Sep 082014
 

Response
(1) The Work Capability Assessment is a much more rigid test & cannot be compared with former Personal Capability Assessments.  It is inconceivable that a conclusion can be reached that the more rigid Work Capability Assessment has become easier to negotiate than the previous Personal Capability Assessment which had a lower threshold.
It is not accepted that there has been any form of significant improvement in the claims process surrounding the Work Capability Assessment.
Never before has one benefit assessment process attracted so much adverse publicity and negativity as the Work Capability Assessment.
It stands to reason that if the test is set as high bar as the Work Capability Assessment is, it logically follows that qualifying for entitlement will be far more difficult than qualifying for the previous Incapacity Benefit via the Personal Capability Assessment process used to determine eligibility for Incapacity Benefit & Income Support on the grounds of incapacity for work.
It is not accepted that any accurate comparison with Incapacity Benefit can be drawn without full regard to analysing similar cohort factors such as the ages, ICD coding, duration of claim, gender, and regions of the claimants being taken in to consideration.

(2) No comparisons can be drawn between Incapacity Benefit & Employment & Support Allowance without a proper scrutiny of a more complete set of statistics
Before drawing any analysis between Incapacity Benefit and ESA, the numbers of claimants used in the comparison including on and off flows would need to be carefully scrutinised. This is especially important where the flow rate is mixed with ib/ESA migration cases and where it can no longer be safely concluded that new ESA claimants are not in fact older claimants who have since submitted a fresh claim.
Between October 2008 and September 2013 the ESA regime has involved a total departmental case-load (across all cohorts) of 6,440,000 cases involving 4,396,400 Work Capability Assessments of which 1,198,700 were a repeat.  A case load of this magnitude requires considerable analysis across all cohorts before any accurate comparisons can be drawn between the older incapacity benefits and ESA.  The former was far less complex in cohort terms.
Between October 2008 and September 2013, 1,407,400 claimants have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group (453,300 at repeat assessment) and 1,437,300 in the Support Group (479,800 at repeat assessment).  These figures are considerably higher than those relating to the new ESA claim group in which 484,900 have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group and 445,400 have been placed in the Support Group. Far more information is required as to not only the numbers allocated to the groups but also what happens to the claimants after they have been assessed in to a placement.

(3) The DWP needs to produce statistics on appeals & reconsiderations before any reliance be can be placed on the Work Capability Assessment statistics.  Well over a million claimants have disputed the findings of Work Capability Assessments and the full dispute outcomes are as yet still unknown.
From April 2009 to December 2013, HMCTS figures confirm 1,054,541 ESA appeals have been lodged with Tribunals of which an average of 40 + % of those already heard have been overturned in the claimant’s favour.  These figures are far in excess of any related to the previous Incapacity Benefit and are an obvious indicator of significant numbers of claimants having a lack of confidence in the decision reached at initial assessment.
The DWP’s WCA statistics are inherently unreliable and cannot be read in the context of isolated quotations from quarterly releases without proper reference being made to the more specific and overall totals available.  The overall (cumulative) ‘qualifying’ rates for claimants are (up to September 2013):
-New ESA claimants 47%
-New ESA claimants at repeat assessment 78%
-IB/ESA migrated claimants 80%

Whilst it may be helpful to look at quarterly shifts in the figures, it is the overall cumulative rate which needs to change before it can be safely concluded that any material change has taken place.

The DWP’s WCA statistics are rendered inaccurate by way of the DWP’s inherently slow update of information from the inputting of the number of formal appeals lodged with HMCTS together with a total lack of explanation as to the number of initial decisions overturned informally following DWP reconsideration. This is particularly important in respect of monitoring the effects of mandatory reconsideration since October 2013.

(4) Employment & Support Allowance is an entirely different regime to that of Incapacity Benefit making any comparison unreliable.  Delays with the DWP & Atos Healthcare have resulted in a chronic backlog of 750,000 cases awaiting assessments from which no conclusions can be drawn.  The WCA statistics are made additionally complex by the influx of a case load of 1,354,800 claimants assessed from the Incapacity Benefit migration programme.
The claims process involving ESA is entirely different to that of Incapacity Benefit.  ESA involves the claimant initially being subjected to what should be a 13 week assessment phase before the Work Capability Assessment decision is decided upon by the DWP.  It is only once the assessment phase has been completed that a proper decision can be made as to whether the claimant can move in to the main WRAG/Support Group phases of ESA entitlement.  Chronic delays have built up to a point where the backlog awaiting assessment had recently reached over 750,000 claimants.  It is a clear sign that the DWP was earlier ‘over reassessing’ claimants leading to a substantial lack of residual data on outcomes and the possibility that the Department is now making less rigid placement decisions in order to get though its chronically stretched backlog.
Claimants who have undergone ib to ESA migration do not in any event claim ESA, their claim is merely converted (providing they qualify at the point of WCA conversion) and thus no comparison can be drawn between this cohort and those making a new ESA claim from scratch.

(5) Statistical manipulation
Between October 2008 and September 2013, the Work Capability Assessment statistics record that 1,551,500 claimants have been found fit for work and 1,500,900 claimants have ended their claims without completing their Work Capability Assessment. In total the overall number of claimants who seemingly should have exited Employment & Support Allowance is therefore in excess of 3 million claimants. However the DWP off flow figures for the period October 2008 to August 2013 show the numbers exiting from Employment & Support Allowance to be 2,288,980.

The number of claimants leaving Employment & Support Allowance who closed their claims is a fixed statistic, whereas the number found fit for work is reversible if the claimant appeals or requests a reconsideration.
It is hard to understand how an apparent ‘exodus’ of some 3 million plus Employment & Support Allowance claimants as shown in the assessment statistics is not matched by statistics showing a rise in the numbers claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance.
In addition to the exodus related to assessment, there are also claimants who will have died, transferred to other benefits or ended their claim through time limiting imposed upon contributory claimants in the Work Related Activity Group who cease claiming where there are no grounds upon which to continue claiming income based Employment & Support Allowance.
DWP figures, related to on-flows, show that of October 2008 to August 2013, 636,410 Employment & Support Allowance claimants made a second or more claim for Employment & Support Allowance. This will add substantially to the number of on flows and may therefore give a distorted perception over more claimants claiming as well as ‘clouding’ the influx of what may appear to be new Employment & Support Allowance claimants who are in fact previous claimants who have simply made another claim.

(6) Mistrust
Media articles including those relating to the deaths of ESA claimants such as Graham Shawcross (63), Mark Wood (44), Neil Groves (46), Lee Robinson (39), Elenore Tatton (39), Linda Wootton (49), Brian McCardle (57), Karen Sherlock (44), Trevor Drakard (50), David Groves (56) and others have created a massive mistrust in the Work Capability Assessment as a valid measure of a claimant’s ability to work.  The DWP has failed to produce any up to date statistics upon which any reliable conclusions can be drawn as to the number of deaths & whether they can be ruled out as being directly or indirectly related to the Work Capability Assessment process.
The Work Capability Assessment remains condemned by disability groups, the BMA, National Charities, senior judges and Parliamentary Select Committees. The process has been identified as unfit for purpose and of such toxicity that major re-work is required. There clearly remains widespread concern that the WCA has not improved, customers have no confidence in it in, employers are clearly not convinced by it as an accurate measure of fitness to work as evidenced by the appalling Work Programme Job Outcomes valid to March 2014:
In the New ESA claimant group, out of 484,900 in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’, just 10,760 ended up with a Job Outcome (2.2%)
In the Incapacity Benefit to ESA conversion group, out of 469,200 claimants placed in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’ just 980 ended up with a job outcome (0.2%)
In the Incapacity Benefit to ESA conversion group, out of 249,300 claimants found ‘fit for work’ just 3,160 (1.4%) ended up with a job outcome.   Whilst this appalling result is shocking in itself, it should be remembered that the DWP’s figures only point to people on JSA who have been on incapacity benefits.  These figures may therefore relate to claimants who have ended their older incapacity claims and taken up a JSA claim voluntarily without being tested for ESA.
In the overall ‘voluntary participation group’ where there is no mandatory requirement to take part (unless a claimant has agreed to participate) out of 957,500 claimants placed in the Support Group (from both new ESA and incapacity to ESA claim groups) 3,350 claimants (0.4%) ended up with a job via the Work Programme. This group does better than the mandatory groups in incapacity to ESA conversion cases.

(7) Summary
It is unsafe to draw any conclusion that it is any easier for a claimant to make a claim for Employment & Support Allowance than it was for previous range of incapacity benefits. It is not possible to make a valid comparison on the basis of comparing numbers/success. A full explanation as to how claimants made their claims and how they were assessed is required before an accurate comparison can be made.  There is simply not enough information currently available to conclude that the Harrington reviews have led to any identifiable improvement.
A rise in the numbers being placed within the Support Group and Work Related Activity Groups may be more related to the greater number of claimants involved, the appeal/reconsideration results beginning to filter through after data lag, more claimants re-applying after being turned down, less capacity within the Work Programme to handle the larger numbers involved and a reduction in the number of repeat & ib/ESA migration assessments following the announcement that Atos Healthcare were withdrawing from the contract to conduct assessments for the DWP.
For these reasons any claim that it is easier to make a claim for Employment & Support Allowance than it was for Incapacity Benefit is strongly refuted.
By Nick Dilworth.
For and on behalf of New Approach.
New Approach are committed to working with other individuals & groups, please add your signature to this statement by emailing newapproach_uk@outlook.com or in comments.

follow new Approach on twitter @newapproach_uk

website: www.http://newapproachuk.org/

Aug 142014
 

 

Has anyone experience of people being denied #ESA in annual review, reinstated on appeal, but refused back payments on technicalities?

Please get in touch with Kerry McCarthy MP

email: kerry.mccarthy.mp@parliament.uk 

Twitter:@KerryMP

Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/Kerry4MP 

Kerry McCarthy MP
326a Church Road
St. George
Bristol
BS5 8AJ

phone: 0117 939 9901 (Lines are open from Monday – Friday 10am – 1pm)

MP for East Bristol you can also contact DPAC on : mail@dpac.uk.net

twitter: dis_PPL_protest

 

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 042014
 

I’m at rock bottom right now and unable to go through writing it again. I have an appointment to see my MP tomorrow. I have copied and pasted an email I sent to his secretary earlier today. Dear Mary, I was going to write a brief summary of the main issues I’m facing right now and send them to you to save some time tomorrow, but it looks like all my benefits have just been stopped. I was due a DLA payment yesterday (Thursday 27th March) but it’s not been paid into my bank account. I signed on at the Job Centre in Stevenage on Tuesday, but the staff (My Adviser/Coach) doubt that I’m fit for work and think I should be on ESA.
I’ve done everything they’ve asked, searched for work everyday, applied for Jobs, even worked on a business plan to start my own business from home, I don’t know what more I could have done. DWP arranged an appointment for me with PLUSS a few weeks ago and after going there I felt quite optimistic, but when I went to sign on following that, their feedback was that they couldn’t help me because my health problems are too severe. I went to DAS (Depression and Anxiety Service) on 16th March, they can’t help with my Mental Health problems because they are too severe and complex.
Unless I say “I’m going to kill myself” I can’t get any help because local Mental resources are too underfunded and their caseload is too big. I DO NOT WANT TO GO INTO HOSPITAL and I would be extremely uncooperative if I was forced!!! Do you think this is Fair or Just??? What am I supposed to do??? My health problems are hard enough to deal with, without all this!!! I went from mid July last year up until a few weeks ago with nothing other than my £40 a week DLA to live on. I had £500 savings and a good credit rating before then, and a £950 overdraft which I never used until I lost my ESA at Tribunal. I got a statement from my bank this afternoon, I’m £921.12 overdrawn with an available balance of £6.20 (I don’t know how they do their maths?) I have £96 of overdraft charges being taken out of my account on 1st of April. I had come to an arrangement with housing people to pay back the outstanding rent arrears I owed when I started to receive JSA a few weeks ago and had promised a payment of £70 by tomorrow (28th March). DNRS have already tried to send the Bailiffs to my flat to take possessions for outstanding council tax arrears.
I’ve been to CAB numerous times recently. If this is how my life is going to be then what’s the point??? I can’t sleep at night because I’m so stressed out all the time, my health mental and physical are getting worse by the day. Everybody I’ve seen, my Job Centre Coach, CAB, My COPD Nurse and the Doctor I last saw (Dr Roper), PLUSS, DAS and my family ALL SAY I SHOULD BE ON ESA. I have an appointment tomorrow morning with my GP. I need immediate help, no more forms, no more appointments, NO MORE BULLSHIT!!! I refuse to live like this any longer, I can’t take anymore of the daily stress and injustice!!! I SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN IN THIS SITUATION FROM THE START!!! I’ve always been a fighter, I’ve had to survive but I’m totally exhausted now, mentally and physically… I HAVE TAKEN AS MUCH AS I CAN –
My appointment with my MP went well. I was already so angry to begin with made sure I made the most of my 15 minutes. I had written my main issues before hand so that I did not forget anything. To be fair I came away feeling he had listened to me and understood my situation. I was fluent in my arguments and never had any denial from him that what this government are doing to the most vulnerable people in this country is totally wrong. Since then I have applied for ESA again, all done over the phone this time, with help from my local CAB. My MP has also liaised with my GP so that I get to see the same doctor each time.

I have been to my local surgery twice since my meeting and the way I have been treated is 100% better. DWP asked me to get a letter from my GP to inform them of how many hours a week I was capable of working while claiming JSA. My COPD and mental health conditions have worsened considerably over the past few months and my GP signed me off sick saying in his opinion I wasn’t well enough to work, hence the claim for ESA. It’s like a merry go round and so frustrating and stressful it just makes my health and life in general suffer as a result. I stated strongly to my MP that I should never have been in this situation, and far from what Iain Duncan Smith claims to be doing. that he is helping people. My MP agreed.
I am due to receive my first ESA payment this coming Tuesday and looking forward to being able to eat properly again.

If I could give any advice to someone in a situation like mine it would be to get mad, make yourself heard with the right people. I am a fighter but fighting battles everyday to survive is tiring and wears you down. It either that or give in, I wasn’t prepared to give in with the injustices I had to face and wasn’t going to go without a fight.

Update: I received a letter this week from the DWP saying they were investigating my case. We will see what comes of it. I am still angry because of all the debt all this has got me into just trying to survive.
I will never forgive nor forget what this government has done to me and tens of thousands of others.

This is an edited version of a set of emails received by DPAC- all names and places have been changed and the author has given DPAC permission to use this to publicise the inhumane situations many are finding themselves in under the Condem regime

 

Apr 182014
 

Tribunal – Law Courts, Cathays Park, Cardiff, April 23, 2014 at 10am

Incapacity benefits – deaths of claimants

A tribunal will decide whether the Department for Work and Pensions
should be ordered to release its statistics on the number of people who
have died while claiming Incapacity Benefit or Employment and Support
Allowance, at a hearing next week.

The First-Tier Tribunal (formerly the Information Tribunal) will be
hearing an appeal by Vox Political blogger Mike Sivier, against a
decision by the Information Commissioner and the DWP to refuse a Freedom
of Information request on the subject.”

http://mikesivier.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/information-tribunal-on-deaths-of-ibesa-claimants-next-week/

Apr 182014
 

We read with interest the piece in the Independent by Rachel Reeves and Kate Green regarding Labour’s response to the Work Capability Assessment [1]

Labour should realise that disabled people are deeply distrustful of any Labour reform of a Work Capability Assessment system, which Labour introduced in the Welfare Act of 2007 with the stated aim of removing 1 million claimants from the benefit system [3].

Our position has been and will be that the Work Capability Assessment is deeply flawed in its basic concept, not just in terms of the details of its delivery, and inclusion in the workplace for disabled people cannot simply be achieved by a ‘back to work’ test.

manifesto

In the Reclaiming Our Futures, Disabled People’s Manifesto [4], we state that a priority demand from government is that:

A comprehensive and strategic plan of action is developed with disabled people and our organisations to tackle the discrimination and exclusion disabled people face in work and employment including: increasing quality and range of personalised support available to disabled people, strengthening disabled employees rights and tackling employer discrimination and poor practice

Other key demands include that:

Economic productivity must not be the only measure of people’s worth and value, volunteering offers as much value to society as paid employment. While we recognise that volunteering can offer additional skills, it should not be the default option for disabled people because of our exclusion from paid work

There must be policy and media recognition that there will always be disabled people who are unable or too ill to work. These individuals must be supported by a publically funded system. They should not be penalised or demonised as they are currently.

For true inclusion in the workplace for disabled people a wider approach is necessary including but not limited to:

• Will Labour commit to the restoration of Disabled Student’s Allowance,
• Will Labour commit to the restoration of the Independent Living Fund,
• Will Labour commit to the extension of Access to Work (AtW) to include unpaid voluntary positions,
• Will Labour commit to the reversal of the reduction of people who currently receive DLA, but will not receive PIP and also lose their Motability access,
• Will Labour commit to the reinstatement of the requirement for councils to produce equality schemes on employment and access
• Will Labour commit to the provision of accessible transport.
• Will Labour commit to the reinstatement of “day one” protection from unfair dismissal in employment law
• Will Labour commit to the provision of Employment Tribunals enforcing mandatory organisation-wide measures on preventing disability discrimination
• Will Labour commit to the provision that all government contracts, at a national, regional and local level, are only awarded to companies that are fulfilling measurable equality targets for the employment of disabled people

(for further points see reference 2)

These currently are some of the barriers to inclusion in the workplace for disabled people, and they will not be fixed by simply amending the WCA. The issue must be seen within the context of the wider interconnected system of barriers in place. It must be seen in terms of what a large majority of disabled people have already identified as key problems.

In terms of inclusion we also need from Labour, a recognition that for many disabled people to be able to work there has to be a nationally transportable social care system with a guarantee that people would keep the same levels of funding wherever they needed to move to work.

We need recognition that there is an onus on government and employers to fully accept the spirit of the Equality Act 2010 [4] with its requirement to the opening of work opportunity to disabled people. Without this, no “fit for work test” aimed at cutting disability benefits will make any impact whatsoever on the numbers of disabled people who can attain and sustain employment.

We also need from Labour a stronger recognition that there are many disabled people who cannot enter the work place and should not have to live in fear of being pressured into doing so.

There is much that the article leaves out and that leaves us with a number of serious concerns and questions.

While we are not yet prepared to endorse in any way Labour’s new approach to the Work Capability Assessment, we do see the article by Rachel Reeves and Kate Green as a helpful starting point for discussions on the future of inclusion of disabled people, who want and are able to work, in the workplace and we would welcome an opportunity to meet with them and discuss this further. We would like meet with Kate Green and Rachel Reeves to ask the following questions:

1. Will Labour commit to stop spending public money on private
contractors and return any assessments of disabled people back to GPs
with medical evidence taken into account as well as give a commitment to
look at the barriers to work for disabled people who can and want to
work (in line with the social model of disability)?

2. Will Labour commit to a time and date to talk with DPAC, My Legal,
the Mental Health Resistance Network, Black Triangle, Deaf activists,
those with learning difficulties ( with an outreach of ½ a million
disabled people) to listen to the views of the largest network of grass
roots disabled people on the WCA and ESA?

3. If Labour are committed to scrapping the WCA when will Deaf and
disabled people, and those with mental health issues have sight of the
detail of any alternative Labour is proposing?

4. If Labour accepts the harm, devastation and premature deaths that have
been an outcome of the WCA why have they chosen to suspend their
prospective parliamentary candidate for St Austell and Newquay, Deborah
Hopkins for speaking out in public about the harm caused by the WCA.

5. Will Labour address the disproportionate harm that the WCA and
sanctions on ESA and JSA are causing to all disabled people, in
particular those with mental health issues and learning difficulties?

6. We along with many others insisted that a centralised Independent Living Fund
for Scotland be established and it has been done. They have also promised to re-open ILF to new users, with a commitment of additional funds and recognition of its importance to independent living and obligations to article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Why has the Labour
Party not promised to re-establish it south of the border?

Many of the Statements included in this response are taken from the UK Disabled Peoples’ Reclaiming our Futures Manifesto and are endorsed by a UK network of disabled people and Deaf and Disabled Peoples Organisations, including: ALLFIE, Inclusion London, Equal Lives, DPAC, Inclusion Scotland, Disability Wales and the TUC Disabled Workers Committee [2], who between them reach several million disabled voters.
References
1. How Labour would reform the Work Capability Assessment http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/how-labour-would-reform-the-work-capability-assessment-9265479.html
2. The Reclaiming Our Futures, Disabled People’s Manifesto http://disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk/files/library/UK-Disabled-People-s-Manifesto-Reclaiming-Our-Futures.pdf
3. The Green Paper: The new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work. 2006 http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://dwp.gov.uk/docs/a-new-deal-for-welfare-empowering-people-to-work-full-document.pdf
4. Equality Act 2010 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents

 

Apr 072014
 

DPAC_coloured_Logo_2__biggerWe are very much looking forward to seeing everyone who can come to our national conference on Saturday but it is also important that those of you who can’t get there in person are able to take part. There are a number of ways you can do this:

  • Send messages of support and your ideas for what DPAC should focus on over the next year to mail@dpac.uk.net or @dis_ppl_protest.These will be put up on the graffiti wall at the conference and included in the notes from the day.
  • Watch the conference live on:

http://bambuser.com/channel/OccupyLondon and http://bambuser.com/channel/DPAC

  • Live tweet your questions and contributions to @dis_ppl_protest

  Or email: mail@dpac.uk.net

 The program for the day is at DPAC Conference 2014 Saturday 12th April – Conference Programme

Apr 042014
 

We’ve had a great response to bookings for the DPAC conference on Sat 12th April in London, but places are now running out. Please email:  dpacfightback@yahoo.co.uk

with your details, number of places needed and any access needs.

12th April 2014 – 11am until 5pm

London Met University, Tower Building, 166 – 220 Holloway Road, London, N7 8DP

Since we started in October 2010 Disabled People Against Cuts has been at the forefront of the fight against austerity. With Atos on the run, and the bedroom tax on the ropes we are seeing the results of hard campaigning. But there is much more to do to ensure disabled people’s rights to live independently and with an adequate income.


The national conference is a chance for DPAC members to come together, to share experiences and discuss your ideas for moving forwards.


DPAC are working hard to bring to conference a surprise guest, a person who, if anyone has, has been the catalyst for the re-emergence of disability activism in the last few years, someone DPAC has enjoyed a close relationship with from visiting him at home to donating underpants to supporting his select committee appearances.


Workshops will look at: –  Where Now for the Independent Living Fund campaign,  – Developing a Social Model of Distress,  – Winning the Argument,  – Disability, Art and Protest,  – Building a National Network of Disabled People’s Organisations and Direct Action practical skills among others.

 Please note places are limited so priority will be given to DPAC members. For information about joining please contact mail@dpac.uk.net

The venue is wheelchair accessible. BSL and a note taker will be provided. For access information go to: http://www.disabledgo.com/access-guide/islington-council/london-metropolitan-university-tower-building

For access queries including booking parking please contact DPACfightback@yahoo.co.uk
To book places or for more information please contact DPACfightback@yahoo.co.uk

 

 

 

Apr 022014
 

We are pleased that the DPAC research team’s submission to the Work and Pensions Committee has been accepted and published. We especially want to thank Anita Bellows and Bob Ellard for all their hard work on this.

Great to see submissions from our sister organisation Black Triangle, our allies, Inclusion London, WoW, Nick and Carer Watch.

We are disappointed that no formal national organisation of disabled people claiming to be run and organised by disabled people based in England appears to have submitted any text on this important issue.

The link to see all submissions is http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/inquiries/parliament-2010/esa-wca-inq-2014/?type=Written#pnlPublicationFilter

You need to scroll down the page.

We reproduce DPAC’s submission below for ease of reading

Written evidence submitted by Disabled People against Cuts (WCA0152)

 

Who we are:

DPAC is a grass roots campaign body. It was formed by a group of disabled people after the first mass protest against the austerity cuts and their impact on disabled people held on the 3rd October in Birmingham 2010, England. It was led by disabled people under the name of The Disabled Peoples’ Protest. DPAC has over 12,000 members and supporters and works with many anti-cuts groups, Universities, Disabled Peoples’ Organizations, and Unions

Introduction

1.    This document contains the Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) submission to the Work and Pensions Committee call for evidence on ESA and WCA dated 21/3/14

2.    This submission contains a number of areas of ESA and WCA that we believe demonstrate why the ESA system is fundamentally flawed both in concept and implementation and should be scrapped with immediate effect.

3.    All of the statistical claims made in this document have links provided to verifiable sources

 

WCA Descriptors

 

4.   The WCA descriptors are the criteria used to assess whether a claimant has limited capability for work, in other words whether a claimant falls within the eligibility criteria for claiming ESA, or not.

5.   The descriptors define a set of functions related to work tasks, which, if the claimant can perform to an adequate standard, the claimant is considered able to perform some paid work and therefore not eligible to receive the ESA Benefit.

6.   However we believe that the criteria for ESA eligibility are disingenuous. They take into account only functional ability, NOT the ability to hold down a job in practical terms.

7.   They do not consider such issues as:

·  Is the claimant able to work for suitable number of hours a week

·  Is the claimant able to travel a reasonable distance to and from  a job, consistently, every day.

·  Is the claimant robust enough to hold down a job, without taking an unreasonable amount of sick leave

·  The cumulative effects of physical stress on claimants with physical health conditions which induce fatigue symptons

·  The cumulative effects of mental/emotional stress on claimants with mental health conditions

·  The physical/emotional/mental stress of seeking a job

8.   Nor does it consider what physical discomfort or pain, or emotional or mental pain the claimant may encounter while employed.

9.    The WCA does not represent a finding on whether or not the claimant is employable or whether the claimant will be able to find work.

 

The ‘Gap’ between ESA and JSA Criteria

 

10.               While the WCA is commonly called a “fit for work” test, it does not actually test whether a claimant is fit for (ie capable of doing) work.

11.               The WCA tests whether claimants have the ability to perform certain limited work related functions as defined by the WCA Descriptors

12.              Whereas the criteria  for eligibility for the alternative benefit Jobseekers Allowance include the clauses that a claimant must be:

·                        be able and available for work

·                        be actively seeking work

13.              Thus is stands to reason that there are many who will be found ineligible for ESA but not able to meet the practical requirements being able to find and hold down a job and are thus ineligible for both benefits.

14.We do not know how many claimants have found themselves in this position, as the government do not monitor this, and provide no statistics from which we can exptrapolate or estimate a number, but we believe that there will be a significant number of Disabled claimants who fall into this trap and are denied income from either ESA or JSA .

 

Health Care Professionals performing the WCA

 

15.              The majority of Healthcare Professionals that perform Work Capability Assessments on claimants are Nurses, Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists, with a lesser number of Doctors and “Mental Function Champions”

16.              While we do not dispute that these Health Care Professionals are qualified and have experience as Nurses, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, etc, we do dispute that this is sufficent to judge a persons’ capability to work, given the panopoly of condition types that any Healthcare professional will be required to assess.

17.              The range of condition types that an HCP will be presented with include:

·                        Stable Physical Conditions

·                        Fluctuating Physical Conditions

·                        Mental Health Conditions (ranging from mild to extremely severe)

·                        Behavioral Conditions

·                        Cognitive Conditions

·                        Learning Conditions

·                        Autism Spectrum Disorders

·                        Degenerative Conditions

·                        Physical Conditions where the claimant is expected to return to full health

·                        Terminal Conditions

18.              In addition it is not uncommon for claimants to simultaneously have multiple condition types such as a mental and physical health condition.

 

WCA and mental health

 

19.              From the start, the descriptors were recognised as inadequate at capturing the level and the complexity of mental illnesses, and the problems faced by claimants in making a claim or an appeal were already recognised by Judge Martin in his 2008-2009 Report:

20.              ‘Mental health issues are a continuing source of problems in terms of making claims and assessing the impact of mental health issues on disability. In some cases mental health issues were not fully addressed or given due weight’.

21.              Following Professor Harrington’s recommendations, DWP accepted to amend the descriptors to better capture mental health issues and to introduce Atos Mental Function Champions in each assessment Centre to ‘spread best practice amongst Atos healthcare professionals in mental, intellectual and cognitive.  Although it has led to an increase of claimants with mental health issues being awarded ESA, and especially being placed in the Support Group, the statistics tell a different story. 

22.              Official DWP figures confirm that in the 2008 quarter from June to August, two months before Employment & Support Allowance was introduced, 153,050 claimants took up a claim for incapacity benefits, around a third of them (56,730) on the grounds of mental and behavioural problems. 

23.              By the end of the November 2012 quarter, the number of claimants taking up or being transferred on to Employment & Support Allowance had spiralled to 316,950 claims with nearly 140,000 of them (135,990) making a claim on the grounds of mental and behavioural problems – nearly 3 times as many as four years previously, but also representing a higher proportion in the total number of claims (44% against 37%). 

24.In the November 2012 quarter, 25,950 of the claimants who took up a claim ESA on mental health grounds had been on the allowance on one or more previous occasions. These figures show a perpetual cycle of claimants and reclaiming, those with mental health problems being by far the most susceptible to making a re-claim.

ESA claimants with mental illness are disproportionally sanctioned

25.              The latest DWP statistics on Employment and Support Allowance published in January 2014 show in Table 7 the Outcomes at initial functional assessment split into International Classification of Diseases.

26.              The total number of ESA claimants is 834,500 (WRAG 467,400 + SG 367,100), of which 339,200 (WRAG 193,100 + SG 146,100) of them fall under the Category ‘Mental and behavioural disorders’. It means that this group of claimants accounts for 40% of all illnesses, but because 193,100 (57%) have been placed in the WRAG, proportionally, this group is already more exposed to sanctions than any other groups. 

27.              A recent response to a FOI request confirms that claimants with mental health issues are not only sanctioned disproportionally, but also exposed twice to more sanctions and hit harder than any other groups.

28.Even before the introduction of the stricter sanction regime, there were already a higher number of claimants with mental health issues being sanctioned. But the latest figures disclosed show that 5,940 claimants with mental health issues were sanctioned out of 10,210 ESA sanctioned claimants (58%) in 2013. 

29.              The figure in 2012 was 54% when these claimants only account for 40% of all illnesses.  Since October 2011, on average the rate of sanctions for claimants with mental and behavioural conditions has been exactly one third (33%) higher than for other claimants, as the graph shows[1].

index

 

30.              This is a trend, for which the Citizens Advice Bureau had already provided anecdoctal evidence,

31.              ‘Bureau experience is that vulnerable clients (e.g. those with mental health problems or minor learning difficulties) are disproportionately sanctioned.’ (http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/citizens_advice_bureaux_foodbank_survey) but which is now confirmed by DWP statistics.

32.              This has to be seen in the context of the number of people with mental health issues placed onto the Work Programme. The latest Work Programme statistics (20th March 2014) show that this group constitutes the majority of ESA claimants on the Work Programme (65%), although as noted previously they account for only 40% of illnesses.

33.              Not only are a disproportionate number being placed in the WRAG, but an additional disproportionate number are being put onto the Work Programme, compared with ESA claimants with other illnesses or disabilities. The job outcomes for this group, as shown by the latest statistics, are very poor: only 4,2% of the 131,480 claimants referred to the programme in this group have a job outcome.

34.              Not only is the WCA failing people with mental health issues by putting a disproportionate number of them in the WRAG on a shorter prognosis, and a disproportionate number of them onto the Work Programme, resulting in very poor job outcomes, but it also seems that because of the nature of their illnesses, they are the claimants having most difficulty adhering to the conditionality regime, or that they are seen by Job Centre staff as easy targets for sanctions as documented by the CAB, leading to a disproportionate number of them being sanctioned when compared to other ESA claimants.

35.              Ultimately, they would be the very people whose health is likely to worsen as a result of the failings of the WCA and of the consequences of having been put into the WRAG. 

 

WCA Appeals

36.              The latest figures published by Her Majesties’ Courts & Tribunals Service in March 2014 show a dramatic reduction in the number of Social Security & Child Support appeals lodged directly with Tribunals. This is the result of the introduction of ‘Mandatory Reconsiderations’ which is a DWP internal dispute resolution process, aimed at reducing the number of appeals directly lodged with Tribunals.

37.              These Mandatory Reconsiderations have had a substantial effect on the number of appeals lodged against an ESA decision. Only 32,969 ESA appeals were received between October and December 2013 compared with 111,817 in the first quarter of 2013/2014 and 76,456 in the second quarter.

38.              The number of ESA appeals ‘cleared at hearings’ in the third quarter of 2013/14 has significantly increased with 83,202 being heard, of which 45% were in the claimant’s favour. This is the highest success rate for claimants ever recorded. This compares with 58,276 in the same quarter of 2012/2013 when the success rate was 42%.  The overall number of cleared ESA Tribunal hearings in 2012/2013 was 224,375 with an average success rate of 43%.  

39.              The drastic reduction in the number of appeals lodged directly with Tribunals makes it even more urgent for the government to publish statistics on the number of ESA decisions which have been overturned in claimants’favour through mandatory reconsiderations.

40.Benefit claimants are the only group to be denied direct access to a Tribunal and therefore to Justice, although the fees introduced for Employment Tribunals also had the effect of substantially reducing the number of claims
 

WCA and Legal Aid

 

41.              On 1 April 2013, the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act(‘LASPO’) came into effect.

42.              Clause 15 of Part 2 of Schedule 1 of this Act excludes all welfare benefit issues.

43.              Welfare benefit cases no longer qualify for advice or assistance under the Legal Help scheme, not even for initial advice to identify justiciable issues under social security law, or to provide a triage role to steer cases away from tribunal and ensure that benefit claims are processed correctly.

44.              The Government’s view is that as these are matters of ‘administrative justice’ issues in which decision making, adjudication and dispute resolution systems are accessible to claimants acting on their own, and that given the underlying issues are financial, they should be of minimal priority for public funding.

45.              The government also says that legal aid is:

46.              “still available for civil legal services provided in relation to an appeal on a point of law to the Upper Tribunal, the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court relating to a benefit, allowance, payment, credit or pension” (Point 157)

47.              But as Judge Robert Martin points out in his response to the Ministry of Justice Consultation Paper on Legal Aid (page 8, paragraph 40):

48.              ‘An appeal against the tribunal’s decision in a welfare benefits case lies to the Upper Tribunal but only for error of law ….. These limitations of further “appeal” are often not appreciated by parties without Legal Help, who may fruitlessly seek to appeal further simply because dissatisfied with the outcome’

49.              Although the government says that claimants can represent themselves, at a time when the UK’s social security system faces arguably the biggest upheaval since the introduction of the Welfare State, the Government should have recognised that the need for advice on welfare benefits has never been greater.

50.              It should also have recognised the complexity of the benefit changes affecting disabled people.

51.              Disabled people make up a disproportionate proportion of 58 per cent of those who receive legal aid for welfare benefits cases.

52.              The Government’s own Equalities Impact Assessment (page 64, paragraph 7.36) notes that:

53.              the proposals have the potential to disproportionately affect female clients, BAME clients, and ill or disabled people, when compared with the population. This is as a result of those groups being overrepresented as users of civil legal aid services’. 

54.              The removal of Legal Aid for benefit claimants needs to be seen in the context of cuts to legal aid funding with £320m cut from the annual £2bn legal aid budget and the closures of 100 of Citizen Advice Bureau offices which used to support the most people with access to legal advice and representation. 

55.According to the government’s own assessment, around 600,000 people will lose access to advice and legal representation, when CAB advisers estimate the success rate at ESA appeal where someone receives specialist CAB advice and is represented is around 80 per cent.

WCA Mandatory Reconsideration

 

56.              In October 2013, DWP has introduced changes to the appeals system; a claimant wishing to appeal a fit for work decision will no longer be able to submit their appeal to DWP, which would lodge the appeal with HMCTS (tribunals) on behalf of the claimant. 

57.              There will now be a first step known as Mandatory Reconsiderationwhich is an internal DWP process.

58.              This has serious implications for claimants:

59.              As admitted in the government response, there are no timescale for completion of the Mandatory Reconsideration process, as shown in the response to this Freedom of Information Request

60.              If someone’s claim has been disallowed completely, they will not receive payment pending Mandatory Reconsideration as was the case previously when somebody was allowed to appeal the same decision. DWP is suggesting that claimants should claim other benefits, such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, but there is evidence that some people are being refused JSA on the basis that they cannot, because of health issues fulfill all the conditions attached to this benefit.  

61.              If DWP refuses to Reconsider the case, the claimant will not be allowed to proceed to appeal

62.              There is absolutely no indication or evidence that the UK government has taken any steps whatsover to reduce the stress or anxiety inherent in the Work Capability Assessment for benefit claimants.

63.              The WCA is inherently stressful for claimants, because of the uncertainty of such a notoriously unreliable system where there are frequent media reports of incorrect decisions. Claimants are forced to wait long durations trapped in a bureaucracy that shows no compassion, not knowing if they will be judged “fit for work” and required to seek work, whether or not their medical condition makes that possible.

64.              Claimants are understandably fearful that their benefits will be stopped, at the end of a process that they have no control over.

65.              This is particularly harmful to claimants with Mental Health Conditions, especially those in the class of anxiety disorders as described in DSM-IV   .

66.The following media articles give anecdotal evidence of the stress and anxiey caused by undergoing the Work Capability Assessment, in addition, video testimony is given in this evidence session to the Scottish Parliament on the WCA

 

21 March 2014

 

 


[1]                            This graph was compiled by Dr David Webster, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Urban Studies, University of Glasgow, based on the figures released by DWP.

Also please note that DPAC has over 20,000 members and supporters and an outreach of over 45,000 disabled people

 

Apr 022014
 

It strikes me that not enough mention is being made of the important victory in the Court of Appeal in the case of [2013] EWCA Civ 1565 Case No: C3/2013/1626/SSTRF IN THE COURT OF APPEAL (CIVIL DIVISION) ON APPEAL FROM THE UPPER TRIBUNAL ADMINISTRATIVE APPEALS CHAMBER) Mr Justice Charles sitting with Upper Tribunal Judges Jacobs and Lane Case Nos. JR/2638 & 2639/2012 CO/2385/2012.

You can download the judgement here and read about what it means here. I also consider that an important investigation called ‘Who benefits?’ in to the ‘The benefits assessment and death of Ms DE’ by Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland which you can refer to here has a relevance to the tragic consequences of what can go wrong if the right decision is not made for lack of obtaining the right evidence.

It is of paramount importance that anyone with mental health problems who is facing having to complete an ESA50 or who has had a decision which the DWP say does not qualify them for Employment & Support Allowance (particularly if it involves a transfer from older incapacity benefits) seeks specialist help from an experienced welfare benefit specialist.

Regrettably we cannot deal with cases on an individual basis on this forum, but if you have a question about the procedure then by all means ask one on this thread and I’ll do my best to answer it in due course.

An important part of the Court’s finding is the recognition of the following:

“Decision-makers should actively consider the need to seek further documentary evidence in every claimant’s case. The final decision must be justified where this is not sought.”

“41. Given the unique circumstances of their condition, particular care should be taken when the claimant has a mental, intellectual or cognitive condition as these individuals may lack insight into the effects of their condition on their day-to-day functioning.”

The drastic consequences of not seeking further medical evidence are clearly outlined in the report in to the death of a claimant allegedly affected by the Work Capability Assessment.

Fundamentally the Court of Appeal recognised the many instances where claimants may not disclose details of a mental health problem to the DWP or their contracted healthcare professional of their own accord.  The difficulties are summarised in the judgement as follows:

31. From that detailed evidence, the Upper Tribunal identified the following particular problems which MHPs as a group face, whilst recognising that the extent to which any particular MHP will suffer from these problems will vary.

“(i) In terms of filling out a form, seeking additional evidence and answering questions, claimants with [mental
health problems] as a class have the following problems and difficulties because of their [mental health problems],
some of which overlap:

a) insufficient appreciation of their condition to answer questions on the ESA50 correctly without help,

b) failure to self-report because of lack of insight into their condition,

c) inability to self-report because of difficulties with social interaction and expression,

d) inability to self-report because they are confused by their symptoms,

e) inability because of their condition to describe its effects properly,

f) difficulty in concentrating and in understanding the questions asked,

g) unwillingness to self-report because of shame or fear of discrimination,

h) failure to understand the need for additional evidence because of cognitive difficulties,

i) problems with self-motivation because of anxiety and depression which may prevent them approaching professionals for help and assistance,

j) false expectation that conditions will be understood without them needing additional help, and

k) lack of understanding that professionals named in the form will not automatically be contacted in the assessment process.

ii) in terms of further aspects of the process for the determination of their entitlement to ESA, claimants with
MHPs as a class have or have to face the following problems and difficulties because of their MHPs:

a) particular conditions (e.g. agoraphobia and panic attacks and autism spectrum disorder) make attending and/or travelling to a face-to-face assessment difficult,

b) finding the process itself intimidating and stressful, and, in some cases, that having a long-lasting negative effect on their condition,

c) a desire to understate conditions,

d) the masking of health problems as physical problems,

e) dealing with assessors who have little or no experience of mental health problems,

f) the difficulties of identifying many symptoms of a condition and its impact on what a person needs without proper training and knowledge,

g) the lack of time during a short assessment to identify a person’s needs,

h) fluctuation in condition, and

i) scepticism about the condition.”

32. It is important to note that these problems fall into two categories, although they overlap. Some of these difficulties go to the adverse experience which might be felt because of what, from the vantage point of some MHPs, will be perceived to be stressful, embarrassing or confusing features of the process, in particular the completion of the questionnaire and the face to face interview. Other difficulties lead to the decision maker having inadequate or even false information about the nature and extent of the illness thereby increasing the risk that a false functional assessment will be made which in turn may jeopardise the right to an ESA. I will call these “adverse experiences” and “outcome effects” respectively.

My note

Whilst the judgement places an emphasis on the DWP seeking further medical evidence in mental health cases, the reality is that in many cases the DWP fails to do so.  In the investigative report in to the death to which I have referred it appears for instance that the claimant’s doctor was not contacted and asked to complete what is called an ESA 113 report.

There is nothing to prevent a claimant when completing the ESA 50, especially when assisted by someone, to point out that they specifically want the DWP to obtain further medical evidence from their own doctor or clinicians.  A claimant could for instance write something along the following lines:

“I have severe mental health problems and find it impossible to describe them in this form.  Please ensure that you contact my doctor (or other named clinician) and ask them for full details of my mental health problems.  I believe this is necessary to make a proper decision on my claim.”

In long term claims it may also be relevant to state:

“You already hold details of my long term mental health problems and I am asking you to make sure these are made fully available to the decision – maker who is looking at my claim.  I believe these details to be very relevant to getting the full picture and vital to a correct decision being made.”

In Incapacity Benefit cases where you have been asked to undergo an assessment for Employment & Support Allowance, the following may be relevant (most claims have now now been ‘migrated’ according to the DWP).
 

When you receive the ESA 50, make an appointment to speak with your doctor either by phone or at the surgery.  This is particularly important where you have not seen your doctor for some time.  Tell your doctor you are being reassessed and ask for a review of the time since you were last seen by the doctor.  This allows you to update your doctor and tell him or her of any problems you have faced since you were last seen, it also means the doctor is better equipped to comment if the DWP contacts them.  It also makes it possible for you to bring matters to the attention of your doctor over which they may be unaware.  You could for instance talk to them about declining levels of social confidence and any fears you have about meeting people or facing certain situations.

The reason this is important is because in incapacity benefit to ESA cases, no medical certificate is required at the commencement of the ‘conversion phase’.  You only need a medical certificate if the DWP assesses you and finds you fit for work and you want to appeal.   The rules are different to new claims for ESA where medical certificates are required at the very start of your claim in the ‘assessment phase’.  In migration cases the ‘prompt’ to speak with your doctor about a certificate only arises once you have already been assessed.

Claimants who have been refused ESA in cases where mental health was relevant (even if the DWP did not know of this) and no attempt was made to obtain further medical evidence by the DWP should consider an appeal.

There will be more on this in subsequent posts.

With thanks to the brilliant nick at http://ilegal.org.uk

Please follow on twitter: @Mylegalforum

Mar 232014
 

Fit for Work or Survival of the Fittest? We need to Act Now to make our Voices Heard!

How can we restore dignity to disabled Welfare Benefits?

Market Hall, Assembly Rooms, Chesterfield Sat 29th 11am-4pm

Speakers

Richard Exell-TUC

Kate Green -MP Shadow minister of State for Equalities

Debbie Jolly -DPAC

Sue Marsh- Spartacus

Plus Dead Earnest Theatre Company

Food available

Ring or text Colin on 0787 387999

For info/access requirements

Unite Community membership

Welfare poster 2014

Mar 142014
 

See below for a template covering letter citing case law that ‘obliges Decision Makers to take into account the relevance of a claimant’s existing DLA award when considering a Work Capability Assessment’

Date

 

 

ATOS Healthcare

SW95 9EB

 

Dear Sir/Madam

Re: M

 

We write on behalf of the above-named person. His authorisation to correspond is attached.

 

We helped M.. complete the enclosed ESA50 form.

 

M….short description

 

He gets highest rate care of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) because of his many care needs. He is also, for obvious reasons, in receipt of the higher rate mobility component of DLA. While we are aware that DLA has a different focus to ESA, case law (JW v SSWP (ESA) [2012] UKUT 256 (AAC)CE/2894/2011)obliges Decision Makers to take into account the relevance of a claimant’s existing DLA award when considering a Work Capability Assessment—there may be sufficient “common ground” for one to provide material evidence in respect of the other.

 

We are concerned that there would be substantial risk to M….s’ health if he were found not to have Limited Capability for Work (Regulation 29 ESA Regs.) or if he were found not to have Limited Capability for Work-Related Activity (Regulation 35 ESA Regs.). And given the level of care he requires, we cannot see what reasonable adjustments any prospective employer or JCPlus Claimant Adviser could put in place to lessen that risk.

 

In light of the above, we would ask that M….. be placed in the Support Group of ESA without having to undergo a Work Capability Assessment.

 

Yours faithfully

 

The use of these regs by doctors and welfare advisors has also been part of a long campaign by our sister group Black Triangle Campaign.

Attached is a piece of case law saying that a physiotherapist opinions re a claimant with mental health problems has no probative value whatsoever.   The reference is at paragraph 22.  

 This case law is very useful to include in ESA applications and WCA appeals so please pass to any Welfare Benefits advocacy/advisors or use yourself.  

This information has been proven to contribute to a high success rate re ESA/WCA

 Case law:SKMBT_C45114031409590

  

 

Mar 142014
 

We are beginning to see the results of several years of campaigning against unjust welfare reforms that target disabled people. But Atos attempting to pull out of its contract (Report, 22 February) represents only a partial victory. Other private corporations are already lining up to take over. So long as the work capability assessment (WCA) regime continues, so will the misery it causes to disabled people and their families, and to the workers involved in implementing a system they don’t agree with.

The WCA should be replaced immediately with a rigorous and safe system that does not cause avoidable harm to disabled people or those with chronic health issues or terminal illnesses. The UK government and opposition should follow the Scottish government’s pledge that private for-profit companies are removed entirely from having anything to do with the assessment of disabled people. This area of public policy belongs firmly within the NHS and the public sector.

The PIP contract must be removed from Atos with immediate effect: targets in its handling of the WCA have affected thousands of disabled people, leading to hastened deaths, waits of up to a year, and leaving people without income or food.


Linda Burnip Co-founder, Disabled People Against Cuts
Tracey Lazard CEO, Inclusion London
John McArdle Co-founder, Black Triangle
Mark Serwotka General secretary, PCS Union
Frances O’Grady General secretary, TUC
John McDonnell MP
Len McCluskey General secretary, Unite
Francesca Martinez WOW petition
Pat Onions Pat’s Petition
Rosemary O’Neill CarerWatch
Sean Vernell National secretary, Unite the Resistance
Eileen Short Chair, National Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation
Rev Paul Nicolson Taxpayers Against Poverty
Claire Glasman WinVisible (women with visible & invisible disabilities)
Ariane Sacco WinVisible
Mark Harrison CEO, Equal Lives
Kevin Caulfield Chair, Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition Against Cuts
Rahel Geffen CEO, Disability Action in Islington
Lyla Adwan-Kamara Merton Centre for Independent Living
Shaun O’Regan Southwark Benefit Justice Campaign
Barry McDonald Chair, Bromley Experts by Experience
Ian Hodson National president, Bakers Food & Allied Workers Union
Ronnie Draper General secretary, Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union
Mick Carney National president, Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association
Manuel Cortes General secretary, Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association
Sean McGovern Unite executive councillor
Rob Murthwaite Equalities rep, UCU London region
Mike Cox Norfolk Disabled People Against Cuts
Dr Stephen Carty Medical adviser, Black Triangle Campaign
Debbie Jolly Co-founder, Disabled People Against Cuts
Andy Greene Islington Disabled People Against Cuts
Ellen Clifford Croydon Disabled People Against Cuts
Paula Peters Bromley Disabled People Against Cuts
Conan Doyle London Disabled People Against Cuts
Bob Ellard National steering committee, Disabled People Against Cuts
Anita Bellows National steering committee, Disabled People Against Cuts
Ciara Doyle National steering committee, Disabled People Against Cuts
Roger Lewis National steering committee, Disabled People Against Cuts
Jane Bence WOW petition
Rick Burgess WOW petition

March 3rd To see other letters:  http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/mar/03/grim-toll-fit-for-work-tests

 

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
 

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

 

 

 

Feb 132014
 

DPAC support the ATOS demo on Feb 19th. Due to the use of the DPAC logo on some of the posters showing DPAC support we’ve had loads of emails about this. So just to set the record straight- DPAC are not organising the Feb 19th Demos.

We are not responsible for the 8am starts in some areas and accept that these timings will often be difficult for many disabled people. Please contact your local organisers on this, not us.

There may be DPAC speakers, there may be DPAC people at this- and why would we not be there? DPAC along with UKUncut organised the successful ATOS Games across the UK in 2012, so we’re really pleased to see a set of national and local disabled people taking this up again two years on. Big thanks go to Tom Smith and others for mobilising everyone….

The info for all demos is on Facebook along with specific pages for local demos.

https://www.facebook.com/ATOSNationalDemo?fref=ts

Any disabled people wanting to speak about their experiences or to have something read out from them on their behalf should contact a local organiser to arrange this. 

see also

http://ukrebellioncom.ipage.com/atosdemo/

We wish everyone a safe and peaceful action

Feb 092014
 

There will be an inquiry into Employment and Support Allowance and the Work Capability Assessment. The committee are asking for submissions from you. DPAC will be sending a submission of the misery, destitution and deaths this process is causing. The deadline for receipt by the committee is March 21st

We ask you to take this opportunity to add to further evidence, if you would like to send experiences to DPAC to send on your behalf please email: mail@dpac.uk.net  with the subject line: ESA WCA inquiry

Otherwise, the details of how to send written experiences and data are copied below:

The Committee’s inquiry

In light of recent developments in this area, including the publication of a number of reviews of the WCA, expressions of concern from DWP regarding Atos’s performance in delivering the WCA, and the introduction of mandatory reconsideration, the Committee has decided to undertake an inquiry into ESA and WCAs to follow-up its 2011 report.

Submissions of no more than 3,000 words are invited from interested organisations and individuals.

The Committee is particularly interested to hear views on:

  • Delivery of the WCA by Atos, including steps taken to improve the claimant experience
  • The effectiveness of the WCA in indicating whether claimants are fit for work, especially for those claimants who have mental, progressive or fluctuating illnesses, including comparison with possible alternative models
  • The process and criteria for procuring new providers of the WCA
  • The ESA entitlement decision-making process
  • The reconsideration and appeals process
  • The impact of time-limiting contributory ESA
  • Outcomes for people determined fit for work or assigned to the WRAG or the Support Group
  • The interaction between ESA and Universal Credit implementation

Submissions do not need to address all of these points.

The deadline for submitting evidence is Friday 21 March.

How to submit your evidence

To encourage paperless working and maximise efficiency, select committees are now using a new web portal for online submission of written evidence. The web portal is available on our website.

The personal information you supply will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purposes of attributing the evidence you submit and contacting you as necessary in connection with its processing.

Each submission should:

  • be no more than 3,000 words in length
  • be in Word format with as little use of colour or logos as possible
  • have numbered paragraphs

If you need to send a paper copy please send it to: The Clerk, Work and Pensions Committee, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA

Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a web link to the published work should be included.

Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. It is the Committee’s decision whether or not to accept a submission as formal written evidence.

Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.

The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

Further guidance on submitting evidence to Select Committees is available on the parliamentary website (PDF PDF 2.41 MB)Opens in a new window.

  

Jan 262014
 

As if we hadn’t had enough benefit bashing via Channel 4 with their highly dubious misrepresentation of everyone on benefits as accurately represented by the carefully selected participants of Benefit Street, it seems the BBC has joined the fray in their highly misleading (and factually wrong) headlines informing us: ‘Million sickness benefit applicants ‘fit for work’.’

I completely agree with Mike Sivier of Vox Political who accuses the “BBC of being a mouthpiece for the Tory party”, he’s wisely encouraging people to write in and complain.  It’s good advice to those who are incensed by the right wing media’s continual portrayal of everyone on benefits as low life scum.

So you know what you have to do; complain in your droves!

What the BBC won’t tell you is that over 5 million of you have been subjected to the humiliating & Support Allowance regime in terms of original claims, reassessments and transfers from existing benefits.  Whilst the overall claimant count hovers around 2.5 million, lightning has a nasty habit of striking more than once and thousands of you will have been repeatedly struck by the absolute chaos which surrounds the DWP’s handling of this particular benefit.  So hopefully there should be no shortage of complaints to the BBC.

But before doing so, I would encourage you to get ‘clued up’ on the facts which the BBC (and no doubt the papers which will follow) make no attempt to explain, as with so many of these reports they only give you half the story (well in this case considerably less) ……

For some extraordinary reason the DWP and media have an almost obsession with ‘new claims’ for the dreaded Employment & Support Allowance.  On nearly every statistical release the accent is principally on new claims, it’s not hard to understand why; they invariably provide the public with more sensationalist headlines over ‘millions being found fit for work or ‘closing their claims without an assessment’ (by the awful Atos ‘Healthcare’ who conduct the controversial examinations under £100 million contracts with the DWP).

Here’s what they don’t tell you….

Over 2.3 million cases are being left out of the BBC’s figures
leaving out claimant success rates of up to 88%.

Why leave out 88% claimant success rates?

Searching for Facts vs. Fiction - Magnifying Glass


In excess of 2.3 million incapacity benefit cases (each one yielding a result) being tested under the much stricter ‘Employment & Support Allowance’ regime and those who are ‘examined’ on a second, third or even fourth occasion are being completely left out of the figures.

Had the BBC fully reported the facts, they would have had to go in to the nasty truth which gets in the way of a good story.  They could have told you all how in the six months between October 2012 and May 2013 an average of 83% of 1,078,200 incapacity claimants were passing their assessments and 88% of those 1,332,300 ‘repeatedly assessed’ were re-qualifying for the allowance.

But the Beeb buried the good news.

Instead they chose to home in only new claimants who score a lower ‘pass’ rate at what the DWP incorrectly cite as an ‘initial’ assessment’.  The BBC cites an average of 32% of ‘new applicants’ being found ‘fit for work’ between 2008 and 2013.  I’m not sure where the BBC get the figure from as it’s more correctly an average of 46% for new claimants being found ‘fit for work’ with 54% qualifying for the allowance following assessment.  The figure rises to 60% when we look at the last six months to May 2013, I’ll come back to my reservations over these figures later on in this thread.

The BBC headlines are meaningless unless considered with the context of all the available facts.  It just looks like more of the same propaganda aimed at making us think people are coming off benefits and back in the work market.


Why doesn’t the BBC challenge the bigger picture? 

 

nick chart


Don’t they possess a calculator?


Let me show you what everyone out there seems to be missing, you’ll need to follow something which sadly seems too challenging for the BBC….

The BBC article tells us that very close to 2 million people have come off the sick either as a result of being found ‘fit for work’ or ‘closing their claims before being assessed’.   The clear intention of the BBC is to infer 2 million people should not have been claiming the sick and should instead be in the labour market, meaning either looking for work or in work.

The DWP tables for October 2008 to May 2013 tells us that the figure for ALL claimants found fit for work is in fact
1,453,400 and the numbers closing their claims amounts to 1,298,400 making a grand total of……


2,751,800 allegedly ready for labour market

Why didn’t the BBC give us the figure for ALL claimants?

I’d suggest; because they knew it would open up a can of worms for a government which they continually support with misleading articles when it comes to reporting on those ‘on the sick’.

Given that the above figures relate to the entire time the ESA assessment programme has been running (since 2008) it is is necessary to align the ESA figures with the time the Coalition has been in power.  This enables us to analyse how many (of ALL ESA claimants) have been found either ‘fit for work’ or who have ‘closed their claims before assessment’ since May 2010 to May 2013. The latest DWP figures available is (it will be even higher now):

1,856,100 allegedly ready for labour market
under Coalition

This infers that the Coalition has found 1.85 million claimants ready and able to enter the labour market.  Claimants in this position would generally claim Jobseeker’s Allowance or attempt to find work, (some will however neither claim or work). When it comes to work bear in mind that the Coalition claim to have found ‘1 million extra jobs’, it’s not enough to give everyone seemingly ‘coming off the sick’ a position in employment – it’s 856,100 short.

But remember, it’s NOT just the sick who are looking for work, we also need to consider other working age groups as others will potentially have to position themselves towards the labour market after coming off working age benefits, we also need to consider how many of our 1.85 million may perhaps claim another working age benefit.  The way we do is to check the DWP cumulative figures for ALL working age benefits and make a comparison between May 2010 and May 2013.

This is replicated copy and paste of a DWP table:

Quarter     

Total

JSA

Incap
/ESA


Lone parents


Carers     

Other
Income Based    


Disabled      

Bereaved

May-10

Aug-10

Nov-10

Feb-11

May-11

Aug-11

Nov-11

Feb-12

May-12

Aug-12

Nov-12

Feb-13

May-13

5,747.83  
5,744.64

5,685.60

5,765.34

5,709.55

5,802.82

5,778.16

5,881.70

5,753.88

5,708.22

5,636.79

5,695.38

5,541.49

1,354.62

1,349.71

1,328.91

1,438.67

1,404.14

1,482.86

1,478.43

1,589.64

1,484.07

1,471.07

1,443.54

1,514.37

1,371.62

2,613.10

2,606.61

2,586.42

2,578.66

2,570.22

2,582.18

2,575.60

2,557.68

2,528.14

2,517.07

2,499.96

2,475.67

2,456.47

679.15

672.35

648.3

613.78

595.4

595.29

581.62

584.17

577.08

545.24

510.06

504.89

499.73

430.23

439.43

445.44

450.42

456.06

465.99

470.96

477.15

486.94

495.71

504.13

513.61

523.64

192.19

191.38

192.03

191.76

187.18

180.08

174.91

169.11

164.96

159.9

156.01

151.26

147.79

390.81

396.81

399.38

406.31

411.01

413.11

413.84

420.7

429.51

437.17

442.2

454.31

460.53

87.74

88.36

85.11

85.75

85.55

83.3

82.79

83.25

83.17

82.06

80.89

81.26

81.7

Now let’s look at the difference within the same working age benefits by comparing 2010 against 2013….


Total

JSA


Incap/
ESA


Lone
Parents

Carers

Other
income
based

Disabled

Bereaved


Difference
between
2010
& 2013 >

 -206,340     

+17,000     

-156,630   

-179,420  

+93,410   

-44,400  

+69,720 

-6,040

These revealing figures show how the claimant count has risen or fallen in terms of actual claimant numbers recorded by the DWP unlike the ONS figures who collate the data using a ‘labour market survey’.

That’s how the ONS can provide more up to date figures than the DWP, the DWP work at a much slower pace and can only count claimants up to May 2013.  None the less the DWP claimant count is the one which most accurately informs us how many claimants are within the DWP system.

What we can see from these figures is this:

The numbers on JSA has actually increased by 17,000

The numbers on incapacity / ESA has fallen by 156,630

There are 179,420 fewer lone parents

93,410 more people are carers

Other income based claims are down by 44,400

The DWP aren’t too clear over their definition of ‘disabled’ within the claimant count

And finally, Bereavement claims are down by 6,040

The total reduction in ALL the main working age claims is 206,340 under the Coalition


Remember these are the actual claimant count figures derived from the DWP and therefore hard for anyone to refute, they are designated a reliable National statistic and are not based on surveys but on an actual measure of those claiming benefits.

So what conclusions can we draw



From the facts since May 2010?

Well, despite what the BBC tell you about nearly 2 million being identified as ready to hit the labour markets, the reality is they have under-quoted the overall figure, it’s actually 1,856,100 found either ‘fit for work’ or having ‘closed their claims before assessment’.  There’s no way 1.8 million claimants have somehow magically disappeared from the incapacity claim count (including ESA) because the DWP’s own figures confirm the overall numbers have only reduced by 156,630 since May 2010; it’s all there in black and white.

The BBC have failed to look at whether the numbers being found fit for work or closing their claims has materially made any difference to the claimant count; in short there is very little impact upon the overall numbers of claimants.

The Government’s claims to have found ‘1 million extra jobs’ are pretty meaningless too.

A Daily Telegraph article uncovered a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in Jan 2010 revealed that 1.31 million people were made redundant during the pre-2010 recession.  The DWP were processing an astonishing 6.2 million fresh claims for jobseeker’s allowance between April 2008 and November 2009.  It highlights how the claimant count is far from a static number, each month thousands of claimants come on and off all benefits. The Telegraph article reveals that on Jobseeker’s Allowance alone in December 2009 ” over 350,000 – left unemployment benefit in a single month.”

Similarly, many thousands of claimants leave Employment & Support Allowance each month, the quarterly figures for May 2013 amount to 153,360 coming off benefit, some 175,810 came off other incapacity benefits in the same quarter, the number of claimants coming off Income Support amounted to 150,130 Add the whole lot together and you can see how ‘1 million extra jobs’ isn’t going to go far. What we really need to know is how long these jobs last and exactly which groups of people are filling them.

What the BBC fails to address in their meaningless drivel over 1 million being found ‘fit for work’ and a further 1 million closing their claim before assessment is what happens to these claimants afterwards.

Let’s also not forget the massive numbers of job losses in the public sector under the coalition, the GMB Union claim that over 631,000 job losses have been dished out under the Coalition.

We also have, according to Thomson Reuters a 1.1 million increase in the population aged 16 and over , what few people realise is that when the number of people in the labour market increases, exactly the same number of unemployed will result in a reduction in the unemployment level simply because it’s a smaller percentage of a bigger number. There are all kinds of factors which factor in to an increase in the working age population, not least that fewer people can afford to retire as well as changes in the age at which people can retire.

So there you have it, the BBC headlines are very much a ‘non story’ without all the peripheral facts which they so conveniently omit to mention.

In my next post, I’ll explain what closing a claim without an assessment really means, I’ll then go on and explain why the DWP’s latest work assessment figures continued to be riddled with flaws.

with great thanks to the excellent Nick for agreeing DPAC can repost-for more see: http://legalaidandme.proboards.com/thread/7258/serious-flaws-governments-statistics?page=11&scrollTo=21055

 

Follow Nick on Twitter: @Mylegalforum



 

Dec 302013
 

As a grassroots campaign group DPAC wouldn’t exist without the dedication of all those who give their time to exposing what is happening: coming out on the streets, writing reports, researching, writing web content and policy critiques, heading up and being part of the growing number of local DPACs, organising events, engaging with social media and a whole set of other stuff that keeps DPAC vibrant, active and strong – its thanks to you that DPAC exists.  DPAC also want to thank the growing number of grassroots groups, individuals, academics, supporters, unions and organisations we’ve worked with in 2013.

2013 began with DPAC being awarded campaign of the year for our work in 2012 the year ends with DPAC being named as ‘people of the year’ by Owen Jones. In 2013 DPAC supported many local based protests on transport, the bedroom tax, ILF, local authority cuts and privatisation. We blocked roads protested against fuel poverty, fracking, the loss of legal aid, the bedroom tax, the closure of ILF and more. We set up Reclaiming our Futures 7 days of action joined by hundreds to celebrate the gains of the disabled peoples’ movement and to protest at the effects of imposed austerity on disabled people. DPAC launched the UK Disabled Peoples’ Manifesto which was followed by an EDM.We also published a number of reports.

There was cause to celebrate: the Government were ruled to have made the decision to close the Independent Living Fund unlawfully. Mental Health Resistance network succeeded in winning both case and appeal by the Government on the discrimination of the WCA. DPAC were approached by the UN prior to Raquel Rolnik’s UK visit to feed-in –her findings on the bedroom tax were devastating for the Government. DPAC led a whole range of events and join events on benefit justice to join together and fight the evils that this Government have imposed. While every protest, every campaign, every new network and every exposure of this Government is a success, we received growing numbers of emails from those left without money, food, homes and suffering cuts to their support.

In 2014 we must continue to fight and take all actions we can to change and expose the devastation this Government is causing to disabled people.

You can subscribe to receive all DPAC web posts or become a DPAC member at www.dpac.net.uk join us on twitter @Dis_PPL_Protest or on Facebook

 Key highlights of DPAC actions from 2013 below….

January

DPAC were awarded campaign of the year (2012) by Lipstick Socialists. They said: The fight back by disabled people as the Con/Dem Govt stripped some of the most ‘vulnerable’ sections of the community of their benefits. Their campaign against Atos (who made the decisions) during the Paralympics was inspiring and they have led the way in the fightback against the Con/Dem Govt. – See more at: http://dpac.uk.net/2013/01/#sthash.tEoKp2ds.dpuf

Co-op Campaign: stop the Atos Contract! Launched to publicise that Co-op were thinking of renewing a three year Atos contract for occupational health-Eventual outcome Co-op publically state they wouldn’t renew the contract with Atos.

DPAC call Vigil on Judicial Review initiated by Mental Health Resistance Network on WCA

Benefit Justice organising meeting by Tenants, DPAC unions and others held in London. We also live streamed London DPAC meeting so that everyone could access it. Annie Howard exposed Atos and DWP in relation to the data protection Act http://dpac.uk.net/2013/01/dwp-and-atos-make-a-mockery-of-the-data-protection-act/ Alan Shellbrooke a Tory MP said he wanted to introduce US style cards for those on benefits. We also linked with Fuel Poverty Action for the first of the 2013 actions on Fuel Poverty. We urged everyone to have their say on the Care Bill and to mention the ILF issues and posted advice on the Bedroom Tax and Discretionary Housing Payments and how to access them ahead of this inhuman misery. Condemn Love anti-Atos song by the excellent Kevin Robbins got it’s first airing

February

Victory for Daniel Roque Hall and Winvisable as Daniel is released from prison. Annie and Bob uncovered The Atos and DWP’s Land of make Believe http://dpac.uk.net/2013/02/atos-and-dwps-land-of-make-believe/

Owen Jones donates some of his prize from young writer of the year (donated by Lord Ashcroft) to DPAC http://dpac.uk.net/2013/02/thank-you-owen-but-we-wont-count-on-the-money-until-lord-ashcroft-puts-it-in-our-account/

We publicised the workfare cases The judgment on cases brought by Cait Reilly and Jamie Wilson mean that all but one of the Government’s workfare schemes (Mandatory Work Activity) that force unemployed people to work unpaid or lose benefits have been deemed unlawful. As we know IDS went off and rewrote the law- See more at: http://dpac.uk.net/2013/02/#sthash.jZLw1k5A.dpuf

We publicised an update on the Bedroom Tax, unfortunately not rewritten by IDS or anyone else. The post by Frank proved to be an unfortunate prediction of what was to come.

On ILF we produced a template letter for MPs and our collected FoIs on what Local authorities responses were to the ILF consultation http://dpac.uk.net/2013/02/what-local-authorities-said-about-the-closure-of-ilf/

Whitehall Traffic was brought to a standstill outside the Dept of Energy and Climate Change http://dpac.uk.net/2013/02/whitehall-road-block-brings-traffic-to-a-standstill-outside-dept-of-energy-climate-change/

Unum were finally nailed on driving Governments’ on welfare cuts http://dpac.uk.net/2013/02/unum-finally-nailed-through-bragging-on-driving-government-thinking/

DPAC and Inclusion London issued a statement on ILF while our National English DPOs remained silent http://dpac.uk.net/2013/02/defend-independent-living-save-the-independent-living-fund/

Annie Howard exposed the myths around the support group and ESA http://dpac.uk.net/2013/02/11-was-never-intended-to-be-the-number-of-people-in-the-support-group-dwp-big-blunder-annie-howard/

Atos and the treatment of mental health users and survivors was further exposed through You Tube, while  Kate Belgrave asked where were the MFCs at Atos – we’re still looking… http://dpac.uk.net/2013/02/harrowing-atos-assessment-and-where-are-the-mental-health-champions/

A letter from Ed Miliband was publicised after it was sent to us by a supporter http://dpac.uk.net/2013/02/letter-from-ed-miliband-on-atoswca-but-is-it-enough/

DPAC joined the campaign against the privatisation at Barnet and the great Crapita takeover http://dpac.uk.net/2013/02/urgent-stop-captia-10-years-plus-contract-for-council-services-in-barnet/

We launched a campaign against Colin Brewer who said that disabled children should be put down – he later resigned, but tried to put himself forward in a subsequent election process. http://dpac.uk.net/2013/02/urgent-stop-captia-10-years-plus-contract-for-council-services-in-barnet/

We published an email from one of our supporters which asked SCOPE what it was doing to save ILF , SCOPE suggested they get in touch with  DPAC http://dpac.uk.net/2013/02/scope-and-ilf/

March

We reposted the excellent Nick on ESA Process in Chaos and the Government cover-up http://dpac.uk.net/2013/03/dwps-esa-process-in-chaos/

As DPAC is on the working group of the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL)  against European austerity and its effect on disabled people we asked you to write to your MEPs to support  a push to get this debated in the European Parliament

March 13th was the court case on ILF in which 5 ILF users took the DWP to court against the proposed closure of ILF in 2015 We stepped up the campaign to publish stories of ILF users and those that would have benefited from ILF if it hadn’t been closed to new users in 2010 by Miller without even a dodgy consultation process. http://dpac.uk.net/independent-living-fund/

 The Benefit Justice Summit co-organised by DPAC in London brought together unions, grassroots groups, lawyers and tenants groups

We publicised news for parents of disabled children in the private rented sector and how they could claim money back from the DWP http://dpac.uk.net/2013/03/urgent-news-for-parents-of-disabled-children-renting-in-private-sector-money-back-from-dwp/

Beth Tichbourne was fined £745 plus costs for saying that David Cameron had ‘blood on his hands’ in an outrage that we should never forget  http://dpac.uk.net/2013/03/bethan-tichborn-cameron-has-blood-on-his-hands5503/

We publish an update on ILF court case with video http://dpac.uk.net/2013/03/ilf-court-case-update-and-implications/

 

DPAC and our sister org Black Triangle issue a joint statement on Labour and Bedroom tax http://dpac.uk.net/2013/03/joint-statement-and-petition-by-dpac-and-black-triangle-anti-defamation-campaign-in-defence-of-disability-rights-on-the-labour-party-campaign-against-the-bedroom-tax/

DWP and Government lies on ILF closure are exposed by DPAC in previously classified papers and memos from the DWP to ministers http://dpac.uk.net/2013/03/summary-of-secret-correspondence-from-the-dwp-to-mcvey-on-the-ilf-closure/

ESA appeals increase by 70% DPAC reposts Nick’s analysis http://dpac.uk.net/2013/03/more-chaos-esa-appeals-up-by-70/

Disability charities consistent apathy for disabled peoples’ lives, but not for their high salaries for directors was highlighted yet again http://dpac.uk.net/2013/03/how-the-big-disability-charities-let-down-disabled-people-again/

DPAC supported local protests and campaigns and also protests against staff cuts on railways and transport protests

April

April was the month that the condemns brought in more of their cuts for ordinary people the hated bedroom tax, the end of council tax support, the benefit cap and more http://dpac.uk.net/2013/04/the-nasty-party-go-on-the-offensive-against-disabled-people/

DPAC and UKUncut served eviction notices on our ‘favourite’ MPs –they had too many bedrooms –a complaint was put into You Tube who were told to remove the videos of IDS’ mansion http://dpac.uk.net/2013/04/eviction-notice-for-ids-and-oh-my-what-a-big-house-you-have/ http://dpac.uk.net/2013/04/ids-home-occupation-videos/

The TUC disabled workers refuse to join the Government sponsored Disability Action Alliance hosted by Disability Rights UK (DRUK) http://dpac.uk.net/2013/04/the-disability-action-alliance-or-whatever-happened-to-the-disability-strategy/

After news that the 5 ILF users that took the DWP to court had lost the case processes began to appeal the decision and still not a word of support from the big Disability charities or the aforementioned DRUK  http://dpac.uk.net/2013/04/claimants-to-appeal-high-court-decision-concerning-closure-of-the-independent-living-fund/

DPAC learns of a man who was arrested and tried in a secret court and jailed due to Atos –DPAC launches a campaign http://dpac.uk.net/2013/04/man-arrested-and-tried-in-a-secret-court-after-atos-assessment-support-needed-in-nottingham/

We also supported and co-organised a number of Benefit Justice summits across the country, supported more protests on transport and privatisation and continued to support the Barnet crisis

May

We supported CSRF in protesting at the |PCS conference and their refusal to refuse to implement benefit sanctions http://dpac.uk.net/2013/05/civil-service-rank-and-file-protest-at-pcs-conference/

We joined with False Economy in the search for the elusive Mental Function Champions at Atos , Dr Greg Wood  quits Atos and turns whistle blower http://dpac.uk.net/2013/05/where-are-the-mental-function-champions-at-atos-and-other-atos-type-things/

DPAC publishes info on Hardship payments and budgeting loans as we get more and more emails from people caught in the poverty and sanction traps set by the DWP –the post has been shared over 36,0000 times  http://dpac.uk.net/2013/05/hardship-paymentsbudgeting-loans-and-short-term-advances/

Black triangle meet with Scottish Government to discuss regulations regarding Atos and GPs http://dpac.uk.net/2013/05/esa-regulations-25-and-31-campaign-black-triangle-to-meet-with-scottish-parliament-welfare-reform-committee-chief-this-thursday/

The Mental Health Resistance Network win against Government on WCA , but spectra of legal aid cuts is raised too http://dpac.uk.net/2013/05/will-legal-victory-by-mhrn-against-atos-tests-be-our-last-we-need-to-act-now/

DPAC and the TUC disabled workers block Tottenham Court Road in an act of solidarity http://dpac.uk.net/2013/05/dpac-and-tuc-members-in-direct-action-of-solidarity/

DPAC publishes a critique of UKIP http://dpac.uk.net/2013/05/why-the-rise-of-ukip-is-dangerous-for-disabled-people/

DPAC’s own Ellen Clifford talks to real fare http://dpac.uk.net/2013/05/ellen-clifford-talks-to-real-fare-on-welfare-reform-and-protest/

June

June 1st marked a day of UK wide protests against the bedroom tax attended by DPAC

DPAC publishes stats by Nick that show the huge hike in sanctions under the Coalition  http://dpac.uk.net/2013/06/jsa-benefit-sanctions-sky-rocket-under-coalition/

DPAC holds a Birthday party protest for ILF http://dpac.uk.net/2013/06/press-release-independent-living-fund-birthday-protest/

The fight against the Bedroom tax continues with protests and new groups springing up and supporting each other across the country http://dpac.uk.net/2013/06/updates-the-fight-against-the-bedroom-tax/

DPAC publishes Lies, Damn IDS and Statistics  http://dpac.uk.net/2013/06/lies-damn-ids-and-statistics/

July

DPAC releases its program for 7 days of action, campaigns and protest: Reclaiming Our Futures http://dpac.uk.net/2013/07/reclaiming-our-futures-7-days-of-action/

DPAC joins protest at Downing Street against the bedroom tax

DPAC joins Justice Alliance to protest against cuts to legal aid

DPAC joins vigil for case against bedroom tax outside the Royal Courts of Justice

DPAC posts a list of advice and legal resources as emails from people in severe hardship escalates further http://dpac.uk.net/2013/07/advice-and-legal-resources/

Sisters of Frida go to Geneva to challenge the situation for disabled women at the UN http://dpac.uk.net/tag/sisters-of-frida/

We list the MPs that voted against a cumulative impact assessment http://dpac.uk.net/2013/07/for-fellow-extremists-everywhere-how-your-mp-voted-on-the-cumulative-impact-assessment/

Southwark DPAC challenge local politicians http://dpac.uk.net/2013/07/sdpac-challenge-local-politicians/

Government Issues ministerial statement on Atos http://dpac.uk.net/2013/07/government-issues-ministerial-statement-over-atos/

Bromley/Croydon DPAC join UKUncuts Stuff the Banks http://dpac.uk.net/2013/07/bromleycroydon-dpac-stuff-the-banks-update/

DPAC takes part in the anti-fracking protests at Balcombe where Caroline Lucas is arrested

August

Updates for Reclaiming Our Futures 7 days of Action http://dpac.uk.net/2013/08/reclaiming-our-futures-29th-aug-4th-sept-updates/

UK Disabled peoples’ Manifesto launched http://www.inclusionlondon.co.uk/UK%20Disabled%20peoples%20Reclaiming%20Our%20Futures%20Manifesto

John McDonnell puts forward an Early Day motion on the UK Disabled Peoples’ Manifesto put together by DPAC, Inclusion London, ALLFIE and Equal Lives Norfolk

Early Day Motion 483: Disabled People’s Manifesto
That this House warmly welcomes the launch of the UK Disabled People’s Manifesto, Reclaiming our Futures, developed by disabled people and their organisations across the UK, which sets out the shared vision of disabled people for an inclusive and equal society free from economic, social and cultural barriers; and urges all political parties represented in this House to engage in a constructive dialogue with the disabled people’s organisations promoting the manifesto with the aim of achieving its objectives. – See more at: http://dpac.uk.net/2013/09/early-day-motion-483-disabled-peoples-manifesto/#sthash.VWGXvrlo.dpuf

 

DPAC are asked by UN to assist Raquel Rolnik UN Special Rapporteur on Housing prior to her visit to the UK . The visit and her findings that the bedroom tax is regressive and unfair cause Tory ministers to say she should sort her own country out, she is a Marxist and produce other ridiculous statements in the right wing media http://dpac.uk.net/2013/09/un-investigator-recommends-for-bedroom-tax-to-be-scrapped-immediately/

DPAC block the front entrance of BBC for non reporting of the true situation in the UK under welfare cuts as part of the Reclaiming Our Futures 7 days of action http://www.katebelgrave.com/2013/09/disabled-people-against-cuts-block-front-entrance-of-bbc-portland-place/

DPAC host art exhibition and night of entertainment, plus a day debate on the continued relevance of the Social Model with Anne Rae, Colin Barnes and Debbie Jolly

The Brilliant Kate Belgrave writes on protests and Government Extremism, protests are held outside the DWP, the Department for Education, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Health before moving on to Parliament to host the launch of the UK Disabled People Manifesto: ‘reclaiming our Futures on the UK Freedom Drive day part of the Reclaiming Our Futures week of action

http://dpac.uk.net/2013/09/protests-and-government-extremism-kate-belgrave/

 

DPAC posts UK Freedom Drive film by Reel News http://dpac.uk.net/2013/09/uk-freedom-drive-the-film/

 

See also http://dpac.uk.net/2013/09/dpacrof-4th-september-highlights/

 

 

September

 

DPAC works with Just Fair on Independent Living Issues ahead of a planned visit by the UN special rapporteur on disability http://dpac.uk.net/2013/09/dpac-works-with-just-fair-on-independent-living-issues/

We publish George Berger from Sweden report on Atos, KPMG and the NHS http://dpac.uk.net/2013/09/atos-kpmg-and-the-nhs-be-afraid-be-very-afraid/

DPAC launches a new report on the WCA http://dpac.uk.net/2013/09/dpac-report-work-capability-assessment/

Two of the DPAC co-founders go to Strasbourg to join the European Network on Independent Living for the 6th ENIL Freedom Drive to march to the European Parliament and tackle MEPs. Debbie Jolly is elected to serve another term on the ENIL Board and presents on behalf of DPAC on protest and what is happening in the UK under imposed austerity http://www.enil.eu/campaigns/freedom-drive/

DPAC co-organises with Wow Petition for 10,000 Cuts Memorial for those that have died through Atos and in solidarity with all suffering under Cameron’s regime of imposed austerity http://dpac.uk.net/2013/09/10k-cuts-and-counting-video/ see also http://dpac.uk.net/2013/09/10000-cuts-and-counting-linda-burnip/

Dr Alison Wilde discusses the Paralympic Legacy http://dpac.uk.net/2013/09/paralympic-legacy-but-which-one/

DPAC supports the Ontario Coalition against Poverty who Government want to follow the lead of the UK in denying people their entitlements http://dpac.uk.net/2013/09/call-out-to-support-ontario-coalition-against-poverty/

October

IDS found misleading again http://dpac.uk.net/2013/10/ids-found-misleading-again/

DPAC and Black Triangle consider legal action against GPs who refuse to provide evidence for disabled people and those with long term health issues http://dpac.uk.net/2013/10/legal-action-has-your-gp-refused-to-provide-further-medial-evidence-for-your-dwp-appeal/

Anita Bellows write another stunning piece exposing the bedroom tax http://dpac.uk.net/2013/10/bedroom-tax-the-policy-which-could-only-succeed-if-it-failed-anita-bellows/

DPAC organises vigil for Mental Health Resistance WCA case appeal by DWP http://dpac.uk.net/2013/10/vigil-for-wca-case-support-mental-health-resistance-network-21st-october/

DPAC joins UKUncut to protest to save Justice

DPAC join in protests against staff cuts on London Tubes http://dpac.uk.net/2013/10/boriss-latest-attacks-against-accessibility-and-safety-on-london-transport/ also see http://dpac.uk.net/2013/10/unions-unite-with-campaigners-on-tube-and-station-cuts/

DPAC publicises Punishing Poverty a report on Sanctions by Manchester CAB http://dpac.uk.net/2013/10/sanctions-punishing-poverty-new-report-by-cab/

DPAC publishes info on mandatory reconsideration http://dpac.uk.net/2013/10/some-information-on-mandatory-reconsideration-in-force-from-october-28th-2013/

UK Disability history month kicks off http://dpac.uk.net/2013/10/uk-disability-history-month-launch-event/

November

ILF users win appeal, Government say they won’t fight decision –a success but we wait for the Government next moves http://dpac.uk.net/2013/11/gov-will-not-appeal-court-ruling-on-closure-of-ilf/

http://dpac.uk.net/2013/11/victory-for-independent-living-rights-in-english-appeal-court/

DPAC reposts the critique of the Henwood and Hudson report as some in the disability field still claim that ILF should close http://dpac.uk.net/2013/11/why-the-henwood-and-hudson-report-failed-in-justifying-the-closure-of-the-independent-living-fund/

DPAC ask members and supporters to write to Penning on ILF http://dpac.uk.net/2013/11/write-a-message-to-penning/

Anita Bellows asks why Litchfield as ‘independent’ assessor of the WCA when he was involved in its design http://dpac.uk.net/2013/11/dwp-tactics-ask-litchfield-designer-of-the-wca-to-review-it-anita-bellows/

DPAC publishes info on fuel poverty as we receive more emails from people without heating or electricity due to sanctions and welfare cuts http://dpac.uk.net/2013/11/fuel-poverty/

Independent Living rights News is published on DPAC http://dpac.uk.net/2013/11/independent-living-rights-news-17-november-2013/

http://dpac.uk.net/2013/11/independent-living-rights-news-edition-2/

Paddy Murphy writes on the apparent idiocy of DECC http://dpac.uk.net/2013/11/disabled-people-and-fuel-poverty-what-does-decc-know-anyway/

DPAC attends the bedroom tax lobby at Parliament http://dpac.uk.net/2013/11/report-on-the-bedroom-tax-lobby-meeting-westminster-tuesday-12th-november-2013/

DPAC , Fuel Poverty Action and the London Pensioners are joined by hundreds on the streets to protest at unacceptable fuel poverty and deaths while the energy companies continue to make huge profits http://dpac.uk.net/2013/11/hundreds-protest-at-big-six-energy-companies-over-fuel-poverty-deaths/

http://dpac.uk.net/2013/11/npower-protest-against-31000-fuel-poverty-deaths-this-year/

DPAC supports ALLFIE’s campaign on no return to segregated education http://dpac.uk.net/2013/11/no-return-to-segregrated-education-please-sign/

DPAC and Inclusion London hear heartbreaking testimonies from disabled people affected by the cuts. We send them to the special rapporteur on disability.

DPAC and Inclusion London hold an Emergency  lobby at Parliament on Independent living to launch the DPAC report on Independent Living http://dpac.uk.net/2013/11/independent-living-and-the-cumulative-impact-of-cuts-from-the-streets-to-the-commons/

Mary Laver and ILF user film on life without ILF is posted http://dpac.uk.net/2013/11/an-important-request-on-ilf-from-mary-laver/

The Disability Crime Network write to the attorney General on disability hate crimes  http://dpac.uk.net/2013/11/disability-hate-crime-network-letter-to-attorney-general/

December

Anne Novis writes on hate crime http://dpac.uk.net/2013/12/a-life-less-valid-when-is-a-hate-crime-not-a-hate-crime-by-anne-novis-mbe/

Belgium vote yes on euthanasia for minors now accepted as law http://dpac.uk.net/2013/12/belgium-vote-yes-on-euthanasia-for-minors/

DPAC urges members and supporters to join Boycott Workfare in online action against workfare http://dpac.uk.net/2013/12/take-online-action-against-the-workfare-conference/

We publicise Habinteg’s report on the effect of the bedroom tax on independent living  http://dpac.uk.net/2013/12/what-price-independent-lives-a-new-report-on-bedroom-tax/

Government lose appeal against decision that WCA discrimates against those with mental health issues.  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 got to the courts. http://dpac.uk.net/2013/12/victory-against-wca/

DPAC joins Boycott Workfare in targeting companies replacing paid work with workfare http://dpac.uk.net/2013/12/target-the-companies-replacing-paid-work-with-workfare/

DPAC support ALLFIE’s call for action http://dpac.uk.net/2013/12/educate-dont-segregate-allfies-call-for-action-on-the-10th-december-1pm/

We publicise Equal Lives’ video on how the cuts effect at the local level http://dpac.uk.net/2013/12/our-lives-equal-lives-norfolk-and-the-cuts/

DPAC posts video by Colin Barnes on the importance of the social model by UCU http://dpac.uk.net/2013/12/interview-with-colin-barnes-what-are-the-origins-of-the-social-model-of-disability-and-why-is-it-so-important-to-equal-rights-campaigners/

DPAC attends open meeting with Mike Penning http://dpac.uk.net/2013/12/feedback-from-todays-meeting-with-mike-penning/

DPAC publicises the case of Anthony  Kletzander’s  treatment in Ireland at the hands of ‘professionals’ as he is denied basic rights http://dpac.uk.net/2013/12/update-anthony-kletzander-needs-your-help/

Owen Jones names DPAC as one of his ‘person of the year’ choices for 2013 http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/who-is-your-person-of-the-year-9018337.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

Nov 112013
 

Are you a Disability Living Allowance (DLA) user that has been forced into a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment? We are looking for stories of those that have been forced into a PIP assessment through a third party. For example, if you have had an ESA assessment, failed and then details have been passed on to the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) and  triggered a PIP assessment.  Also if you think you have been reported to any agency for a change of circumstances and this has forced a PIP assessment.

This does not apply if you have reported a change of circumstances, but in any other case where you have been told that you must be assessed for PIP due to a change in your circumstances.

Please send any stories to mail@dpac.uk.net  

All details will remain confidential.

Oct 262013
 

A new harrowing but unsurprising report by the Citizens Advice Bureau on sanctions found that:

 -60% of those sanctioned had been receiving JSA, but a further 33% were unfit for work and were receiving ESA.

-40% of respondents said they had not received a letter from the Job Centre informing them of the sanction.

 -Almost a quarter of respondents did not know why they had been sanctioned. 29% of respondents said they had been sanctioned because they had not done enough to look for work. However, many people commented that the sanction had been applied unfairly, when they had in fact looked for work or attended an interview as required, because of a very narrow interpretation of the rules or for reasons that were beyond their control.

-More than half the respondents said they had not received any information about how to appeal against the sanction. Nonetheless, three-fifths (62%) of respondents had appealed. One third of these appeals had been successful and a further 23% of those who had appealed were still waiting to hear the outcome. Administrative delays in receiving formal notification of the sanction meant that a number of people had been refused leave to appeal because they were out of time, adding further to the perception that they had been treated unfairly.

-The majority of respondents had been sanctioned for four weeks or less, but almost one third had been sanctioned for 10 weeks or more. The average duration of the sanction was 8 weeks.

-Two-thirds of respondents had been left with no income after the sanction was imposed. Those with children reported they only had child benefit and child tax credits.

-Just under a quarter (23%) of those sanctioned were living in households with children. More than 10% of respondents were lone parents.

-Respondents coped with the loss of income by borrowing money from friends and family (80%), from the bank or on their credit card (8%) or from a pay day loan company (9%).

-They also cut down on food (71%), heating (49%) and travel (47%). Almost a quarter (24%) had applied for a food parcel. Some respondents had been left to scrounge for food from skips or bins, or had had to resort to begging to feed themselves.

 -The sanction had a severe impact on the mental and physical health of many respondents. Existing health conditions were exacerbated because of poor diet and stress, and a number of respondents said they had attempted suicide or that they felt suicidal.

 -There were also serious effects on the wider family, particularly children, because of the loss of income. There were stresses also on adult relationships: one respondent said ‘the strain has quite literally smashed our family to pieces’.

-Many respondents felt they had been unjustly treated because of the Job Centre’s own administrative errors or because a sanction had been imposed unreasonably given their circumstances.

Comments included:

I had no income, and had to borrow from my parents (who are also on benefits and don’t get much income. It has affected me mentally, and I am severely depressed and having anxiety attacks

Starved and lived off what I had. Scrounged food from bins and only left the house after darkness fell. Had no electric or gas. Struggled and went without nothing for 3 days

I’m worried benefit won’t be sorted in time for rent as this could make us all homeless yet again. Last time we were homeless was a result of fleeing domestic violence and me and my children were put in B&B.

Read the full report at https://skydrive.live.com/view.aspx?resid=CB5ED957FE0B849F!350&app=WordPdf&authkey=!AJTbB-gzwsSCayQ

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