Tag Archives: employment

People with disabilities: do YOU want IAIN DUNCAN SMITH influencing how government treats you?

Iain Duncan Smith: apparently he isn’t demonstrating what he’d like to do to the throats of disabled people, although that isn’t clear from his record.

Iain Duncan Smith – his very name still triggers hate and fear in people with long-term illnesses and disabilities, in roughly equal measure.

It is now nearly five years since This Writer demonstrated that his Department for Work and Pensions had been responsible for more than 100,000 excess deaths of people claiming sickness and disability benefits.

The deaths had happened after he became Secretary of State and changed the way benefit entitlements were assessed, making it much more difficult for people who deserved them to make a claim.

And he perverted the appeal system into a labyrinthine, Kafka-esque nightmare designed to drive people to despair or starvation before ever seeing a penny.

Now, the right-wing think tank that this vile creature founded – and still chairs – is trying to interfere in the lives of vulnerable people once again.

The shockingly-misnamed Centre for Social Justice has launched what it calls a “Disability Commission” which it hopes will influence the Johnson government’s strategy for dealing with disabled people.

According to Disability News Service:

The commission appears set to focus on the role of business, employment and the free market, with CSJ calling on the government to use the disability strategy to “prove that only a market economy delivers sustainable social justice in a way that enables everyone to realise their potential”.

So it seems the plan is to throw people with disabilities into a free-market nightmare in which any skills they have will be ruthlessly exploited to make cash for the already extremely wealthy, while paying them as little as possible.

(Remember when Lord Freud suggested paying them as little as £2 per hour because they were “not worth the minimum wage”? That is what Tories think of the talents of people with disabilities.)

There appear to be a few names on this “commission” who have spoken out against Tory “reforms” in the past, but these seem to be token placements, intended to lend credibility to the project.

This can only be bad news for people on Personal Independence Payment, Universal Credit and/or Employment and Support Allowance.

Source: Thinktank responsible for universal credit launches ‘Disability Commission’ – Disability News Service

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Spain approves Universal Basic Income – and it’s more than UK sick and disabled get

Universal Basic Income: the Spaniards are getting it (in Euros, obviously) – why can’t people in the UK have it?

Only a few weeks ago, Tories were delighting in claiming that no other nation had adopted a Universal Basic Income scheme in response to calls for the UK to adopt it during the Covid-19 crisis.

Now they can’t say that any more.

And the amount being provided to Spanish citizens will be more than people on the normal rate of Universal Credit, on Employment and Support Allowance, or on the lowest rate of Personal Independence Payment (if I recall correctly) – around £95 per week.

If anyone is wondering how we reached a point where Spain supports its people better than the UK, just remember we’ve had more than 40 years of right-wing governments and they have laid us low.

Spain’s cabinet has approved the creation of a national minimum income, according to a government spokesperson.

Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias told a news conference on Friday the creation of a minimum income worth €462 (£416.92) a month will target some 850,000 households or 2.5 million people.

The government would pay the monthly stipend and top up existing revenue for people earning less so that they receive at least that minimum amount every month, he said.

Source: Spain approves national minimum income scheme | The Independent

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Coronavirus is concentrating discontent with the benefit system – but does that include sickness and disability?

It seems the knives are out for Universal Credit.

But while academics think in terms of justice for all, Tories don’t.

Even if they accept changes to their flagship benefit, how likely is it that they will allow an end to their favourite pastime – torturing people with long-term illnesses and disabilities?

As for bringing in a UBI – Universal Basic Income that will mean nobody goes without food, clothes or a home… The Tories are sure to tell us: go whistle.

Or am I reading them wrong?

Radical changes to the welfare system are historically associated with major crises and events such as wars, civil unrest, famines or epidemics. There is no reason that it will this time be any different, says a new paper from Dr Stephen Davies, Head of Education at the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Redefining the State of Welfare argues it is very probable that Coronavirus will bring to a head discontent with the existing system that has been growing for some time and will lay bare its weaknesses, particularly that of its central element: Universal Credit.

Source: ‘Very unlikely’ Universal Credit will survive the Covid-19 pandemic – Welfare Weekly

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Confusion reigns over who exactly can go back to work and who we can see

Tube commuters after Johnson’s speech on May 10: this is on the Jubilee Line.

Boris Johnson’s speech on Sunday (May 10) becomes more opaque by the hour.

He said all workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open, telling construction workers and manufacturing employees in particular to go back (we know now that the construction industry is part of a Tory plan to boost house buying that flies in the face of common sense).

And it resulted in scenes like this:

Some of these people are going to catch Covid-19. A few may die of it.

That’s what Johnson’s message to the nation contained: death.

And it seems he didn’t even cover all the professions that are expected to go back.

Also endangered are domestic cleaners, who are now expected to go back to their employers’ homes – no matter what those other people have been doing, where they’ve been, what diseases they may have picked up. But they can’t visit their friends/relatives.

Owen Jones has this one right:

His advice to the people who employ domestic cleaners is right on the button.

Edwina Currie got into a proper state while trying to discuss it with Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain:

Anyway, why is it so important to bring in cleaning staff from outside your home, possibly to spread the infection? Why can’t people just clean their own homes?

That’s what I’ve been doing!

Another comedy addition to those going back to work is film and television production companies. Here‘s Screen Daily:

Film and television production in the UK are permitted to restart providing all involved abide by social distancing guidelines, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has confirmed to Screen.

The change comes as part of the government’s latest guidelines for the coronavirus pandemic, which include the instruction “All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open.”

Workplaces that do reopen – including screen productions – should “ensure employees can maintain a two-metre distance from others, and wash their hands regularly”, according to the Covid-19 guidelines on the government’s website.

Here is the appropriate response:

It won’t work, of course.

Also reopening (in England) is the fast food chain McDonalds – creating widespread fear among employees who will be asked to risk their lives in contact with hundreds – possibly thousands – of other people every day.

As one such employee put it in this article:

I’m terrified of returning to work… The amount of customers will be astronomical… and I still don’t know how we will be protected.

I can’t help but think the official advice means that if you’re middle class or above, everyone thinks it’s fine for you to work from home, but if you’re working class like us, it’s no problem and you can go back to work.

Yes indeed – and this means low-paid workers are most at risk:

“The Government’s strategy will put low-paid workers with the poorest employment rights most at risk,” [said Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, Marsha de Cordova].

Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband [said] “It is the highest-paid workers who will generally carry on being able to work from home and lower-paid workers who are being asked to go back to work.

“We also know from … ONS figures that among men, construction workers have so far been more than twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as the average member of the population.”

The Tory government says it is prioritising safety for everyone returning to work.

But… well, look:

It isn’t happening; it won’t happen. It is the same as all the Tory promises throughout the crisis, about PPE, about ventilators, about testing, about contact tracing. If it isn’t exclusively for the rich, it isn’t true.

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Disabled benefit claimants are sidelined* again as DWP assessors diverted to Universal Credit

Once again the Tory government shafts people with disabilities.

More than a quarter of a million people who should be receiving sickness and/or disability benefits are falling into debt because the DWP is forcing them to wait for a decision while it deals with coronavirus-related Universal Credit claims.

Yes – it is important to help the people claiming UC because the government’s lockdown deprived them of their income. We must not hold a grudge against them because they were dumped in a bad situation.

But the Tory government has a responsibility of care – in which it failed by diverting staff to handle UC and cutting PIP (Personal Independence Payment) and ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) claimants adrift.

Why not just divert staff who would have been working in job centres? Why not employ somebody new, on a temporary basis, if necessary?

These are rhetorical questions.

The answer is that no Conservative government will lift a finger to help people with illnesses and disabilities if it can find an excuse not to.

People who are physically or mentally infirm are unable to work for Tory-supporting employers and are therefore of no use to that party.

As Tories consider all working people to be nothing more than “stock”, we may conclude that they consider sick or disabled people to be defective stock, and therefore fit only to be scrapped.

This is the only rational explanation for the way Tories have treated people who deserve as much respect as anybody else.

The worst of it is that these overlooked claimants probably expect to receive attention as soon as the coronavirus crisis ends. This is doubtful; the Tories will find another excuse to make them wait.

Reason: making sick and disabled people wait is a great way of making them die, without any fear of blame.

Figures published by the DWP in response to a parliamentary written question show that as of 27 April there were 166,630 personal independence payment (PIP) claimants with either an assessment scheduled or awaiting scheduling. As of 4 May, 101,910 people were waiting on employment support allowance (ESA) claims.

Charities are also concerned that people who are trying to appeal decisions to reduce their sickness and disability benefits are facing longer than usual delays.

*Feel free to read in a more colourful verb of your choice.

Source: Coronavirus: Hundreds of thousands of benefit claimants facing delays as DWP staff diverted due to pandemic | The Independent

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Family of man who starved to death after losing benefits launches lawsuit against DWP

Errol Graham.

Remember Errol Graham?

He’s the man who starved to death after the Department for Work and Pensions cut off his ESA (Employment and Support Allowance).

He had failed to attend a work capability assessment so the DWP cut him off without a penny. Assessors did not consider whether his mental health could have been the reason for his lack of response or whether termination of his benefits would put him at risk.

When his body was discovered – by bailiffs trying to take possession of his home after his Housing Benefit was cut off (as a direct result of him losing ESA) it weighed just 4.5 stone.

Now law firm Leigh Day has issued a legal claim against the DWP, on behalf of Mr Graham’s family.

I reproduce Leigh Day’s press release in full below:

The family of Errol Graham, who died after his benefits were stopped, have issued their legal claim against the government, challenging the DWP’s policy for terminating benefits.

The claim has now been issued in the High Court by law firm Leigh Day who represent Alison Turner, the partner of Mr Graham’s son. They now await a decision from the court on permission for the judicial review to proceed.
 
Errol died on 20 June 2018, aged 57. He was found in his flat having starved to death, weighing only four and a half stone. His Employment Support Allowance was stopped by the DWP on 10 October 2017 after he failed to attend a fitness to work assessment and as a result his Housing Benefit was also stopped. The DWP tried to contact Errol by phone and then visited his address but he did not respond. As a result the DWP, in accordance with their policy, terminated his benefits without considering whether his mental health could have been the reason for his lack of response and whether termination of his benefits would put him at risk. Despite his long history of severe mental health issues, no information was ever obtained about his physical or mental health and no effort was made to speak to his GP or family members.
 
In her witness statement given as part of the legal case Alison describes going to Errol’s flat after he died and the indications of his severe mental health problems, including finding teeth that he had pulled out with pliers. There was no food in his flat and he had no credit on his gas or electric meters. A letter was found in his flat that had been addressed but never sent to the DWP that describes his struggles with his mental health and the very low way he was feeling. It pleads with the DWP to “please judge me fairly”.
 
In her legal case Alison argues that the DWP’s policy on terminating benefits is unlawful for a number of reasons including that it may breach articles 2 and/or 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights which relate to causing serious suffering or death. It is also alleged to be unlawful as it fails to have regard to a claimant’s disability, thereby breaching the Equality Act, and it is inherently unfair as it allows benefits to be terminated with no prior notice to the claimant.  
 
In addition, Alison argues that the DWP is in breach of its duty under the Human Rights Act and common law to independently and effectively investigate Errol’s death. At Errol’s inquest in June 2019 the DWP stated that it was undertaking a ‘safeguarding review’ which would report in Autumn 2019 and result in updated guidance but none of that has happened.  In February 2020 the National Audit Office revealed that there have been a large number of benefit-related suicides. As a result the DWP states that it has conducted internal reviews into those cases and a Serious Case Panel has been established to learn lessons from those systemic concerns, including Errol’s case. However, it is not clear from the information that has been provided by the DWP about the internal reviews and Serious Case Panel how they will feed into improvements to make sure future deaths of vulnerable benefits claimants are prevented. As part of the legal case it is argued that Errol’s family had a legitimate expectation that the safeguarding review would take place, which it did not,  that his family should have been involved in the Serious Case Panel and that it should be open to public scrutiny.
 
Alison said: “The harrowing things I saw when I visited Errol’s flat following his death will always be with me. It was clear he was in extreme mental distress and anguish. It is impossible to see how a policy could be lawful which allows benefits to be withdrawn for people in these circumstances, with no consideration or investigation of their mental health, and the risks that termination would pose.” 

Tessa Gregory, solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, added: “Our client is being forced to pursue legal action because the DWP has so far refused to make any real changes to the safeguarding policies which allowed her loved one, Errol, to fall through the safety net with such devastating consequences. Like so many other families affected by benefit related deaths the conduct of the DWP following Errol’s death has had a profound impact on our client and her family.  She has been appalled by the lack of engagement and transparency and hopes this case will make the Government realise that it can no longer ignore bereaved families and it must urgently address their concerns to ensure that the vulnerable are protected.”

Mental Health charity Mind provided a witness statement in support of the case. 

Ayaz Manji, Senior Policy and Campaigns officer at Mind, said: “We regularly hear from people with mental health problems who need support from benefits that the system often works against them, making them more unwell and even suicidal. The devastating death of Errol Graham has once again shown why the system has to change now. We can’t afford to wait for more people to die or come to harm before taking action.
 
“The benefits system should be there to protect us when we need it, but right now too many people are in danger of falling through the net and coming to harm as a result. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) must stop cutting off people’s support when they’re too unwell to leave the house, or respond to visits and letters. If the DWP can’t get hold of someone, the onus should be on them to proactively get in touch with local services and emergency contacts, to build a full picture and work to getting the individual the support they need.

“During this uncertain time, it’s crucial people can access benefits easily if they need them. It’s appalling that a lack of basic protections means that people still face the possibility of going without money because they are too unwell to engage with the process. The Government must put this right and take responsibility for making sure that those of us with mental health problems are kept safe, and treated with dignity and respect.”

Source: Family Of Errol Graham Issues Legal Claim Against The DWP

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DWP accused of ‘discriminating’ against ESA-claiming disabled people in coronavirus pandemic

This is probably what the UN poverty rapporteur, Philip Alston, has been talking about recently.

He said the Tories spent 10 years insisting that austerity was vital when it only harmed the poor, but when the coronavirus put the country into lockdown they suddenly turned on the taps and had cash flowing like water.

But he said countries like the UK were still finding ways to harm the poorest – and this seems to be one of them:

Tory ministers raised Universal Credit by £20 a week in 2020/21 to help people cope with the costs of the virus. Tax Credits were due to rise too.

But the same rise was not applied to “legacy” benefits Jobseekers’ Allowance, Income Support and Employment Support Allowance.

Now a campaign by 100 organisations, including charities, argues this is discrimination against the disabled.

The most recent official figures last August show there were still 1.98million people on ESA, which is worth £74.35 a week for the sick and disabled.

Mrs Mike is on ESA. I think she’ll be writing to our MP about this in the very near future.

Source: DWP accused of ‘discriminating’ against disabled people in coronavirus pandemic – Mirror Online

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What did we expect? Benefit assessors haven’t progressed towards improving safeguards for the vulnerable

This should make your blood boil.

Yes, there’s a crisis going on involving the coronavirus pandemic. That shouldn’t mean work on other life-threatening issues should stop.

And this is a life-threatening issue. Jodey Whiting is only the most well-known among many people who have died because the Department for Work and Pensions ignored its own rules for safeguarding vulnerable people.

And now we find that after an entire year, the companies involved in assessing people for disability benefits have made no progress in improving their safeguarding procedures. None at all.

Last year, freedom of information responses from more than a third of councils across England, Scotland and Wales showed that Atos, Capita and Maximus had made just four safeguarding referrals to those local authorities over the previous three years.

Now a fresh series of freedom of information requests has shown the three outsourcing giants appear to have taken barely any notice of those concerns.

Despite repeated warnings about the need to inform social services departments when there are clear and significant concerns about a claimant’s safety or welfare, they issued a total of just two referrals each during 2019 and the first month of 2020 across 89 councils.

It seems to This Writer that the lives of benefit claimants mean little to these money-making giants – or to their client, the Department for Work and Pensions.

And why should they? Every time someone dies, the DWP and the Tory government sweep the facts under the carpet.

Source: Benefit assessment companies ‘have made almost no progress’ on safeguarding – Disability News Service

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Coronavirus: trust Iain Duncan Smith to try to wreck our chances of survival

He laughed: Remember, Iain Duncan Smith laughed at the terror he was causing a rape victim by using the Bedroom Tax to make it too expensive for her to keep a ‘panic room’. He and the other Tories thrive on terrorising vulnerable people and it is this light that we must examine his comments on Universal Basic Income (UBI).

It had to be him.

Iain Duncan Smith, creator of the huge increase in poverty in the UK since 2010, has spoken out against a plan to keep people from financial ruin during the coronavirus crisis.

His prime minister, Boris Johnson, said he would consider introducing a Universal Basic Income (UBI) to help people hit by the financial impact of social distancing measures he has introduced to fight the spread of COVID-19.

It has been suggested that the idea would cost the Treasury £260 billion – less than the £330 billion measures Rishi Sunak has already imposed, in a bid to protect the economy – and industry leaders like Liam Kelly, chair of the Baltic Triangle group of companies, support it.

He told the Liverpool Echo: “UBI isn’t quite as radical as the idea of dropping money from a helicopter, but it’s clearly a plausible solution to the wealth crisis caused by this global pandemic.

“It will help stave off the unprecedented economic challenges we face and protect us from another. This is a sensible fiscal stimulus and it’s time it went directly to the people, not just to the banks.”

But Duncan Smith, whose Bedroom Tax turfed people out of their homes (including vulnerable people who had panic rooms installed to protect them from violent assault); whose Universal Credit, with its five-week wait before the first payment has unnecessarily tipped millions into poverty; and whose doctored assessments for sickness and disability benefits have denied financial security to the most vulnerable people in society, prompting some to take their own lives and worsening others’ illnesses to the point of death… He thinks he knows better.

Following the recent Tory tactic of putting comments behind a paywall on a Tory-supporting newspaper’s website (this time it was the Telegraph), he claimed that UBI would make no difference to the financial struggles of low-income households and would not alleviate poverty.

He provided no evidence to support this wild claim.

He said a guaranteed monthly income would “disincentivise work” and cost an “astronomic amount of money” – even though it is believed to cost £70 billion less than the measures already announced by the Chancellor.

We must remember that these are the words of a man who believes the best way to wipe out poverty is to wipe out people who suffer from it.

Why else would he have imposed policies that push vulnerable people so deeply into poverty that many of them are unable to survive?

It seems clear that he is trying to protect his vanity projects – Universal
Credit, the Bedroom Tax, biased PIP and ESA assessments – all of which would become redundant if UBI were brought in.

And he wants to ensure that we do not get to see the beneficial effects of UBI, even if it is only brought in for a brief, experimental period.

It seems clear that, while the Tories are claiming to be doing what they can in the face of the crisis, the evil that motivates them remains as strong as it ever was.

Source: Former DWP boss Iain Duncan Smith says Universal Basic Income is “unaffordable” and won’t fix poverty crisis – Welfare Weekly

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Tories suspend face-to-face benefit assessments amid coronavirus crisis – but what’s behind their compassionate veneer?

They took their time about it.

And one has to question whether it would have happened without pressure from organisations representing sick and disabled benefit claimants, and the general public.

Here’s the decision, as described on the UK government website:

Face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits will be suspended for the next 3 months, the government announced.

The temporary move, effective on Tuesday 17 March 2020, is being taken as a precautionary measure to protect vulnerable people from unnecessary risk of exposure to coronavirus as the country’s response ramps up in the ‘delay’ phase. We will ensure those who are entitled to a benefit continue to receive support, and that new claimants are able to access the safety net.

It affects claimants of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), those on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and some on Universal Credit, and recipients of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

The suspension of face-to-face assessments also covers new claims to those benefits.

Note that the face-to-face assessments are only suspended – so beware of treachery.

It would be easy for the Tories to restore face-to-face assessments after a certain period (not necessarily three months; we don’t know how long the coronavirus crisis will last) – and decide that thousands of claimants have been overpaid, or even paid benefits they should not have received at all.

Let’s be honest – the assessment companies are now known to have falsified reports in the past, in order to prevent people receiving benefits they were owed, and with both Atos and Capita set to see their contracts renewed at huge cost to the public purse, there’s nothing to stop them doing it again.

And if benefits have been paid out, then it is likely the Tory government will want that money back.

So it seems likely the Tories are using the coronavirus crisis to create a debt trap for thousands upon thousands of vulnerable people – and hiding behind a veneer of compassion while they do it.

Source: Face-to-face health assessments for benefits suspended amid coronavirus outbreak – GOV.UK

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