The UK Government’s cap on benefits is “capable of real damage to individuals”

High Court rules application of the revised benefit cap to lone parents with children under two amounts to unlawful discrimination “with no real purpose”

Single parent family - credit drinks machine

Single parent family – ‘drinks machine’ images

The UK Government’s cap on benefits is “capable of real damage to individuals”, according to a judge in the High Court.

Mr Justice Collins ruled in favour of a group of single parents of children under two years old who argued they should be exempt from the cap on total benefits to £20,000 a year or £23,000 in London.

The application of the cap to these people amounted to unlawful discrimination, he ruled.


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The cap includes housing costs, meaning the majority can go to private landlords.

Currently parents must work 16 hours or more to avoid the cap.

The judge said he was “satisfied that the claims must succeed” against the UK Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke.

“Whether or not the defendant accepts my judgment, the evidence shows that the cap is capable of real damage to individuals such as the claimants,” he said.

“They are not workshy but find it, because of the care difficulties, impossible to comply with the work requirement.

“Most lone parents with children under two are not the sort of households the cap was intended to cover and, since they will depend on DHP (Discretionary Housing Payments), they will remain benefit households.

“Real misery is being caused to no good purpose.”

The Department for Work and Pensions said it intended to appeal against the landmark ruling. [Quelle Surprise]

“The benefit cap incentivises work, even if it’s part-time, as anyone eligible for working tax credits or the equivalent under Universal Credit, is exempt,” said a DWP spokesman.

“Even with the cap, lone parents can still receive benefits up to the equivalent salary of £25,000, or £29,000 in London and we have made Discretionary Housing Payments available to people who need extra help.”

The benefit cap was revised in November and has a significant impact on single parents.

SNP MSP Sandra White said: “This is an absolutely damning result that highlights the real human impact of the Tories’ austerity agenda.

“Theresa May and her government should be ashamed. Their obsession with making low-income families bear the burden of austerity is having a real human cost – and for no good reason.”

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ANOTHER DWP ATROCITY: DWP apologises for voicemail to tragic mum & says benefits decision was changed after her suicide

Jodey Whiting’s family told an inquest she took her own life after her benefits were stopped :: The decision was overturned after her death

The mother of tragic benefits mum Jodey Whiting today said: “Sorry isn’t good enough” after receiving a government apology following her daughter’s death.

Disabled mum-of-nine Jody’s inquest was told she committed suicide after her Employment Support Allowance was stopped for missing one appointment.

But Department of Work and Pensions bosses have now apologised to her family after its staff left Jodey a voicemail – despite being told of her death.

And it’s emerged the decision to stop her claim, which her family say was the “trigger” behind her suicide, was overturned after her death.

Clutching the apology letter, grieving mum Joy Dove said: “Sorry isn’t good enough, and it doesn’t bring my daughter back.

“To me, this apology proves they feel some guilt.”

Joy is now planning a campaign, dubbed ‘Justice for Jodey’, in her 42-year-old daughter’s memory.

‘Sorry isn’t good enough’: Government apologises to family of disabled mum-of-nine who took her own life ‘as benefits were stopped’

Teesside Coroner’s Court heard lifelong back problems left the retired shop worker barely able to leave her Stockton home, while she previously battled mental health problems.

But a heartbreaking chain of events was ultimately attributed to her death.

* Jodey was told to attend a health assessment on January 16

* The DWP asked her why she failed to attend, which she stated she was in hospital with a brain cyst and never received an appointment letter, although the body claimed there was no evidence to support this.

* A decision maker ruled on February 6 that she hadn’t provided sufficient evidence, and her benefits were stopped.

* On February 10, Jodey “raised concerns” about the decision, before formally appealing that decision three days later.

* On February 21, Jodey committed suicide.

* A different decision maker ruled on February 25 that, despite extra evidence from Jodey, her claim should still be closed.

Jodey Whiting
Jodey Whiting

However, the DWP’s system wasn’t updated until March 1 – over a week after she passed away.

That meant staff left a voicemail for Jodey which Joy claims broke her heart.

“It was bang out of order, unforgiveable,” said the 63-year-old.

“I was upset and crying when I heard the message and just wanted to fill up.”

Addressing the error, the DWP’s Karen Hibbert states in the letter: “This clearly should not have happened.”

The letter also states the DWP didn’t receive notice of Jodey’s final appeal over her benefit cuts until over a month after a death.

That appeal included a letter from Stockton ’s Citizen Advice Bureau dated February 15, six days before her death.

She had turned up at their offices with a “number of unopened letters”, including her appointment letter.

It was claimed that her mental health condition meant she struggled to “deal” with her mail.

Citizen’s Advice requested that the DWP reverse its decision to stop her payments, and in the letter to Jodey’s family, the DWP states: “In light of this further evidence, on 31 March 2017 the decision on Jodey’s claim for ESA was changed.

“I hope you will accept my assurance that this decision was based entirely on the evidence contained within the appeal notice we received on 23 March.”

It added: “My apologies for those aspects of our service that fell below our usual standards.”

For Joy, as she clutches a picture of her “beautiful” daughter, it is an apology she struggles to accept.

“They should have just believed what Jodey was saying, or at least made a few calls themselves rather than just end it all there and then.

“There are a lot of things they can work on.”

The DWP has since made back payments of Jodey’s benefit money to her family. It declined to make further comment.

Following her inquest, a spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with Miss Whiting’s family at this difficult time.

“Suicide is a very complex issue.”

Her inquest ruled she died following a drug cocktail. No blame was attributed to the body by coroner Jo Wharton.

But Joy said: “I still think they are in the wrong.

“My Jodey has gone now, but I want this to stop happening to other people.”

ANOTHER PIP ATROCITY: Woman ‘forced to sit in her own urine for two hours’ by PIP assessor

A disabled women says she was left to sit in her own urine for nearly two hours after her plight was ignored by a healthcare professional carrying out a disability benefit assessment.

Maria Lane has spoken up about the “devastating” experience she endured during her personal independence payment (PIP) assessment, in the hope that other disabled people will not have to go through similar experiences.

She told – and showed – the assessor just 10 minutes into the assessment that she had had an accident and had emptied her bladder into her incontinence pad, and that urine was leaking into her trousers.

But she said the female assessor – who works for the government contractor Atos – “looked for a second at the pad” and then continued typing.

Atos has now launched an investigation.

For nearly two hours, she was forced to continue answering questions, with the assessor warning her whenever she failed to do so that if she did not respond she would have to return for another assessment.

Maria Lane has a number of long-term health conditions, including diabetes, osteoarthritis – which affects all of her joints and has spread into her spine – sciatica, a slipped disc, high blood pressure, and depression.

She is waiting for a major operation on her bladder, because of severe incontinence which means she has to wear pads permanently.

She said: “Once your bladder starts, you have to go. It will continue, no stopping, and then it leaks. I have no control over it.

“It just comes and I have to be prepared and change [my trousers]and if you’re nervous it is worse.

“I showed her all that, she must have seen, it was all over my trousers. She ignored me. She ignored me completely or she didn’t believe me.

“She has heard me alright because I showed them to her. She looked for a second and then went back to her report. She was like a robot. She had no emotions.”

She was also appalled by the way she was handled during a physical examination.

The assessor placed a chair behind her in case she fell over during the examination, which at one stage she did, and was “pulling my arms about” and causing her “terrible pain”, she said.

Now she says she has lost all her confidence, and has been left “devastated” by the “very upsetting” experience at the assessment centre in Enfield, north London.

She said: “It is embarrassing for me. I didn’t know what to do when I came out, I was crying.

Rebranding of ‘toxic’ Atos will fail, activists promise 

“I want to prevent this happening to other people. I would hate to see other people going through what I have.”

She added: “I am 59 years old and I have never been treated like that. She took all my rights, all my dignity.

“It was inhuman to allow me to sit there.”

She currently receives the highest rate of PIP through the enhanced rate for both daily living and mobility, but is terrified about what will happen if the assessor recommends that she loses any of that entitlement.

She currently spends about £55 a week on incontinence pads, which is paid for with some of her PIP.

She said: “If I lose that money, what is going to happen?”

She believes she has been discriminated against by Atos, and is writing a letter of complaint to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), while one of her two daughters – both of whom work in the healthcare sector – has made an appointment to see her MP on her behalf.

She is the latest PIP claimant to come forward to describe appalling experiences at the hands of private contractors paid hundreds of millions of pounds every year by the government to assess their eligibility for disability benefits.

The future use of companies like Atos to carry out disability benefit assessments was an issue at last week’s general election, with Labour pledging to end the use of private contractors to carry out all disability benefit assessments, while the SNP had already pledged to ban the private sector from involvement in Scotland’s benefit assessments.

Atos has now promised to investigate what happened to Maria Lane, while DWP has described her account as “very concerning”.

An Atos spokesman said: “We were concerned to hear of this and that is why we have written to Ms Lane explaining that an investigation into the issues raised is underway.”

A DWP spokeswoman added: “All claimants deserve an objective, accurate and high quality service and Mrs Lane’s account is very concerning.

“Atos is contacting the claimant and we will work with them to look into the issues raised.

“We expect the highest standards from the contractors who carry out PIP assessments, and work closely with them to ensure PIP is working in the best way possible.

“Assessment providers have to conform to a strict set of quality standards regarding staff recruitment and training, to demonstrate that their health professionals meet all of our requirements before they are approved to carry out assessments.”

The assessors must be either occupational therapists, level one nurses, physiotherapists, paramedics or doctors, and must be fully registered and have at least two years post full-registration experience.

She said: “All health professionals are subject to on-going quality audit to ensure they continue to deliver high quality assessments.

“Where assessors fall below the required standards and do not improve, processes are in place to stop them carrying out assessments.”

She added: “Assessment providers have their own complaints process regarding the services they provide.

“This signposts complainants to the Independent Case Examiner if they remain dissatisfied with the provider’s final response to their complaint.”

ANOTHER DWP ATROCITY: Put Right.

Anne Meikle wins her Motability car back after appeal to DWP and support from The National readers

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A DISABLED woman who was living in fear of deepening depression after her Motability car was taken away is to have her vehicle returned, following the support of The National and its readers.

Anne Meikle, who lives in Philpstoun near Linlithgow, West Lothian, with her husband — and driver — Raymond, told The National she received the news in a phone call from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on Tuesday morning: “It was an absolute shock. Once it sunk in I was on cloud nine and I’m still there.

“I thought it was a sales cold call and I was ready for that at nine o’clock in the morning, but it turned out to be a very nice man who said he was from the DWP.

“He checked that he had the right details, then he told me the call was about a letter of reconsideration — which I’d sent after The National article — for my enhanced personal independence payment (PIP).

“I thought he was phoning to say I’d been unsuccessful, but he said he wanted to go over a few things, and then he said ‘I’m glad to tell you we’ve decided to renew your enhanced payment’.

“I threw the phone up in the air and burst out crying — and through the tears I managed to thank him.”

Anne received her first Motability car nearly 10 years ago when she was receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

However, she had to return her latest vehicle last year after being assessed for its replacement PIP and being told she did not have enough points to qualify for the higher mobility payment, despite suffering from several debilitating conditions.

We told last month how the 68-year-old has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which affects her breathing, and arthritis. A series of mini-strokes has left her weakened down one side of her body, and she is partially blind in her left eye through encephalitis.

She has also gone through operations on both her knees, her upper body has been weakened after radiotherapy treatment for cancer and she is prone to dizziness and collapsing.

After our first article appeared, Anne decided that she would write to the DWP after taking heart from some of our readers’ comments online.

“I wasn’t going to do anything else about the refusal, then The National published the story and I had a lot of positive response to it — and I’d really like to thank the people who commented.

“I had been sinking into depression, so I decided I would try to fight the decision and wrote a letter of ‘reconsideration’ to the DWP.

Tory cuts are seizing 800 vital Motability cars a WEEK from disabled people

“In a way it was a begging letter. I had become so depressed at being virtually housebound and so ‘within myself’ since being refused the car, so I thought I would tell it how it is. I had nothing to lose.

“The response to your article made me think there are people out there who are on my side. So I wrote the letter asking them to reconsider because of the illnesses, the depression and so on.”

Aside from the online response to her case, Anne said her local community had also rallied round, with everyone on her side.

“There has been no negativity about what happened,” she said. “A lot of people have turned round and said ‘that’s not fair, you really deserve it yet we see people around that don’t and are swinging the lead and getting away with it’.

“I’ve had nobody with a negative comment towards me. I’ve been in my wheelchair in the supermarket and people have come over and asked if I’m alright and if I need any help.”

More than 900 people are returning their Motability cars every week and since the switch from DLA to PIP, 51,000 have lost access to their vehicles.

Around 126,000 of the 254,000 people who were eligible for funding under DLA and were reassessed for PIP by the end of October last year have lost access to it.

Of the relatively small number of appeals against the loss of funding (seven per cent), the majority (65 per cent) have won their case, demonstrating the failures in how cuts have been made.

According to the DWP, when one of their decisions has been overturned, it is often because the claimant has provided more evidence.

The DWP’s letter of verification, confirming that Anne is entitled to the enhanced payment for PIP arrived yesterday morning and she expects to be mobile again in around a month.

She would like to see her previous car returned, but added: “I think it’s as if we’ve never had a Motability car before and we’ll have to go to the showroom, pick a car and wait for around a month for it to be ordered and prepared.

“I’d be happy to get my old car back — I’d actually become quite fond of her.”

AND ANOTHER DWP ATROCITY: Disabled Woman Left Housebound After DWP Took Away Mobility Scooter

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A disabled woman claims she has been left house-bound after her mobility scooter was taken away – by the benefits office.

Jane Roberts says the Department for Work and Pensions took away her only way of getting around after it was deemed she did not need the motorised vehicle – despite the fact she can’t walk.

The 53-year-old suffers from a breathing condition and osteoporosis, which weakens her bones and makes them more likely to break.

Her ill health is so serious, she says she cannot walk from her lounge to the kitchen without becoming breathless.

The mobility vehicle was removed from Jane following a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment last month.

Jane, from Canterbury, Kent, says she cannot leave her house without the electric vehicle, which she had used for two years.

She said: “My life is hell as I can’t go out now without the scooter. People say you have got to have your independence but I do not know how I can be independent when I cannot get around.

“I cannot get on a bus because I am claustrophobic and I cannot walk from my living room to my kitchen because I get out of breath. The scooter was very important.

“I cannot move around and I get out of breath just by talking. I can’t understand why I was given a scooter but then had it taken away.

“I walk with a stick and my eyesight isn’t very good – I really need that mobility scooter as it gets me from A to B.”

Jane says she will appeal the decision by the Department for Work and Pensions, which she says has left her unable to live a normal life.

She suffers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which makes it difficult to walk.

The condition restricts airflow to her lungs, with symptoms including coughing and breathlessness.

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. Most people leaving the Motability Scheme are eligible for a one-off payment of up to £2,000 to help meet their needs.”

SOURCE

DWP ATROCITIES: This is a Pip disability assessment: intrusive, humiliating and completely pointless

GUARDIAN

I have a permanent disability. Even after the election, the Conservative government is forcing people like me through this broken system

‘Atos is one of two profit-making companies given half a billion pounds by the government to ‘assess’ people like me.’
‘Atos is one of two profit-making companies given half a billion pounds by the government to ‘assess’ people like me.’ Photograph: Alamy

‘So Rob, do you have friends?” I’m wondering what on earth Sharon (not her real name) thinks she might be looking at as she gazes at me. She’s had around seven days of training before this and now, in my living room, I wonder what conclusions she feels she can draw from asking this question.

This is the reality of an assessment for personal independence payment, or Pip as it’s known. Despite last week’s election surprise, we still have a Conservative government so millions of British people with permanent, unchanging disabilities will be put through this astronomically expensive and humiliating test to see if they can be thrown off benefits.

If you’re wondering why I’m part of all this, I have ocular albinism and nystagmus, meaning I have exceptionally limited vision.

At the age of 38, I’ve been claiming disability living allowance since I was a teenager. It works out at £5.73 a day, which goes towards paying for taxis, screen magnification software, magnifying glasses and a variety of other utterly prosaic things that enable me to lead as “normal” a life as possible. And because of my visual impairment, paired with anxiety that requires daily medication, it’s been decided by the Department for Work and Pensions that I must have a home visit to assess my disability in all its permanent, unchanging glory to see if I qualify for the payments that are slowly replacing DLA.

Sharon works for Atos, one of the two profit-making companies (Capita being the other) that have been given half a billion pounds by the government to “assess” people like me with disabilities where there is zero chance of any improvement in our lifetime.

Well, you may be thinking, at least the assessor will be an expert in the relevant field of disability, who can perhaps shed some insight on the process with direct relation to my specific condition?“Do you wear glasses, Rob?” is the next question of around 35 that are fired at me over the course of a gruelling hour. Asking an albino if he or she wears glasses is like asking an amputee when their leg is going to grow back. Albinism is a genetic condition that affects the nerves and the brain. Sharon’s line of questioning has the kind of expertise you might expect if you asked Joey Essex to lead the Brexit negotiations.

Let’s clarify this: people’s benefits, mobility vehicles, home help and other essential lifelines are being decided upon by a team consisting mostly of nurses and occupational therapists like Sharon who have had seven days of training and are still doing their proper job for half the week.

And so the asininity continues: “Do you take showers?” “Do you have any leisure activities?” “What do you eat?” The humiliation and intrusion are absolute and total. The additional sheer irrelevance of these questions relating to my own disability renders me silently apoplectic.

Sharon isn’t a bad person. She looks barely 30 and she’s just doing her job. Yet the decisions she and her ilk are making just aren’t working out. In the final three months of 2016 alone 65% of people appealing against the denial of Pip won their cases against the government.

Can I have my fiver now?

ANOTHER DWP ATROCITY: Polio sufferer denied PIP because she couldn’t name doctor from 67 years ago

MIRROR

PAY-POLIO-BENEFITS

 

Betty Whyley had been receiving up to £454 each month from the government for more than 30 years as part of her Personal Independence Payment

A wheelchair-bound pensioner who contracted polio as a baby claims her benefits have been slashed – because she couldn’t name the doctor who diagnosed her 67 years ago.

Betty Whyley had been receiving up to £454 each month from the government for more than 30 years as part of her Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – a benefit that helps with the extra costs of a long-term health condition or disability .

The pensioner, from Dudley, West Midlands, who recently fell and broke her leg, has been plagued with health problems since catching polio as a newborn baby and has been in and out of a wheelchair for most of her life.

However, following a recent assessment on May 2, Betty received a letter saying she didn’t qualify for PIP because she didn’t fully take part in the consultation.

 
The letter she received from the Department of Work and Pensions (Photo: Caters News Agency)

She claims this decision was made on the basis that she was unable to name the doctor who diagnosed her with polio when she was just six weeks old.

She has been cared for by her husband of 48 years, Paul, who worked in the building trade while looking after his wife before retiring.

Paul, 66, said: “The first question was who diagnosed her with polio. Well we were really rather stumped.

“Being six weeks old she obviously didn’t know so we couldn’t answer the question. We hadn’t got a clue.

We were immediately dismissed and sent on our way. She went away in tears. We’re so worried now.

“She has been receiving that money for over 30 years and it’s been a huge help for us.”

A spokesperson at the Department for Work and Pensions said Mrs Whyley’s PIP claim was disallowed because she left her assessment before it was completed but that she was welcome to submit a new claim.

She said: “Assessments are necessary to determine someone’s eligibility for PIP. If a claimant doesn’t follow the process then their claim may be disallowed.”

According to the NHS post-polio syndrome can include a wide range of symptoms that develop gradually over time, including extreme tiredness, muscle weakness, shrinking muscles, muscle and joint pain and sleep apnoea.

The condition can have a significant impact on everyday life, making it very difficult to get around and carry out certain tasks and activities.