17,070 people died waiting for a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) decision in five previous years.

If that pattern repeated, more than 3,000 will have died in similar cases since the review launched last summer.

Charities have demanded change.

The Tories are saying the Covid-19 crisis delayed their review.

Source: DWP: 3,000 people ‘die waiting’ for terminally ill benefit reforms one year on – Mirror Online

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Latest DWP outrage: cold calls with ‘take it or leave it’ offer for reduced benefits

If this is true, it seems there’s no depth to which the Department for Work and Pensions won’t lower itself.

The claims is that DWP representatives are ‘cold calling’ vulnerable people who are appealing against a decision to deny them any benefits.

In the unrecorded calls, they are then offered “take it or leave it” deals paying thousands of pounds less in benefits than they may be entitled to have by law.

In some cases, it is claimed, people were told the offer would be withdrawn within minutes if they did not accept.

The aim: to settle cases before they get to tribunals where the claimant could win significantly higher payments.

The Guardian report seems to indicate that the DWP has admitted the truth of the matter, saying people accepting the offer could still go through with their appeal.

But that fact is no good if the DWP caller doesn’t actually inform the claimant of it.

It is easy to understand the attractiveness of this brutally mean-spirited practice to the penny-pinchers at the DWP.

Appeals against adverse benefit decisions are currently low in number, mostly because the Tory government has made it extremely costly, time-consuming and stressful.

But a huge 70 per cent of appeals end in victory for the claimant, making this course of action more desirable in spite of the pressure it involves.

DWP officials recently had a £1 million bonus payout for their success in depriving vulnerable people of the money that was theirs by right.

If they want to keep their cash rolling in, they have to find ways to deny it to the likes of you and I.

Source: DWP accused of offering disabled people ‘take it or leave it’ benefits | Benefits | The Guardian

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Lying DWP facing court action over failure to improve safeguarding after claimant deaths


The one organisation in the UK that regularly gets away with forcing innocent people to their deaths may soon have to account for its behaviour in Parliament – and in a court of law.

Sadly the Parliamentary action is unlikely to make any difference at all; MPs have called for accountability far too many times and all Department for Work and Pensions does is utter meaningless promises to improve its procedures. Then it ignores those promises in order to continue persecuting vulnerable benefit claimants.

The current pressure from the Commons Work and Pensions committee follows last week’s adjournment debate on the deaths of claimants including Errol Graham, who starved to death after the DWP cut of his benefits for no good reason.

Committee chairman Stephen Timms has announced that he will question ministers on their department’s refusal to protect people like Mr Graham and the thousands of others who have died as a result of the cruelty imposed on them by the DWP, on the orders of the Tory government.

He said despite scores of internal inquiries into claimant deaths – many of them as a result of suicide – officials were unable to show that they had done anything at all to improve the safeguarding of vulnerable claimants.

“The idea that people are taking their own life as a result of DWP actions is so awful,” Timms said. “It is unacceptable for the DWP to keep obfuscating. It cannot avoid the subject any longer. This is clearly something serious and it needs to engage and resolve it.”

Mr Timms mentioned the National Audit Office (NAO) report showing that, despite reviewing at least 69 suicides that could have been linked to benefit denials over the last six years, the DWP had not acted on any of the recommendations of those reviews.

The figures in the report did not include cases like that of Mr Graham, in which suicide was not the formal cause of death.

Sadly, the Commons committee is all-too-likely to be fobbed off with the usual protestations from DWP ministers – that they are doing something. They – and/or their forerunners – have made such claims before and got away with it.

We may hope that Mr Graham’s family have more luck with their court action against the Department.

They are claiming that the DWP acted against the law by failing to take all reasonable steps to check on the health of a claimant they knew to be highly vulnerable before removing his only source of income.

Family members are also arguing that secretive investigations and reviews being conducted by the DWP into benefit-related deaths are unlawful and must be reformed.

There is also the question of a promise made by a DWP representative at Mr Graham’s inquest, in order to prevent the coroner from writing a ‘Prevention of Future Deaths’ report, which would have required the DWP to formally explain what steps it was taking to improve its safeguarding policy.

The DWP’s chief psychologist, David Carew, told coroner Elizabeth Didcock that a safeguarding review would report in the autumn of 2019. He said it would urgently consider measures to protect highly vulnerable claimants at risk of having their benefits cut off, including changing safeguarding guidance to staff.

But no such report has been made. There was no review team, no formal commission to publish a review, and staff have received no changes to their guidance.

In short, it seems Mr Carew misled Her Majesty’s Coroner; he lied.

We may hope that a judge will give appropriate weight to all this information.

There are calls for an independent inquiry, with some MPs suggesting that this may restore confidence in the DWP.

This Writer disagrees. As the Labour Party stated in its election manifesto last year, there is no way to restore confidence in a government department that has deceived MPs, the courts and the public in order to ensure a steady stream of benefit-related deaths.

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Damning verdict on DWP: ‘British citizens are dying as a result of policies implemented by this government’

A bullying lawyer acting for the Tory government at the inquest of Errol Graham tried to claim that the man, who starved to death after the DWP cut off his benefits, had takeaway menus and cartons near him when he was found.

And why was the Tory minister for disabled people caught smirking when this case – and others – was discussed by MPs?

This is a man who starved to death after the Tory-run DWP cut off his benefits.

But the DWP’s lawyer, instead of admitting the government’s culpability in pushing a man to starvation, shouted at family members and at a police officer during the inquest into his death.

MPs in the House of Commons heard Debbie Abrahams say: “Errol’s daughter-in-law, Alison, has been scathing, telling me of the anger she and her husband Lee feel.

“She said that it was particularly shocking that the QC acting on behalf of the Government in the inquest tried to intimidate not just the family but others, shouting at the police officer who found Errol’s body about what else he had seen.

“In particular, they were deeply offended that the police officer was asked whether he had found any takeaway menus or cartons. It was clear at that inquest that the Government were far from being in listening mode or trying to learn from this.

“Rather, they were seeking to blame, which is absolutely unforgivable.”

It is.

Labour MP Lilian Greenwood said it was hard to believe Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey’s claim that the DWP took this death “very seriously”.

She said the inquest took place eight months ago, when the coroner asked for robust policy and guidance for DWP staff to prevent future deaths, “yet the Department’s serious case panel is not even expected to consider the systemic issue identified in Errol’s case until next month”.

Ms Abrahams responded that “this has been going on for years now, and … nobody has responded. Systematic errors are coming out in repeated coroners’ reports and other reports, yet there is still no action”.

She recounted the cases of other people whose names will be familiar to readers of This Site – Jodey Whiting, Stephen Smith, Jimmy Ballentine, Mark Scholfield, David Clapson, Amy Nice, Kevin Dooley, Brian Bailey, Elaine Morrall, Daniella Obeng, Brian Sycamore, Chris Gold, Lawrence Bond, Julia Kelly, Ben McDonald, Chris Smith, Michael Connolly, Robert Barlow, David Barr, Shaun Pilkington and Terry McGarvey.

She made it clear that this was not an exhaustive list – and that many of those she had named had taken their own lives after receiving the DWP’s decision that their benefits were to be withdrawn.

And she said the Commons select committee on Work and Pensions had conducted an inquiry on sanctions policy which recommended: “DWP should seek to establish a body modelled on the Independent Police Complaints Commission, to conduct reviews, at the request of relatives, or automatically where no living relative remains, in all instances where an individual on an out-of-work working-age benefit dies whilst in receipt of that benefit.

“Such a model, operated within the purview of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, should ensure that the role of all publicly-funded agencies involved in the provision of services or benefits to the individual is scrutinised, so that a learning document can be produced setting out how policy, and the service delivery pathway, can be improved at every stage.”

It’s not a perfect recommendation as the point is that people were dying after receipt of their benefits was cut off.

Is this what made Justin Tomlinson, the minister for disabled people, smirk?

He denied finding any amusement in the recommendation – which had been rejected out-of-hand by the government. But what do you think?

Ms Abrahams pointed out that further information – made public by Freedom of Information requests – showed that ministers have been repeatedly warned by their own civil servants that their policies to assess people for out-of-work disability benefits were putting the lives of vulnerable claimants at risk.

But the National Audit Office found last month that the DWP does not have a robust record of all contact from coroners, meaning the actual number of people who have taken their lives as a result of government persecution is not known, and the 69 investigations of benefit-related suicides since 2015 represent only the “tip of the iceberg”.

Not only that, but DWP staff are not aware of guidance produced on these matters following safeguarding reviews – nor does this guidance reflect the full scope of issues that could trigger a review.

And system-wide issues that could have been identified by safeguarding reviews have been missed – because the DWP simply doesn’t bother to identify larger trends.

Mr Tomlinson, responding, said that in most cases “we get it right”.

This is not what the evidence shows. The vast majority of appeals against benefit denial are won by the claimant.

And he came out with a lot of flannel about reviews of processes being undertaken by the DWP.

Nothing is being done to change the system now.

Source: Social Security Benefits: Claimant Deaths – Hansard

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DWP misled two watchdogs over benefit deaths. Time to tighten up the rules?

Faceless: and is the DWP totally unaccountable as well?

We should be asking why the Department for Work and Pensions gets away with failing in its duty of service to the public – especially as the failures are causing multiple deaths.

We are seeing evidence that the DWP failed to safeguard its clients – extremely vulnerable benefit claimants – and that these claimants died as a result.

We are seeing evidence that the DWP failed to implement the recommendations of its own secret reviews into benefit-related deaths.

And we are seeing evidence that the DWP lied to two watchdog organisations (the Information Commissioner’s Office and the National Audit Office), saying it had corrected these failings when it had not.

This is deliberate misdirection with only one possible aim: to continue causing the deaths of benefit claimants.

Anyone learning of this would be justified in asking two questions:

  1. Why have those responsible for causing these deaths never been brought to justice?
  2. Why are they allowed to cause these deaths? In other words, why is the DWP not forbidden by its own rules from doing anything that may lead to a claimant’s death?

Having had some experience in such matters lately, This Writer considered whether a court case for breach of contract would be in order – but there would have to be evidence to show that the DWP had indeed breached its contract with claimants.

Where is this contract defined? I don’t know. Why don’t I know? I write stories about the DWP all the time; if I don’t know, I have no reason to expect the vast bulk of the population to have a clue about it either.

So it seems to me that we – all – need to have a much clearer explanation of exactly what the DWP is expected to do for benefit claimants in return for all the draconian demands it makes of them.

Now: How do we achieve that?

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been failing to track recommendations made by its own secret reviews into benefit-related deaths, it has told the spending watchdog, three years after claiming it had corrected the same failings.

The “appalling” revelation that DWP appears to have misled both the National Audit Office (NAO) and – three years ago – the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) will add to mounting evidence of the need for an independent inquiry into deaths caused by the department over the last decade.

NAO is now examining a letter provided by Disability News Service (DNS) and has asked for permission to share it with parliament and government departments.

Meanwhile, DWP has refused to provide assurances that its failure to track progress on implementing recommendations from its secret internal reviews has not caused any further deaths.

Source: Letter shows ‘appalling’ DWP misled two watchdogs over benefit deaths – Disability News Service

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Here are 10 reminders of how the Tories are freezing and starving people. Will you be next?

The Conservative victory in December’s general election has given Boris Johnson free reign to torture the UK’s poorest people.

Amazingly, there are some in the country who either haven’t noticed, or refuse to accept the reality of the harm that is being done.

So this article by Red Revolution is timely. It states:

The Court of Appeal found that the Tory government discriminated against disabled people through the unfair and cruel practices of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The finding confirmed in law what millions have known since 2010, that the Tory government is engaging in nothing less than what can be described as a process of social cleansing through the DWP.

Just last year the United Nations condemned the Tory government, a report comparing British welfare policies to the creation of workhouses. Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty, accused the Tories of the “systematic immiseration of a significant part of the British population”.

Such is the level of misery inflicted on the British public that many have suggested that the poor and vulnerable are headed back to Victorian levels of inequality and poverty.

Given that people are literally freezing and starving to death, it’s not hard to see the point.

Bear in mind the fact that the UK, with a $2.83 trillion GDP, is the fifth-largest economy in the world.

The piece goes on to tell the stories of 10 infamous cases, including some that have been covered on This Site: Errol Graham, Mark Wood, Andrew Clarke, David Clapson, Mark Smith, Chris Gold, Danielle White, Elaine Morrall, ‘Alice’ and Stephen Smith.

Read on, here: Arbeit Macht Frei: 10 Cases of Starvation and Freezing Under Universal Credit in “Civilised” UK | Red Revolution Media

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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