Universal Credit staff now visit hospitals to make patients ‘prove they are unwell’

A council has blasted the Department for Work and Pensions for its ‘grotesque’ practice – which workers say is carried out routinely to update details of claimants.


Universal Credit workers have been visiting sick patients in hospital to check they are actually unwell, a damning new review into the roll-out of the welfare system has revealed.

Department for Work and Pensions chiefs were found to be interviewing people awaiting NHS treatment to ensure they were on the right money and not abusing the system.

The practice has been condemned as ‘grotesque’ by a council scrutiny panel in London, where it has emerged hospitalised Universal Credit claimants have received shock visits from the welfare state police.

In one instance, DWP officers visited a person in hospital awaiting an operation because they had missed an appointment.

The behaviour was uncovered as part of a review by Islington’s Policy and Performance Scrutiny Committee, which has been tracking the full rollout of Universal Credit in Islington since June, reports the Islington Gazette.

Jacqui Kearney is one of a number of people who have struggled to get by on Universal Credit
Jacqui Kearney is one of a number of people who have struggled to get by on Universal Credit

Outraged members have called for an immediate clampdown. “When people are in hospital they are not there to be chased and it’s not for the DWP to guess or validate if they are well or unwell,” Councillor Troy Gallagher said.

“I think it’s callous. “It’s an issue they need to amend quickly because it’s highly stressful and deeply upsetting.” The visits  – which the DWP say are carried out routinely to confirm people’s details – were labelled ‘grotesque’ and ‘unbelievable’.

“If someone says they’re unwell, whatever the reason is, you should always accept that,” Cllr Gallagher said.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Jobcentre staff occasionally conduct hospital visits to confirm people’s bank account or rent details. This ensures we can pay their full benefits on time.” They added that visits to claimants homes will be made “if necessary”.

Neil Wright told how he'd been left to get by on 1p after a mix-up over his Universal Credit payments
Neil Wright told how he’d been left to get by on 1p after a mix-up over his Universal Credit payments

There’s no suggestion that a similar practice has been adopted anywhere locally in Plymouth or wider Devon. It comes as calls continue to grow for an overhaul of the Universal Credit system – which is being rolled out across the UK and replacing a number of historic welfare benefits.

Campaigners want a ‘basic universal income’ for all introduced instead – a flat rate given to everyone so the system is fairer for all. As reported, there are now more than 10,000 people in Plymouth on Universal Credit.

The pressure of Christmas saw an extra 859 people dive into the controversial benefits pool in December, taking the total across the city to 10,253.

Former Coronation Street star Bruce Jones has also waded into the debate about the new welfare system - which he doesn't think is working
Former Coronation Street star Bruce Jones has also waded into the debate about the new welfare system – which he doesn’t think is working

It came in the same month welfare officials were slammed for scrapping a £10 top-up bonus some used in their budgets to stop the festive season becoming a huge burden.

One man on the benefits system – dogged with problems since its introduction in 2017 – told Plymouth Live he was considering going out to steal to fund his little boy’s Christmas because he was having issues gaining cash.

He had been signed off work since earlier in the year but was caught in a row over payments because he was previously self-employed. While another, come New Year’s Eve, revealed he’d received a payment of just 1p – leaving him with a mere 77p to live on for two weeks.

The DWP say the Universal Credit system is more than fair and encourages people to get back into work and not remain a slave to the state.

Universal Credit – the facts

Who can get Universal Credit

Whether you can claim Universal Credit depends on your circumstances and where you live.

Your circumstances

You can apply for Universal Credit if you are on a low income or unemployed.

You will usually only be able to claim Universal Credit if you are aged 18 or over, but some people aged 16 or 17 can get it, depending on their circumstances.

And you usually won’t be able to claim Universal Credit if you’re in full-time education or training, but people with certain circumstances can still apply.

Read the detailed guidance on eligibility and Universal Credit and students to find out more.

You can use a benefits calculator to help you understand what benefits you could get. You will be asked to enter information about your circumstances, and it will tell you which benefits you might be able to apply for. One of those might be Universal Credit.

Where you live

The Citizens Advice eligibility checker will tell you if you live in an area where you can claim Universal Credit. Using this link will take you to the Citizens Advice website.

Universal Credit is being introduced in stages, so even if you can’t claim Universal Credit now, it may become available in your area in the future.

If you want to go straight to making a claim for Universal Credit visit gov.uk/universal-credit

If you live in Northern Ireland go to Universal Credit in Northern Ireland

What Universal Credit replaces

Universal Credit replaces:

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Working Tax Credit

If you are already claiming these benefits or tax credits you don’t need to do anything now.

The Department for Work and Pensions will get in touch with you before there are any changes to your benefits or tax credits.

If you receive these benefits or tax credits and your circumstances change in a way that would have meant you would make a new claim to one of these benefits, you will now need to claim Universal Credit instead.

If you are receiving any of these benefits or tax credits they will stop if you make a Universal Credit claim.

If you are getting tax credits you can still choose to apply for Universal Credit, depending on your circumstances, but if you do all your benefits that Universal Credit replaces will stop.

Universal Credit – what is it and the problems so far

The system was first introduced in 2013, and was intended to replace six “legacy” benefits, including unemployment benefit, tax credits and
housing benefit.
It was supposed to be implemented across the UK by 2017, but management failures, IT blunders and design faults mean it has already
fallen at least six years behind schedule.

When will it be fully introduced?

The system is now not expected to be fully operational until December 2023. There have been a wealth of problems caused by the new single benefit.

The government are currently facing a fresh legal challenge in the High Court over the policy – with campaigners arguing that universal
credit is “irrational” and has a “disproportionately adverse effect” on disabled claimants.

The problems – and those fighting back

It follows a previous victory at the High Court earlier in January for four working single mothers, who claimed they were struggling financially because of the way their UC payments were calculated.

As well as leaving claimants with nothing to live on during the transition period – which takes longer than a month – many are then finding they are then worse off than they were while on legacy benefits.

Meanwhile, flaws in the system put poorer claimants especially at heightened risk of hunger, debt and rent arrears, ill-health and homelessness.

Rise in food bank use

The Trussell Trust – the UK’s largest food bank network – have reported that food bank referral rates in areas where the full Universal Credit rollout has taken place are more than twice as high as the national average.

Meanwhile, a BBC Panorama investigation revealed that council tenants on Universal Credit have on average more than double the rent arrears
of those still on housing benefit.

Across Great Britain, nearly 1.6 million people were on Universal Credit in December – up from 1.4 million in November, and working out as one in
every 41 people.

Government benefit cap – what you need to know

The benefit cap is a limit on the total amount of benefit you can get. It applies to most people aged 16 or over who have not reached State Pension age.

Who it affects

The amount your household gets from some benefits might go down to make sure you do not get more than the cap limit. The benefit cap affects:

  • Bereavement Allowance
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Widowed Parent’s Allowance (or Widowed Mother’s Allowance or Widow’s Pension if you started getting it before 9 April 2001)
  • Universal Credit


Even disabled children aren’t exempt from DWP cruelty

A disabled boy is told ‘you can put one foot in front of other’ before his benefits were axed. Leon Beamon, from Kidsgrove, Staffordshire, has been left to use his wheelchair to get to and from school because he suffers pain after walking for just five minutes.

The family of a six-year-old boy with a deformed ankle have been stripped of their specialised car and £4,320-a-year allowance – after being told he can put ‘one foot in front of the other’.

Leon Beamon had always qualified for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) ever since he was born with a condition which affected the growth of his left leg. The primary school pupil has already undergone numerous operations, wears a shield around his ankle, leg and foot, and faces more hospital procedures.

But mum, Kelly, is devastated after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) stopped the DLA funding which was partly used to fund the car, StokeonTrentLive reports.


Now Leon, from Kidsgrove, Staffordshire, has been left to use his wheelchair to get to and from his school because he suffers pain after walking for just five minutes. Mother-of-two Kelly is Leon’s carer and is now on Universal Credit .

The 31-year-old said: “When Leon was born his left leg wasn’t growing properly and had fused to his ankle bone which caused a deformity. He had an operation to try to correct his ankle deformity and was told it will never be 100 per cent.

“Also to lengthen the part of his leg that isn’t growing he needs another two operations on his bone in the future. He also has to wear a shield around his leg, ankle and foot. “Without the mobility car we’ve had to walk to school and he’s been forced to use his wheelchair because he’s in so much pain. The walk to school is uphill and to force him to walk would be cruel.

“Leon loves the outdoors but without the car I have no way of taking him anywhere as the wheelchair limits the places we can go to without the car. Leon can’t understand why it has gone.

“I have appealed against the decision to stop his allowance. But the DWP stands by its decision because he can put one foot in front of the other and can cross the road. “But it’s not that simple. His hospital consultant has confirmed Leon has limited mobility in his ankle, he requires extra supervision during school activities, and requires a wheelchair on any walk over five minutes – but the DWP says he can walk.

“Leon was on the higher rate because of his limited mobility and I could understand if they had put him on the lower rate but to stop it altogether I can’t understand it.”

Leon, from Kidsgrove, has been left to use his wheelchair to get to and from his school
Grandmother Janys Wright has been left disgusted by the DWP’s decision. She said: “This decision is totally ridiculous.”

The DWP has defended its decision. QUELLE SURPRISE!!! A spokesman said: “We’re committed to ensuring that every child gets the very best chances in life which is why we’re spending more than ever before on DLA for disabled children.

“Decisions on DLA for children are made following consideration of all the information provided by the family and their GP or medical specialist, and anyone who disagrees with a decision can appeal.” ALMOST EVERYONE HAS TO APPEAL!!!


Skint Britain: response to series about life on Universal Credit

Skint Britain: response to series about life on Universal Credit shows government is still not listening. Ruth Patrick, Lecturer in Social Policy & Social Work, University of York and Ciara Fitzpatrick, PhD Candidate and Research and Policy Officer at Law Centre NI, Ulster University

Trevor, Tamsyn and Tracey: struggling to survive on Universal Credit.

It’s customary to celebrate with cake. We all do it. Even the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Job Centre Plus offices across the country have been marking the roll-out of Universal Credit with big slabs of cake. But, for many people the introduction of Universal Credit, a new social security benefit replacing six previous benefits, is anything but cause for celebration.

The many flaws with the benefit are starkly depicted in Channel 4’s series Skint Britain, which explores just what living on Universal Credit can entail. The show follows people like David, forced to survive on £5 for a month after a benefit sanction, and Tracey who is unable to access support for her serious cancer prognosis. Their stories are mirrored in the wide and growing evidence documenting the hardship caused by Universal Credit, which is associated with rising food bank use and can all-too often trigger increased poverty and even destitution.

Read more: Universal Credit is built around flawed incentives that are doing real damage – fixing it is essential

As the first episode of Skint Britain aired, the DWP’s press office issued a series of tweets, which sought to sell Universal Credit as a positive and necessary step forward.

In one tweet, the DWP emphasised how Universal Credit’s system of monthly payments is designed to reflect the world of work. Claimants are “helped” into the habit of monthly budgeting to better prepare them for the “reality” of life in paid work. However, as researchers have pointed out, while the government says that three out of four employees are paid monthly, this means that one in four is not. While a fixed monthly salary is the common experience of employees in professional and managerial employment, the frequency of wage payments varies for those who work according to hourly rates and varying shift patterns while juggling caring commitments which don’t fit easily into the rigid monthly framework set by Universal Credit.

The DWP’s social media activity also flagged adjustments made to the benefit, such as the removal of the seven day waiting period before a claim can be made.

But claimants still face a minimum wait of five weeks for their first payment. And five weeks can be a very long time to wait when you are living on no income.

While claimants can access a 100% advance during the five-week wait, any advances received must be repaid back over the subsequent year, which will reduce a person’s monthly entitlement and so often push them into further poverty. Only claimants who meet the eligibility criteria can receive advances. On Skint Britain, a DWP telephone advisor informs cancer patient Tracey that she is not eligible to receive an advance, and that she is out of options for monetary support.

Not fit for purpose

Further tweets from the DWP emphasised that benefit sanctions are a “last resort”, and something which existed prior to Universal Credit. In fact, statistical analysis of rates of sanctions shows that Universal Credit has seen far higher frequency of sanctioning than under the six benefits that it replaces. Too often, people are sanctioned for what seem like minor infringements: simple mistakes which then have significant and long-lasting financial repercussions.

Read more: Two real-life accounts of the effect of benefits sanctions

There is a jarring disconnect between the reality of life for those in receipt of Universal Credit and the DWP’s efforts to draw a picture of a benefit that is fit for purpose. The newly appointed secretary of state for work and pensions, Amber Rudd, has promised to listen “very carefully” to concerns about Universal Credit. But the DWP’s response to Skint Britain appears to be a tone-deaf defence of the system, which is as dogmatic as it is unpersuasive. The official lines and simplistic presentation parroted in these tweets suggest that Rudd’s promise may amount to little more than political rhetoric.


Woman denied PIP despite being paralysed

Carlisle woman denied PIP despite being paralysed. A partially paralysed Carlisle woman on daily doses of morphine has been denied disability benefits.

Anna Yellop, 48 was devastated to learn she had failed to qualify for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), leaving her in a state of financial crisis.nWhite matter lesions – scarring – on her brain tissue sustained after contracting swine flu in 2011 has left her almost completely unable to stand, walk or fully concentrate.

Often in great pain, Anna, who lives in Raffles, takes up to 200mg of morphine each day. Anna is cared for full-time by her husband Andy, 47. As a result of Anna’s rejected PIP application, he has been told he is set to have his Carer’s Allowance stopped, pushing the couple further into financial emergency.

Previously in receipt of the highest rate of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), Anna’s application for PIP was triggered automatically as part of a government phase-out of the benefit. But her unsuccessful PIP application means that as of last Tuesday, Anna’s disability benefits have been cut off.

Being eligible for PIP is not means-tested, meaning applicants can qualify for the benefit regardless of income. Applicants are assessed entirely on the extent to which their disability affects their daily life. However, Anna’s health issues have prevented her from working for years. Andy also suffers health problems, leaving him unable to work.

This has left them in a precarious financial situation, now made worse by the recent decision. Anna stressed that finding work to solve her financial situation is not an option. “I’m not fit to work in any way” Anna said. “I can’t stand for more than two seconds, I can’t walk in any way, shape or form. I can’t even sit up properly, or I feel sick.”


Under the impression she was simply to be shifted from DLA to PIP, Anna was distraught at the news her PIP application had failed. “When I read the letter, I burst into tears straight away. I felt completely as if my head had been bashed in.

“I felt as if someone had just come and totally robbed me of everything – it isn’t just your money, it’s your life. “It’s your life. It’s everything I’ve gone and lost.” “The assessor came into my home and robbed me of my life.”

Anna said that without the love and support of her husband, Andy, the experience would have driven her to suicide. “I would just take every tablet and end it, and let the government have the money. “Let them save their precious money and I’ll be in a coffin for them.”

Andy explained that much of their furniture is on hire purchase. “If we don’t get this money back, I can’t pay for it,” Andy said. “They’re just going to come and take all our furniture on top of everything else. “It isn’t just the money. My pride has gone now.” Anna agreed. “So has mine”, she said.

“I didn’t choose to be like this. “I feel like I let everybody down because I can’t work. “But sometimes I’ve got to be strong and say to myself ‘you can’t help it, you didn’t choose to be ill.’”  Anna suffers frequent neurological attacks that require Andy to rush her to accident and emergency, using their specially adapted car.

However the car will have to be returned if Anna cannot regain her disability benefits. Andy predicts that once his Carer’s Allowance also stops – which he has been told it soon will – the couple will be left with about £50 per week to live on. The couple’s next step is to fight to regain the money they’ve lost.

They have enlisted the help of the Benefits Advice Service at Carlisle City Council, having secured an appointment this week. And they are hoping to have the PIP application decision reviewed soon as part of the Mandatory Reconsideration process.

Should this be unsuccessful, they would have to take the decision to a tribunal, which could take months.

When asked about Mrs Yellop’s case, a DWP spokesman said: “We’re committed to ensuring that disabled people get the full support that they need. “Decisions are made following consideration of all the information provided by the claimant, including supporting evidence from their GP or medical specialist. YEAH YEAH CHANGE THE RECORD “Anyone who is unhappy with a decision can ask for it to be reconsidered straight away. “We are currently re-examining Ms Yellop’s case and will be in contact with her shortly.”

The PIP benefit explained

Personal Independence Payment (PIP), first introduced in 2013, is a benefit designed to help people with long-term health issues or disabilities meet their costs of living. Carlisle has seen a rise in people claiming PIP, from 3,599 in October 2017 to 4,385 in October 2018, the most recent month on record.

A likely contributor to this rise is the gradual phasing out of DLA in favour of PIP being conducted by the Department for Work and Pensions, the government body responsible for benefits. About 500 residents each year struggling to navigate the complexities of the benefits system turn to Carlisle City Council’s benefits advice service.

The service helps a range of people, some in desperate states of crisis. Team member Karen Osborne told the News & Star that in the most extreme cases, the service has dealt with people on the brink of starvation. “I’ve had people who have had no money for three or four months. They’ve hardly eaten for weeks on end, and were starving,” Karen said.

PIP can be claimed whether the applicant is working or not – the criteria is based on an applicant’s health rather than their income. It is therefore different to another often-talked about new benefit – Universal Credit – which is only available to those on a low income, or those not in work.

Designed to help those whose disabilities meet the extra costs their situation requires, the assessment is based on a points system, with greater difficulty completing daily tasks such as getting dressed earning the applicant more points. These points are awarded at a face-to-face assessment, where the applicant is also asked a series of questions about how their disability affects their daily life. This assessment, coupled with documented medical evidence submitted by the applicant, informs the DWP’s decision whether or not to award PIP.

The decision can be contested if the application is rejected. According to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, “the latest government statistics show that more than half of PIP decisions are changed after mandatory reconsideration or an appeal to a tribunal.”


‘Having to fight the Government was ridiculous’ – mum’s battle over PIP

The gruelling appeal process when she was knocked back for PIP made mother-of-four and multiple sclerosis sufferer Jennifer Robinson feel like she was “useless,” “lying” and “being punished,”

Rebecca Wells from Bridlington, who endured a year long wait for an appeal tribunal.

Her diagnosis with the relapsing remitting form of the neurological condition two years ago came as she was suffering with depression following the premature birth of her youngest child, and what followed, in her words, was “a year of torment”.

After years of symptoms, including nerve pain and the loss of sight in her left eye, which led to her being forced to give up her cleaning business, Mrs Robinson, 32, of Scarborough, applied for PIP in August 2016, shortly after she was diagnosed. After an assessment, she received zero points for PIP, and after a mandatory reconsideration saw the decision upheld, she went to an appeal.

It took 11 months to get to the tribunal, where she was awarded PIP indefinitely, with a higher rate of daily living allowance and standard rate of mobility support.She said: “I’d only just been through the turmoil of a diagnosis and was already fighting hard to live my life. So having to then fight the government as well was ridiculous.

It wasn’t just me that was affected, it was four children, two of whom were under two at the time. One of the things they said at my assessment was that I couldn’t have depression because I had a good complexion – it was a joke.”She said she found the whole process “degrading”.

“I couldn’t even fill the forms in myself as I couldn’t hold a pen, I thought I was going to lose everything, my home, my car.,” she said.“To then go from having zero points to enhanced personal care was baffling. It clearly showed I had been entitled to it the whole time and my struggles hadn’t gone unnoticed.”“Utter relief” was also felt by Rebecca Wells, 33, of Bridlington, after her appeal tribunal in September.

Miss Wells lives with myotonic dystrophy, a muscle weakening condition that is a form of muscular dystrophy. Since her diagnosis, she has had to give up her job in retail. Her father had the condition, and her brother has also been recently diagnosed.

She had been receiving ESA but had her entitlement reduced from £125 per week to £72 a week after a reassessment. It took over a year to get to an appeal tribunal, where a decision was made in her favour.


“For a year I battled and battled,” she said. “The appeal process is so difficult, especially when you feel like I do

“My condition affects everything I do, and I am in pain every day. Since I was diagnosed three years ago my life has completely changed – you realise it’s not going to map out like you thought it would.

“If it hadn’t been for the support of my family and my partner, there’s no way I could’ve gone through the appeal – I can see why people would just give up.”Miss Wells was advised in her appeal process by the advocacy service at charity Muscular Dystrophy UK, which saw a 36 per cent increase in PIP cases between 2016 and 2017.

She added: “It was utter relief when the decision was made. I owed thousands of pounds to people, and it meant I could become solvent again.

”A DWP spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring that people with health conditions get the support they’re entitled to. Decisions are made following consideration of all the information provided by the claimant at the time, including supporting evidence from their GP or medical specialist. “All claimants have the right to a mandatory re-consideration of any decision, and can further appeal to an independent tribunal, with the opportunity to present any further evidence to support their claim. Where decisions are overturned at appeal, around 4 per cent of all decisions, this is usually because the claimant has provided more information on their condition.”


DWP plans to obtain people’s medical data

GPs and charities say plans resemble controversial data-sharing scheme between Home Office and NHS and risks putting medical staff in ‘invidious’ position of benefits assessors.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is in the process of creating a system to more quickly access people’s health data to help them to determine how much welfare support they are entitled to

Doctors have warned that benefit claimants could be deterred from accessing healthcare after it emerged that the government is to start accessing medical records as part of the welfare assessment process.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is in the process of creating a system to more quickly access people’s health data to help them to determine how much welfare support they are entitled to, including automating “routine” requests for medical information.

GPs and charities said the plans resemble the controversial data-sharing scheme between the Home Office and the NHS, which prompted outrage after it emerged some immigrants were subsequently afraid to access healthcare, ultimately forcing the government to end the policy.

In response, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, expressed concern that the process would damage the doctor-patient relationship, and “deter vulnerable people from seeking medical assistance when they need it”.

“We do not hold our patients’ confidential data to help other organisations check their eligibility for welfare, their immigration status, or any other function not related to their health and wellbeing,” she said.

“If the reports are true, the DWP, like the Home Office before them, must not consider GP patient data as an open resource to support them to carry out their duties. We are doctors, whose first interest is the care of our patient: we are not border guards, and we are not benefits assessors.”

Read more

Head of policy and profile at Law Centres Network, Nimrod Ben-Cnaan, said the sharing of people’s medical records would breach patient confidentiality and put GPs and other medical staff in the “invidious” position of benefits assessors.

“Less than a year ago, the government decided that even its hostile environment policies did not justify sharing migrants’ personal data between NHS and the Home Office, except in very specific circumstances,” he added.

“Now, however, the government plans to share NHS patient data of people who claim health-related benefits with DWP, and to do so automatically. What has changed?

“It is legally and ethically questionable […] We call on Parliament to take an urgent look at this programme and other planned sharing of NHS patient data with other public bodies.”

Genevieve Edwards, director of external affairs at the MS Society, said that while it was encouraging that the DWP was looking at ways to change the evidence gathering process, the proposals were being considered with an “apparent lack of engagement and transparency”.

“Rather than the DWP or assessors being able to automatically access records, we’d want to see a system which would allow GPs to send data on request, with the patient’s informed consent at every step in the process,” she said.

“Any changes to the data collecting mechanisms must be fully consulted on with disabled people, healthcare professionals and charities.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “No information will be accessed without explicit and informed consent, and to suggest otherwise would misleading. Some patients are happy to share information which is why we are able to use their information to help them claim health related benefits most quickly.

“Anything to make this an easier and quicker experience for claimants would help them, which is why we are simply exploring potential options to improve the current system.”




Outrage as over 30,000 jobless people put at risk of exploitation of workfare

The outraged SNP issued a work experience warning over unpaid placements they say are hitting the unemployed.

SNP MSP Tom Arthur raised the alarm at the scale of unpaid work in the UK Government’s welfare system

More than 30,000 unemployed people have been put at risk of “exploitation” on unpaid work experience schemes since the Tories came to power at Westminster, the SNP warned last night.

They said claimants fear being penalised if they don’t take part in the voluntary placements, which can last eight weeks. The official Department for Work and Pensions figure could be much larger because they don’t show locally-arranged posts.

Tom Arthur, an SNP MSP on Holyrood’s finance committee, raised alarm at the scale of unpaid work in the UK Government’s welfare system. He said: “Genuine work experience can be valuable but expecting somebody to work for up to two months, with set hours but without pay, could easily be viewed as exploitative.

“Some people could feel as if they have no choice as it’s either unpaid work experience such as this, or benefits sanctions.” The Renfrewshire South MSP said people will be uncomfortable if jobless people are being sent for placements to help bosses through a busy time

Poundland was criticised in 2017 for employing jobseekers, without pay, under a deal with the Government

He added: “The DWP repeatedly talk about making work pay and how work is the best route of poverty, yet the very same department is reaping the benefits of unpaid labour.”

Annual totals of those in Government- sponsored work experience schemes increased from 834 in 2011, when figures began, and peaked at 7428 four years later. The number fell to 3292 last year. Over the Tories’ time in office, the recorded total is 30,185. The figures show work experience rather than trials, which campaigners warn are sometimes used to mislead candidates into thinking they’ll get a job.

The DWP said: “Work experience is voluntary and can be a tremendous way for people to gain the valuable confidence and skills needed to get back to work.

“Scotland has significant powers, including areas of employability and welfare, and can top up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits and employability schemes.”


Universal Credit could cause ‘civil unrest’

Universal Credit could cause ‘civil unrest’ fears volunteer working with claimants
‘The way claimants are expected to apply for universal credit is unfair and discriminates against the most vulnerable people in society’

The impact of Universal Credit could lead to civil unrest, fears a volunteer who works with claimants. Ros Burch, who volunteers and works with a number of city based charities, including debt help charity Money Matters, claimed the way claimants are expected to apply for universal credit is unfair and discriminates against the most vulnerable people in society.

The new payment was brought in by the Government to replace six other benefits in a bid to simplify the system. The payment replaced housing benefit, income-related employment and support allowance (ESA), income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), child tax credit, working tax credit and income support.

Whitehall said the change would make benefit payments operate more like a salary, and encourage people back into work. Speaking to Leicestershire Live, Ros, claimed: “People trying to claim who have mental health problems, dyslexia, disabilities or people who do not have access to a computer are at a real disadvantage.

“I know people can go to the library and use a computer but it isn’t that simple for a lot of people.

“If you are claiming or trying to claim universal credit then the chances are you have not got a lot of money, getting to the library costs money, running the internet on a phone or computer costs money and everything for universal credit needs to be done online.

“The way they’ve set up the system just doesn’t take these people into account and they are the most vulnerable people.” Ros’s work at Money Matters means that she encounters people who are having trouble applying for and receiving the benefit.

Universal Credit started in Leicester in June 2018. It replaced…

  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Working Tax Credit

She said: “We’re not long into this process and it is causing very real problems for people. “This is only the first wave of impact, there will be more to come. “As time goes on,the impact will be felt greater.”

She also criticised the way the system is designed. “The whole thing hasn’t been thought through. The impact of Universal Credit could lead to civil unrest, fears a volunteer who works with claimants. “Some of the people that are going to be claiming this benefit have no way of applying and keeping up with emails and appointments.

“My heart just breaks when I think about it,” Ros said. She added: “I think there’s a very real chance it will create an under economy and we’ll see people going back to cash in hand work. “It can create mental health problems, it can lead people to prostitution, it can get people further into debt.

“Children are going to school hungry, how can they learn when they are hungry? “There are just so many effects on people already living in poverty.”

Applying for universal credit
Advice on the Department for Work and Pensions website states that there are six steps to claiming universal credit…

Step 1: Check if you’re eligible

Step 2: Create an account and make a claim and find out how your claim is assessed

Step 3: Apply for an advance on your first payment

Step 4: Attend your interview

Step 5: Get your first payment

Step 6: Follow your agreement and report any change of circumstances
Ros, who also works with other charitable organisations in the city, thinks that the government should rethink the roll out before more damage is done to society. She explained: “The system is just going to create so much of a divide between rich and poor.

“The government needs to take note that this could create real civil unrest. “It really could cause massive problems.” Another of her criticisms was based on the amounts claimants are paid sometimes differing from month to month.

She said: “If people who are claiming universal credit are in debt, and a lot of people that claim universal credit are, then a computer decides how much of the benefit goes towards paying off the debt.

“You’re then left with a situation where people are receiving a different amount each month. “How are people supposed to live like that?

“I couldn’t do it, people in full time work couldn’t do it.

“Then there’s the financial penalties if you miss an appointment, if people don’t turn up then they get less benefit. “There are genuine reasons that people don’t attend appointments, it’s terrible that they are being punished for that.”

The Department for Work and Pensions will only comment on individual cases if a claimant’s national insurance number, address and date of birth are provided. It describes universal credit as a ‘force for good’ and says it is helping people successfully.


BENEFIT FRAUD: Scammer claims 44k

Every day I’m blogging about the DWP’s atrocities and I can’t explain the anger I feel at the treatment of sick and disabled people, but what makes me angrier is benefit cheats like this woman.

I know the fraud rate is only 0.7%, however, the right-wing press [aided by the Tories] use cases like this to convince everyone that every disabled person is on the take.


Those that read my blog know I am a carer of two disabled relatives and I could [without exaggeration] write a book about the hell we have been through with the DWP. I have appeal papers as thick as a book and that doesn’t include all the DWP paperwork.

So you can imagine my anger towards this woman, she should have every penny [she fraudulently claimed], plus interest taken off her.

Woman who ‘couldn’t walk’ and claimed £44k in benefits caught playing bowls
Rebecca Peach claimed she needed the aid of two crutches to walk but was filmed gleefully punching the air when she won at bowls.

Rebecca Peach was filmed at her local bowls club where she played regularly

A ‘compulsive liar’ who took up to £44,500 in benefits claiming she could barely walk was busted when the Department for Work and Pensions filmed her playing bowls, after a tip off.

Damning footage showed Rebecca Peach jogging around the green as well and rushing up steps, despite her claims she needed crutches to walk.

In the footage, the fraudster, who claimed she was in severe pain while walking, is even seen bending down to deliver her bowl before gleefully punching the air. She was also spotted running across the bowling green with a tape measure at Amery Unionist Bowling Club in Willenhall, West Midlands, all without showing any signs of discomfort.

She couldn’t walk “without crutches”

Peach, 49, of Lord Street, Willenhall appeared at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Thursday after confessing to failing to tell the DWP her condition had improved.  She also admitted this failure was done with the intention of making gains for herself.

At the hearing, Jamie Scott, prosecuting, said the payments were not illegal from the start but up to £44,500 may have been obtained fraudulently.  He maintained the bogus benefit payouts ran from March 9, 2011 to November 29, 2017, initially as Disability Living Allowance until it was changed to Personal Independence Living Allowance in February 2016.

Charles Crinion, defending, argued the fraud did not begin until July 23, 2012 and said the defendant’s depression had recently got worse. The court also heard Peach had no previous convictions and had claimed at the start of the process that she was in severe pain while walking, needed two crutches because her legs gave way without warning, never went out alone and needed help dressing herself.

She alleged that she was regularly forced to stop, needed help to cook and had pain in her legs, knees and back. But meanwhile, she was apparently playing bowls up to four days a week and represented teams in several local leagues in Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire.

Jogging and running up steps

Prosecutors will now decide whether the fact the payments were not fraudulent from the start should make a difference to the sentence before Peach, who was bailed, returns to court for sentencing in April.

Warning she may be jailed, Judge James Burbidge QC said to the defendant: “You have had the good sense to admit your responsibility for defrauding the public purse, and that is a serious crime.”

In a statement, the DWP said: “Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like this show how we are catching those who cheat the system and divert taxpayers’ money from the people who need it.

“We are determined to catch those we suspect of fraudulently claiming benefits by following up on tip-offs, undertaking surveillance and working with local councils.”


DWP officers fail to turn up at four out of five benefit appeal hearings

EXCLUSIVE: Just 1,790 out of 9,010 ESA and PIP tribunal hearings in September had a DWP “presenting officer”

Labour MP Justin Madders said: “The system needs a radical overhaul”

Government officials failed to turn up at four out of five welfare appeal hearings in a single month, according to shock figures seen by the Mirror. A “presenting officer” represented the Department of Work and Pensions at just 1,790 out of 9,010 “first-tier tribunal” hearings against decisions over on employment support allowance and personal independence payments in September – some 19.8%.

That was a drop from a third in January 2018, according to stats revealed to MPs. Figures from other months show a continuing plunge in the number of appeals where the Government is represented in person throughout last year.

Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders said: “It is a disgrace that in the majority of cases the DWP cannot even be bothered to turn up to the hearing to defend the original decision.

“They would sanction a person for not attending a job centre appointment but apparently do not believe the same standards apply to them.

“People are waiting far too long in an incredibly stressful situation to have their appeal heard and if the DWP aren’t going to turn up to these appeals they are not only causing unnecessary anguish to these people they are also wasting the court’s time and taxpayers’ money.

“The system needs a radical overhaul.” [YOU THINK]

In January last year presenting officers turned up at 4,020 hearings out of a possible 12,040 – 33%. But that dropped to 3,120 out of 10,190 in March – some 31% – and fell to 29% the following month. By July it was 24% and it hit 20% in August and September.

Apology after benefit error hits an extra 30,000 ill and disabled people

The Department for Work and Pensions said the Secretary of State is the respondent in first-tier tribunals and “responds to notices of appeal in writing”.

A written Commons answer from Welfare Minister Sarah Newton went on “Where the (Secretary of State) is additionally represented, in person, it is usually by a presenting officer. They represent the department at tribunal hearings and provide valuable feedback to both decision makers and health care professionals.”

Image result for DWP disability appeals

Ms Newton blamed “significant training and upskilling of presenting officers” for the plunge in attendance, and “normal attrition rates leading to a reduction in the number of presenting officers in post”.

In a written Commons answer, she added: “We expect that (first-tier tribunal) hearings attended by presenting officers will increase once training and current recruitment activity has been completed and will be monitoring this regularly.”

The DWP said some cases had more than one hearing, meaning a presenting officer may attend one hearing for a case but miss others. A spokeswoman said: “In all cases we supply written evidence for appeals and continue to look at how we can improve the process for claims.”

Labour MP Neil Coyle raised the figures in the Commons, urging the DWP to “overhaul the whole process”.

DWP minister Sarah Newton told the Commons today: “We never ever intended to send a presenting officer to every tribunal. We send them to a sample so that we can learn.”


More DWP Atrocities