Tag Archives: sickness

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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Coronavirus: Medical groups unite to condemn bulk ‘Do Not Revive’ plan for sick and disabled people


This should be seen as absolute proof that it has been a policy to deny coronavirus care to people with long-term illnesses and disabilities.

This Writer has noted some scepticism in the responses to yesterday’s article about the GP practice in Wales that wrote to people with ongoing medical conditions, telling them that equipment used to treat coronavirus is being rationed and they were not likely to be treated if they contracted the disease. Instead, the letter asked them to sign a form directing medical staff not to attempt to resuscitate them if they succumbed to the virus.

My own attitude to this is clear: as we have all paid into the National Health Service, throughout our lives, we all deserve the best possible care available from it. I asked: do politicians and royalty get preferential treatment? If so, why?

Also, just because a person has an underlying condition, that doesn’t mean they won’t be able to shrug off the virus, given the same help that is provided to everybody else.

Now the British Medical Association, the Care Provider Alliance, the Care Quality Commission and the Royal College of General Practitioners have released a joint statement, saying more or less the same.

Here’s the statement:

It reads [boldings mine]:

The importance of having a personalised care plan in place, especially for older people, people who are frail or have other serious conditions has never been more important than it is now during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Where a person has capacit, as defined by the Mental Capacity Act, this advance care plan should always be discussed with them directly. Where a person lacks the capacity to engage with this process then it is reasonable to produce such a plan following best interest guidelines with the involvement of family members or other appropriate individuals.

Such advance care plans may result in the consideration and completion of a Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNAR) or ReSPECT form. It remains essential that these decisions are made on an individual basis. The General Practitioner continues to have a central role in the consideration, completion and signing of DNAR forms for people in community settings.

It is unacceptable for advance care plans, with or without DNAR form completion to be applied to groups of people of any description. These decisions must continue to be made on an individual basis according to need.

It’s saying that any policy requiring medical staff to write off any individual – of any age and condition – as untreatable without discussing their situation with them is wrong.

If the government has handed that down to healthcare providers as a requirement, then it is wrong.

If anybody has already died as a result of such a policy, then those responsible must be identified and must pay the appropriate penalty.

This is real. It is important. It could be deadly. Don’t let the Tories get away with it.

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Coronavirus discrimination: surgery asks chronically sick and disabled patients to refuse treatment

People with serious health conditions and disabilities who are registered with a GP surgery in Wales had a nasty surprise in the post.

The surgery sent them a letter saying if they caught the coronavirus, the best thing for them to do would be to reject treatment and wait for death – and it asked them to sign a form confirming it.

Llynfi Surgery, in Llynfi Road, Maesteg, sent the letter to patients with serious health conditions such as incurable cancer, motor neurone disease, and untreatable heart and lung conditions, on March 27.

It comes as further confirmation that people with disabilities will suffer adverse discrimination in the coronavirus crisis – that government guidance is to abandon them.

The letter states that people with these conditions are “unlikely to be offered hospital admission” if they become unwell with coronavirus and “certainly will not be offered a ventilator bed”.

It continued: “We would therefore like to complete a DNACPR form for you which we can share with the OOH [out of hours] GP services and which will mean that in the event of a sudden deterioration in your condition because of a Covid-19 infection or disease progression the emergency services will not be called and resuscitation attempts to restart your heart or breathing will not be attempted.”

Going on, it suggested that the “best option” for patients is to stay at home to be cared for by their family with “ongoing support from ourselves and community nursing services”.

It listed “benefits” to signing the DNACPR form:

  • “Your GP and more importantly your friends and family will know not to call 999”;
  • “Scarce ambulance resources can be targeted to the young and fit who have chance of surviving the infection”, and;
  • “The risk of transmitting the virus to friends, family and emergency responders from CPR (even chest compression alone) is very high. By having a DNACPR form in place you protect your family and emergency responders from this additional risk”.

The final line reads: “We will not abandon you but we need to be frank and realistic about what the next few months holds for all of us.”

Wales Online reported on this scandalous correspondence, saying that the local health board had contacted patients who were upset by the letter, to apologise and “answer any concerns”.

And both the Welsh Assembly member and MP have issued a joint statement saying this was “not a standard letter” and the board is working with the surgery “to offer compassionate and sound advice in the very best traditions of our health service”.

You’ll notice that there isn’t a single line in these comments that contradicts the suggestions in the letter.

If anything, it seems the authorities have simply been embarrassed that it has stated the facts about government guidance on long-term sick and disabled patients who contract the coronavirus in a blunt way.

The affair seems to be confirmation that the government is indeed using the coronavirus to cull “useless eaters”, in line with the eugenics beliefs of Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings, and the Nazi-style persecution of people with long-term health issues that has been carried out by successive Conservative governments over the last decade.

Source: Surgery asks sickest patients to sign ‘do not attempt CPR’ form if they get Covid-19 – Wales Online

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New DWP sickness/disability assessment trial could be more confused than current system

As seen on Twitter: we may hope the new assessment is better than this. We may HOPE…

I had hoped that perhaps I was the only one who was confused by the latest Tory plan for sickness and disability benefit assessments.

They said they were planning to merge the assessments for Personal Independence Payment (disability) and Employment and Support Announcement (sickness)…

But instead it seems the new trial is for a single “digital platform” that many claimants may not be able to access because their sickness or disability means they can’t cope with computers.

Didn’t they say they were going to make it easier, not harder?

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has caused confusion after refusing to say if a newly-announced trial will test the idea of merging assessments for its two main disability benefits.

Justin Tomlinson (pictured), the minister for disabled people, announced this week that DWP would be trialling the use of a new single “digital platform” to help deliver assessments for both personal independent payment (PIP) and employment and support allowance (ESA), and the equivalent of ESA under universal credit.

Such a move was first suggested 12 months ago by the then work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd.

The new system would aim to ensure that people in receipt of more than one disability-related benefit do not have to provide the same information multiple times.

But ministers have also spoken previously of testing whether they could merge the processes for PIP and ESA (the work capability assessment) into a single assessment.

Both the assessments have been blighted by years of criticism and repeated links to the deaths of claimants.

Source: DWP adds to confusion over ‘single assessment’ plans – Disability News Service

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Promises on disability and social security show Labour has listened

The Labour Party has paid attention to the people and published a manifesto that promises to end many of the injustices that the Conservative government (with the Liberal Democrats between 2010 and 2015) introduced.

This Writer feels duty-bound to tell you that reading the chapter on Social Security was an uplifting experience on many levels, as so many of the subjects This Site has highlighted have been tackled.

Labour will scrap the Department for Work and Pensions. This Site said the DWP had become so badly damaged by the culture of persecution instilled in it by Tory ministers from Iain Duncan Smith onwards that the only option was to dissolve it and start again. It will be replaced with a new Department of Social Security.

Labour will scrap Universal Credit. Since it began to be developed, This Site has highlighted the fact that UC was a hugely-expensive disaster – a position that was proved when it was implemented; instead of providing a convenient all-in-one safety net for people facing hard times, it has instead deliberately pushed them into poverty. It will be replaced with a new system, to be developed carefully, intending to end poverty by guaranteeing a reasonable standard of living.

While this new system is being prepared, Labour will introduce interim measures to end the cruelty imposed by the Conservatives (and Liberal Democrats), all of which address complaints raised by This Site and others:

Labour will end the so-called “digital barrier” that obstructs people who have trouble coping with computers and the internet from claiming benefits. It will offer telephone, face-to-face and outreach support.

Labour will end the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments.

Labour will reintroduce fortnightly payments, to help people manage their money.

Labour will end the Tory sanction regime.

Labour will scrap the benefit cap.

Labour will end the two-child limit on benefits and scrap the so-called ‘rape clause’, which it describes (as I do) as “immoral and outrageous”.

Labour will pay the child element of benefits to the primary carer, to ensure that women are no longer forced to stay in abusive relationships by the system.

The changes won’t just extend to Universal Credit, though.

Labour will end the Bedroom Tax and increase the Local Housing Allowance to protect people against the threat of eviction.

And the party will reform the benefit system to end its punishment of people with long-term illnesses and disabilities:

Labour will end the “dehumanising” Work Capability Assessments and PIP Assessments.

Labour will stop benefit assessments being contracted-out to private companies and ensure that all benefit assessments are carried out by DSS employees in future.

Labour will increase Employment and Support Allowance by £30 a week for people in the Work-Related Activity Group, reversing the Tory cut.

Labour will raise the basic rate of support for children with disabilities to the same level as Child Tax Credits.

Labour will give extra support to severely disabled people without a formal carer, so they can meet the extra costs they face.

Labour will increase Carers’ Allowance to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance. This is the only measure that This Writer thinks is inadequate. Having been a carer, I know that CA is a pittance, but an increase of a few pounds a week is unlikely to help much. More harmful is the fact that, if a carer earns more than a set amount (around £120 a week), the entire allowance is cancelled. It would be better to introduce a taper, so that the amount of CA is reduced according to the amount a person earns.

And Labour  will help disabled people who want to work by bringing back specialist employment advisors, introducing a government-backed Reasonable Adjustments Passport scheme to help people move between jobs more easily, and reviewing support for disabled people at work, including the Access to Work scheme.

These are all terrific policies.

They make Labour the obvious choice for voters who are currently claiming unemployment, sickness or disability benefits.

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Another billion-pound scandal over ‘serially botched’ sickness benefits

This is from the UK Parliament website – verbatim. Straight from the horse’s mouth:

New figures published today by the Work and Pensions Committee show the “wholly unacceptable” costs of “serially botched” administration of ESA payments to disabled people. DWP has begun the process of fixing years of underpayments to vulnerable claimants but it has become clear the errors persisted well after the Department claimed to have corrected the underlying problem.

Costs of “protracted error” continue to mount

In February the Committee wrote again to the Department for an update on the costs of this protracted error, after DWP admitted that the number of staff in DWP working on the systemic errors had tripled from 400 to 1,200. It was also at that point that it was forced to admit that even after new guidance had been issued to staff in 2015 in an attempt to correct the problem, 30,000 extra cases had been identified where it was possible the same error resulting in underpayment had been made.

In the response published today, DWP reveals that of the 1200 staff assigned to fixing the huge administrative error, 400 are new, additional staff recruited specifically for this exercise. It shows that just running the exercise  – if it ends next year as forecast – will cost an additional £40 million. The total cost, including making up what is owed to claimants, is expected to near £1bn.

Chair’s comments

Commenting today, Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“ESA has taken another disastrous turn. Having made it through the awful, painful, error-ridden assessment process run by the private contractors who can so rarely hit a target, through the miserable and lengthy reconsideration and appeal process that is so costly to taxpayers and claimants alike, tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of disabled people still lost out on money they were owed. Now DWP has been forced to admit that just the admin of fixing its own catastrophic incompetence is going to add another £40 million to the cost of this serially botched operation. Imagine what that money could have done instead for families across the country who are struggling to feed their children and heat their homes.

You might think that this shameful, damaging waste would at least focus minds at DWP on making sure this never, ever happened again. But we are already starting to hear about people whose incomes have been slashed because they’ve been wrongly advised to claim Universal Credit, and there’s no way back. If Ministers want to avoid another billion pound scandal, they need to get a grip on this – and fast.”

DWP resource allotment

In February, the Chair asked “how the Department has made these resources available – in particular, what work have you had to stop or deprioritise in order to deploy 1,200 staff to this exercise?”. The questions, including the request for an estimate of the total administrative cost – i.e. excluding the arrears themselves – of reviewing and correcting the underpayments came as DWP published figures showing it had:

  • begun the process of reassigning 310,000 claimants’ ESA payments
  • paid arrears of over £328 million to 58,000 people
  • increased the number of staff working on the years of mistakes from 400 to 1,200
  • revised the expected near £1bn cost of the process to March 2020 down slightly, from £970m to £920m.

The Permanent Secretary states in this latest letter that “we have not had to stop or deprioritise other customer activity in order to complete this review”. He does not, however, address the question of what other work DWP could have done if it had not had to hire 400 new staff, deploy 1200 total and spend £40m on this exercise.

Terrible failures in assessment process

In 2017 the Committee picked up on the original NAO report uncovering years of significant underpayment to vulnerable, disabled claimants of ESA, in the aftermath of the Committee’s work on the terrible failures in the assessment process for ESA and PIP benefits. In July 2018 the Chair commented on the huge leap in the number of cases of underpayment requiring investigation and possible correction, from 70k to a quarter of a million.


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‘First do no harm’: Public to lobby Parliament over DWP assessments

Activists are to lobby Parliament next month in a bid to persuade MPs to impose stricter rules on the assessors hired by private firms to judge whether people claiming sickness and/or disability benefits are faking it.

The First Do No Harm lobby on February 13 aims to expose the continued harm caused to disabled people by the Tory government’s work capability assessments (WCAs), concentrating on the repeated failure of assessors hired by the Department for Work and Pensions to collect and pay proper regard to further medical evidence, as needed to judge a claimant’s eligibility for sickness and disability benefits.

It has been organised by Labour’s Treasury and work and pensions teams, through shadow chancellor John McDonnell and shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood, after campaigning by the disabled people’s grassroots group Black Triangle and other disabled activists.

The aim is to push for the principle of “First Do No Harm” – a concept that should be at the heart of any true medical professional’s moral code – to be included in the benefits assessment process, through a framework that “treats disabled people with dignity and respect”.

This would introduce new “safety protocols” to ensure that the health and lives of disabled people are not put at risk by unfair decisions on eligibility following a WCA.

The lobby also aims to push the Conservative government to bow to years of pressure to carry out a cumulative assessment of the impact of its social security cuts and reforms on disabled people.

And it will call for an end to the government’s sanctions and conditionality regime.

The lobby is due to take place on Wednesday 13 February between 1pm and 6pm, with the briefing from 2-3.30pm, in the Palace of Westminster’s committee room 15. The committee room can be used for one-to-one meetings with MPs or further discussions on the issue from 1-2pm and then from 3.30-6pm

You can read more details in this Disability News Service article – and then you are invited to help out.

While the lobby has been organised by Labour, it is hoped that MPs from all parties will attend – especially Conservatives. And they’re only likely to do so if their constituents demand it.

It doesn’t matter if you are sick, disabled or able-bodied – if you want your MP to attend the lobby, get in touch – for example, by using the website WriteToThem, saying you wish to seek an appointment on the day of the lobby.

One more thing: Spread the word via Facebook, Twitter, and any other social network you use.

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Tory minister for suicide prevention: ‘Like curing malaria with the plague’

Jackie Doyle-Price: The new minister for suicide prevention supported all the policies that have pushed people to take their own lives – and joked about suicide as well. Is that what the Tories think this issue is – a joke?

It was an easy mistake to make. When I heard the Conservative government had appointed a minister for suicide prevention I thought, “Does this mean they’re finally accepting responsibility?”

Alas, I was mistaken.

But you only have to look back over the last six years of Vox Political‘s output to see the Tory record, going back to my report on the Bedroom Tax-related death of Stephanie Bottrill. Her inquest found that stress and pressure placed on her by the Conservative-led government of the day contributed to her suicide.

You would also be well-advised to revist my article about ‘chequebook euthanasia’ – the idea that the Conservative government consciously drives benefit claimants – especially people with long-term illnesses and disabilities – to suicide in a way that means they can then deny any connection with the death.

We have seen such denials many times in recent years, embodied in the now-standard claim that “correlation does not equal causation” and “suicide is complicated; there are many possible causes”.

Sure, correlation does not necessarily equal causation. However, when half of all the women who have ever taken the Tory government’s Work Capability Assessment have attempted suicide – as The Independent has told us – I think it’s safe to say Conservative policies push people towards it.

But the announcement of Jackie Doyle-Price’s appointment to the new role said only that she would “help tackle the stigma” associated with suicide. And the only initiative announced was support in schools.

And her commitment to the role was instantly called into question when it was revealed that Ms Doyle-Price has consistently voted for the cuts in social security benefits that have been blamed for the multitude of suicides and suicide attempts.

Nursing Notes tells us: “According to the website TheyWorkForYou, Ms. Doyle-Price has consistently voted to reduce housing benefit, voted against raising benefits in line with inflation, voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability and voted forty-six times for an overall reduction in spending on welfare benefits.

“Statistics show that those with long-term physical or mental health issues are significantly more likely to be dependent on the state for assistance with housing and living costs.

“Social isolation, financial and health struggles are thought to be some of the leading risk factors for preventable suicide in the UK.”

The article quotes Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Mind, who said: “Mind found that half of people with mental health problems have thought about or attempted suicide as a result of social issues such as housing issues, finances, benefit support, and employment. We need a benefits system that is supportive – not one that drives people into poverty.”

Damn straight, Keith.

The revelation that she actually made a joke about suicide makes it even worse.

https://twitter.com/MattTurner4L/status/1050070483876614144

This Site’s long-time friend and fellow campaigner for the rights of sick and disabled people, Samuel Miller, has raised a few pertinent points on this matter, especially the final one:

Was it? I don’t think so.

I think it was a signal; they appointed the least appropriate person for the job because they think the deaths and attempted deaths of hundreds of thousands of people are nothing but a big joke. They really are that repulsive.

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Scandal of the DWP’s failure to cut the number of people dying every day on sickness benefits

[Image: www.disabledgo.com]

The Canary‘s recent report on the number of people dying on sickness benefits reveals a scandal – not because of the high number of deaths, but because the Department for Work and Pensions has failed to reduce it in three years.

I am indebted to campaigner Gail Ward who sent in a Freedom of Information request about the number of deaths on ESA and two other benefits between 2014 and 2017 (I should have done it myself but somebody made a false and vexatious accusation of anti-Semitism against me so I’ve had to spend a lot of time fighting that instead). From it, The Canary‘s Steve Topple deduced that around 100 people a day were dying while on ESA.

That’s just one more than the 99 who I found were dying every day, after the DWP finally honoured my own FoI request about benefit-related deaths in 2015.

Mr Topple wrote that deaths in the Work-Related Activity Group were of serious concern, is this is the part of ESA for people who are expected to be able to return to work in the near future.

He was echoing my own words from 2015.

I wrote: “The work-related activity group is composed entirely of people who are expected to recover from their illnesses and be well enough to return to work within a year. In that group, there should be no deaths at all – barring accidents. Why have nearly 10,000 people lost their lives after being assigned there?”

And why are people assigned to the WRAG still losing their lives, three years after these damning figures were published on This Site?

The answer is obvious: The DWP hasn’t lifted a finger to stop them.

When I published my piece in August 2015, I made a series of points:

“The figures released today demand more considered, in-depth study.

“Age-Standardised Mortality Rates give a false picture of the number of deaths – as predicted.

“Serious questions must now be asked about the way incapacity benefits are being administered by the Department for Work and Pensions.”

It is a scandal that those points are still valid today.

And the excuse provided by the DWP is the same as three years ago, as well: “Any causal effect between benefits and mortality cannot be assumed from these statistics.”

Maybe not – but then that leads to a very obvious follow-up question:

How much research has the DWP carried out into the reasons so many people have died, in a benefit group where they were expected to get better?

The DWP has responded to a Freedom of Information request (FOI) from disability campaigner Gail Ward. She asked how many people on ESA and two other benefits had died between 2014 and 2017.

On average, this means that over 100 people a day died while on ESA for the period in question. Breaking it down, the deaths per day were:

Slightly more than 7 in the “unknown” group.
9.02 during the assessment phase.
10 in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG).
Almost 75 in the Support Group.

Deaths in the Support Group could be expected, as the claimants are often severely ill. But what’s of concern is the number of deaths in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) – the part of ESA where the DWP places people aged 16-64 who it deems can start moving towards work.

It is impossible to know why so many WRAG claimants were dying, as the DWP does not do this analysis. But nor does it calculate the number of claimants who died after being declared fit-for-work. As such, these figures raise serious questions about whether some WRAG claimants should have been in that group to start with. They also raise serious concerns about the treatment of claimants, and why so many people who the DWP deemed well enough to start moving towards work have been dying.

Source: The DWP was just forced to reveal that 100 benefit claimants a day have been dying on its watch | The Canary

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Sickness and disability benefit assessments: Has anything changed in the last five years?

Unhealthy: Theresa May insists on employing private contractors Atos and Capita to assess benefit claimants’ fitness for work according to criteria that are not fit for purpose, and this has caused huge problems.

The video clip below resurfaced on This Writer’s Facebook page today; apparently I posted the link to it five years ago.

Has anything changed – other than the fact that Atos has been joined by Capita in carrying out the assessments?

Comments from people who have had assessments recently will be illuminating, I think.


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