Apr 182018
 

Today is DPACs National Day of Action on Universal Credit

Here are details about the central London protest and the protests happening round the country

If you can’t get to one of the protests you can still join in online. Tweet or post to facebook on the hashtag #StopAndScrapUniversalCredit

Check with the DPAC Twitter Account @dis_ppl_protest for latest updates on the prostests

We are especially asking people to tweet during PMQs – 12 noon till 1pm – add the hashtag #PMQs to your posts

Some links, images and information about UC have been included below that you can use in your twitter and facebook posts.

And you can still join in by joining DPAC’s campaign to lobby MPs on Universal Credit

Links that you can include in tweets and facebook posts

Images that you can include in tweets and facebook posts

Universal Credit, A Crime Against Claimants

Universal Credit, A Crime Against Claimants, NAtional Day of Action 18th April

Badge saying "STOP & SCRAP Universal credit"

Stop and Scrap Universal Credit Dead People Don't Claim

Information that you can include in your tweets and facebook posts

Universal Credit is the punishing regime due to be more widely imposed on people with low incomes both those in and out of work.

UC has too many flaws to be simply paused and fixed – it must be stopped and scrapped.

Universal Credit is an economic and political disaster bringing further distress and impoverishment to those forced to endure it.  To date at least £15.8 billion has been wasted on its implementation although only £1 billion is likely to be saved by 2020.

Seven million households will be affected, including over one million low paid part-time workers. For the first time ever people in work could face being sanctioned (having their benefits stopped) if they don’t prove to the job centre that they’re searching for better paid work or more hours. Pensioner couples will also be affected if one of them is under pension age.

No civilized Government should impose this on its citizens and no opposition party should want to simply pause and fix it.

Areas already subjected to UC have reported serious hardship with visits to food banks soaring along with rates of people sanctioned and left without any income for 3 months or more.

Just some of the many problems with UC are listed below.

General Problems

  • UC is based entirely on conditionality for those both in and out of work. Failure to meet these conditions can lead to the imposition of cumulative sanctions which could last 3 years.
  • Everyone will have to accept the Claimant Commitment and log in daily to Universal Job match account and complete your to do list and journal. There is harsh conditionality within Universal Credit such as 35 hour per week job searches.
  • Even with the changes brought in at the end of last year claimants face a 5 week wait which in many cases seems to be 3 months or longer for their first payment.
  • Loss of Mortgage interest payments which will now mean people have to take out a second loan if they are buying a home.
  • Hardship Loans are repayable meaning the full amount of money someone is entitled to isn’t paid for months as 40% of their entitlement can be taken away to repay a loan.
  • With UC, housing benefit isn’t paid straight to the landlord but to the claimant who may be in need of money to use in an emergency. In pilot areas this has resulted in up to 60% of claimants going into rent arrears.
  • Letting agents are already refusing to rent to anyone claiming UC.

 

For Disabled People

  • UC is claimed and managed entirely digitally which is difficult or impossible for many disabled people. Any mistakes on the form will likely lead to loss of benefit or a claim being disallowed.
  • Health and Work conversations are mandatory and any failure to attend will lead to your claim being closed.
  • People in part time work could be forced to give up work that suits their Disability or family life in order to take up worse paid full time work or risk sanctions,.
  • UC brings in the loss of Severe and Enhanced Disability Premiums which mean single disabled people lose around £2,000 per annum and a disabled couple over £4,000 per annum.

Coercion of Mental Health claimants.

  • As part of the Health and Work Programme we are seeing the use of the DWP nudge unit and psycho compulsion. This effectively means the introduction of forced treatment through the use of IAPT therapists based in job centres. If claimants don’t take the treatment prescribed they face being sanctioned.

Loss of Womens’ Rights

  • Changes to benefit payments will make women financially dependent on men trapping many in endless domestic violence.
  • The appalling Tax Credit ‘rape clause’ means that women can only get Child Tax Credit payments for their first two children unless they can prove they were raped. This involves filling out a detailed 45 page form about being raped..

For those in work, self-employed or on zero hours contracts

  • Even those in work will be expected to look for more hours up to 48 hours a week so you are not reliant on state support or face Sanctions for failing to comply. Warning- if your earnings exceed qualifying levels in a month they can close your claim and your online history will be erased when they close your claim down without warning. Make copies of all your actions to copy into your Journal or To Do List so you have evidenced back up files. To get this reinstated can take 8 months without money.
  • Going on Holiday? Think Again- If you fail to do your job match account even over Christmas and other bank holidays you will have your money stopped and you must always be available for interviews.
  • For every £1 earned Universal Credit takes away 63p meaning people are working for 37p for every pound earned per hour.
  • Self employed people will have to submit their monthly, instead of annual, income before any UC payment, including for housing costs, will be made for that month causing untold chaos and hardship. If they earn too much in any month their claim will be closed and they’ll have to start all over again.
 Posted by at 11:34
Apr 172018
 

18 April – Join the vigil for justiceVigil for Justice, 18th April 7-8pm, Outside Ministry for Justice
Join the fight to save our justice system at a vigil outside the Ministry of Justice from 7-8pm on 18 April.
Cuts to legal aid mean too many people are being priced out of justice. When legal aid was introduced 8 out of 10 people were entitled to free legal advice. Now fewer than 1 in 10 receive it.
Join the vigil for justice in London, organised by the Justice Alliance and Speak Up For Justice.
Where?
Outside the Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France, London SW1H 9AJ
(near St James tube)
Tweet your support #Time4Justice

 Posted by at 17:00
Apr 172018
 

Let Inclusion London know about your experience of welfare benefit sanctions in the last 2 years.   The information will be used to inform our evidence to a Select Committee inquiry into sanctions.

Please send your evidence to Henrietta.Doyle@inclusionlondon.org.uk by 17 May

The Work and Pensions Committee recently launched an inquiry into benefit sanctions.  The evidence the Committee is calling for includes: how sanctions operate, recent developments, and whether sanctions ‘help’ people off benefits and into work.

Below are some of the questions the committee is asking:

  • What improvements to sanctions policy could be made to achieve its objectives better?
  • Could a challenge period and/or a system of warnings for a first sanctionable offence be beneficial? If so, how should they be implemented?
  • Are levels of discretion afforded to jobcentre staff appropriate?
  • Are adequate protections in place for vulnerable claimants?
  • What effects does sanctions policy have on other aspects of the benefits system and public services more widely?

If you wish send evidence directly to the committee the deadline for is 25 May 2018.

More information about the inquiry is available at:

https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/news-parliament-2017/benefit-sanctions-launch-17-19/

 Posted by at 13:20
Apr 152018
 
We need you to do something for DPAC!
We want to get as many people as possible emailing their MP in the early part of this week, Monday or Tuesday asking for a response about their position on Universal Credit
Let us know when you have emailed the MP and let us know if they have responded and what they have said. Even if they don’t respond, please let us know you have written and they didn’t come back to you.
At the end of the week we want to be able to publish a list of MPs and what they responded with, and also a list of those that did not respond.
Many MPs will only respond to emails from constituents, so when you email them make clear that you live in their constituency.
MPs will also not respond to standard template letters, so we need you to write something in your own words, it needn’t be a long email, and there are some pointers of things you can say below this message
Please do this!
We need individual people, maybe you have never written to your MP before but it is really quite easy!
You can find your MPs email address by putting your postcode or town into this webpage and it will take you to the MPs contact details page
You can let us know which MP you have emailed and what they came back with by adding a comment to the comments section at the end of this page
————————————————-
Here are some things you can put into your email:
  • Universal Credit is totally flawed and will unfairly impact on disabled people/voters, women/ women voters, self-employed people/voters and anyone/voters on a low wage.
  • Its roll out must be stopped and it must be scrapped.
  • Disabled People Against Cuts will be collating a list of MPs, which will be made public on our website, of MPs who support stopping and scrapping Universal Credit and those who don’t.
  • DPAC will also be publishing a list of those who failed to respond
  • Could you please email  with your position on UC for publication.
  • If we do not receive a response by April 25th we will assume you support keeping this devastating welfare reform in place.
 Posted by at 22:48
Apr 152018
 

Join us outside the high court on Tuesday 1st May to support the first judicial review against the Government’s decision to bring in Universal Credit. The case will focus in particular on the removal of the Severe and Enhanced Disability Premiums which will have a devastating impact on Disabled people. When the Government introduced Universal credit they said no one will be worse off, but this simply isn’t true. Research in 2013 estimated that 450,000 households containing a Disabled person would lose essential income.

The case is being taken by Leigh Day solicitors on behalf of a man who is terminally ill and through the removal of SDP and EDP has lost £178 per month.

Vigil called by Disabled People Against Cuts and Winvisible.

 Posted by at 22:20
Apr 122018
 

Please send your submissions about sanctions to the Work and Pension Committee. The Committee is asking specific questions, and we recommended that you respond to them in the order they are asked, but nothing prevents you from expanding and describing the appalling impact sanctions had or have on you.  Importantly, as sanctions are supposed to ‘help’ claimants move closer to work or into work, anything which undermines or impedes this objective must be mentioned and emphasised. As should any negative impact on health, mental or physical.

The deadline for written submissions is 25 May 2018 and you will find at the bottom of the page some guidance about written submissions.

 

The Work and Pensions Committee launches an inquiry into benefit sanctions: how they operate, recent developments, and what the evidence is that they work – either to deter non-compliant behaviour or to help achieve the policy objectives of getting people off benefits and into work.

Absurdly trivial breaches of benefit conditions

Sanctions, which take the form of docking a portion of benefit payments for a set period of time, can be imposed for breaching benefit conditions like attending a work placement, or for being minutes late for a Job Centre appointment.

Media reports of the Committee’s last inquiry into benefit sanctions in 2015 Benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review, described “copious evidence of claimants being docked hundreds of pounds and pitched into financial crisis for often absurdly trivial breaches of benefit conditions, or for administrative errors beyond their control.”

There have also been serial reports in the media of extreme instances of the use and effects of sanctions – people hospitalised for life threatening conditions or premature labour being sanctioned for weeks or months for consequently missing a benefits appointment, or being unable to afford the transport to a distant job placement and being sanctioned for failing to attend it – and speculation over the degree of discretion Job Centre Plus staff have in these instances.

Recent policy developments

The  inquiry will look at recent sanctions policy developments, like the “yellow card” system which gives claimants 14 days to challenge a decision to impose a sanction before it is put into effect. The system was announced in late 2015 although there is still no date for introducing it.

The inquiry will also consider the evidence base for the impact of sanctions, both that emerging from newly published statistics, and the robustness of the evidence base for the current use of sanctions as a means of achieving policy objectives.  Previously published in the Department’s quarterly statistical summaries, the Benefit Sanctions Statistics will now be a separate quarterly publication.

In 2016 the NAO released a report on the subject; and in February 2017 the Public Accounts Committee published its report “Benefit sanctions“. The Government accepted the recommendations of that PAC report and described progress on implementation in the January 2018 Treasury Minutes Progress Report:

  • The Government initially agreed to undertake a trial of warnings for a first sanctionable offence. This recommendation has not been implemented.
  • The Government agreed to monitor variation in sanction referrals and to assess the reasons for such variation. The Department’s research on variation is due to be completed in March.
  • The Government agreed to monitor the use and take-up of protections for vulnerable groups. The Department is “still considering the best way to qualitatively assess the use and effectiveness of protections for vulnerable claimants”.
  • The Government agreed to improve data systems, including on linking information e.g. earnings and sanctions
  • The Government initially agreed to work with the rest of Government to estimate the impacts of sanctions on claimants and their wider costs to government. This recommendation has not been implemented.

Send us your views

The Committee invites evidence on any or all of the following questions, from benefit recipients with experience of the system, or experts in the field:

  1. To what extent is the current sanctions regime achieving its policy objectives?
  2. Is the current evidence base adequate and if not, what further information, data and research are required?
  3. What improvements to sanctions policy could be made to achieve its objectives better?
  4. Could a challenge period and/or a system of warnings for a first sanctionable offence be beneficial? If so, how should they be implemented?
  5. Are levels of discretion afforded to jobcentre staff appropriate?
  6. Are adequate protections in place for vulnerable claimants?
  7. What effects does sanctions policy have on other aspects of the benefits system and public services more widely? Are consequential policy changes required?
  8. To what extent have the recommendations of the Oakley review of Jobseekers’ Allowance sanctions improved the sanctions regime? Are there recommendations that have not been implemented that should be?

The deadline for written submissions is 25 May 2018.

Sanctions need to be proportional and fair

Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“Sanctions are an important part of any benefits system but they need to be applied proportionately and fairly and to account for individual circumstances.

I’ve seen deeply troubling cases in my constituency that suggest these objectives are not always being achieved. We will be reviewing the evidence to see if sanctions policy is working properly and if not, we will recommend improvements.”

Further information

 

 Posted by at 17:33
Apr 112018
 

Important local & mayoral elections take place in many parts of England on 3 May and the deadline to register to vote is less than a week away (Tuesday 17th April).

If you’re not registered to vote you can register at the government’s voter registration page (it only takes a few minutes).

And if you get any problems with registering to vote or voting due to denial of your access need and reasonable adjustments that you may require please let us know about it at mail@dpac.uk.net

Also if you are not allowed to vote because you are not able to produce Id at the polling station, again, please let us know at mail@dpac.uk.net

 Posted by at 15:06
Apr 102018
 

The RMT are  holding a national rally in London at 11.30 am at Old Palace Yard, London, SW1P 3JY opposite the Palace of Westminster (in front of the George V statue).

This important rally coincides with the 2nd anniversary of the start of RMT strike action against Driver Only Operation. Since then members in six companies have taken action in opposition to this privatised rail assault on jobs, safety, security and accessibility.
 

 

 

 Posted by at 12:16
Apr 042018
 

The DWP has issued a new ESA65B, the form used to inform a patient’s GP of their WCA outcome.  This form which requests GPs not to send any further fit notes for ESA purposes after a claimant has been found fit for work, unless they appeal had already been at the centre of a controversy. James Harrison died 10 months after being found fit for work and after the jobcentre asked his GP not to issue further fit notes for ESA purposes. James Harrison wanted a fit note because he was too ill to attend the jobcentre appointments, but his GP refused to issue them. http://metro.co.uk/2016/12/29/jobcentre-secretly-told-dying-mans-gp-to-stop-giving-him-sick-notes-6349168/

The new ESA65B form which is headed ‘Help us support your patient to return to or start work’ has an added paragraph http://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/Files/DEP2018-0290/ESA65B_Letter.pdf

In the course of any further consultations with [Title] [First name] [Surname] we hope you will also encourage [select] in [select] efforts to return to, or start, work.

It is all in keeping with DWP’s mantra that not only work is good for health, but also should be a ‘health outcome’. There are many reasons why this is wrong and DR Jay Watts, Consultant clinical psychologist, lists some of them:

Health professionals across the country will be horrified at this latest interference from the DWP – a move that undermines clinical expertise and threatens the safety of patients. There are a number of problems. First the letter places the expertise of DWP-funded ESA assessors above that of GPs. This is despite the fact GPs are more qualified to assess mental health, and can do so with the benefits of having known the patient for years, often decades (as opposed to in a one-off assessment). The DWP letter makes clear that they wish claimants to return to work at any cost, even if that means leaving a current occupation – an attack on the core identity of patients likely to have a damaging effect on mental health. Second, the letter states that “we know most people are better off in work”. This ignores a considerable literature showing that work can be damaging for mental health, with poor work environments a frequent trigger to mental breakdown. Economic evidence shows that rushing people back into work increases the likelihood of long-term illness. How then can it be right to encourage GPs to coerce patients back to work, a pressure likely to increase the feelings of shame, despair and anxiety at not working that have been exacerbated by the governments relentless and damaging campaign to associate worklessness with worthlessness? Third, the pressure the DWP is exerting on GPs to ‘encourage’ patients back to work, and desist from providing fit notes, is an attack on clinical expertise and the sanctity of the clinical space and clinical decision-making. Without a firm denouncement of this letter from Royal College of General Practitioners, we risk a situation where claimants will feel unwilling to make appointments with their GPs, given the level of fear the DWP and the work agenda elicits, with damaging and potentially life-threatening effects on the physical and mental health of claimants. It is vital that health professionals speak up for claimants rights, and insist that fit notes and therapeutic conversations are dictated by the needs of patients not the DWP.

 

WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT?

You can make sure that your GP does not receive this letter and is not informed of your WCA outcome. This is sensitive personal data and the DWP needs your consent to share it as show  here in this FOI request.  There are several steps you need to take to refuse your consent:

1) You need to refuse to give your consent when you are completing your ESA50. On page 21 of the ESA50 form, under the “Other information” box you will write:

I DO NOT consent/agree to my doctor or any doctor treating me,
being informed about the Secretary of State’s
determination on
– limited capability for work
– limited capability for work-related activity
or being sent a summary of the Limited Capability for Work Assessment.

And you need to remove/strike out the text on the ESA50 form in the Declaration section page 22, that covers allowing the DWP to notify the person’s GP. The ESA50 form used for this is this form

AND

2) Because you cannot be sure that the ESA50 form will be read by DWP, you need to write to the benefit centre which processes your claim, to inform them that you refuse to give your consent to share the WCA outcome with your GP, or any doctor. You will find a proforma letter to do so at the end of this article.

 

If you forgot to amend the ESA50 form in order to refuse your consent, you can still write to the DWP/benefit centre after every ESA50 form submitted and or after every WCA undertaken asking them not to share your WCA outcome with your GP.

This is heavily drawn from Frank Zola’s article on the same subject, which also provides more information and template letters to help you to refuse your consent. https://mrfrankzola.wordpress.com/2017/02/16/do-not-tell-gp-outcome-of-your-work-capability-assessment-wca-donotconsent/ 

And thanks also to John Slater @AmateurFOI for his input

That should stop the DWP interfering in the doctor/patient’s relationship and destroying the trust which exists between them and also stop the DWP from exerting pressures on GPs in a way which can be detrimental for their patients.

 

Template letter

[Your full address]

[The date]

Department for Work and Pensions

[Address of your local JCP office]

[Enter Your National Insurance Number]

Dear Sir or Madam

 

RE: Consent, ESA50 and my Work Capability Assessment (WCA)

 

I write to confirm that I do not consent to my or any doctor being informed of any determination related to:

 

  1. limited capability for work
  2. limited capability for work-related activity

 

I am asserting my rights under the Data Protection Act (1998), as the Department requires my explicit consent to share said determination with my or any Doctor/GP, as it is my sensitive personal data.

 

Please write to me to acknowledge receipt of this letter and confirm that my records have been updated on the appropriate IT systems.

 

On your ESA50 form, a copy of which I have retained, I have removed/ struck-out the part of the declaration section that states:

 

“I agree to my doctor or any doctor treating me, being informed about the Secretary of State’s determination on

– limited capability for work

– limited capability for work-related activity, or

– both”

 

If I change my mind in the future I will write to the Department to advise it. I will not notify the Department of any change via the ESA50 form and should there be any doubt this letter should always take precedent.

 

Yours faithfully

[Signature]

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 20:15
Apr 042018
 

As we’re being asked more and more often to endorse candidates standing for various political positions we feel that it is important to re-iterate that DPAC remains completely independent from supporting any particular political party.

Nor can we guarantee to endorse someone just because they are a disabled person – after all some disabled people vote Tory or even UKIP and we could not under any circumstances endorse anyone who supported such policies. However we will consider endorsing people seeking office in any other reputable political parties.

We will only be able to support candidates who contribute to DPAC’s aims and are prepared to support #StopandScrap Universal Credit and our manifesto demands from politicians.

Overall this means that while we might endorse someone to stand for a political party that does not in any way negate our independence or our right to criticise that party and its policies when ever we deem it necessary.

 

 Posted by at 18:00
Apr 032018
 

The Public Law Project (PLP) is an independent, national legal charity which aims to improve access to justice for those whose access is restricted by poverty, discrimination or other similar barriers. It represented RF in the recent High Court case where the DWP’s changes to the PIP regulations were found to unlawfully discriminate against people with mental health conditions. PLP is representing another individual client, who is bringing a case concerning the DWP’s “workaround” communications system for people with disabilities who receive DLA/ESA/IB/PIP.

 

The DWP has a policy that it communicates with (non-UC) benefits recipients by post. However, its policy allows them to agree to email as a reasonable adjustment (the “workaround”), for example where a recipient has a disability.

 

The case is that the workaround is not satisfactory because it puts people using it at a disadvantage, including because there is a risk of letters being lost and there is no provision for two-way communication.

 

PLP needs to gather evidence of examples of problems caused by the workaround to support its client’s case. If you have had difficulties with the DWP’s communications system because of your disability, in particular if you have had difficulties getting the DWP to agree to email you as a reasonable adjustment, or have had information lost,  and are willing to discuss this further then please email Ollie Persey (o.persey@publiclawproject.org.uk).

 

 

 

 Posted by at 21:13