Annie

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 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 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
Mar 252018
 

All over Britain we’re holding locally based protests against universal credit to support the DPAC demonstration in London. Obviously everyone can’t get to London so this is going to open up the event and make it easier for more people to access and take part.

Sheffield

Anyone is welcome to come and speak at the demo, just inbox the DPAC Sheffield page or email DPACsheffield@gmail.com
So far we have: Labour sheffield, Women’s lives matter campaign Yorkshire, Sheffield Green party, Momentum Sheffield disability officer, and DPAC.

Birmingham

Meet New Street, Time to be confirmed

Brighton

Information table 10.30am Meet at the Clock Tower

Ceredigion

We will be outside Cardigan job centre on the 18th at 11.00

Edinburgh

Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty
STOP AND SCRAP UNIVERSAL CREDIT – DAY OF ACTION WED 18 APRIL
High Riggs jobcentre 12.30
Leicester
Wednesday 18th April, 12- 2 pm at the Clocktower, Unite Community and friends supporting DPAC.

Manchester

St.Peters Square, 13.00-15.00 joining together with Greater Manchester Law Centre and Acorn Tenants Union to say no to evictions

Norwich

12.30-14.00

Meet City Hall steps from 12.15 pm

Truro 

11am – 13.00 pm April 18th Lemon Quay 

https://www.facebook.com/events/1638152956261713/

York

The York Unite Community Branch  is supporting the Disabled People Against Cuts national day of action against Universal Credit by holding a gathering on and adjacent to the footpath outside The Jobcentre Plus (one of our local Department of Work and Pensions buildings), 11-17 Monkgate, York YO31 7JZ  between 10 and 12 on Wednesday April 18th 2018.

 Posted by at 15:29
Mar 242018
 

Our colleagues from the Public Law Project are taking the DWP to court for the failure to make good reasonable adjustments for disabled people who need communication via email.

We are supporting this challenge and need people to share their experience with us.

If you have asked the DWP to communicate with via email, please take our short survey, it will only take 5 minutes.  https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/VC99J78

Alternatively you can email Svetlana.kotova@inclusionlondon.org.uk to share your experiences.

We need responses by the 6th of April.

 Posted by at 14:04
Mar 202018
 

With an impending high court challenge against the  Access to Work cap, the government has announced it is increasing the cap. They say this will affect fewer Deaf and Disabled people.

DPAC thinks that any form of cap is inappropriate and discriminatory. Any cap hits those with the highest support needs, effectively penalising Deaf and Disabled people with the highest support needs and impacting most on certain impairment groups. The new cap has been increased from 1.5 x the average worker’s salary (£42,100) to 2x (£57,200) but is still a fixed limit set in an entirely arbitrary way whereas costs for highly specialised equipment and good quality professional interpreters tailored to an individual’s needs can exceed this amount or vary from year to year. There is no financial reason for a cap given that investment in Access to Work makes a return on investment to the Treasury through taxes, without taking into account the added cost benefits of savings to the NHS or social care budgets.

The cap is also just one issue within a whole range of problems that Deaf and Disabled people are experiencing with Access to Work. These include administrative and financial errors on a scale that is making employment unviable for many, alongside cuts and restrictions to individual support packages that are placing intolerable strain on Deaf and Disabled people doing their best to stay in work. An urgent review of the scheme in consultation with Deaf and Disabled people is well over due.

Written statement from Esther McVey

See the statement on Parliament.uk here.

 Posted by at 16:08
Mar 102018
 

This article has been triggered by a post from Joe Halewood who is absolutely right to highlight the shockingly low numbers of people appealing a benefit decision, and especially PIP https://speyejoe2.wordpress.com/2018/03/09/tory-policy-deliberately-shafts-half-a-million-disabled-persons/

It is worth looking at the numbers to understand the scale of the issue, and to compare the situation under DLA and PIP.

The main difference between the 2 benefits, apart from the descriptors, which with PIP were meant to lead to a reduction of 500,000 fewer claimants, is the introduction of Mandatory Reconsiderations. Mandatory Reconsiderations are a system of internal appeals, designed to reduce the number of appeals by reviewing and revising if necessary a benefit decision within a shorter timeframe. Where appeals could take one year or even 18 months these days to be heard, a mandatory reconsideration can take around 10 days, because the government has imposed targets. That is the good news. The bad news is as for sanctions, mandatory reconsiderations are under the direct influence of DWP Secretary of State, and are not independent. The initial benefit decision is supposed to be reviewed by a different Decision Maker, but  around 84% of initial benefit decisions are being upheld, which leaves a claimant with only one option: to appeal.

The problem is that very few people appeal, and it is obvious that Mandatory Reconsiderations and the Kafkaesque system put in place by DWP, which makes it as difficult as possible for a claimant to get some kind of justice, plus the mistakes and the incompetence of many DWP staff, constitute a real denial of justice. Let’s crunch some numbers:

Before the introduction of PIP in 2012, there were 3,253,810 DLA claimants, but only 71,744 appeals, which is 2,20%. Let’s remind ourselves that claimants could directly ask for an appeal and that DWP would lodge it on their behalf. Now let’s compare this situation with PIP today.

In 2016/2017, there are only 1,409,027 PIP claimants (and still 2,263,162 DLA claimants), and the number of Mandatory Reconsiderations is 669,000. This means that almost ½ the people undergoing a PIP assessment are dissatisfied with the outcome and ask for a Mandatory Reconsideration. Knowing that 80% of mandatory reconsideration upheld the initial PIP decision, you would expect around 535,200 PIP claimants lodging an appeal. In fact, the number is 104,205, which only 19% of the number of claimants expected to appeal.

But what needs to be done is to compare more directly the DLA and the PIP situation:

2012                       3,253,810 DLA claimants                                                                71,744 appeals

2017                       1,409,027 PIP claimants                 669,000 MR                         104,205 appeals

Without Mandatory Reconsiderations, the number of PIP claimants lodging an appeal would have been 669,000. If the level of overturned PIP decisions is maintained (64%), it means that 424,160 PIP claimants would have had a PIP decision overturned in their favour.

That is a real denial of justice.

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

 

 Posted by at 13:07
Mar 072018
 

Bromley JCP Protest
Bromley DPAC along with SE London Unite Community have organised a protest outside Bromley Job Centre Against Universal Credit For Wednesday 14th March 2018 12 noon until 2pm
Address Bromley Job Centre Plus
Unicorn house
28 Elmfield Road
Bromley
Kent BR1 1NX

Nearest train station is Bromley South Station accessible from train platform to street level
Buses 61, 208,358,261,126,367,314 all Stop opposite the entrance to Bromley JCP
Lewisham JCP has now closed and half of Lewisham JCP are having to make longer journeys to Bromley causing additional financial hardship. Bromley JCP staff are struggling with the additional influx of claimants leading to backlogs of claimants claims being dealt with and payment delays
Universal Credit cannot be paused and fixed. It is causing poverty and homelessness to rise and causing further distress and harm with the abolition of the severe disability premium, meaning disabled people will be worse off by £2,000 per year
By 2022 it is estimated that 1 million children will be plunged further into poverty under Universal Credit
We are calling for Universal Credit to be stopped and Scrapped

Please support the protest

Facebook event link is here

:

 

 

 Posted by at 14:41
Mar 012018
 

Please feel free to tweet all day and you can add the hashtag #bbcqt for tweeting tonight during BBC Question Time


#UniversalCreditCrimesAgainstClaimants UC is rotten to the core #StopandScrapUC


#UniversalCreditCrimesAgainstClaimants 7m households will be affected, including over one million low paid part-time workers.


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


#UniversalCreditCrimesAgainstClaimants at least £15.8 billion has been wasted UC, yet only £1 billion will be saved by 2020.


#UniversalCreditCrimesAgainstClaimants No civilized Government should impose UC on its citizens


#UniversalCreditCrimesAgainstClaimants No credible opposition party should want to simply pause and fix UC


#UniversalCreditCrimesAgainstClaimants UC is claimed and managed digitally which is impossible for many disabled people


#UniversalCreditCrimesAgainstClaimants Health & Work conversations are mandatory, any failure to attend will lead to claim being closed


#UniversalCreditCrimesAgainstClaimants People in part time work could be forced to give up work that suits their Disability


#UniversalCreditCrimesAgainstClaimants UC has no Severe and Enhanced Disability Premiums- single disabled people lose around £2,000 pa


#UniversalCreditCrimesAgainstClaimants UC includes the vile rape clause – violating womens rights


#UniversalCreditCrimesAgainstClaimants UC was designed by IDS to punish people for the crime of being poor


Stop Universal Credit before it claims you https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DXEO-CEXUAAaYme.jpg #UniversalCreditCrimesAgainstClaimants


Letter to send to MPs about Universal Credit https://dpac.uk.net/2018/02/letter-to-send-to-mps-about-universal-credit/ #UniversalCreditCrimesAgainstClaimants


Trapped in Universal Credit: How a broken leg left a woman starved of cash http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2018/02/27/trapped-in-universal-credit-how-a-broken-leg-left-a-woman-st


Video Message from Paula Peters on how you can get involved in getting Universal Credit scrapped https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yoAsVo2dIk&feature=youtu.be #UniversalCreditCrimesAgainstClaimants


Letter to send to MPs about Universal Credit https://dpac.uk.net/2018/02/letter-to-send-to-mps-about-universal-credit/ #UniversalCreditCrimesAgainstClaimants


List of MPs Email Addresses https://dpac.uk.net/2018/02/list-of-mps-email-addresses/ #UniversalCreditCrimesAgainstClaimants

 Posted by at 14:42
Feb 012018
 

Cara Williams, a PhD student at Lancaster University is conducting research into disabled people’s experience of working for small and medium size organisations (SMEs) , and the SME experience of employing disabled people in their workplace.

She is looking to  recruit twenty disabled people and twenty small and medium size organisations to take part in interviews .

If you are interested, you can read Cara’s blog to know more about this research here https://disabledpeopleworksmes.wordpress.com/ , contact her by email c.williams10@lancaster.ac.uk, or find her on Twitter @Cara_J_Williams 

 Posted by at 18:57
Dec 212017
 

Today, the 21st  of December, the High Court judge Mr Justice Mostyn allowed the claim in the case of RF v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. The case was brought by a Disabled person with mental health support needs to challenge the changes the government made to Personal Independence Payment Regulations in March 2017[i].

These changes were urgently introduced to reverse the impact of the Upper Tribunal Judgement in the case of MH v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (PIP): [2016] UKUT 531[ii] 

These changes prevent thousands of people who cannot plan and follow a journey due to psychological distress from qualifying for higher rates of this benefit or qualifying at all[iii].

The Public Law Project, who represented RF argued in court that the changes are discriminatory and unlawful, because they go against original policy intent of PIP[iv].

 

The court said today that the regulations were discriminatory, and they have been quashed but it won’t take affect until the court of appeal decides the government can appeal

Tracey Lazard, CEO of Inclusion London  said:

“This is a hugely important case.  It challenges the discriminatory way the government treats Disabled people with mental health support needs.  The outcome can make a difference to thousands upon thousands of Disabled people.  We have always believed that these changes are discriminatory and unfair and should have never been introduced. It is incomprehensible that the government pledges more support for people with mental health support needs and at the same time introduces, through the back door regulation changes  that prevent many thousands of Disabled people with mental health support needs from qualifying for this essential benefit.

The government’s actions to change PIP regulations and single out people who cannot travel because of psychological distress are a brutal attack on the rights of Disabled people.  Today’s case illustrates the lack of concern for Disabled people and the government’s inability to listen to us and engage with us.  It is extremely worrying that many of us feel the legal action is the only way for us to get heard”.

Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts said:

“We are pleased with the judgement today. It will make a huge difference for thousands of Disabled people with mental health support needs.

We have to remember that this challenge is taken in a context when the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities found systematic and grave violations of Disabled people’s rights a year ago.  And again in August it called the situation Disabled people are in a ‘human catastrophe’.  The UN specifically called on the Government to repeal changes to PIP regulations because they breach our human rights under the Convention”.

 

[i] Personal Independence Payment is a new benefit which replaced Disability Living Allowance for Disabled working-age claimants.  The purpose of the benefit is to compensate for extra costs of disability.  Eligibility for PIP is a points-based system where points are assigned to descriptors illustrating the difficulties person experiences in carrying out specific activities.

[ii] See the judgement here https://www.gov.uk/administrative-appeals-tribunal-decisions/mh-v-secretary-of-state-for-work-and-pensions-pip-2016-ukut-0531-aac

 

[iii] The Government’s own Equality Impact Assessment stated that changes will prevent 164000 people from current PIP caseload from qualifying, 143.000 of those people will be prevented from qualifying at all.  https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/593392/pip-assessment-criteria-equality-analysis.pdf

Inclusion London supported the case from the start and provided a witness statement.

[iv] Statements made by the Government prior to 2014 as well as the Government’s 2012 Response to the consultation on PIP clearly express the intention of PIP to assess need rather than make decisions on the basis of impairment labels.

Statement from PLP

Statutory Instrument Quashed by the High Court

2017 Personal Independence Payment Regulations are Discriminatory

The High Court has found that part of the rules governing Personal Independence Payments are unlawfully discriminatory against people with mental health impairments. The Public Law Project’s client, RF, won on all three grounds of her challenge (RF v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions). The judge quashed the 2017 Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Regulations because they discriminate against those with disabilities in breach of Human Rights Act 1998 obligations. Because they were discriminatory, the judge also found that the Secretary of State did not have lawful power to make the Regulations (i.e. they were “ultra vires”), and that he should have consulted before making them, because they went against the very purpose of what PIP regime sought to achieve.

The judge heard that the Regulations were laid by negative resolution in February 2017, received relatively little parliamentary attention, and were rushed through the parliamentary process by the Secretary of State without prior reference to checks by relevant committees.  Contrary to the Secretary of State’s defence, the judge found that the decision to introduce the Regulations was ‘manifestly without reasonable foundation’ and commented that the wish to save money could not justify such an unreasonable measure.

During the course of the trial, the Secretary of State accepted that the testing carried out for PIP had not looked at whether the basis for treating those with psychological distress differently was sound or not, and the testing actually done was limited. 

RF’s claim was supported by The National Autistic Society, Inclusion London, Revolving Doors and Disability Rights UK. All of those organisations gave statements to the court that the Regulations were unfair and that the intention to treat those with psychological distress differently had not been made clear in the early PIP consultation stages. The claim was also supported by two interveners: Mind and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The EHRC made written submissions to the Court on the ongoing and persistent breaches by the UK Government of its obligations under UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities arising from its austerity measures. The Judge found that this inconsistency with the UN Convention supported his finding that the measure had no objective justification.

RF commented: “This judgment is important for a community of people with mental health problems fighting for their lives against discrimination.”  

Note to Editors:

The case was previously known as SM and RF, but is now known as RF v Secretary of State for Department of Work and Pensions. There is an anonymity order in place protecting SM and RF.

The Government intends to appeal the decision. The Regulations will not be quashed until the Court of Appeal decides whether or not the appeal should proceed. RF is anticipating a decision on this in early 2018.

 A digital version of the decision will be available shortly here: https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/judgments/

Further enquiries can be made to o.persey@publiclawproject.org.uk.

 Posted by at 10:58
Dec 202017
 

Assistive technology for Deaf and Disabled people in work  – your experience

There is a Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry on assistive technology for Deaf and Disabled people in work.

To inform Inclusion London’s evidence to the inquiry I would be grateful if you can send me:

  • Your experience of assistive technology, both the process of getting it and how useful it is to you for obtaining and maintaining employment and/or
  • Your answers to the questions below, which have been set by the Select Committee and some additional ones by Inclusion London. 

Please send all responses to Henrietta.Doyle Henrietta.Doyle@inclusionlondon.org.uk by Monday 15 January 2018.

‘Scope of the inquiry

The Committee invites evidence on the role of assistive technology in improving disabled people’s employment rates, drawing on the Government’s response to the Committee’s Disability employment gap report.

The Committee welcomes submissions addressing any or all of the following questions:

  • What role can assistive technology play in removing barriers to work and helping disabled people stay in work?
  • How should the Government support the development of this technology, and are there any particular innovations it should look to support?
  • Is Access to Work the most effective means of providing access to assistive technology? Should other funding models be considered?’

Additional questions from Inclusion London:

  • Are there barriers to obtaining assistive technology needed, if so what are the solutions to this?
  • What are the greatest barriers to disabled people obtaining and maintaining work – is it lack of assistive technology or other issues?

You are welcome to send a submission directly to the Select Committee. The deadline for this inquiry is 19 January 2018. 

Information about the inquiry is available at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/assistive-technology-17-19/

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/news-parliament-2017/assistive-tech-inquiry-launch-17-19/

 Posted by at 11:39
Dec 082017
 
Work & Pensions Committee hears from specialist disability groups on the PIP and ESA assessments on Monday
One of the big concerns the Committee has heard about DWP’s contracted PIP and ESA assessors is how their staff are qualified to assess the impact of multiple, serious and complex physical and mental health conditions on people’s lives, and how those conditions can affect the assessment process itself. Mencap’s evidence to this inquiry includes instances like a claimant being asked what medication he was on for Down’s Syndrome and learning disability – displaying deep ignorance of the condition, its effects and how it is dealt with.
In the video below from our in evidence this week, Committee Member Alex Burghart asks what specialist measures these companies have in place when they are working with someone with a serious mental health condition like schizophrenia: the answer was, effectively, none. All three companies insisted that no specialist medical knowledge is required to perform the “functional” assessments they carry out.
On Monday at 15:45 in Wilson Room we’re asking the specialist disability advocacy groups asking Scope, Sense, the Disability Benefits Consortium,  Citizen’s Advice and Mencap if they agree. You can also watch online. /ENDS

 Posted by at 18:48
Nov 302017
 

Difficulties accessing Universal Credit?

Please let Al at Inclusion London know any difficulties you have had with accessing Universal Credit.  We will pass this information to the DWP who are now interested in making the application process for Universal Credit (UC) more accessible.

Difficulties with accessing UC could include:

  • A lack of accessible information about UC itself, or about Advance Payments or any other aspect of UC.
  • Communications that are not accessible, such as phone calls that are not accessible to Deaf people, or lack of Easy Read.
  • Accessing/problems with the online application process.
  • Venues for assessments that are not accessible.

Please send your experience to Al by 3 January 2018 onellen.morrison@inclusionlondon.org.uk

 Posted by at 20:04
Nov 182017
 

Thanks to Nick Dilworth who wrote this template letter

You can follow him @Mylegalforum http://ilegal.org.uk/

 

[Your Address]

 

The Customer Complaints Manager

[Address of your Employment & Support Allowance Office]

*shown on your most recent correspondence from them

 

Date

 

Dear Sir / Madam,

National Insurance No:

Arrears of Employment & Support Allowance which may be owed to me through your official error

My attention has been drawn to some recent media coverage by the BBC entitled ‘Mistakes in benefits claims could cost up to £500m’ (dated the 17th November 2017).  As a result of this I am making an official complaint, I believe I may be affected and entitled to arrears of Employment & Support Allowance.The media coverage states:

“The errors identified by the Department for Work and Pensions affect the main sickness benefit, the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).  The BBC understands that assessors wrongly calculated the income of around 75,000 claimants.  Ministers say that they are aware of the problem and that repayments have begun to be made.  The department, which says it discovered the mistakes last December, is understood to have contacted about 1,000 people so far.  It says it is still trying to understand the scale of the problems with ESA, which is paid to about 2.5 million people, and will contact anyone affected.”

 

Having made some enquiries, I understand that I may be an affected individual because I underwent a ‘conversion’ assessment from older Incapacity Benefits / Income Support paid on the grounds of incapacity for work / Severe Disablement Allowance.  My recollection is that this was subject to a decision made by you on or about the [insert date].

The conversion process should have been carried out in accordance with the Employment and Support Allowance (Transitional Provisions, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit) (Existing Awards) (No.2) Regulations 2010 and it is my understanding that in confirming your decision you should:

(a) have ensured I was entitled to the correct amount of ‘transitionally protected’ benefit at a rate whereby my converted Employment & Support Allowance award was equal to what I received before conversion and should have continued to be protected on a ‘mark time’ basis until the level of Employment & Support Allowance either caught up with my transitionally protected amount or until the 5th April 2020.

(b) As part of the conversion decision making and notification process you should also have checked any existing contributory award to see if I may qualify for an income based amount on the converted Employment & Support Allowance award as confirmed by the Upper Tribunal in [2015] UKUT 342 (AAC) where it was held [In considering Regulation 8 of Employment and Support Allowance (Transitional Provisions, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit) (Existing Awards) (No.2) Regulations 2010]:

 

“Given the unified nature of ESA as described in paragraph 25 above, the determination by the Secretary of State of the amount of ESA to which a person would be entitled on conversion under regulation 8(1) in my judgment must encompass consideration of both the contributory amount and the income-related amount.”

 

I am therefore asking you to confirm that neither of the above omissions (a) or (b) occurred as a result of any official error on my claim.  If official error has occurred and I have been underpaid in consequence of that error, please ensure that you pay me any amounts owing to as a matter of urgency and without unacceptable delay.

Please note that this request is an official one which you must treat by way of an anytime review or supersession request.

I must further point out that this request applies to a retrospective decision and therefore applies in cases where there may have been a subsequent successful appeal against any initial decision to refuse or otherwise restrict the Employment & Support Allowance award made.  Likewise, the fact that I have since stopped claiming Employment & Support Allowance or taken up another claim to other benefits does not prevent me from making this request.

So that I can check the accuracy of your records please treat this letter as a Subject Access Request and supply me with copies of my pre – conversion awards and all claim details pertaining to my Employment & Support Allowance claim from the point of conversion of my claim.

Please also consider this as a complaint of potential maladministration on my claim and consider issuing me with an appropriate compensatory or special payment.

On a final point, please make me aware of the effect which this may have upon any other benefits such as Housing and or Council Tax Benefit paid at the point of conversion.

I look forward to hearing from you and trust that you will look in to and act on this request as a matter of urgency.

Yours faithfully

 

 

[Name]

 Posted by at 20:38
Nov 062017
 

Dear friends and colleagues

I am writing to invite you to the launch of the Austerity Campaign Action Pack, being developed by the Austerity Action Group formed by BASW following the Boot Out Austerity walk, with the support of the Social Workers Union.

The flyer for the event is attached and I would be grateful if you could share this widely. It is taking place on the evening of Thursday 30th November, at the University of Salford. It is a free, UK-wide event at which we will be hearing of anti-austerit activity in Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England. We are delighted that Rebecca Long-Bailey, a member of the Shadow Cabinet, will be speaking, alongside other notable speakers; and there will also be music, songs, poems, readings and film, in true Boot Out Austerity style. See the flyer for more details.

Food and refreshments will also be served.

You are receiving this email because of the interest you expressed in Boot Out Austerity. If you’d rather not receive future emails regarding BASW’s austerity campaigning, let me know by email, and I will remove your details from the mailing list.

Best wishes

Guy

Guy Shennan

BASW Chair

07841 529798

Visit our website at basw.co.uk

Wellesley House, 37 Waterloo Street, Birmingham, B2 5PP. Tel 0121 622 3911

The British Association of Social Workers is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in England No. 982041.

 Posted by at 19:49
Nov 032017
 

DPAC received this letter a while ago. At first, it did not make sense. What was Swanee? Then, looking around, we started to make connections with words associated with swans and babies’s swans.

UP THE SWANEE:

Hello, you have reached the SWAN,

kontroller of many Sicknets.

Fancy a stay in one of our private mental health hospitals?

Don’t fret about the cost! The NHS pay us approx £12,000 – £32,000  per week (all dividends boosting a USA owned company).

Long stays are assured.

Correct treatments not guaranteed.

All our staff are lovely (in our opinion), we are talking textbooks enjoying our very rewarding jobs patronising clients, dodging real issues, & creating drug addicts.

On average, we will force you to take 24 pills every 12 hours – so we can stay in our offices, & keep you feeling unwell.

If you don’t swallow, law says it’s OK for you to be thrown to the floor, held down & forcibly injected.

If you dare to raise a little finger to defend yourself, we accuse you of assault, police come, you are blamed.

No, whilst in our “care” you will not be allowed to leave, or go outside. You stay inside, with no fresh air, activities or access to education.

There’s no point us providing that as patients are too drugged to do anything.

Yes, our slick, well oiled sales pitch, aimed at maximising numbers of customers, does give onlookers the impression we provide HOTEL like facilities – a gym for example.

We have an Occupational Therapist. I’m not sure why – in this heat nobody has much motivation…

But our brand new buildings –  quickly put up constructions similar to MacDonalds, are a facade.

Seems like patients are on holiday!

There’s even a chef to cook your meals.

Admittedly it’s not homely. It is like living in a glass office 24/7 with approx 30 complete strangers – some of whom are dangerous – full of fear – desperate to go out / escape.

So you’re watched by staff & cameras 24/7.

Staff control everything! What you can read, you are not allowed to write (a pen is a potential weapon). But if you want to cut yourself with razor blades, that’s OK, we  can’t watch you all the time! Ha ha. (Even though we are paid to safeguard you).

When you realise you are suffering from EXTREME boredom caused by not doing anything month after month, year after year – you may develop some nasty new habits like trying to gauge your eyeballs out.

It is upsetting for staff. But these side effects are all due to your illness, and part of your recovery. It is a sign of progress! Due to your condition getting worse.

No! None of what you are feeling / suffering is attributable to your environment, or fact you are being tortured by us.

This is new-style USA medical kidnapping, in the UK, with the image all sorted out so it seems palatable to less discerning eyes.

Oh, we don’t worry about inspections, inquests, complaints, or cuts in NHS funding!

Who do you think our shareholders are?

Anyone can invest in our multi-Billion $ business – the funders of NHS Commissioning groups do, MH Trusts… acquire shares – it’s a fast growing industry – very attractive to most (& not repulsive enough to cause disternation amongst those who might see through the sham. Or should I say scam?)

(It suits Conservatives – they cause the conditions that drive folk to distraction – the stressful conditions Tories like to inflict on lower income groups beneath them, increases illnesses – if it’s cogs that go, all drives ’em to our door, so it’s win win for us!

It’s not a revolving door! We let ’em in a door we then keep shut.

That’s all we need to do really – herd ’em in like cattle.

Of course we don’t like deaths! That’s a loss of approx at least £300,000 a year per expired patient.

Quickly replaced by another dying to get in, yes. But we would prefer to get that £300 grand plus  get another £300 grand.

Never mind.  Our insurance covers us against dead losses.

Luckily for us (on the dark side) nobody has scrutinised deaths caused. Nobody in authority wants to link them!

Each death is explained away by a coroner scattered someplace in the UK, if we get told off a bit for not providing the best care, we promise to improve, and jackpot!

We’ve perfected our operation – our branding – everything – so disgruntled relatives can’t even leave negative comments on our websites. We churn out photos to promote us… I particularly like  awards put in our reception areas –  so  assuring to our customers & clients, reminding them what we do is very rewarding.

Our complaints procedure has become increasingly obscure.

We say one thing, do another. 99% we get away with it. We hire a pretty youngling to listen pseudo sympathetically, then write saying you have got it wrong, the hospital is right. Works like a charm! Complaints fade away like patients

No, we don’t allow 2nd opinions when it’s claimed a patient is misdiagnosed, or put on a wrong ward.

Yes, we do get annoying Nearest Relatives to either put up & shut up, or get lost.

What’s it to us if a patient is 100’s of miles from home with no-one to check on their welfare?

Do we help alleviate the mental health of patients?

A few compliant types – 1 or 2 are released.  We love it when the grateful sing our praises – that’s good PR.

If discharged into the community – you still have to take all the drugs, or you are sent back on a Section.

So, we create the illusion we do, but we don’t.

If you say you have a mental health problem, I’ll give it a name, I’ll tie you in knots – you haven’t got a degree in psychobabble, but I have – I get paid to confuse you, throw the weight of the establishment on you and they will back me, not you…because… I am omnipotent… so big & powerful…

What’s the point in making patients better?

That is counter productive for us. You do see that, don’t you?

Ethics? What’s that got to do with us? We are not in the business of selling ethics! We’re here (to exploit and) make money. From drug sales…

Yes, we are fundamentally (excuse the pun) very different from the founding NHS principles. The NHS aim to get you better double quick.

We do not need a heart, soul, or conscience to make huge profits. We only care about acceptably fixing figures so attractive sums end up in offshore accounts.

I should care about tricking people, destroying quality of lives, futures?

No thanks, the money does me. Their mental health has gone to pot. My pot!

So, when are you signing up to join us?

You can trust in me, I’m a professional.

 

 

 

 Posted by at 21:51
Oct 282017
 

To confirm attendance please email
ellen.morrison@inclusionlondon.org.uk 

And with any information about any dietary and access requirements. There is parking outside and the nearest tube is Brixton. For more information about the venue see:

http://www.weare336.org.uk/

There will be more detailed information including programme for the day, workshops and speakers list to follow after the National Disabled People’s Summit is out of the way

Please share this information across your social media platforms

 Posted by at 20:56
Oct 282017
 
By the kilburn Unemployed Workers GrouK
The government has already closed 24 jobcentres since August this year. They plan to close a further 78 Jobcentres by April of 2018.
16 of these Jobcentres are in London.
Poor people and people facing the biggest challenges need local jobcentres, not some superhub that they have to walk miles to reach.
Benefit money is too little to cover regular trips on public transport. People will have to walk. And don’t be late or too ill to walk over a mile each way whenever the jobcentre demands it-– you’ll be up for a sanction!
The Torys say that much of the jobcentres work is now done online, but 5.3 million people in Britain have never used the internet, and 10 million lack the basic digital skills. And millions of these people will be in receipt of benefits.
You can’t use the internet if you can’t afford a computer or a mobile phone contract or or the fee for using library or internet cafe
You can’t use the internet if you are illiterate (and six to eight million Britons are borderline or fully illiterate)
Our local Jobcentres, Kilburn and Neasden, serve one of the most deprived areas in the country. If they are closed then over half of the borough of Camden and around two thirds of Brent will be more than half a mile from the nearest jobcentre, i.e. more than a mile round trip. These areas contain heavily populated areas: a lot of people are going to be affected.
In amongst the people who can’t use the internet are hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their disability benefit because they aren’t disabled enough for the Tories. They may be able to walk just 200 meters, or sometimes panic when out and get lost, or nor be able to plan a journey to places they dont know, or have epilepsy. They may be seriously depressed or suffering from brain fog brought on by medication or illnesses like Fibromyalgia. They may be recovering from Cancer or waiting for a heart operation. They may have variable conditions that mean that they can’t guarantee being able to go out at all on any particular day.
Let’s meet outside the DWP’s headquarters at Caxton House and let them know what we think about this. Save our Jobcentres!
The 16 London jobcentres that are closing are:
Highgate, – 24 November 2017
Eltham, – 1 December 2017
Edgware,  – 8 December 2017
Finchley,  12 January 2018
Dagenham, – 19 January 2018
Southall,  January 2018
Kingston,  February 2018
Brixton,  9 February 2018
Neasden Chancel House,  16 February 2018
Clapham Maritime House, – 23 February 2018
Kilburn,  2 March 2018
Hammersmith 9 March 2018
Croydon, – 16 March 2018
Wandsworth,  23 March 2018
Leytonstone, 30 March 2018
Hounslow, 1 – 6 April 2018
 Posted by at 19:15
Oct 282017
 
It’s been reported http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/disabled-people-interned-care-homes-nhs-cost-cutting-a8019906.html that across the country disabled people are receiving threats from their local NHS service that they may have to be moved from living in their own homes to a residential setting due to newly capped funding.
 
I’m looking to speak to disabled people in this situation to raise awareness of the issue. Please note, it isn’t necessary that you’ve actually been moved to a care home but that you’ve been directly told this is a possibility. 
 
Please get in touch on: frances.ryan.freelance@guardian.co.uk 
 Posted by at 19:05
Oct 272017
 

BBC Sunday Politics South East is making a news piece about the closure of Jobcentres. From next March people in the Whitstable and Herne Bay areas will have to travel to Canterbury, which can take up to an hour on public transport and cost up to £6.70. The BBC are looking for an individual or family who will be affected by these changes who would be happy to appear on TV and are available for filming on WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 1. Filming will take around an hour. If you can help please contact the South East team on 0207 407 9292. Many thanks. 

 Posted by at 16:12
Oct 272017
 
Please send your experience of the ESA or PIP assessment or your experience of waiting for an assessment to Henrietta.Doyle@inclusionlondon.org.uk by the 8 November.   Suggestions to improve the assessment process are also welcome.
Inclusion London will be sending written evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee inquiry into PIP and ESA assessments and your evidence will be used to inform our evidence.
 Posted by at 13:22
Oct 252017
 

We know that Universal credit is a mess, but what about HMRC’s Real Time Information system ? The following contribution from Stephen Timms based on a Freedom of Information request is very interesting. It seems that over 5% of payments to individuals by HMRC were reported being paid late.  HMRC does not monitor the missing or incorrect payments, but we know that Universal Credit is being underpaid. So not only claimants have to contend with long waiting times, but when they are paid via RTI, over 5% are paid late, and an unknown number of claimants don’t receive anything, or an incorrect payment, mostly at their disadvantage. What experts are saying, is that 5,7% is an unacceptably high rate of late payments.  The number of late, missing and incorrect payments should be well lower than 1% if UC is going to work

Stephen Timms’ contribution comes from yesterday debate on UC

.

“Under universal credit, everybody’s monthly pay is automatically sent to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs through the pay-as-you-earn RTI—real-time information—system, and HMRC then sends that to the DWP so that it can do the universal credit calculation. There have been rumours for some time that the RTI system does not work very well. I have tabled questions about that, but the Minister has flatly denied that there is a problem.

It emerged last month, through a freedom of information request submitted by a member of the public, Mr John Slater, that there is a thing called the “Late, Missing and Incorrect RTI Project”. If RTI is late, missing or incorrect, we have a problem, because it is not possible to do the required universal credit calculation. I therefore tabled a question for the Minister:

“To ask…what the remit and activities of the Late, Missing and Incorrect RTI Project are.”

The Minister sent back an answer telling me that it did not exist and that there was no such thing. Fortunately, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs was more forthcoming on this point. I got a written answer last week from the Treasury, dated 16 October, to my written question 107309, which stated that:

“The vast majority of Real Time Information submissions are accurate and on time. However, a very small number of data quality issues create discrepancies and these can have an effect on an individual’s tax and benefits position.”

Indeed they can, because if the information is wrong, people’s benefit calculations will also be wrong.

The following day, 17 October, also from the more helpful of these two departments, the Treasury answer to my question 107475 stated that:

“during the 2016/17 tax year approximately 590m payments to individuals were reported via RTI. 5.7% of these were reported late. HMRC does not hold the information in respect of missing and incorrect reports.”

If over 5% of them were just late, never mind the ones that were missing or incorrect, we do have a serious problem.

Looking through all the submissions we received, briefing us ahead of this debate, I was struck by the one from the Child Poverty Action Group, referring to,

“difficulty making claims for universal credit, with many online claims seeming to ‘disappear’.

Universal credit being underpaid because ‘real time information’ provided by HMRC regarding income is not always reliable or accurate.

Claimants being paid the wrong amount of universal credit for no apparent reason.”

What is happening is that the IT is not doing what it is supposed to do.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury) referred to the anonymous report in The Independent a couple of weeks ago by someone working in a jobcentre, who talked about the grim reality of administering universal credit, rather by contrast with the enthusiasm with which Tory Members have told us that people are working on this. That writer made the point that when there is a discrepancy between what people were paid and what HMRC says they were paid—in other words, an RTI problem—it takes ages to sort that problem out. Members representing constituencies where universal credit has been fully rolled out report endless mistakes, delays and errors, which take weeks and weeks to resolve.

Another reason why this project’s roll-out should be paused and then fixed is to stop these problems being inflicted on tens of thousands more.

 Posted by at 15:54
Oct 072017
 

The DWP has published the long awaited guidance on Reassessments for claimants with the most severe and lifelong conditions, with the applicable criteria. This will only apply to claimants in the Support Group or under UC who have been found to have Limited Work Related Activity capability.  As with any decision which is discretionary, there will be no right of appeal.  Developed in conjunction with some disability charities such as DRUK, the criteria are not related to specific conditions, but to broader categories which will apply to specific conditions but will also encompass others, when all the criteria are met.

As with everything related to DWP, the implementation will be key, but there are already some questions:

Will it be a limit within a range to the number of people found to meet the criteria? A FOI request has already been made about this: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/wca_management_information_sever

What if a disability assessor and a claimant’s GP or consultant disagree about the realistic prospect of recovery?  Could a disability assessor who is neither a GP nor a consultant overrule a GP or a consultant in that regard?

There will be more questions. Meanwhile the guidance and the criteria are here:

FAQs on WCA severe conditions

DWP WCA Guidance on severe conditions

Severe conditions guidance

 

 

 Posted by at 14:12