Tag Archives: employment

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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#RishiSunak writes off £4.3 billion that he gave to ‘Covid fraudsters’

I didn’t claim self employment support from the Tory government during the first wave of the Covid-19 crisis – and even in the light of the latest revelation, I’m convinced I was right to do so.

That’s because, even thought Rishi Sunak has admitted he won’t be able to collect £4.3 billion of the £5.8 billion he mistakenly (?) dished out to fraudulent claimants of self employment support and the furlough scheme, you can bet he would have been chasing me for a share of the £1.5 billion he thinks he can get back – even though I would have claimed it legitimately!

I’ve had too much experience of the Tory benefit system to get involved in that. I managed to survive by my own means.

But the failure to recoup the money that was claimed by fraud raises serious questions – like this one:

Well? Rishi Rich and his friends have managed to give our cash away to their buddies with all their other schemes – why not this one?

It would certainly fit with the pattern of behaviour we have seen from the Tory government.

And it raises questions about Sunak’s integrity…

And where’s the outrage from the mainstream media?

At the end of the day, it’s another £4.3 billion that Rishi Rich has spaffed up the wall without carrying out due diligence. By rights, he should be resigning from his job because he has wasted public money for no good reason.

He won’t, obviously. No integrity, remember?

What he might do is tell us we can’t have particular service anymore, or he’ll be reigning back on them so that, for example, people in the North can’t have the NHS care that people in the Southeast get – because “northerners are tougher than soft southerners, right? That’s what they’re always saying”.

Seriously, the justifications would probably be sillier than that.

I think we need to take a closer look at the books, here.

Why can’t Sunak get the money back? What’s stopping him? We need to know.

Because from here, it’s not looking like he is unable to recoup that cash.

It seems more likely that he simply doesn’t want to.

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No lessons learned – and no compensation for 118,000 benefit claimants who lost out for years

Habitual cruelty: the Department for Work and Pensions.

The Department for Work and Pensions is refusing to pay compensation to sick and disabled benefit claimants who were given the wrong payments after being moved to Employment and Support Allowance.

The injustice affects 118,000 people who should have received payments based on their income but instead received them only based on their National Insurance contributions.

It was revealed in the case of “Mrs U”, whose payments were cut by £80 per week – and stayed that way for five years.

Her payments have since been rectified, and the whole of the underpayment repaid to her – along with £7,500 in compensation ordered by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

Now the same ombudsman has protested after the DWP agreed to make back-payments to 118,000 other claimants affected by its error – but not to pay them any compensation.

Ombudsman Rob Behrens said: “We don’t know how many more Ms Us there are out there.

“That is why I urge the DWP to allow people affected to claim for compensation in recognition of its error and the potentially devastating impact it has had on people’s lives.”

The DWP said it will not pay “blanket” compensation to all 118,000 people it wronged.

Instead, it said it will consider claims by people who contact it through various helplines that have been set up – or who go through the department’s labyrinthine complaints process.

It’s not good enough. And This Writer wonders how many people died before they could claim the back-pay or the compensation – or because they did not have this money.

Source: DWP denies compensation to 118,000 benefit claimants who lost out for years – Mirror Online

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Secret #disability #benefits report WILL be published whether #ThereseCoffey likes it or not

Therese Coffey: it seems she’s been too busy having a good time (in line with many of her Cabinet colleagues, we’ve learned) to publish a report on the quality of her work as it relates to people with disabilities who claim benefits.

Tough luck, Therese!

The Tory Work and Pensions Secretary has been sitting on a report on how claimants are affected by the way she runs disability benefits – presumably because it is damning, even though (allegedly) watered-down.

The benefits concerned are those received by people with long-term illnesses and disabilities: Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit (UC).

Well, she won’t be able to warm her backside on it for very much longer because the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, sick of waiting for her to pull her finger out, has given her an ultimatum.

It is: publish the report by January 11 or we will publish it in spite of you.

The report falls within the government’s protocol for publication so there really is no legitimate reason for any delay.

Committee chairman Stephen Timms (Labour) said:

The Secretary of State has consistently failed to give the Committee a good reason why this piece of research should not be made public. She even admits that it falls within the Government’s own protocol for publication.

The continued refusal to publish the results of the research, as promised to the participants who gave up their time, will do further damage to disabled people’s trust in the Department—which is already in short supply.

The Secretary of State now has a final opportunity to think again and publish the research. If not, the Committee is firmly agreed that we will be left with no choice but to publish the report ourselves.

Source: Coffey ordered to publish secret disability benefits report or MPs will do it for her

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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.

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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Did Tory distraction tactics make you lose track of the DWP’s strange plans for sick and disabled people?

Distractions, distractions: the Tories love them and try to cause as many as possible.

Even while the fuss over the Downing Street Christmas party last year is embarrassing for them, it means you may not have noticed other harms they are inflicting on sections of the population.

For example: the Department for Work and Pensions.

1. It seems the government is quietly pushing through proposals to change the assessment of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – the main benefit for people with disabilities – even though it only put them out for consultation a short while ago.

The plans to expand the Special Rules for Terminal Illness and to remove the proposed 18-month minimum award period for people receiving PIP were part of a Health and Disability Green Paper and the government ran a consultation on them that ended on October 11, just two weeks before they appeared in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget statement as schemes that will definitely go ahead.

The Tory government expects to save £70 million over three years by doing this.

Labour has demanded clarification, smelling another Tory stealth cut. And it is true that the plans will have an impact on people with protected characteristics, so Sunak needs to explain why they are not mentioned in the ‘Impacts on Equalities’ section of the Budget.

Of course, it is entirely possible that the impact in this instance will be a good one.

The proposal is to replace the systems that are being cut with “better triaging of cases and testing a new Severe Disability Group”.

While the DWP has a poor history of doing anything “better”, the plan for a “Severe Disability Group” is now quite well-known and would put people with progressive, lifelong conditions into a group where they would never have to face reassessment for the benefit.

It is entirely possible that the whole of the £70 million projected saving would come from this change. This Site – and others – has spent years pointing out that the DWP spends more on constant reassessments that try to find ways to exclude people with disabilities from the payments that make their life worthwhile than it would if it left them alone.

It may be that the government has actually listened for a change and is doing the right thing for once.

I know – it’s a slim chance. But watch this space.

2. Sadly the reliability of any evidence provided by the DWP on proposed savings comes into serious doubt when one learns that the department withheld evidence that the work capability assessment, used to determine whether people are eligible for sickness benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), was linked to 590 suicides:

Dr Paul Litchfield said: “If I had had that evidence available to me, or indeed been told that it was there – you can only ask for stuff if you know that it exists… I would certainly have looked at it and taken it into consideration.”

The information includes secret DWP reviews into benefit-linked deaths and two reports sent to the DWP by coroners aimed at preventing future deaths of claimants.

The revelation suggests that the DWP deliberately tried to prevent its reviewer from suggesting changes that would have saved lives.

3. Dr Litchfield also criticised the DWP as “odd” because, while it accepted his recommendations on policy, the operation side of the department continually and consistently dragged its feet when he proposed changes:

He said he believed the government department was stalling – waiting for the next review, with a different set of proposals, to come along so it wouldn’t have to change anything.

But how far can we trust him on this?

He said the government should develop a new assessment, based on the discredited biopsychosocial (BPS) model of disability. It already is.

This is the idea that the illnesses that prevent people from being able to work are all in the sufferers’ minds, and that they were perfectly capable of having jobs. This in turn led to the “scrounger” and “skiver” lies put about by the Tory and Liberal Democrat coalition government of 2010-2015.

It is important to remember that these beliefs informed New Labour policy on benefits when that party was in charge of the DWP. Current shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, as Work and Pensions Secretary under Gordon Brown, enforced rules that docked assessment points from amputees if they could lift objects with their stumps, while she said claimants with speech problems who could write a sign would receive no points and deaf claimants who could read such signs would have no points for hearing loss. Anybody with mobility issues would be assessed using “imaginary wheelchairs”. She also removed half the mental health descriptors from the assessment, hugely increasing the possibility of suicides if the benefit was withheld.

Dr Litchfield said a new, independent reassessment of the benefit was long overdue. This Writer agrees – but this gentleman and his ideas should be kept very far away from it.

4. Underlying all of this is the question of whether the DWP has a duty of care to benefit claimants.

The department has denied this for many years, so it was welcome to learn that PIP review Paul Gray believes this duty is implicit in all of its work:

But This Writer strongly disagrees that it is a “learning process”. The UK government has been providing benefits to people for many decades now and should be entirely capable of showing proper care for their well-being.

The fact that thousands – possible tens of thousands or indeed hundreds of thousands – of people have died after being denied DWP benefits suggests that there was a failure of care, and that this was a political decision.

5. What are we to conclude from all of the above?

It can only be that the Department for Work and Pensions is a chaotic dis-organisation that fails to uphold its duties properly, with the result that many thousands of people have died who should have been receiving the benefits, and the respect, that is due to them.

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#KeirStarmer abolishes #employmentrights shadow post. What does #Labour stand for now?

Apt: Keir Starmer reckons he was named after original Labour leader Hardie – but can anyone doubt that his illustrious forerunner might have said these words, if confronted with evidence of Starmer’s abysmal performance.

What follows should be self-explanatory:

Yes. Keir Starmer has abolished the post of Shadow Minister for Employment Rights because he’s not bothered about whether employees have any rights; his only concern is to receive donations from big businesses.

And you don’t get those without giving big businesses what they want.

It’s not the Labour Party any more. It’s the Labour Exploitation Party.

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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Will ‘legacy’ benefit claimants get £1,500 in backdated Covid-19 ‘uplift’ after High Court challenge?

The High Court has begun to consider whether it was unlawful of the Conservative government to deny claimants of ‘legacy’ benefits the £20 uplift it gave to people on Universal Credit.

The court granted permission for a judicial review on April 27, but the case has been much-delayed, with the hearing postponed from September to November 17, and then the second day being moved to November 19 – but it is happening.

The case has been brought by two recipients of Employment and Support Allowance who used Legal Aid to instruct law firm Osbornes Law.

A press release from the firm states:

Despite them having an equivalent entitlement to the ‘standard allowance’ of UC, simply because they were in a different part of the system, 1.9 million people on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) have been without this increase, which many have called a ‘lifeline’.

Claimants of Income Support and Job Seekers Allowance have also been excluded.

Many have argued that this is unfair, including the Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee: “It’s simply not right for people to miss out on support just because they happen, through no fault of their own, to be claiming the ‘wrong’ kind of benefit.”

We are pursuing this legal challenge based on the proposition that the pandemic means those dependent upon basic allowances are facing higher basic living costs, and yet despite their very similar circumstances, only some of them receive a Covid-specific uplift to help meet those costs.

This unfairness calls for a properly evidenced justification, particularly as almost 2 million disabled people are disproportionately affected by this decision and the pandemic generally.

Thus far the Government has failed to provide any objectively verifiable reason for the difference in treatment of people in essentially identical circumstances.

If the Department for Work and Pensions loses, the more-than-two-million people affected could each be entitled to up to £1,500 in backdated extra payments.

The start of the case was marked by a huge show of support for the case outside the High Court, by groups including Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Unite Community, the MS Society, SNP MPs Marion Fellows and David Linden, and Labour MPs Debbie Abrahams, Marsha de Cordova and John McDonnell:

The outcome of the case is unlikely to be announced on Friday (November 19).

Let’s hope it doesn’t take as long coming out as the judgement in the libel case between Rachel Riley and former Jeremy Corbyn aide Laura Murray. That was heard in May and the verdict is still unknown, half a year later.

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New DWP sanction system could have TOUGHER punishments for claimants

[Image: www.disabledgo.com]

This is extreme, even for the Department for Work and Pensions.

It seems there are moves to toughen up the sanction system for people on New Style Employment and Support Allowance and Jobseekers’ Allowance, even though sanctions were only introduced a few days ago.

The DWP has a new watchdog organisation, the Social Security Advisory Committee (what happened to the Bonfire of All The Quangos?) that reckons the system isn’t harsh enough.

Apparently it is possible for people to claim both Universal Credit and JSA or ESA – but if they are sanctioned, it can only be applied to UC.

This means that such claimants would be in a better position financially than people on only one of the benefits; if the sanctioned amount was more than the value of the UC element of benefit payments to a particular claimant (it could be zero), then the total sanction could be as low as zero.

The SSAC wants the penalties to apply to both benefits that are being claimed.

Considering the arbitrary nature of the sanction system, This Writer considers the current situation to be a valuable protection for claimants. We have all heard horror stories about people who were sanctioned and subsequently died because the DWP got its decision wrong.

It seems the problem lies in the fact that sanctions are decided on the advice of a DWP work coach – a single civil servant – whose attitude to the job may vary between very extreme positions, depending on who it is.

Work coaches are supposed to help claimants write a “claimant commitment” that sets out their obligations as claimants of the state payments.

The commitment should be accessible, clear, tailored to the claimant’s needs and the state of the local labour market, and agreed by both the claimant and the DWP, and claimants should be properly informed.

In fact, research has shown that some work coaches aren’t using their discretion fairly or reasonably and opt for generic, rather than tailored, actions. Some work coaches were found to be copying and pasting actions from a shared document which had become standard in their local Job Centre.

There were examples of lone parents not being informed of their right to reduced work searches, and re-assessment interviews lasting just 10 minutes.

If brutal sanctions are applied to people on two benefits, on the say-so of the people responsible for such abuses of the rules, then hideous injustices may result.

Suggested examples include sanctions being applied to elderly disabled claimants now looking for work in their 60s and suffering poor health. How would they survive if their work coach turns out to be a “power maniac who enjoys putting the disadvantaged down”?

Ministers have not (yet) approved any suggested changes but we all know the DWP’s reputation for bloodthirstiness. How long will it be before this new opportunity to cause misery is seized?

Read more here: Exclusive: Benefits watchdog wants tougher punishment for jobless and disabled claimants after DWP bungles new sanctions system | Westminster Confidential

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Benefit sanctions: if you’re on new-style JSA or ESA, brace yourself!

Sanction centre: people on New Style ESA and JSA are about to be hit by the most arbitrary and unreasonable process ever foisted on large numbers of the public by a cruel government – the DWP’s sanctions regime.

The Department for Work and Pensions has decided that people on New Style Employment and Support Allowance, and Jobseekers Allowance, have life too easy.

So the DWP has introduced sanctions for those benefits. They came into effect on November 3 – did anybody notice?

The DWP says the rule change means that New Style JSA and ESA claimants who do not meet the responsibilities agreed in their Claimant Commitment, without having a good reason, will lose some or all of their payment.

But those with experience of how sanctions work in other benefits will know that claimants are likely to face unreasonable demands from the DWP that will be followed by a loss of benefits.

Sometimes they may be informed that their benefits are being sanctioned for transgressions that they have not committed or for failing to attend interviews to which they were not invited.

They may also be sanctioned for failing to attend interviews, even if they have provided good reasons. Being admitted to hospital – and therefore unable to communicate with the DWP – is never accepted as a good reason.

Of course, the DWP has not mentioned this. Its statement said: “As is the case for Universal Credit claimants, if someone in receipt of new style JSA and ESA fails to do what they have agreed to in their Claimant Commitment without good reason – such as having or caring for a child, or a change to a health condition – their payments may be reduced for a set period.”

This is particularly amusing – in a bitter way: “Sanctions are only applied as a last resort when a claimant is not engaging with the commitment they have made. If someone disagrees with a decision they can ask for it to be looked at again.”

Experience suggests that sanctions are less likely to be applied as a last resort than as a first response – especially if you are claiming ESA.

Of course it is entirely possible that the DWP will actually police its new system fairly…

But This Writer will believe it when I see it. I may have a long time to wait.

Source: DWP sanction rules will now apply to New Style ESA and Jobseekers Allowance claimants – Daily Record

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