Apr 302018
 

GREENWICH ADULT COMMUNITY LEARNING based at the Greenwich Park Site, Royal Hill, SE10 8QB. Greenwich is running courses for learners with a specific learning difficulty or disability. I am running Performing Arts 1-3pm every Wednesday. If you would like to come, or know anybody please let them know. It is student led and I do singing, dancing/free movement, sketches, a bit of drama and whatever people would like to do. You can call me, Lynne Chamberlain on 07884080602 or the college 020 8858 2211. Also www.LSEC.ac.uk Best wishes, Lynne, Performing Arts tutor, B.A. (Hons) Cert Ed

 Posted by at 14:24
Apr 302018
 
FAMILY COURT ON TRIAL FOR UNJUSTLY TAKING CHILDREN FROM THEIR MOTHERS

Protest outside family court first Wednesday of every month.

12.30-1.30pm

London court  First Avenue Hse, 42-49 High Holborn, WC1V 6NP

 

Mothers and other carers protest outside Holborn and Brighton family court against the increasing numbers of children taken into care, court secrecy, cuts to legal aid for family cases, forced adoptions, mothers’ and children’s poverty and destitution, sexism, racism and other bias. Join us.

 

Contact: Legal Action for Women

law@allwomencount.net

Single Mothers’ Self-Defence

smsd@allwomencount.net

 JOIN US TO DEMAND:

·         An end to sexist judgements which deny the bond between mother and child, and downgrade the crimes of violent fathers.

·         Fathers who are violent should not have unsupervised contact.

·         An end to the secrecy of the family courts; there must be public scrutiny.

·         Legal aid for all family court matters; no mother should have to represent herself.

·         An end to institutional discrimination on grounds of income, race, nationality, disability, religious affiliation and/or occupation.

·         An end to forced adoptions.

·         Courts and social services must prioritise keeping children with their mother or other primary carer wherever possible. The state must support mothers doing their best for their children.

FACTS

·         80% of UK women are mothers. Women are primary carers in 90% of households.

·         28% of children live in poverty

·         There are more children “in care” now than at any time since 1985

·         Children from poor areas are 10 times more likely to be taken into care than those in rich areas

·         Domestic abuse features in 70-90% of cases in the family courts yet less than 1% of child contact applications are refused – violent fathers who request contact nearly always get it.

·         One in five children are now referred to children’s services yet the proportion of identified cases of abuse by parents has dropped from 24% to under 8%.

·         Adoptions are at their highest point since complete data collection started: 90% of adoptions are without parental consent.

Suffer the little Children & their Mothers: A dossier on the unjust separation of children from their mothers is available athttp://legalactionforwomen.net

 

 Posted by at 13:32
Apr 262018
 

Following this article about DWP interference in the way that GPs treat patients who have been refused ESA, DPAC have initiated a letter to the Royal College of GPs and the BMA GP Section, asking those organisations to get involved in this issue.

The letter to the Royal College of GPs is copied below and the one to the BMA is identical. We will publish on this blog the responses we get from them.


To: Professor Mayur Lakhani, President of the Royal College of General Practice

CC:

Editor Pulse Today

Editor Disability News Service

Second copy to : Chair of the General Practitioners Committee UK Dr Richard Vautrey

Dear Mayur

We write as a group of concerned health professionals and disability campaigners regarding a recent change by the Department of Work and Pensions which we feel will gravely impact on the doctor / patient relationship between GPs and disabled people claiming benefits.

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.

A claimant, 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 (Metro), this being just one bleak example of the distress and hardship enacted on people through the current callous benefit regime.

The new ESA65B form which is headed ‘Help us support your patient to return to or start work’ has an added paragraph

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. (extract from the DWP’s letter to GPs)

It is all in keeping with DWP’s insistence that not only work is good for health, but also should be a ‘health outcome’. This recurring mantra from the DWP is based on the thinnest veneer of evidence, a single study, which was commissioned by the DWP itself in 2006, which does not even fully support the generalised conclusion that “work is good for you”.

The DWP has also not taken into account other, more in-depth research that concludes that unemployment is less harmful for mental health than a poor quality and insecure job..

There are many reasons, from a clinical point of view, why this action of co-opting doctors by the DWP 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.

We the undersigned, both medical professionals and disability campaigners ask that the Royal College of General Practitioners inform its members of the risks to patients from this measure, ask doctors and allied health professionals to use caution and discretion when following DWP instructions.

We will be publishing this letter to you on the Disabled People Against Cuts website, and look forward to publishing your response

Signed:

Dr Jay Watts

Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Anita Bellows

Disabled People Against Cuts

Dr Philippa Whitford

MP, FRCS

Bob Ellard

Disabled People Against Cuts

Dr Louise Irvine

GP, Lewisham, BMA Council Member

Roger Lewis

Disabled People Against Cuts

Dr Stephen Carty

GP Leith Mount Surgery Edinburgh Medical Adviser Black Triangle Campaign

Denise McKenna

Mental Health Resistance Network and Disabled People Against Cuts

Dr Coral Jones

GP in Hackney

Paula Peters

Mental Health Resistance Network and Disabled People Against Cuts

Anna Livingstone FRCGP

Tower Hamlets GP

Linda Burnip

Disabled People Against Cuts

Ben Newton

Community Worker in Glasgow

Ellen Clifford

Disabled People Against Cuts and Inclusion London

Beatrice Millar

on behalf of Psychotherapists & Counsellors for Social Responsibility

Andy Greene

Disabled People Against Cuts

Julia Evans

Lacanian Psychoanalyst

Miriam Binder

Disabled People Against Cuts

Dr Laura Winter

Counselling Psychologist

John Kelly

Disabled People Against Cuts

Emily Shah

Trainee Clinical Psychologist, Camden and Islington NHS Trust

John McArdle

Black Triangle Campaign

Gavin Robinson

Counsellor

Brian Hilton

Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People

Dr Kara Bagnall

Clinical Psychologist

Recovery in the Bin

Lauren Canvin,

Trainee Clinical Psychologist, University of Hertfordshire

Jennifer Jones

DPAC Sheffield

Dr Richard House,

Chartered Psychologist (BPS), Educational Consultant Alliance for Counselling & Psychotherapy

David Cracker

DPAC Sheffield

Andrew Samuels

Professor of Analytical Psychology, University of Essex: Former Chair, UK Council for Psychotherapy

Kevin Deegan

DPAC NORTH Staffordshire East Cheshire

Robert Jenkins

NHS Primary Care Counsellor (Retired)

Henry Foulds

Momentum Sheffield Disability officer

Debbie Porteous

Counsellor MBACP

Jill Goble

Brighton DPAC

Dr David Porteous

GP Fishponds Family Practice, Bristol

Merry Cross

Berkshire DPAC

Denis Postle

ARCA

Rick Burgess

Manchester DPAC

Paul Atkinson

Psychotherapist

Dr Johann McGavin

GP Brighton Health and Wellbeing Centre

Dr Danielle Gaynor

Chartered Clinical Psychologist, NHS.

Clare Slaney MA

BACP Accredited

Linda Gask

Emerita Professor of Primary Care Psychiatry University of Manchester and Honorary FRCGP

Stuart Morgan-Ayrs

Clinical psychotherapist

Dr Gillian Proctor

Clinical psychologist and lecturer.

Dr Rich Moth

Registered social worker/SWAN Psychotherapy & Counselling Union

Dr Donna Oxley

Clinical Psychologist, NHS

Frances Taylor,

Therapeutic Counsellor and Supervisor, Diversity Worker, Substance Misuse Counsellor Practitioner

Dr Jade Weston

Clinical Psychologist

Mandy Coghill

Sensorimotor Psychotherapist

Nicola Saunders

Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist UKCP

Ian Parker

Psychoanalyst, Manchester

Sarah Wolfe

Clinical Psychologist in Children’s Social Care

Richard Bagnall-Oakeley

Integrative Adult & Child Psychotherapist (UKCP Reg. MBACP)

Valeska Matziol

Equalities Research Coordinator

Juliet Lyons

Integrative Child Psychotherapist

Annie Mitchell

Clinical and Community Psychologist; Associate Professor, Plymouth University.

Dr Sohrab Panday

GP and Clinical Lead, Mental Health Commissioning Team Hardwick CCG

Mark Burton

Former Head of Disability Service

Richard Byng

GP and academic, Community and Primary Care Research Group and PenCLAHRC, Plymouth University.

Kim Jackson-Blott

Trainee Clinical Psychologist

Anna Rose

MEd MA  (Psychotherapist)

Dr Lealah Hewitt

Clinical Psychologist, NHS

Dr Safi Afghan

Consultant Psychiatrist & Primary Care Lead RCPsych

Liam Farrell

Former NHS GP

Jen Daffin

Clinical psychologist in training / psychologists for social change

Dr Sheila Cheeroth, FRCGP

Tower Hamlets CCG, London.

Libby Kerr

Psychotherapist UKCP

Dr Jackie Applebee GP

Chair of Tower Hamlets Local Medical Committee.

Dr Stephen Weatherhead

Senior Academic and Clinical Tutor HCPC registered Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Dr Kambiz Boomla,

Senior Lecturer General Practice.

Dr Rachel Barcroft

Clinical Psychologist Royal Preston Hospital

Rosalind Davy,

Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist

Dr Grant Ingrams

GP, Oakmeadow Surgery, Leicester

James Randall-James,

Clinical Psychologist

Pauline Miller

GP St Lawrence road surgery

Dr Danny Taggart,

University of Essex

Dr Chris Manning

MRCGP Mental health activist and retired GP with lived experience of major depression(s).

Jeyda Hammad,

Psychotherapist

Fay Maxted OBE

CEO, The Survivors Trust

Guy Gladstone

Psychotherapist The Open Centre London

Emily Connolly

Trainee Clinical Psychologist

Dr Katherine Macey,

Clinical psychologist working in physical health.

Ron Singer

retired GP and vice president doctors in Unite.

Dr Colm Gallagher,

Clinical Psychologist, Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr David Shiers

former Gp (Leek, North Staffordshire) and Carer of a family member with a severe mental disorder.

Dr Simon Stuart,

Clinical Psychologist in Adult Mental Health

Dr Carolyn Chew-Graham

GP Principal, The Chorlton Family Practice, Manchester and Professor of General Practice Research, Keele University.

Anne Wagner

Clinical Psychologist Locality Lead Psychologist

Dr Lloyd Baron

GPST2 Health Education West Midlands

Dr Alice Jones

(FY1 Psychiatry)

 Posted by at 11:51
Apr 252018
 

https://eu.vocuspr.com/Publish/3367750/vcsPRAsset_3367750_65279_3a748f31-ccdb-42a8-a268-74bfbeff4d97_0.jpg

25th April 2018

Duncan Lewis Solicitors client promised life-saving cancer treatment in high-profile case

On 24 April 2018, the Royal Marsden Hospital finally committed to giving Duncan Lewis’ client Albert Thompson1 the radiotherapy treatment that he requires to treat his prostate cancer; however the NHS Charging Regulations remain unlawful.

 

Mr Thompson was first told that he would be likely to need radiotherapy in November 2016, and the treatment was scheduled to start in January 2018. That was until the recent amendments to the NHS Charging Regulations came into force in October 2017.2 As a result of these regulations, in November Mr Thompson was told that he would have to pay for his treatment in advance or prove that he was ordinarily resident in the UK.

 

Mr Thompson has been a resident in the UK since December 1973. He has National Insurance records, GP records, bank records and benefits records which cover the entire period of his 44 year residence in this country.

 

Jeremy Bloom, Trainee Solicitor within the Harrow Public Law Team, has been working tirelessly to challenge the application of these Regulations, to regularise Mr Thompson’s status and to ensure that he gets the potentially life-saving treatment that he so urgently needs.

 

We submitted evidence of Mr Thompson’s residence to the hospital, but they maintained that under the Regulations, they couldn’t give him the treatment they felt was necessary, unless he could demonstrate that he has Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK.

 

We have since submitted an application to the Home Office to regularise his status, arguing that he should be granted ILR on the basis of his private and family life. The taskforce that has been set up to deal with ‘Windrush’ cases will be interviewing Mr Thompson later this week.

 

The case has also attracted a lot of attention in Parliament and in the media. The Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn MP has asked two Prime Minister’s Questions about the case, and the Prime Minister Theresa May broke the news that Mr Thompson would be receiving treatment in the House of Commons. When the Prime Minister made this announcement, our client had not been informed about this good news, and it took a few days for details of the treatment to become clear. Chuka Umunna MP raised a point of order in relation to the case, and wrote to the Royal Marsden directly. The case has been wide-reported in the Guardian, BBC news, and ITV.

 

It still is not clear why the Royal Marsden has decided to treat Mr Thompson given their initial delay and refusal to treat him without proof of residence or advance payment but we are relieved that Mr Thompson will now be receiving his promised radiotherapy treatment.

 

We still consider that the NHS Charging Regulations to be unlawful and grossly unfair. As long as they remain in force, their application will continue to deny people life-saving treatment despite the fact that they have been here for decades and should be entitled to this treatment on the NHS. We will continue to challenge these regulations.

 

If you or someone you know has been unlawfully denied treatment on the NHS, please get in touch with us:

Jeremy Bloom: jeremyb@duncanlewis.com

Toufique Hossain: toufiqueh@duncanlewis.com

 Posted by at 22:28
Apr 242018
 

Open discrimination is freely taking place on high streets up and down the country.

No DSS’ signs are a common sight in letting agent windows and websites. They mean that people who earn housing benefit, struggling with housing costs due to rising rents and shrinking wages, are locked out of many homes. They are being discriminated against as a group in an unjustified manner, and we believe that it is likely to be unlawful too.

We need to expose discrimination, and put an end to practices that unfairly penalise those who are receiving benefits.

If you have been discriminated against by a letting agent due to earning housing benefits, please get in touch with Shelter to discuss next steps.

campaign@shelter.org.uk

 Posted by at 21:25
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.   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.

Or if you would like to submit information to include in a submission being made by Inclusion London, please email Ellen Clifford at Inclusion London on Ellen.Clifford@inclusionlondon.org.uk

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