Crunch time for Universal Credit!

The pace of the roll-out of ‘full’ Universal Credit is set to ramp up in a few months’ time.

 

Jo King shakes her head in desperation as Vivaldi’s The Four Seasonscroaks from her phone speaker. She has heard it countless times since she first called the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Universal Credit (UC) helpline.

“I’ve rung up four times already,” she explains over the garbled concerto. “If my Universal Credit is not there by the close of play, then my direct debits will bounce.”

Ms King, who was born blind and struggles with an array of physical and mental health problems, was told it would be in her account by 2pm. It’s now 3pm and there is no sign of the money. She could be fined £48 by her bank, which is a frightening sum for someone who needs every penny to pay for her care, bills and food.

“I won’t have much left out of my benefit if I’m charged for the direct debits,” she says when Inside Housing meets her at her homely council flat on the Newbiggin Hall Estate in Newcastle. “I will have to try to put something off until next month. Or it will be less food, probably.”

Universal Credit-Waiting Days Exceptions

Eventually, she is passed to a manager from the DWP’s Grimsby call centre, who promises she will get her money. But Ms King, 43, has every reason to doubt his word. The month we meet, the DWP has already failed to pay her rent directly to Your Homes Newcastle, Newcastle City Council’s 28,000-home ALMO.

Usually under UC, the money goes to the tenant, but tenants are able to make special arrangements to have their rent paid directly to their landlords. “I’ve not had one payment on time, or paid or worked out correctly,” she says, fiddling with her dark hair anxiously.

Ms King started receiving UC –which combines six benefits, including housing benefit, into a single payment – last year. Previously it only applied to single, unemployed adults. The so-called ‘full’ version is now being rolled out to families with children and disabled people.

Since then, Ms King has frequently fallen behind with her rent. “I would get calls from my rent officer all the time saying ‘have you been paid the rent, because we haven’t been paid the rent?’” she says.

She has twice been left without any UC. Instead she relied on emergency food parcels and her disability benefit, which is supposed to pay for her care. “The food bank dropped stuff off for me. And they made me smile because they gave me a bunch of flowers,” she says, still grateful for such a small act of kindness.

Rising pressures

Ms King’s plight is not unusual. Across Newcastle – the government’s official test bed for UC – 86% of the 2,271 council tenants currently claiming UC are in rent arrears, owing a total of £2.5m. Before UC was rolled out, only 53% were in arrears.

Yet in October, the roll-out of full UC is set to increase from five to 50 areas a month. By 2022, more than seven million households are expected to be in receipt of UC. This will include half of all families with children and nearly 60% of households where an adult is disabled or has a long-term health condition.

Nick Forbes, leader of Labour-run Newcastle City Council, warns UC is pushing people into debt and destitution. “We are having to pick up the pieces of a badly designed and badly thought through system, which is leaving people, who are often vulnerable, in serious financially difficulties,” he says. “And that is not acceptable.”

“We are having to pick up the pieces of a badly designed and badly thought through system.”

Rather than evicting tenants waiting for payment, the council is offering advice and support, and, occasionally, emergency payments and food. “Staff in our customer service centre have tins of food in cupboards because people are presenting having not eaten for three days,” says Mr Forbes.

But the council cannot stop private landlords taking matters into their own hands. “We know a number of people are starting to run up significant arrears in the private rented sector,” he says. “And that increases their risk of homelessness through eviction.”

Nor can it keep bailing tenants out for ever. Newcastle has had to cut £221m over the past six years and needs to find another £70m worth of savings by 2020. “Over the next two years we won’t be able to provide the same level of support,” says Mr Forbes.

Rent arrears pose other problems for the council: less money for housing maintenance and new homes. “It is yet another pressure on the Housing Revenue Account at a time when there is a huge drive to build new housing,” remarks Mr Forbes.

The experience of other areas with full UC is equally troubling. A survey of councils and ALMOs by the National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) and the Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH) found in July that 73% of tenants were in arrears, owing an average of £772.21, up from £611.73 a year earlier. This is far higher than the 31% of tenants in arrears under the housing benefit system.

A separate Citizens Advice survey in July found that 57% of UC claimants seeking its advice had been forced to borrow money while waiting for their first payment, which takes at least six weeks. It also showed that 39% were waiting longer, and 11% were waiting more than 10 weeks.

Evidence of hardship caused by these delays is easy to find. A report for The Trussell Trust, which runs food banks across the UK, found in April that food banks in areas with full UC roll-out had seen a 17% average increase in referrals, more than double the national average increase of 7%.

In the West End of Newcastle, there are already people queuing outside The Trussell Trust food bank at the Church of the Venerable Bede when Inside Housing visits at 9.30am, 30 minutes ahead of its opening. There is a young man in sportswear, an older woman and a young couple holding empty shopping bags. They look sheepish and apprehensive in the morning drizzle – nothing like the Benefits Street stereotypes.

Inside, washed-out light comes through a broken window. The hall was broken into the week before but staff managed to open the food bank, which featured in Ken Loach’s acclaimed film I, Daniel Blake.

SOURCE

Britain’s Welfare State is a Human Rights Invention that Protects Us ALL

It is easy to take the welfare state for granted. For those of us born after 1949, we’ve always known Britain as having free healthcare for all, free education up to secondary school, and a social security net to fall back on if we become unable to work. It is difficult to comprehend a time when none of this existed.

Yet, there are constant signs in the news that the welfare state is, at the very least, shrinking. From the budgetary burden and privatisation of the NHS, to the scrapping of social security benefits and the introduction of benefits caps and freezes, the welfare state as we know it appears to be at risk.

Now seems like a pertinent time to revisit why the welfare state was introduced in the first place and why it is important today, particularly in relation to human rights.

What is the Welfare State and where did it come from?

Image credit: Marcin Nowack / Unsplash

A welfare state is a form of governance in which the state actively plays a role in the promotion and protection of people’s livelihood and well-being through the provision of certain services, benefits and a guarantee of minimum standards, including adequate income.

The welfare state as we know it today is largely a consequence of the 1942 Beveridge Report, which was written during a period of austerity, growing inequality and widespread poverty. In the report, a series of policies were proposed to tackle “the five giants” (Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor, and Idleness) and provide aid to citizens in need, “from cradle-to-grave”.

Many of the policies in the Beveridge Report were adopted by the newly elected Labour Government from 1945 to 1951. These policies were funded by a weekly National Insurance contribution, which was higher for those with higher incomes. It led to the creation of the National Health Service in 1946, a comprehensive social security net for all citizens in the UK (regardless of whether they had an income and paid National Insurance) and access to legal redress through legal aid, to name only a few.

The welfare state is justified by principles of fairness and equality. It aims to overcome inequality through the redistribution of wealth and to tackle poverty by protecting the vulnerable, sick, homeless and unemployed.

Why is the Welfare State important?

Image credit: Michael Gaida / Pixabay

Britain implemented these policies at the same time as the United Nations enshrined the human rights obligations states have to their citizens in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Perhaps this is a coincidence, but the principles underpinning the welfare state are synonymous with the principles underpinning human rights: fairness, equality and the concept of a state’s duty to ensure its citizens enjoy a minimum standard of living.

Moreover, human rights are universal and inalienable; everyone has them by virtue of being human and this is independent of any other attribute, such as wealth, age, gender or race. Similarly, the welfare state aims to guarantee that everyone meets a minimum standard of living and has access to certain services, regardless of their wealth, age, health, ability or disability.

The welfare state also contributes towards the fulfilment of a number of individual human rights. The right to education is met through free education, the NHS protects our right to life and right to health, the minimum wage links to our right to fair work, and legal aid allows for access to justice.

Social security benefits fall under the right to peaceful enjoyment of propertyand by alleviating poverty and striving towards adequate living standards, they prevent living conditions so poor that they could amount to inhuman or degrading treatment. The rights contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child are also relevant where children are affected. Where access to the welfare state is limited, sometimes to right to be free from discrimination can be engaged in courts.

The Future of Our Welfare State

We are living in an era of austerity, with the welfare state gradually being scaled back. Yet, the conditions that drove the creation of the welfare state – poverty, inequality and people living in need – still exist today.

Our welfare state is vital to ensuring that everybody can enjoy their human rights. It is important and should not be taken for granted; we should be aware of it and fight for it, not let it gradually slip through the cracks.

Want to know more about human rights and welfare?

SOURCE

In a sickening insult a woman with dementia praised by David Cameron has had her benefits cut by Tories

Joy has worked hard to show people it is possible to enjoy life with dementia and help others

A woman praised by David Cameron as an ‘ambassador’ for people living with Alzheimer’s has had her benefits stopped.

Joy Watson, from Eccles, has been left struggling to pay bills after an assessment by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decided she was able to look after herself. This means she has £400 less each month.

The 59-year-old, who was diagnosed four years ago, was forced to give up her job as a carer. But showing remarkable fortitude she became a champion for people with dementia giving lectures raising awareness, teaching nursing students and showing local businesses how to help those with the condition. Her efforts earned her a doctorate and praise from the former Prime Minister Mr Cameron.

Her husband Tony says he and his wife can’t understand how anyone could think she could look after herself. Joy is unable to cook meals or even hold a cup of tea properly and mixes up vital medication if left to manage on her own.

He and Joy have worked hard to show people it is possible to enjoy life with dementia and help others.

Husband and wife Tony and Joy Watson
Husband and wife Tony and Joy Watson (Image: Joel Goodman)

They worry now that their efforts to keep Joy well and living the best life she is able have led directly to the benefits cuts which have left them struggling to pay their bills. They have been told it is likely to be next year before a tribunal will hear their appeal – leaving them in a desperate situation.

Speaking haltingly as she struggles to remember the right words Joy said: “I had to give up the job I loved and I don’t see any sense in this decision. I feel really as if I’m being penalised for trying to live well, I don’t think [the system] is geared up for understanding people with dementia and their needs.

“They don’t see me when I’m fretting, when I can’t do the thing I want to do.

“I have had these benefits for four years since I got the diagnosis – do they not know that dementia is a progressive disease? I try to keep well but I’m not going to get better.”

Joy was assessed by a health worker from the DWP at her home in April following the recent government changes to move claimants on Disability Support Allowance to Personal Independence Payments. (PIP).

After this assessment, Joy’s support payments were stopped.

She appealed, but was rejected and returned an even lower score than the original decision. Joy’s Personal Independence Payments were stopped, and the Carer’s Allowance her retired husband Tony received for supporting Joy was also rescinded despite him caring for her round-the-clock.

It has come as a bitter blow to the couple who after the initial shock of her diagnosis at just 54 made a decision to be as positive as possible.

Joy used her own difficult experiences whilst out shopping to create a booklet for staff in shops and banks and gave one to each business in Eccles, signing up hundreds to a dementia friendly scheme.

Although she tries to live as independently as possible Tony says Joy is unable to look after herself. When she has tried to cook she has forgotten to turn the gas on, or not put water in the pan with vegetables and most worryingly she also forgets to turn the gas off.

A couple of years ago she went away with a carer for a few days and took her evening pills in the morning leaving her like a zombie all day.

Tony said: “The assessment lasted about an hour and Joy did not move from the sofa once.

“She struggled to remember her words, her hands shook and although we explained she can’t make meals because she forgets to turn off the gas and she can’t manage her medicine – she mixes up her evening and morning tablets – their report said she is able to look after herself.

“I have tried to help Joy to be as independent as possible, to live as well as possible, she has always wanted to help others and I believe that going out and talking to people about dementia has kept her brain working – it is her passion and we are so proud of what she has achieved.

“Joy is an amazing woman and she has worked so hard to keep herself well – she looks great, people can’t always tell she has dementia and I can’t help feeling if she had sat on the settee and stagnated, we would be getting all these benefits now.”

Last year Joy was made an Honorary Doctor of the University of Salford, and was recognised with the Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award.

At the time the former Prime Minister had said: “Since being diagnosed with Dementia, Joy has worked tirelessly to help people understand how we can all support people in our communities with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

She is an incredible ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society, reaching a huge number of people and businesses with information and advice that will help them join the Dementia Friends movement. I am delighted to recognise Joy’s service by making her the UK’s 457th Point of Light.”

Rebecca Long Bailey, MP for Salford and Eccles, and Shadow Secretary of State for Business, said: “It is disgusting to hear what Joy and her husband are having to go through. Not only having to adjust their lives with the continuing degenerative condition that dementia brings, but to have the safety net of Personal Independence Payments and Carers Allowance pulled from under them.”

“I have written to the DWP and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to request they look again at the decision made. Unfortunately, having seen so many cases come through my constituency office this is not a rare case. “

She called on the government to “urgently review” their policy of assessing those with dementia and stopping benefits for months leaving many with little or no money to live on.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Decisions for PIP are made following consideration of all the information provided by the claimant, including supporting evidence from their GP or medical specialist.

“Anyone that disagrees with a decision can appeal.”

People may get the daily living part of PIP if you need help more than half of the time with things like: preparing or eating food;washing, bathing and using the toilet; dressing and undressing; reading and communicating; managing your medicines or treatments; making decisions about money; engaging with other people.

Meanwhile Joy is trying to remain positive; throwing her energy into a plan to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research by getting sponsored to riding the longest zipwire in Europe.

Where to get help…

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be incredibly tough but there are a vast range of services out there to help.

As well as practical advice, many of these services also offer much needed clinical and emotional support to families and carers.

In the UK, support charities include the Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia UK and Alzheimer’s Research UK, all of which feature essential information on their websites. Alzheimer’s Research UK also has an infoline on 0300 1115111, which is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

Other support services include online forums, such as the Alzheimer’s Society’s Talking Point, the Carers UK forum and Carers Trust forum.
Further details of ways to access support can be found at www.nhs.uk/Conditions/dementia-guide/Pages/dementia-help-and-support.aspx .

DWP ‘is using lost benefit assessment letters to cut spending’

 

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is using lost appointment letters for face-to-face assessments as an excuse for turning down disabled people’s benefit claims, to help it cut spending on social security, it has been claimed.

Concerns have been raised about both the government’s new personal independence payment (PIP) – which helps meet a person’s disability-related costs – and employment and support allowance (ESA), the out-of-work sickness and disability benefit.

The concerns were raised with Disability News Service (DNS) after last week’s report detailing how DWP, and its private sector contractors Atos and Capita, were refusing to launch inquiries into widespread allegations of dishonesty by healthcare professionals paid to carry out PIP assessments.

One leading activist, Roy Bard (pictured), a long-term recipient of disability living allowance (DLA), described this week how his financial support was suddenly removed because he missed an appointment for a PIP assessment he was never told about.

He had been told he needed to apply for the new PIP, which is gradually replacing DLA for working-age claimants.

After DWP initially appeared to have mislaid documents he sent as evidence for his claim – which he sent by recorded delivery – he eventually received a phone call from Atos asking why he had missed his face-to-face assessment.

He told Atos he had never received a letter telling him to attend an assessment, and made the same reply a few days later when Atos called him again.

Bard then received a letter telling him his DLA had been stopped, and that his PIP claim had been cancelled.

When he complained, he was told a text message reminder had been sent to his phone, but the mobile number it was sent to does not belong to him.

Following an appeal – through DWP’s mandatory reconsideration process – he was told that DWP had overturned the decision to cancel his PIP claim, but would still not reinstate his DLA. He was told to wait for another assessment appointment.

This decision meant he lost about £560 a month in DLA and severe disability premium, even though DWP had overturned its original finding that he had no good cause for missing the assessment.

Bard, a leading member of the Mental Health Resistance Network, said his mental health had been seriously affected by the way his PIP claim had been dealt with, and he told DWP that this “amounts to maladministration and it has caused me considerable harassment, distress and alarm”.

Soon after DNS contacted DWP about his case, Bard was told that his DLA had been reinstated and a new PIP assessment arranged for next week.

But his case is not a one-off.

Graeme Ellis (pictured), who founded the Lancaster-based social enterprise Here2Support, has told DNS that he received eight cases similar to Bard’s last week, some of them relating to PIP, and some affecting ESA claimants.

All eight said they had had their benefits removed for not attending a face-to-face assessment, even though they had not received an appointment letter.

In the last month, Ellis has been receiving one or two such cases a week, but last week that “just shot through the roof”.

He believes these cases demonstrate a fresh DWP attempt to cut social security spending.

Previously, he said, a claimant of disability benefits would be given another assessment if their appointment letter had gone missing.

Now, said Ellis, they are finding – like Bard – that their claims are being cancelled.

He believes that appointment letters are being sent out, but that DWP is being more “strict” if the letters go missing and claimants fail to turn up to their assessments.

He said: “They are just dismissing the fact that people are saying they have not received the letter.

“It’s about saving money. They see a way of knocking somebody off benefits.”

He also pointed to another case as further evidence of a new, even harsher DWP regime.

A woman who had not left her home in five years because of severe agoraphobia was denied a home PIP assessment – after years of claiming DLA – and then had her benefits removed when she failed to turn up to an assessment centre for her appointment.

Ellis traces the start of a stricter ESA regime to April this year, and the implementation of controversial cuts of nearly £30 a week to payments made to new ESA claimants placed in the work-related activity group.

Because a cancelled claim means someone has to start a new claim – even if they had previously been receiving ESA – DWP can then treat them as new claimants and cut their benefits by nearly £30 a week if they are placed in the WRAG.

A DWP spokeswoman said the department was “not aware of multiple examples” of cases like Bard’s.

She said: “We’ve made enquiries, and we are not aware of this being a widespread issue.”

She said that suggestions that DWP was using such incidents as a way of forcing disabled people on ESA to make new claims and accept lower benefits if placed in the WRAG were “unfounded and not true”.

She added: “[Bard] was sent a letter asking him to attend a face-to-face assessment.

“Although a text message was sent to the number that we held for [him], further checks show that the assessment provider did not give sufficient notice for the assessment, so they’ve been asked to arrange a new appointment.

“As the case had not been dealt with correctly on this occasion, we’ve informed [Bard] that his DLA will be reinstated.

“The mobile number that the text message was sent to was a number we had held for some time.

“As [Bard] has now stated that this is not his number, it has been removed from our records.”

She added: “Every year we send out millions of letters, and fortunately incidents like this are rare.

“When an administrative error does occur, we take action to ensure the claimant does not lose out on their benefits, as we have in [Bard’s] case.”

SOURCE

ANOTHER PIP ATROCITY: PIP report ignored near-fatal attacks, overdoses and blackouts

Recordings prove PIP report ignored near-fatal attacks, overdoses and blackouts

A nurse failed to mention a disabled woman’s near-fatal asthma attacks, accidental overdoses and repeated blackouts, in one of the clearest examples yet of a dishonest benefits assessment report, secret recordings have revealed.

A video recording of the assessment also shows that the nurse lied about the way disabled activist Catherine Scarlett made her way from a stairlift to a reclining chair to begin the assessment.

Scarlett had been so distrustful of the personal independence payment (PIP) system that she made both video and audio recordings of her face-to-face assessment, which was carried out at her home in Yorkshire in May.

She says the recordings and assessment report prove she was right to do so.

They show how the nurse – employed by the government contractor Atos Healthcare – repeatedly downplayed the seriousness of what she was told by Scarlett.

This allowed the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to lower her entitlement from the enhanced rate to just the standard rate for the daily living element of PIP, although she was allowed to stay on the enhanced rate for mobility.

At one point, Scarlett is heard on the recording telling the nurse that on several occasions she had accidentally double-dosed the powerful opioid pain medication Tramadol, but the nurse translates that in her written report as “occasionally forgets to take her medication”.

Scarlett also tells the nurse that she cannot read for long periods “because I black out”, but this ends up in the report as “she can read although she doesn’t read for long due to concentration”.

When Scarlett describes how she has previously experienced “near-fatal asthma attacks”, the nurse writes this up in her report as episodes of being “wheezy and short of breath”, which “comes and goes”.

And when the nurse asks her if she has ever thought of taking her own life, Scarlett tells her that she has felt like ending her life “lots of times” and that she experiences “impulsive urges to commit suicide and things like that”.

This is translated as “she has had thoughts of not wanting to be here”.

Scarlett is also furious that the nurse suggested that she did not need to carry out a physical examination if that meant she would be “wiped out for the week”.

When Scarlett agreed and said she was “not really” keen on having the examination, the nurse was able to use her decision to decline the physical tests to justify relying instead on an inaccurate description of how she claimed she saw Scarlett “grip and operate a crutch in each hand” as she was walking from a chairlift to her seat, in order to play down her need for support for bathing and dressing.

DWP later admitted – when it eventually overturned its original findings – that she lacked the necessary grip and strength in her right hand and arm “to be able to dress yourself reliably and in a timely manner”.

The video clearly shows Scarlett walking with a stooped posture, leaning heavily on the crutches, and flopping into the chair, but not touching its arms.

But the nurse writes this up as: “She walked from the bottom of the stairs to her specialist reclining chair using a crutch in each hand. She walked very slowly with normal posture.

“She lowered herself into the chair by putting her hands on the chair and lowered herself into it.”

Scarlett believes that her case, and many others she has been passed by other disabled people through social media, show that DWP is “colluding” with Atos in order to cut people’s support.

She said: “I have been shocked at the effect on my mental health and the thoughts it has brought up for me and can understand why it pushes so many people completely over the edge.

“I’m lucky to have strong family, friends and professional support that keeps me going but so many people aren’t as lucky and so are very vulnerable to devastating mental health deterioration and the consequences of that.

“The whole system needs fully investigating and changing to protect those people.”

Following the decision to reduce her support, a mandatory reconsideration (MR) – DWP’s own internal review process – endorsed that decision, although the department finally agreed last month to return her daily living to the enhanced rate when she appealed against the MR decision.

In that decision, DWP accepted that Scarlett did after all need help to dress and take a bath.

For technical reasons, DNS was not able to share the video recording with Atos and DWP, but the audio recording was shared with their press offices.

DNS originally agreed to omit the allegations connected with the video recording so that DWP would comment on the evidence provided solely by the audio recording.

But this morning, after agreeing to this and asking for extra time to produce a response – the audio recording was originally sent to DWP and Atos on Tuesday afternoon – a DWP spokeswoman failed to comment on any of the evidence contained in the audio recording.

Instead, she merely pointed out that Scarlett’s PIP entitlement was eventually restored, after she appealed, to the daily living enhanced rate.

She also repeated previous DWP statements about the “strict quality standards” required of assessment providers, and the “on-going quality audits” that assessors are subjected to, as well as mentioning the complaints procedures available to PIP claimants.

An Atos spokesman refused to comment on the evidence at all.

He said: “We’re informed we won’t have access to the video which accompanies the audio without which the points raised cannot be looked into as verification is simply not possible.”

Scarlett’s case is one of 22 that have been passed to Labour MP Neil Coyle (see separate story), who has pledged to take up concerns about allegations of dishonest assessment reports when parliament returns from its summer recess next month.

Disability News Service (DNS) has been investigating since last November claims that healthcare professionals working for Atos and Capita have been lying in their assessment reports.

DNS has now compiled more than 200 cases in which PIP claimants say their assessors produced dishonest reports.

The investigation shows that assessors – most of them nurses – have repeatedly lied, ignored written evidence and dishonestly reported the results of physical examinations.

But DWP, Capita and Atos have all refused to launch inquiries into the claims of widespread dishonesty.

SOURCE

ANOTHER PIP ATROCITY RIGHTED

Disabled woman told she showed ‘no evidence’ of any issues receives apology from PIP assessors

1

The woman, from Llanelli, will now receive the full PIP entitlement

Wheelchair-bound Charlotte Jukes was told she showed ‘no evidence’ of any illness.

Healthcare assessors have apologised after a Llanelli woman was turned down for a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claim despite having left her job due to a disability.

Former teacher Charlotte Jukes, of Tumble, is bed-ridden, and had applied for a PIP claim after suffering from severe anxiety and depression.

Capita represented the Department of Work and Pensions in assessing the claim.

She was turned down for the payment following an assessment, and immediately disputed the report’s findings. She then appealed claims that she showed ‘no evidence’ of any mental health issues.

Following media reports over her plight, Mrs Jukes was contacted by the DWP and informed that they believed there were some “discrepancies” in her original report.

Speaking following the verdict, Mrs Jukes said: “After learning that there had indeed been discrepancies in my report, I had to go through assessment again with somebody different.

“The second assessment lasted around two and a half hours, while the first was only about twenty minutes. The latest one was very thorough, and made me carry out physical tests.

“I’ll now be able to afford the electric wheelchair I need, meaning I will be able to go out more.

“The payments have been backdated back to January, when I first made the claim, so they have confirmed that I will receive them in a lump sum.

“We’ll also have a better quality of life financially, although I was shocked to find out that it will only allow me to have £3 a week in housing benefit because my husband works.

“The benefit advisor said we’d be better off if he stopped working and claimed jobseekers’ allowance, which is ridiculous – why would he want to sit at home all day doing nothing?

“I also find it strange that I can go from being deemed as having nothing wrong with me, to being assessed as eligible for the higher rate of both the daily living and mobility components of PIP. It seems very unfair that I have had to fight the process to get what I should have had in the first place.

“At least I won’t have to go to court, which of course would be a challenge not just mentally but physically too, and I’ve avoided the ordeal of going to a tribunal.”

A Capita spokeswoman said: “Our assessors are healthcare professionals who are committed to delivering high quality and accurate reports in line with Department for Work and Pensions guidance. a

“If a claimant has queries about a report they can contact us by phone, text phone, email or post so that we can look into their concern.

“We apologise that on this rare occasion our high standards weren’t met.

“This was swiftly resolved and the claimant has since had a second assessment.”

SOURCE


OTHER PIP ATROCITIES

 

  1. Daughter’s fury after DWP tell doctors not to write sick note for dying father  
  2. VULNERABLE Man tells of eviction fears after losing crucial benefits
  3. Mum who suffers from MS has benefits cut – because she can squeeze someone’s thumb
  4. Tories admit PIP assessments are a meaningless charade
  5. As An Unpaid Carer For My Disabled Husband, I Fear ‘Just Managing’ Is A Cliff Edge From Poverty
  6. Tories attacking disabled people ‘in every area of their lives’, says campaigner
  7. Heartache as disabled woman is hit by benefits cut 
  8. Man crippled by cancer for two decades loses life award after being forced into PIP assessment
  9. Mum recovering from brain tumour is hit by benefits blunder
  10. Mum who suffers from MS has benefits cut – because she can squeeze someone’s thumb
  11. Grandfather told to get a job has decision reversed by DWP after Daily Record story
  12. In excruciating pain. Unable to sleep. Yet John is still ‘fit for work’
  13. Woman has disability benefits axed for having life-saving open-heart surgery
  14. I’ve had a heart attack, two strokes and my kidneys are failing…but I’m “fit” for work’ 
  15. Diabetic man blames DWP benefit sanctions for leg amputation
  16. Conwy mum with MS made to feel she’s ‘not disabled enough’ after losing mobility car
  17. As a thalidomider, ‘I feel I’m being treated like a scrounger’
  18. Diabetic man has leg amputated after health problems spiralled out of control when benefits were stopped
  19. Cruel government tests that literally leave people dying for help
  20. Boy born with half a heart has disability benefits taken away – on his 8th birthday
  21. Woman has disability benefits stopped – despite not being able to climb her own stairs   
  22. AND THE PIP ATROCITIES GO ON AND ON: PIP investigation 200 cases of dishonesty
  23. ANOTHER DWP ATROCITY: Gran found “fit” for work two weeks after a stroke!
  24. Double amputee in constant agony faces losing disability car
  25. Wheelchair-bound pensioner has benefits slashed by £242 a week
  26. Disabled war veteran rode mobility scooter on 60mph road for 20-mile trip to attend benefits test
  27. Disabled woman felt “dehumanised” after being forced to crawl up stairs for benefits appointment 
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Tory government keeps report on fit-for-work tests secret to protect firms’ ‘commercial interests’

The DWP has launched a legal battle at a tribunal to stop a report about Work Capability Assessments (WCA) becoming public

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The Tory government is fighting to keep details of hated fit-for-work tests secret – because releasing them would hurt firms’ ‘commercial interests’.

Officials have launched an extraordinary taxpayer-funded legal battle to stop a report on Work Capability Assessments (WCA) becoming public.

Campaigners say the tests, which decide if people are sick or disabled enough to get benefits, are deeply flawed despite costing £200m a year.

More than 2,500 people have died shortly after being declared fit for work.Others have included one woman with an incurable flesh-eating disease and another who could barely climb stairs.

Yet the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is refusing to publish an ‘outcome report’ by the private firms that run the tests.

Hundreds of disabled activists protest outside the headquarters of Maximus
The privatised fit-for-work tests have attracted furious protests over the years (Image: WENN)

The DWP claims releasing the report, which contains monthly performance details from each testing centre, could give a “perception of under-performance” when read out of context.

This would “damage the reputation and financial standing of the companies involved,” officials claim.

The tests are run by a firm called Centre for Health and Disability Assessments, which is itself run by outsourcing giant Maximus.

Before that the tests were run by controversial welfare-to-work firm Atos.

The DWP claims itself, Maximus and Atos are all likely to have their commercial interests “prejudiced” if the report is released because its data goes back to 2011.

A watchdog rejected the DWP’s claims in a damning ruling more than four months ago and ordered it to release the report.

The Information Commissioner slammed the DWP for “barely explaining” how private firms would be hit, adding: “The Commissioner is not persuaded that there is a real likelihood that disclosure of the withheld information would dissuade these companies from entering into future contracts with the government.”

But the DWP is now appealing that ruling to a legal tribunal, delaying the case until around November.

The battle was triggered by a Freedom of Information request from project manager and freedom of information campaigner John Slater.

The 52-year-old told the Mirror: “It’s disappointing when the Commissioner issued such a blunt decision and they’ve not backed up their arguments at all.”

A DWP spokesman said: “This information is exempt from disclosure under FOI rules as it covers commercial interests.

“We publish a range of information on WCA outcomes, including at a regional level.”

Maximus and Atos had not returned requests for comment at the time of publication. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by the two firms in the Information Commissioner’s report. source


Documents relating to the government’s controversial fit-for-work tests could be blocked from publication after the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) launched a legal challenge.

In April, John Slater submitted a Freedom of Information request (FOI) asking for details of the ‘outcome reports’ which are completed by the private company contracted to carry out the tests. The reports would include information about the number of people with a terminal illness or limited capability to work subjected to the test.

The DWP initially said it did not hold the information but later argued that releasing it could damage the company’s commercial interests.

The Information Commissioner’s Office ruled that the DWP must publish the documents but the department has appealed that decision, meaning the case will now be heard at the First Tier tribunal.

“The DWP’s decision is very disappointing,” Slater said. “At times it seems like they operate the default position of appealing any decision made by the commissioner that goes against it, regardless of the costs or the merits of its case.

“The commissioner was clear in her decision notice that the DWP had relied on “barely explained assertions” to justify its position and yet it is exposing the public purse to the expense of a tribunal hearing.”

Since 2015, Work Capability Assessments (the official name for the tests) have been carried out by the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments (CHDA), a subsidiary of the company Maximus.

The outcome reports are produced every month by the CHDA and detail the outcomes of the tests from each assessment centre.

Last year, Slater a won a lengthy legal battle with the DWP over the disclosure of documents relating to problems with Universal Credit.

A spokesperson for the DWP said:

“This information is exempt from disclosure under FOI rules as it covers commercial interests. We publish a range of information on WCA outcomes, including at a regional level.”

source