Tag Archives: claimants

Did Tories ignore reports demanding action to prevent deaths of disabled benefit claimants?

[Image: www.disabledgo.com]

When the government is dragging its heels over publishing years-old coroners’ reports that called for measures to protect disabled people from death, what does that suggest to you?

To This Writer, it suggests that the Tories ignored the reports and allowed deaths to continue for up to five more years after the first report was written.

It is for the Conservative government to publish the reports – unredacted – if it wants to prove me (or any other critics) wrong. If they remain covered up, I think we’ll have to draw our own conclusions.

Here’s Disability News Service:

The government is facing calls to publish two coroners’ reports that link the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) with the deaths of benefit claimants.

New information shows that the missing reports were written by coroners in 2015 and 2016, but neither of them have ever been published.

Both “prevention of future deaths” (PFD) reports warned DWP that more disabled people could die if the department failed to act.

But both DWP and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) are refusing to release the reports.

Source: Net closing on government departments that refuse to publish deaths reports – Disability News Service

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DWP hires opinion poll firm to survey benefit claimants who challenge decisions. Why?

Our friends at Benefits and Work pose an interesting question: why has the DWP hired an opinion poll company – Ipsos Mori – to quiz PIP mandatory reconsideration claimants?

The rogue government department has been caught out recently, after a Freedom of Information request revealed that assessors from private contractors Atos and Capita have falsified around 7,300 benefit claims in order to deprive vulnerable people of money that is due to them.

Appeals against PIP decisions currently enjoy a success rate of more than 70 per cent, which tends to support the facts revealed by the FoI response.

Now, in a letter to dissenting claimants, the DWP has written that it has asked Ipsos MORI “to help them understand the experience of people who have disagreed with a decision that has been made regarding their benefit claim and to help the Department improve the services they offer”.

Benefits and Work has adopted an attitude of suspicion, with the website requesting information on the questions being asked, from anybody who agrees to answer them.

But why has the DWP hired Ipsos Mori to do this work?

Well, it has been said that opinion pollsters are never really hired to reflect the opinions of the public – but to shape them.

How do they do that?

In the choice of the questions they ask.

For example: asked if a benefit assessor was polite during the interview, even a disgruntled claimant might have to say that they were.

But how can the same claimant point out that their assessment had been doctored to provide false information, if they are not asked a question about it?

They can’t.

And if Ipsos Mori asks only the questions the DWP requires, then the government department will be able to claim that there is nothing wrong with its assessment system, with nobody able to claim that it is not depending on honest answers.

So Benefits and Work is right to advise caution, and to be keen to see the questions being asked.

This Writer would take a simpler view. I would tell anybody who is contacted to respond to the survey: don’t.

Source: Why has DWP hired Ipsos MORI to quiz PIP mandatory reconsideration claimants?

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Charity report highlights how Tories have pushed benefit claimants into poverty

Food bank queue: The Conservative Party will only increase the number of people forced to seek help from charities like the Trussell Trust. The only answer is a change of government.

Food bank charity the Trussell Trust has published research showing how the Conservative government has pushed people into extreme poverty, when it should have been helping them avoid it.

It states that the Tory benefit system, ill health, and a lack of support from local authorities are the three main causes of hunger and destitution in the UK.

Tory cuts to benefit payments, being turned down for disability benefits, being sanctioned, and delays in payments like the five week wait for Universal Credit are cited as key problems with benefits – all are due to Conservative cruelty.

Not only that, but almost three-quarters of people at food banks have a health issue, or live with someone who does. This is the Tory obsession with persecuting people who have long-term illnesses and/or disabilities. I have often compared it with the Nazi eugenics programme to rid society of “useless eaters”.

The report, State of Hunger 2019, says foodbank users are left with an average of £50 a week to buy food and pay vital household bills after housing costs.

It reveals that almost one in five households have no money coming in at all in the month before being referred to a food bank.

The research shows that 94% of people at food banks are destitute, almost three-quarters of people at food banks live in households affected by ill-health or disability, 22% of food bank users are single parents – compared to 5% in the UK population – and more than three-quarters are in rent arrears.

Most people referred to Trussell Trust food banks are in receipt of some form of social security payment, with many being in-work and dependent on benefits, tax credits or Universal Credit to top-up low wages. So much for the Tory claim that work is the best way out of poverty!

Not only that, but the report states: “More than half of people at food banks live in households affected by a mental health problem, with anxiety and depression the most common.

“A quarter of people live in households where someone has a long-term physical condition; one in six has a physical disability; and one in 10 has a learning disability, or live with someone who does.”

The report adds: “Ill health often increases living costs and may be a barrier to doing paid work.” Isn’t that precisely the point?

The charity has called on the UK Government to end the minimum five-week-wait for Universal Credit, ensure that benefit payments cover the “true cost of living”, and provide increased and ring-fenced funding for councils to allow them to provide local crisis support.

I would go further: we need a change of government. The Conservatives will never willingly stop persecuting the poor, the sick and the disabled; they love it too much. The only solution is to rid the UK of their tyranny.

You can read more about the report in this Welfare Weekly article.

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Tory attitude to people in hard times is clear: Candidate says they should be ‘put down’

Francesca O’Brien: “Put down”.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if a new Conservative election candidate thinks people on benefits should be ‘put down’, they all do.

Why else would they have selected Francesca O’Brien to be Tory candidate for the Gower in Wales?

According to The Guardian: “In [Facebook] posts that have since been deleted, she wrote in January 2014: ‘Benefit Street..anyone else watching this?? Wow, these people are unreal!!!’

“In response to a friend’s comment, she wrote: ‘My blood is boiling, these people need putting down.’

“In further comments under her post, O’Brien apparently endorsed a friend’s suggestion for ‘twat a tramp Tuesday’ to ‘take your batts [sic] to the streets’.”

This is the “caring Conservatism” that David Cameron promoted back in 2010 – the kind that has put hundreds of thousands of people in early graves.

As shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said, ““his is absolutely disgusting and reveals the cruelty at the heart of the Tories’ benefits cuts. Universal credit was deliberately designed to punish people who are out of work.

“Many of us have relied on social security support at some point in our lives and it is nothing to be ashamed of. This person is not fit to be an MP and Boris Johnson should remove her as a candidate.”

No she isn’t – but if she were to go, then the Tories would have to apply the same criteria to their other candidates, and would probably end up with nobody to fight their campaign!

The Guardian article suggested that the comments “are likely to anger the thousands of people in Gower who rely on benefits. They will also strike a blow to the Conservatives’ hopes of winning the seat, with the constituency being a key marginal”.

Ms O’Brien has now apologised for the comments – because they have been brought to public attention? Why did she not apologise before? If she disagrees with them, why did she publish them?

She said, according to the BBC: “These comments were made off the cuff, a number of years ago.

“However, I accept that my use of language was unacceptable and I would like to apologise for any upset I have caused.”

Not exactly oozing with sincerity, was she?

So there you have it, folks.

If you want to sink your local Tory’s chances of re-election, dig up their comments on social media or find another way to reveal their true character. It’s what they say in unguarded moments that reveals what they really are.

Source: Tory candidate wrote people on Benefits Street should be ‘put down’ | Politics | The Guardian

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DWP persecutes claimants rather than scammers over ‘industrial scale’ benefit fraud

Despair: It seems the DWP’s plan to tackle Universal Credit fraud is to prosecute the victims, rather than the criminals.

Only one scammer has been prosecuted by the Department for Work and Pensions in connection with a fraud that has cost the nation an estimated £150 million per month.

The 145 dedicated staff hired by the DWP to investigate seem more interested in prosecuting genuine benefit claimants – with one already convicted and 28 facing prosecution.

Doesn’t that seem the wrong way around?

The scam works because people who need to claim benefits have been made increasingly desperate by the economic conditions created by the Conservative government.

Here’s how I described it, back in July:

“The scammer approaches the victim – a person in need of quick cash – and offers to get them a government grant or a payday loan for a small fee. They demand the victim’s identity details.

“The scammer then simply goes online and makes a Universal Credit claim in the victim’s name, demanding an advance loan in the process.

“The DWP’s online system automatically approves the claim because it doesn’t know any better and transfers the money into the victim’s bank account – from which the scammer then takes a huge amount of the money that has been handed over.

“The victim is left with a small fraction of the loan, but owing the entire amount back to the DWP. Not only that, but any other benefits they may have been claiming will have been cancelled.

“So the victim is left much worse-off – and the government department doesn’t care. It will pursue them for the full amount.”

This is what we are seeing now – the DWP is apparently pursuing the victims, rather than the perpetrators.

“It seems the scam works because of Universal Credit’s ‘digital by design’ nature; the computerised system automatically approves the application, no matter how bizarre the claims in it.

“So thousands of pounds have been given in response to claims on behalf of (allegedly) a 19-year-old with six blind children, people with children called Lisa, Bart and Homer – or indeed Ha, Ha and Ha – and people claiming “Harry Kane” is their landlord.

“Apparently 100,000 or more such advances are being paid every month. At up to £1,500 a go, that’s a lot of money.”

It seems the DWP’s 145 investigators are currently looking into 85,000 cases, with the caseload increasing all the time.

Has anything been done to stop the computerised Universal Credit claim system from automatically allowing these scams? If not, why not? Do the Tories see it as another way to persecute the vulnerable?

It seems to This Writer that there is only one way to stop the scammers from exploiting the vulnerable – and to stop the Tories from persecuting them.

Elect a Labour government that will end Universal Credit and implement a fair system in which people won’t be pushed into the arms of criminals.

It’s that simple.

Source: DWP: Just one scammer prosecuted so far for snaring people in Universal Credit fraud – Mirror Online

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UK benefit policy is to ‘save money by ensuring people die waiting for claims to be processed’

131010benefitdenier

The Conservative Government has been challenged to let experts analyse the effects of its policies on benefit claimants, following the publication of – extremely limited – mortality figures in August.

Disability studies specialist and disability activist Samuel Miller has written to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, and employment minister Priti Patel, asking whether they would co-operate if epidemiologists – experts in studying the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations such as benefit claimants – requested permission to conduct a thorough investigation of government policy.

In 2013, Duncan Smith turned down Mr Miller’s request to have his department hire an epidemiologist to conduct an independent study of the impact of the welfare reforms on the mortality of claimants on Incapacity Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance.

“The professionals most qualified to analyse the recent DWP statistical releases on benefit deaths are Professor David Stuckler and Dr Sanjay Basu, the co-authors of The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills. Why haven’t you asked them to analyze the mortality releases?” wrote Mr Miller.

“In my opinion, thousands of sick and disabled benefit claimants died needlessly because of the benefits backlog, long waits for mandatory reconsideration decisions, and the failure of the DWP to implement a sensible Work and Pensions Committee recommendation: In 2014, that Committee called on the Government to pay sick and disabled people benefits while they appealed against incorrect ‘fit for work’ decisions.

Why didn’t you implement that recommendation, and if you would do so, how much more would it have cost your department in additional benefit expenditures?

“It’s a hard truth, but it must be stated: The purpose of a benefits backlog is to ensure that people die waiting for their claims to be processed, thus saving the Government money. The Government failed to set a reasonable timescale for the mandatory reconsideration process, leaving it open-ended. The human cost was enormous and thousands died.

“Why is your department so unwilling to implement sensible and humane mortality avoidance measures?”

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Daily Mail caught stirring up hate against benefit claimants with fake story?

Busted! Actor Kamran Kam as appears in the Mail article (left) and on the Starnow website (right). Yes - it's the same photograph.

Busted! Actor Kamran Kam as appears in the Mail article (left) and on the Starnow website (right). Yes – it’s the same photograph.

The Daily Mail has been accused of using an actor to fabricate a story stirring up hatred against benefit claimants.

Its article I’m TOO FIT to work! Gym enthusiast who spends four hours a day working out claims benefits because ‘boring 9 to 5 jobs interfere with his fitness regime’ purports to be telling the story of Kamran Kam, and states: “He openly admits that he is making no effort to get a job, believing that fit people should not have to pay taxes that go towards treating overweight people on the NHS.”

However, Justice4Jobseekers has exposed this as a lie – because the Mail article is itself a job for Mr Kam, who is in fact an actor. His profile can be viewed here.

For somebody who’s making no effort to get work, his CV shows remarkable success at finding it, with roles in nine movies during 2014.

Perhaps somebody at the Mail should explain this piece of fiction, masquerading as news.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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MPs: Terminate the deadly Atos assessment regime before anyone else dies

Sick and disabled people in the UK can justifiably feel they are lining up for a death sentence as they prepare to take the dreaded Work Capability Assessment – the test devised by the Department of Work and Pensions and run (badly) by the French company Atos.

It leads – directly or indirectly – to an average of 32 deaths every week.

But there may be a ray of hope for them in the fact that the Labour Party has secured a Parliamentary debate on Atos and the WCA, to take place on September 4 – next Tuesday.

It is to be hoped that this will be the debate when Labour leader Ed Miliband finally gets off the fence and puts his weight – and that of his party – fully against the murderous system imposed by Chris Grayling and his master Iain Duncan Smith, both of whom are on record as stating that their version of the system is preferable, and less harsh, than that carried out under the previous Labour government.

The Daily Mail columnist Sonia Poulton has written two open letters to Mr Miliband, calling on him to break cover and declare his opposition to the scheme, and it seems bizarre that he has left people wondering for so long whether he actually supports a scheme that kills society’s most vulnerable.

The signs are hopeful that Mr Miliband will support change. In a letter to Sonia Poulton, he wrote: “Disabled people need support and compassion, and the Labour Party believes in a welfare state that fulfils this principle… I share some of the concerns that have been expressed about the test by you, along with many charities, disability groups and healthcare professionals. These concerns… have shown that the test must be improved. The Government needs to listen. We have also forced a vote in Parliament on the need to reduce the human cost of the wrong decisions that result from the WCA in its current form.”

Let’s remind ourselves why it’s important. There’s a petition online at the moment, calling for the restoration of benefits to an Afghanistan war hero who lost his leg in the line of duty. Sapper Karl Boon lost his left leg in a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade attack in Afghanistan in 2010 and has been stripped of his benefits by the Department for Work and Pensions and ATOS.

In signing the petition, I wrote: “More penny-pinching from the poor by the government that doesn’t have the guts to tax the rich. Here’s a man who has risked his life and lost a limb in the service of his country, and all his country’s leaders can think of doing in return is taking away his financial support – aided by a foreign company. We have witnessed many stories like that of Sapper Karl Boon over the last two years and it seems to me that there is no depth to which the current government will not sink. To those in government, I say: Prove me wrong. Give this man the respect he deserves and pay him what you owe him.” Too harsh? Think on this: At least Karl Boon is currently still alive.

Let’s also remember that we’re experiencing an enormous rise in hate crime against the sick and disabled, fuelled by government propoganda and a right-wing media that’s primed to support it. ITV’s Tonight programme reported last Thursday (August 23) that more than 65,000 hate crimes against the disabled were reported in the last year. You can read my article on this blog site to find some of the stories.

So why has Miliband sat on the fence for so long?

There are two issues to separate out here.

Firstly, there is nothing wrong with the idea of having regular assessments to judge whether a person on one or both of the disability benefits is able to work, or will be likely to be able to do so in the near future. The only people who can be against that are people who want the easy life, living on benefits and off the hard work of the taxpayers.

But the way the Coalition regime has gone about these assessments, through its private contractor Atos, is totally inappropriate and unfit for purpose. We can see that in the many horror stories that have come out over the last few weeks and months.

Why should those who are permanently disabled be forced to go through reassessment every few months? They’re never going to get better! But we have Atos reports saying an amputee will be fit for work as soon as his arm grows back (for crying out loud)!

Why are doctors’ reports ignored? I know there is an argument that doctors may be persuaded to sign people off work when they aren’t actually unfit but, if the assessments were carried out by properly qualified medical professionals, working in accordance with the standards their qualifications have set for them, those would be found out. Instead, we get unqualified assessors working to a tick-box questionnaire, that isn’t remotely adequate to the job and has been acknowledged (as we saw on both Dispatches and Panorama) to be designed to get people off benefit.

There is no realism to the questions in the assessment, no anticipation of the kind of work that a person will be asked to do. There is no acknowledgement of the ways an employer would have to stretch to accommodate people with particular disabilities. Signing somebody as fit for work because they have one finger able to push a button does not make them attractive to an employer and merely sets them up to fail, possibly on a life-threatening scale because, as we know and I make no apologies for repeating, 32 people are dying every week because of the assessment system.

So what’s the alternative?

A better assessment would refer to the notes made by a patient’s GP, but would also include tests by a medical professional to ascertain the current condition of the disability – that it has been correctly reported.

It would then go on to cover the patients’ ability to carry out the sort of work that they might reasonably be likely to see on offer. Would they be able to manage it with a minimum of bother to an employer? That is the only way we will see sensible assessments coming in.

Atos is not fit to carry out these assessments in any case. The company had a bad reputation in France before it ever got a British contract and does not deserve to be making money from the taxpayer by condemning British people to the death that many of them have suffered.

These are the arguments I would wish to hear aired during the Parliamentary debate on the subject.

What would you like to hear?

New threat to UK economy as Calamity George vows to give it “110 per cent”

According to the Telegraph, George Osborne has promised that the Coalition will give “110 per cent attention” to boosting the economy after the Bank of England admitted there will be no growth at all this year.

He’s like a child trying to appease Mum and Dad: “I’m sorry we’ve got nothing to show for the last two years but we’ll give it 110 per cent from now on!”

I have a doubt about that. Not about his sincerity; about his ability.

He says he’s got the deficit down – but did he do it in the right way? I suspect the thousands of disabled benefit claimants who’ve lost their benefits in the Atos* debacle would say no – as, I’m sure, would all those who committed suicide because they could see no way to carry on living after the DWP cut them off, on advice from Atos. That’s not good government – that’s oppression.

The tens of thousands of jobseekers who were unfairly cut off from their benefits because the DWP’s correspondence about Workfare was badly written would probably have something to say about this as well. Not only is the correspondence bad but Workfare itself is oppressive to the jobseeker and terrible for the economy! It makes no economic sense at all to supply businesses with workers for free when they should be taking on employees to do the job and paying them a living wage – part of which would then come back to the Treasury in taxes, boosting the economy and reducing national debt at the same time.

It is clear that the “austerity” agenda has done nothing for the economy. That’s no surprise. If you cut the money going into a project – be it a business concern or a public service – you’ll have cash left over, sure – but you won’t have made any profit; you’ll have made a saving. The two things are not the same and you can’t build the economy by saving money. In fact, as far as both business and public services are concerned, you’re dismantling the very machinery you need, in order to rebuild!

Finally, perhaps somebody could explain to me why the Bank of England has been so obsessed with Quanititative Easing? As far as I can tell, all this has done is provide the banks with billions of pounds of free money. What have they done with it all? They’re not lending it, as intended. My understanding was that the money has been used to buy big houses in, is it Portland Street? And on fixing up those houses. I’m willing to stand corrected on that if anyone knows better and the point is that the only organisations that have benefited from the money are the banks themselves – the very organisations that caused the economic mess in the first place (carry on about Labour’s lack of regulation if you like but the bare fact is that the bankers all made their own choices and it turned out that those choices were wrong).

According to the Telegraph, George Osborne’s going to give the economy 110 per cent. If it improves by 110 per cent (impossible, as the maximum percentage of anything is 100) we’ll be in exactly the same place we are now – because 110 per cent of nothing is still nothing.

*According to a commentator on Sue Marsh’s excellent Diary of a Benefit Scrounger blog, ATOS means “Authorised To Organise Slaughter”.

Let’s get Ed on-side

The Daily Mail columnist Sonia Poulton has written a letter to Ed Miliband, in order to secure his opposition to the DWP/Atos work capability assessment regime that is killing 32 disabled people every week. She has invited readers to ‘sign’ her letter by filling in their names and postcodes in the Comments column of her blog. It will be closed to new signatures from midday on Saturday (August 4) so get yours on quick! Here’s the link:

http://ramblingsofafibrofoggedmind.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/open-letter-to-ed-miliband-please-add-name-and-postcode-if-you-agree-with-contents/#comment-1723