Tag Archives: independence

Was online appeal system just another way to delay payment of disability benefits?

Tribunal: before anyone comments, I know that UK courts don’t use the gavel. This is for illustrative purposes.

A bid to decide some appeals against refusal of Personal Independence Payment benefit applications online has been closed down by HM Courts and Tribunals service.

The intention was to give claimants and the Department for Work and Pensions an idea of the verdict they were likely to get at appeal. If both agreed with it, then the appeal was completed. If not, then the matter went on to a normal appeal hearing.

You can probably see the problem with this.

For many, it would cause another delay before they had a chance of seeing any cash – and we all know that the DWP already puts far too many hurdles in the way of people with disabilities.

This seems to be borne out by the disappointing take-up. The process – known as COR (Continuous Online Resolution) was originally set for trial with 1,000 appellants in the Midlands, Sutton and North-West Tribunal Panel area.

But only 254 claimants accepted the invitation to join the pilot and, of these, only 145 cases were considered suitable.

Ultimately, 69 cases were resolved by an online panel and all but one of these increased the DWP’s award.

According to Benefits and Work, claimants involved in the pilot had mixed feelings:

Those who got a decision they were happy with from the online panel were positive about the experience. Those who had to go through the online process and then on to a normal appeal were frustrated and disappointed.

Some appellants said they accepted a preliminary decision that they were not happy with simply because “they felt they had waited long enough already and did not want a further delay caused by waiting for a face-to-face hearing.”

This fits the thesis that the scheme delayed justice rather than helping it.

And it seems it was even a burden to HMCTS, which stated: “A substantial admin resource was required to support COR in selecting, sifting and onboarding cases, as well as carrying out time-consuming tasks which were not automated by the COR system.

“This therefore had resource implications for any scaling up of the pilot on a national basis, particularly given the low levels of suitable cases.”

HMCTS said it will continue to look for ways to carry out appeals online.

Let us hope the next attempt will speed matters, rather than worsening delays.

Source: Online appeal system scrapped before it begins

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If PIP assessments are now being audio recorded, can claimants have copies?

Days after This Site noted that the Department for Work and Pensions is running trials of video assessments for Personal Independence Payment – and other benefit – claims, we find that the Tories are already recording telephone assessment interviews.

This is very interesting because the recording of assessments has been a roasting-hot potato ever since it was first suggested.

The most recent statement of the situation was that, in order to have an assessment recorded, a claimant needed to bring a piece of tape-recording equipment worth around £1,400 to the interview, capable of recording on two tapes at the same time, with one to be held by the interviewer and one by the interviewee.

The DWP – and by extension, assessors at Atos and Capita – has a small number of these devices, but their scarcity meant it was hard to be sure of securing one for an interview.

This led to some charitable people buying the equipment in order to lend it to benefit claimants who needed it. I’m sure it also led to less charitable people renting the same equipment out for money.

With the announcement that Atos is recording telephone assessments, though, hasn’t that situation changed?

If the assessment company is making recordings unilaterally, does it still have to use the same equipment as in previous stipulations?

Will it have to provide claimants with copies?

If it doesn’t have to use the prescribed equipment, why not? And does this mean claimants don’t have to use it either and can make their own recordings? If not, why not? There must be a level playing-field for these matters.

Here’s Benefits and Work on this:

IAS (Atos) have begun recording telephone assessments for personal independence payment (PIP) Therese Coffey, secretary of state for work and pensions, told the Work and Pensions Committee on Wednesday 30 September.

Coffey told the committee that IAS had begun recording the assessments on 21 September.*

“But that has not yet started with Capita. That is under, I can assure you, active management to get Capita going quickly on this

claimants must ask to have their assessment recorded, it will not be done automatically.

You are likely to need to arrange this in advance. The earlier you request a recording the better, as a new appointment may need to be arranged.

I note that the website’s authors say the DWP will not give permission for claimants to make their own recordings – and say they should do it themselves, clandestinely, if they feel they need to:

You may still consider it sensible to record the assessment yourself just in case the DWPs recording goes astray. Though you will need to do this covertly as the DWP will not give permission.

We would still strongly recommend that claimants consider making a covert recording of their assessment, just in case the DWP’s copy goes astray when you challenge a decision.

The suggestion that copies of assessors’ audio recordings can go “astray” indicates that the DWP and its privately-contracted assessors are as untrustworthy as ever (75 per cent of benefit refusals are now being overturned at appeal).

This is worth chasing up. I’ll ask the DWP what’s going on and let you know the answer.

Source: PIP assessments now being audio recorded

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The Tories have started PIP and ESA video assessment trials. Claimants are terrified

What the claimant sees: benefit assessors carrying out video interviews may think they’re being perfectly reasonable but the Depatment for Work and Pensions has created such a stink around its denial-of-benefits system that people with illnesses and disabilities are likely to be terrified by them. And that’s if they can even afford the equipment to take part in video interviews!

People are being put in fear for their lives because the Johnson government has started work trialling video assessments of disability and sickness benefit claims.

The trial arises from a false premise – that people with long-term illnesses and disabilities are as capable as able-bodied people of taking part in video calls with confidence and coherence.

That is not true and, in many cases, the mere fact of taking part in one of the Tory government’s notoriously-rigged benefits “assessments” will be enough to put them off.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey announced the trials at a meeting of the Commons Work and Pensions committee on September 30, saying, “We did try to get some extra capital on video assessments. We weren’t successful in getting additional money, so we have reprioritised some of our capital budget to get that underway.”

A senior civil servant, John Paul Marks, put flesh on these bones: “For video, CHDA has started trialling how to do fit for work decisions by video, so we’re starting that now.

“For PIP we’re trying to also test doing video assessments for about 500 customers.

“So we can understand, does that improve the health care professionals capacity to ensure a positive experience for the customer and be able to get more evidence to support a recommendation on a functional assessment.”

The website Benefits and Work pointed out that many claimants will be “deeply unhappy” with the principle of video assessment:

Some will find the experience of talking on camera provokes considerable anxiety. Some will have concerns about data protection, given that a copy of the video is likely to be saved on a server by the DWP.

At the moment it is not clear whether claimants will have the option to refuse to have a video assessment and insist on either a telephone or, when they become available and safe, face to face assessment instead.

A commenter to the site said the issue would be particularly acute for those with mental health issues:

“This could breach the Equalty Act 2010… Anxiety would make the assessment inaccessible or [the claimant] would suffer an unreasonable experience if required to be video [or] audio-recorded.”

Not only that, but what happens if the claimant doesn’t have the technology to take part in a video assessment, due – for example – to extreme poverty? After all, why would they be claiming the benefit if they didn’t need the money?

Consider this response to This Site’s story yesterday:

Some have already come to the conclusion that this is a quota-filling exercise; that the DWP isn’t interested in whether people deserve Personal Independence Payment or Employment and Support Allowance – the only concern is ensuring that a certain number of people are pushed off the books:

As with any change in a benefit system, it seems clear that video trials will be open to abuse.

This will have to be monitored closely and I will be keen to hear of any experiences.

Source: PIP and ESA video assessment trials have started

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Why do we think it’s okay for people with disabilities to be terrorised by Tory benefit assessors?

As seen on Twitter.

“When I looked at the report I had to double check it had my name on it. I have never seen so many lies in my life!”

That‘s just one comment on the assessment process for Personal Independence Payment, the so-called “benefit” the Conservative government claims it provides to people with disabilities.

In fact, it has always been more about denying that claimants have any disabilities at all and removing their cash so that they die slowly in despair – but the Tories can deny responsibility.

A response to the above comment reads: “Fantasy masquerading as fact again in a PIP assessment. How many more such cases are there going to be before the DWP does something about it?”

Many – because a change of government is required before we can expect a change of heard and we can’t expect that any time soon.

Even people who should reasonably expect to be safe from sanction are terrorised by the process.

So. The dreaded PIP renewal has arrived. Why when he’s 20 and nothing has changed, do I get the awful knot in tummy? Knowing we will have to fight hard again,” wrote one carer.

Another wrote: “Got a brown envelope regarding … PIP today. Theres no issue, they’re extending it. Its fine. But the effect that brown envelope has on me is terrifying. Seeing it makes me physically sick, sweaty and my heart race I’m genuinely scared [of] my government.”

These good people have reason to be.

New figures from the Department for Work and Pensions have shown that, between April 2018 and the end of January this year, 1,700 people died within three months of their PIP claim being rejected by the government.

As I mentioned above, the Tories can deny responsibility for these deaths – as minister for disabled people Justin Tomlinson did when providing the figures in response to a question from Labour MP Jessica Morden.

He said: “There is no evidence in this data to suggest someone’s reason for claiming Personal Independence Payments was the cause of their death and it would be misleading to suggest otherwise.”

But it is reasonable to question whether these people would have died if they had not been deprived of the benefits they seem clearly to have needed, in order to live.

And these figures follow on from work carried out by This Writer – me – a few years ago in which I had to force the government of the day to admit 2,400 people had died between dates in 2011 and 2014, within just two weeks of having their claims for sickness benefits rejected.

It is a quiet cull.

The Tories have learned from the mistakes of the Nazis; they don’t send a van around to people’s houses to gas people with disabilities to death. They have realised they don’t have to.

The Tories know that it is much easier for them simply to deprive people with disabilities who claim benefits – the Nazis used to call them “useless eaters” and I’m sure some Tories do the same – of the means to survive.

This Site is filled with countless stories of the victims of this policy.

I could pick holes in Tomlinson’s words; of course it is not anybody’s reason for claiming a benefit that leads to their death after being denied it. The cause is the deprivation of the means to continue living.

But no individual case can prove this because the Tories would say it was anecdotal.

What is needed is a class action legal case in which it may be demonstrated that disabled people died who may not have done so, had they not been deprived of money.

There are plenty of examples now. All that is needed is someone to take it up as a cause. They could probably face a deluge of information if only they advertised for it.

I would do it myself but I seem to be spending too much time in courtrooms as it is. And I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

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Tories are attacking disabled people again while we’re looking the other way

The Conservative government has changed its assessment process for disability benefits to make it harder for people to get a correct decision on their claim – it seems.

The Tory miniser for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, revealed details of the secret change in a letter to the Commons Work and Pensions committee, after its chair, Stephen Timms, raised the issue on behalf of claimants.

It has been usual practice for claimants to request and receive a copy of their assessment report within days of the report being submitted to the DWP.

They have been able to request a copy of their report, check it thoroughly, raise any issues with the assessment providers and receive responses before they have received the decision.

In a fair, sane system, this is appropriate. So of course the Tories have changed it.

In a letter dated September 16, Tomlinson MP wrote:

“The department does not share assessment provider reports with claimants before they have been considered by a DWP Case Manager.”

This is because:

“Providing the report to claimants immediately after the assessment and before the Case Manager has made their decision could therefore give a false impression on the outcome of their claim.”

This will make it much harder for claimants to demand the mandatory review that the Tories insist they have to endure before appealing against a wrong decision.

It can take up to 15 weeks for claimants to receive the decision. Once they do, and if they disagree with it, they will have about three weeks – or less – to make a request for a mandatory review. 

The 30+ page assessment report is a key part of the process and it will take about 10 days from requesting a copy to receiving it.

This leaves very little time for them to see the recommendations made, to analyse the report, to check it for accuracy, to see if there are any errors, and to prepare and send a request for MR if necessary.

Many people with disabilities are very weak, due to their condition, and do not have the strength of will needed to push through a dispute with the government that has a short time limit.

You can be sure the Tories had this in mind when they secretly made this cruel change.

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Tories have wasted £120m in two years trying to tell people they’re not disabled

Habitual cruelty: if you thought the Tories stopped persecuting people with long-term illnesses and disabilities during the Covid-19 crisis, think again.

What a waste of time and money.

Over the last two years, Conservative governments have spent more than £120 million in taxpayers’ money fighting disability benefit claims – despite losing three-quarters of tribunal appeals.

That means automatic wastage of £90 million – but it is likely that the quarter of claimants who lost their appeals also had valid grounds to claim Personal Independence Payment and/or Employment and Support Allowance but were outflanked by a prejudiced system.

The increase in expenditure is far greater than the 13 per cent increase in applications would suggest. And it is happening at a time when the country can ill-afford to waste any cash at all. There can only be one reason for it: sick cruelty – the Tories are enjoying torturing sick and disabled people to death.

And why are there so many applications for disability and sickness benefits in the UK? Do conditions here – especially working conditions – cause illness and disability?

The new figures are further proof that the Tories’ convoluted appeal process has nothing to do with saving money from fraudsters and everything to do with starving people with disabilities – to death, if possible.

It is now well-documented that claimants initially have to go through an internal appeal process within the Department for Work and Pensions called mandatory reconsideration.

The courts only recently ruled that a Tory regulation forcing claimants to go without any benefit payments, and therefore without any income, for the period of a mandatory reconsideration – no matter how long that may be – was illegal.

Only after the DWP rules that a claim should be rejected can the sick or disabled person take their case to a tribunal.

And it is at tribunals that 76 per cent of PIP claims, and 75 per cent of ESA claims, are upheld.

This means the Tories have needlessly and cruelly deprived these people of their means of survival for the number of months – years in some cases – that these claims have been disputed.

We all know that there is hardly any fraud in disability benefit claims – the last recorded number This Writer saw was somewhere in the region of one or two per cent of claims.

So the huge proportion that the Tories refuse – and the amount of time and money wasted in the appeal process – can only mean one thing:

The Tories hate disabled people and want them to die.

Why isn’t this a national – if not international – scandal?

Source: Government spends £120m in taxpayer money fighting disability benefit claims in two years, figures show | The Independent | Independent

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Covid lockdown and Tory PIP assessment cruelty made woman attempt suicide

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Lockdown cruelty: if you thought this image had been retired for the duration of the Covid crisis, it seems you’re to be disappointed because the Tory government had other plans.

The incompetent – or just plain cruel? – Tory government’s failure to make adequate provision for us all during the Covid-19 lockdown has been worst in the cases of disability benefit claimants, this story shows.

Cambridgeshire Live has published the story of Katy (not her real name), who said the stress caused to her by the Department for Work and Pensions’s assessment for Personal Independence Payment drove her to attempt suicide.

It seems she was put through an assessment interview with an employee of private contractor Capita – and it followed a traumatic pattern that readers of This Site should by now understand well.

Initially offered as a face-to-face interview, the assessment was rescheduled to be on the phone because of the pandemic – and rescheduled three times at the last minute, ensuring that Katy’s mental health support worker could not participate, despite that having been agreed.

The call was pleasant enough but – long-term readers of This Site will know what’s coming – the report that came back was riddled with “gross inaccuracies”.

Denied the benefit, she was forced to file a complaint about the assessor and request a mandatory consideration to receive the funds she deserved.

As a result she was pushed into debt.

In addition – in lockdown and isolated – she had to handle the “incorrect documentation” of a psychiatric assessment.

These symptoms of incompetence by the authorities could not help but exacerbate her condition, which forced her to cope with he side effects of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including nightmares and flashbacks, and limiting her from carrying out daily tasks like washing or shopping.

It all became too much and she tried to take her own life. Fortunately – and all-too-unusually – the attempt failed.

Now – after Katy’s case was taken up by her MP, Disability Cambridgeshire and Cambridgeshire Live, and may therefore be considered to have become a public relations problem – the government has granted her the highest rate of PIP.

Funny how that happens when there’s a whiff of bad publicity, isn’t it?

Both the DWP and Capita have offered the usual arse-covering soundbites about using all the information available and changing the decision when new facts come forward.

But the fact is that a woman was driven to take her life because of the cruelty of a so-called benefit system that the Tories have perverted into a death-by-deprivation scheme.

This Writer has been campaigning against this deadly policy for years, and the fact that there is now uncontradictable proof that the DWP has been driving people to suicide is welcome.

But I fear I know what will come of it: Absolutely nothing.

Source: PIP payments: ‘The disability benefits assessment made me want to end my life’ – Cambridgeshire Live

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Was Universal Credit INTENDED to cause massive errors in payments? DWP accounts suggest so!

People die because of DWP mistakes: here’s Errol Graham, who starved to death because the department wrongly decided not to give him the benefit money he deserved. The organisation later – secretly – changed its rules in a bid to avoid humiliation in court.

Online journalist David Hencke is to be praised for digging these facts out of the black hole of Whitehall obscurity:

The Department for Work and Pensions has recorded its worst year of benefit payment failures, with Universal Credit the worst offender.

Mr Hencke reports that the department has been censured for material inaccuracy in its accounts for the 32nd year in a row – going back to the days of the old Department for Social Security.

Annual accounts released on June 30 show that “Excluding State Pension, the estimated rate of overpayments has increased again to 4.8 per cent (£4.5 billion) of estimated benefit expenditure, from a restated rate of 4.4 per cent (£3.8 billion).

“The estimated rate of underpayments, excluding State Pension, has decreased to 2.0% (£1.9 billion), from its estimated rate of 2.2% (£1.9 billion) in 2018-19. The rate of overpayments in 2019-20 is the highest estimate to date.”

Universal Credit is the worst offender – possibly because the scope for inaccurate reporting of income, and inaccurate provision of payments, is so large. It depends on claimants’ income, which varies from month to month.

The report says: “For Universal Credit, the estimated rate of overpayments increased from 8.7% to 9.4%. This is the highest recorded overpayment rate for any benefit other than Tax Credits (administered by HMRC), which peaked at 9.7% in 2003-04.”

“Underpayments rates have fallen for Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance and Pension Credit, and the estimated rate for Housing Benefit has increased. Personal Independence Payment has the highest rate of underpayments at 3.8% of expenditure in 2019-20. This rate has not changed from 2018-19.”

Take note of that: people with disabilities are habitually underpaid and the DWP has done nothing to stop this. No wonder so many of them die.

Mr Hencke’s report lists other omissions that are nothing less than disgraceful:

The Department has never checked whether payments are accurate for claimants on Disability Living Allowance for 16 years – last done in 2004-05.

More extraordinary the Department has never checked whether money paid out to 12 million pensioners is accurate or not since 2005 – that is 15 years ago.

Instead the department maintains there is no serious fraud or underpayments in pensions – calculating it as just £300 million out of an annual payment of £98.6 billion.

Given this year we had a case this year of a 94 year old pensioner being owed a staggering £117,000 because of 34 years of underpayments, I find this complacency mind blowing.

I also think the National Audit Office, as their auditors, is remiss in not asking for an update.

Next year’s estimate of benefit fraud and error is likely to even more out of kilter thanks to Covid 19 as the ministry have got rid of staff monitoring fraud to be able to pay out the 2.6 million claims for universal credit.

And although the department is said to be investigating 143,000 suspicious claims under Covid 19, it can’t follow them up because it can’t visit them at home.

So the prediction is that the situation will become even worse – and much worse – next year.

And you know that the people who will suffer the most will continue to be those in the most need.

The DWP’s permanent secretary is Peter Schofield, who most recently came into the news for quietly changing conditions for receiving benefits after one man starved to death.

Perhaps we need to remind him of his accountancy failures next time he tries to cover up his department’s – call them what they are – crimes in such a way.

Source: Revealed: 32 years of benefit payment failure by the Department of Work and Pensions | Westminster Confidential

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This grandmother DIED weighing just three stone because the Tories LIED about reviewing benefits for the terminally ill

Christine McCluskey: when she died, after your Tory government cut her benefits, she weighed just three stone.

Christine McCluskey did not have to die in the humiliating way your Conservative government demanded.

The 61-year-old grandmother had suffered long-term health problems most of her adult life including Crohn’s disease – which left her with a colostomy bag – osteoporosis, arthritis, a stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

This housebound lady had a feeding tube and a painful fistula that leaked through her abdominal wall, she was severely malnourished and was being investigated for a worrying cough at the time the Department for Work and Pensions assessed her for Personal Independence Payment.

The decision: her payments of £117.85 per week were removed and her mobility car was taken away from her.

Weeks later she was diagnosed with terminal cancer but her payments were not restored. She died four months after her benefits were stopped, weighing just three stone.

She was unable to receive fast-track access to PIP that is available for people with terminal illnesses who have less than six months to live, because she was unable to show when she was likely to die.

But doesn’t her case, along with those of Stephen Smith and Errol Graham, show that – deprived of benefits – people definitely will die within the six months stipulated?

The matter is even worse, though: The Tory government promised to review its six-month rule more than a year ago – and then forgot about it.

In the time since then, it is believed that more than 3,000 people have died in similar ways to Ms McCluskey while the Tories sat on their thumbs.

Earlier this month, motor neurone disease sufferer Lorraine Cox won a court case demanding a judicial review of the rules that demand only people with certain illnesses, who can prove they will die within six months, may claim PIP on the fast-track system.

So the Tories will have to go to court and defend their decision (albeit by omission) to cause these thousands of deaths.

Or will they just quietly announce a rule change between now and the hearing, as they have with the safeguarding rules that failed Errol Graham?

Whatever happens, it seems a rule change will happen. If so, This Writer hopes the families of the deceased – likely to number more than 20,000 over the last six years – demand compensation through the courts.

More than 300 are already doing this over a change in Universal Credit rules, after the system that deprived people of benefit because they were paid on different dates at the end of each month was condemned as “irrational” by the Court of Appeal.

Will the Tories care?

That is a good question, that cuts to the heart of Conservative policy on benefits.

It has been argued that the benefit system is heartless and kills people because the Tories want to save money and don’t care if people die as a result.

But their system of constant review and persecution is actually more expensive than simply paying the benefits – especially when one adds in the cost of appeals by all the claimants who have been denied benefits under false pretences, and now the cost of compensation claims.

Current Tory measures have done nothing to reduce benefit fraud, which remains a miniscule proportion of all claims.

So it seems we should ask the question nobody seems willing to ask:

Did the Tories impose these rules simply because they wanted to kill vulnerable people?

Source: Grandmother, 61, with terminal cancer died weighing three stone after DWP stopped her benefits

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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‘English independence’ supporters don’t even know where England is

The news is mostly bad so let’s laugh at some right-wing loonies:

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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The Livingstone Presumption is now available
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