Tag Archives: work

Help for benefit claimants as DWP changes tune on hardship payment clawback

Benefit claimants facing poverty because the DWP is threatening to claw back hardship payments they claimed – after being sanctioned – have a ray of hope after a recent court case.

The Department for Work and Pensions has now admitted that any action to take back these payments is discretional and it may waive its right to do so.

The DWP has written an open letter to explaining how Universal Credit (UC) claimants can apply for recoverable hardship payments after a sanction, and the process by which claimants can request that hardship payments are waived.

The change follows a successful judicial review by a client of the Public Law Project (PLP).

The organisation explains the main points of the new process, with important points from DWP’s letter in bold, and PLP’s additions in italics:

  1. When a sanction is imposed the DWP should inform the individual of the details of the sanction(s) in a letter uploaded to the UC journal, along with the option to claim hardship payments. If the individual thinks the sanction is wrong, they can request a mandatory reconsideration from the DWP. If that is unsuccessful, the claimant can appeal the DWP’s sanction decision to the tribunal. There is guidance on challenging a sanction from Citizens Advice and Mental Health & Money Advice
  2. A claimant that receives a sanction can apply for hardship payments by calling the UC helpline. On the call, the DWP official will ask about the individuals’ living costs, so the individual should make a note of these in advance. The individual will need to explain why the sanction has made it hard for them to meet their basic needs (such as food or utilities costs) and what they have done to find other sources of financial support. Citizens Advice have published useful guidance on getting a hardship payment.
  3. Hardship payments are recoverable (meaning the DWP can ask for them to be repaid), and when a claimant applies for a hardship payment the DWP official will ask them to agree a ‘declaration’ that they will repay it once their sanctions are lifted. If  a claimant’s application for hardship payments is refused, this decision can be challenged by making a mandatory reconsideration request to the DWP. 
  4. Once the claimant’s sanction has ended the DWP will take steps to recover the hardship payment by making deductions from the individual’s UC. However, importantly, DWP does have a choice not to recover hardship payments. This choice applies in all cases, including where the individual’s sanction has been subsequently overturned, for example following mandatory reconsideration or a tribunal appeal.
  5. If the claimant cannot afford to repay the hardship payment they can ask DWP for the deductions to be reduced and / or request that the hardship payment be waived in full. This is not affected by the fact that the claimant has agreed a declaration that they will repay the hardship payment.

Getting hardship payment debt waived

PLP has produced a note on how to request a waiver of hardship payment debt and what to do if the DWP refuses.

Source: DWP publishes letter on Universal Credit hardship payments – Public Law Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of this takes considerable time.

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

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

I think I was given a couple of extra weeks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not a bit of it was true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are measures that work.

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

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

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

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Will Starmer’s latest relaunch be undermined – by Jeremy Corbyn? [Also in the news]

Keir Starmer and Jeremy Corbyn: in this image, Starmer was preparing to stab Corbyn in the back (metaphorically). Now it seems grassroots Labour members have found a way to do the same to Starmer.

Keir Starmer’s bid to “reinvigorate” his leadership of the Labour Party at this autumn’s conference could be torpedoed by grassroots members – and Jeremy Corbyn.

The party rank-and-files that Starmer has spent the last year trying to marginalise are circulating a motion to give final say on disciplinary action against MPs to the membership at large.

It’s a terrific idea because it would ensure that the leadership couldn’t influence decisions in favour of its favoured (right-wing) members… if ever that should seem attractive to Starmer and his cronies.

But more crippling for Starmer will be the fact that his decision to exclude Corbyn from the Parliamentary Labour Party could be reversed – by the members he hates, ruining his “reinvigoration”:

Also in the news today:

1. Dido Harding will stand down as NHS Improvement boss in October.

It means the organisation’s title may finally stop being a contradiction in terms.

But what part of the national infrastructure will Harding try to blight with her presence next?

2. Thousands of ESA claimants are to receive thousands of pounds in back payments

A four-year review of ESA claims has ended, with thousands of people receiving thousands of pounds.

And the families of many more who have died will receive a £3,000 payout.

But here’s the problem: if they had received that money when they were alive, would they still have died?

3. David Cameron allegedly made millions by cashing in his shares in Greensill before it collapsed.

He had tried to get his former colleagues in the Tory government to invest in the company’s loans, before it collapsed when its insurer refused to renew cover for the same loans.

By that time, we’re told, Cameron had cashed in his own shares in the company, making £7.2 million.

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good, eh?

4. NHS hospital wards may have been filled with toxins because the government ignored SAGE

Several NHS hospitals have trialled air purification products that could produce dangerous levels of toxins after the government ignored advice from its Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) to implement new guidelines for air purification systems.

Sage’s environmental modelling group in November urged the Government to draw up “impartial guidance” on air purifiers following a spike in sales during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sage’s advice was repeatedly ignored. Business minister Paul Scully told MPs eight months later, in July, that current trading regulations are adequate to keep consumers safe.

Industry figures raised concerns after several NHS hospitals trialled air purification systems made by decontamination technology firm Airora that could generate potentially dangerous levels of formaldehyde and ozone.

5. The government’s new disability strategy is to carry on pushing people off benefits

“The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Shaping Future Support: the health and disability green paper, released a week before the NDS, confirmed that it has no intention of easing up on its attempts to push disabled people off benefits.”

This is embarrassing for the Tories as it undermines anything in the NDS – or it would, if there was anything to undermine.

The strategy itself seems to be to award empty “accessibility promotion” job titles to non-disabled people.

The issues of most importance to people with disabilities – benefits and social care support – are conspicuous by their absence.

6. DWP is handing Universal Credit information to local councils – to undermine the vulnerable?

Consider this:

… and have them evicted?

7. Right-wing think tank loses complaint over radio comments

This is unfortunate – for the Institute of Economic Affairs:

Am I right in thinking we can all now say that the IEA is a politically-biased hard-right lobby group of questionable provenance, with dubious ideas and validity?

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Is the DWP pushing benefit claimants into Workfare again?

It seems Therese Coffey is sending benefit claimants back into an old scam.

The Work Trials scheme doesn’t appear to be an exact return to the Mandatory Work Activity scam, but may be Workfare by another name in practice.

Unemployed people claiming state benefits are put into unpaid work with companies for up to 30 days, with the possibility that it could lead to a paid job at the end of that time.

But will it?

The DWP says it checks to ensure that employers are offering genuinely worthy opportunities that could lead to employment.

But are they? Or are they only saying that, in order to get their hands on people who will do the work of fully-paid staff for nothing – and then throw them away after a month?

The people doing the work would receive only around a quarter of what they would get on the government’s so-called living wage – a minimum amount that is actually much less than what people need to survive without claiming any benefits at all.

Stewart McDonald, the SNP’s Glasgow South MP, said the scheme ran against what he had been told by the government:

“I have previously been told by Government ministers that unpaid work trials are exploitative and against the law and I see clearly that this is absolutely not the case when the Government’s own departments are helping create such unpaid work trials.

“Jobseekers and those on benefits participate in these programmes out of good faith, sometimes for up to 30 days at a time, and it is not right should they receive no wage and no guarantee of a job at the end of it.”

This Writer agrees. I have spent years campaigning against Workfare.

But the proof of what this policy does will be in the number of people who succeed in getting a long-term job with it.

Do any readers have experience of it, and has it done you any long-term good?

Source: DWP accused of ‘exploiting’ benefits claimants with unpaid work trials – Daily Record

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#DWP bungled #Waspi women’s #pension-age rise. How long must they wait for #compensation?

WASPI protesters: this image is from 2016 and women born in the 1950s had already spent years protesting against the way the Department for Work and Pensions mistreated them.

The so-called Waspi women have finally won recognition that they were mistreated by the government, after an ombudsman found maladministration by the Department for Work and Pensions.

But they won’t get any compensation for it – at least, not yet – because the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has no power to order it.

The PHSO found that the DWP failed to act quickly enough, once it knew a significant proportion of women were not aware that the age at which they would qualify for the state pension was going up.

It should have written to the women affected by the change, at least 28 months – more than two years – earlier than it did.

The ombudsman’s report said

Between 1995 and 2004, accurate information about changes to State Pension age was publicly available in leaflets, through DWP’s pensions education campaigns, through DWP’s agencies and on its website.

[But the DWP} failed to give due weight to relevant considerations, including what research showed about the need for ‘appropriately targeted’ information, what was known about the need for individually tailored information, or how likely it was doing the same thing would achieve different results. Despite having identified more it could do, DWP failed to provide the public with as full information as possible. DWP failed to make a reasonable decision about next steps in August 2005.

It did not ‘get it right’. And its failure to use feedback to improve service delivery meant it did not ‘seek continuous improvement’. That was maladministration.

DWP then failed to act promptly on its 2006 proposal to write directly to affected women, or to give due weight to how much time had already been lost since the 1995 Pensions Act.

It did not ‘get it right’ because it did not meet the requirements of the Civil Service Code, and it did not take all relevant considerations into account. And it failed again to use feedback to improve service delivery and ‘seek continuous improvement’. That was also maladministration.

The maladministration led to a delay in DWP writing directly to women
about changes in State Pension age. If the maladministration had not happened, DWP would have begun writing to affected women by December 2006 at the latest, 28 months earlier than it did (in April 2009).

It follows that affected women should have had at least 28 months’ more individual notice of the changes. For women who were not aware of the changes, the opportunity that additional notice would have given them to adjust their retirement plans was lost.

The investigation is not over; its next stage will consider the impact that the injustice had on the women it affected.

The co-chairs of the All-party parliamentary group on State Pension Inequality for Women, Andrew Gwynne (Labour) and Peter Aldous (Conservative) have both welcomed the findings.

“The DWP must urgently address these findings, and advise 1950s women what actions they will take to right the wrongs committed by successive Governments. For too long 1950s women have been ignored, and this must change,” said Mr Gwynne.

And Mr Aldous added: “We now must see a cross-party effort to sort this problem out. This issue is bigger than any administration and has been raised repeatedly over the last 25 years. The PHSO findings must now be scrutinised by the DWP and parliament, and then we must set out about compensating women for this injustice.”

It seems the DWP itself isn’t ready to comment yet:

Waspi women have already waited many years for an admission that they were mistreated by the government, and that they have suffered loss as a result.

It seems they may not have to wait even longer before getting any compensation for the loss they have suffered and the huge amount of distress it has caused.

Source: Women’s state pension: Compensation closer for Waspi campaigners – BBC News

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DWP confirms ESA £5,000 underpayment update next month

The Department for Work and Pensions office in London.

This is fairly straightforward – although when the DWP announced it was doing this, I was among many who thought it was a cover for yet another purge of benefit claimants.

I wonder… When the report is published on July 8, will it include a section on the number of people the Department found to have been overpaid or wrongly paid, and from whom it is now clawing money back?

That might be interesting.

The DWP confirmed it will release a final update on progress of checking 600,000 Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) cases for underpayments next month.

In a brief statement on the GOV.UK website, the DWP announced the statistics will be available from 9.30am on Thursday, July 8 as part of the completion of the exercise – reports the Daily Record.

In the last update, DWP reported that 600,000 ESA claims started the reassessment journey, with 112,000 claimants receiving arrears payments.

The UK Government has already paid out a total of £589million in backdated payments, with claimants receiving an average of £5,000 in January 2020.

Source: DWP confirms ESA £5,000 underpayment update next month – Liverpool Echo

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

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign].

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The department has been rejecting around 100 claims per month.

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

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

Is that why the DWP shredded them?

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

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

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

[Image: www.disabledgo.com]

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

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

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

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

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

This is damning:

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s some evidence in support of that conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I’ll tell you why it wasn’t:

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

*1,860 people over six months.

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

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Deaths and other harms to benefit claimants prompt renewed lawsuits – and calls to investigate DWP

Death by DWP: Philippa Day.

The chickens are coming home to roost at the Department for Work and Pensions.

The families of three benefit claimants – who are said to have died because the DWP deliberately mishandled their claims – are continuing to take the department through the court system in their search for justice.

Publicity around the cases has led to a BBC investigation in which it was found that they are just three out of 150 cases in which the DWP has conducted internal investigations into its own behaviour.

Now the department is facing demands for an independent investigation into its conduct. Long overdue demands, in This Writer’s experienced opinion.

Here‘s the BBC:

Cases where people claiming benefits died or came to serious harm have led to more than 150 government reviews since 2012, a BBC investigation found.

Internal reviews are held by the DWP when it is alleged its actions had a negative impact, or when it is named at an inquest.

Calling for an inquiry, Labour MP Debbie Abrahams said: “It needs to be taken out of the hands of the DWP.”

Ms Abrahams, who previously read out in the Commons the names of 29 people who have died, said: “There needs to be an independent inquiry investigating why these deaths are happening and the scale of the deaths needs to be properly understood.”

The DWP said it had established a new Serious Case Panel in 2019 to consider themes identified from serious cases, which included independent members.

Yeah, right. I opened Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire the other day. That doesn’t mean I read any of it.

Now let’s hear from Leigh Day solicitors, who represent the three families who are pushing their cases through the courts:

The families spoke to the BBC to share their stories and the legal stages of their cases.

Philippa Day who lived with a long standing mental health illness, and was diabetic, died aged 27 in October 2019, two months after she was found collapsed at home in Nottingham.

On 27 January 2021, HM Assistant Coroner for Nottinghamshire, Gordon Clow concluded that the problems Philippa had with her application for disability benefits were “the predominant… and the only acute factor” which led her to take action on 8 August 2019 that ultimately proved fatal.

Following the inquest, a letter of claim has been sent to DWP and Capita which alleges breach of human rights and negligence by the DWP and Capita arising out of the events which led to Philippa’s death and seeks compensation for the wrongs Philippa and her family suffered. DWP and Capita have three months to respond before claims may be pursued in the High Court.

Death by DWP: Jodey Whiting.

Jodey Whiting, aged 42, took her own life on 21 February 2017. She suffered severe mental health problems and had her benefits terminated a fortnight earlier for not attending a Work Capability Assessment, leaving her with no source of income.

The Attorney General granted their consent last year for an application to the High Court for a fresh inquest into her death, which the High Court will hear on 22 June 2021. Jodey’s mother seeks a fresh inquest to ensure the role played by the DWP in her daughter’s death are publicly and fully investigated.

Death by DWP: Errol Graham.

Errol Graham, was found dead aged 57 in June 2018, eight months after his benefits were stopped because of his failure to attend a fit for work assessment. When his body was found, Mr Graham weighed four-and-a-half stone.

An inquest in 2019 found that DWP and NHS staff had missed opportunities to save Graham, and the coroner concluded that “the safety net that should surround vulnerable people like Errol in our society had holes within it”.

Mr Graham’s family have submitted an application to the Court of Appeal after their judicial review challenging the lawfulness of the DWP’s safeguarding policies was unsuccessful. The family argue that the decision in 2017 to terminate his benefits was unlawful and that the DWP’s safeguarding policies and systems need to be overhauled to provide greater protection to vulnerable benefit claimants who, like Errol, suffer from mental health conditions.

The allegations against the DWP are extremely serious.

They indicate that it has been DWP policy to endanger the lives of benefit claimants.

For that reason, it seems clear to This Writer – and I expect to anybody with the slightest common sense – that the DWP should not be judging its own work with regard to these cases.

I say that for the same reason I say Boris Johnson’s Conservatives should not be conducting inquiries into whether contracts were corruptly handed to Tory cronies – or into whether Johnson himself breached the ministerial code by getting donors to pay for his Downing Street flat’s redecoration.

They are liars; they will always whitewash themselves.

We have seen evidence of such behaviour many times over the last 10 years – reported on This Site, among others.

The work of Debbie Abrahams has been exemplary in trying to get an investigation into this scandal by an organisation we can trust.

It’s true that such efforts have achieved very little, so far.

But attitudes are changing.

As more evidence has come to light, public tolerance of the DWP’s entitled attitude has eroded.

Maybe we are finally about to get some factual answers to questions we have been asking for more than a decade.

Source: Investigation reveals 150 DWP reviews into deaths or harm to benefits claimants | Leigh Day

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Every new MP receives briefing on how Tory social security reforms have harmed us – so they can’t say they don’t know

Long-term readers of This Site will remember Mo Stewart, the researcher into the harm being caused to claimants of sickness and disability benefits by successive Conservative governments’ determination to convert the social security system to a for-profit insurance scheme.

Mo spent 10 years researching and writing a book on this subject: Cash Not Care – The Planned Demolition of the UK Welfare State.

After the 2019 general election, she became concerned that the huge new influx of Conservative MPs – along with those from other political parties – were ignorant of the harm that government policies had caused.

So she wrote a briefing paper specifically addressing the issue and sent it to all of them.

Labour’s John McDonnell has apparently offered to arrange a debate on the subject, if possible.

Whether or not that happens, Mo has provided me with a copy of the document so we all have a record of what these MPs should know – and so they won’t be able to plead ignorance.

And here it is:

Social Policy Abused:
The Creation Of Preventable Harm

Executive Summary

The Preventable Harm Project (the Project) ran for ten years and closed in November 2019, with the evidence identified within the Project findings widely promoted during 2019/20. The Project identified the bipartisan political ambition to eventually remove the UK welfare state, to be replaced by private income replacement health insurance. In order to remove the welfare state, it was first necessary to remove the psychological security provided by the welfare state. This was achieved by the adoption of a flawed disability assessment model, and the manipulation of the general public aided by the tabloid press, that successfully demonised claimants of disability benefit(s). Large numbers of suicides linked to the adoption of the Work Capability Assessment are overlooked by the Department for Work and Pensions, and successive Rule 43 ‘prevention of future deaths’ Coroners’ reports, highlighting the link between the Work Capability Assessment and suicides, have also been disregarded. The Work Capability Assessment was fatally flawed by design and should be abolished, and the departmental intimidation of disability benefit claimants should be outlawed.

Introduction: The Creation of Preventable Harm

1. Introduced in 2008 to restrict access to the new Employment and Support Allowance long-term out-of-work disability benefit, the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is a ‘non-medical functional assessment’ that disregards all clinical opinion. Since 2010, the WCA has been linked to the deaths of thousands of chronically ill and disabled benefit claimants who applied for state financial support when unable to work, yet were deemed to be ‘fit for work’ by the fatally flawed WCA.

2. Twelve years since the adoption of the WCA there is an identified and growing mental health crisis within the UK linked to claimants of disability benefit(s), and a disturbing increase in suicides directly linked to the WCA, as identified by published academic research but dismissed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

“The worst thing, I find, is realising that I am forced into looking for a life that I want but have no chance of having. I seriously feel I may kill myself because being sick, having next to no money, no life, no future, no cure, constant pain and constant disapproval defeats me.”

An extract from the ‘Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work-Related Activity Group’ project, conducted by Catherine Hale and published by MIND and the Centre for Welfare Reform.

3. In both 2006 and 2007 the government’s own expert medical panel warned the administration not to adopt the WCA, advising that it was ‘not fit for purpose’ due to the predictable negative impact on public mental health. The expert panel’s clinical opinion was disregarded by the DWP. The removal of clinical opinion from disability assessment using the WCA guaranteed that many of those in greatest need were destined to die, as the state removed the financial and the psychological security of a guaranteed income when unfit to work.

4. There have been two official Rule 43 ‘prevention of future deaths’ Coroners’ reports linking the WCA to suicides, with other Coroners expressing concern at inquests due to the identified enforced suffering of the deceased by the DWP. Coroners’ official Rule 43 reports and identified concerns are disregarded by the DWP, whose social policy reforms since 2010 created preventable harm to those in greatest need linked to intimidation. The constant threat of sanctions, which removes all disability benefit income, leaves the chronically ill and disabled community in need of state financial support living in fear of the DWP.

5. Regardless of the Jobcentre being advised that a claimant is unable to attend an interview due to ill health, disabled claimants are routinely met with an ‘institutional reluctance’ to meet their needs, as identified in Coroner’s reports. Jobcentre staff’s decisions to sanction a claimant can cause death by starvation, in C21st UK, when all income is removed for a period of weeks or months. No-one is held to account when some of those in greatest need are starved to death by the state.

6. The WCA is used to limit access to all state disability funding including the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Universal Credit and the War Pensions for older working-age disabled veterans, which is a military medical pension not an out-of-work benefit.

7. The WCA is regularly and inappropriately referred to as a ‘medical assessment’ by the DWP, MPs, academics, policy advisers and journalists. The WCA is not a medical assessment and is totally unrelated to clinical opinion. The adoption of the WCA is identified as being attributed to psychocoercion by successive administrations, to remove what once was the psychological security of the welfare state for anyone who is unfit to work.

8. Identified in 2008 by the American Association of Justice as being the second worst insurance company in America, the corporate insurance giant Unum (Provident) Insurance have been advisers to the UK government since 1992, and were appointed as the official UK government consultants for ‘welfare claims management’ from 1994. Concerned by the increase in various conditions that could not be confirmed by blood tests or x-rays, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, Unum Insurance adopted a biopsychosocial (BPS) model of disability assessment, which disregards all clinical opinion.

9. Unum advised the UK government as to how to adopt a similar BPS assessment model in the UK, and funded an assessment centre at Cardiff University for this purpose. The DWP adopted the discredited Waddell-Aylward BPS model of assessment for the WCA, which disregards diagnosis, prognosis, past medical history and prescribed medicines. The human consequences of using the WCA is that many of those in greatest need would die, with many driven to suicide with a common perception that anyone claiming to be unfit to work, and in need of state financial support, will be persecuted by the DWP. The Waddell-Aylward BPS model of assessment failed all academic scrutiny.

Policy recommendations

• Since 2009 every clinical authority in the UK have demanded that the WCA should be abolished. This includes the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of Nurses and the British Psychological Society. Introduced by the private health insurance industry, disregarding clinical opinion was always dangerous. The WCA is fatally flawed and should be abolished without further delay, to be replaced with a disability assessment that considers clinical opinion, with many assessments being paper-based, so that the chronically ill and disabled community are no longer intimidated by the DWP.

Research findings
• In order to remove the past psychological security provided by the welfare state it was necessary to discredit vast numbers of disability benefit claimants, aided by the tabloid press, which helped to manipulate the British public.
• Social policies were adopted with a fiscal priority whilst disregarding health and wellbeing, which policymakers failed to take into account when recommending policies which were harmful.
• Since 2010 the social policy reforms, and the additional austerity measures, were destined to have a catastrophic and often fatal consequence for many of those in greatest need. Thousands of chronically ill and disabled benefit claimants have died when ‘killed by the state,’ with a 2014 NHS Digital Adult Psychiatry Morbidity Survey report that identified that almost 50 percent of ESA disability benefit claimants had attempted suicide at some point.
• Prosecuted disability hate crimes, including murder, increased by 213 percent between 2010-2016, during the coalition government’s term in office.
• The relationship between physical health and mental health is well documented. The numbers of benefit claimants who have perished due to social policies since 2010 will never be known.
• Published in September 2016 ‘Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state’ provides the results of the first six years of independent disability studies research for the Preventable Harm Project. The book is now recommended reading for various social policy, health and legal courses at universities in the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

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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