A small group of Labour MPS, including leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn, yesterday lodged an early day motion calling on the government to publish the employment and support allowance (ESA) death statistics.
The statistics detail how many claimants have died within six weeks of, for example, being placed in the work-related activity group of ESA.
The information commissioner has ordered the DWP to release the figures.
That this House notes that on 30 April 2015 the Information Commission took a decision that the Government must disclose the number of incapacity benefit and employment and support allowance claimants who have died since November 2011 until May 2014 within 35 calendar days; acknowledges the petition signed by over 230,000 members of the public calling for this data to be released; further notes that even though the 35 day deadline has passed this data has not been released; has concerns that the data released may be a standardised figure rather than a full picture; and therefore calls on the Government to ensure the release of this data in full and without further delay.
So far it has been signed by just 5 MPs. You can contact your MP and ask them to sign it using the Write To Them website.
Calum's List was originally published on the Spiritlove Forum.
Luckily, I kept a copy of my own - and also an alternative link to the website is here: (This website may not be here very long (for various reasons) so I am copying the full details of Calum's List up here (with full permission of the website founders):
Here are the first 15. The rest will follow in a separate post when properly collated:
A doctor has claimed that Paul Reekie, a well respected author, was driven to suicide by the Government’s welfare reforms. Dr Stephen Carty, a Leith GP, told the welfare reform committee yesterday that letters informing Paul Reekie, his incapacity and housing benefits would be stopped were used as the suicide note of the iconoclastic poet and author. Dr Carty said: “Paul Reekie took his life following a work capability assessment”.
“He didn’t leave a suicide note. He left on his desk two letters. One was a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions informing him his incapacity benefit had been stopped and the other was from the council informing him his housing benefits had stopped.”
An unemployed dad stabbed himself twice through the heart when his family faced losing their home to housing benefit cuts, an inquest chaired by HM Coroner Fiona Wilcox heard. Desperate Richard Sanderson, 44, drew up meticulous suicide plans after learning he could no longer afford the flat he shared with his wife and nine-year-old son. The family had received a letter stating their housing benefit would be cut by £30 a month, leaving them with ‘nowhere to go’, and provided to Westminster Coroners Court.
Stephanie Bottrill Allegedly Died From Toxic DWP Welfare Reforms: 4th May 2013
Due to reasons of legal importance, we have changed the order of folk being remembered on Calum’s List as originally published in 2011. We have placed Stephanie Bottrill here because it irrevocably shows that there is evidence to substantiate alleged Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) lawbreaking:-
In Parliament, on 23rd January 2012 Katy Clark M.P., Asked DWP Ministers Iain Duncan Smith & Chris Grayling:-
“11 disabled people have committed suicide in circumstances in which the coroner said that it was as a result of assessments as part of the Work Capability Assessment. Is that figure right? Can the Minister advise whether he has looked into what legal liability the Government may have and, in particular, whether there is exposure under the Corporate Manslaughter legislation?”
It is of material importance to note that the above question and DWP Welfare Reform systemic fatal flaws were made known to Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling….
Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling Being Questioned About Welfare Reform Corporate Manslaughter By Katy Clark MP In The House Of Commons
…sitting joint and severally side by side on the Government Front Bench in the House of Commons beyond any reasonable doubt on 23rd January 2012 (Hansard: Column 22).
Then, after almost 16 months of failure to make his reforms sufficiently safe, Iain Duncan Smith and his Department of Work & Pensions negligently left the dangerous Welfare Reforms in a fatal and toxic state. The result? FACT – this appalling and avoidable tragedy happened over a year later on 4th May 2013 as evidenced by personal corroboration, and this public domain suicide note:-
Stephanie Bottrill Suicide Note DWP Alleged Culpability After The Fact
Legally this was almost 16 months AFTER “directing mind” Iain Duncan Smith and his deputy Chris Grayling were WARNED on camera, in the highest legal chamber in the country of the dangers of their Welfare Reforms, if left unsafe and unfit for purpose.
Click On Photograph Above To Hear The DWP’s OWN Assessor/Trainer ADMIT That The DWP Welfare Assessment System is TOXIC.
When Katy Clark M.P., questioned Iain Duncan Smith about DWP culpability in Welfare Reform Homicide on 23rd January 2012 the minister had well over a year to make his Welfare Reforms fit-for-purpose and safe PRIOR to Stephanie Bottrill committing suicide and leaving prima facie evidence in the form of Stephanie’s suicide note explicitly blaming the Government and by deductive logic, the responsible officials/ministers at the DWP. To be clear the legislation covering this alleged culpability is:
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.
Some further reading: Here and Here . This law specifically INCLUDES the DWP as being legally competent for interview by the police, and if the evidence supports a case then the DWP may be liable for caution, charge and criminal prosecution as well as civil court remedy.
Since the alleged culpability of the DWP in Stephanie Bottrill’s death, Calum’s List along with SIX subscribers and EIGHT families here HOPE that there will be NO MORE DWP Welfare Reform deaths. Especially, via the particularly toxic: DWP Brown Envelopes of Despair, Destitution &Death
Threatening destitution and homelessness, posted through taxpayers’ letterboxes. For the avoidance of doubt, EVERY man, woman and child in the UK is a taxpayer: Example: 20% VAT etc., etc.
However these families are preparing to refer their cases to the police if the tipping point is reached. In the meantime the new subscribers to Calum’s List are still trying to persuade the DWP to make Welfare Reform SAFE and fit for purpose.
Subsequently, from the point where Katy Clark phoned Calum to discuss the matter in further detail, the Welfare Reform Death Toll had gone from the figure quoted by the M.P., in the House of Commons of 11, to a new total of 30 DWP Welfare Reform Deaths. A few months later it was in excess of 42 DWP Deaths as detailed on Calum’s List at the point where one of the website subscribers died and the site went offline. In fact our current total being uploaded here on the new Calum’s List website as of March 2015 is 60.
A man with mental health problems who was worried about benefit cuts killed himself while he was searching for a job on the south coast, an inquest heard. A suicide letter and next of kin note were found in which Paul Willcoxson expressed concerns about Government cuts Southampton Coroner’s Court heard – chaired by Deputy HM Coroner Gordon Denson.
Leanne Chambers, aged 30 from Sunderland, drowned herself after receiving a Department of Work & Pensions brown envelope of despair, destitution and death – stating that she was fit to return to work. She had battled depression and the symptoms of this illness for years.
HM Coroner Dr Andrew Reid said: ‘She was not in a position around the time her son was born to be actively seeking work, and was not in a position to claim Income Support, which eventually stopped her housing benefit. In lay terms it seems a very parlous situation. Ms Pardo twice appealed against the decision to refuse income support and was in the process of taking the Department of Work and Pensions to a tribunal. Her last phone call to DWP was made the day before she died
HM Coroner Dr Andrew Reid recorded a verdict of suicide for Christelle Pardo and a verdict of unlawful killing for the death of her son Kayjah Pardo. In its serious case review, the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Board acknowledged what it called a ‘fundamental perversity’. The panel felt that Christelle may have developed severe depression. There were no concerns for their physical health or mental well-being, although she was becoming increasingly frustrated and demoralised at the continuing denial of benefits, and the protracted process of appealing against this decision…. the stresses arising from being refused benefits would have been the most significant factor in precipitating the development of mental illness. The Panel considered that [Christelle], in a developing psychosis, may have quite quickly come to see herself as a worthless person in a hopeless position. The Panel discussed the fact that her actions had brought about the death of her son, whom she loved. It was suggested that [Christelle] may not have seen herself and [Kayjah] as being separate – that they were, in her mind, a single entity, so that the appropriate action for her was inescapably also right for her son.
The review also highlighted ‘inadequate customer care’ by the DWP and made a recommendation that they ‘review the apparent anomaly identified in this case, which meant that financial support to a family was reduced when their needs became greater.’
As it turned out, an appeal tribunal in September 2010 ruled that Christelle Pardo qualified for permanent right to reside and was in fact entitled to benefits.
Elaine Christian, 57 was found dead in a drain, had been worried about attending a medical appointment to assess disability benefits, an inquest heard. A post mortem revealed she had died from drowning, despite having more than ten self-inflicted cuts on her wrists. The Coroner’s Inquest in Hull was told Mrs Christian had been worrying about a meeting she was due to have to discuss her entitlement to disability benefits.
Her spiralling health problems meant she had to give up her job at Cooplands bakery in Greenwich Avenue, where she was described as a cheerful, hardworking and trusted staff member.
Mr Christian told the inquest he had woken up on February 7 to find his wife of 28 years missing.
He discovered a suicide note, empty packets of painkillers and pools of blood.
Asked by Hull and East Riding Coroner Geoffrey Saul if anything had been troubling his wife, Mr Christian said: “She was upset about going to a medical appointment the next day.”
Despite the presence of a suicide note, which was not read out to the court, HM Coroner Mr Saul said he was unable to say, with certainty, that Mrs Christian had intended to kill herself at the drain.
DWP Collateral Damage – In May 2013, police were stationed outside the house in Staveley Road, Eeast Hull where widower Robert Christian lived. Robert suffered severe depressions, following the death of his wife Elaine Christian in 2011 where the Department of Work & Pensions were alleged to have some culpability. Elaine Christian drowned in Holderness. Police attended the home of Robert Christian, where an officer found a draft text message on his phone, saying “I am so sorry.”
David died in Stevenage, Hertfordshire with just £3.44 left in his account. In earlier employment as as a soldier, he faced death on a daily basis serving his country. when he left the British Army he went straight into the workplace with British Telecom before becoming a full-time carer for his sick mother.
After his mum went into a home, David turned to the state for help while he looked for work. But under the Coalition’s callous new benefits rules he had his £71.70 a week Jobseeker’s Allowance was “sanctioned”. Apparently because he missed an appointment with an adviser – the DWP have sanction targets in place. This can be proven, but the DWP deny it.
Stripped of his income, David Clapson could not afford food or electricity and died starving, penniless and alone at his home.
His death was from diabetic ketoacidosis – caused by not taking his insulin.
His distraught sister Gill Thompson believes he may have stopped injecting himself with the life-saving drug after becoming so desperate over his lack of cash and work, and not being able to afford electricity tokens to keep the fridge working. A vital thing as this kept his life preserving diabetetes medicine fit for purpose.
Diabetes sufferer David Clapson died from lack of insulin, 18 days after his Jobseeker’s Allowance was sanctioned in July 2014. His sister, Gill Thompson, said more than 211,000 people signed her petition calling for an inquiry.
As of March 2015 this petition by David’s sister had 211,822 signatories. Parliamentary etiquette provides that any petition with over 100,000 signatures is “eligible” for a debate in the House of Commons. It is considered bad form not to allow this. So when will the debate into David’s DWP death, and hopefully ways to stop more DWP deaths be held?
George, from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, worked all his life, first as a miner and foundry worker, then as a communications engineer, until his first heart attack in 2006 when he was 53.
After marginal recovery George took a stint working self-employed. However after medical examination, his doctor told him to stop. George applied for ESA. This required an ATOS/DWP Work Capability Examination.
In George’s 39-minute exam by the DWP’s Work Capability assessors, ATOS, the “disability analyst” noted that George had angina, heart disease and chest pain, even when resting. But the assessor pontificated this wasn’t “uncontrollable or life-threatening” and George “should be able to walk at least 200 metres”.
The Atos report went to the Department for Work and Pensions, where George’s heart problems were ignored and he got six sick “points”, as he could only stand up for less than half an hour due to pain.
Short of the 15 points needed to get ESA, George was put on Jobseeker’s Allowance and told to find work. He appealed, waiting eight months for his case to go to an independent tribunal. There George got nine more points, as he could only walk 100 metres before stopping. He was put on the “work related activity” group where he got the lower rate of benefit and special help finding a suitable job.
After months of stress George collapsed and died of a heart attack, the day before another Atos medical. His widow is convinced the stress of claiming killed him.
Colin Hampton of the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centre says he’s had four identical cases.
Can anyone out there suggest a good solicitor so I can persue a criminal or civil prosecution against both Atos Healthcare and DWP.
My late husband died just before Christmas, although we were not together we were still legally married and still cared for each others welfare. I was in Australia when he died and returned immediately to sort this out. I have been through his paper work and firmly believe the DWP were negligent, Cruel, Inept and he also suffered discrimination. I have a small occupational pension and am not on benefits myself, so they cannot threaten me with fear.
My late husband was only on ESA for a few months, and had not claimed any benefit for over 30 years. I would like a criminal case if possible, Civil if I have to. I cant find any records of court cases on the web. I would be really grateful for all suggestions
David Groves, 56, died of a massive heart attack the night before his DWP/ATOS medical as he scoured the internet for ways to raise cash in case he lost his entitlement.
He had claimed incapacity benefit for three years after doctors ordered him to stop working following a heart attack and several strokes. His widow Sandra, 57, said being lumped in with “dole scroungers” and the fear of financial hardship had a devastating effect.
David – who worked for 40 years as a miner and telecoms engineer – had already gone through a stressful eight-month appeal process to keep his £91-a-week benefits.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 14. Elaine Lowe: Click Here For Report
Elaine Lowe was a seriously ill woman who died just two days after her suicide attempt following a DWP Brown Envelope of Destitution Despair & Death stopped her the incapacity benefit. This information was provided to HM Coroner at a formal inquest in Westminster.
The Coroner’s Court was told she had received a letter from the Department of Work and Pensions saying she should go back to work. The 53-year-old, who suffered life-limiting breathlessness because of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, was so distressed she took a cocktail of drugs. Dr Sana Hamid, who treated Ms Lowe at St George’s Hospital, Tooting, said: “She wasn’t depressed when I saw her but she added how distressed she had been about the decision by the Benefits Agency. She said that she saw the letter and decided to take her own life“. Witness Dr Hamid.
A suicide note had been left by Ms Lowe in a sealed envelope and some medication was around the floor, the court was told.
Please Note: This website was originally started in 2011 after a disabled person called Calum asked a simple question on a disability website support forum:- “Was Paul Reekie the only one to commit suicide where Welfare Reforms had some culpability”.
One of Calum’s friends started an independent website called Calum’s List. Soon this list of disabled and vulnerable people who had tragically gone that way, or died in other ways at the hands of alleged DWP negligence had many more names added. However the list website ceased after the death of one of it’s subscribers and advancing disability of another.
The website is now being reinstated due to the continual carnage, distress, death and painful toll being exacted on those directly affected and their familles and friends that the current crooked Welfare Reform system is meant to protect. Universal Credit, the Bedroom Tax, PIP and punitive, gerrymandered Sanctions Targets are just some of the defective elements that still have not been made fit-for-any purpose, other than take billions from the most vulnerable in society.
This paragraph is where we are at the moment in rebuilding this website. Please check back again as time goes by to see the reinstated compilation of information and of course the Memorial List of folk who have gone, but whose families and friends are doing their utmost to stop more people dying at the hands of the DWP.
Also there is a way that Welfare Reform will be made safe and fit for purpose. As John Pring’s respected Disability News Service narrates stonewalling by the DWP only goes so far. We believe legal action against those allegedly committing malfeasance in public office and other infractions may be inevitable unless the DWP make their system SAFE and fit-for-purpose. In spite of stonewalling and denials that there has been any wrongdoing by the DWP, there is a relevant fact. For the “mere” act of THEFT after the MP Expenses Scandal, FIVE Members of Parliament were jailed and TWO Lords were also imprisoned. Prior to these MPs and Lords going to jail, ALL protested their innocence. So we have legal counsel preparing for that next DWP Brown Envelope of Death, Destitution & Despair to top what is currently a fairly large offsite box of evidence and files ready for the police start interviewing DWP officials and those legally responsible ministers at the DWP. More of that in due course.
39 year old Julia Kelly from Northampton, who was unable to work due to chronic back pain killed herself after the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) threatened to cut off her disability benefits, an inquest heard.
Mark Wood, from Bampton, Oxfordshire, had his income support stopped in 2013 after he was found fit to work despite having serious mental health issues.
In March 2013, the Department of Work & Pensions admitted its decision was wrong, following new GP evidence. “He was hounded” – Mr Wood’s family has called for a meeting with the disabilities minister Mark Harper, to “further pursue the issues and press for change so other very vulnerable people do not have to suffer in the way Mark did.”
Chris Smith lay in a hospital bed, dying of cancer. He should have been helped by the system, the welfare state which was established to help people like Chris. Instead the Department For Work and Pensions (DWP) the bombarded him with texts telling him he had to apply for jobs, and letters urging him to come to ‘job workshops. Chris had cancer; lung cancer, skin cancer and a cancer that spread to his spine. He was diagnosed in April. Although Chris refused to believe it, he was dying.
As he was dying, Chris, 59, and his partner, Maggie, were embroiled in an unnecessary row with the Department of Work and Pensions.
Chris, a qualified plumber, had been ill. A poorly knee had kept him off work and then he began to feel sick. He was called in by the DWP for for health tests. Government assessors told him he wasn’t ill enough. They deemed him fit for work. His benefits were stopped. Chris didn’t think it was right, but he didn’t complain, either. He started to look for work.
Chris didn’t know it, but he already had cancer. He was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer a few weeks later.
By rights, this is where the story should end. A man with terminal lung cancer should not be ordered to find work. He shouldn’t have his benefits stopped. This is what the Welfare State was created for, the safety net which cares for the sick and the poorly.
Father-of-one Michael Connolly, of Station Road, Hendon, took a fatal overdose of prescription medication after becoming increasingly worried about his finances when his benefits were cut by the Department of Work & Pensions, an inquest heard on 14th May 2014.
Demonisation of the disabled and most vulnerable in society is working Mr Duncan-Smith. Your Department of Work & Pensions are doing a deadly job of getting people away from benefits.
Martin Hadfield killed himself out of frustration because he could not find a job, and the fault lies with politicans and employers who make people like Martin feel worthless.
Martin Hadfield, aged just 20 years, killed himself 24 hours after another no-hope interview at his local Jobcentre.
Don’t blame the civil servants who couldn’t offer him work. They don’t have jobs to hand out like bags of sweets. Indeed, many of them are being made redundant.
I blame the cruel, heartless politicians like Iain Duncan-Smith who paint the out-of-work as lazy good-for-nothings. I blame the exploitative employers who cut jobs and drive down wages to boost their profits.
Terminally ill Janet McCall was declared fit for work by ATOS and the Department of Work and Pensions – five months before she died.
Janet, 53, was assessed by ATOS after she applied for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA).
At the time, she had pulmonary fibrosis and scarring of the lungs and she was struggling to breathe. A doctor from French firm Atos was sent to Janet’s home in Dennistoun, Glasgow, to assess her fitness to work in the summer of last year.
He deemed her fit to work and her benefits application was declined.
Janet McCall died in January just 5 months after the DWP and ATOS declared her fit-for-work and left her without a basic subsistence allowance..
Janet’s husband Lawrie said: “I knew the seriousness of her condition and so did the doctor yet he reckoned she was fit enough to work. It was disgusting. “He (the ATOS Assessor) was very insensitive. It was plain to see she was unwell because her breathing was laboured.”
“I was very angry. She was in poor health at the time and she deteriorated after that. Subsequently, we appealed against the DLA decison and it was reversed. But the ESA decision was never reversed.”
Peter Duut was left with 12p a day to live on whilst battling with cancer. His wife Laurel contacted Calum’s List, but there wasn’t much we could do. Peter died soon after. This is where those on our list become more than another searing story of DWP institutionalised depravity.
It was the death of Peter Duut that made us realise it wasn’t just folk committing suicide that was an issue in the Conservative/LibDem/New Labour world of demonising the disabled.
People were actually fighting for their lives – and wanting to live – during which times the DWP headed by Iain Duncan-Smith were finding ever more cruel ways to make death stressful and traumatic. Sick.
After long talks with Peter’s widow, we decided to also include on this list, the many folk who had simply the misfortune to become ill or disabled and die a bad death care of the Department of Work and Persecutions. Not just those who had committed suicide due to alleged culpability by the Department of Work & Pensions.
This is the last name we are placing on this part of Calum’s List for now. The reason is that Mick – known as Nelson to those he helped via his online disability support website – was one of the three who started Calum’s List. Mick was severely disabled, having had multiple operations on his spine. He was in a lot of pain.
Even so, Mick always had time to help others. We know for a fact that he prevented TWO disabled people from committing suicide.
Mick also helped thousands of people with disabilities through his website help forum.
All in spite of the fact he had pain every hour of every day of his adult life.
However it wasn’t the chronic pain that killed Mick. It was the Department of Work and Pensions at Washington in Tyne & Wear that killed him. We know this first hand. Several witnesses are still alive to testify to this.
Penine House DWP Jobcentre Washington Highway, Washington, Tyne and Wear, NE37 1LY
Washington DWP Jobcentre. Doesn’t look like a disability death factory.
The overwhelming amount of stress the DWP put Mick under contributed to a massive heart attack.
Those left here know very well what Mick Moore did for his fellow human beings. The embodiment of decency.
Whilst HM Court rules of sub judice do not yet apply, we are not going to risk any prospective court case by disclosing the last 6 on the current Calum’s List. Another case which is not, at this time, being put forward is that of Stephanie Bottrill. We mention that so as to give an idea of the evidence mounting up for criminal and civil proceedings against the DWP, ATOS, and possibly the new private company assessors acting for the DWP – Calum’s List – Case number “3”.
56. Name Redacted At This Time.
Same reasons as sub judice compromise. Should another DWP Brown Envelope of Destitution & Death arrive and harm another person, then the name behind Case 56 will form part of the prosecution submission.
57. Name Redacted At This Time.
Whilst HM Court rules of sub judice do not yet apply, we are not going to risk any prospective court case by disclosing the last 6 on the current Calum’s List. Another case which is not, at this time, being put forward is that of Stephanie Bottrill. We mention that so as to give an idea of the evidence mounting up for criminal and civil proceedings against the DWP, ATOS, and possibly the new private company assessors acting for the DWP – Calum’s List – Case number “3”.
58. Name Redacted At This Time.
Same reasons as sub judice compromise. Should another DWP Brown Envelope of Destitution & Death arrive and harm another person, then the name behind Case 58 will form part of the prosecution submission.
59. Name Redacted At This Time.
Whilst HM Court rules of sub judice do not yet apply, we are not going to risk any prospective court case by disclosing the last 6 on the current Calum’s List. Another case which is not, at this time, being put forward is that of Stephanie Bottrill. We mention that so as to give an idea of the evidence mounting up for criminal and civil proceedings against the DWP, ATOS, and possibly the new private company assessors acting for the DWP – Calum’s List – Case number “3”.
60. Name Redacted At This Time.
Same reasons as sub judice compromise. Should another DWP Brown Envelope of Destitution & Death arrive and harm another person, then the name behind Case 60 will form part of the prosecution submission.
On 23 January 2012 At the Dispatch Box in The House of Commons, this Conservative Welfare Minister was publicly warned of his & the DWP exposure to Corporate Manslaughter. Fellow Conservative Minister Iain Duncan-Smith was at his side to receive that precipitous warning. Mr Duncan-Smith receives prior written details of ALL questions that require a House of Commons Dispatch Box answer from him or those whom he delegates issues to, as part of parliamentary protocol. So we can prove he knew about this murderous mess. They both FAILED to act on that warning, along with three other ministers/MPs. FACT, people have died as a direct result. There is now ample evidence to prove this.
A Conservative Majority Government Becomes A Minority?
Just 4 MPs Going To Jail May Result In The Conservatives Losing Power
On 7th May 2015 the pro-austerity Conservatives were returned to government with a wafer thin majority. Whilst the anti-austerity SNP were given an unprecedented landslide majority.
After a robust discussion with families and subscribers to Calum’s List the received wisdom is now to encourage the anti-austerity MPs, MSPs, MLAs to work for a POLITICAL SOLUTION. We have trust and hope this will happen. Not least because an entire nation within the four that make up the United Kingdom have voted ANTI-AUSTERITY.
Be careful Mr Duncan-Smith. Blindly protesting your innocence and the outcome of a trial in Court can have very different results. Maybe get used to being close to the style of bars behind you.
Here is the message from the subscribers and families at Calum’s List – that if a POLITICAL SOLUTION is NOT brought about, then in order to stop further welfare reform deaths, there is little alternative to a LEGAL REMEDY. If you think this is not possible, just study the list of 13 JAIL SENTENCES the courts have PUNISHED CRIMINAL MPs & LORDS with…
This long list of dishonour and disgrace fairly emptied the Houses of Commons and Lords over the years.
The list above detailing disgraced, convicted politicians prove most were jailed for the relatively simple act of theft. What are the penalties for killing people?
The received wisdom at Calum’s List is NOT to commence LEGAL PROCEEDINGS against the DWP and 5 serving Conservative MPs that were warned about the lethal problems of their welfare reforms (in Parliament, on camera, on 23rd January 2012, in the formal Hansard minutes) and their liability to Corporate Manslaughter along with other criminal charges. At that time we recorded 11 people who had died where the DWP and government ministers had alleged culpability. After 23rd January 2012 EVERY death where the DWP have alleged culpability carries with it the fact that the DWP and relevantly 5 Conservative MPs had PRIOR KNOWLEDGE and warning that their conduct was lethal and their deadly reforms, if continued, would place vulnerable and disabled people in harms way. Now there are over 50 people who have died where Conservative welfare reforms are implicated.
The subscribers to this website and families directly affected do NOT want to follow a LEGAL remedy, but believe a POLITICAL solution to this welfare reform carnage is now mandated. Witness the 56 anti-austerity MPs from Scotland. Those who have kept Calum’s List ask the new anti-austerity politicians to help. PLEASE make welfare reform fair and SAFE. If you fail to remedy this deadly welfare reform, prepare to face the courts. Jointly and severally.
So far NONE of the pre-2015 Westminster Parliament convicts were jailed for manslaughter. In an effort to avois court proceedings and find a POLITICAL SOLUTION, we beg the new Members of Parliament, to repair the welfare reforms and make them safe and fit for purpose. Please STOP killing disabled people. If no political solution is found, then the next Department of Work & Pensions Brown Envelope of Destitution & Death that causes harm will result in a detailed and forensically assembled complaint of legal infraction concerning the deaths many disabled people being presented to the police.
We would of course rather have the kind of country most decent, right minded people like the sort who donated £330,000 to the disabled pensioner Alan Barnes truly want.
DWP – Click This Link To See What Decent People Think and Do
This part is for the Department of Work & Pensions; for New Labour who brought in ATOS and the discredited and deadly Work Capability Assessment; for the Conservatives who thrived on this workhouse policy; for the LibDems who sold their souls and principles for a ministerial limo and salary, think about this:-
People with disabilities are not what your preconceived demonisation of the disabled television programmes have falsely tried to brainwash people into thinking as scroungers, skivers and inhabitants of welfare demonisation propaganda: Benefits Street.
Unfortunately for you, people with disabilities have often been, or some still remain as:
Lawyers, CPS officials, procurators fiscal, judges, advocates/barristers, doctors, professors, nurses, documentary makers. Worse there are even former police officers and prison officers that are now in our ranks of people with disabilities.
So if it comes to the fight, and we have to take our focus off of getting past our disabilities and working, or even just staying alive, and STOPPING you politicians from killing more people that are ill or disabled, then so be it.
Justice At The Old Bailey
Some Politicians Do Not Pass Go. Instead Many Have Gone To Jail. Five Conservative MPs Still In Office After 7 May 2015 May Join Them *
Proof to the politicians and senior civil servants that the unthinkable can happen. When you take ALL from a disabled or dying person, don’t fall into the false sense of security that you are immune from prosecution. You are very likely to end up in the dock answering for your actions in relation to people who have died that are on Calum’s List and also the ones that have been temporarily redacted for sub judice reasons.
We disabled, here at Calum’s List, believe Tennyson said it best in Ulysses….
“We are not now that strength which in old days Moved Earth and Heaven, That which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, But strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
Latest news from the Work and Benefits newsletter:
DLA TO PIP ROLL OUT
For DLA claimants the fight to hold onto their benefit has already begun. In the first 10 postcodes where claimants with an ‘indefinite’ or ‘lifetime’ award of DLA are forced to claim PIP instead, the DWP began targeting claimants in July, rather than October as originally planned.
Then, at the end of last month the DWP announced that a further 29 postcodes would also begin the reassessment process early, starting on 1 September.
The complete transfer of claimants is expected to take over two years, with the DWP saying claimants can be contacted at any time up to 30 September 2017.
But this latest announcement suggests that the DWP is already in a rush to get up to the full rate of 1,800 assessments a day of lifetime DLA claimants.
DWP’S NIGHTMARE SUMMER
It’s been a bad summer for the DWP.
They have faced huge criticism over the ESA death statistics, which they unsuccessfully tried to bury over the last bank holiday.
The figures released are unclear in many regards. But what is apparent is that thousands of claimants have died within weeks of being found fit for work, leading to calls in the national media for the resignation of IDS.
The DWP were also shamed by the revelation that they had invented bogus ESA claimants who praised their sanctions regime. Leaflets featuring the fake claimants have now had to be withdrawn. The issue created even more of a scandal in the media than the deaths of thousands of claimants.
Finally, there was the leaked news that the government’s long-term violation of the human rights of claimants - and in particular the multiple cuts to benefits – are being investigated by the United Nations.
THE NEW FORCE IN CLAIMANTS RIGHTS
What is particularly notable about these news items is that they were all brought about by tiny, private sector or unfunded groups or individuals.
The ESA death statistics campaign is the work of Vox Political blogger Mike Sivier.
The bogus sanction claimants were revealed by Welfare Weekly – a one-person online news aggregator.
And the UN investigation has come about due to the tireless work of activist group Disabled People Against Cuts.
Add to this the story of the 49 secret DWP investigations into claimant deaths, revealed earlier this year by John Pring’s Disability News Service, and a startling truth emerges.
The DWP is now largely being held to account not by opposition politicians, not by well-funded charities such as Disability Rights UK, but by activists with virtually no income.
One of the main weapons of these new campaigners is the Freedom of Information Act. But we know that the government is already taking steps to try to dramatically curtail the use of the Act.
How long before the government – or its multinational partners - also decide to take action against the campaigners themselves?
Support for ever more harsh benefits cuts depends on people accepting that claimants are bad and the DWP is good. These campaigners are inconveniently proving that the opposite is true.
PIP CLAIMS AND RECONSIDERATIONS PLUMMET, BUT APPEAL SUCCESS SOARS
The overall success rate for PIP claims is continuing to fall. Nationally it stands at 48% since PIP was introduced. But success rates have dropped over that time from 62% of new claims getting an award in March 2014, to just 42% getting an award in in July 2015.
The success rate at mandatory reconsideration stage for claimants moving from DLA to PIP has also plummeted. It has fallen from a high of 50% of mandatory reconsiderations being successful in late 2014 to just 22% by July 2015.
For fresh PIP claims, the mandatory reconsideration success rate has fallen from 17% to 14%.
One good bit of news for claimants, however, is that PIP appeals to a tribunal have a high chance of being upheld. The success rate for claimants taking a PIP decision to a tribunal has risen from 40% in 2013 to 56% in 2015. PIP appeals now outnumber ESA appeals.
So, the message is clear. If you are refused PIP you need to go all the way to a tribunal to get a fair decision.
which just goes to show how ridiculous the Atos and Capita so-called 'medical' assessments are in the first place!
I am due myself to undergo the changeover to PIP (Personal Independence Payment) - and am fully expectant of having to hobble down the tribunal avenue again.
Latest news from the excellent Work and Benefits site: Newsletter for 9th March 2016
First item - David Clapson is one of those listed on Calum's List (details earlier in this thread)
Help get justice for sanctions victim The sister of David Clapson, an ex-forces claimant who died after his benefits were sanctioned is asking for your help to get justice for him.
David died in 2013. An inquest found that he died with no food in his stomach and no money to pay for electricity to power his fridge and keep his insulin cool.
David’s JSA had been sanctioned for a month because he missed two meetings. He was a vulnerable man and unwell, but too private and proud to ask for help when his benefits were stopped.
His sister, Gill Thompson, has fought tirelessly to publicise his case and that of other claimants who have suffered and died because of benefits sanctions.
She has already managed to get over 200,000 signatures on a change.org petition which led to an parliamentary select committee inquiry into sanctions.
Now she is trying to raise £10,000 to get legal help to hold an investigation/inquest into his death. After only a week she is just over £1,000 short of her target.
She is also supporting today’s day of action against benefits sanctions.
Appeal numbers drop, Atos costs rise
In other news, there has been an 80% drop in benefits appeals. But the DWP expect numbers to rise sharply as a result of the forced move from disability living allowance to personal independence payment. And many claimants will be concerned by a new pilot scheme to put DWP funded job coaches in GPs surgeries and even give them the power to write entries in patients’ medical records.
On a cheerier note, lots of people will be delighted to learn that the a select committee is to launch an investigation into all the government accounts held by Atos, including the PIP assessment contract.
The investigation was prompted by the spiralling costs of a contract to develop an IT system to extract and sell data from GP practices. The committee said that Atos: “appears to have acted solely with its own short-term best interests in mind”
ESA cuts passed by House of Lords today The House of Lords this afternoon gave its assent to a cut of £30 per week for new claimants in the work-related activity group (WRAG) of employment and support allowance (ESA) yesterday. Help get justice for a claimant killed by sanctions The sister of an ex-forces claimant who died after his benefits were sanctioned is asking for your help to get justice for him. Maximus accused of unreasonable ESA targets by former assessor A doctor who trained in psychiatry and then worked for Maximus as an employment and support allowance (ESA) assessor has claimed that the company set unrealistic targets for the speed at which assessments had to be carried out. Government to review all Atos contracts The Cabinet is to review Atos’ performance in every one of its government contracts worth more than £10 million, the Guardian has reported. This will include the personal independence payment (PIP) assessment contracts won by Atos. ESA cuts to go ahead as Lords back down The BBC is reporting that the House of Lords is to back down from its opposition to government plans to cut £30 per week from the benefit of new claimants in the work-related activity group (WRAG) of employment and support allowance (ESA). Claimants to march on GP surgery that is giving space to the DWP Angry claimants are to march on one of six GP surgeries in Islington that is to embed DWP funded Remploy job coaches in its practice, the Guardian is reporting. ESA permitted work time limit to be abolished Lord Freud has announced that employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants in the work-related activity group (WRAG) will be able to do higher limit permitted work for an unlimited period, instead of stopping after 52 weeks. Lords block ESA cuts again The government was once again heavily defeated in the House of Lords over plans to cut £30 per week from the benefit of new claimants in the work-related activity group (WRAG) of employment and support allowance (ESA) yesterday. 80% fall in social security appeals The latest annual report from the Senior President of Tribunals, released last week, reveals that there has been a dramatic 80% fall in the number of social security and child support (SSCS) appeal tribunals.
From the Work and Benefits Newsletter 20 April 2016
We now know that a PIP assessor can complete your entire assessment – and score you nothing - days before you even turn up for your medical. Or he can ignore your evidence completely and base his entire report on secret observations he claims to have made.
And allegedly rake in £20,000 a month for doing so.
We also know now that there is absolutely no question of universal credit being scrapped by Stephen Crabb, as many had hoped. He has, however, discovered lots of ‘interesting ideas’ for getting sick and disabled people into work.
And we’ve also come a good deal closer to discovering if the DWP have been ignoring the findings of their own secret death reviews - and costing more claimants their lives as a result.
PIP ASSESSOR MOCKS DISABLED
Channel 4’s Dispatches sent an undercover reporter to train as a Capita PIP assessor. The resulting documentary makes grim viewing.
There was the Capita trainer who described the mental state examination as “a very, very shallow assessment”. And Capita’s Chief Medical Officer, who explained that “we obviously need to get you to be doing as many assessments in a day as you can possibly manage”.
But star of the show by far was Alan, a Capita assessor who mocked a claimant as having a “Disability known as being fat”.
He went on to describe how he had completed an assessment on a claimant with only one leg days before the claimant actually had his medical, finding that “he does everything really don’t he?”.
He also revealed that he relied on “informal observations” rather than anything the claimant told him in order to assess them.
Informal observations are ones that are carried out in secret – the claimant is not told about them and they are not given a chance to challenge the assessor’s assumptions at the time. They include things like:
Your appearance- whether you are tidy and clean.
Your skin tone.
Your hearing ability.
Your walking ability.
Your ability to concentrate.
Your ability to stand, sit, move around and use your hands.
Your ability to bend down to retrieve objects such as a handbag on the floor beside you, or reaching out for an object such as your medication.
How you stand up.
How you move to the examination couch and/or get on and off the couch.
How you use your walking aids.
How you remove your coat or hat.
What you are carrying and if it appears light or heavy.
Whether you show and understand the letters you have with you.
If you smile and appear relaxed.
If your breathing is laboured.
Informal observations are extremely simplistic and often deeply misleading. For example, you may be clean and tidy because someone else helped you wash and dress. You may be able to walk, but suffer extreme fatigue for days afterwards as a result.
But because informal observations do not have to be put to the claimant, they are a very easy way to deny you points. And for carrying out these utterly fraudulent assessments, Alan claimed he could earn £20,000 a month.
Alan was dismissed by Capita who claimed that they were “appalled by and sincerely apologise for this individual’s disrespectful comments and actions”.
But many claimants will be left wondering, how many more ‘Alans’ are carrying out PIP assessments but haven’t been caught on camera?
UNIVERSAL CREDIT TO CONTINUE
The new secretary of state for work and pensions, Stephen Crabb, has made it crystal clear in his first major speech that he is a big fan of universal credit and that it will not be scrapped. With the treasury now dependent on UC to deliver big cuts in benefits spending, that shouldn’t come as any surprise.
However, benefits specialist Joe Halewood has come up with a very interesting theory that the benefits bill will actually rise hugely due to the introduction of UC. He suggests that because UC rolls so many benefits into one, there will be a great deal less underclaimed benefit in the future. The result could be as much as £24 billion a year added to the benefits bill. Meanwhile, Crabb’s enthusiasm for “supporting good health” by getting sick and disabled claimants into work will alarm some victims of previous return-to-work schemes. Especially as Crabb explains that “there are lots of interesting ideas emerging”.
Interesting ideas are seldom good news for claimants.
SECRET DEATH REVIEWS VICTORY
Campaigning journalist John Pring has persuaded an information tribunal to order the DWP to reveal important aspects of their 49 secret reviews into claimants deaths.
Information that will be released will allow campaigners to look at whether the DWP followed the recommendations made in the reports in order to reduce future deaths. If the DWP ignored the findings and further deaths occurred, there is a possibility of legal action against the department.
The DWP can still, if they choose, appeal the decision further in order to try to prevent the truth emerging.
But surely, under a new secretary of state who has already allowed the release of previously unpublished UC documents, that wouldn’t happen, would it?
Scottish police are assessing whether to launch a criminal investigation into the failure of two government ministers to address a coroner’s concerns about the safety of the “fitness for work” test, a failure which may have caused “countless deaths”.
Disabled activist John McArdle, co-founder of the user-led campaign network Black Triangle , lodged a complaint with police in Edinburgh last month about the actions of former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and former employment minister Chris Grayling.
McArdle believes the two Conservative politicians are guilty of the Scottish criminal offence of wilful neglect of duty by a public official, because they failed to take steps to improve the work capability assessment (WCA) in 2010 after being warned by a coroner that its flaws risked causing future deaths.
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “Police in Edinburgh received a report of misconduct in public office on 23 March 2016.
“The individual who made the complaint has been spoken to and we are awaiting further information to assess this matter and establish what actions are required.”
McArdle’s MP, the SNP’s Tommy Sheppard, has written to the chief constable of Police Scotland, Phil Gormley, asking to be “kept informed of progress”.
Both Duncan Smith and Grayling have refused to comment.
The claims concern their refusal to act on concerns raised by a coroner following the suicide of Stephen Carré in January 2010.
When they were appointed in May 2010, Duncan Smith and Grayling assumed responsibility for responding to a letter written by coroner Tom Osborne, who carried out the inquest into Carré’s death, and had serious concerns about the safety of the WCA.
Osborne had asked the Labour work and pensions secretary Yvette Cooper – who never saw the letter, as the general election was called just days after it arrived – to review the policy not to seek medical evidence from a GP or psychiatrist if someone applying for out-of-work disability benefits had a mental health condition.
But Duncan Smith and Grayling appear to have dismissed the letter, and failed to show it to Professor Malcolm Harrington, the independent expert they appointed to review the WCA, while also deciding to roll out the test to hundreds of thousands of long-term claimants of incapacity benefit, many of whom had mental health conditions.
Many campaigners, including Black Triangle, believe that the decision of Duncan Smith and Grayling to ignore Osborne’s letter led to countless other deaths.
McArdle has handed Police Scotland details of three people who died in the years after Osborne sent his letter to the Department for Work and Pensions, deaths he believes could have been prevented if the two ministers had acted on the coroner’s warning.
Another alleged victim of the failure to act on Osborne’s warning was David Barr, who died in August 2012 after being found fit for work and having his ESA withdrawn. An Atos assessor had concluded that although Barr had attempted to take his own life six weeks before his WCA, he was still “not at substantial risk”.
The third case concerns the death of Paul Donnachie , who took his own life late last year after his ESA was mistakenly stopped when he failed to attend a WCA.
The call for a criminal investigation into the actions of Duncan Smith and Grayling has been backed by many of the country’s leading disabled activists and disabled people’s organisations, including Inclusion London, Disabled People Against Cuts, Equal Lives, WOWcampaign, Professor Peter Beresford, the Mental Health Resistance Network, Pat’s Petition, and the Cross Border Alliance.
Meanwhile, a disabled constituent of Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Debbie Abrahams, has heavily criticised her for failing to speak out about Duncan Smith’s failure to act on the coroner’s letter. Shaun McGrath, from Oldham, wrote to Abrahams after Disability News Service (DNS) reported how she had refused to criticise – or even comment on – the failure of Duncan Smith to respond to the letter, despite being shown clear evidence that he had failed to do so.
DNS first asked Abrahams to comment on Duncan Smith’s failings last November, but apart from expressing sympathy with “Stephen Carré’s family and friends” and calling for improvements to the WCA, she refused to say anything about Duncan Smith’s role in the scandal.
Abrahams told McGrath that she had responded to DNS but that her comments were not used, but omitted to mention that she had refused to answer the question that had been put to her about Iain Duncan Smith. When McGrath complained about her response, she told him she had “nothing further to add”, other than calling again for the WCA and other assessment to be “completely overhauled”.
McGrath said: “There was no sense of my complaint being taken seriously or that Debbie Abrahams understood and appreciated or even cared about what I was asking her to respond to. “Her refusal to answer any of the questions I put to her has destroyed what faith I had in Debbie Abrahams as my constituency MP.
“I honestly don’t think I could ever contact her again, such is the negative impression she’s left me with.” Abrahams has now told DNS that she will be asking DWP to investigate how the coroner’s letter “could have slipped through the department’s net”. But she refused yet again this week to comment on Duncan Smith’s failure to act or the calls for him to face a criminal investigation.
Abrahams said: “I have concerns about the Stephen Carré case, which is why I raised the issue face to face with Priti Patel in a Westminster Hall debate, on 9 February, asking her to look into the case. “This resulted in a response from her confirming that a draft letter to the coroner, Tom Osborne, due to be sent in September 2010, had been found but the DWP could not confirm that it had ever been sent. “In the light of this I will be asking for an investigation into how the correspondence could have slipped through the department’s net.
“As I have done for many years now, both as a member of the work and pensions select committee and as shadow minister for disabled people, I will continue to hold the government to account for the shortcomings of the work capability assessment and PIP processes and keep campaigning for ministers to implement a new, fairer system.”
January 2012: LHA single room rate is extended to under 35s instead of under 25s. Disproportionately affects disabled people who cannot flat share due to disability but do not meet the stringent criteria for exemption (mid rate care DLA).
April 2012: The "Youth Provision" is abolished. This allowed young disabled people to access contributory benefits. It results in loss of income for 80% of those benefitting from it and total loss of income for 12.5% of those.
December 2012:New Sanctions rules are introduced, allowing sanctions to start sooner and for longer.
2012-2013: Remploy factories are closed down. Iain Duncan Smith famously says workers sit around making cups of coffee. 3 years on less than half have found employment.
January 2013: ESA regulations are amended, making it harder to qualify. Assessors may make a decision based on therapy or aids a claimant *could* have whether or not they do or whether it is in fact available, possible or (in the case of treatment) they have given consent. Physical impairments may no longer award points in the mental health and cognitive section and vice versa. Eg a physical injury causing cognitive impairment would have all such symptoms ignored.
April 2013: Legal aid is abolished for welfare cases.
April 2013: DLA is begun to be replaced with PIP to make 20% savings (benefit to cover extra costs of disability). 500,000 disabled people are expected to lose their benefit. By 2016 14,000 disabled people have had their motability car repossessed. This is just the start as most people have not yet been assessed due to errors and delays.
April 2013: The Social size criteria more commonly known as the Bedroom tax is introduced. This removes housing benefit for "spare" rooms for social housing tenants. 660,000 households are affected, two thirds of which include a disabled member.
April 2013:Council tax benefit is abolished and replaced by council tax reduction scheme, administered locally. This leads to a postcode lottery with many disabled people, including those in the ESA support group, liable for up to 25% of their council tax.
March 2014: The Work and Pensions Committee warns the DWP "to exercise care in the language used in accompanying press releases and ministerial comments in the media, to ensure it avoids the risk of feeding into negative public views about benefit recipients."
June 2014: The implementation of PIP is called a "fiasco" by the Public Accounts Committee after a "failure to implement a pilot scheme resulted in significant delays, a backlog of claims and unnecessary distress for claimants who have been unable to access the support they need to live, and in some cases work, independently."
July 2014: A court case against the restriction of high rate mobility from 50m to 20m in PIP fails. However the DWP admits (para 80) "we were aware that the vast majority of recipients of DLA were individuals with genuine health conditions and disabilities and genuine need, and that removing or reducing that benefit may affect their daily lives".
March 2015: A new study (Cheshire Hunger) shows that problems with benefits account for nearly half (47%) of all referrals to food banks, with sanctions accounting for 11% and ESA claimants 4%. A significant number remained dependent far longer than the initial crisis.
April 2015: A second study published in the BMJ finds that the unprecedented rise in foodbanks (soaring from 29 Trussell Trust banks in 2009-2010 to 251 in 2013-2014) is linked to higher unemployment, sanctions and cuts in welfare spending.
June 2015: The ILF is abolished. 17,000 people lose funding to pay for their personal care. Some funding is given to councils for the first 2 years and then agreed for a further 4 years, but it is not ringfenced. Most disabled people affected see huge cuts to their hours and loss of independence.
September 2015: The UN confirms it is investigating the UK for "grave and systematic violations of the human rights of disabled individuals", the first time such an investigation has taken place in a first world country.
October 2015: A Cap to Access to Work, is introduced, limiting or eliminating entirely work options for those with higher support requirements.
November 2015:Independent research is published suggesting 590 suicides and 279,000 cases of reported mental health illness can be directly linked to controversial WCA.
December 2015: Latest figures show that PIP appeals now account for 38% of all appeals and carry a 60% success rate. ESA and DLA success rates are 58% and 55% respectively. In contrast, appeal success rates for tax credits or income support run at between 25 to 40%.
February 2016: Figures show half of those reassessed for PIP are losing their motability vehicle. There are 650,000 disabled people on the scheme and only 31,200 have been reassessed so far. Of these 14,000 have lost their car or wheelchair.
January 2016: Conservative Disability Group launches inquiry into abolition of ILF following widespread concern about its impact.
March 2016: Evidence has emerged that a "prevention of deaths" letter was received by the DWP from a coroner in 2010, following the suicide of a disabled man who failed his WCA. [url=http://graying and iain duncan smith failed to act or respond/]Graying and Iain Duncan Smith failed to act or respond[/url] despite a legal obligation to do so, and the WCA was rolled out with no change to millions of Incapacity Benefit claimants. The letter was also not shown to Professor Harrington, later in charge of reviewing the WCA to make it better and safer.
About to be introduced:
2016-2018: £22 million is to be spent on the DWP to recruit presenting officers to support the department in PIP and ESA tribunals. (Recall that in contrast, claimants do not have recourse to legal aid, axed in April 2013).
April 2016:All benefits will be frozen for the next 4 years bar DLA/PIP and disability premiums. Ministers lie again about disability benefits being unaffected as once more ESA is included, including the Support Group to some extent.
April 2016: Disability benefits, premiums and carers allowance are frozen for 1 year due to a negative CPI in September 2015.
April 2016, Universal credit: Recent cuts to tax credits which were dropped due to fierce opposition will be included as part and parcel of this benefit
Universal credit (law passed in 2012): There will be no equivalent to the disabled working tax credit. Help will only be available to those who have "limited capability for work or work related activity". This will affect up to 116,000 working disabled people at around £40 per week (however the timetable for this is unclear, as the UC system can currently only cope with simple cases).
September 2016:DSA (Disabled Student Allowance) will be cut. Government is withdrawing funding entirely for some types of support and hoping universities will pick up the cost. This will affect 70,000 disabled students.
2017: ESA WRAG rate is to be cut by a third by £30 per week to align it with JSA. This will affect new claimants and those with a 12 week break in their claim.
April 2018: Social housing rents are to be capped at LHA rates . This will see large numbers of evictions of single people under the age of 35 suddenly only eligible for shared rate (see above). It will also devastate the supported housing sector whose rents are naturally higher, affecting disabled people, elderly people, women's refuges and more.
Universal Credit (law passed in 2012): Disabled people face the abolition of the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) at a cost of £62 per week. This will affect new claimants and those with a "change of circumstances". 230,000 disabled people currently receive this premium and will see their benefit frozen and/or eventually cut.
Extract from the Work and Benefits most recent Newsletter:
The longer PIP is around, the less sense it makes.
This is especially true if you have a very serious physical health condition that can only get worse.
Because if you have, under PIP, not only are you up to two thirds less likely to get an enhanced mobility award than you were under DLA. . . but, you might even miraculously get better.
The BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show has obtained some startling figures using the Freedom of Information Act.
These show that for multiple sclerosis (MS), 93% of DLA claimants got the higher rate of the mobility component, but under PIP this has dropped hugely to 50%.
For Parkinson’s, 82% of DLA claimants got the higher rate of the mobility component, but under PIP this has more than halved to 40%.
For rheumatoid arthritis, 83% of DLA claimants got the higher rate of the mobility component, but under PIP this has plummeted by more than two thirds to 24%.
Not only that, but some claimants, such as Wendy who has early onset Alzheimer’s, get an award of PIP and then eighteen months later are found to have improved to the extent that they no longer qualify for anything.
It was clear from the outset that PIP’s main purpose was to cut costs. It is now equally clear that the DWP don’t care who has to pay the price for those cuts.
PLEASE HOLD “We are sorry but all our customer service agents are busy at the moment. Please hold.”
These are the words that callers to DWP helplines dread. And for some of those on the lowest incomes, with access only to a pay as you go mobile, they come at a serious cost.
Mobile providers charge up to 45p a minute to call an 0345 number – like the PIP enquiry line.
And the average wait before you speak to someone about your PIP claim, according to a government minister last week, is six minutes and 25 seconds.
So that’s getting on for three quid before you’ve said a word. And many people spend a great deal longer than six and a half minutes on hold.
The Social Security Advisory Committee have urged the DWP to provide free 0800 numbers for lines used by vulnerable and low-income claimants. But the DWP, in a response published last week, have refused on the grounds that it would cost them £7 million to do so.
But there’s another reason that they also let slip in their reply to SSAC. In relation to universal credit, their policy is to “redirect people to digital channels through cost incentives”.
In other words, they want claimants to manage their claim online and they will punish those who are unable to do so by making them pay a small fortune for phone calls.
ESA SANCTIONS, ESA CUTS, BEDROOM TAX VICTORY In other news, ESA sanctions are on the rise again. They have almost doubled in the course of this year, up from 900 in January to 1,749 in June.
Staying with ESA, 127 MPs - including 5 Tories - voted unanimously in favour of a motion calling on the government not to introduce cuts to ESA scheduled to be introduced in April 2017. But the vote has no legal force and it looks unlikely, at the time of writing, that the Autumn budget statement will offer a reprieve.
The percentage of claimants with degenerative physical conditions who get awards of enhanced rate personal independence payment (PIP) mobility has fallen by up to two thirds when compared with disability living allowance (DLA), the BBC has revealed. The BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show has obtained the startling figures using the Freedom of Information act. These show that there have been dramatic falls in the percentage of claimants with degenerative physical health conditions who get the enhanced rate of PIP mobility, compared to the percentage who were awarded DLA higher rate mobility for the same condition. According to the BBC, the figures for dementia show that more claimants are getting enhanced PIP mobility. This may reflect the fact that PIP mobility takes more account of mental health issues than DLA does. But for primarily physical conditions, it’s a very different picture. For MS, 93% of DLA claimants got the higher rate of the mobility component, under PIP this has dropped hugely to 50%. For Parkinson’s, 82% of DLA claimants got the higher rate of the mobility component, under PIP this has more than halved to 40%. For rheumatoid arthritis, 83% of DLA claimants got the higher rate of the mobility component, under PIP this plummeted by more than two thirds to 24%. Claimants with degenerative conditions are having their awards reduced from higher rate mobility to no mobility component at all, when they are moved onto PIP. The programme interviews Diane, a claimant with Parkinson’s who lost her mobility award - and her Motability car - when she was moved from DLA to PIP. It took six months and an appeal tribunal to get her award reinstated. Some claimants with degenerative conditions are also discovering that when an existing PIP award is reassessed it can be reduced, even though there is no possibility that their condition has improved. Wendy, a claimant with Alzheimer’s interviewed by the programme, had been getting the standard rates of PIP mobility and care. When the award was reassessed after 18 months, however, it was taken away altogether. A mandatory reconsideration reached the same decision and Wendy doesn’t feel that she can cope with a full appeal. For Wendy, it’s a disaster that will severely limit how she lives. For the DWP, it’s another good result. You can read the full story on the BBC website .
Sharp rise in rejected claims for disability benefit Labour raises alarm over number of people being turned down for personal independence payments
People protest against disability benefit cuts at a rally outside the Houses of Parliament in March. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
About 200,000 people face seeing their claims for a disability benefit to help with daily living and mobility refused this year, new figures obtained by Labour suggest. Senior MPs have called on the government to explain an apparent spike in people being turned down for personal independence payment (PIP) , which is a top-up benefit with two components related to the extra costs of daily living and limited mobility for disabled people. Figures obtained by Angela Eagle , the former work and pensions minister, showed that 83,000 people assessed for their eligibility had been given zero scores for both components in the six months between April and October. That compares with 93,000 given a zero score for both components in the previous 12 months.
Overall, 134,000 people were awarded zero scores for one or both components in the six-month period to October, suggesting the total figure for 2016-17 will pass 200,000.
An analysis by Press Association suggested the rate of zero scores would increase to 14% this year from 13% last year and 8% the year before.
“It’s a trend we’ve noticed about people, from usually passing the PIP criteria or disability living allowance [DLA, its predecessor benefit] criteria to getting fewer points even though they’ve got chronic conditions that are worsening,” Eagle said.
“In the last few weeks, there’s definitely been a spike of people getting zero. The only way that this makes sense is if a whole load of people got DLA without deserving it, but that’s never been my experience of DLA.”
Debbie Abrahams, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “The increasing numbers of zero points assessments raise real concerns about the accuracy of the assessment process, as do the thousands upon thousands of wrong decisions that are overturned at mandatory reconsideration and in the courts.”
It comes at at time when ministers are under pressure over the number of PIP decisions that are overturned on appeal, with about 65% of rulings reversed at an independent tribunal.
This compares with 18% of those being overturned at mandatory reconsideration, a system run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that claimants must go through before appealing to a tribunal. More than 160,000 people initially denied PIP have had the decision overturned since the benefit launched in 2013, according to Department for Work and Pensions figures.
The DWP said it was “completely unfounded” to suggest there was any crackdown that was leading more people to be awarded zero scores at their assessments. It said there were more people being given higher awards of the PIP than under the old system.
“In fact, 27% of claimants are now receiving the highest rate of support under PIP, compared with just 15% under the outdated DLA,” a spokeswoman said.
“Assessments are carried out by qualified health professionals and decisions are made based on information provided by the claimant and their GP.”
The assessments for PIP are carried out by the private companies Capita and Atos.
A Capita spokeswoman said: “Our assessors are healthcare professionals and are equipped with the knowledge, skills and training to understand how both physical and mental health challenges impact a claimant’s daily function. All assessments are carried out in line with the latest DWP guidelines, and the decision to award a benefit is made by DWP.” A spokesman for Atos said: “All decisions on awarding benefits are made by the DWP.”
And that’s in addition to the 15% of PIP mandatory reconsiderations where the claimant won an award after getting zero points originally.
Figures like this should be an immediate call to action. They should prompt a complete overhaul - if not the utter abandonment - of the PIP assessment system.
Because our readers know what enormous stress and misery a zero points decision involves. And how exhausting it is for people to have to fight against such odds, frequently at a great cost to their already poor health.
But, of course, these statistics will have no effect whatsoever on the way that PIP is administered.
In it, we published tables which showed that working age claimants held the balance of power in enough marginal seats to potentially decide who governed Britain.
But an air of deep disaffection and distrust hung over the last election. Many people told us that it would make no difference who they voted for, because one party was a bad as any other as far as claimants were concerned.
In fact, UKIP was the only party that seemed to be viewed by its followers with any real enthusiasm. Support for Labour tended to be grudging at best.
DWP staff expected to turn down 80% of mandatory reconsiderations
In today’s newsletter we reveal the DWP’s unlawful targets for turning down mandatory reconsiderations, look at what the election manifestos offer to claimants and ask for your help in challenging the recent change to the law relating to personal independence payment (PIP).
MANDATORY RECONSIDERATION TARGETS
The DWP have as good as admitted that mandatory reconsiderations are a sham
In response to a recent Freedom of Information query, the DWP revealed that they have a target of upholding the original decision in 80% of all mandatory reconsideration requests.
Worse still, they managed to exceed that target in the year to March 2017 by turning down 87.5% of all applications.
The DWP have since claimed that PIP is not included in the 80% target.
However, it remains the case that over 80% of PIP mandatory reconsideration requests also fail to get the decision changed – however coincidental the DWP might claim that figure is.
Having a target for the percentage of requests that should fail almost certainly renders the mandatory reconsideration process unlawful.
In legal terms, the DWP is fettering the discretion of decision makers, who should be free to decide every case on its merits, rather than worrying about being disciplined if they fail to hit their targets
Just how rigged mandatory reconsideration decisions are is made absolutely clear by one other statistic.
63% of claimants who have their mandatory reconsideration request turned down and who then go on to appeal to an independent tribunal, win their case.
DWP staff who fail to meet targets are likely find themselves undergoing performance management, the first step towards disciplinary proceedings and, ultimately, dismissal if they continue to overturn too many decisions. It is the clearest evidence yet that mandatory reconsiderations have no purpose other than to try to discourage claimants from challenging an unfair decision.
21 June 2017 Update: Huge Fall In DLA To PIP Moves Plus Atos Reborn As IAS Plus IDS To Replace Jeremy Vine
It’s hard to believe how much has changed since our last newsletter, which went out the day before the election. There have been terrible events, mostly outside the scope of this newsletter. Although the depths of the DWP’s inhumanity were graphically revealed when JSA claimants who lost their homes in the Grenfell Tower fire were warned that they might be sanctioned if they failed to sign on as normal. Only after the media got hold of the story did the DWP promise payments would be made without the need to meet usual job seeking requirements. But many readers will have been cheered by the Conservatives losing their majority. At the time of writing, we don’t even know for sure whether they will be able to come to an arrangement with the DUP in order to cling to power. What is certain, however, is that the Tories don’t need a big majority to cause more misery. Their freeze on benefits has already begun and, with inflation on the rise, it will create increasing hardship. In addition, more unfair changes to PIP and ESA regulations can be made by ministers without any need to put them to a vote. So, unwelcome though yet another election might be, it is the only way that change for the better can happen.
HUGE FALL IN DLA TO PIP REASSESSMENTS The number of people being summoned to go through their DLA to PIP reassessments has plummeted in recent months. The combined number of PIP new claims and reassessments has plunged from 104,333 in January of this year to 49,409 in April. Most of the fall is due to a huge reduction in DLA to PIP reassessments. The DWP have offered no explanation for the fall, saying only that “reassessment registrations have decreased due to DWP managing capacity within the system.” Anecdotal evidence from our members suggests that waiting times for assessments have risen in recent months. So the reason may simply be that a large backlog has once again built up and the DWP are doing their best to cover up the truth. We’d be very interested to hear from you about how long you waited for your face-to-face assessment.
ATOS CHANGES ITS NAME Atos Healthcare has changed its name. The company has now become Independent Assessment Services Atos – sorry - IAS is very clear that the reason for the change is that their new name “better represents the work we do and explains that our role is to independently assess and process Personal Independence Payment (PIP) cases passed to us from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).” Clearly it has nothing to do with trying to shake off the dreadful associations that the name Atos has amongst so many members of the public. And it most definitely isn’t connected with the fact that photographs of people bearing placards saying ‘Atos Kills’ invariably feature alongside any article about the company. No, this is just an innocent attempt to clarify what the company does.
IDS TO REPLACE JEREMY VINE Continuing with the subject of leopards and spots, many readers will be outraged to learn that Iain Duncan Smith (IDS), is to spend next week standing in for Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2. Ed Miliband is standing in this week, in the interests of impartiality. However, there is an enormous difference between Miliband, who simply failed in his attempt to lead Labour to an election win and IDS, who has caused so much misery and hardship to so many people. IDS was feared and despised by many sick and disabled claimants, not just because of his role in introducing Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment. It was also the rhetoric which IDS used, and allowed the DWP to use, which inspired ever greater hatred of claimants. The increasing dehumanisation of sick and disabled people helped to ensure that the vicious ramping up of sanctions against claimants under IDS met with public approval. There was also his misuse of statistics to try to imply that many DLA claimants might not be entitled to their benefits. And his desperate avoidance of the sister of David Clapson, the diabetic former soldier who died after his benefits were cut. We’ve included contact details for the show in our article, if you want to share your thoughts on this issue with the BBC.
NEW WORK AND PENSIONS SECRETARY HELPED FIRMS AVOID TAX David Gauke, the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, is a former solicitor at a City tax avoidance law firm. Yet, as a Treasury minister, he was happy to tell people it was “morally wrong” for householders to pay tradesman cash-in-hand, because it allowed working people to avoid paying tax. He argued that “ . . . if people do that they have to do so with the recognition that means taxes will be higher for the rest." Gauke has been criticised in the past for claiming £10,000 in expenses to cover stamp duty on a second home in London, even though his own home was less than an hour’s travelling time from Westminster. He was also reported to HM Revenue and Customs, after advertising an unpaid six-month “training” post at his constituency office. At the time HMRC had launched a crackdown on employers not paying the minimum wage. Claimants will be reassured to know that a man of such high principles has taken over at the DWP. Good luck, Steve Donnison
The flawed Work Capability Assessment is causing 32 unnecessary deaths a week by forcing the long term sick and disabled into work or work-related activity. It is also causing untold misery and fear for the country's most vulnerable. We call for its cessation now and to be replaced by a more holistic and humane system.
Why is this important?
We want justice for all those who've died as a result of harsh Welfare Reforms and who are listed on Calum's List and Peter's List, each with their own heart-breaking story. Human beings who had disabling and life-threatening conditions and had to live their last days or weeks in fear and harassment of having their entitlements withdrawn. Yes, entitlements, because every human being in a civilized society is entitled to financial security and having their needs met.
Whiskers wrote:This is a different petition then kk? The change.org petition 2 years ago was apparently a victory.
Victory - This petition made change with 248,889 supporters!
I see the 38 degrees campaign was created by 'Moggy Millitant'. Not you by any chance is it?
lol Whiskers No, it's not me, though obviously a feline creature very much after my own heart!
Yes, the disclosure and airing of The List was a huge victory, but the issue is still ongoing and very much a priority under discussion, with promises and positive-looking hints bobbing around from various governmental quarters. A lot of words being bandied around - but something has to be DONE, and soon. The pressure is definitely ON.
You think things just can't get any more depressing than they already are? Think again ......
Latest Work and Benefits Newsletter (Feb 2018):
In this newsletter we ask whether you were intimidated into giving a PIP or ESA assessor good feedback. We discover that presenting officers for the DWP are being used to prevent awards of enhanced PIP and ESA support group. We learn that disabled claimants forced onto JSA are much more likely to be sanctioned than claimants who are not disabled. We also reveal that the DWP have broken pretty much all the promises they made to an influential government committee about sanctions. This includes a promise to introduce a system of issuing a warning instead of a sanction for a first ‘offence’. And we learn that another influential government committee can’t believe that the DWP still haven’t introduced audio recording of all PIP and ESA assessments.
FEEDBACK INTIMIDATION Are private sector assessment providers scaring people into giving good feedback? The Commons Work and Pensions committee have been very scathing of PIP and ESA assessments. However, they do believe that the system functions ‘satisfactorily for the majority of claimants’. This belief is based on statistics provided by the DWP which show that Atos, Capita and Maximus “consistently exceed” their customer satisfaction targets of 90% for PIP and 91% for ESA. But one member contacted us to describe how they had been asked to complete a feedback form by the face-to-face assessor in a way that we can only describe as intimidatory: “She leaned over the front of my buggy so that she could see what I was writing and my signature. She hadn't yet processed my report so I was a very good girl and gave the nice lady the top score!” Benefits and Work would very much like to know whether you were asked for feedback after your PIP or ESA assessment – we suspect most people aren’t. And, if you were, was it done in such a way that you were fearful that your assessor might exact revenge if you wrote anything critical?
PRESENTING OFFICERS AIM TO NOBBLE TOP AWARDS The DWP is aiming to have presenting officers appear at half of all PIP appeal tribunals. They are supposed to work as ‘friends of the court’, helping the panel to reach an informed and fair decision. They are paid for out of our taxes. So, it is particularly disturbing that Disability News Service have uncovered proof that presenting officers are actually expected by their DWP bosses to prevent as many awards as possible of enhanced rates of PIP or the support group of ESA. So, if you do attend an appeal tribunal at which a presenting officer turns up, have no doubt about whose side they are on or what they hope to achieve.
DISABLED CLAIMANTS MORE LIKELY TO BE SANCTIONED Something else that can hardly be in doubt is the fact that the DWP are particularly targeting sick and disabled claimants in their efforts to cut the benefits bill The Demos think tank has produced a report in which it reveals that disabled claimants have been hit with over a million benefits sanctions since 2010. The majority of these have been against disabled people on JSA. Demos has calculated that disabled JSA claimants are up to 53% more likely to be sanctioned than JSA claimants who are not disabled.
BROKEN SANCTIONS PROMISES AND BREXIT Meanwhile the DWP have proved once again their utter contempt for any government body which tries to prevent them attacking claimants with the blunt instrument of benefit sanctions. Last year the DWP made a number of promises to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) about how they would improve the sanctions regime and at last start doing some research into how sanctions affect claimants. Now, however, the PAC has revealed that the DWP have broken virtually every promise they made. The most important was the undertaking they gave that they would try out issuing a warning instead of a sanction for a first offence. The DWP have subsequently refused to do this. Their excuse: “Competing priorities in the Parliamentary timetable mean that the legislative change that would be necessary to introduce a trial of this type cannot be secured within reasonable timescales.” In other words, parliament is clogged up with Brexit and there’s no room for anything else. Contrast this with the incredible speed with which they rushed through legislation last March to snatch PIP mobility from hundreds of thousands of claimants with mental health conditions and you can immediately see just how big a lie this is. In reality, the DWP could undoubtedly introduce a warning system without the need for any legislation at all. But as long as MPs let the DWP walk away from their promises, why would they bother?
LACK OF RECORDING ‘BEGGARS BELIEF’ Another commons committee, this time the work and pensions committee, has expressed in blunt terms its astonishment that PIP and ESA assessments aren’t recorded. In a report this month looking at claimants’ complete lack of trust in assessment providers, the committee says that: “Recording the face-to-face assessment would go so far toward increasing transparency and restoring trust it beggars belief that this is not already a routine element of the process.” Unfortunately, with the degree of copying and pasting from one report to another that appears to be taking place, with sometimes bizarre results, the last thing the DWP will want is for claimants to be able to prove in large numbers that they never said what was attributed to them. Expect more untruths and broken promises from the DWP in response to this report.
I just wouldn't believe it - if I didn't already know from bitter experience just how factually true these reports are ...
"When did they catch Down’s syndrome?" Seven shocking examples of assessors' questions during PIP tests
Trust has collapsed in the system of assessments for people claiming Employment and Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payments
Mistakes during controversial “assessments” of people with disabilities and long-term illnesses have destroyed confidence in the system, MPs have concluded.
They urged the Government to consider dismissing private firms hired to carry out the assessments, which help determine whether or not claimants get benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
The Commons Work and Pensions Committee, including Birmingham MP Steve McCabe (Lab Selly Oak), said it had an “unprecedented” response when it asked members of the public to get in touch with their experiences of being assessed.
Some people said reports of their assessments included the results of physical examinations that hadn’t happened. Some reports left out crucial information provided during the interview, and some seemed to refer to entirely different people.
Publishing their findings, the MPs said the number of mistakes taking place, and the number of decisions eventually overturned on appeal, had created “a lack of trust in both benefits” and led to fears the system is deliberately rigged against claimants.
They said: “At worst, there is an unsubstantiated belief among some claimants and their advisers that assessors are encouraged to misrepresent assessments deliberately in a way that leads to claimants being denied benefits.”
Responding to the findings, the Department of Work and Pensions said it aimed to ensure every person feels they are treated fairly, with respect and dignity, and was looking at ways of making sure assessments were more transparent.
MPs published the conclusions in a 66-page report following a lengthy investigation, which included interviews with Government Ministers, assessors and claimants.
The MPs received more than 3,500 written submissions from members of the public, many of whom had been through assessments, as well as almost 200 from organisations
It follows long-standing concern that firms such as Capita, Atos Independent Assessment Services and Maximus Centre for Health and Disability Assessments, who are employed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), are not doing a good job.
Campaign groups and some backbench MPs have claimed that assessments are riddled with mistakes, and claimants are humiliated or asked irrelevant questions
Evidence presented to the inquiry appeared to back this up. The Down’s Syndrome Association reported parents of children with the genetic condition being asked how long they’ve had it and how they caught it.
One person with serious mental health problems read in the report of their assessment that their mental health clearly wasn’t an issue because they had smiled.
The Work and Pensions Committee pointed out that since 2013, 290,000 claimants of PIP and ESA - 6% of all those assessed - only received the correct award after challenging DWP’s initial decision.
But even for people whose claims are dealt with properly, a belief that the system can’t be trusted leads to “distress and confusion” and encourages more appeals, driving up costs, the MPs said.
They said assessments should be recorded, to increase transparency and improve trist in the process.
And the MPs said that the DWP should consider whether to replace the current private assessors.
“The Department will need to consider whether the market is capable of delivering assessments at the required level and of rebuilding claimant trust. If it cannot - as already floundering market interest may suggest - the Department may well conclude assessments are better delivered in house.”
Mr McCabe said: “The evidence was pretty damning.
“It seems that we had two entirely different accounts. We had the civil service account of what they thought was happening, and we had the reality account of what was actually happening, and they didn’t match up at all.
“The evidence shows that all of the contractors were failing to meet their contractual obligations.
“The taxpayer is paying for a service which, against the DWP’s own targets, isn’t being delivered.
“So the question is whether it would be cheaper and better value for the taxpayer to do this on an in-house basis.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: "As the Work and Pensions Committee highlights, assessments work for the majority of people, with 83% of ESA claimants and 76% of PIP claimants telling us that they’re happy with their overall experience.
"However, our aim has to be that every person feels they are treated fairly, with respect and dignity.
“We are committed to continuously improving the experience of our claimants, that is why we’ve commissioned five independent reviews of the Work Capability Assessment – accepting over 100 recommendations – and two independent reviews of PIP assessments.
"We continue to work closely with our providers to ensure people receive high quality assessments, and are exploring options around recordings to promote greater transparency and trust.”
Seven of the most shocking mistakes
Thousands of people wrote to MPs to reveal what it’s like going through assessments for benefits designed to help those with disabilities or a long-term illness.
They set out a series of shocking mistakes by staff working for private firms employed by the Department for Work and Pensions.
The Commons Work and Pensions Committee has warned that even if most assessments are carried out correctly, the number of errors has destroyed confidence in the system.
Here are some of the mistakes:
The Down’s Syndrome Association reports parents of children with the condition were asked questions including: “How long have they had Down’s syndrome for? When did they catch Down’s syndrome? When were you diagnosed with Down’s syndrome?”
Why aren’t you dead?
A claimant who was suicidal was asked: “And why didn’t you succeed? Why did you fail?”
Likes to talk to people in the street
“I was attacked with a deadly weapon only a short time before my assessment. The man threatened my life, on a walk with my dog. So the assessor wrote that I like to talk to people on my walk.”
The mysterious dog
(This is not an isolated case either - the exact same situation happened to my cousin!)
“Apparently I walk my dog daily, which was baffling because I can barely walk and I do not have a dog!”
Can’t travel alone, and that’s fine.
“The report was full of inconsistencies. For example, the assessor correctly wrote that I cannot use public transport alone, I cannot visit unfamiliar places alone, and I require prompting to visit familiar places alone. However, they then proceeded to state that I therefore needed no assistance with mobility, and scored me zero points. This doesn’t even make logical sense!”
Just not true
“The assessor claimed in the report to have completed an extensive examination of me during the assessment. She listed a breakdown of her observations regarding the movement of all my limbs and joints. In reality though my assessment was only fifteen minutes long and the assessor didn’t examine me at all.”
Assessor thinks they understand mental illness when they don’t
One claimant suffered from obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD). In some cases, this can mean people wash their hands obsessively - but anyone with expert knowledge would know the condition can manifest itself in all sorts of ways that have nothing to do with washing.
“We reached a point where we were discussing my personal care and I pointed out that I hadn’t taken a shower in months. The nurse reacted strongly to this and said, ‘So how does your OCD affect you then?’. She gave me a look as if to suggest I had been caught out lying, claiming to have OCD while making statements to the contrary.”
“. . . to have OCD you don’t have to be washing your hands a thousand times a day and cleaning lampshades with a wet wipe. My OCD takes the form of a ritual where I have to hold my fingertips together at many points throughout the day in the belief that this will prevent a nuclear war. These type of rituals and compulsive thoughts are fairly standard with OCD.”
Some more on the same story: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dwp-disabled-people-benefits-legal-action-lose-government-work-pensions-department-frank-field-mp-a7886166.html
It emerged earlier this year that government officials are given targets to reject four out of five initial appeals – known as mandatory reconsiderations – for some disability benefits.
Further data obtained by The Independent under Freedom of Information law shows the Government then spent a further £17m fighting cases in the courts that were not settled at the initial appeal stage, bringing the total appeals process cost to £39m last year.
From the September 2018 Work and Benefits Newsletter:
Secret DWP death reviews have doubled in two years and now include UC
John Pring’s Disability News Service (DNS) has revealed that the numbers of secret reviews into benefits deaths appears to have doubled in the last two years. The investigations now include deaths related to universal credit (UC). Figures obtained from the DWP by DNS show that, from April 2016 to June 2018, DWP panels carried out 50 reviews, including 33 involving the death of a benefit claimant, or roughly 1.27 death-related reviews a month. DWP figures previously obtained by DNS show that, between October 2014 and January 2016, there were nine reviews involving a death, or about 0.6 a month. The new figures also show that 19 of the deaths in the last two years involved a claimant viewed as “vulnerable”, while six of the reviews (and four deaths) related to a claimant of UC. In one case of a death linked to UC, the panel of reviewers criticised the fact that the claimant commitment included an “excessive” eight references to sanctions and how much money a claimant would lose if they breached their commitment. The panel suggested that: “…a better balance could be struck in reminding a client of the consequences of not meeting their obligations and not appearing to be overtly threatening, especially to individuals who are vulnerable.” The DWP have so far refused to say if they have made any alteration to their communications as a result of the panel’s findings. You can read the full story on the Disability News Service website .
You're on the verge of losing everything - but you don’t understand why By Jon Kelly BBC Stories
A run of bad luck leaves one man struggling to make sense of the UK benefits system. Very soon he is left with no income and at risk of losing the roof over his head. Can he find his way through a bafflingly complex maze of rules? Put yourself in his shoes.
Your name is Tony Rice. You're the sort of bloke who gets along with everyone. Always making people laugh. Ever since you left school you've been in and out of all sorts of jobs. Manual labour, mostly - builder, dustman, crane driver, painter and decorator. Hawker Siddeley, the aerospace company - you like it there, until the factory shuts.
You split up with your girlfriend so you ask your mum to put you up until you can sort out a flat. Save a few quid. You're very close to your mum and dad. They're your best friends, really. Your dad has lung cancer and needs a bit of looking after. You take him for a drive most days because he doesn't like staying in all the time. He's like you, not a man to sit about. At one time he worked three jobs, all at once. Still does half an hour each morning in the garden.
So you're back in the council house in Chingford, north-east London, that you've called home since you were eight years old - even after you left. Your sisters have moved out and had kids of their own but you want to take care of your mum and dad, same as they took care of you.
And then you get a big shock. Suddenly, unexpectedly, your mum dies in hospital, two weeks after she has a replacement heart valve fitted. It's the day before she's supposed to get out.
Her death is hard for you to accept. You don't know how to process your grief. All through your 43 years on Earth so far you've always tried to be tough. You don't cry at the funeral. You want to be strong for your sisters. You want to just get on with it. But the depression creeps up and up on you.
It's just you and your dad in the house now. You've become his full-time carer - there's no-one else left to look after him now mum is gone. Anything he needs, you do it for him. His cancer spreads from his lungs to his other organs until, inevitably, it kills him.
Two parents gone within two years. And now you're alone in the house.
The council says you have to move to a flat, so you pack up and go. You like it. Decent size, first floor, communal gardens, nice neighbours. It needs doing up but you aren't afraid of putting a bit of work in.
You want to go back to work again so you go door-to-door selling Avon products. You start to notice your neck feels stiff. Your back, too. Must be from all that physical labour over the years. Plus a couple of road accidents you had when you were younger. Once a driver did a U-turn in front of you when you were on your motorbike. Your knees hit the car first then you went over the roof and landed on your head. Years ago, this was.
There's this bloke you get to know. Friend of a friend. You fetch his paper every morning. Sometimes he cooks for you in return. One day he invites you in for a drink. You go indoors and take a seat. There's another fella there. You accept a drink from the friend of a friend. He's been drinking already. Then he starts getting a bit loud, so you ask him to keep it down.
He doesn't like that. Comes over and hits you. You're still in your chair. You get up and have a pop in retaliation, then the other fella separates you. There's an unopened packet of knives in the room. You see it happening in slow motion. The friend of a friend selects a knife from the packet. You don't think he's going to use it, but then he does. He stabs you in the thigh. You try to grab the knife to defend yourself. You get cut again in your arm and around your eye.
Right, you say. I'm getting out of here. You turn to leg it. "Don't tell anyone about this," he says, and then he sticks the knife in your shoulder blade. That's the worst one. You thought this bloke was all right. You thought he was your mate. You got that wrong.
You go to hospital. They fix you up and send you home but the pain is still bad. Your back and your neck. What's worse, you can't stop thinking about the attack. Reliving it over and over. Lying awake.
The friend of a friend is jailed for the stabbing but that doesn't stop your paranoia. You walk down the road looking at every single car that passes, every motorbike. They might be coming for you. You see a pizza delivery bloke. He's looking for an address. You think he might be a hitman coming after you. He stops and looks at you. You think you're going to be attacked again. You don't trust anyone.
You used to be really fit. Cycled all the time. Now you can't. And you love your cycling. All your muscles lock up. Every time you wake up in the morning, you're aching.
You go to your GP. He examines you and signs you off work for six months. He says you have post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. There's no way you can work. You're also diagnosed with muscular arthritis. That, plus the scars from the knife attack, means it's painful to turn your neck or lift your arms above shoulder height.
You're on something called Employment Support Allowance. ESA. Minimum-level state benefits, that means. It's for people who can't work because of ill health or disability. You get housing benefit as well, which goes straight to the council to pay for the flat.
Then a few weeks later the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) calls you in.
It's a work capability assessment, they say. There's a form to fill in first about what you can and can't do. Can you pick up a £1 coin? Can you raise a hand to your head? Well, just about, though it's painful. You go along and the person assessing you says you're fit for work. You say you're not. Your GP agrees that you're not. But the assessor's opinion outweighs any other. Your benefits are stopped - both the ESA and the housing benefit.
You've got no money coming in. Nothing. You're falling in arrears with your rent. Friends are feeding you. You go to your local food bank. It's embarrassing. You don't like it. But the one round the corner isn't too bad. They don't ask any questions. You just go there and get your stuff. You push your bike, the bike you can't ride any more. They give you pasta, potatoes, tins of soup, couscous - you don't like the couscous much but you take it anyway, it's not like you can afford to be choosy. Then you hang the shopping bags on the bike and push it home in the rain.
You're losing weight because of the lack of food. You're still in pain. You're still depressed. You used to be really outgoing. You liked talking to people and going out and doing stuff but now you're just not in the mood. The council apply for a possession order of your flat. They go to court and get one, suspended. They won't take the flat off you if you can make payments towards the arrears - £300 a month.
You keep going back to the Job Centre and asking if they can do anything for you. And finally - after seven months with no money coming in whatsoever, the DWP tells you that you can go on a new benefit called Universal Credit - the part of it that replaces Jobseeker's Allowance. They told you before you weren't eligible, but apparently now you are. You don't understand what's changed. There's no explanation. It seems as though there's been a mistake somewhere.
Now you get £414.33 for your rent and £317.82 for living costs. It's different from the benefits you were on before. Before, the Housing Benefit was paid direct to the council for your rent. Now, you get the housing costs and the living costs paid directly to you in one lump sum - one of the features of Universal Credit introduced by your local MP, Iain Duncan Smith.
Except you don't realise this - that the money is no longer going direct to the council and you need to sort it out yourself. No-one explained it to you, not in a way you understood, at least. You end up going even further into arrears with the rent.
A new benefit for working-age people that replaces six benefits - including Jobseeker's Allowance and Housing Benefit - and merges them into one payment
It was designed to make claiming benefits simpler, and to ensure no-one is better off claiming benefits than working
But it has proved controversial from the beginning, with reports of IT issues, massive overspends and administrative problems
What is Universal Credit - and what's the problem? Because you've been assessed fit for work, you're supposed to spend 35 hours a week looking for a job. But when the DWP summon you to a jobseeker's meeting to ask what you're doing to find work, you don't get the message. No-one tells you. There's no letter - not one that reaches you, anyway. It could be that they've sent you the message electronically - but you're no good with computers. You don't have one at home and the sole time you tried to use one down the Job Centre you didn't know what half the keys did.
So because you don't turn up to the jobseeker's meeting, you get what is called a sanction - that means they stop the £317.82 for monthly living costs.
You know nothing about this. You don't actually work out that you've been sanctioned for 212 days. You just know there is less money coming in.
All you have to live on is the £414.33 that's supposed to be for housing costs. But you're still paying the council £300 a month for the earlier rent arrears - which means you are left with £114.33 a month to subsist on. That's £26.38 a week.
You can't survive on that. And, once again, you can't pay the rent.
You're back to relying on food banks and donations from friends. You take the bracelet you wear around your wrist to the pawnbroker.
It's still not enough.
It seems that every time you go to the Job Centre, someone gives you a different story about what you should be doing. You try to phone the DWP to sort things out, but no-one seems able to help you there, either. Each phone call costs you something like £8 - the claimant helpline is premium rate from mobiles and you haven't got a landline.
Your rent arrears are now in excess of £10,000.
The council seeks a court order for your eviction. You're looking at spending Christmas on the streets.
You go to see a legal adviser. You haven't been able to see a lawyer until now, because benefits law isn't covered by legal aid any more, but some housing law is.
Your lawyer and a Citizens Advice caseworker can't make head nor tail of what's going on at first. Eventually, they work out that you've been sanctioned. They write to the Universal Credit department repeatedly to ask for an explanation - it takes a long time for them to figure out why you have been sanctioned and what you could do to get the sanction lifted.
But first you have to go to court to try and avoid eviction.
Your legal adviser is a man called Simon Mullings. He tells you how serious the situation is. He's not going to sugar-coat it for you. The council are trying to be reasonable, he says, but they have a statutory duty to recover the lost rent. If you lose this case you'll be homeless.
You sit through three very scary hearings as your legal team argues your case.
You have a barrister, Mary-Rachel McCabe. She tells your whole Kafkaesque story to the judge.
"Tony has been failed by a malfunctioning system," she says. "From the moment Tony claimed Universal Credit last year, he suffered the consequences of its arbitrary rules and procedures, and so was immediately plunged into further rent arrears and other debt."
The judge is visibly shocked. The system is "appalling", she says.
McCabe tells the court that the sanction and the finding that you are fit for work are now being challenged with the help of a benefits adviser from Citizens Advice.
If that's successful it will give you an extra £317.82 a month and allow you to pay your rent. A new court hearing is set for May. That's a reprieve. If you can show a pattern of payment by then, maybe you won't be evicted.
Mullings, your legal advisor, tells you it might not feel like it, but you're one of the lucky ones. At least because this was a housing case you had legal representation. If you hadn't, you would have been steamrollered.
The court you've been going to, Edmonton County Court, has seen lots of similar Universal Credit cases, Mullings says. Other courts that he works in nearby - Stratford, Romford - they're not seeing these cases yet, because Universal Credit hasn't been rolled out into those areas. "But they're coming down the line," says Mullings. "So this is the vanguard of a tsunami of Universal Credit problems. Unless the government radically changes tack." For you, though, things are looking up. It's still a struggle but it's getting a bit better. You feel like you can't move on while this is hanging over you. You want to get stronger. Like you used to be. Nothing ever used to get you down.
"I've always tried my best, even though my body really hurts," you say. "I just keep going, I'm like that. But the pressure - I can't think straight, I can't concentrate on one thing any more. I think about nothing but my problems."
A friend asks if you've seen a film called I, Daniel Blake. It's about a man caught up in the nightmare bureaucracy of the benefits system. You haven't had time to watch it. But you say you should play the lead in the sequel.
Your name is Tony Rice, and you're not going to let this break you.
From The Guardian As a jobcentre adviser, I got ‘brownie points’ for cruelty
Former jobcentre adviser Angela Neville has written a play to expose the harsh reality of the benefits sanctions regime
Angela Neville, 48, is describing events she witnessed as a special adviser in a jobcentre that prompted her to write a play about her experiences.
“We were given lists of customers to call immediately and get them on to the Work Programme,” she recalls. “I said, ‘I’m sorry this can’t happen, this man is in hospital.’ I was told [by my boss]: ‘No, you’ve got to phone him and you’ve got to put this to him and he may be sanctioned.’ I said I’m not doing it.”
Neville worked as an adviser in Braintree jobcentre, Essex, for four years and has written a play with two collaborators, her friends Angela Howard and Jackie Howard, both of whom have helped advocate for unemployed people who were threatened with benefit sanctions by jobcentre staff.
The title of the play, Can This be England? is an allusion to the disbelief that she and the others feel at how people on benefits are being treated, she says. And she unashamedly describes the play, in which she also acts, as a “dramatic consciousness-raising exercise”.
Can This be England? deals with the quagmire that awaits people caught in the welfare system. Scenes are set in jobcentres and in characters’ homes addressing some of what Neville calls the “everyday absurdity” of what occurs, such as when people with disabilities and fluctuating health conditions are wrongly declared “fit for work” inflicting additional suffering in the process. It also examines the dilemmas faced by staff in jobcentres, many of whom Neville believes feel stripped of any power to do good and are crumbling under the strain as managers enforce new rules.
“You’re not doing the job, you’re firefighting,” she says. “From my own experience, staff are subjected to constant and aggressive pressure to meet and exceed targets. Colleagues would leave team meetings crying. Things were changing all the time. The pressure was incredible. Advisers were actively encouraged to impose sanctions (along the lines of “sanction of the month”) to contribute to the points system that ranks jobcentre offices. It was often for stupid reasons,” she adds. “And it was happening all the time. A customer maybe would be a little bit late or would phone in and the message wasn’t passed on. It was very distressing to have customers literally without food, without heat, without resources and these are unwell [and] disabled customers. If it hadn’t been for the fact that most of my colleagues were dedicated and compassionate people I wouldn’t have lasted more than a few months.” A demonstrable shift took place once the coalition settled in, says Neville. Along with “relentless” targets, huge caseloads, and less time to spend with individual claimants, she lists the increasing complexity of the system including the many and very complicated forms that needed to be filled in and problems with the fitness to work test administered by Atos. “It used to feel like we were doing something for clients, now it was [doing something] to them,” she says. Things were made all the more difficult, she adds, when staff were given far fewer opportunities to assist claimants with things like accessing grants previously available for interview preparation, such as getting a haircut. “These small things can mean a lot. Over time, though, this fund was chipped away until requests were routinely turned down,” she says. “Initially I felt that I had the resources to genuinely support customers. Sadly, this changed once the coalition came in – to the extent that the work almost became the persecution of some of the most vulnerable people in society.” A central motivation behind the play was how “morally compromising” the job had become, says Neville. In one scene an adviser tells her mum that it’s like “getting brownie points” for cruelty. When Neville herself became redundant in 2013, she was warned about being sanctioned for supposedly being five minutes late to a jobcentre interview.
There was also a strong feeling among the playwrights that the tendencies in wider society and the media to stigmatise and vilify benefits claimants needed to be refuted. The play opens with a scene where nosey neighbours spot someone on sickness benefit in the street and assume they must be skiving instead of working. “This play is about getting people to bloody think about stuff. Use their brains. Sometimes I think, crikey, we are turning into a really mean, spying on our neighbour, type of society,” says Neville. She is one of many former jobcentre workers speaking out with revelations about a “culture” of targets and accelerating pressure on staff to shift people off benefits, (repeatedly denied by the Department for Work and Pensions) often by the overuse of arbitrary and harsh sanctions that mean people’s benefits can be stopped for weeks and sometimes months. Like others, Neville says the new regime rolled out by the government as part of its “back-to-work” drives and budget cuts has caused enormous stress for claimants but also for the staff expected to implement them. Some advisers’ stories have been officially documented, such as that of John Longden , a former jobcentre official who gave written evidence to the ongoing parliamentary committee investigation into sanctions of “hit squads” setting claimants up to fail. Today, work and pensions minister, Esther McVey, will be grilled by the committee on the increased use of benefit sanctions . Neville acknowledges that she has worked in just one jobcentre but argues that as the evidence from other frontline workers comes out it is clear that poor practices are commonplace. She insists she isn’t normally a political person. “I don’t have a particular axe to grind … but it does always seem to happen under the Conservatives,” she adds. Can this be England? has only had a couple of performances in Quaker meeting houses, but more are planned in the coming months. As for what lies ahead, Neville is adapting the stage play for radio and says the script is freely available to other performers who want to put the play on. One reason for doing so is to gain a wider audience but it is primarily because she and her co-writers worry about serious problems down the road with social security reform. “I’m really scared that these next [welfare spending] cuts are going to come along and that people are going to get used to it and say: ‘that’s just the way it is’. It’s the acceptance of it I can’t bear to think about.”
On Saturday 5th January 2019, the Ken Loach film, “I, Daniel Blake ” will be shown on BBC2 at 9.45pm.
Conservative DWP former Secretary of State Damian Green called it monstrously unfair on his staff. Damian Green hadn’t seen the film but felt qualified to give his view. Mr Green then lost his job due to lying about his porn habit – between sending the disabled to their deaths.
Welcome to Britain in 2018. Will 2019 be any different?
We think yes.
Here’s the thing. One of our lot here at Calum’s List is the same age as the Daniel Blake character. He is disabled following spinal surgery (as a result of serving his country).
Our version of Daniel has just had a diagnosis of heart failure out of the blue. He notified the DWP and they have stopped his Disability Living Allowance, sending a ton of distressing paperwork requiring a stressful and disreputable “Health Assessment” to check that the Furosemide was a genuine treatment. Also the DWP want to know why are the NHS wasting money on a Myocardial Perfusion Scan for non-productive human units?
The guy is dying, yet the DWP seem intent on shoving him into a coffin.
So why might this change a little bit of 2019? Well, the Calum’s List lot have clubbed together and are collecting ample evidence in the event our guy dies at the hands of the DWP.
It is probably “monstrously unfair” on the staff at the DWP who get named on the subsequent prosecution and civil litigation, but not many will mourn the DWP Secretaries of State such as Iain Duncan-Smith as they get interviewed under police caution. The permanent bosses at the DWP such as “Sir” Robert John Devereux and Peter Hugh Gordon Schofield CB., will also be required to attend an official interview.
Please understand this: it only takes the death of one person with disabilities, proven to HM court standard at either civil or criminal for another crisis akin to the MP Expenses Scandal . At that time several members of parliament ended up in jail for theft. What is the sentence for culpable homicide or plain old murder? Maybe then, the news channels will become interested in the deaths of people with disabilities.
Widower Daniel Blake, a 59-year-old joiner from Newcastle , has had a heart attack. Though his cardiologist has not allowed him to return to work, Daniel is deemed fit to do so after a work capability assessment and denied employment and support allowance . He is frustrated to learn that his doctor was not contacted about the decision, and applies for an appeal, a process he finds difficult because he must complete forms online and is not computer literate . Daniel befriends single mother Katie after she is sanctioned for arriving late for a Jobcentre appointment. Katie and her children have just moved to Newcastle from a London homeless shelter , as there is no affordable accommodation in London. Daniel helps the family by repairing objects, teaching them how to heat rooms without electricity, and crafting wooden toys for the children. During a visit to a food bank , Katie is overcome by hunger and breaks down. After she is caught shoplifting at a supermarket, a security guard offers her work as a prostitute . Daniel surprises her at the brothel, where he begs her to give up the job, but she tearfully insists she has no other way to feed her children. As a condition for receiving jobseeker's allowance , Daniel must keep looking for work. He refuses a job at a garden centre because his doctor will not allow him to work yet. When Daniel's work coach tells him he must work harder to find a job or be sanctioned, Daniel spraypaints "I, Daniel Blake, demand my appeal date before I starve" on the building. He earns the support of passersby, including other benefits claimants, but is arrested and cautioned by the police. Daniel sells most of his belongings and becomes withdrawn. On the day of Daniel's appeal, Katie accompanies him to court. A welfare adviser tells Daniel that his case looks sound. On glimpsing the judge and doctor who will decide his case, Daniel becomes anxious and visits the lavatory, where he suffers a heart attack and dies. At his public health funeral , Katie reads the eulogy , including the speech Daniel had intended to read at his appeal. The speech describes his feelings about how the welfare system failed him by treating him like a dog instead of a man proud to have paid his dues to society.
BBC Broadcast of Ken Loach's 'I, Daniel Blake' Sparks Debate in U.K.
A politician who criticized the Palme d'Or-winning film's accuracy in depicting the U.K.'s benefits system came under fire on social media from those working in the sector and even an Emmy-winning satirist.
When I, Daniel Blake premiered in 2016 in Cannes — where it would win the Palme d’Or — director Ken Loach used the opportunity to attack the policies of the British Conservative Party government.
The critically acclaimed drama, which would become Loach’s biggest film to date in the U.K. and was released by IFC Films in the U.S., followed the emotional story of a blue-collar worker who, after suffering a heart attack and being told he is unfit to work, struggles to navigate the bureaucracy of the British benefits systems, which informs him he must seek employment. In interviews at the time, Loach described the “conscious cruelty” with which the current welfare state organizes lives, sparking a political debate that would even be discussed in the Houses of Parliament.
Almost three years on, and I, Daniel Blake’s first TV broadcast in the U.K. has kick-started another conversation. While many people used social media to encourage people to watch the film, which aired on BBC Two on Saturday, much of the chatter was directed at Conservative members of parliament (MPs) who tried to dismiss the film as a work of fiction (as several had done in 2016).
One politician, Conservative deputy chairman James Cleverly, came under fire after tweeting “You do realise that it’s not a documentary, don’t you” to a Labour MP promoting the film, before claiming it was a “political polemic” that unfairly represented those working in the benefits system.
Several professionals from the industry immediately jumped on his tweet, asserting that I, Daniel Blake was accurate in its portrayal (with reality sometimes being worse). Others pointed to interviews with screenwriter Paul Laverty, who had explained that the film was written following extensive research and after speaking to “academics, people in the food banks, advisors and whistle-blowers.”
Among those getting involved was Veep creator and Death of Stalin director Armando Iannucci, who tweeted that the film was “based on real case studies, meetings with real claimants.” He added: “It’s a well-researched film, and is actually a surprisingly dispassionate account of what the benefits system is for many. It may not be a documentary but it’s true.”
In an interview Sunday morning, BBC political host Andrew Marr referenced the film while talking to British Prime Minister Theresa May, who has been heavily criticized for pushing through a benefits system that many have argued leave poorer claimants worse off. However, in a widely mocked slip of the tongue, Marr called the film "I, Daniel Craig."
In this edition we cover the tragic deaths of two claimants. Victoria Smith died just weeks after having her PIP award stopped, a decision that was later overturned at tribunal. Capita were subsequently ordered to pay £10,000 in damages for maladministration. Jodie Whiting committed suicide as a result of having her ESA wrongly stopped. An ombudsman ordered the DWP to pay her family £10,000 in compensation. Is £10,000 set to become the official value of a claimant’s life?
We also learn that the DWP have now discovered that up to 30,000 more claimants may be entitled to backdated awards of ESA.
And we discover that the DWP is developing a tool to ‘slurp’ claimants medical data directly from their GP records.
DWP ORDERED TO PAY £10,000 COMPENSATION FOLLOWING CLAIMANT’S SUICIDE Jodie Whiting, 42, committed suicide just 15 days after her ESA was stopped because she failed to attend a work capability assessment. Whiting, a mother of nine, was known by the DWP to be vulnerable yet they failed on multiple occasions to follow their own procedures to keep her safe. She had asked the DWP for a home visit for her assessment, because she had suicidal thoughts and rarely left her home. She also included the request in her ESA50 sent to Maximus. But neither agency acted on her request. When Whiting failed to attend her assessment, the DWP did not follow its own procedures and try to telephone her before stopping her benefits. Nor did the DWP consider carrying out a home visit as their procedures require. Whiting wrote to the DWP and told them that she had not attended the assessment because she had not received the appointment letter. She also explained that, at the time, she had pneumonia and was receiving hospital treatment for a cyst on the brain. She asked the DWP to contact her GP for confirmation. Instead, the DWP simply wrote back to say that as she had offered no proof, they were stopping her ESA. An adviser from Citizens Advice then wrote to the DWP to explain what had happened and ask for another assessment. The DWP claim that they did not receive this letter. Six days after the letter was sent, Jodie Whiting took her own life. Even after being informed of this, the DWP continued for months to write and telephone Jodie Whiting, to the enormous distress of her family. The Independent Complaints Examiner found that the DWP had failed on multiple occasions to follow its own safeguarding procedures and ordered the department to pay £10,000 in compensation. The claimant’s mother, however, has called for DWP officials to be prosecuted.
FAMILY OF PIP CLAIMANT WHO DIED, SUCCESSFULLY SUE CAPITA FOR £10,000 Victoria Smith died last July, weeks after having her PIP award stopped. The decision was made when Ms Smith was reassessed for PIP, having previously received it. A mandatory reconsideration request was unsuccessful and shortly after getting the news Ms Smith was admitted to hospital, where she died. Ms Smith’s mother said that the decision ‘destroyed’ her: "When they took away her ability to look after herself, to have a way of life, she gave up." The week after she died, a tribunal found that she was eligible for PIP. Ms Smith’s family sued Capita for maladministration on the grounds that the assessment report contained inaccurate statements. The court found in favour of the family and awarded £10,000 in compensation. Capita, however, maintain that their report was correct, based on the information they were given at the time. It was, they claim, only due to a procedural error that they were unable to put their full case to the court.
DWP PLANS ‘DATA-SLURPING’ OF MEDICAL RECORDS The DWP are advertising for a company to build ‘data-slurping’ software to download claimants’ medical records from GPs surgeries, tech website The Register has revealed. The DWP wants to directly access information such as ‘GP details, conditions diagnosed, hospital stays etc’ without the need for GPs to be involved at all. It is the DWP’s undefined ‘etc’ that will worry a lot of people. The DWP’s advert explains that by working with a ‘medical records broker’ they have learnt that claimants and GPs lack understanding of what information is required, or don’t have access to it: “ Citizens don't always have / understand the information needed to process their applications - we have to verify their responses with medical professionals - easier if we could access directly (with appropriate consent)” “GPs don't always have / understand information about citizens' 'functional capability', therefore route needed to more relevant medical professionals, such as secondary and community care providers.” Alarmingly, the DWP do not rule out sharing the data outside the DWP. Instead, in response to a question posted by a developer asking whether data ‘could be shared across Government, councils, for example?’ the DWP reply only that: “This is out of scope of this piece of work. The primary use for the data is for Health/disability assessments, medical information etc.” The Register raises concerns about the proposed system causing harm to patients if it makes them reluctant to disclose information to their GP, in case it is used against them by the DWP. They spoke to Med Confidential coordinator Phil Booth, who told them: "Patients must know that what they tell their doctor will never be used against them, and GPs must never become de facto DWP assessors due to 'data sharing’. The information patients give to their doctor must be untainted by external pressures, or people will come to harm."
30,000 MORE ESA CLAIMANTS TO BE CHECKED FOR BACKDATING ELIGIBILITY The search for ESA claimants who were underpaid when transferring from incapacity benefit has widened. Originally, the DWP were planning to check the awards of 570,000 claimants who were moved from incapacity benefit to ESA between 2011 and 2014. However, they have now decided to also check 30,000 claimants who were moved to ESA from 2015 onwards. It had been thought that new guidance issued to decision makers in 2015 meant that the problem had been solved from that date. But further checks by the DWP have revealed that errors continued to be made even after the guidance was issued. So far, 58,000 claimants have received payments averaging £6,000.
From the September 2019 Benefits and Work Newsletter:
NEW DWP SECRETARY OF STATE
They come and go so frequently that it seems pointless to even learn their names. But, for the record, following yet another Brexit-related resignation by a secretary of state for work and pensions, the latest replacement is called Therese Coffey.
Therese Coffey, new DWP secretary of state, voted 52 times to reduce welfare benefits spending Therese Coffey, who today replaced Amber Rudd as secretary of state for work and pensions, voted to cut welfare benefits spending on 52 separate occasions between 2012 and 2016. Amber Rudd resigned yesterday due to disagreements over Brexit with prime minister Boris Johnson. Her predecessor, Esther McVey, also resigned due to disagreements with the then prime minister Theresa May over Brexit, in November 2019. Coffey has been the MP for the Suffolk Coastal constituency since the 2010 election. Her voting record is not one that will inspire confidence amongst claimants. As well as voting to cut welfare benefits spending on 52 separate occasions between 2012 and 2016, Coffey:
Consistently voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability
Consistently voted for the bedroom tax
Consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices
Consistently voted for mass surveillance of people’s communications and activities
Generally voted against laws to promote equality and human rights
Coffey was one of 72 MPs who are also landlords who voted against an amendment that would have obliged all landlords to ensure that their properties were “fit for human habitation. The only consolation claimants can draw from the current situation is that Coffey is unlikely to be in post long enough to have much influence over anything. It seems extremely likely that there will be an election in the next few months If the Conservatives are not re-elected then Coffey will clearly be gone. But even if they do win another term, a major reshuffle following the election is likely, which Coffey may not survive, at least in her current post. The full list of DWP secretaries of state since Iain Duncan Smith resigned in March 2016 is: Stephen Crabb: 9 March 2016 to14 July 2016 Damian Green 14 July 2016 to11 June 2017 David Gauke 11 June 2017 to 8 January 2018 Esther McVey 8 January 2018 to15 November 2018 Amber Rudd 16 November 2018 to7 September 2019 The average lifespan in the post since March 2016 currently stands at less than 9 months.
In this edition we highlight new guidance from the DWP which should improve the chances of a PIP award for people who experience chronic pain but do not use strong painkillers. And, even though there is no date yet for a general election, we look at the start of an avalanche of new benefits policies and promises. First up, Labour are pledging to abolish universal credit, scrap sanctions and axe the bedroom tax. They are even offering to take us back to the future, by doing away with the DWP and reintroducing the DSS. Plus they are planning to fund 200 community lawyers and a network of law centres. The Tories, meanwhile are in a bidding war with Labour over who can offer the biggest increase in the national living wage. But we suspect that the new work and pensions secretary’s glorious undertaking to “continue to improve universal credit” is going to be less of a vote winner.
POSITIVE PIP GUIDANCE ON CHRONIC PAIN This week the DWP updated their guidance to health professionals carrying out PIP assessments. It contains a positive change for claimants who have to live with chronic pain. Up until now, health professionals have been free to make the lazy assumption that claimants who are not prescribed strong painkillers can’t be in much pain. So, any claims that pain limits their ability to carry out activities can be ignored. However, the new guidance tells them that “the level of analgesia used does not necessarily correlate with the level of pain.” The guidance points out that GPs are encouraged not to prescribe strong painkillers for long-term pain because of the harm they can do the patient. In addition, some patients may be intolerant to analgesics or they may be using other methods of controlling pain. Health professionals are told that instead of relying solely on the amount of medication as evidence, they should expect the claimant to be able to describe:
of the pain they experience and the impact it has on their daily life. So, as always, it’s vital that you give as much detailed evidence as possible about how your condition affects you. But, provided you do so, the result should be a better chance of getting the correct award without having to go to an appeal tribunal.
AN END TO UNIVERSAL CREDIT, SANCTIONS AND THE DWP Labour are promising sweeping changes to the benefits system if they win an election. Though, at the moment, it is not at all clear how they would achieve their most headline grabbing offer, the killing-off of universal credit As the Institute for Fiscal Studies pointed out, so far the details of their proposals do not “amount to anything close to a scrapping of universal credit”. Nevertheless, the clear undertakings they have given would improve the lot of many claimants. They include:
Scrapping the two child limit, the benefit cap and the bedroom tax
Ending benefits sanctions
Removing the 5 week wait for a first payment of UC and making an interim payment after two weeks
Ending the requirement to claim UC online
Hiring an extra 5,000 advisers to help people unable to make an online UC claim
Abolishing the DWP and replacing it with a Department for Social Security
For our (very much) younger readers, the DSS was the former name of the DWP until it was rebranded in 2001 by Blair’s Labour government. So reintroducing the DSS would be a step back in time and could well amount to nothing but a nostalgic PR exercise. But if the next government genuinely adopted the ethos set out by Margaret Greenwood, shadow secretary of state for work and pensions of “a social security system designed to end poverty, based on principles of dignity and universalism”, then that might actually make a difference. Here at Benefits and Work, however, we won’t be holding our breath.
COMMUNITY LAWYERS AND LAW CENTRES Labour’s proposal to fund 200 community lawyers and a network of law centres is one that few claimants would find fault with. Except perhaps to argue that an awful lot more than 200 lawyers are needed. But it would be a welcome move away from the current policy of making it almost impossible for most claimants to get timely, face-to-face help with their claims and appeals. Just as importantly, it is very often advisers taking individual cases to the upper tribunal that result in changes to the law. These in turn can help many thousands of other claimants get the benefits they are entitled to. So, even 200 new lawyers could make a serious difference.
NATIONAL MINIMUM WAGE BIDDING WAR Labour and the Tories appear to be involved in a national minimum wage price war as an election draws nearer. The Tories have now announced a target of raising the national living wage to £10.50 an hour by 2024 and reducing the age limit for eligibility from 25 down to 21. Labour, however, have described the plan as a “pathetic attempt at catch-up” by the Conservatives. They point out that Labour’s 2017 manifesto promised a national living wage of at least £10 an hour for all workers over 16 by 2020. By 2024 that would be worth £10.81. Either way, it’s a small crumb of potentially good news for those on the lowest pay.
TORIES PLEDGE TO CONTINUE TO IMPROVE UC We are tempted to refer to the latest secretary of state for work and pensions simply as [insert name here]. The chances of Therese Coffey still being in post in a few months’ time, whoever wins the election, are pretty slim. And the chances of her making any difference to anything whilst in post are probably even slimmer. Her claim that: “Universal Credit provides a safeguard for the most vulnerable in our society. It supports strivers, who are not content living a life on welfare.” doesn’t suggest that she is amongst the most insightful or honest occupiers of the post. Whilst her big offer to voters: “To continue to improve Universal Credit to ensure people get the money they need in a timely manner, are helped into work, and onto an escalator up to better work.” is as uninspiring as it is unlikely to be fulfilled. Perhaps most bizarre of all is her announcement of a: “£4 million package to support people to find not just any job, but that dream job.” If your dream job is to be paid huge amounts of money to make entirely meaningless promises, mixed with offensive stereotypes, to a packed conference hall, then we are really sorry. Therese got there before you Good Luck, Steve Donnison
ARE MORE BOGUS OBSERVATIONS BEING USED TO REFUSE PIP AWARDS? We revealed in the last newsletter that PIP award rates have fallen dramatically, from 42% overall to just 30% last October for new claims. There has not been any change in the law or in publicly available guidance to account for this dramatic drop. Could bogus observations be one of the hidden explanations? Benefits and Work has heard several accounts lately of awards of the mobility component of PIP being refused based on allegedly bogus observations of claimants walking in assessment centres. We have now been contacted by a disability group to ask if such cases are on the rise? One claimant posting a comment on the Benefits and Work website recently about an assessment centre warned: “It is a few feet along a corridor, maybe 2 metres or less, then a small waiting area. The office I went into was no more than 4-5 metres from my seat. The office was quite small. Somehow I was "observed walking 15 metres in 10 seconds" which is ludicrous because there is not a 15 metre length to walk in there, so take note of the distance. Disabled spaces right at the door, not sure about the car parks.” A disability organisation has also been in contact with us in relation to a claimant who was allegedly observed walking 50 metres at an assessment centre. They are certain there was no corridor of anything like that length in the centre. Last November the Multiple Sclerosis Society produced a report on how PIP assessments were failing its members. The report placed the blame squarely on unevidenced ‘informal observations’ by PIP assessors being preferred to the evidence of the claimant or their health professionals. 58% of claimants with MS who saw their PIP assessment report said it included informal observations. These included walking, picking up a handbag and how the claimant was dressed. 67% said those observations did not reflect how their MS really affects them or how their condition fluctuates. Please let us know your experiences of being observed by PIP assessors.
NO MORE CLAIMANTS TO BE CONTACTED ABOUT ESA UNDERPAYMENTS The DWP have begun reassessing every one of the 600,000 claimants who they believe may be eligible for a back-payment of ESA. The underpayments came about because the DWP failed to award income-related ESA to many thousands of claimants who were transferred from incapacity benefit to contribution-based ESA from 2011 onwards. 581,000 out of 600,000 affected claimants have now had their assessment completed. In total £589 million has been paid out so far, with payments averaging £5,000 per claimant. The DWP say that an undisclosed number of claimants did not respond to multiple attempts to contact them over an eight week period and so their cases were closed. If those claimants do subsequently get in touch their case will be reopened. If you believe that you missed out on payment of premiums such as the enhanced disability premium when you were transferred from IB to ESA and you have not been contacted by the DWP you should get advice or contact the DWP directly.
192,000 CLAIMANTS MAY HAVE HAD PIP CLAIM UNLAWFULLY STOPPED An upper tribunal judge has found that letters sent to claimants by Atos did not make it clear that failure to attend an assessment without good reason would definitely result in their PIP claim ending. Up to 192,000 claimants may have had their PIP unlawfully stopped because they did not attend an assessment. The letter from Atos said: “It is important that you attend this appointment. If you fail to attend without good reason the decision maker at the Department for Work and Pensions is likely to disallow your claim. The judge found that this was inadequate because it only said that the decision maker was ‘likely’ to disallow your claim. Instead, the judge ruled that the letter should have said something like: “You must attend this appointment. If you fail to attend without good reason the decision maker at the Department for Work and Pensions will disallow your claim.” We should stress that this absolutely does not mean that you can simply fail to attend an assessment without fear of consequences. But it does mean that if you are refused PIP because of failure to attend an assessment without good cause then, depending on the precise wording of the letter, you should seek advice because you may be able to get the decision overturned.
COMPLAINTS ABOUT ATOS RISE, BUT ICE TAKES A YEAR TO EVEN START INVESTIGATIONS The percentage of claimants who make a complaint about Atos PIP assessments has almost doubled over the past four years, rising from 0.49 to 0.91. The total number of complaints in 2019 was 6,140 Figures for Capita were not given in the minister’s response. Claimants who are unhappy with the response by Atos can complain to the Independent Complaints Examiner (ICE). However, figures released by ICE reveal that it is currently taking 59 weeks just to begin investigating a complaint about the DWP or the companies who work for it, including Atos, Capita and Maximus. It then takes an average of a further 23 weeks to complete its investigation. You can only complain to ICE after you have exhausted the complaints procedure of the body you are unhappy with. Which means it could easily take two years for a complaint to reach its conclusion. And that’s before you go on to complain to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, if you are still unhappy with the outcome.
ANOTHER CLAIMANT STARVES TO DEATH John Pring’s Disability News Service has uncovered another shocking death by starvation of a vulnerable claimant whose ESA was stopped. Errol Graham, 57, had a history of serious mental health issues which had led to his being sectioned in the past. He had been in receipt of benefits for many years because his condition meant he could not work. In August 2017 he failed to attend a work capability assessment. The DWP made two home visits to Errol but got no response. They then stopped his ESA in October 2017 and made no attempt to contact social services or any other agency, in spite of the fact that he was now a vulnerable claimant with no means of support. The only people who came to his door were the bailiffs in June 2018, when they broke it down to evict him from his council flat for non-payment of rent. But when they got inside they found the emaciated body of Errol, who had died weighing just four and a half stone. The DWP hired one of the country’s leading barristers to represent them at the inquest. Errol’s family couldn’t afford any legal representation at all and could not get legal aid A review of safeguarding procedures that the DWP promised at the inquest would be completed last Autumn has still not appeared. Instead the DWP has yet again managed to con a coroner and wriggle out of its responsibility to keep claimants safe. Good Luck, Steve Donnison
Benefits and Works Newsletter from 18th December 2019:
It’s probably an understatement to say that this wasn’t the election result the majority of our readers wanted.
And when we said last week that we would send out a brief post-election update today, we were hoping to have some optimistic news.
But the chance of seeing an end to the roll out of universal credit, the removal of private sector companies from benefits assessments, an increase in ESA for claimants in the work-related activity group and all the other improvements that parties other than the Tories promised, have now been crushed.
The one consolation, if it can even be called that, is that it is very unlikely we will see any sweeping changes to the benefits system in the next few years.
If the Conservative mantra for the election was ‘Get Brexit done’ the DWP’s mantra for the next few years will be ‘Get universal credit done.’
There is likely to be little enthusiasm for taking on new challenges whilst the incredibly delayed and utterly flawed roll out of universal credit continues to lurch towards its distant goal.
Aside from rolling out UC, we will see the continued attempts of the Tribunals Service to move as many appeals as possible online.
And the Conservative manifesto made it clear that the use of the Human Rights Act and judicial reviews to wrest justice from over-powerful government departments will be made more difficult.
This last move comes as no surprise given the role that the courts played in making the last 12 months grim ones for the DWP.
This was followed by the announcement that claimants in receipt of the severe disability premium (SDP) would no longer be moved onto UC by natural migration, due to a court defeat for the DWP the preceding summer.
In February the DWP had to widen the scope of its project to check whether claimants who were moved from incapacity benefit to ESA were given the wrong award . It now covered 600,000 claimants.
In April, the Royal College of GPs was amongst those demanding the DWP rewrite its misleading fit note advice to claimants because it was endangering patients health . The DWP bowed to pressure and complied.
September witnessed the demise of Amber Rudd after less than a year in office. Her replacement, Therese Coffey, has yet to make her mark. Judging by how long previous ministers have lasted, she will not have long to do so.
In October, the DWP revealed that it had so far paid out over £37 million in to claimants who lost out on the severe disability premium (SDP) when they were migrated from legacy benefits such as ESA and UC.
Still in October, the DWP announced that, following another court case it had lost, it would be checking yet more PIP decisions to see if claimants were entitled to additional payments.
November saw Benefits and Work readers crowdfund a legal bid to end the DWP’s cynical practice of forcing claimants to undergo a mandatory reconsideration before they can appeal a decision. The case should be going ahead soon.
And so, into a new year in which we will hope for further victories for claimants before attempts to nobble the judicial system can be put in place.
Whatever the coming months bring, we plan on still being here to support claimants, as we have done for the last 17 years.
Meanwhile, in this brief period of calm, we would like to wish all our readers a Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
We’ll be back on 15 January.
Steve Donnison and The Office Team Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd Company registration No. 5962666
12 February 2020 Update: DWP Breaks Promise To Review 1.6 million PIP Claims As Number Of Backdated Payments Slashed, More ESA To UC Delays
In this edition, we reveal that the DWP has gone back on a promise it made in 2018 to reconsider 1.6 million PIP awards after losing two court cases.
We learn that the department tried to hide the fact it has investigated 69 claimant suicides, but the National Audit Office believes it missed more.
We find that Atos has yet again failed to meet targets for the number of unacceptable PIP reports.
We discover that just 13 claimants have been moved from legacy benefits to universal credit (UC) in the first 6 months that a pilot project has been running.
Not surprising then, that the end date for the full roll-out of UC has been pushed back again.
And, finally, we are unsurprised to find that Boris Johnson has misled the House of Commons about both UC and about claimant deaths.
DWP GOES BACK ON PROMISE TO REVIEW 1.6 MILLION PIP CLAIMS
The DWP has gone back on an undertaking it gave to review a total of 1.6 million PIP claims after it lost two court cases in 2016 and 2017.
Instead many claims will not be reviewed, the number of back payments is likely to be less than a twentieth of the original estimate and the cost a tiny fraction of what was expected.
The cases in question were known as RF, which related to carrying out activities safely, and MH which related to the mobility component of PIP and overwhelming psychological distress.
In 2018, when the DWP announced a review of all PIP claims as a result of MH, Sarah Newton, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work told the Commons:
“We will be going through all cases in receipt of PIP and all decisions made since the judgment in MH to identify anyone who may be entitled to more as a result of the judgment . . . This will be a complex exercise and of considerable scale, as we will be reconsidering approximately 1.6 million claims.
However, the department now says that it has changed the procedure so that it will only review cases it thinks most likely to benefit.
Other claimants will just get a letter asking them if they want to have a review.
Hundreds of thousands of claimants will be left to decide whether they believe that complex changes to eligibility criteria affected them or not. If they think they have been affected it will then be up to them to ask the DWP to look at their award again.
Given the fear that many people have of the DWP taking away their benefits, it is likely that many people will have absolutely no desire to have their award reviewed, even if they are assured that they will not have it cut as a result.
In 2018, the DWP said that it believed up to 220,000 people might be entitled to a higher award and that the process could cost up to £3.7bn by 2023.
So far, with over 800,000 reviews carried out, fewer than 6,000 awards have been made at a cost of just £28 million – less than 1% of the original cost estimate.
Whilst some of the 220,000 would be people who had yet to make a claim in 2018, future claimants are unlikely to have been such a high proportion of the total by 2023.
In the absence of any explanation for the huge differences in the outcome of the review so far, it would be hard not to suspect that something underhand has taken place.
DWP HAS INVESTIGATED 69 SUICIDES, BUT NAO SAYS THERE WERE MORE
The DWP has investigated 69 suicides of benefits claimants since 2014, but is likely to have missed many more, the National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed.
This is information that the DWP tried hard to cover up.
It even refused a freedom of information request by the chair of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, on the grounds that it would cost more than £600 to answer.
The NAO found that the DWP had carried out 69 Internal Process Reviews (IPRs) related to claimant suicides since 2014.
21 of the IPRs were completed between April and November 2019, compared with only 13 in 2018 and two in 2017.
This suggests that the DWP has only just begun to take the matter seriously as a result of increased media scrutiny.
In addition, the DWP had failed until recently to set up any formal system for coroners with concerns to contact them.
This means that many of the reviews have only happened because of pressure from relatives or the media.
The NAO believes that the DWP have overlooked many cases, arguing: “It is highly unlikely that the 69 cases the Department has investigated represents the number of cases it could have investigated in the past six years.”
The urgent need for an independent review of claimants deaths is now undeniable.
Whether it will ever happen whilst the DWP holds claimants’ lives so cheaply is another matter.
ATOS STILL FAILS TO MEET TARGETS FOR LEVEL OF UNACCEPTABLE PIP REPORTS
Figures released by the DWP show that Atos yet again failed to meet its target for acceptable PIP assessment reports in 2019.
The figures show that 4% of all reports that were audited were deemed unacceptable. The target for Atos is for less than 3% of all reports to be unacceptable.
A further 16% were acceptable only with amendments.
Another 16% were acceptable, but the health professional needed feedback to improve the quality of their reports.
This means that just 64% of all PIP reports by Atos were deemed acceptable without any qualification.
And, as the Work and Pensions Committee has pointed out, the DWP’s idea of acceptable still leaves a lot to be desired:
“The Department’s quality standards for PIP and ESA set a low bar for what are considered acceptable reports. The definition of “acceptable” leaves ample room for reports to be riddled with obvious errors and omissions.”
So, even the figure of 64% acceptable is likely to be a long way from what most people would regard as the truth.
MORE ESA TO UC DELAYS
UC continues to produce nothing but fear and uncertainty for claimants.
The latest news is that just 13 people have been moved onto UC in the first 6 months of a pilot of the ‘managed migration’ of claimants of legacy benefits such as ESA.
The pilot is intended to cover 10,000 households and provide lessons to ensure things go smoothly when managed migration is extended to millions more from November.
Regardless of problems with the pilot, the roll-out of managed migration has already been delayed by 9 months, to September 2024,
The civil servant in charge of the project, said the difficulty is that claimants are desperately avoiding moving from other benefits to UC, telling a meeting filmed by the BBC:
"We've got a lot of anecdotal evidence of people being scared to come to universal credit.”
Because claimants are reluctant to move to UC, they are avoiding changes of circumstances that would lead to them having to transfer to the benefit via ‘natural migration’.
Instead, nine hundred thousand more claimants than expected will wait until they are forced to move via ‘managed migration’, which will mean that they will get some transitional protection of their existing income.
BORIS JOHNSON MISLEADS MPS ABOUT CLAIMANT DEATHS AND ABOUT UC
Boris Johnson has managed to mislead MPs twice about benefits since the last newsletter.
He told the Commons that UC had already helped 20,000 people into work.
But, as the UK Statistics Authority pointed out, that simply isn’t true.
For one thing, 20,000 is the number the DWP claims will have been helped into work when UC is fully rolled-out, which won’t be for at least another four years.
And, as the National Audit Office have explained, the figure is a fantasy one in any case. It’s impossible to separate UC from all the other factors in the economy that contribute to rising or falling employment.
In a second untruth, answering a question about Errol Graham, the claimant who starved to death after his benefits were stopped, Johnson claimed that an independent Serious Case Panel (SCP) was looking into the tragedy.
In fact, one of the few things we know about the newly established and deeply shadowy SCP is that it is staffed entirely by senior DWP civil servants.
In this newsletter we can exclusively reveal that the DWP have lost 70,000 ESA underpayment claimants and saved themselves £75 million as a result. We ask if your council owes you money? We warn that ESA claimants will struggle to move onto universal credit, according to the Salvation Army. And we discover that whilst the DWP have virtually given up on sanctions for ESA, they are still punishing large numbers of UC claimants. We also highlight the claim that the minister for disabled people was amused and having ‘a bit of a smirk’ about a debate into DWP-related claimant deaths. And finally, we ask you to make sure the DWP don’t get away with pretending that they listen to disabled claimants.
DWP LOSES 70,000 ESA UNDERPAYMENT CLAIMANTS The DWP has closed the cases of 70,000 ESA claimants it was attempting to contact about possible underpayments, because it has lost track of them. It’s certainly not bad news for the DWP. It will pocket at least £75 million that should have been paid to some of the most vulnerable claimants. The underpayments came about when claimants were transferred from incapacity benefit to ESA between 2011 and 2014. The DWP failed to identify many thousands of cases where the claimant should have been entitled to additional premiums. The missing claimants amount to about one in eight of all the cases the DWP have been looking at. Around 15,000 of them are likely to be entitled to a back payment averaging £5,000 each. The DWP say that if the missing claimants get in touch, the department will still look at whether they are entitled to anything. But the DWP itself, having sent four letters to whatever address they held for each claimant from up to a decade ago and tried twice to ring a no longer used phone number, will make no further efforts to find them.
DOES YOUR COUNCIL OWE YOU MONEY? Claimants like those above who were owed ESA by the DWP may be owed money by their local council as well. Because some claimants will have had to pay their local council too much towards their personal care. This is likely to happen when councils take into account whether a claimant is receiving premiums, such as the enhanced disability premium, when calculating a claimant’s minimum income guarantee. Claimants with premiums have their minimum income guarantee set at a higher level and thus have to contribute less of their benefits towards their personal care. Enfield Council has sent letters to around 200 residents who it believes may have been overcharged for care as a result of the DWP’s error. However, many other councils are either unaware of the issue or are reluctant to take any action to put money back in claimants’ pockets.
ESA CLAIMANTS WILL STRUGGLE TO MOVE ONTO UC, WARNS SALVATION ARMY The Salvation Army are not known for their radical views. But they are the latest organisation to warn that the forced movement of claimants from ESA to UC is a disaster waiting to happen. Researchers for the Salvation Army found that 85% of their users struggled to complete a UC claim. 42% said that mental health issues were the main reason they had problems claiming UC. The Salvation Army is warning that there is now overwhelming evidence that unless the government provide more support for people to apply, vulnerable people will struggle to access their benefits. The charity says that millions could be left unable to buy food, pay their rent, and take care of their children. One claimant interviewed by the Salvation Army was a 36 year old father who told them: “I suffer from anxiety and depression and have been coming to The Salvation Army’s foodbank since I was put on Universal Credit two years ago. It’s really tough and I’ve been sanctioned for missing appointments when I was ill. I’ve also been sanctioned for not looking online for work, but I don’t have access to the internet now because I had to pawn my laptop and my phone to get money to look after my kids.”
ESA SANCTIONS REGIME VIRTUALLY ABANDONED, BUT UC SANCTIONS REMAIN The DWP has surreptitiously all but abandoned sanctions for ESA and JSA claimants, but left them firmly in place for UC claimants, the latest DWP figures show. For ESA, sanction rates were at their highest in April 2014 when 5,565 claimants were sanctioned, representing 1.04% of ESA claimants. Since then numbers have steadily dropped. In the latest month for which figures are available, June 2019, there were just 122 sanctions, representing 0.04% of ESA claimants. For JSA, the number sanctioned has fallen to just 95. For UC, the percentage of sanctions has fallen from a high of 9.3% of claimants to a current rate of 2.4% But that is still very much higher than for ESA or JSA and amounts to a massive 38,181 claimants in the last month figures are available for. It is not news that will be welcomed by ESA claimants waiting to be migrated to UC.
MINISTER ACCUSED OF BEING AMUSED BY CLAIMANT DEATH DEBATE Labour MP Debbie Abrahams accused the minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, of having ‘a bit of a smirk’ and finding something ‘amusing’ about a debate on Monday into the deaths of claimants. Tomlinson denied the accusation, which came almost immediately after Abrahams had read out a list of 20 claimants who had taken their own lives. The Labour MP is calling for a full independent inquiry into benefits-related deaths Abrahams also talked about the inquest into the death of Errol Graham who died of starvation after his benefits were stopped. She described how angered his family were by the behaviour of the QC acting for the DWP who, she said: “ . . . tried to intimidate not just the family but others, shouting at the police officer who found Errol’s body about what else he had seen. In particular, they were deeply offended that the police officer was asked whether he had found any takeaway menus or cartons.” If a DWP minister was smirking during a debate about claimant deaths and if the DWP did try to place the blame for starving to death on a vulnerable claimant, then an independent inquiry may be far from adequate. The complete disbanding of the entire hate-driven department may be the only solution. But an inquiry would be a good place to start.
SSAC WANTS TO KNOW IF THE DWP LISTEN TO YOU Which brings us on to our final item. Have you ever tried to take part in one of the DWP’s consultations? Did you feel that the DWP listened to you? Were your suggestions taken seriously and acted upon? The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) are consulting on how the DWP should involve disabled people in changing how it works. They especially want to hear from you if you have taken part in a previous DWP consultation exercise. The DWP will undoubtedly portray themselves as an organisation that consults extensively and listens carefully to the views of disabled people and their organisations. Don’t let them get away with it. Take part in the SSAC consultation and tell them how much the DWP really listens.
11 March 2020 update: Bogus PIP And WCA Changes Hide New Private Sector Contracts Plus PIP Appellants Pressured To Take Low Offers
In this edition we learn that the DWP have loudly trumpeted bogus changes to PIP and WCA assessments, whilst quietly announcing that the private sector are getting new contracts to carry on as before. We discover that PIP claimants are coming under huge pressure to drop their appeals and accept lower awards than they are entitled to. We have research that shows that claiming universal credit increases mental health issues and crime. We reveal that the DWP are destroying evidence about claimant deaths at the same time as the work and pensions committee announce they are going to be quizzing the department on the issue. And, if you live in Scotland, we have the good news that young people there will soon be given the option to stay on DLA until they are 18, rather than being forced to apply for PIP at 16.
BOGUS PIP AND WCA CHANGES, SAME OLD PRIVATE SECTOR CONTRACTS The government has announced that it will begin piloting a small scale, in-house, integrated PIP and WCA assessment service, but not until Autumn 2021. It was back in March 2019 that the DWP first gave an undertaking that they would work towards an integrated assessment service for PIP and the WCA. So it will have taken an outrageous two and a half years to even begin the pilot. It will only be “on a small scale in a defined part of the country, a Transformation Area”. The new service will be run in-house by the DWP and will look at:
trialling better ways of carrying out face-to-face assessments;
how to ensure that only those people who need a face-to-face assessment will have to undergo one;
how to remove the need for claimants to give the same information twice.
There was no mention of piloting a joint assessment for both PIP and ESA/UC. This will probably come as a relief to many claimants, who are fearful that a single assessment could wipe out both benefits at once. Meanwhile, however, the minister also announced that the DWP are inviting private sector bids to run the PIP and WCA assessment services from 1 August 2021, when the current contracts expire. The new contracts are likely to be for 5 years and will cover most of the UK, except for the tiny ‘transformation area’ and Scotland, where the Scottish government will be in control of PIP. Any improvements discovered by the DWP in-house team will be passed on to the private sector contractors carrying out the bulk of the assessments So, five more years of plenty for Atos, Capita and Maximus or their rivals and five more years of assessments and appeals for sick and disabled claimants.
DWP PRESSURING PIP CLAIMANTS INTO DROPPING APPEALS The DWP are trying to intimidate an increasing number of PIP claimants into dropping their appeals and accepting a lower award than they are likely to be entitled to. Claimants who have lodged a PIP appeal are receiving a phone call from a decision maker who offers them a higher award. But they are told that if they do not accept the offer either immediately or within a few hours it will be withdrawn. Claimants are not given time to get independent advice and are left feeling under enormous pressure to give in, even if they think the new award is still too low. This is almost certainly unlawful and unquestionably bad practice. If a decision maker believes a higher award is appropriate they should simply revise their decision, regardless of whether the claimant agrees or not. What the claimant is not told is that, even if they accept the offer, they are free to then lodge an appeal against it and they do not need to go through the mandatory reconsideration process again. We are updating our appeals guide to warn people of this sharp practice by the DWP and explain how to deal with it.
DWP HAS DESTROYED CLAIMANT DEATH EVIDENCE The DWP is knowingly destroying evidence in relation to claimant deaths in what is increasingly looking like a deliberate cover-up. The latest revelations come from a Freedom of Information request for details of investigations into claimant deaths carried out from 2010 The DWP responded by saying that records prior to 2015-16 have been destroyed or are incomplete. They claim they did this in order to comply with The Data Protection Act In fact, it is a breach of the Act to destroy data that is still required. In this case, data about claimant deaths absolutely should be retained if not indefinitely, at least until there is no possibility of the same mistakes being made again. To destroy this information, in some cases when their relatives have asked to see it and been refused, is at best negligent and, at worst, verging on the criminal. Meanwhile, the Commons work and pensions committee has slammed the “incredible secrecy” over the DWP’s handling of claimant deaths and their inability to show that any changes have resulted from scores of investigations. The committee has said it will ask DWP officials to detail what action they have taken as a result of a damning National Audit Office report on claimant deaths. We can’t help feeling it will be a very a short session.
UC HARMS MENTAL HEALTH AND INCREASES CRIME A study by Liverpool University looked at data provided by 52,000 individuals between 2009 and 2018. The researchers found a 6.6% increase in mental health issues amongst UC claimants compared to non-claimants. This amounts to an extra 63,674 people experiencing psychological distress, of whom 21,760 were likely to have reached the diagnostic threshold for depression. The study deliberately excluded people who were unable to work because of a disability. The study also found that UC did not increase the likelihood of moving into work. Separately, Ben Bradford, professor of global city policing, University College London, has been researching the impact of Universal Credit on crime. His findings are being reviewed and are yet to be published. But Bradford says: “We found quite a strong effect. The introduction of Universal Credit into an area looked like it had the effect of increasing recorded crime in that area.” “Violent crime clusters very heavily in deprived neighbourhoods... this is not rocket science. Violent crime is more likely to occur in poorer neighbourhoods because they are poor, and being poor has an effect.”
DLA AGE LIMIT TO BE RAISED TO 18 IN SCOTLAND The age limit for disability living allowance (DLA) is to be raised to 18 for existing claimants from September, the Scottish government has announced. The Scottish government takes over disability benefits in April of this year. They say that they want to spare families the stress of changing from DLA to PIP at the same time as young people may be going through a number of other changes in their life. As a result, young people in Scotland who are getting DLA and are due to turn 16 from September will no longer be invited to apply for PIP. The Scottish government is planning to launch a replacement for PIP in 2021. Readers will be unsurprised to learn that no similar changes are planned in the rest of the UK, where the DWP is still in charge.
25 March 2020 Update: PIP Awards Extended, Face-To-Face Assessments And Benefits Reviews Suspended, Most Appeals On Paper Only
Dear Reader, Like everyone else we are struggling to come to terms with the dramatic changes that have taken place over the last two weeks. But we have begun creating resources to help members deal with those changes, in the small ways that we can. This includes a Coronavirus Forum where you can share information and concerns, whether they relate to benefits or not. We’ve also published a Coronavirus Updates Page to keep track of the many PIP, ESA, UC and DLA changes. One of those changes is the end of face-to-face assessments for the next six months. Another is the suspension of all reviews and reassessments, including PIP and ESA, for the next three months. PIP awards that are about to end will be extended. Plus, there has been a major switch from appeal hearings to paper appeals, for the next six months. We have already updated our PIP claims guide in the light of these changes. We’ll update the rest as soon as possible.
CORONAVIRUS UPDATES PAGE Our Coronavirus Updates page keeps you posted about important changes to PIP, ESA/UC and DLA regulations and procedures that are likely to affect you. You can also use it to check when our guides are updated to take account of recent changes. Please check back regularly as the changes are coming thick and fast.
CORONAVIRUS FORUM We have opened a Coronavirus Forum for members to pass on information and concerns relating to the current crisis. We hope that readers who have a paper or telephone assessment or appeal will share details of their experience with us, so that we can pass them on more widely. But your post doesn’t have to be about benefits. You can post about anything that comes up as we try to get through the coming months. You might have useful information or links to share. Or you may have a problem that other members can offer advice about. Or you may just want to say how tough things are for you, in a place where you know you will be treated with respect and understanding. Many thanks to our members who have volunteered to be moderators on the new forum If there is anything else you think would be helpful, please let us know.
FACE-TO-FACE ASSESSMENTS SUSPENDED The DWP have announced the suspension of all PIP, ESA and UC face-to-face assessments for three months, from Tuesday 17 March. Anyone who had a face-to-face assessment appointment scheduled from Tuesday 17 March onwards does not need to attend. You should be contacted by IAS (Atos), Capita or Maximus to discuss next steps and alternative arrangements. This may mean your claim will be assessed just on whatever paperwork is available. In some cases the assessment provider might also carry out a telephone assessment. This may take the form of supplementary questions where there is not enough information in the paperwork. We’d be interested to hear from anyone who goes through this process.
MOST APPEALS TO BE PAPER ONLY FOR THE NEXT SIX MONTHS Tribunal judges have been given the power to sit alone and to make decisions about PIP, ESA, UC and DLA appeals just on the papers. Under the new powers, a tribunal judge can make a provisional decision just on the paperwork where they believe a successful outcome for the claimant is highly likely. Once a provisional decision is made both you and the DWP will be asked if you agree with that decision. If you both do, it will become a final decision. If either you or the DWP are not happy, you can still insist that the case goes to a full hearing. If a full hearing is required, wherever possible it will be done ‘remotely’. This may mean by video link or telephone conferencing. One concern about this system is that when a provisional decision is made by a judge, some claimants may feel under a great deal of pressure to accept the award, even if it is not as high as they think they should get. Again, we would like to hear from members going through this process.
PIP AWARDS EXTENDED, BENEFITS REVIEWS AND REASSESSMENTS SUSPENDED In a welcome move, the DWP have announced that there will be no new reviews or reassessments of benefits for three months from Tuesday 24 March. Benefits affected include:
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
Universal Credit (UC)
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
Attendance Allowance (AA)
Where an assessment has already taken place for PIP, the decision making process will continue. Where you already have an assessment scheduled, the assessment provider should contact you to explain whether a paper or telephone assessment will take place. If your PIP award is due to end, it will be extended. That’s all the news we have for now, but there’s sure to be more changes. So do check back regularly. Good Luck, Steve Donnison