Tag Archives: disability news service

Coffey shows ‘active contempt’ for rights over Disability Confident snub – Disability News Service

She’ll never support it: Therese Coffey’s record suggests she is not sympathetic to disabled benefit claimants – so why would she take on disabled workers?

Work and pensions secretary Dr Therese Coffey has shown “active contempt for disability rights” by refusing to sign up to her own flagship disability employment scheme, information released by the government has confirmed.

Here’s Disability News Service:

A freedom of information (FoI) response from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has confirmed that Coffey is refusing to join Disability Confident.

DNS asked the department in the FoI request whether Coffey and 11 other current and former ministers were members of the scheme.

In its FoI response on Friday (3 July), DWP said it did not need to provide the information because it was easily available online.

It pointed to its own website, and a list of Disability Confident members, which had been updated the same day.

That list showed that all four of the MPs who serve as ministers alongside Coffey – Justin Tomlinson, Mims Davies, Will Quince and Guy Opperman – have signed up, although Quince had only done so since DNS first raised concerns in March about current and former ministers turning their back on the scheme.

But Coffey, who has been work and pensions secretary since last September and has been an MP since 2010, is not on the list, even though – like all MPs – she employs staff to assist with her parliamentary duties.

A DWP spokesperson this week refused to comment when asked why Dr Coffey had not signed up to Disability Confident, and whether it showed that she did not value the scheme, and that she did not view the employment of disabled people as important.

I think this silence speaks volumes. Don’t you?

Source: Coffey shows ‘active contempt’ for rights over Disability Confident snub – Disability News Service

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Tories pressurised benefit assessment company to find sick claimants fit for work, says doctor

Despair: Harsher criteria in benefit assessments led to sick people being found fit for work, pushing them to despair and suicide.

Let’s be fair: The Conservatives put Atos under immense pressure to find claimants ineligible for out-of-work sickness benefits.

Disability News Service attributed the pressure to the Department for Work and Pensions but, like all government departments, it only carries out the orders of the government of the day.

DNS stated that a new document unearthed by the family of Michael O’Sullivan, a disabled man who took his own life after being found unfairly fit for work, shows that a doctor working for the private firm Atos, contracted to carry out benefit assessments, made it clear that the Conservative-run DWP was partly to blame for the decision to find him ineligible.

The doctor’s representatives told General Medical Council (GMC) investigators: “Following the conversion of Incapacity Benefit to ESA, the DWP put immense pressure on Atos disability analysts to deem claimants fit for work when they previously would have qualified for benefits.”

They also told the GMC in their evidence that Atos assessors, who “had no formal psychiatric training”, were not required by DWP to use a medical tool that evaluates the severity of a person’s depression.

They also claimed that the criteria applied during Work Capability Assessments had been “altered” by DWP to make it more difficult for claimants to be found eligible for ESA.

We know this to be true; Iain Duncan Smith demanded that these criteria should be made harsher when he took over as Work and Pensions Secretary in 2010.

DNS reminded us that Mr O’Sullivan’s death in September 2013 led to a coroner blaming failings in the notorious work capability assessment (WCA) system for his death, and writing to DWP to request urgent changes to prevent further deaths.

Those changes were never made, and further deaths have continued to be linked to the WCA over the last five years.

The O’Sullivan case also illustrates an excellent reason Labour wants to end the involvement of private companies with the benefit assessment system.

The team investigating the death submitted questions to the DWP – only to be told last year that some of them must be directed at Atos.

Those questions were passed to the company in January and it still hasn’t answered, according to DNS.

This indicates that the privatisation of benefit assessments is a mechanism to allow buck-passing between the government, the civil servants of the DWP and the company to ensure that nobody has to take responsibility for an entirely avoidable death.

That is the most despicable aspect of it.

Source: WCA death doctor: DWP put ‘immense pressure’ on Atos to find claimants fit for work – Disability News Service

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Concerns grow over police force that shares info on protesters with DWP | Disability News Service

DNS has uncovered more information about information-sharing between Greater Manchester Police and the Department for Work and Pensions, intended to harm protesters with disabilities.

It seems GMP does not provide any guidance to officers on when it is lawful for them to hand information to the DWP on the presence of protesters with disabilities.

As a result, they fear that GMP – and probably other police forces – may have indiscriminately passed information to DWP about disabled activists, after assuming they must be committing benefit fraud if they can take part in protests.

Liberty fears this could have a “chilling effect on disabled people’s protest rights”.

GMP has now told Disability News Service (DNS) – through a response to a freedom of information (Foi) request – that a review of its records “indicates” that the force passed information about the activities of disabled anti-fracking protesters to DWP.

The force has also said that the amount of information it passed to DWP “is unknown at this stage” because of the number of anti-fracking protests that took place within Greater Manchester.

This is likely to refer to protests that took place in Barton Moss, Salford, in 2013 and 2014.

GMP said in the FoI response that this information was passed to DWP so the department could “assess and then investigate and determine if criminal offences had occurred in relation to benefit claims”.

The force said this morning that information had been shared under successive Data Protection Acts, but it has so far refused to say if it has any guidance that explains to officers under what circumstances such information can lawfully be passed to DWP.

If it has no such guidance, its actions are likely to have been unlawful, say human rights experts from Liberty.

This means the police are likely to have broken the law in order to pretend that disabled people were committing criminal acts.

Source: Concerns grow over police force that shares info on protesters with DWP – Disability News Service

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Disabled people’s groups warn of ‘grave concerns’ over no-deal Brexit

Disabled people would be disproportionately affected by any food shortages or price hikes associated with a ‘no deal’ Brexit because they are more likely to be living in poverty, organisations have said.

Any Brexit-related staffing shortage within health and social care would also disproportionately impact on disabled people.

And a no-deal Brexit could also have “serious implications” for disabled people’s access to medicines and medical technologies.

These and other concerns are laid out in the words of Inclusion Scotland, Disability Wales and Disability Action, among 85 organisations that have signed a joint letter to prime minister Boris Johnson about the risks of Britain leaving the European Union (EU) without an agreement.

Read the full story here: Trio of DPOs warn government of ‘grave concerns’ over no-deal Brexit – Disability News Service

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DWP facing court over claimant’s universal credit ‘fit for work injustice’ | Disability News Service

Yet again the Department for Work and Pensions is facing court action for improperly assessing a benefit claimant, and for giving misleading advice after cutting off his payments.

Under the Conservative government, the DWP has become a multiple offender, with vulnerable people – particularly those with long-term illnesses and/or disabilities – bearing the brunt of its injustices.

Every time this government department is found to be at fault, the Tories say lessons have been learned, and this injustice will not happen again.

And then it happens again.

A disabled man who was unfairly found “fit for work”, and then saw his benefits slashed by almost £180 per month after he was forced onto the government’s new universal credit benefit system, is seeking justice in the high court.

It is the latest in a series of legal cases that have been taken on behalf of disabled benefit claimants against DWP, as a result of a series of welfare reforms introduced under successive Conservative and Conservative-led governments.

The man, known as IM for legal reasons, had been claiming employment and support allowance (ESA), but after undergoing a work capability assessment he was told in March last year that he was no longer eligible for ESA.

His jobcentre advised him to claim universal credit instead, which he did, but he also successfully appealed against the decision to find him fit for work.

Although the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) now accepts that he was unfairly found fit for work and that he has limited capability for work-related activity – the equivalent of being in the ESA support group – he has been treated as a new universal credit claimant.

As a new claimant, he is not entitled to the severe disability premium (SDP) he previously received as a top-up to ESA.

He is also not entitled to the partial compensation of £80 a month agreed by work and pensions secretary Esther McVey for those who lost entitlement to SDP when they were forced to move onto universal credit after their circumstances changed.

IM’s judicial review case has been taken by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), which has described DWP’s policy as “irrational” and discriminatory.

It has secured permission for a judicial review of the failure to provide IM with transitional protection after his move to universal credit, or, alternatively, the refusal to allow him to return to ESA.

CPAG is taking a similar legal action on behalf of AD, a single mother with a disabled child, which will be heard by the high court alongside IM’s case.

Source: DWP facing court over claimant’s universal credit ‘fit for work injustice’

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DWP blamed by second coroner for incapacity benefit claimant suicide

The late Julia Kelly

The late Julia Kelly

So you thought Mary Hassall was the only British coroner to have blamed a benefit claimant’s death on the DWP? Think again.

To This Writer’s shame, the case of Julia Kelly was reported in This Blog, earlier this year – but I did not recall that Northamptonshire County Coroner Anne Pember’s report had conferred responsibility for her death on the Department for Work and Pensions after the case of Michael O’Sullivan was reported last month.

Mr O’Sullivan committed suicide in late 2013. North London coroner Mary Hassall, at his inquest early the following year, recorded that his death occurred as a direct result of being declared “fit for work” in a DWP work capability assessment, made in response to his claim for Employment and Support Allowance.

Julia Kelly took her life in November 2014. At her inquest in March this year, according to the Northampton Chronicle, “Coroner Anne Pember, recording her verdict of suicide, said she also believed that the ‘upset caused by the potential withdrawal of her benefits had been the trigger for her to end her life’.”

Ms Kelly had been forced to give up work in 2010 due to pain caused by a car crash (which was not her fault) five years previously. In 2013, she was involved in a second crash and had to undergo a six-hour operation on her spine as a result.

Together with her father, David Kelly, she formed a charity – Away With Pain – to help fellow sufferers of chronic back pain.

But then the Department for Work and Pensions told her she had to repay £4,000 in Employment and Support Allowance payments, saying she had failed to declare capital funds.

It seems the government department was referring to money held by the charity, rather than funds owned by Ms Kelly herself.

Ms Kelly, who had fought for every penny of her benefit at three tribunal hearings, was bombarded with a series of repayment demands. According to her father, it was this relentless stream of brown-envelope letters that pushed her to suicide.

He told Channel 4 News about it. Take a look at the report:

A few months later, the DWP started stridently claiming that no causal link had been shown between claims for incapacity benefits and the suicide of claimants, in response to demands from almost 250,000 petitioners – and more than 90 MPs including the new leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn – to publish the number of claimants who have died on benefits.

We all know the DWP was lying, thanks to Ms Hassall’s report on Michael O’Sullivan.

The facts about Julia Kelly mean we must now question the magnitude of the lie.

We know the DWP examined the cases of around 60 people who committed suicide after their benefits were withdrawn or reduced – that fact was most recently mentioned in Prime Minister’s Questions, in the House of Commons on Wednesday (October 21) – but the Department has refused to publish its findings.

All Cameron would offer was that he would “look … at” the question asked about publication. He can look at it all day without doing anything about it, of course.

Meanwhile, serious questions are arising as we learn more about these deaths and the extent of the DWP cover-up.

How many people have died due to the reduction or withdrawal of incapacity benefits?

How many of these deaths happened long enough after their benefits were withdrawn that the DWP never bother to record them – on the grounds that it was none of the Department’s business (this is what happened with Mr O’Sullivan)?

How many more coroners’ verdicts have implicated the DWP in the deaths, but have been quietly swept under the carpet?

And – as the United Nations investigates possible grave and systematic violations of incapacity benefit claimants’ human rights – what can be done to secure the release of the facts?

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Vox Political on LBC radio to discuss DWP lies

LBC

Vox Political’s Mike Sivier (that’s me) will be appearing on LBC radio at around 1pm to talk about the revelation that a coroner ruled that a man died as a direct result of being involved in a work capability assessment organised by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Thanks to the Daily Mail, we now know that the deceased was 60-year-old Michael O’Sullivan, of Highgate, north London, who took his own life six months after being found fit for work. The Atos assessor never asked him about suicidal thoughts and the DWP decision maker never considered relevant evidence from his doctors.

The DWP said this was because its policy on further evidence was “regrettably not followed in this case” and that it would circulate a reminder. We have no evidence that this was done or that further deaths did not follow because of similar omissions – and any claims by the DWP must be treated as suspicious.

This is because the DWP, knowing that a causal link between the work capability assessment and the death of claimants had been proved by north London coroner Mary Hassall in January 2014, spent the whole summer denying any such link to campaigners and MPs who were demanding publication of up-to-date claimant death statistics.

Even after its statistics – poor as they are – were published, the DWP kept up the pretence. Clearly, we cannot trust a word that comes out of that organisation.

… and that’s what I’ll be saying at around 1pm today.

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The DWP has lied; ministers know ‘fit for work’ decisions lead to death

Too ill to work means too ill to live: Work capability assessors have neglected to carry out their duties properly, and this has led to the deaths of claimants.

Too ill to work means too ill to live: Work capability assessors have neglected to carry out their duties properly, and this has led to the death of at least one claimant.

Let’s get this straight: In an inquest into the death of a disabled man, a coroner ruled in early 2014 that his suicide was a direct result of being declared ‘fit for work’ in a work capability assessment.

Bearing this in mind…

What has the DWP been saying about there being “no causal link” between its administration of the benefit system and the deaths of claimants, again?

Time and time again, we have been told that there is no link between the deaths of any benefit claimants and their treatment by the DWP, even though that government department had at least one report proving the opposite. We can say “at least one report” because we have no evidence to show that coroners have not submitted many, many more.

We do have evidence that the Department for Work and Pensions – and with the Conservative Government as a whole – has been lying to us.

The DWP’s response to the concerns raised by North London coroner Mary Hassall was that its policy on dealing with cases such as that of ‘Mr A’, the deceased, “regrettably was not followed in this case”. And in how many others?

The Atos-employed work capability assessor, responsible for collecting evidence to determine whether Mr A should receive Employment and Support Allowance, had recorded that Mr A was “at no significant risk by working” and failed to ask him if he had suicidal thoughts. Perhaps this is for the best, as we know from experience that the next question is “Why haven’t you killed yourself?” – the query that many of us suspect has ‘nudged’ many towards suicide.

According to Disability News Service, “The Atos healthcare professional had failed to take into account the views of any of Mr A’s doctors during a 90-minute assessment, telling him the DWP decision-maker would look at that evidence instead.

“But the DWP decision-maker did not request any reports or letters from Mr A’s GP (who had assessed him as not being well enough to work), his psychiatrist (who had diagnosed him with recurrent depression and panic disorder with agoraphobia), or his clinical psychologist (who had assessed him as “very anxious and showing signs of clinical depression”). Instead, Mr A was found fit for work. Six months later, he killed himself.”

Six months later? So Mr A would not have appeared in any of the statistics released by the DWP in August, then.

You see how the government has tried to spin its way out of responsibility?

The DNS report continues: “The coroner said in her report that she believed that action should be taken ‘to prevent future deaths’ and that DWP had the power to take such action.

“In its response, DWP said there was a ‘clear policy that further medical evidence [should be requested] in cases where claimants report suicidal ideation in their claim forms which regrettably was not followed in this instance’. It said it planned to issue a reminder to staff about this guidance, but appeared to make no further suggestions for how to prevent further such deaths.”

We have no evidence that any such reminder was issued to staff or that any of them acted upon it if it was.

These are circumstances that should lead to a major prosecution for corporate manslaughter.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service, an organisation is guilty of corporate manslaughter if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a person’s death; and amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased. An organisation is guilty of an offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised by its senior management is a substantial element in the breach.

It seems clear that, not only has the coroner accused the DWP of such a breach; the Department has admitted it – and failed to take steps to stop it happening again.

Let’s pause for a moment and note that we would not have evidence that the DWP has been lying about the “causal link” between its behaviour and the deaths of benefit claimants without my now-infamous Freedom of Information request – submitted in May 2014, after the inquest into the death of Mr A.

The request called for the number of deaths of anybody who had been found ‘fit for work’ between the end of November 2011 and May 28, 2014. This would, of course, have included the death of Mr A. The DWP failed to include his death in its statistical release of August 27 this year (which the government claims is a response to my request). Only people whose claim ended within two weeks of their death were included in the figures. I have asked the Information Commissioner to enforce publication of the full number of deaths, in line with both my request and his decision notice of April 30 this year.

It is only when the full number of deaths is known that we may be able to start assessing the full, devastating effect of Iain Duncan Smith’s policy of hate towards people with long-term illnesses and disabilities.

For those of us who are working to defend the most vulnerable people in society, important ground has been gained.

But the hardest battle is yet to come.

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The DWP is now largely being held to account by activists with virtually no income | Benefit tales

150909MikeDrone

Should This Writer be worried about a possible drone attack in the future?

This is from the ‘Benefits and Work’ newsletter.

THE NEW FORCE IN CLAIMANTS RIGHTS
What is particularly notable about these news items is that they were all brought about by tiny, private sector or unfunded groups or individuals.

The ESA death statistics campaign is the work of Vox Political blogger Mike Sivier.

The bogus sanction claimants were revealed by Welfare Weekly – a one-person online news aggregator.

And the UN investigation has come about due to the tireless work of activist group Disabled People Against Cuts.

Add to this the story of the 49 secret DWP investigations into claimant deaths, revealed earlier this year by John Pring’s Disability News Service, and a startling truth emerges.

The DWP is now largely being held to account not by opposition politicians, not by well-funded charities such as Disability Rights UK, but by activists with virtually no income.

One of the main weapons of these new campaigners is the Freedom of Information Act. But we know that the government is already taking steps to try to dramatically curtail the use of the Act.

How long before the government – or its multinational partners – also decide to take action against the campaigners themselves?

Source: The DWP is now largely being held to account not by opposition politicians, not by well-funded charities such as Disability Rights UK, but by activists with virtually no income. | Benefit tales

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Remember the ESA deaths when you are voting

Zdwpdeaths

The Disability News Service has reported Vox Political‘s victory over the DWP, whose officers have less than a month to report the total number of deaths involving people claiming Employment and Support Allowance between November 2011 and May 2014.

The article quotes John McArdle, co-founder of campaigning organisation Black Triangle, who said the updated statistics would be vital: “When the truth comes out about the devastation that this has caused, the whole of society will be absolutely appalled.”

Rick Burgess, co-founder of New Approach, which campaigns to scrap the fitness for work test, said: “People should know the cost of policies they are voting upon, especially when they are causing mass deaths.”

There is much more, and you are encouraged to visit the Disability News Service‘s website to read the full article.

If the Conservative Party forms the next government, the deaths will undoubtedly continue – no matter what the figures prove to be, or the public response to them.

Can you bear to have that on your conscience?

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