Aug 162014
 

 

(Report from workshop at national meeting of Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice federation)

Fighting Benefit Sanctions

 

The government has a policy  of increasing sanctions to force people off benefits. 

 

More than 800,000 people have been sanctioned in the last year. Referrals to food banks are mainly due to claimants being sanctioned. 

 

Martin Cavanagh is the PCS Group Exec member for civil servants working in the DWP.  The PCS union resolved at their recent conference to oppose both Workfare and Benefit Sanctions. He explained the three central reasons behind the Tories policy of increasing sanctions; Further demonisation of the poor, financial savings for the government, and driving a wedge between claimants and workers. 

 

PCS survey of members working in the DWP revealed that 82% of members felt ‘pressured’ into sanctioning claimants, and 62% said they had made ‘inappropriate’ sanctions decisions. 

 sanctions

The Kirklees Axe The Tax group have used a banner : No Sanction for Claimants! No Targets for Staff! This attracted claimants and some staff to their stall outside a job centre.

 

Roger Lewis speaking for DPAC said that ‘more needed to be done by the PCS.’ But, he insisted, ‘we will not allow the government to divide us. Those working for the DWP alongside claimants have a common interest, we are locked together in a common fight against the Tories.’ 

 

‘More will be done from our union the PCS over the sanctions,’ explained Martin. 

 

‘Advice for claimants on how to challenge sanction decisions has now been agreed between our union, the PCS, Unite the Union Community branches, and campaigners against sanctions. That advice will be issued shortly.’

 

Research has shown that only 1 in 50 claimants who are sanctioned appeal the decision. Of those 90% win their appeal. Forthcoming advice will explain to claimants how they can appeal. 

 

To launch the joint advice and joint campaign, we agreed a day of action against benefit sanctions for Thursday 11th September. 

 

Protests will be organised in every region outside key DWP headquarters or similar high profile government offices.

Fighting Workfare

Public campaigns work! 

 

With just a few protesters the Boycott Workfare actions have ‘shamed’ many employers into withdrawing from the Workfare scheme. Companies and businesses don’t want to be exposed as employing ‘slave’ labour. Only when a company signs up to the Boycott Workfare pledge are they removed for the Boycott Workfare website listing. 

 

Protests outside flagship venues of those companies still in the scheme will continue until the schemes are scrapped.

 

Reblogged with thanks from http://antibedroomtax.org.uk/2013-05-29-04-42-41/latest-news/110-stop-sanctions-11th-sept-day-of-action

 

 

Aug 162014
 

 

Responsible department: Department for Work and Pensions

We are asking for the inequality in the way Personal Independent Payment (PIP) claims are handled to be stopped and for those making transfers from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to PIP to be treated in the same way as fresh claims for PIP.

Currently those making claims for PIP have their payments backdated to date of claim. However those receiving DLA do not get their claim backdated even if a change of circumstance means they are entitled to a higher rate of payment.

Payments are made from date of decision, meaning current delays, which the DWP admit to, mean claimants losing out on several weeks payments, depending on the length of delay and time to process a claim.

This goes against what the DWP themselves have said in response to questions from Susan Elan Jones MP i.e. ‘…the benefit is backdated so NO ONE is left out of pocket’. The current system is in no way equitable and victimises long term disabled people.

There is a petition at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/66447

Also let us know if this has happened to you by emailing : mail@dpac.uk.net

 

 

Aug 092014
 

 

Disabled people have been expressing their disquiet at the news that the Independent Living Fund (ILF) will cease to exist in 2015, and that the money will be transferred to Local Authorities. To date, out of the 153 surveyed Local Authorities and from 106 responses, only 10 Local Authorities have said they will ringfence the transferred funds to ILF recipients, which means that in all other areas, ILF recipients face a potential reduction of their care packages. How is it likely to happen?

An interesting article was published this morning by Joe Halewood (@SpeyeJoe): http://speye.wordpress.com/2014/08/09/dhp-dubious-hoodwinking-practices-or-how-ids-pulled-the-woolsack-over-the-courts-eyes/

which shows that 16% (UK average) of Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) allocated by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to Local Authorities to mitigate the impacts of welfare reforms, and specifically of the infamous bedroom tax have been awards unrelated to welfare reforms. See Table 5 and 6 here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/322455/use-of-discretionary-housing-payments-june-2014.pdf

It would be interesting to know what the money was spent on, but more to the point, DWP has twice relied on the DHP argument to win a legal case against claimants challenging the bedroom tax policy, and although DWP’s spokesperson said that the government has put in £345m to mitigate the bedroom tax, the figures shown in the Table 5 and 6 not only disprove this but also show that out of the money disbursed, 16% of the allocated funds have been used for awards totally unrelated to welfare reforms. This shows that disabled people are right to be worried about the future of the transferred ILF funds and about the willingness or unwillingness of Local Authorities to allocate these funds to disabled people who have been assessed as having the greatest needs. The ILF should be retained until assurance is given that these people will not see a reduction in their care packages.

 

 

Jul 082014
 

Twice over the past quarter it has been publicly announced by 2 different ministers that the huge reduction in the appeal intake was due to more accurate ESA decisions, first by Mike Penning, the Minister for Disabled People on the Daily Politics Show on April the 13th and then by Steve Webb, the Minister of State for Pensions, during the debate about DWP chaos. It is essential to put the record straight as DWP continues taking credit for what it describes as an improvement of the WCA process, leading to more disabled people being entitled to ESA. Far from being improved, the WCA process has become unmanageable and is described by Judge Martin, the recently retired President of the Social Entitlement Chamber, dealing with benefits tribunals, as being in a state of virtual collapse. This state of virtual collapse has led to the publishing of astonishing figures.

First there has been an 89% reduction in the number of appeals compared with the same period in 2013 . Then the number of new claimants being found fit for work: 27%. Last year, for the same period, the percentage of new claimants found fit for work was 48%, almost double.
But perhaps the most astonishing figure is the percentage of new claimants assigned to the Support Group: 57%. This is unprecedented, and difficult to explain in the absence of further data from the DWP.
But a publication by Judge Martin, which he ironically called Dark Matters, throws some light on these figures, especially Dark Matters 1. (and see also Dark Matters 2 )

Chronologically:
In July 2013, DWP started to express concerns about the quality of Atos written reports. All Atos healthcare professionals were to be retrained and re-evaluated.
The consequences seem to have been a reduction by half in the number of assessments completed by Atos, from 200,000 per month to 100,000.
HMCTS (Tribunals) was informed that the effect was likely to be a reduction of 9,500 appeals per month from September to December 2013.
In January 2014, DWP stopped making ‘repeat referrals’ to Atos. From what Judge Martin is saying, there is anecdotal evidence that an increasing proportion of ESA claimants, both on new claims and IB-ESA reassessments, were simply being assigned to the Support Group without a face to face assessment.
Judge Martin’s conclusions that the ‘virtual collapse of the WCA process is the biggest single factor in the decline of the appeals intake’ is therefore supported by the evidence:

  • A reduction by half in the number of assessments
  • More claimants assigned to the Support Group without a face to face assessment.
  • Repeat assessments being paused

These 3 factors combined would have drastically reduced the number of assessments and therefore the number of likely appeals, especially with more claimants assigned to the Support Group who would not have a decision to appeal against. Additionally the introduction of Mandatory Reconsiderations will have had an impact, but compared with the other factors, it appears to be marginal, although at this stage the impact is unknown.

To add to the picture of the virtual collapse of the WCA, there is now a backlog of 712,000 claimants waiting to be assessed . The waiting times reported by CAB are regularly between six and eight months. Although the UK government is blaming the backlog on the previous government, the figures do not support this as shown by Nick Dilworth in his excellent blog. From the figures available, it can be calculated that the total number of cases which were subject to assessment but had not been assessed (the backlog) as of May 2010 was 28,300.
Far from being an improved system, the WCA process has descended into chaos. Although more claimants are entitled to ESA and are being assigned to the Support Group, the notion that it is an independent process which can be replicated anywhere and produce consistent results is undermined by the level of influence applied by DWP, whose intervention seems to bypass the descriptors which are enshrined in law, if more claimants are assigned to the Support Group for reasons of convenience.

Another sign of this chaos is the increase in the number of sanctions. Sanctions, which are primarily aimed at claimants on the work programme who have mental health conditions or learning difficulties, have quadrupled from 1,102 a month in December 2012 to 4,789 a month in December 2013 ,

Table: Employment Support Allowance Sanction Decisions, by Month

Employment Support Allowance Sanction Decisions, by Month

 

even though referrals to the programme have fallen from 41,360 in the second year of the work programme to 20,300 in the third year for new ESA customers.

Table: Referrals, Attachments, Job Outcome payments and Sustainment payments for the new ESA customer

Referrals, Attachments, Job Outcome payments and Sustainment payments for the new ESA customer

This massive increase cannot therefore be explained by an increase of referrals to the work programme or a sudden surge in the number of claimants in the WRAG. As seen previously, because the number of claimants assigned to the Support Group has massively increased, the number of claimants assigned to the WRAG has consequently decreased by the same proportion. The implication is, in the absence of additional data from DWP, that sanctions are being exceedingly applied to an ever decreasing number of claimants. And 9 out of 10 ESA or JSA claimants who appeal the decision have their decision overturned by a tribunal according to the ‘Fulfilling potential? ESA and the fate of the work-related activity group report released by Mind.
Interestingly enough, the National Audit Office published today (2nd of July 2014) its report on the work programme. Among its findings: Performance for harder-to-help groups is still below expectations and
about the same as previous programmes, but the Department expects further improvements.
To spell it out more clearly, the Work Programme is not performing better than previous programmes but it is driving more claimants into destitution by sanctioning them. Incompetence, complacency and total obliviousness to the consequences will be the DWP’s legacy of this government.

by Anita Bellows

This text can be viewed and downloaded as a research paper  from here

Jun 172014
 

DWP ministers said only 9% of ESA decisions were wrong.  Our research reveals the DWP have been quoting from figures which state 151,800 appeals have succeeded.  Our evidence shows the true figure to be at least 567,634 – casting serious doubt over 43% of 1,302,200 ‘fit for work’ decisions. 
 

ilegal Press Release – 16th June 2013


DWP’s internal figures reveal a much higher number of successful ESA appeals than have been made publicly available.

article-2520639-19FD00E400000578-512_634x330

DWP reply on 13 June 2014 to a Freedom of Information Act request made as part of an investigation in to DWP figures relating to the controversial Work Capability Assessment by ilegal.org.uk has revealed that of 1,287,323 ESA appeals, at least 567,634 claimants have had the original DWP decision overturned in their favour.

Government’s key defence of the assessments has been that around 9% of all decisions are incorrect.  The most controversial of which are those where a claimant is found fit for work.  DWP figures (for new claims) show that betweenOctober 2008 and September 2013 a total of 1,306,200 fit for work decisions have been made.

It is with considerable disappointment noted that the DWP’s latest publicly available statistics confirm that only 151,800 successful appeals have been recorded out of a total of 410,400 appeals (for new claimants only).  Our investigations reveal evidence of three times as many appeals being ‘internally recorded’ of which
567,634 have been successful.  The DWP have revealed to us figures which show nearly quarter of a million internal reconsiderations have led to decisions on new ESA claims being overturned in favour of the claimant; we have added these to figures from HMCTS tribunals which provides us with a much higher figure than the DWP seems to be prepared to admit to in their publicly available figures.

Our intensive research into the assessment of claimants for the DWP’s Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) has, following a freedom of information request to the DWP, provided one of the final pieces of the jigsaw needed to unpick the Department’s overly complicated statistics. We now have the final clue which has enabled us to identify that no less than 567,634 ESA claimants have in fact had their initial ESA refusals overturned in their favour.

It is a startling revelation that the government department has apparently been keeping a lid on a set of statistics that clearly shows between May 2010 and June 2013 no less than 820,356 decisions were looked at again by the DWP after claimants had been assessed by the controversial private contractors Atos Healthcare. These ‘internal’ statistics show that a very substantial 232,782 (28.5%) decisions were then subsequently overturned in the claimant’s favour.

What makes this all the worse is that these reconsideration statistics come on top of separate figures that show us that of those claimants who did not have the decisions overturned in their favour by the DWP, 817,102 went on to appeal to tribunals arranged by Her Majesties’ Courts & Tribunals Service where a further 332,607 were then overturned in the claimant’s favour by the tribunal.

These figures completely negate all of the DWP’s claims that it is getting the majority of its decisions right

These figures completely negate all of the DWP’s claims that it is getting the majority of its decisions right. Government ministers in conjunction with the DWP’s Press office have been telling us that a million claimants have been found fit for work whereas these figures show that in reality this is only a small part of the true story and that huge numbers have gone on to successfully appeal decisions which were wrong.

These new figures highlight the dubious practice of using the unchallenged assessment results, which only encourage media sensationalisation, with headlines such as those appearing in the Daily Express in July 2011 stating that ’75% on sickness benefits were faking’. The same article goes on to say that out of ‘…2.6 million on the sick, 1.9 million could work’ before receiving an endorsement from the Prime Minister with an assurance that his government was “producing a much better system where we put people through their paces and say that if you can work, you should work”.

DWP and Ministers know the truth, they just aren’t telling anyone

These figures have been available to the DWP and its ministers since April 2010 from their ‘Decision Making & Appeals Case Recorder (DMACR) – ESA Management Information Statistics’. The DWP confirms this to be unpublished information which is for internal department information only, yet our research notes that the Right Hon Chris Grayling was using the same information in answer to Parliamentary questions on the 10th January 2012. 

We question then why the DWP has consistently ‘over promoted’ only the results of Work Capability Assessments relating to ‘initial’ decisions (including the opinions of Atos Healthcare in the absence of a statutory DWP decision) when it could instead have come clean and declared how hundreds of thousands of their incorrect decisions have since been overturned in favour of the person appealing.

These revelations seriously undermine the DWP’s contention that the initial Work Capability Assessment outcomes are a valid measure of the claimant’s ability to work. The DWP has consistently defended its assessments by giving an impression that only a relatively low number of decisions have been overturned whereas the reality is that well over half a million have resulted in a successful outcome for the claimant.

And this DOES NOT include the 712,000 people awaiting assessments BEFORE they can appeal

This news must have come as cause for grave concern when considered in the light of a recent revelation by DWP Minister Mike Penning which revealed that in addition to the figures we have highlighted, a further 712,000 Employment & Support Allowance claimants are awaiting assessments without which they cannot yet appeal.

This hugely unacceptable backlog of cases means people with disabling medical conditions are left hanging for months and months on a basic allowance way below what they are entitled to. This is leaving hundreds of thousands deprived of the support they require and means having to scrape by on money which is wholly insufficient to meet their needs due to disability and illness. It also means many claimants affected by severe and complex mental health conditions are facing prolonged torment as they wait month upon month for their decision to be overturned before they can even lodge an appeal.

Face up to reality: it doesn’t work. Scrap the WCA

These findings add considerably to the pleas of disabled groups all over the country to scrap the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and to find a better way to assess their needs.

It is simply appalling that the DWP, along with Ministers and other government spokespeople appear to be feeding the media with misleading statistics that are unrepresentative of the real story and instead encourage headlines vilifying the disabled and the genuinely ill. These figures clearly show the DWP has evidence in their possession which shows how in far too many cases the decisions it is making are dead wrong and they know they’re dead wrong.

Editorial notes

Please contact the author of this article Nick Dilworth for verification of any of the figures quoted.  We welcome sharing our findings on social media and allow this information to be produced providing credit is given to the
i-legal website with links to the article produced.

We apologise for the slight delay in publishing this release.  This was due to a need to align the figures to ones recently produced by the DWP in their Work Capability Assessment figures released on the 12th June 2014 which relate to the most recent statistics up to September 2013.

A full supporting explanatory memorandum will be published very shortly.

The Reconsideration statistics relate to new ESA claimants only (excluding incapacity benefit to ESA conversion cases) whereas HMCTS figures refer to all ESA claimants.  It is our contention that had the DWP supplied all of the information we had requested, the figures for reconsiderations would have been considerably higher.

We acknowledge that not all appeals will be against fit for work findings for new claimants but given the DWP’s emphasis on this claimant cohort and the lack of information to the contrary we are of the contention that other appeals relating to claimants being moved from the Work Related Activity Group to Support Group are likely to be of a much lower volume and more likely to be contained within the cohort relating to incapacity benefit/ESA assessment.

We would like to express our thanks to Anita Bellows an i-legal member for her cooperation and for making the freedom of information request upon our guidance and our thanks extend to the DPAC organisation with whom Anita is also a member.

http://ilegal.org.uk/thread/8640/release-staggering-numbers-overturned-secrecy?page=1&scrollTo=21759

with thanks as ever to Nick  @Mylegalforum

May 012014
 

Save the Independent Living Fund
“Nursing Homes Stink, They’re Worse than You Think.
We’d Rather Go to Jail Than Die in a Nursing Home”

jailnursing home ilf

Join us to protest against the closure of ILF on Monday, May 12th 3pm-5pm outside DWP head quarters, Caxton House, Tothill Street, SW1H 9WA.

Nearest accessible tube –Westminster.

Click for Face Book Event Page

Bring things to make lots of noise. We have asked Mike Penning Minister for disabled people to join us but in case he doesn’t we need to make sure he knows we’re there.
————————————————————————————-
Dear Mike Penning,
We understand that you have stated publicly that you feel closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) will not have any adverse effect on the ability of disabled people to live independently in the community, to be able to access education or to continue to be employed.

Disabled people who are ILF recipients do not agree with your view and are gathering to voice their fears for their futures on May 12th from 3-5pm outside Caxton House.

They would very much appreciate the opportunity to speak to you about their very valid concerns so although we know you must be a very busy person we hope you can join us to hear what disabled people are saying.

In the meantime we are attaching a small selection of case studies for your attention.

On behalf of DPAC ILF recipient support group
————————————————————————————————————————————-
What is the Independent Living Fund?
The Independent Living Fund (ILF) is a ring-fenced pot of funding to provide funding to help 18,000 disabled people with high support needs live an independent life in the community rather than in residential care.

Closure of ILF: In March 2014 government decided to close the ILF in June 2015 in spite of a court ruling that said their previous decision to close ILF was in breach of the Equality Act. As usual DWP blatantly ignored the court.

Recommendations: Deaf and disabled people’s organisations and disabled people believe the ILF should be kept open and re-opened to new applicants for two key reasons:
- The ILF is a cost effective model of funding that successfully supports the independent living of those with the highest support needs.
- In stark contrast many Local Authorities only provide funding for basic a clean and feed model of care which ends independent living and inclusion in the community. This will leave many ILF users with a choice between inadequate care at home or an inactive, isolated life in a residential home.

 

 

 

 

 

May 012014
 

Disabled people in Norwich are being forced to make 88 mile trips for their Atos assessment-why? Because the centre in Norwich is not accessible for wheelchair users.

If that wasn’t bad enough,  the taxpayer is footing another additional bill because of private companies and DWP combined inefficiency, yet again.

EDP24 reports: Taxpayers are footing the bill to ferry disabled people on an 88-mile round trip to Ipswich or King’s Lynn by taxi to decide if they are fit to work because the Norwich centre has no wheelchair access.
In an uncompromising letter, welfare minister Mike Penning has told MPs there are no plans to introduce a new assessment centre in Norwich and the
inadequate St Mary’s House, on Duke Street, will continue to be used for the work capability assessments. It comes as Norwich MP Simon Wright highlighted the case of a constituent who had been sent to Ipswich by taxi, with other MPs also citing similar stories.

One Norwich woman who is unable to use stairs easily, who did not want to be named, was sent by taxi to King’s Lynn weeks after her appointment was cancelled because of the fire risk.
She said it had made an already stressful situation even more difficult.
It has emerged under a Freedom of Information request that the DWP has no direct control over the lease on St Mary’s House.
It is managed by the private firm Telereal Trillium as part of a 20 year private finance initiative contract, which ends in March 2018.
Telereal Trillium would not provide details of the terms of its leave citing it as “commercially sensitive”.
Mark Harrison, chief executive of  Equal Lives, said: “How can this coalition government lease buildings that are not fit for purpose and have no control over the access requirements for disabled customers?”
He said the centre was yet another example of the government putting the needs of private sector companies and their profits before the welfare of its disabled citizens.

Read the story in full here

Mar 122014
 

1. Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) has not been claimed during Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) period:-

 

You receive a letter from Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) to inform you that the MR has not been found in your favour, this letter will give details of how to proceed to formal appeal, ie submitting the appeal form to HM Courts and Tribunal Services (HMCTS) When this appeal form is received by DWP from HMCTS, your ESA will automatically be reinstated; you do not have to do anything else.  When the form is received by the Dispute Resolution Teams, they will inform the appropriate Benefit Centre immediately that ESA should be reinstated.  The BC will probably contact you to ask for evidence/Fit Notes etc.

 

 

-2. JSA has been claimed during Mandatory Reconsideration period:-

 

You receive a letter from DWP to inform that the MR has not been found in your favour, this letter will give details of how to proceed to formal appeal, ie submitting the appeal form to HMCTS.  For those who have claimed JSA, they must make it clear on the appeal form that they wish to have ESA reinstated.  This information should be put in Section 5 of the form, ‘About Your Appeal’.  When HMCTS have notified DWP that you wish to progress to formal appeal, ie the form is received, ESA will be reinstated.  DWP will contact the appropriate Benefit Centre immediately.  You will be contacted for Fit Notes/medical evidence to support the claim & it’s important that throughout their JSA claim, you adhere to the conditionality of that benefit, even after DWP has been informed that they would like ESA to be reinstated & until ESA has been reinstated.

 

This infomation is doing the rounds of Disabled Peoples’ Organisations. It has come direct from the DWP. DPAC are just passing the information on, and cannot be held responsible for any errors – but if your route doesn’t progress as laid out here please let us know….

 

 

 

Mar 042014
 

Policy Exchange published its report on sanctions yesterday. Apart from the mantra that a sanction regime is an integral part of welfare, when evidence shows that sanctions are good at driving people off benefits, but useless at helping them finding a job, a lot of attention has been focused on the number of wrongly sanctioned claimants. This number, around 70,000 people, is the number of people with a low level sanction and 1st offence, who had their sanction decisions overturned through appeal or reconsideration. Box 4.1 page 31 of the report elaborates on this.

It would have been a lot more informative to consider all overturned sanction decisions, whether at low, intermediate or high level, and to differentiate between overturned sanction decisions through appeals and through reconsiderations.  

Unfortunately, it is not presently possible to make these calculations as it seems that DWP, which is using a new statistical tool, Stat-Xplore, to allow extraction of different combination of statistics, had to remove all the data related to appeal outcomes because of ‘issues’. While the number of people who appeal a sanction decision is very small (10,362) compared to the total number of people sanctioned, it is the percentage of overturned sanction decisions through appeals compared to the total number of appealed sanction decisions which is above all indicative of the quality of decisions.

The same weight cannot be given to the outcome of a reconsideration as to the outcome of an appeal. Appeals are dealt with by independent tribunals while reconsiderations are done by DWP, and as David Webster, the Glasgow University researcher says: DWP decision makers are’mere agents of the Secretary of State and have had no independent responsibility to apply the law reasonably’.

It is interesting to note that Policy Exchange did not try to disaggregate the appeal and reconsideration figures for analysis. By doing so, the report confers undeserved credibility to the number of wrongly sanctioned claimants. 

So if the reconsideration figures have to be taken with a pinch of salt (a big pinch) and if the appeal outcomes are wrong, where does that leave us?

http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/images/publications/smarter%20sanctions.pdf

http://paulspicker.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/sanctions-stats-briefing-d-webster-19-feb-2014-1.pdf

Mar 042014
 

We’ve stopped asking for basic humanity from you. We’ve stopped asking for fairness -it all falls by the wayside. You don’t care. Now we ask for logic …………well John does, but he is not alone, he is supported by DPAC and thousands of disabled people and those with long-term health issues. We hear that you ATOS/OH Assist want to pull out of the WCA, but want to keep the PIP contract despite a serious backlog and people being left for up to a year without any cash to support them. We all look forward to the day when these barbaric tests are scrapped, if you want to blame the DWP, fine, but several millions in public money paid to you suggests you also have something to do with it all too. By the way this message must not be construed as a death threat to your staff in any way- It’s a plea for logic, any kind of bloody logic, as feelings are clearly not your strong point or those of the DWP.

Below is the email DPAC received from John. John also emailed other disability charities, so I am sure they will be publishing something too unless they’re too tied up in Government funds to say a word, of course.

Below the copy of the email is a piece on the illogical questionnaire that is sent out to everyone having to endure this abuse by ATOS/OH Assist/DWP , or any future private company out to make a few million at the expense of peoples’ lives.

Hi,

Please do not think that this is an attempt to influence my own case in any way or enlist support – although the latter would certainly be welcome (head gets sore from banging against Atos’ brick walled- ignorance). As I am sure you are aware, there is a tendency for those of us unfortunate enough to be disabled – seriously or otherwise – to become isolated. I believe that it is important that we raise awareness and share information even on individual cases – hence this e-mail. 

I am aware of many people who have suffered and still are suffering at the hands of Atos & the DWP, but I thought that you might like to hear of my experiences – and I have yet to even have a Work Capability Assessment! 

I was first called to attend an assessment on 17th June 2013 and could not believe the asinine ‘questionnaire’! For Pete’s sake: “Do you have trouble remaining conscious while awake?’!!!; Picking up and moving things: What ‘things’? How heavy? What shape? If cardboard, is it standard or thick cardboard? Move them from where to where?. How large is a ‘large’ cardboard box? Does the claimant move by hand, or does s/he use aids? Is there anything in the damn box? Those are just two examples.

In addition to other disabilities, I cannot write for more than a minute or two without my hand painfully ‘cramping up’ and my writing  becoming illegible. Therefore, I intended to make notes in the only way open to me – using a voice recorder. Atos – despite agreeing to record the assessment, denied this and refused to proceed with the assessment. Given that anything I dictated would also be recorded on their equipment, this is not only illogical, but blatantly discriminatory. Also, at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, it suggests that the equipment will – shock! horror! fail, particularly should it show Atos in a bad light (see e.g. http://dpac.uk.net/2012/07/having-your-wca-recorded/ and http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/dec/13/disabled-man-government-court-benefit-test).

Neither Atos or the DWP could legally prevent a more able-bodied person or their escort/carer from making notes by hand, so the decision is, therefore, discriminatory and unlawful. It should not be necessary – as with the recent court decision on Mental health & WCA – to resort to litigation in order to obtain that which one has a right to in any case.

Despite being advised from the outset that my disabilities result in fatigue and the need to sleep by early afternoon, I was sent appointments that disregarded this and it was necessary each time to write to them demanding a new, more suitable appointment.

I have another appointment for 21st March 2014, although I expect the same things to occur and that Atos will again unlawfully refuse to proceed with the assessment. I have since been met with nothing but malice, discrimination, general illegality and just plain incompetence by the Atos parasites, whose default position seems to be: if in doubt – lie (more on this below) having, apparently, learned their craft at the knee of Josef Goebbels. 

When I addressed their ‘response’ to my complaints, the person who supposedly ‘investigated’ them was conveniently (for them) absent and I was passed to another individual whose further investigation was so thorough that it took less than two weeks and not only re-stated Atos/DWP’s unlawful discrimination vis-à-vis my note-taking, but also completely failed to mention at all the lies told by:

a)      The Atos receptionist who reported that I stated that I would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. This was yet another case of Atos shooting itself in the foot as I am a former law lecturer, assisting in a research capacity on a couple of human rights cases and am quite aware that a claimant must first exhaust domestic remedies. In fact, I stated that I was prepared to make a formal complaint to the Commission for Equality & Human Rights.

b)      The lies told by the person who (supposedly) first investigated my complaints. Namely that disabled parking was available on the street immediately outside the assessment centre. This was a blatant lie and I provided photographic proof of this. In fact, not only does there not appear to be any disabled parking available in the building’s car park that I could see, but there is no disabled parking available within at least a hundred yards of the building! This person had also related – in respect to my complaint “when you entered the assessment room” when I never left the reception area until I left the building!

I have provided Jobcentre Plus/DWP with copies of correspondence at every stage and yet they have not even had the common courtesy to acknowledge the correspondence, let alone respond. I have also made a formal complaint to the Equalities Office – who have also failed to acknowledge or respond. 

I am in the process of submitting evidence to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee. Will they listen? Doubtful, but we live in hope. My MP has also been completely useless on this – in fact that isn’t surprising given that he’s a Lib-Dem and therefore part of this odious coalition. 

I have attached for your information my response to Atos’ ‘investigation’ of my complaints and my initial assessment of the questionnaire. I apologise for the occasionally facetious tone of the latter, but I simply could not believe that they were prepared to use such a blatantly incompetent document as the basis from which to destroy so many lives.

 Regards,

John Lockett

Questionnaire

Page 1

Page 1/3

Title of the form

Poorly chosen – or perhaps deliberately chosen? By definition, except for the minority of frauds –Incapacity Payment Benefit claimants are incapable of work.

 

About you

Personal details: Unnecessary. After all, they sent me the damn form and, therefore, already have this information

 They knew I was male and that I could not, therefore, be pregnant!

 

Face-to-face assessment

The idiocy of asking anyone, let alone someone extremely poor health to nominate dates in the next THREE MONTHS when they are unavailable is plain.

 

Help needed for face-to-face assessment: How is a claimant to answer this adequately –even if sufficient space were provided on the form – without knowing where the assessment is to take place?

 

Apart from the fact that it is NONE of their damn business, how, exactly, does the date of a claimant’s last GP visit relate to or affect in any way, their capability – or otherwise –for work?

 

The names and details of any specialist care professionals are relevant only if they are prepared to call the claimant a liar or a fraud, which would possibly create liability for both the decision-maker and Atos/the DWP in defamation.

 

The date of the claimant’s last visit to such a professional is also none of their damn business and may be irrelevant in any case. A claimant may not have seen a particular consultant in more than a year. This does not mean, however, that their condition has miraculously disappeared. Other specialists/consultants may have only been visited once after referral from other professionals and in order to either aid diagnosis or to eliminate possible causative factors.

 

About your illness or disabilities

This is such an openly-worded question as to be largely useless. The space provided for response is also inadequate for those with multiple and/or variable conditions to respond adequately.

 

About your medication

Eavesdropping in any pharmacy will reveal that a great many people do not even know the names of the drugs they take – merely the quantity and the time they are to be taken. I continue to take a different ant-histamine, which frequently causes drowsiness/tiredness over and above that caused by my various conditions.


Page 2

Page 2/3

Drugs, alcohol or other substances

This could be seen as an attempt to re-write the Disability Discrimination Act by stealth, given that some relevant conditions under this heading can be considered disabilities. It may also be seen as a deceptive attempt to induce a claimant to inadvertently admit that their inability to work is of their own making and thereby deny their claim. Either case is despicable.

 

Part 1: Physical functions

Part of this may be seen as a ‘trick’ question. As many claimants for Incapacity Benefit also claim Disability Living Allowance, this can be seen as a deliberately deceptive attempt to induce the claimant to give different answers to claims for each benefit.

 

3. Reaching: Inadequate space to answer the question properly. This criteria is variable and will depend on the state of variable conditions at any given time.

 

4. Picking up and moving things: This question is worded, apparently, by a six-year-old. What ‘things’? How heavy? What shape? Is it standard or thick cardboard? Move them from where to where?. How ‘large’ is a ‘large’ cardboard box? Does the claimant move by hand, or does s/he use aids?

 

5. Manual dexterity: Another poorly-worded question with proposed tasks apparently selected (!) at random from an episode of Mr. Bean. Most people rarely read a traditional book now, preferring an electronic version. As regards picking up a £1 coin, I would probably not attempt do so, but scoop it from the surface with one hand into the other.

 

6. Communicating with people: Communicate how? Semaphore, Morse code? Martian?

 

7. Other people communicating with you: Yet another poorly-worded question. What if the person attempting communication with the claimant has an unfamiliar accent? What if the other person is a poor communicator? The same applies to simple (printed) messages from other people.

 

8. Getting around safely: Define ‘safely’. What road? A dual carriageway? A single track road? A one-way street? How does a claimant know whether they can get around an unfamiliar place without knowing what the place is?

 

9. Controlling your bowels and bladder and using a collecting device: A piggy bank could be classified as a ‘collecting device’!

 

10. Staying conscious when awake: Another idiotic question! By definition, if one is conscious, one is awake.

 

11. Learning how to do tasks: How can a claimant truthfully and reliably answer this question without knowing what task? One may have no difficulty in learning how to remove an engine’s cylinder head, although physically doing so may be impossible. However, learning to programme  computer code may be beyond them. The form asks about setting an alarm clock, but what sort?


Page 3

Page 3/3

The mechanical sort with two bells on top, or that contained on my mobile ‘phone? What if one had a different mobile ‘phone on which key operation was more difficult?

 

13. Starting and finishing tasks: What tasks? Under what conditions? For example, someone who possesses a dishwasher would find it far easier to complete the washing up than someone with only a bowl and sink. Starting and finishing any task may be dependent on the effect various and variable medical conditions on a given day.

 

14. Coping with changes: What changes? What constitutes a ‘small’ change? A claimant may be able to cope with a small change in one aspect of their life but not another. For example, a claimant with a hospital appointment may have re-organised their schedule and arranged transport to cope with the appointment but should the taxi not arrive or the appointment be changed at short notice, some may be stoic, regarding it as a small change while others may react extremely angrily, regarding it as a major disruption in their routine. The same applies equally to the second part of this question (unexpected changes). A ‘small’ change – whether expected or not – can be a major disruption in the life of a disabled person.

 

15. Going out: This is essentially the same question as question 8 ‘Getting around safely’.

 

16. Coping with social situations: This question is completely asinine. What constitutes a ‘social situation’? The qualification of the question is inadequate. To some, this may be visiting family, while to others it may be a family wedding/christening/funeral or an evening at the pub!

 

17. Behaving appropriately: Yet another extremely poorly-worded question. Firstly, how would it affect a claimant’s capability for work? And what work? In what situation? What is appropriate to one person may be extremely objectionable to another. Furthermore, unless someone speaks out, how would the claimant know that their behaviour upsets other people? The same applies to the second part of the question.

 

18. Eating and drinking: How on earth does this question – in ANY way – relate to a claimant’s ability to work. I doubt there are many vacancies for wine-tasters, or cookery competition judges

 

 

 

Feb 242014
 

This article draws unashamedly on David Webster’s excellent briefing following the release in February 2014 of sanction statistics for JSA and ESA claimants by DWP. David Webster, who is Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Glasgow University, also presented very strong and documented evidence to inform the enquiry of the Work and Pension Committee into sanctions in March and November 2013. http://paulspicker.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/david-webster-evidence-to-hc-work-and-pensions-committee-20-nov.pdf

The briefing on which this article is based can be found here: http://paulspicker.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/sanctions-stats-briefing-d-webster-19-feb-2014-1.pdf

It explains in great detail the trends in sanctions, in reasons for sanctions, in appeals etc. since 1997 which, for David Webster, is evidence that Iain Duncan Smith is behaving unlawfully on a large scale.

Number of sanctions: The latest figures released by DWP through its new software (Stat-Xplore) show that the number of sanctions for JSA and ESA claimants has reached unprecedented levels.  Between 22/10/2012 and 30/09/2013 (49 weeks) 527,574 JSA claimants received a sanction. The figure for ESA claimants over a complete year is 22,840, also a record number. Although the rate of sanctions for ESA claimants is much lower, it is rising and stands almost at 0.,5% per month (compared to 6% for JSA claimants in the 3 months to 30/09/2013). 

Length of sanctions: What has also changed is the length of sanctions. Although ministers claimed that hardly anyone would be subject to the new 3-year sanctions, the number of JSA claimants who had received a 3-year sanction rose to 962 by 30 September 2013, up from 700 by 30 June 2013.  Claimants’ ‘failures’ such as not attending or being late for advisory interviews,  non-availability for employment, which used to attract  1 or 2 week sanction, are now penalised with a 4 week sanction 

Reasons for sanctions: The main reasons for JSA sanctions are failure to participate in training/employment schemes and not ‘actively seeking work’ while the majority of ESA claimants are being sanctioned for not participating in work-related activity (75%), and the remainder for missing or being late for an interview.

Work Programme: The Work Programme continues to fail JSA claimants, as contractors have been responsible for twice as many sanctions on the people referred to them as they have produced job outcomes:  394,759 sanctions and 198,750 job outcomes. There is also evidence of maladministration of referral forms which has lead to a huge increase of cancelled referrals. What it means is Work Programme contractors are making mistakes in their paperwork on a big scale.

Appeals and reconsiderations:  The success rate of appeals taken to an independent tribunal is quoted as being 58%, even by the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary. This figure represents an average over 12 months, which fails to reflect the strong and clear upward trend of successful appeals. Tribunals are now upholding almost 9 out of 10 of appeals against DWP. This confirms the evidence that sanctions are applied unreasonably.

Unfortunately, only about one in 50 sanctioned claimants appeals to a Tribunal – 2.44% in the latest 3 months. The vast majority of claimants find the process too difficult.

To conclude, a note added by David Webster to his briefing regarding the role of sanctions in creating destitution:

‘There is clearly a lot of confusion about the role of sanctions in creating destitution. The current regime under which sanctioned claimants lose all their benefits and, unless in an arbitrarily defined ‘vulnerable’ group, are not allowed even to apply for discretionary ‘hardship payments’ for the first two weeks, has been in force since October 1996. What has changed dramatically in recent years is the number and length of sanctions. Prior to the Jobseekers Act 1995, sanctioned claimants were entitled to a reduced rate of Income Support or Supplementary Benefit as of right from the start, assessed on the normal rules’.

 

Feb 242014
 

In an urgent memo obtained by Benefits and Work, the DWP have told staff that due to a growing backlog at Atos all current employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants will be left on the benefit, without further medical checks, until another company can be found to do repeat work capability assessments (WCAs). The memo, dated 20 January, goes on to say that this will reduce the number of claimants moving off ESA, but that there are no plans to inform claimants or MPs about the change.

Benefits and Work obtained the memo from the DWP via a Freedom of Information request. It is headed: ‘FOR URGENT CASCADE. Control of the Referral of Repeat work Capability Assessments’.

The memo explains that back in July a ministerial statement announced that:

“in the drive to continually improve the Work Capability Assessment process and bring down waiting times for claimants, DWP had decided to seek additional capacity to deliver Work Capability Assessments.

“We are working towards having new provision in place – it will of course take some time for that to become fully operational.”

However, the memo goes on to explain that:

“The number of cases currently with Atos Healthcare has grown. A decision has therefore been taken to control the referral of repeat work capability assessments. Therefore, with effect from 20 January 2014, further routine repeat assessments referrals to Atos will be deferred until further notice.

“Controlling the volume of repeat Work Capability Assessments should help us to reduce delays for new claimants and those that have already been referred.”

The memo goes on to say that staff must still refer claimants for reassessment where there has been a reported change in condition, giving the example of a claimant placed in the Work Related Activity Group whose condition worsens and who might be expected to move into the Support Group.

Aside from this, however, reassessment of existing claimants is to end until further notice, with no new cases being referred to Atos from 20th January.

The memo is keen to point out that the decision to stop repeat assessments by Atos is not ‘linked to the quality issues outlined in July 2013’ which the DWP ‘has been working closely with Atos to resolve’. It also reassures readers that the change will have no impact on Atos’ ability to carry out personal independence payment assessments.

It does, however, admit that the result of the change is that the number of people coming off ESA each month will reduce because:

“the Work Capability Assessment is the main trigger for off-flows from the Employment and Support Allowance load. We will continue to assess the potential for alternative interventions on those whose repeat Work Capability Assessments are deferred to seek to manage this consequence.”

No details of what those ‘alternative interventions’ might be is given.

It is clear, however, that the DWP is not keen for people to be aware of the ever more disastrous state of medical assessments for benefits by Atos. The memo explains that claimants who enquire about when their next WCA will be, should only be told that:

“Although the Department will periodically review a person’s Limited Capability for Work, there is no set date for this to happen.

“The timing of this review is at the discretion of the Decision Maker acting on behalf of the Secretary of State and is influenced by the evidence available to them, which can mean on occasion longer periods between face to face assessments. “

In addition, the memo explains that as this is simply an ‘operational decision’ and not a ‘policy change’ there are no plans to notify ‘external stakeholders such as claimants, claimant representative groups, Members of Parliament, etc.’

It is hard to imagine that IDS and his fellow DWP ministers believed that they could keep this further Atos-related failure secret for long: you can’t stop reassessing thousands of claimants a week without anyone noticing. If, however, they could have kept it secret at least until they found a new company to take on the repeat assessments, it would have been easier to explain away and not added to the ever mounting pressure for a complete overhaul of the WCA.

“Yes, there was briefly a problem” IDS could have said “But we now have a new provider and it is no longer an issue.”

As it is, this news is simply further proof that the WCA is not fit for purpose, because as soon as the DWP attempts to impose proper quality controls a massive backlog results. It is, we hope, another nail in the coffin of a completely discredited system.

And, for all those claimants with static or degenerative conditions who continue to be forced to undergo repeat assessments, often followed by repeat appeals, on an annual basis, the news will come as a welcome respite.

Reposted from Benefits and Work website with thanks

 

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/2645-all-repeat-wca-medicals-to-be-stopped

 

 

 

Jan 252014
 

This month DPAC ran two articles , one on PIP being sanctionable evidenced through a DWP Freedom of Information request (FOI) response http://dpac.uk.net/2014/01/how-can-pip-be-sanctionable/ (we put our own FOI in on this on the day) and the other on DWP information of cuts to the benefit cap for couples without children http://dpac.uk.net/2014/01/dwp-cuts-by-stealth-benefit-cap-for-couples-without-children-from-26000-to-18000/

The PIP being sanctionable issue had a lot of attention – how could they possibly do this? Kate Green responded to DPAC on Twitter, after asking questions and obtaining info and documents from the Parliament library to say PIP wasn’t sanctionable, other MPs said they would raise questions on this. John Pring of DNS News also contacted the DWP and their view was PIP wasn’t sanctionable. But we were all confused, none more so than the DWP, it seems. On 23rd January the DWP issued an apology ( yes really: an apology) and said they had made a mistake: PIP is not sanctionable https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/192913/response/474265/attach/html/3/WDTK%20FOI%20194%20correction.pdf.html

We are still not entirely clear how PIP fits in with ‘withdrawal of benefits’, linked benefits to PIP and other puzzles set up by minsters and the DWP which it appears that the DWP themselves cannot properly follow either.

The second story on the benefit cap information and its cut was also clarified by DWP –they didn’t apologise this time, but again they got it wrong! The cap wont be cut, at the moment anyway. http://nationalhousingfederation.newsweaver.com/update/15j1xj9pu8q?utm_source=hootsuite&utm_campaign=hootsuite

We are all trawling through these cuts they call reform, and its difficult enough, given 2 cock ups in 3 weeks by the DWP, plus all those emails that DPAC gets through its mail box from people whose lives are affected by DWP incompetency-we ask: are the DWP falling apart at every level? If so UNUM will be pleasedDWP

               

Jan 212014
 

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is the new benefit which replaces Disability Living Allowance (DLA). 

DLA was introduced in the UK in 1992, and its main purpose was to compensate for the extra costs associated with disability and it was therefore not means tested, non contributory and not taxable. Although the majority of people claiming DLA had mobility issues, some disabled people would also choose to claim it to cover their personal care costs. Many were awarded DLA for life in recognition that their impairment/health issue would be with them for life. DLA was for those both in and out of work for the extra costs associated with disability. The Government presented PIP as a ‘like for like’ payment to replace DLA.

PIP was introduced in 2012 to replace DLA, the government arguing that the increasing number of claimants made DLA unsustainable.  PIP is therefore more restrictive and will lead not only to a reduced number of claimants but also to a reduced number of claimants entitled to the enhanced rate of the mobility component. http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2014/01/shocking-pip-figure-raises-new-motability-concerns/

PIP has also been riddled in controversy because of Atos, the firm contracted by the government to undertake the PIP and the Work Capability Assessments, which has led to 1 million disabled people appealing in court, with 43% of them succeeding in having their fit for work decision overturned. http://dpac.uk.net/2012/11/esa-appeals-increase-by-40-what-the-newspapers-wont-print/

Therefore it really came as a surprise to discover that in 2012 PIP had become a sanctionable benefit.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/192913/response/472770/attach/3/8.194%20Clarification%20letter%20Jones%20WDTK..pdf

http://legislation.data.gov.uk/ukpga/2012/5/schedule/9/crossheading/social-security-fraud-act-2001-c-11/data.htm?wrap=true

However aborrhent sanctions are, there is a kind of twisted logic behind them.  JSA and ESA claimants have to sign a contract (under duress, meaning threat of sanctions) and have to comply with the terms of this ‘contract’ (again under threat of sanctions). If they don’t, they will lose some of their benefits and many JSA and ESA claimants have been sanctioned, some 120 disabled people up to three years http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/3-year-benefit-ban-hits-120-disabled-people-under-new-sanctions-regime

 But with PIP, there is no contract, no Jobseeker’s agreement, no Claimant Commitment and it still remains a recognition that life for disabled people is more expensive, if they have to buy appliances or care that non disabled people don’t need in order to live a decent and dignified life or to work.

So what does it take to have your PIP sanctioned?  Is there somebody in the twittersphere or reading this article who can answer this question?  Because making PIP sanctionable does not make any sense, unless the DWP or IDS have a cunning plan. And they might.

Dec 042013
 

The Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) who instigated the case against the WCA celebrate another  victory. MHRN a grassroots group were later joined by the charities, but without MHRN the case would not have been brought. Full press release below…

Government appeal against Work Capability Assessment discrimination ruling is rejected

 

The Court of Appeal today (4 December 2013) rejected the Government’s appeal against a landmark ruling by the Upper Tribunal that the Work Capability Assessment discriminates against people with mental health problems.

 

During a four day hearing in January 2013, the Upper Tribunal heard evidence from the 2 disabled claimants, from mental health charities, Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and the National Autistic Society, as well as from the Government about the operation of the Work Capability Assessment[1], and the experience of people with mental health problems going through the process. In May 2013, having weighed the evidence, the tribunal concluded[2] that the process substantially disadvantaged those with mental health problems[3]. This was for two main reasons: first because the application process and the face to face interview can be particularly distressing and confusing for those with mental health problems; and second because of the great difficulty that many with mental health problems have in explaining their condition, which increases the risk that the benefit will be wrongly refused.

 

To remedy this disadvantage, the claimants, supported by the mental health charities and by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, argued that where ESA applicants have mental health problems, the DWP should consider obtaining medical evidence from the claimant’s doctor or psychiatric team at every stage of the process, and if a decision was taken by Atos or the DWP not to ask for medical evidence, this would have to be justified at each stage. This approach followed a recommendation made in November 2012 by Professor Malcolm Harrington, an independent reviewer of the process appointed by the Government.

 

The Government refused to implement this adjustment because it argued that the system did not discriminate against people with mental health problems. As stated above, the tribunal disagreed. It ruled that the adjustment to the process recommended by Professor Harrington might be a reasonable response to the “substantial disadvantage” it had found, and urged the Government to carry out a trial to see if obtaining further medical evidence earlier in the process would make the process better for people with mental health problems. Once the new process was trialled, the tribunal asked the Government to return to court for a hearing about whether – in light of the trial – the adjustment was reasonably necessary.

 

Instead of accepting the tribunal’s findings, and conducting an urgent trial, the Government appealed to the Court of Appeal against the tribunal’s finding of “substantial disadvantage”. It also argued that the two claimants did not have the right to bring the case because they themselves had not been adversely affected. Today the Court of Appeal rejected the Government’s arguments on both these points. In giving the main judgment of the court, Lord Justice Elias stated that:

 

“the Tribunal identified various ways in which [Further Medical Evidence] would assist [people] with a range of mental disabilities, and in my judgment there was sufficient evidence to justify the conclusion that [mental health patients] were placed, as a group, at more than a trivial disadvantage”.

 

The claimants solicitor, Ravi Low-Beer of the Public Law Project, stated:

 

“It is regrettable that the Government chose to appeal against the tribunal’s finding that people with mental health problems are disadvantaged by the current system, rather than take the steps necessary to improve it. Now that the Court of Appeal has upheld the tribunal’s finding, we sincerely hope that the Government will take immediate steps to improve the system. Disabled people, charities and many others are only asking the Government to implement the recommendation of the independent expert the Government itself appointed. This has been delayed since May 2013 while the Government appealed. It should not be delayed further.”

 

For further information contact Ravi Low-Beer on r.lowbeer@publiclawproject.org.uk or 020 7843 1264.



[1] The WCA is a face to face interview conducted by healthcare professionals employed by a private company, Atos Healthcare to assess eligibility for Employment and Support Allowance. Approximately 28,000 ESA claims (some 11,000 from existing Incapacity Benefit claimants, and some 17,000 from new ESA claimants) are made each week, around 40% of them by applicants who suffer from mental health problems. The speed and quality of the Work Capability Assessment interviews and the decisions resulting from them have been consistently criticised by disabled people.

Nov 132013
 

Dr Paul Litchfield, who has been asked by DWP to carry out the 4th Independent Review of the WCA is not as independent as he seems.

He was part of the Mental Health Technical Working Group commissioned by DWP in 2006, with, among others, Sue Godby from the College of Occupational Therapists and Unum Provident, and Dr Angela Graham from Atos Origin, to develop ‘proposals from transforming the Personal Capability Assessment (the forerunner to the WCA), from an incapacity-based tool for determining entitlment to Incapacity Benefit to a more positive assessment incorporating assessment of capability and of health related interventions which would contribute to overcoming health-related barriers preventing people with disabilities  from engaging with work’.  

With new emphasis on what disabled people were able to do rather than on their limitations or on the social barriers they may encounter, the new test was what effectively became the WCA, adopting the biopsychosocial model promoted by Unum.

 

The new descriptors are a mirror image of the old ones, which recognised that some actitives could not be performed at all by a disabled person, while the new ones only recognise different levels of ‘difficulties’  for the same activity.

But this new version of PCA also makes a clear break from the old one as its intention is not only to explore disabled people’s residual functional ability but also ‘their approach and attitude to returning to work’ which is one of the main feature of the biopsychosocial model, which sees disability or sickness as a  ’state of mind’.

 

Ultimately there is a very clear conflict of interest:  Dr Paul Litchfield will have to assess the effectiveness of the WCA, in particular ‘the way that mental health conditions are considered in the WCA’ and to consider the ‘biopsychosocial factors that influence capability for work’ as part of his review.

As part of the evidence one can speculate that he will certainly also receive, like Dr Harrington, strong calls for the WCA to be scrapped.

 

And as Dr Harrington did, he will certainly respond that the Independent Reviewer has not seen or heard any compelling arguments or evidence that the whole system should be scrapped.

 

How could he not say that about the WCA? After all, he designed it.

 

See the following document which now only seems to exist on the website WhyWaitforEver or as a hardcopy in the Parliament Deposited Papers: Transformation of the Personal Capability Assessment

 

 

 

Oct 202013
 

As many of you know the DWP are appealing against the decision that the WCA is detrimental to those with mental health issues. DPAC wants to be there to support the Mental Health Resistance Network who originally won the case

The vigil will happen outside the front entrance, Royal Courts of Justice (The Strand, London, WC2A 2LL) on Monday 21st October at 12 noon until 2 pm.

The appeal will be heard in courtroom 72 Royal Courts of Justice, the case starts at 10.30 am.  

The WCA is detrimental to everyone, but the obvious added stress, anxiety and lack of Atos professionalism in gaining supporting evidence is particularly severe for those with mental health issues.

This system is breaking and we must keep up the pressure for the inhumane WCA to be scrapped completely, as DPAC has always argued.

Please check www.tfl.gov.uk for more travel information 

Accessible toilets around the royal courts:

-         There is an accessible toilet outside Embankment tube station and inside Charing Cross station.

-         There are toilets opposite the Royal Courts but these are not accessible

-         There are also accessible toilets inside the Royal Courts themselves – see page 10 of this booklet: http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/courts/rcj/facilities-and-access/Facilitiesservicesleaflet2011.pdf

 

 

Sep 292013
 

Video from Reel News – they will have a regular film night at The Grosvenor pub in Stockwell on the third Thrusday of every month…this month it’s on October 17th, the evening of the teachers strike, so they’d be doing an anti-cuts special and show films from the various strikes going on and  the DPAC actions – and have a discussion about how we can do more to link struggles together. “Obviously DPAC are at the forefront of all this, so would a few of you fancy coming down to take part? It’s relatively informal, but we usually get at least 20-30 people and often more, and stuff does get sorted out over a pint – it’s also wheelchair accessible.”

(there is a caption and transcript option (next to the clock icon) on the video)

​ATOS Healthcare carries out disability assessments on behalf of the Cameron government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).  Currently, ATOS is being investigated by the National Audit Office (NAO) in a in a a major “value for money study”.  Meanwhile, since the inception of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), 10,600 people have died within six weeks of being deemed ‘fit for work’ by ATOS healthcare professionals.

Human Cost documents ‘10,000 Cuts & Counting’, held on the 28th of September, 2013 at Parliament Square,  a ceremony of remembrance and solidarity for those who have had their lives devastated by Cameron’s austerity programmes

​Human Cost – #10kCuts #Atos from You and I Films on Vimeo.

Stay in touch with the campaign at http://www.10kcuts.org

Wow Petition http://wowpetition.com

Follow our work on Twitter @youandifilms

Please help support our work by donating to Our Vimeo Tip Jar.

 

Sep 172013
 

On the 14th October, five ILF users will appeal against the previous court decision that the ILF consultation was carried out fairly at the Royal Courts of Justice. DPAC will be there again and, again have a vigil outside the courts to show support-we will update with further details as they become available.

The initial court case showed that the funds for ILF when transferred to local authorities will cover just one year, something that local authorities did not appear to be made aware of by this Government. A write up from those documents can be found here: http://dpac.uk.net/2013/03/summary-of-secret-correspondence-from-the-dwp-to-mcvey-on-the-ilf-closure/

In the meantime you might like to see some of the stories from those at risk of losing the support to independent living at http://dpac.uk.net/independent-living-fund/