It’s telling that those zealots who want to defend the ‘unborn child’ are complicit in policies that impoverish women and children
One of the most remarkable things that came out of the Irish referendum was the personal testimony of women who had been forced to journey to England for medical care. But some – poor or migrant or disabled women – recounted how even this option wasn’t available to them; unable to travel, they had no choice but to take the gamble of a pill bought from the internet. It’s a striking insight into the black-and-white thinking imposed on pregnancy: women who could not even afford a flight on Ryanair for a safe abortion were somehow expected to be able to afford to feed, house and clothe a child.
Beyond Ireland, this denial of the material reality of raising a child is an ongoing issue – in abortion debates and beyond. Indeed, the same voices so ardently protecting the “unborn child” are often strangely quiet when it comes to support for children once they are outside the womb. This convenient cognitive dissonance has long been a feature of rightwing attitudes: arguing to restrict a woman’s reproductive rights while supporting measures that push children into poverty. (Some British rightwing – often male – journalists couldn’t resist stepping in over the Irish debate too.)
Avoiding this hypocritical “concern for children” does not require a particularly complex position: a civilised society would give women the choice not to continue with a pregnancy and in turn support a child’s wellbeing if they are born. And yet it is a concept with which many still seem to struggle, including our own government. The Conservatives have long positioned themselves as the party of family – from cruel so-called protection of the “traditional family” such as the anti-LGBT Section 28, 30 years old this month, to David Cameron’s pledge to use the family to solve social problems, and 2017’s backbench Manifesto to Strengthen the Family, pitched as Theresa May’s key social narrative.
At the same time, their small-state ideology can make it devastatingly difficult for a low-income parent to look after a child. Look at the controversial “two-child” limit to child tax credits under universal credit (UC). From its inception, it was predicted the policy would lead to hundreds of thousands of additional children living in poverty, but it’s now emerging that some women are even feeling forced to have abortions because they can’t afford to go ahead with the pregnancy. “It wasn’t planned but it was very much wanted. I was crying as they wheeled me in,” one woman told the Mirror this month about her abortion; without the safety net of tax credits, she had no way to afford another baby. Women in Northern Ireland in similar positions have an even more restricted choice: the rape-exemption clause that gives some women on UC a financial reprieve endangers women who haven’t reported their attack to the police (in Northern Ireland, failure to report a crime is an offence) and, as the renewed calls for reproductive rightsin light of the Irish vote has highlighted, Northern Irish women have no legal access to abortion in their own country if they feel they can’t raise a child.
Much like Sure Start and child tax credits, these vouchers were brought in by a Labour government to reduce inequalities between wealthy and poor children, based on the understanding that if it takes a village to raise a child, it often requires a government to ensure they don’t live in poverty. It’s no coincidence that, as the welfare state has been pulled back, the number of children in poverty is rocketing to record levels.
In the post-crash austerity era, this sense of social solidarity towards children has noticeably lessened. Under each policy to remove state support from parents there’s a lurking narrative that working-class women are “breeding too much” or that low-income children are drains on the “hardworking taxpayer”. (“Why should I pay for someone else to have more kids?” is the rejoinder on most articles advocating child benefits). In the real world, pregnancy is rarely predictable – contraception fails, relationships end, and jobs are lost – and besides, even the most ardent individualist would admit low-income children have done nothing to “deserve” their own poverty.
We are at the point in which it is not rare to hear of infants living in B&Bs, sleeping on cardboard, or even scrambling for food in school bins. If the ongoing debate over abortion rights teaches us anything, it’s that there are no shortage of voices content to defend the “unborn”. It’s a shame few are willing to give the same care to those children who are already here. HEAR HEAR!!!
Ministers Plan Multi-Billion Pound Overhaul of ‘Demeaning’ Disability Benefit Assessments. Charities fear new one-stop process will lead to more people losing payments.
Ministers are planning a multi-billion pound overhaul of health assessments for people applying for disability benefits that have previously been fiercely criticised as “demeaning and degrading”.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has published a contract notice announcing its plans for a £3.1billion revamp of heath checks for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and other benefits.
The changes will be made as it commissions a new seven-year contract to run the health and disability assessment service for people applying for benefits. The assessments are used by DWP decision-makers to determine eligibility for a wide range of benefits and are currently carried out by private companies including Maximus, Atos and Capita, under contracts worth more than £1bn.
People with disabilities or health conditions currently have to undergo two separate checks – known as PIP assessments and Work Capability Assessments – but this will be integrated into one assessment under the new model.
While the DWP says the changes will improve the process for millions of claimants, charities have raised fears the new one-stop system will lead to more people missing out on benefits they are entitled to.
“This is a huge risk unless quality of the assessment is tackled,” Raji Hunjan, chief executive of anti-poverty charity Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K), told HuffPost UK.
“To have one assessment for two benefits essentially runs the risk that people could be denied both benefits at the same time and leave claimants with absolutely no income whatsoever, and completely reliant on food banks or whatever donations they can get access to.”
The new DWP contract tender invites private firms to bid to run health assessments for Personal Independence Payments (PIP), Employment Support Allowance (ESA), Universal Credit and other smaller benefits.
PIP and ESA are both benefits awarded to support people with disabilities and health conditions, while Universal Credit is the government’s landmark welfare reform that has replaced six other working-age benefits.
The size of the tender – the largest issued by the department since 2012 – suggests a complete overhaul of the system is envisaged, Gus Tugendhat, founder of contract data provider Tussell, told HuffPost UK.
“While health assessments are a necessary part of delivering our welfare system, the current arrangements have been mired in controversy,” said Tugendhat, whose firm provides analysis on UK government contracts.
“Let’s hope that it puts the conditions in place for DWP and its private sector partners in future to conduct these assessments in an efficient and compassionate manner.”
The contract details also reveal the new service will be delivered by a “DWP-owned single digital platform”, meaning applications will be moving online. It is not currently possible to apply for PIP digitally.
The DWP says this will enable greater sharing of information across different benefit applications and reduce the need for people to provide information on multiple occasions.
But the “digital-by-default” online-only model already rolled out for Universal Credit has proved controversial, with concerns it is excluding people from the welfare system, particularly vulnerable groups.
‘Demeaning and degrading’
The revelations about the revamp come after years of complaints about the system of health assessments.
People with disabilities have described the process as “demeaning and degrading” and charities say the high rate of successful appeals against PIP benefit refusals show the system is not working.
The latest figures, published in 2018, reveal DWP decisions not to award PIP payments were being overturned at 71% of appeal hearings. “Our biggest concern is that there’s nothing here that says anything about quality and moving away from assessments being a tick-box exercise,” said Hunjan. “I cannot think of any campaigners that have suggested that one assessment for two benefits is the answer to the problems that we’ve seen.”
She criticised the outsourcing model as “fundamentally flawed”, saying private contractors are not the right organisations to be delivering health assessments. “A key problem is that the assessment itself is not necessarily done by specialists of the [health] conditions that people might present with,” she added. “Also the claimants we’ve spoken to say assessors lack empathy and we’ve certainly witnessed this.
“It is intrinsically wrong, because you need the assessments to be done within a culture which is one of believing claimants and understanding that they are the experts in their own condition, and you’re more likely to get that in the health sector and the charity sector.”
DWP secretary Amber Rudd last week announced an end of repeat PIP benefits assessments for disabled pensioners, saying she wanted a more integrated system. The DWP says the new multi-billion pound contract will result in a better service and save money for the taxpayer.
“As the secretary of state made clear last week, our priority is to significantly improve how we support disabled people,” said a department spokeswoman. “Integrating the service that delivers PIP assessments and work capability assessments will improve the assessment process for millions of people claiming health-related benefits. “Future contract costs will be subject to the public procurement rules to ensure quality and value for money.”
Data from Tussell shows health assessments represent one of the DWP’s biggest areas of spending with private companies. Since 2012, the department has awarded a contract to consultancy group Maximus People Services worth £595m, two to IT services firm Atos worth a combined £391m, and two to Capita for £244m – all to provide health assessments.
‘I am begging you please help me’
HuffPost UK has previously reported on the death of Mark Barber, who took his life within days of learning his disability benefits would be cut by £20 a week.
The 49-year-old gardener, who suffered debilitating disabilities after surviving a horrific machete attack, was found dead in his housing association flat in West Sussex on July 26, 2017. In the weeks before his death, Barber had been asked to complete a reassessment of his benefits by the Department for Work and Pensions.
He told his friend and neighbour Lorraine Barry he was hopeful of getting a bit more money following the reassessment, which at points made him so anxious he had to be persuaded to stay in the room.
But he later learned of the fateful decision to cut his benefits, despite his chronic health problems. “I am officially begging you please help me!” Barber wrote on Post-It notes found in his flat following his death, setting out his anxieties over money.
Barry criticised the benefits reassessment process as fundamentally flawed and a “massive waste” of public money. “I don’t think they work, not least because they put people through so much of a struggle,” she said. “I don’t understand why the DWP are not just speaking to healthcare professionals.”
Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 UK and Ireland (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).
These are the stories of the staff who deal with Universal Credit on a daily basis
Universal Credit doesn’t have the best reputation and to some is considered something of a swear word. If you’re on the benefits system or know someone who is then you’ve probably heard at least one horror story.
From not having enough money to buy food, to the late payments, the UC system wreaks of problems that have been reported in the media over the last 18 months. But the staff who work in the Jobcentre and deal with Universal Credit on a daily basis have a different story to tell.
The DWP staff say they go above and beyond to help claimants and they claim the system works for the majority of people.
According to Plymouth Live , staff argue that the only people who have something bad to say will go to the press and most of the time there are reasons why they had problems with the system.
They also believe many people are “terrified” to sign up for the benefit payment because of all the bad press it gets. The publication spoke to seven DWP staff members and saw how the benefit system process worked. All staff asked to be quoted as a spokesperson so no names are attributed to the quotes in this article.
Why staff think the system works
There are multiple examples of people in Birmingham who’ve struggled with Universal Credit.
David John from Birmingham said he is stuck in ” Universal Credit hell ” after the new benefit left him more than £300 a month worse off. He also has to repay a loan he was given to tide him over during the five-week wait for his first Universal Credit handout.
Research for Mirror Money revealed 80 per cent of people on Universal Credit say it doesn’t cover their essential living costs, 72% have had to borrow money and ended up in debt and 56% receive less through UC than from the old benefits system. But staff at a Jobcentre Plus said there are plenty of opportunities to have conversations and get payment problems sorted before it’s too late.
The ‘journal’ system allows them to report problems that they see, as well as the system allows them to see payments a week before they are due to hit the bank account, meaning if something looks wrong, they can report it to a staff member.
They said: “Everybody can see what’s happening with their claim, it’s all there for them to be able to access. “Everything that we do, what we pay them and how much we pay them, is all on their statement which is like a pay statement.
“That is available to see a week before they get paid, so there is an opportunity there if something is not quite right and they think ‘I wasn’t expecting that’, they can come in or report in their journal.”
People who are told they’re fit to work
Darren Atherton from Netherton in Dudley said he was forced onto UC after he fell ill and was told he was fit for work, despite having doctor’s notes. A year later he says he is left to struggle and is “lucky to have £5 left” at the end of the month.
Another Black Country man killed himself before Christmas in 2018 after his employment support allowance was stopped after assessors found him fit to work – despite doctors saying he wasn’t.
But DWP staff defended the work capability assessment: “Some people might think that they aren’t being treated fairly as they always used to be in a certain part of the employment industry and they want to do that job, but they can’t do that job, it doesn’t mean that they couldn’t do something else.
“We can’t sit here and say that every case goes right, because we can’t comment on individual cases, but the message that we want to get out is that there is help available if there is something going wrong and actually come to us if you don’t think it’s right first of all.”
Why people get paid 1p and £1
There have been reports in the media where people receive next to nothing for a claim, but staff say all isn’t as it seems.
A Jobcentre spokesperson said: “If they’ve earned money, that gets deducted. If they have received a different benefit, that’s the reason Universal Credit’s not paying because it’s showing that actually, employment support allowance or job seekers allowance was paid in that period.
“It shows the deductions and how much they’re being deducted, so it is all there for them to see.
“It’s paid in arrears as well and sometimes when people report that they’ve got £1 in Universal Credit, it could be that they’ve come from another benefit, or they’ve had a last salary payment. “Sometimes they won’t be aware, we try to educate them when they come in.”
How many people are on Universal Credit in Birmingham
Staff believe that the ones who have reported negative experiences of the system are just a small minority. One spokesperson said: “It’s a drop in the ocean compared to the people that do find that once they’ve got their first payment, it just ticks along and they get the support if its required from the Jobcentre.”
Although results from a Government survey published last month showed people actually had a worse experience on Universal Credit than for all other payouts such as pension allowance, carers’ allowance and disability living allowance.
What happens when you first make a claim
Staff want to get the message out there that they are there to help and their main aim is to ensure claimants get the money they’re entitled to – as well as providing support should they need it.
When claims are first made, advances can be arranged to help get you through the five weeks it takes for the first payment to hit your bank account.
Another Jobcentre spokesperson said: “Our aim is to make sure that the person gets paid what they are entitled to, that’s full payment, that’s not just their personal allowance, if they’ve got housing in there, that they are paid within the first five weeks of their claim – the assessment period.
“We put a lot of time into the first conversations that we have with them, about how they are going to support themselves over this period, as we have a lot of stake-holders around which can give them a bit of extra support.
“So we need to have a bit of a conversation with them, really to get a picture of how there life is, in terms of their finances. Can they support themselves for four weeks?
“Do they require an advance and how much?
“It’s just really having that long conversation with them, to say look this is the set-up, this is how long it’s going to take before you receive your first payment and referring to a body if needed.”
Once the payments are sorted staff will then help to get you on your search for a job and this includes helping to prepare for interviews, CV writing and advising on appropriate interview attire.
What you should do if you encounter a problem
Staff at the Jobcentre stressed that they are there to help and emphasised the need to report a problem to them as soon as possible.
A spokesperson said: “I think that’s probably the most important message, that we can help them and it is better to not leave it until the last minute if you’ve got a problem or you need to access it, they can come in and Simon’s team will provide a lot of help.
“There are lots of things that we can do and that we do do, we can provide a lot of support but we also need them to ask for that support.” This can be done in the journal, where claimants can communicate with DWP staff. For more information, check out all the links we have included below.
Universal Credit – 7 things you need to know
Universal Credit is the biggest change to the welfare system in a generation. But what exactly is it and how does the system work? Here’s all you need to below. Follow the links below to find out more.
Universal Credit is a new social security benefit that was approved in the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and first appeared in 2013. By the end of 2018, it was rolled out to all jobcentres. It replaces six existing benefits, now known as ‘legacy benefits’. Find out more by clicking on the link above.
The amount you are given is calculated according to various factors. The Government says if you have children, a disability, or you need help paying for your rent, you may be entitled to extra amounts on top of the standard allowance. Find out more by clicking on the link above.
Among the qualifying criteria, you must be on a low income or out of work. And it’s important to bear in mind your partner’s income and savings will be taken into account, even if they themselves are not applying for the benefit. Find out more about eligibility by clicking on the link above.
To get Universal Credit, TWO accounts are needed. One is a Universal Credit online account where your details (such as the date of the next payment) are available to look at, the other is a payment account at a bank or building society where the Government pays in your money. Find out more by clicking on the link above.
Claimants need to be aware the first payment doesn’t come through until five weeks after a claim – and then every month after that. If you’re not used to waiting a whole month for your payment, it can prove difficult. But there is a little-known way around that. Find out more by clicking on the link above
There are occasions where the Department for Work and Pensions imposes sanctions on claimants if they appear to have broken the rules, for instance by not showing up at jobcentre appointments. In such cases, Universal Credit can be cut or stopped altogether. Find out what to do by clicking the link above.
Desperate parents are forced to turn to ‘baby banks’ as benefits chaos fuels demand.
Tory austerity has forced expectant mums up and down the UK to get their parenting essentials from banks run by volunteers.
Left penniless due to delays in her Universal Credit, heavily pregnant mum Carla Toomey had no choice but to rely on charity to help her buy the basics for her new tot. The 41-year-old is just one of many desperate people turning to baby banks as cruel Tory austerity cripples those who need help the most.
And the crisis is being fuelled by benefits cuts, a charity has warned.
Baby Basics, which started in Sheffield 10 years ago and provides supplies such as nappies, clothes and wipes to skint mums for free, has had a 93% rise in people needing its services between 2016 and last year.
Baby Basics chief Cat Ross said: “I think the growth we have seen over the last 10 years shows there is knock on effect to government cuts and the need is increasing.” Little Village runs three baby banks in London and the number of families referred to them has risen from 773 in 2017 to 1,524 in 2018.
Chief executive Sophia Parker said: “We see mums unable to pay for nappies and food for their children, babies sleeping on towels and broken beds, families living in single rooms with nowhere to cook or play.
“It’s hard to convey how difficult the circumstances are that many find themselves in. “I’m shocked by the dramatic rise in the number of families we’ve seen and the sheer level of need we’ve uncovered.
“These are families on the edge of crisis. There is no cushion for them to fall back on. “When you see people working and not being able to afford nappies that ’s really shocking.”
Carla, of Camden, North London, turned to Little Village when she was hit with her benefits payment delay. Her second child is due any time now and she had no way of buying the basics most parents take for granted.
She said: “When I first came, my jaw hit the ground. I just cried, I was so overwhelmed by it all, by the kindness. “They’ve given me absolutely everything I need for my baby… buggy, clothes, nappies, dummies, the lot. Having this support is one less thing for me to worry about.”
At Cwtch Baby Bank in Taffs Well, near Cardiff, the number of families visiting rose from 300 in 2016 to 766 last year, a 155% surge. Founder Hilary Johnston said: “There is definitely a greater need. We are giving out more baby packages to pregnant mums month by month. “Government cuts have made a big difference and Universal Credit. We are also seeing a lot more families needing help, not just single mums.”
Leeds Baby Bank launched in 2017 and was visited by just one or two mums but now it helps up to 16 a week. Supervisor Jackie Appleton, 52, said: “One family literally only owned what they wore. Another man came last week to collect a carrying unit so he could take his child home from hospital.
“I have had women cry into my arms and some who have told me they don’t know what they would do without me.” Baby Basics started in Sheffield but now has 34 units across the UK.
Baby banks supply pregnant women or those with children aged five and under. They are referred by health professionals.
Charity The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has demanded an end to benefits cuts to help people out of poverty. The group’s Helen Barnard said: “Baby banks do good work, but it is morally indefensible that they are needed at all. “It’s not right that more than 300,000 babies start their lives in poverty in this country, or that so many of them are in working families.”
A government spokesman said: “We spend £90billion a year to support those who need it. “We have introduced the National Living Wage, doubled free childcare for three and four year olds, cut taxes for 32 million people and made Universal Credit improvements.”
DWP apologises AGAIN as Hartlepool man receives second health assessment form weeks after winning appeal following ‘wrongful’ decision
Benefits chiefs have apologised to a Hartlepool man yet again after a second capability to work assessment application landed on his doormat – just weeks after he won an appeal when his benefits were cut.
Ian Fewster took to the streets outside the assessment centre in Hartlepool to protest what he calls the “unfair assessments”, which saw his benefits cut. The 60-year-old suffered a serious spinal injury more than 15 years ago and has struggled to walk ever since.
The former businessman appealed the decision following an health assessment in October last year which found him fit to work and no longer entitled to Employment and Support Allowance and cut £200 a month from his benefits.
Winning his case, he told his story to the Mail to remind others they can fight ‘wrongful or unfair’ assessments. But weeks later he received a letter through the door from the Department of Work and Pensions to fill out an application to attend another health assessment – 18 months too early.
“There just doesn’t seem to be any accountability,” said the 60-year-old.“No one seems to take any responsibility for anything that goes wrong. “I’m lucky in a way, I suffered with serious mental health issues in 2005 and I received a lot of support and spent two years working with Mind. “I look at life a different way now and I try not to let little things get on top of me.
“When you read the letter it’s frightening, you only have a short time that this has to be completed and if they don’t receive it you will have your benefits cut. It’s a lot of stress and pressure for the most vulnerable. “It’s seemed to be worded in a way to make you panic. “Luckily it came to me. This could have gone to someone who was right on the brink it could have pushed them over the edge.
“When this DWP envelope lands on your doormat you know what it is. Straight away your heart rate starts to increase because you know whatever is there if you don’t jump through their hoops the right way you will lose out on your benefits. “We’ve lost something in society we have lost of our humanity as a society – our empathy.
”Having called the DWP, Mr Fewster was told it was a computer glitch and the letter had been sent in error. But he’s now questioning how his journal, which he was told is only completed by an employee, also tells him to complete the form.
“My initial thought was ‘are they doing this to me because I took a stand and protested so they thought they would pull me back through the system as a way to punish me,” said Mr Fewster, who is registered disabled. “I calmed down and I know it’s not personal. I spoke to them and they said it was an error caused by a computer glitch.
“If that was the case why was it in my journal, which they say is entered manually by an employee. “Only three weeks ago I was told it had been accepted that I was no longer forced to work.“They could have stopped that from coming out to me if they’d read my history.”
Mr Fewster says the additional stress caused to him could have been prevented if someone had taken the time to read his history and see he only had an assessment carried out five months ago.
A DWP spokesman said: “We will be in contact with Mr Fewster to apologise as the forms were sent to him in error. He continues to receive his benefit in full.”
An MSP criticised the number of overturned Department for Work and Pensions decisions
THE SNP have said that the UK Government’s welfare system “simply isn’t working” after official figures revealed that 70% of claimants who challenged the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over benefits decisions had their cases overturned.
More than two-thirds of people who faced losing their benefit payments were found to be fully entitled to them. Government figures showed that of 51,256 appeal disposals in the quarter up to December 2018, 41,171 – 80% – were cleared after going to a hearing.
Of the cases cleared following a hearing, 70% ruled in favour of the claimant, marking a 5% increase from last year.
New DWP benefits schemes, such as the controversial Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP), have contributed to the increase in case overturn rates, rising by 5% and 4% respectively on rates from October to December 2017.
SNP MSP Bob Doris raised concerns that the DWP’s welfare system suffered from “fundamental flaws”. “These figures are extremely concerning, and expose a system which should provide a safety net making too many mistakes,” he said. “The UK Government’s welfare system simply isn’t working.”
Doris went on to suggest that vulnerable claimants could suffer and be left without basic staples. “Appealing a decision can put undue stress on vulnerable people – who are in the meantime left out of pocket and potentially unable to afford basic essentials. “For the DWP to get these cases so consistently wrong is appalling – it suggests systematic hostility and suspicion of people in need of help.
“It’s vital that these fundamental flaws in the current assessment and appeals process are addressed,” he said.
In response, a DWP spokesperson said: “Only a small proportion of all decisions are overturned at appeal, however our aim is for every person to feel they are treated fairly and we are improving how we support disabled people.
“This includes integrating the service that delivers PIP assessments and Work Capability Assessments to improve the process for millions of people claiming health-related benefits.
“It is a matter for the Scottish Government how they assess entitlement for benefits once they are devolved to them.”
According to the DWP, rulings on PIP and ESA cases are made after considering information provided by the claimant, which can include supporting evidence from their GP or medical specialist.
Since PIP was introduced, there have been some 3.7 million decisions made. A total of 5% of those cases have been overturned on appeal. Official DWP figures show that of approximately 3.9m decisions on ESA, 8% were appealed and 4% overturned.
The DWP also said that they are in the process of developing a single digital system to simplify the assessment process that delivers PIP assessments and Work Capability Assessments.
However, Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn MSP Doris added that the differences between the Westminster Government and the Scottish Government were stark. “Westminster’s punitive approach to welfare is needlessly withdrawing support from those who need it most,” he said
“This highlights the difference in Scotland’s approach to developing a social security system based on dignity, fairness and respect.”
The people that regularly read my blog, know that I add every DWP atrocity that I see in the media and I also check several search engines every day.
No doubt you have read the heartbreaking articles about Jodey Whiting? She was driven to suicide by the DWP and her family are seeking justice, if you have been treated badly by the DWP (or don’t want to be – should you become ill) then please sign this petition. Justice for Jodey Whiting. Independent inquiry into deaths linked to the DWP
Former shop assistant Jodey Whiting had her benefits stopped for missing an appointment when she had pneumonia.
The family of Jodey Whiting who had made an official complaint to the DWP
The last words Jodey Whiting said to her mum were, “I love you, I’m going to go to sleep, Mam.” The next day her mum, Joy Dove, would discover Jodey’s body, surrounded by farewell notes to the family she doted on.
A loving and kind mother-of-nine , Jodey had multiple physical and mental health issues, including curvature of the spine and a brain cyst. A former shop assistant from Stockton-on-Tees, she took 23 tablets each day, including morphine, for the crippling pain which left her barely able to even crawl from her home.
But Jodey’s benefits had been stopped for missing an appointment when she had pneumonia. The DWP has since been found to have broken its own rules amid “multiple failings”…
Ayesha Foskett says she was ‘living off nothing’ for months after her benefits were stopped Ayesha, 24, was shocked when her benefits were suddenly stopped
Ayesha was born with multiple disabilities and was never able to work
Has survived on benefits until they were suddenly stopped last year
Unable to attend assessment, she and her partner were left penniless
Ayesha Foskett was disabled from the moment she came into the world. Born with a condition called craniosynostosis, which affects skull growth, she also suffered from partial blindness, deafness, and had epilepsy and learning difficulties.
Life wasn’t easy for Ayesha as she grew up. At the age of two she had to undergo surgery to fix her skull and was in and out of care between the ages of four and 16. The one thing Ayesha didn’t have to worry about was having to work. With her multiple health problems she’d been told by doctors that she would never be able to, so resigned herself to the fact that she would have to spend the rest of her life living on benefits.
“It was okay at first. I was given enough to get by,” she told i. “It wasn’t much but it covered bills and food. “But then, all of a sudden, my benefits were cut completely and I was left with nothing for months. I was living off handouts and some days, I wouldn’t have a single bit of food to eat.”
Ayesha had to endure four months with no income at all after she was told the £300 Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and £250 Income Support she’d been receiving each month was being stopped. Like thousands of people around the UK, the benefits she’d come to rely on for so many years were being switched over to a new system. She was told she would now have to apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) instead of DLA and Universal Credit instead of income support.
There was only one problem – in order to be eligible for PIP, Ayesha had to undergo a physical assessment, which she claims she wasn’t able to do. “It isn’t safe for me to go out alone or on public transport because I get seizures and don’t know where I am” Ayesha Foskett “Because of my epilepsy I get regular seizures called absence seizures which cause a lapse in my awareness,” she explained. “I literally don’t know where I am or what’s around me and I can easily step in front of a car or fall over and hurt myself. It isn’t safe for me to go out alone or on public transport because of this. “Also, my learning difficulties mean I struggle with time and following directions to places so I often miss appointments.”
Ayesha asked her job centre if she could have an assessment at home instead or over the phone but says she was told she couldn’t. “They wanted me to attend a centre in Pudsey at first which is about a half hour drive away. Then they offered me two more appointments in Bradford which is slightly nearer but still too far for me to travel,” she explained.
“Because I couldn’t attend, my benefits were stopped in November last year.” Universal credit nightmare For four months, Ayesha struggled with no income at all. Despite living with her partner Ashleigh, 30, who was also her carer, they had no money coming in either after his carer’s allowance was stopped. “Because I wasn’t getting disability benefit he wasn’t getting a carer’s allowance,” She said. “Then the income support we both got was stopped too and we had to apply for Universal Credit instead.”
Concerned about the Claimant Commitment section on the online form, which places all applicants in a conditionality group based on their circumstances and work capability, Ayesha was too afraid to sign it in case it affected her PIP claim. “It looked like I had to say I could look for work or may be available for work to claim for it,” Ayesha said, “and I would have been lying if I signed it so I was worried.”
She couldn’t apply for Universal Credit without Ayesha because they were classed as one household so the couple were left penniless. With only a little in the way of savings they’d managed to accumulate, they were able to pay the £430 rent on their flat the first month. But the funds soon ran out and by January this year, they were behind on their bills with no food in the cupboards.
“At one point we had no gas for over two weeks and we were freezing” Ayesha Foskett “We had to go to food banks and donations from the local church,” Ayesha recalled. “It was horrible. We had the worst Christmas ever as we had nothing to celebrate with. “At one point we had no gas for over two weeks and we were freezing.
Sometimes, we’d go a whole day with nothing at all to eat. If it hadn’t been for people helping us we probably would have starved to death.” Facing eviction When they fell behind on their rent and were threatened with eviction, Ashleigh sold his car – Ayesha’s only means of transport – to buy them some time. In the meantime Ayesha’s health was suffering. She began having seizures more often brought on by stress and experiencing panic attacks.
She decided to launch an appeal against the Department for Work and Pensions, but before she managed to begin the process, she received a surprise letter through the post last week. “It was basically a back payment of £1,600 for November to March but I’m not sure whether it was a one off payment or they have decided to give it to me anyway because I am registered as permanently disabled,”
Ayesha said. “Anyway, by now Ashleigh and I are in so much debt there won’t be anything left of it.” The couple say they owe around £2,000 in unpaid rent, council tax bills, utility bills and money they’ve borrowed from family and friends.
“It doesn’t put us in much better a position really,” Ayesha added. “They have made it so much harder nowadays for people with disabilities to get the benefits they are entitled to and it’s wrong. I have been disabled all my life and they know this so why would they need proof now? I never had any problems before this
. “Nobody chooses to be disabled and I didn’t choose to be born this way. It’s an abuse of my human rights.”
DLA reinstated A spokesperson for the Department of Health said Ayesha had applied for a Mandatory Reconsideration, and after accepting she had good reason for failure to attend her PIP assessment, her DLA was reinstated and the arrears were paid to her. The spokesperson added: “Both PIP and Universal Credit can be claimed regardless of whether someone is in work or not. “Where there is sufficient evidence we will make decisions for PIP without the need for a face-to-face assessment, but sometimes these are necessary to ensure someone gets the right level of support.”
The DWP representative also added that Ayesha’s DLA would continue to be paid until the next PIP decision is made.