Tag Archives: UC

Thousands of disabled students could get Universal Credit after woman wins legal fight

Tactical cruelty: perhaps DWP bosses realised they were going to lose a court case so they changed the law in order to ensure that disabled students would continue to be unable to claim Universal Credit.

This is good news for many – but not for everybody:

Tens of thousands of disabled students could qualify for Universal Credit after 22-year-old mostly-blind Sidra Kauser won a legal victory over a loophole saying she could not claim Universal Credit.

To receive the benefit, she would have had to take a work capability assessment – but the DWP’s rules contained a bizarre ‘Catch-22’ that she could not take the test, because she is a student.

As a result, she could not be found to have limited capability for work, and therefore couldn’t receive the benefit.

The High Court has quashed the DWP’s decision, saying it breaches the Tory-run government department’s own regulations, dating back to 2013 – and ordered it to pay Ms Kauser’s legal fees.

But this fight is not over because the Tory government changed the law on August 5, ensuring that disabled students claiming Universal Credit after that date would not be invited to a work capability assessment and therefore would not be eligible for the benefit at all.

That will have to be challenged in a future court case.

But this is another victory for crusading lawyers Leigh Day, who explained the case:

Sidra Kauser, aged 22, from Halifax, is visually impaired and is currently studying for a masters degree at York University.

She received Personal Independence Payment (PIP) but that, combined with a student loan, was not enough to provide her with an acceptable standard of living. After payment of her rent, she had £120 a month to live on.

She applied for universal credit, but because she was a student, she was refused a Work Capability Assessment (WCA), which meant she was effectively disentitled from claiming universal credit.

Sidra applied for a judicial review of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) policy (which stated that disabled students shouldn’t be invited to a WCA), arguing that the law required the DWP to conduct a WCA to determine whether she had limited capability for work, in which case she would be entitled to universal credit.

Now, after the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Therese Coffey, told the court in July, 2020 that she would not be defending Sidra’s claim, a high court judge has ruled that the SSWP had acted unlawfully and has quashed the decision to refuse Sidra’s claim for universal credit.

Sidra will now be given a WCA, and if she is deemed to be unable to work, she will be entitled to make a claim for universal credit.

The court ruling also has an impact on those disabled students whose applications for universal credit had previously been unsuccessful because they had been refused a WCA.

However, on 5 August the DWP changed the law so that other disabled students who made a claim for universal credit after that date would not be invited  to a WCA and would not therefore be able to establish their limited capability for work.

Ms Kauser said: “I am glad I decided to take a stand and pursue my claim for judicial review of the DWP decision to refuse me a WCA. Hopefully other students will benefit from the court ruling.”

Leigh Day solicitor Lucy Cadd added: “Sidra made a brave stand against the decision to refuse her a WCA and it has proved successful. It has been estimated by the charity Disability Rights UK that the Secretary of State’s unlawful policy, which has been in operation since 2013, could have adversely affected 30,000 disabled students. Other disabled students who were refused a WCA prior to 5 August 2020 and therefore lost out on their claim for universal credit, should ask the Secretary of State to revise her decision.

“Although the DWP has callously changed the regulations to prevent more disabled students being entitled to a WCA, there may be scope for legal challenge to the new regulations.”

Source: Disabled student wins right to be considered for universal credit

DWP disabled sanctions extension shows great tragedy is due to timing, too

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

The Department for Work and Pensions has employed its usual subtlety and tact – and has extended benefit sanctions against people with disabilities in time for the new English lockdown.

People with long-term illnesses and/or disabilities who fail to take part in telephone work capability assessments are now to be sanctioned. The change was brought in on November 2, days before the new lockdown began.

The change has been attacked by mental health charity Mind as an “abandonment of their responsibility to keep people safe”.

Mind’s Ayaz Manji said:

We need to see a compassionate response to this pandemic.

That has to mean removing benefit sanctions and cancelling reassessments for disability benefits so that people with mental health problems don’t face the prospect of going without income this winter.

Sadly, we are not going to see any compassion from the Department for Work and Pensions while it is under Tory control.

The Department has said nobody will be sanctioned without being contacted first – which raises interesting questions if assessors can’t even phone up a claimant properly:

People will be contacted to ask them to explain why they did not, or could not attend or participate in the assessment and where good cause is provided and accepted, support will continue.

We don’t want to sanction anyone and our absolute priority is to ensure people continue to receive the support they are entitled to.

We will contact anyone who hasn’t engaged in a telephone appointment and their support will absolutely continue if they have a good reason for not attending or participating.

We’ve heard it all before. Expect a slew of articles about the DWP failing to follow this simple routine.

Source: DWP extends benefit sanctions against disabled people just as new lockdown begins – Mirror Online

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A polite letter to Therese Coffey [TRIGGER WARNING]

Phillip Herron.

[Yes, this article comes with a trigger warning as it discusses matters which some people may find extremely upsetting.]

Dear Ms Coffey,

Please take a good, long look at the image accompanying this. It is the last photograph of Phillip Herron, taken minutes before he took his own life.

Mr Herron died because your employees at the Department for Work and Pensions could not be bothered to take their fingers out of their collective posteriors long enough to pay him the Universal Credit he was owed. He would undoubtedly be alive now if they had.

No doubt the DWP officers concerned would say they did not need to pay Mr Herron as Universal Credit is paid in arrears and his five-week wait had not yet ended. They were “only following orders”, they will say, echoing the so-called Nuremberg Defence that did not protect any German soldiers who were prosecuted for ensuring the deaths of so many people during World War II.

You, together with previous Work and Pensions secretaries, and many other Conservative MPs past and present, justify the wait with the mantra that delaying payment for more than a month prepares claimants for the world of work, but we all know that is not true.

It attacks their mental health. It causes depression and despair, and ultimately can lead to suicidal thoughts. Mr Herron’s death is a matter of Conservative government policy.

When he died, he had just £4.61 in his bank account and debts of more than £20,000 that were escalating due to that five-week wait for Universal Credit.

£20,000 is not a substantial sum of money in this day and age. I know you have said it is in interviews, but just take a look at your own bank balance. You probably consider that to be small change; the kind of pocket money you might spend on a night out.

It is one-sixth of the pay rise you will receive next year, just for being a member of Parliament.

It could have been handled. There are ways to ensure debt can be paid off within a reasonable period of time, no matter what the debtor’s means. But Mr Herron could not see that because your system forced him to concentrate on the negative aspects of his situation.

He saw no way out because you denied it to him. So he took his own life. His blood is on your hands. I understand DWP jargon describes that as a “positive benefit outcome”.

Now his three young children must go through life without a father – because that is what you demanded.

Their upbringing is likely to be a much greater burden on public funds than paying his Universal Credit claim – because that is what you demanded.

And there are countless others in the same predicament right now – because that is what you demand.

Your system does not help anybody. It pressurises them; it brutalises them; it forces them to consider the unthinkable – because that is what you demand.

It does not matter whether you spoke the words. You ordered the death of this man.

Please make a copy of his photograph and put it on your wall. Then, every day, when you come into work, you can spend time looking at it – and try to find a way to justify the fact that you caused him to die.

You can find more information – and more than 18,000 comments from members of the public – in this Facebook post.

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Coffey tells people earning less than minimum wage to take Universal Credit or blow their savings

Therese Coffey: if she’s an example of Tory ‘levelling up’ then we need to get rid of them for the sake of the nation.

If you can’t see what’s wrong with the pictured evoked by the headline, it’s simple: nobody should be earning less than the minimum wage.

There’s a reason it’s called the minimum. It is the legal limit below which no employer should be paying anybody.

But the Johnson government’s Work and Pensions Secretary – who should know this – didn’t.

Therese Coffee really is a waste of a Commons seat.

On Sky News yesterday (October 14), she refused to answer when Kay Burley repeatedly asked her if she could live on £5.84 an hour.

Instead, she said people could claim Universal Credit to have that amount topped up (after the obligatory five-week wait, but she didn’t mention that).

Or those with more than £16,000 in savings – which she described as “substantial” although This Writer is sure she and her fellow Tory ministers would consider it a pittance – could drill into that money until it is gone.

What a charmer. Here she is, avoiding the question:

And here’s the backlash:

(For those who can’t read images, Cleverly tweeted that, at elections, Labour think you’re an adult at 16, but when it comes to bus travel you’re not an adult until 25 – to which The Daily Politik responded that, when it comes to paying taxes, the Tories think you’re an adult at 16, but you don’t qualify for an adult minimum wage until 25.)

Meanwhile, the Tories have used the Covid crisis give huge amounts of cash to firms run by their chums, avoiding the normal tendering process. One such firm is paying people the equivalent of £1.5 million per year – each – to do nothing.

That is what the Conservatives call “levelling up”: they take your cash and use it to further enrich their friends.

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25 jobseekers for every job on Tory government’s own website

Do the Tories really intend to penalise people for failing to get work – according to Universal Credit rules – when there are so few jobs available?

Thanks to Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock, and their government’s inability to manage Covid-19 properly, there are now 2.3 million UK citizens claiming Universal Credit.

Sanctions have been reimposed so they must follow the rules and go after the jobs that are available – no matter how unsuitable, or indeed distant.

The situation is absurd – as the Frank Zola blog pointed out while revealing that current figures on the government’s own jobsite mean 25 people are available for every job.

That’s not taking into account regional issues – the jobs are unlikely to be in the same places as all the people available for them.

What a ridiculous situation. And to think only last December people trusted the Tories.

Source: Absurd as 2.3 million Universal Credit claimants required to chase “90,939 Jobs” on DWP Jobsite (findajob.dwp.gov.uk) | Frank Zola

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Inhumanity of the Tories’ Covid-19 benefit sanctions is revealed

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Sanctioned during lockdown: it seems the Tories allowed benefit sanctions to run on through the early lockdown months, meaning people were deprived of cash with no means of supplementing their income.

The Tories took food out of the mouths of more than 36,000 people after they said they had halted benefit sanctions.

Ongoing sanctions were allowed to run on after the Covid-19 lockdown began.

Some of the people affected were left with no money at all, and some had been deprived of their income for nine months.

Official figures show 36,277 Universal Credit claimants were under a sanction in April, as Covid-19 was peaking, when the lockdown was at its height and when there were absolutely no opportunities for alternative income. That comparable with the averages between January and March.

And 25,460 were still under sanction in May.

More than 1,700 of those released from a sanction in May had been on it for no less than six months.

It seems a miracle that many of these people didn’t die of starvation.

Or have they?

Experience shows that the Tories would not check, even if they had been warned that this might happen.

The last thing they want is to actually prove that they have been causing benefit claimant deaths by cash deprivation.

Source: DWP docked 35,000 people’s benefits at height of coronavirus despite ending sanctions – Mirror Online

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Prejudiced Tories are unfairly denying benefits to people whose relatives die of Covid-19

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Sanction centre: it isn’t a sanction as such, but anyone receiving compensation for the death of a relative due to Covid-19 will be automatically denied state benefits.

Doesn’t this show how sly, sneaky and underhanded Boris Johnson and his Tory friends are?

If any low-paid frontline NHS and social care workers die of Covid-19, their relatives are entitled to claim a £60,000 lump sum under a Tory compensation scheme.

But if they are already claiming benefits and they do this, they will lose their entitlement to those benefits, meaning they could not claim Universal Credit, Housing Benefit or Pension Credit.

Some of you might think that’s fair; £60,000 is a lot of money, after all.

But this is at a time when Boris Johnson has been dishing out huge sums – £563,400 to consulting firm McKinsey for ‘advice’ that is likely to see the new National Institute for Health Protection sink without a trace, £150 million on face masks that can’t be used, an unspecified amount to Public First for the ‘A’ level results fiasco. Why should benefit claimants lose out when these fat Tories are making such a killing?

Perhaps more to the point, other compensation schemes such as those for the Windrush scandal and the Grenfell Tower fire do not affect entitlement to state benefits. Why should this be different?

The Tories have no answer to this question. Their spokesman is quoted as saying, “It has always been one the central principles of Universal Credit that decisions on awarding the benefit should take into account individuals’ existing ability to meet their basic needs, so that we maintain our focus on supporting families in most need.”

But the Windrush and Grenfell schemes are exempt from being taken into account.

It seems the Tories have created a hierarchy of merit – and relatives of Covid-19 victims have been ruled undeserving, even while ministers’ cronies are mopping up the last coppers from the Treasury that Johnson has emptied.

Source: UK families bereaved by Covid-19 lose eligibility for welfare benefits | Universal credit | The Guardian

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Tory ‘rape clause’ starts to fall apart: how can a woman be denied benefit for being raped in the wrong order?

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“Punish the rapist, not the victim”: Campaigners against the so-called ‘rape clause’ have been trying to overturn the rule for years.

We’ve been waiting for this for a long time.

The experience of the lady involved in this story shows that the Tories are discriminating unfairly between rape victims.

They’re saying that a person can have two children and still receive the child element of Universal Credit for a third born of rape, only if it was the third, and born after April 2017.

This clearly discriminates against mothers who have had first or second children as a result of rape, because they are then forbidden from claiming the child element of UC for a third child that they wanted.

Both situations involve two children not born of rape and one that is, but only one qualifies for the benefit.

That is unfair.

I hope someone takes a case through the courts. Perhaps this is a job for public interest solicitors like Leigh Day, who seem to have done very well with other benefit-related cases recently?

Then, with luck, we’ll be able to force the Tories to u-turn on this despicable rule that humiliates women who have already suffered too much.

Source: DWP denies mum Universal Credit for her child because she was raped in the wrong order – Mirror Online

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Will glue company come unstuck over ‘two weeks without pay’ offer to Universal Credit claimants?


Why is the Tory government allowing this?

A glue company called Bond It has advertised jobs via Universal Credit work coaches – which may sound great in these recession-ridden times.

There’s only one catch:

The firm is asking UC claimants to do the work without pay for two weeks.

Not only that, but the job does not appear on Bond It’s own site, nor is its two-week unpaid “trial” mentioned on any other site that advertises jobs.

As Ben Claimant points out below, it is specifically for Universal Credit claimants.

And your Tory government supports this behaviour.

Your Tory government considers anybody on Universal Credit to be available to companies to work for nothing –

That’s slave labour, by the way!

– simply because they have to claim a so-called benefit that pushes them into poverty as a condition of claiming (that’s the intention of the five-week wait before payments begin), that punishes them if they are paid at irregular times of the month for the work they do, and that punishes them if they are unable to secure better-paid work.

Strangely, Labour has managed to actually ask the government what’s going on…

… although it is doubtful anything will come of this.

The story in the New Statesman article refers to a person who was already claiming UC, so is familiar with its injustices already.

But millions of people have signed on as a consequence of Covid-19.

I hope they get job offers like this.

It will show many of them what they’ve been supporting all these years.

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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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