Tag Archives: Therese Coffey

DWP crashes to another court defeat over sickness benefits

The High Court – also known as the Royal Courts of Justice – in London.

The High Court has just ruled that a rule allowing the Department for Work and Pensions to force some benefit claimants to wait – unpaid – for a mandatory reconsideration before they can appeal against refusal is unlawful.

The system previously demanded that, if a claim for income-related Employment and Support Allowance was refused, claimants would have to wait for a “mandatory reconsideration” of their case to take place before they could appeal.

This could take weeks, and has often taken months, in which the claimant – who is claiming because of serious illness, remember – has no income on which to survive.

Mr Justice Swift ruled that the demand that a mandatory reconsideration must take place before a claimant can appeal is a “disproportionate interference with the right of access to court” – in some cases.

This case was brought by law graduate Michael Conner, with crowdfunded aid from the website Benefits and Work – and represents a considerable victory for the claimant, the website, and crowdfunded legal proceedings in general.

Mr Connor had been forced to wait 18 weeks while the DWP carried out a mandatory reconsideration of his ESA decision. During this time he had no right to claim ESA.

If he had been able to lodge an appeal, he would have been paid ESA on a probationary rate, dependent on the provision of medical evidence by his doctor.

The judge said that after his benefit was cancelled on October 18, 2018, Mr Connor applied for a mandatory reconsideration.

But, in an “error” of the kind that benefit claimants have come to expect from the DWP, he said “no action was taken in response… The request for revision was incorrectly entered onto the Secretary of State’s electronic document management system.

“The document was not recognised or recorded as a request for reconsideration, and instead was classified as ‘unstructured whitemail'” and “it was not until 6 March 2019 – 4 months after Mr Connor’s request had been received – that it was identified as a request for revision.”

Mr Connor had managed to claim Income Support and Carer’s Allowance in the meantime, so he decided not to appeal the decision. Instead, he informed the DWP that he intended to challenge the legality of the rule making him unable to appeal until a mandatory reconsideration had happened.

He pointed out that:

  • The rule creates an open-ended deferral of the right to appeal that could leave claimants without income for an unlimited period – as evidenced by his own case.
  • Its effect is anomalous as ESA is payable before a decision is made and while an appeal is taking place, but not while the DWP is going through the mandatory reconsideration process [or, more likely, forgetting about it – in the opinion of This Writer].
  • If an appeal is started, there is no provision for back payment of ESA to cover the period of the revision decision while an appeal is ongoing.
  • So the interference is disproportionate because “it places benefits claimants, such as him, who are vulnerable, in a position of ‘legal and financial limbo, distress and destitution’ for the duration of the revision process that must be pursued before an appeal can be commenced” – and there is “no limit on the time permitted to the Secretary of State to determine an application for revision.”

In his ruling, Mr Justice Swift said: “It is anomalous that the payment pending appeal arrangements for ESA … do not extend to ESA claimants who are required … to request the Secretary of State to revise a decision and await her decision on that request before initiating an appeal.

“At the hearing of this case I gave the Secretary of State the opportunity to … explain why no provision exists to pay ESA to claimants… None of this further information provides the answer.

“My conclusion is that [the regulation in question] is a disproportionate interference with the right of access to court, so far as it applies to claimants to ESA who, once an appeal is initiated, meet the conditions for payment pending appeal.

“The advantage permitted to the Secretary of State by [the] regulation … comes at a cost to ESA claimants. There is no explanation for that.

“There is no evidence to support a conclusion that the objective pursued by [the] regulation … would to any extent be compromised if payments like the payments pending appeal made to ESA claimants who are pursuing appeals to the Tribunal, were made to them while they waited on the Secretary of State’s revision decision.

“In the absence of payment equivalent to payment pending appeal, the application of [the] regulation … to ESA claimants does not strike the required fair balance, and for that reason is an unjustified impediment to the right of access to court guaranteed by ECHR Article 6.”

Benefits and Work has stated: “Sadly, the ruling does not apply to other benefits such as PIP or DLA.

Nonetheless, it is an important victory and it means that ESA claimants, who are often faced with the prospect of many weeks without funds if they wish to appeal, are now in a much better position when challenging a decision.”

It will be interesting to see what will happen now.

The ruling is that the current situation is unlawful but no further remedy has been put in place beyond a statement to that effect.

What will happen to ESA claimants who must go through the mandatory reconsideration process now? Will they be paid while their case is reviewed?

That seems the logical course.

But I fear the DWP may find a way to duck out of it.

Source: Connor, R (On the Application Of) v The Secretary of State for Work And Pensions [2020] EWHC 1999 (Admin) (24 July 2020)

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Court showdown for DWP over Errol Graham – who starved to death after his benefits were axed

Errol Graham: he starved to death after the Department for Work and Pensions cut off his benefits.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will have to answer questions in court about the legality of its safeguarding policies after a family challenged it over the death of a vulnerable man.

The DWP ignored its own safeguarding advice to deprive Errol Graham of his benefits, This Site reported previously.

Left with no income, Mr Graham starved to death.

He had been receiving incapacity benefit, and then ESA, for many years as a result of enduring mental distress that had led to him being sectioned.

The DWP stopped Mr Graham’s Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) entitlement – and backdated that decision to the previous month – after making two unsuccessful visits to his home to ask why he had not attended a face-to-face Work Capability Assessment (WCA) on August 31, 2017.

He had not been asked to fill in an ESA50 questionnaire, though.

The government department managed to stop an ESA payment that had been due to be credited to his bank account on October 17, the same day it made the second unsuccessful safeguarding visit.

Its own rules state that it should have made both safeguarding visits before stopping the benefits of a vulnerable claimant.

Not only that, but the DWP had needed – but failed – to seek further medical evidence from Mr Graham’s GP, in order to make an informed decision about him.

In fact, it seems this would not have made much difference as Mr Graham’s GP had not seen him since 2013, or recalled him for vital blood tests or issued prescriptions since 2015, despite medical conditions including significant, long-term mental distress and hypothyroidism.

Because he had lost his entitlement to ESA, Mr Graham’s housing benefit was also stopped.

When bailiffs knocked down his front door to evict him on June 20, 2018, they found a dead body that weighed just four and a half stone. The only food in the flat was a couple of out-of-date tins of fish.

Mr Graham was 57 years old.

Now, solicitors Leigh Day tell us:

“Mr Graham’s son’s partner, Alison Turner, has been granted permission to a full judicial review challenging the legality of the current safeguarding policies and the failure of the DWP to review and revise those policies as promised at Errol’s inquest.

“Alison will argue that the safeguarding policies are unlawful as they create a significant risk of breaching the human rights of vulnerable individuals like Errol and she will seek a declaration that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Therese Coffey, has unlawfully breached her legitimate expectation that a review would be carried out resulting in revised policies.

“Following the Court Order the DWP now has 35 days to serve her Detailed Grounds and Evidence defending the safeguarding policies and explaining why Ms Coffey has not reviewed and amended those policies as promised at Errol’s inquest.”

Yes, there was an inquest – at which the Assistant Coroner decided not to write a “Regulation 28” report demanding changes to DWP safeguarding procedures to “prevent future deaths” because the DWP claimed it was already completing a review of its safeguarding, which was supposed to finish last autumn.

No such review has ever seen the light of day.

The court has ordered that a two-day hearing be listed to consider the case.

Ms Turner said: “Errol had a long history of serious mental illness which left him severely incapacitated. When the circumstances of his death came to light we had hoped – and from what the DWP stated at the inquest, we had expected – that the department would review their safeguarding policies and involve us in that review.

“But, incredibly, that has not happened. We deserve answers and those answers need to be public for the sake of other families and other vulnerable benefits claimants who suffer similar mental health difficulties.

“No one else should be put at risk in the same way Errol was because adequate safeguarding measures are not in place.”

Ms Turner is represented by Tessa Gregory, who said: “Our client believes that the DWP’s current safeguarding policies are not fit for purpose as they expose vulnerable individuals to a significant risk of harm, as was so tragically illustrated by Errol’s death.

“The DWP committed at Errol’s inquest to reviewing the applicable policies but two years after his death and one year after the inquest, nothing has changed.

“Our client therefore feels she has been left with no option but to bring these proceedings to … force the Secretary of State to take steps to ensure that no other families have to suffer in the terrible way her family has.”

Source: Family Of Errol Graham Granted Permission For Judicial Review Against DWP

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Coffey shows ‘active contempt’ for rights over Disability Confident snub – Disability News Service

She’ll never support it: Therese Coffey’s record suggests she is not sympathetic to disabled benefit claimants – so why would she take on disabled workers?

Work and pensions secretary Dr Therese Coffey has shown “active contempt for disability rights” by refusing to sign up to her own flagship disability employment scheme, information released by the government has confirmed.

Here’s Disability News Service:

A freedom of information (FoI) response from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has confirmed that Coffey is refusing to join Disability Confident.

DNS asked the department in the FoI request whether Coffey and 11 other current and former ministers were members of the scheme.

In its FoI response on Friday (3 July), DWP said it did not need to provide the information because it was easily available online.

It pointed to its own website, and a list of Disability Confident members, which had been updated the same day.

That list showed that all four of the MPs who serve as ministers alongside Coffey – Justin Tomlinson, Mims Davies, Will Quince and Guy Opperman – have signed up, although Quince had only done so since DNS first raised concerns in March about current and former ministers turning their back on the scheme.

But Coffey, who has been work and pensions secretary since last September and has been an MP since 2010, is not on the list, even though – like all MPs – she employs staff to assist with her parliamentary duties.

A DWP spokesperson this week refused to comment when asked why Dr Coffey had not signed up to Disability Confident, and whether it showed that she did not value the scheme, and that she did not view the employment of disabled people as important.

I think this silence speaks volumes. Don’t you?

Source: Coffey shows ‘active contempt’ for rights over Disability Confident snub – Disability News Service

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Tories cave in to Rashford’s school meals campaign with scheme for holidays

Marcus Rashford: his campaign has won. But would it have succeeded if a member of the pubic had been making the call?

This is a victory – but you must remember that Boris Johnson wanted your children to starve.

It is only the fact that this was a public relations disaster that has changed his mind. If Marcus Rashford had not launched a popular campaign, the Tories would have withdrawn the cash and given it to their fat corporate friends instead.

Remember that while you read that 1.3 million children will now benefit from funding that Johnson had previously claimed was not available. What about the other 1.7 million? Will they still go hungry?

Almost 1.3 million school children in England – accounting for 15.4% of state-educated pupils – were eligible for and claiming free school meals according to the latest available data.

That’s interesting. It was three million in the stories about Mr Rashford’s campaign before he won.

He tweeted:

It is indeed.

England in 2020 is a place where the government deliberately tries to harm its citizens…

… and where it only gives anything back in fear of harmful publicity from a campaign by a highly-visible public figure. If Joe Bloggs from a small village had run this campaign, your children would be skin and bone by September.

Source: Marcus Rashford: School scheme extended after footballer’s campaign – BBC News

Ghoul Johnson spits on footballer’s school meals plea – he wants millions of children to STARVE

Marcus Rashford: he knows the value of government-provided meals for school-age children; Boris Johnson doesn’t.

Boris Johnson has announced a plan to force around three million school-age children to starve over the summer holidays.

He didn’t say it in quite those words when he rejected footballer Marcus Rashford’s plea to extend the free school meals scheme into the summer holidays – of course he didn’t – but that is what he meant.

Mr Rashford had written to Johnson, pleading for a change of heart from the prime minister who had decided to end the food voucher scheme, in an open letter telling of his own experiences of relying on free school meals. But his plea fell on deaf ears. Johnson doesn’t care about poor people’s children.

Instead, the prime minister’s spokesman said the government was making £63 million available for local authorities to help families struggling to afford food and other basic essentials – a fraction of the £115 million needed to feed school-age children alone.

Mr Rashford, who used food banks and received free meals as a child, has raised £20 million to boost food distribution with the charity FareShare – and may therefore be said to have done more to help feed school-age children than Johnson.

It seems the government – ever conscious of its image – has belatedly realised that this is a public relations disaster and tried to mitigate the effect by sending a minister on a round of the media to say Johnson’s gang will be putting £9 million into a holiday activities and food programme that will feed 50,000 children – just 1.67 per cent of the total number going hungry thanks to Johnson’s cruelty.

Fortunately, Mr Rashford has found allies beyond the government. Here’s the Co-op:

And of course the general public is behind him:

But Keir Starmer’s new New Labour party is notably silent:

And of course there’s always a Tory minister around to put their feet in their mouth and make matters worse. In this case – of all people – it had to be the Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey:

In a plea to MPs he tweeted: “When you wake up this morning and run your shower, take a second to think about parents who have had their water turned off during lockdown”.

But Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey replied: “Water cannot be disconnected though.”

Ms Coffey is right that the law stops water firms disconnecting the supply to people’s homes. But the law doesn’t stop gas or electricity firms disconnecting their supplies, used for heating. That means while water can’t be switched off entirely, “hot water” can.

Marcus Rashford then stepped in – telling her: “I’m concerned this is the only tweet of mine you acknowledged. Please, put rivalries aside for a second, and make a difference #maketheuturn.”

Two hours later, after the backlash, Ms Coffey posted follow-up tweets addressed at the footballer.

She wrote: “I welcome your passion for supporting children and the most vulnerable in society – a passion we share.

“We are working to the same aim. I & this Govt will continue to actively help and support families and businesses through this emergency and beyond.

“We supported people renting and ensure they cannot be evicted & intervened with electricity suppliers on bills.

“We have kept schools open for vulnerable children and those of key workers. We will continue to support the economy and help all of us get through this.”

Weasel words. We have already seen that the government is withdrawing help and support from families. And it seems the people are not convinced:

It seems they are right to be sceptical, too. Senior Tory Robert Halfon has broken ranks to warn that even the meagre cash promised instead of free school meals will never reach the children who need it.

He said:

“The problem with these kinds of programmes is it’s very bureaucratic.

“People have to apply to the council, whereas the free school meal programme is very simple, families understand it and it goes to those who need it most.”

Asked if he supported Mr Rashford’s campaign, Mr Halfon told BBC Breakfast: “Yes I do. He is an inspiration, he is a hero of our time.”

He earned of a looming “ice age for vulnerable children”, with 2.5 million not learning, 4 million having no contact with their teachers and food insecurity nearly doubling.

“Families face not just health worries, but enormous financial anxiety and enormous stress,” Mr Halfon said.

Contrast this attitude with the hundreds of billions in corporate welfare that Johnson pulls out of the government’s back pocket whenever big business needs it:

That’s right – apparently Johnson can give big businesses (whose fat bosses are already hugely rich) £150 billion, but can’t scrape up 0.08 per cent of that to help feed starving kids. And people voted for this, by a landslide.

POSTSCRIPT: This Writer has been a long-term critic of Liberal Democrat AM Kirsty Williams, but she’s on the right side over this issue. As the Labour-run Welsh government’s education minister, she has announced that children here will continue to receive support throughout the summer holidays.

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Suspend benefit cap to protect disabled people in coronavirus crisis? It’ll never happen under Tories!

She’ll never support it: Therese Coffey’s record suggests she is not sympathetic to disabled benefit claimants.

It’s a good, solid, practical suggestion: with disabled people most at risk of financial loss during the coronavirus crisis, the government should suspend the penalties it has imposed on them in the last 10 years.

These include the benefit cap and the “two-child policy” for benefits relating to children.

Also suggested by the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) is conversion of the Universal Credit advance loan into a non-repayable grant.

In fact, the DBC requests the suspension of all debt repayment deductions from UC.

And the organisation calls on the government to suspend work-related conditionality and associated sanctions for those receiving benefits.

Other proposals include a call to give higher priority to resolving technical and capacity issues in the benefits system, as well as providing clear guidance for making both a digital and non-digital claim for UC. This is practical as the Department for Work and Pensions has been swamped with claims after the coronavirus lockdown began.

And there is absolutely no hope that the government will grant – or even seriously consider – any of these requests.

The Tories have turned the benefit system into a very efficient device with which to persecute people with disabilities.

They seem to see the coronavirus as a handy aid to this cause, with hospitals already being told to ration ventilators to those with a better chance of surviving – which is prejudicial against the disabled.

In fact it would be easy to see the crisis as providing the Tories with an opportunity simply to continue their hate campaign by other means.

When the final figures are summed up, it will be interesting to see what proportion of the dead happen to be disabled.

Source: Coronavirus: Suspend the benefit cap during crisis to protect disabled people, charities ask – Mirror Online

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Coronavirus crisis won’t persuade Tories to axe the five-week wait for Universal Credit

97,386th in the queue: one claimant’s Universal Credit agony caught in a screenshot.

The Conservatives have insisted on forcing financial instability on hundreds of thousands of people – by refusing to ditch the five-week wait for Universal Credit.

The Tory government has claimed it is helping people who have lost income because of the coronavirus crisis by saying they can claim UC while the UK is under lockdown.

But their refusal to waive the five-week rule means the half a million or more people who have claimed in the last 10 days will be severely out-of-pocket.

Indeed, according to the PoliticsHome article (see link below), 70,000 people have already applied for an advance on their payments.

This is a loan. Good luck to all of those people when they try to pay it off!

This Writer can’t understand Therese Coffey’s comments.

She said: “The design is meant to be based on your general income. We need a month to assess what your monthly income is likely to be.”

No they don’t! They know exactly how much claimants have earned in the past and exactly how much they are likely to earn while they are claiming – it’s all included in the claim information.

I don’t even accept the excuse offered by Peter Schofield, Permanent Secretary for the Department for Work and Pensions.

He said it was impossible to change the conditions under which UC is paid because the system is working at full capacity and changing it would require “reprogramming, resetting or manual processes which we simply, at those levels of volumes, wouldn’t be able to manage”.

It’s a computerised system. Any such change should only require the equivalent of flicking a switch – otherwise what was the point of making it a computer program in the first place?

The intention was to make it easily-adaptable – or at least that’s what we were told.

So… what are we to conclude?

That the Conservatives are perfectly capable of changing Universal Credit to make it payable at once – but they refuse? Now why on Earth would they want to do that if we’re really “all in it together”?

Source: Government insists it won’t ditch five-week wait for Universal Credit despite coronavirus outbreak

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‘Welfare Persecution’ secretary reduced to sneaking into her own home town

Not smiling: and with her record, Therese Coffey has nothing to smile about.

Therese Coffee really is a piece of… work, isn’t she?

On March 6, she made a visit to Liverpool, dropping in on the Job Centres at Bootle and Toxteth (recently the subject of a BBC documentary).

It’s her home town; she went to school there – but she had to sneak in like a burglar because her views make her hated.

She claims to be a Liverpool FC supporter but considers Margaret Thatcher – who blamed Liverpool fans for the Hillsborough disaster – to be a personal hero.

She voted for the Bedroom Tax.

She voted to cut Universal Credit – and refused to support ending the cruel five-week wait for the first payment of that benefit.

She voted to cut disability benefits – and has failed even to sign up for Disability Confident, a scheme that encourages employers like her (she pays for staff in her Parliamentary office) to take on disabled workers.

This last is particularly hypocritical as last November she appealed to employers to “take a look at their record on disability employment and think about what they can do to help create a more equal Britain”.

Clearly Ms Coffey considers herself to be above that.

Still, it seems there’s a precedent. Of all the previous Tory Work and Pensions secretaries, only Stephen Crabbe is actually listed as having signed up to Disability Confident (although Damian Green says he has, and that he has a disabled staff member).

Iain Duncan Smith, who introduced the scheme in 2013, isn’t on it.

Nor were Esther McVey, David Gauke and Amber Rudd ever part of it.

What a shower.

No wonder Ms Coffey doesn’t want to announce it when she comes to visit.

I’m surprised that she was allowed in by staff at the job centres.

Source: DWP Chief Thérèse Coffey tried to sneak into Liverpool but we found her and asked about her views – Liverpool Echo

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Who’s laughing now? DWP loses six-year fight to discriminate against victims of domestic violence

He laughed: Remember, IDS laughed at the terror he was causing a rape victim by using the Bedroom Tax to make it too expensive for her to keep a ‘panic room’. He thrives on terrorising others.

Remember when Iain Duncan Smith laughed with pleasure at putting a rape victim in fear for her life?

He had used the Department for Work and Pensions to persuade a court that she had to pay the Bedroom Tax on a panic room installed in her house to prevent further attacks against her.

As a result of the ruling, she was evicted from the house and Duncan Smith laughed with joy when he heard the news.

Since then, the people of Chingford and Woodford Green have re-elected him as their MP – thrice. They must be so proud of themselves.

But the last laugh is on him because the European Court of Human Rights has confirmed a ruling that the Bedroom Tax discriminates against victims of domestic violence.

Judges at that court ruled in October that the Bedroom Tax discriminated against the woman.

DWP lawyers tried to overturn the ruling by demanding that the case be heard in the court’s Grand Chamber – but have been rebuffed.

Now the hated ‘Department for Welfare Persecution’, as some have dubbed it, must pay the woman – a rape and assault victim – £8,600 for the “damage she suffered”.

And the victim’s legal team is calling for the government to make immediate changes to the Bedroom Tax rules, in order to make them comply with the ruling.

They say almost 300 more victims of domestic violence are in the same situation:

The department decided she and her 11-year-old son only needed two bedrooms – despite the third bedroom in the property being specially adapted by police to contain a panic room as part of a sanctuary scheme.

Research by the legal team representing ‘A’ found almost 1 in 20 households using the Sanctuary Scheme for people at risk of severe domestic violence have been affected by the bedroom tax, amounting to 281 households across the country.

Oh, and guess what?

The vast majority of people in the Sanctuary Scheme are women.

Once again we see the Conservative government discriminating against vulnerable women.

The DWP has said it is “carefully considering the court’s decision”.

In the light of all the historic evidence, we may conclude that the department’s lawyers are trying to find a loophole, so they can continue persecuting these women, who have already suffered enough.

Will we get an announcement? Or will current Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey try to brush this case under the carpet?

Source: DWP told Bedroom Tax domestic violence discrimination ruling is final – Mirror Online

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DWP admits abusing data protection laws to shred 50 reviews of benefit-related suicides

Not smiling: and Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey really won’t be, once it gets through to her that the public now knows her department has been taking the p*ss out of all the people it has killed.

This is typical of the DWP: in the week that the minister for disabled people promises the department is working to improve its response to benefit-related deaths, we find it has been destroying records of them.

Particularly interesting for This Writer is the fact that they were records dated before 2015 – a period that I inquired about in a Freedom of Information request that the Department refused to honour.

I had to force the government to issue what turned out to be a tragically limited response, via an order from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

All of the above suggests that Linda Cooksey, sister of DWP victim Tim Salter (who took his own life after being deprived of benefits in 2013), was right to say the Department has been trying to “cover up” the facts.

It seems the DWP has feebly tried to excuse itself with a claim that the destruction was necessary due to data protection requirements.

But the Information Commissioner’s Office (again) has made it clear that there was no need to destroy any documents by a particular date, and in any case they could have been made subjects of a “public interest” protection.

It is interesting to hear that Stephen Timms, chair of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, said there was a “lack of seriousness” about “putting things right when they go wrong”.

Perhaps that explains why Justin Tomlinson (the afore-mentioned minister for people with disabilities) was caught smirking during a debate about the DWP’s failure to address these issues.

So we see that the DWP minister was making fun of everybody who has suffered at the department’s hands, and the Department itself is laughing at anybody who seriously expects it to change its ways.

Source: ‘Cover-up’: DWP destroyed reports into people who killed themselves after benefits were stopped | The Independent

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