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/