Tag Archives: independence

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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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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Are you one of the 340,000 PIP claimants who could be owed £16,000 in back pay?

The Department for Work and Pensions has announced that it will be checking 340,000 Personal Independence Payment claims to see if back-payments of £16,000 or more are owed – mostly to claimants with a mental health condition.

The initiative follows – extremely belatedly – a court decision from July 2019, finding that the DWP had not been awarding the correct number of points to some claimants who need prompting or social support to engage with other people face-to-face.

According to Benefits and Work,

Amongst PIP claimants who may have missed out are:

People who have regular meetings with a mental health professional, without which they would not be able to manage face to face encounters;

People who need the input of particular friends or relatives with experience of supporting them in social situations – rather than just any well-meaning friend or relative – to help them manage face to face encounters.

The DWP is not planning to invite claimants for an assessment but may contact them for more information.

This means a brown envelope from the DWP will arrive, out of the blue, through the letterboxes of people who are likely to have a phobia about brown envelopes from government departments.

The most likely outcome from people who are contacted in this way is that the letters will be ignored.

So This Writer is happy to endorse the suggestion, by Benefits and Work, that anyone who believes they may be affected should contact the DWP proactively – get in touch with them without giving them time to get in touch with you.

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A wrong disability benefit decision is overturned every minute of every working day

Philippa Day: Capita paid her family an out-of-court settlement after a court heard her mental illness had been “exacerbated” by the way her benefits were processed.

The Department for Work and Pensions is riddled with incompetence with a wrong benefits decision being overturned every single minute of every working day, according to new analysis.

Readers of This Site may find nothing surprising in the revelation from disability charity Scope about assessment results for Personal Independent Payment.

It’s doubtful that it is incompetence, of course. There is a wealth of information that the DWP deliberately approves wrong decisions by benefits assessors from outsourcing firms like Capita.

Capita, of course, has just agreed to pay off the family of a disabled, mentally-ill woman who died of a drugs overdose after being messed about by the company and the DWP over a period of months.

So why does the DWP – and its outsourced assessment firms – get away with it? Simple: they have cleverly managed to avoid a court making a decision that they are guilty of an offence due to their activities.

Most recently, Capita made an out-of-court settlement to avoid a judgement on the death of Philippa Day.

According to Disability Rights UK,

Thousands have to fight every month to get the main disability benefit Personal Independence Payment.

Scope has demanded urgent action from Government after publishing the analysis which shows that on average, more than 12,000 Disabled people are successfully overturning wrong Personal Independence Payment (PIP) decisions every month.

Disabled people can appeal if their PIP claim has been turned down or if they are awarded less financial support than they had expected.

Scope found that between July 2019 and June 2021, on average there have been 12,579 successful appeals (including mandatory reconsiderations and tribunals) every month – equivalent to 600 every day. Since July 2019 and June 2021, there have been a total of 301,899 successful appeals. 70% of PIP tribunals are successful.

Figures also show the Government spent £120 million fighting disability benefit claims for PIP and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) between 2017 and 2019.

Scope has launched a new petition calling on the government to make sure disabled people get the right benefit decision, first time.

The petition calls for disabled people to have the right to request an appropriate assessor who properly understands a claimant’s condition.

Will it get anywhere? Doubtful.

Therese Coffey – and all the Tory ministers before her, going back to 2010 and Iain Duncan Smith – enjoy killing off vulnerable people too much.

Source: Disability benefits: one wrong decision overturned every minute of every working day | Disability Rights UK

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Benefits assessor pays off family of dead claimant – is this the new trend?

Death by DWP: Philippa Day.

Is this the new fashion for the Department for Work and Pensions and its privately-hired assessors: pay off the families of people who have died and sweep their cases under the carpet?

Philippa Day is the second deceased benefit claimant this week whose case is being ended with a payment by one of the organisations involved in pushing her to her death.

This time, benefit assessor Capita is paying up in an out-of-court settlement after Ms Day’s family started a lawsuit. In the other case, the DWP itself paid more than £16,000 to family members of another claimant after being ordered to do so by an Independent Case Examiner (ICE).

Coroner Gordon Clows delivered a damning indictment of Capita and the DWP at the inquest into Ms Day’s death in January this year.

He said her mental illness had been “exacerbated” by the way her benefits were processed: “Were it not for this problem, it is not likely that she would have [taken the act which ended her life].”

And he said a lot more. See This Site’s previous article – here – for all the damning details.

Now Capita is paying an undisclosed amount – out of court – meaning there will be no UK court verdict against the organisation or the Department for Work and Pensions to show that they drove a vulnerable woman to her death.

Do you think that is fair? I don’t.

Nor, it seems does solicitor Merry Varney, who acted for the Day family on behalf of law firm Leigh Day.

She said: “Capita has shown acceptance of their failures and a willingness to ensure their mistakes are not repeated, however there remain too many examples of the DWP, which controls the financial circumstances of the majority of people too sick to work, acting inhumanely to those receiving benefits and a continued resistance by the DWP to transparent investigations into benefit related deaths.

“Until the DWP changes its attitude, people like Philippa and her family remain at risk of gross human rights violations and ‘benefit related deaths’ are just another example of preventable deaths of people with disabilities occurring without any proper investigation or scrutiny.”

Somebody needs to take a court case through to the end. Otherwise the DWP and its assessment firms will keep dodging responsibility for the thousands of deaths they are causing.

Source: Capita pays compensation to family of woman who died after benefits cut | Welfare | The Guardian

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Did DWP torture this disabled benefit claimant until he died?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Northern Ireland and Scotland want a referendum on leaving the UK. And Wales?

The ballot box: come on, Wales – let’s have a chance to tell Boris Johnson to get stuffed!

Welsh people are showing surprising loyalty to the United Kingdom after being progressively abused by Tory governments since 2010.

They are lagging behind Northern Ireland and Scotland, where polls show a majority of people in both countries want referenda on whether to quit the union.

In Northern Ireland, 68 per cent of people are demanding the right to choose whether to stay in the UK or join the Republic of Ireland.

Scotland will get its referendum if Nicola Sturgeon has her way.

Only Wales is dragging its feet over the chance to show national displeasure with Boris Johnson’s travesty of leadership – widely believed to be the worst government in UK history.

The latest poll in Wales shows just 28 per cent of people wanting independence.

It makes you wonder where people here get their news.

Source: 68% in Northern Ireland want referendum on leaving the UK

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DWP tries to blame Royal Mail for PIP delays but do we believe it?

It’s a sad consequence of having to fight a court case that I don’t have as much time for some of the subjects that made This Site’s name – such as the persecution of benefit claimants by the DWP.

This particular issue is one on which I have personal experience, though – as, I dare say, has anybody who has had to deal with DWP letters.

My case differs from that outlined by Disability News Service, though – in that the DWP contacted Mrs Mike to tell her that her PIP review was due, and could she return the form within a month of the date of the letter?

The letter arrived no less than 10 days after the date on it. That left three weeks to get the review done.

It is not enough time. Not only do PIP claimants have to navigate the form, which is worded in an open way but which is marked according to very specific requirements, but they must also seek corroborating evidence from carers, community helpers and healthcare professionals.

All of this takes considerable time.

As her carer, I knew that we needed to seek expert help in writing the form, so I contacted Citizens Advice and was immediately told that I would have an appointment to talk to someone in a few days’ time – and that I should seek an extension on the deadline at once.

I can’t say that conditions are the same across the UK – I live in Wales – but once I managed to get through to DWP (there was an inevitable wait of more than an hour) the department could not have been happier to extend the deadline.

I think I was given a couple of extra weeks.

I therefore advise everybody to do this – especially if receiving a letter with a deadline that appears to have been delayed in the post. It makes the argument between DWP and the Royal Mail irrelevant.

And I needed the extra time. Mrs Mike has a condition that can only get worse, but it wasn’t until I spoke to somebody else about it that I realised the extent to which her condition had degenerated.

Help I had provided as a favour when she was feeling particularly bad had become a habit – meaning that he condition has worsened – and the very shape of our days had changed as these accumulated.

The changes had been so gradual that I had not taken them into account – but they mean a great deal when dealing with the DWP.

I therefore advise everybody going through a benefit review to seek expert help from Citizens Advice or an organisation that is similarly qualified.

Finally there was the question of corroborating evidence. I provided a letter, as Mrs Mike’s carer, describing the obstacles she faces getting through the day, and the ways I have to help her.

We sought letters from community organisations and some professionals but received no interest in return.

And we contacted Mrs Mike’s doctor, too. This seemed likely to be problematic. “Oh, you’ll get no help there,” people said. “Doctors have been discouraged and disincentivised by the DWP! If you do get a letter, they’ll charge you a fat wad of cash!”

Not a bit of it was true.

We received a letter in due course, containing a printout of Mrs Mike’s medical history and a medical opinion that was adamantly in favour of her receiving the highest degree of benefit available to her.

Finally, when it was time to post the completed form, I took it to the post office and paid extra to ensure that the DWP would have to sign for it, to confirm receipt.]

This is very important. I know from personal experience and the experience of others that the DWP finds it easy to claim non-receipt – as it did in the case of the claimant in the DNS story.

This cannot happen if you have evidence that somebody signed for it. It bypasses any concerns about whether delays were caused by the Royal Mail or the DWP because it provides proof of delivery within the time stated.

The decision took about a month to come back. It confirmed Mrs Mike’s benefit would continue at the highest rates possible.

So that is my advice for anybody going through the benefit review process:

  1. Seek expert advice on filling out the form because they must provide specific information that the DWP must see before it awards any points.
  2. Contact the DWP and ask for an extension on the deadline if its letter arrived late.
  3. Seek evidence from anybody who has experience of the claimant’s disability. The worst that can happen is they decline to provide it. Don’t be put off asking your doctor.
  4. When you post the form back, make sure the DWP has to sign for it to confirm that it has been received.

These are measures that work.

They deprive the DWP of any excuse to blame another organisation for delays in processing a claim.

And they ensure that your benefit payments are disrupted by any nonsense if the DWP claims that you haven’t returned your form.

Source: DWP and Royal Mail dispute cause of PIP delays – Disability News Service

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

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign].

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The department has been rejecting around 100 claims per month.

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

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

Is that why the DWP shredded them?

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

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

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More than 300 terminally ill people died PER MONTH after DWP denied them state benefits

[Image: www.disabledgo.com]

Once again the Department for Work and Pensions has been caught lying about the support it provides to people who are terminally ill.

This Site reported, many years ago, on the scandal when it was discovered that – despite having a policy to put people likely to die within six months on a fast track for benefits – many benefit claims were refused, leaving these people to die in appalling conditions.

So then-Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd announced in 2019 that there would be a “fresh and honest” re-evaluation of the way these benefits were awarded.

It is now two years later, and two charities – the Marie Curie Trust and the Motor Neurone Disease Association – have drawn public attention to official data showing that the DWP is rejecting benefit claims by more than 100 terminally-ill people, every month.

Worse still, the official figures also show that an average of 315 people are dying every month*, never having been able to secure the fast-track benefits that are supposed to help them pass away with dignity.

This is damning:

They say there are “serious concerns” over the government’s “six-month rule” – under which people must prove they have six months or less to live to access fast-track benefits support.

They said there were red flags in the DWP’s ability to recognise when a claimant was approaching the end of life.

I think that is very… charitable.. of them.

It is far more likely that the DWP is simply ignoring the facts in order to avoid paying out the benefit money – knowing that these people will soon be dead; they can’t complain or appeal and expect justice before their condition kills them.

This in turn suggests that nothing at all has changed and that Amber Rudd’s “fresh and honest” review was nothing of the sort.

Here’s some evidence in support of that conclusion:

The charities say that the findings of the review are “being withheld”.

So, after 11 years of Tory control (and it wasn’t much better under neoliberal New Labour) we can say with confidence:

The Department for Work and Pensions intentionally harms people claiming benefits by depriving them of their payments in order to hasten their deaths.

No wonder we all hate having anything to do with that vicious, poisonous arm of the Tory government.

No wonder millions of people suffer anxiety attacks whenever they see an envelop marked “DWP” in their letterbox.

No wonder I said, years ago, that the DWP is not fit for purpose and should be scrapped.

But I’ll tell you why it wasn’t:

In killing thousands of people every year, the DWP is doing exactly what Boris Johnson and his Tories want.

*1,860 people over six months.

Source: Over 1,000 terminally ill people rejected for benefits and Universal Credit each year – Mirror Online

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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