Tag Archives: claimant

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 In April this year, benefits were increased by an inflation rate that was seven months out of date – rising 3.1%, at a point when inflation was already running at 9%.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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Secret DWP benefits survey cherry-picks respondents – so it can lay blame on claimants?

Too much Coffey: the Work and Pensions Secretary (right) seems to have commissioned a survey of benefit claimants in order to say their failure to budget properly has put them into hardship – not her insistence on providing starvation-level payments and using the slightest excuse to cut them off. Meanwhile, she parties.

The Department for Work and Pensions has launched a secret survey – sent only to specially cherry-picked claimants.

The reason seems to be to blame benefit recipients for any hardship they suffer, claiming that poor budgeting skills are the root of the problem rather than the political decision to fix payments at starvation levels – and then to use the flimsiest excuses to stop them.

The survey asks about debts claimants may have, what effect the debts have had on them and what support they need. It is the last question that has raised concerns, as Benefits and Work, which hoisted the red flag on this apparent scam, pointed out:

The full question and list of options is as follows:

What types of help or support, if any, would be most useful in helping you manage your finances?

  • Help with working out what money I have left to spend each/day/week/month.
  • Advice on how to spread my spending so I don’t run out of money
  • Advice on how to reduce my spending
  • Advice on how to reduce my debt
  • Advice on how to increase my income
  • Help with setting up a direct debit/standing order
  • Help with opening a bank account
  • Other (specify)

In this context, advice to increase my income is most likely to relate to those in employment.  In general claimants cannot increase their income unless there is a benefit they could be claiming that they are not aware of.

What is entirely missing from these options are the ones that would actually make a difference to claimants, such as:

  • Pay benefits at a rate that is enough to live on
  • Remove the 5 week waiting time for UC
  • End the long delays for PIP assessments and WCAs

Because there are no such options, this survey will produce results that say that, of claimants who are in debt:

X% say they need advice on working out what money they have left to spend

X% say they need advice on how to reduce their spending

X% say they need advice on how to reduce their debt

Whilst some people may indeed say in the ‘Other’ box that the help they need is a higher rate of benefits, this will not be listed as a percentage in outcomes as everyone’s answers will be worded differently.

In other words, all the support needs will be around claimants not understanding how to manage their money, rather than it being impossible to manage on the money they receive.

See how it works?

Benefits and Work has made Freedom of Information requests to ask how the claimants taking part in this survey are selected, how many are taking part and whether the results of the report are going to be published.

The logical conclusion to be drawn is that the DWP has been stung by having to reveal the findings of its secret report on how people on sickness and disability benefits are struggling with unmet needs.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey had repeatedly refused to publish the DWP-commissioned report on disabled people’s experiences of the benefit system – so the Commons Work and Pensions Committee ordered its authors to provide a copy to Parliament. It has now been published.

The report, received by the government in September 2020, stated that many people are using disability benefits such as PIP, which is intended to meet the additional costs of disability, for very basic needs such as food, rent and paying debts:

“The participant had kidney failure, arthritis in his back, legs and arms, depression and bulimia which caused chronic stomach pains. He lived alone in a flat rented from a Housing Association, using Housing Benefit. He was in the ESA Support Group and received PIP. He made monthly repayments for utility bill arrears and had a £5,000 bank loan which he could not afford to repay. His debt repayments meant he could not afford essential day-to-day living needs and used a foodbank. He found it difficult to wash independently due to his arthritis and needed a walk-in shower but could not afford one and seemed unaware that he may be eligible for support through the local authority. He also needed support with cooking and cleaning and received help from a cousin. His cousin would like to claim Carer’s Allowance but neither of them knew how to make an application. He had no other support networks close by.”

It said claimants with invisible disabilities such as mental health conditions often struggle even more than those with physical conditions to meet their basic needs:

“Participants with mental health conditions tended to report a wide variety of basic needs, health and care needs and social needs that were unmet. In comparison, those with profound learning disabilities and severe physical disabilities were typically in the group that identified having fewer unmet needs. While the latter group experienced a high level of need across a range of areas, these were usually being met through a combination of local authority support and informal support networks, usually parents who provided a high level of care.”

And the wellbeing of disabled claimants often depends primarily on being in a household in which another member has a well-paid job:

“The participant has recently moved in with her mother and sister, she had previously lived alone in a council-rented flat but had begun to feel isolated and found paying the rent and bills difficult so decided to move in with her mother. She has a range of health conditions and disabilities including Asperger syndrome, anxiety, ADHD, joint stiffness and IBS. She works 28 hours a week and receives PIP. Before moving to live with her mother she was concerned about how her income would cover essential day-to-day living costs. She also struggled with maintaining her personal hygiene and found it difficult to leave the house as she did not like going out alone. Moving in with her mother has helped her to meet all of her health-related needs.”

The reason Coffey and the DWP kept the report secret seems clear when one notes that last October – more than a year after receiving it – the Work and Pensions Secretary was lying to the public about the system it damns.

As Benefits and Work (again) details:

Coffey was telling the Conservative party conference that:

“PIP has certainly grown in a way that was not anticipated when it was introduced.

“To give you an example, three out of four young people who claim PIP have their primary reason being mental ill health.

“That in itself is 189,000 young people who currently receive benefit focused on that. There may be other benefits they receive as well.

“. . . people can think the benefit system is fair.

“And I think by being able to target that even more so to people who really need that support, may improve that prospect of public perception.”

Having been forced to release a report that shows – even in its watered-down form – that the benefit system is forcing hardship and related physical and psychological torture on claimants, including those who already have significant mental health problems (leading to a threat to life itself?), it seems Coffey has commissioned this new survey in order to manufacture a false justification for herself.

I think I’ll write her a letter. Let’s see how she justifies this web of deceit.

Source: DWP secret survey set to blame claimants for going cold and hungry

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MPs bypass #DWP to publish controversial report on claimants’ experience of #benefits

Boris Johnson isn’t the only Tory minister facing serious consequences for their actions this week. It’s looking bad for Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey too.

Coffey has repeatedly refused to publish a DWP-commissioned report on disabled people’s experiences of the benefit system – so the Commons Work and Pensions Committee has given orders for its authors to provide a copy to Parliament, which will then be published.

The report, The Uses of Health and Disability Benefits was received by the Government in September 2020. The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) had interviewed disabled people about their experiences of receiving PIP, ESA and Universal Credit.

The committee last month gave the Secretary of State one final chance to publish the report, which she herself admitted fell within the Government’s own protocol for publication.

But Coffey said she would not be reconsidering her decision.

Why not? It seems likely that researchers at NatCen, who wrote the report, found that people on disability and other health-related benefits were overwhelmingly negative about their experience of the system under Tories including Coffey and her forerunners, going right back to Iain Duncan Smith.

NatCen has been ordered to provide a copy of its report by January 27.

“After repeated obstruction from the Secretary of State to keep from public view a piece of work that falls within the Government’s own protocol for publication, we have reached the end of the road,” said Work and Pensions Committee chairman Stephen Timms.

“We would have much rather the DWP had done the right thing and published the report itself, so it is with regret that we must now take the highly unusual step of using our parliamentary powers to obtain a copy from NatCen and publish it ourselves.

“We have been forced to do this to ensure that the reality of disabled people’s experiences of the benefits system can see the light of day.”

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Why IS the #DWP refusing to release report on claimants’ experience of #PIP, #ESA and #UC?

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign].

The Department for Work and Pensions is stalling for time to bury important information on the way its benefit regime treats recipients – again.

It is now six years since I won my battle for the DWP to honour a Freedom of Information request on the number of people who have died after being denied ESA (thousands within two weeks; they hadn’t bothered to collect information beyond that time limit) – and still its officers obstruct requests.

Currently the DWP is refusing website Benefits and Work‘s request to see a report on 120 claimants’ experiences of receiving Personal Independence Payment, Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit.

The department is also refusing to allow the Commons Work and Pensions committee to see the report, even in complete confidentiality, raising questions over what ministers are trying to hide.

It seems even the interviewees themselves have not been allowed to see the report, which leads This Writer to question whether its information is accurate. Disability News Service has suggested that it isn’t, after being told by a whistleblower that, after the first draft was produced, ministers told the authors to cut the number of references to “unmet needs” and delete some analysis.

I tend to agree with Charlotte Hughes, who reported on this in her blog The Poor Side of Life:

So even the diluted final version of the report is apparently too scandalous to see the light of day.

From years of past experience we know that the DWP don’t put the needs of disabled people first or even anywhere. Their target is to force people into work regardless of them actually being able to do so.

In the past I’ve seen disabled people forced onto Universal Credit by deception and then forced onto DWP courses with the aim of getting them ‘ready’ for work.

We can’t let the government and the DWP get away with ignoring report requests and also implementing rules that are at best cruel.

We need to remember that the government and the DWP are masters of deception and we must continue to see past their lies. There’s more of us than there are of them and I alongside others will continue to hold them accountable for their actions.

Charlotte’s blog runs entirely on donations and if you want to contribute, follow the link to her site and press the “Donate” button.

With the DWP trying to hide a potential harm to people with long-term illnesses or disabilities, or who are unemployed, all social commentary sites have a responsibility to keep the facts of this matter within the public gaze, which is why I am publishing this information.

Please feel free to pass it on to as many people as possible – either by sharing this article or by referring to the information in conversation, should you get the opportunity.

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Did DWP torture this disabled benefit claimant until he died?

There are many kinds of torture – not just physical but also psychological.

This Writer has to ask whether the Department for Work and Pensions used psychological torture on a disabled benefit claimant by its own failures to carry out its duties properly.

DWP officers had left the claimant to be supported by an elderly, disabled parent – his appointee – who also needed daily carers and meals delivered.

Departmental guidance states that they should have found another appointee – but they did not do so. Why not?

Instead, the claimant’s ESA and PIP were repeatedly stopped due to failure to attend assessments, because letters were sometimes sent to the claimant’s address and sometimes to his parent’s.

The benefits were restarted after interventions – but the DWP has apparently lost the evidence showing why the claims had been restarted.

There are supposed to be safeguarding procedures to protect vulnerable benefit claimants but – as we discovered after the death of Jodey Whiting – nothing has been done to encourage officers to follow them.

In this case, the DWP repeatedly failed to follow its own safeguarding procedures, despite the fact that officers knew the claimant was vulnerable.

In addition to physical health problems, this claimant had severe depression. At one point, a sibling contacted the DWP to say that the claimant’s GP had sent them for psychiatric assessment due to a deterioration in their mental health.

The sibling explained that they had been to the claimant’s house and found unopened post and said they weren’t fit for a PIP assessment, but another such interview was arranged – by letter.

The result was predictable: the claimant didn’t answer the door and their PIP was stopped. The same also happened in relation to their ESA claim.

The claimant died – underweight, “unkempt and dirty” – after having been denied ESA for three months and PIP for three weeks.

His parent had been providing cash for food, even though that person had their own care package, meals prepared and carers attending daily.

The claimant’s sibling complained to the DWP and the government department made a payment of ESA arrears and £3,000 of backdated PIP.

Unsatisfied, the sibling took the matter to the Independent Case Examiner, who ruled that a further payment of £10,700 in PIP be paid to the claimant’s estate and a consolatory payment of £2,500 to the family.

And a fat lot of good it dead the deceased man!

But think how much the DWP saved; one-off payments totalling £16,200 – which included arrears, remember – is much less than might have been handed out if the claimant had remained alive.

So I have to ask: did DWP officers deliberately push this claimant to death?

They knew he suffered from severe depression but chose to mess him around.

Brown envelope phobia is a known phenomenon in which depressed people avoid opening letters from the DWP – so they sent him letters that they knew he would never read.

They deliberately failed to find a new appointee, and sent important notifications to the claimant’s former appointee – knowing that he would not be able to read them.

Another known behaviour of depressed benefit claimants is aversion to confrontations with DWP-appointed benefits assessors; they believe (justifiably, as many documented cases show) that they’ll be cheated out of payments.

But these DWP officers still sent an assessor to this claimant’s address anyway. Is it really credible for them to say they did not expect what happened?

Or were they deliberately inflicting psychological torture on a man with severe – mark that: severe – mental health problems?

To This Writer, the evidence is clear: the problem at the DWP is systemic – people there are encouraged to ignore their duty of care to claimants.

But with the Court of Appeal refusing to allow another inquest in the case of Jodey Whiting, it seems impossible to bring the evidence needed to prove it into the light of day.

Is the whole of the UK’s benefit and legal system rigged to push vulnerable people to their deaths and then hide the facts, simply because they happen to be sick and/or have a disability?

Source: Disabled claimant died underweight, ‘unkempt and dirty’ after ESA and PIP wrongly stopped | Disability Rights UK

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The DWP carried out dozens of secret reviews into benefit claimant deaths – and deleted them. Why? What did they show?

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign].

If you’ve got nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear, right?

In that case, what is the Department of Work and Pensions afraid of?

Since February 2012 (as far as we can be sure), it has been carrying out secret reviews into the reasons benefit claimants died – but has destroyed records of all such reviews carried out before 2016.

Why? What did they find that the DWP needed to hide?

Freedom of Information requests show that 49 reviews took place between February 2012 and autumn 2014 (all records of them have been destroyed) – and nine reviews took place between August 2014 and April 2016 (but these overlap with other periods where we know the numbers).

The reason this is cause for serious concern is that the DWP’s policies and practices have been linked to the deaths of benefit claimants – particularly those claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) who suffered mental distress – ever since the Tories took over control of that department in 2010 (if not before).

At the time of writing it is only a day since This Site published an article highlighting the fact that more than 300 terminally-ill people have been dying every month after being denied fast-track access to benefits by the DWP.

The department has been rejecting around 100 claims per month.

The concern – as I pointed out yesterday – is that the Department for Work and Pensions intentionally harms people claiming benefits by depriving them of their payments in order to hasten their deaths.

Is that what was revealed in the now-destroyed reviews of the reasons claimants died?

Is that why the DWP shredded them?

If so, then it seems this department’s bosses – and their political leaders from 2010 onwards – have good reason to be afraid. But when will they be brought to justice?

Source: DWP admits carrying out more than 175 secret reviews into benefit deaths in nine years – Disability News Service

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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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