Advisor says 30 local claimants with terminal cancer had PIP rejections overturned

A welfare rights advisor has described how at least 30 local benefit claimants with terminal cancer have had their claims rejected in the last year, with every one of the decisions later overturned by an appeal tribunal.

In every case, the claimant has been terminally-ill with cancer but has been told by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that they were completely ineligible for support from personal independence payment (PIP), before later being awarded the highest rate of PIP by a tribunal.

The evidence provided by welfare rights expert Duncan Walker, who works in the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire area, appears to be further proof of the dishonesty at the heart of the PIP assessment system.

Epilepsy charity say people’s safety put at risk by denial of PIP

Disability News Service (DNS) has so far heard from more than 250 PIP claimants who say that healthcare professionals from government contractors Atos and Capita wrote dishonest reports for DWP after carrying out face-to-face assessments of their eligibility for the extra-costs benefit.

Walker, secretary of the Stoke and North Staffordshire branch of the Unite Community union, told DNS this week that he was “ashamed” that the money he pays in taxes is being used to support such a dishonest assessment system.

He has dealt with at least 30 cases over the last year in which a claimant with terminal cancer has been found ineligible for PIP, but has later been awarded the enhanced rates of the benefit (for both daily living and mobility) by an appeal tribunal.

Why I secretly taped my disability assessment

In one case, a man with stage four lung cancer was assessed in his own home, and was awarded no points (a claimant needs at least eight just to qualify for the standard rate of PIP).

Walker had attended the assessment as a Unite Community volunteer, and witnessed the claimant using an oxygen supply and having to stop and breathe it in every few minutes.

But the assessor reported seeing “no signs of breathlessness”, marked “not applicable” in the respiratory section of the report, and said there was no need for a review of his case for at least another two years, even though he had three months to live.

The appeal tribunal took just five minutes to overturn the decision, and he was awarded the two enhanced rates of PIP. He died several weeks later.

People with epilepsy face highest refusal rate for PIP, according to DWP statistics

In another case, a woman with a spinal tumour had to be brought to her appeal tribunal by the ambulance service, with paramedics wheeling her into the hearing.

Again, the tribunal took just five minutes to award her enhanced PIP rates for mobility and daily living.

A third case Walker has worked on saw a terminally-ill ex-miner with metastasized cancer denied any PIP following an assessment. Again, a tribunal took just five minutes to overturn the DWP decision and award him the highest rates of PIP.

It was Walker who persuaded Stoke-on-Trent City Council late last year to hold an inquiry into the PIP assessment system.

He had been trying to raise concerns about the dishonesty he was witnessing, but he said no-one had been paying any attention to what he was saying.

Hunstanton couple left without benefits for months

He said: “I was banging my head against a wall. Nobody was listening to me.”

But after he met with the council’s adults and neighbourhoods overview and scrutiny committee, and presented his evidence, the committee decided unanimously to launch an inquiry into his allegations.

The council’s review concluded last month that the PIP assessment process was “distressing, inconsistent and not fit for purpose”.

Walker told DNS this week that he could not understand the level of dishonesty he has been witnessing in the assessment reports he has read.

He said: “I look at the reports and I am thinking, ‘How can they write this? This can’t possibly be true.’

“For me personally as a tax-payer I am beyond ashamed that my money is being used in such a perverse way.

Disabled man denied PIP benefits had decision overturned on appeal two days after he died

“I am ashamed of my own government treating the sick and terminally-ill in this way and using my money to do it, and private companies making a profit out of the terminally-ill and producing fictitious reports.

“Report after report is a work of fiction. It is 100 per cent dishonesty.”

Walker works as a welfare rights advisor for the disabled people’s organisation Disability Solutions West Midlands, but also voluntarily for Unite Community.

His Unite Community branch now plans to submit detailed evidence to an inquiry into the disability benefits assessment process being carried out by the Commons work and pensions select committee.

A DWP spokeswoman said in a statement: “Decisions for PIP are made based on all the information provided by the claimant, including any supporting information from their GP or medical specialist.

“We’re helping people with the most severe conditions to get the extra support that they need.

“This includes fast-tracking claims, and ensuring they can get the highest rates of benefit payments.

“Claims to PIP under the special rules for terminally-ill people are currently taking on average six working days*.

“As we’ve previously said, we do not accept that there is dishonesty among PIP assessors.”

She added: “Since PIP was introduced, 2.4 million decisions have been made, and of these eight per cent have been appealed and four per cent have been overturned.

“In the vast majority of cases where a decision is overturned, further evidence has been provided.

“As you know, we constantly review our processes to make sure they are working in the best way possible and, to date, there have been two independent reviews of PIP.”

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

“If someone has questions about the assessment service we have provided, they can contact us by phone, text phone, email or post.”

*For those not expected to live more than six months

SOURCE

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Theresa May might be scrapping helpline charges, but the battle to reform Universal Credit goes on

Under the current schedule, a million people will be using Universal Credit within the next few months, up from 600,000. We must get it right before so many are asked to rely on the programme to make ends meet 

Yesterday we won the argument on Universal Credit, with a decisive vote in support of our motion to pause the roll out and fix the Government’s flagship social security programme. This came after the Government finally bowed to pressure from Labour and campaigners to scrap charges for the Universal Credit helpline.

Our research has shown that more than 30 million calls have been made to DWP helplines, costing callers over £50m a year on call charges. Some were being charged as much as 55p a minute in their attempt to get help. Meanwhile the Government had contracted the phone lines out to private providers, who were turning a profit on those seeking help.

But although the vote on whether we should pause was won last night, the battle continues. We know that it is the serious flaws in the design of Universal Credit that are driving the rising debt, arrears and even evictions being faced by those brought under the programme. The high cost of calling was aggravating these deeper issues.

Primarily, the six weeks that the Government were asking people to wait between making a new claim and receiving support was leaving families with nothing to live on.

Foodbank use is rising in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out. Based on local authority estimates, the Greater Manchester Mayor raised concerns that rough sleeping in the city could double over the winter as a result of the programme.

May appears to say “yes” to Corbyn’s request to scrap Universal Credit

Surely the social security system is there to prevent people getting into debt and suffering hardship, not exacerbate these problems? The Government could follow Northern Ireland and proposals in Scotland and introduce a two week payment system which would go some way to addressing this problem, at little additional cost.

The programme has also suffered deep cuts by this Government that have moved it further away from its original ambitions.

“The road to tyranny is paved with executives ignoring Parliaments.” – Sir Edward Leigh 

A reduction to the amount you can earn before support is withdrawn, cuts to disability premiums, and an inflexible approach to the self-employed are all leaving people worse off. Some families are losing £2,600 a year compared with the old system. Child poverty is expected to increase by a million children by 2020.

The Government promised that the programme would be simpler, and that it would make work pay. But these ambitions have gradually faded, as Universal Credit came under the Chancellor’s knife, eventually forcing the Work and Pensions Secretary to resign.

The cuts to Universal Credit have meant that the key principle that work should always pay has been lost. The cuts together with the delays in receiving the first payment, the costly call charges to the so-called helpline and other design issues have led to the issues so many claimants now face.

It is therefore vital that the Government looks again at the design of the programme before roll out continues. Under the current schedule, a million people will be using Universal Credit within the next few months, up from 600,000. We must get it right before so many are asked to rely on the programme to make ends meet.

That’s why the Government must respect the decision of the House, reflected in the vote last night, and pause the roll out of Universal Credit. If they do, I stand ready to work with them to improve the programme, to ensure that no-one falls into debt as a result of its design. If they refuse to accept the will of the House and the people they represent, I am ready to do battle again.

We must ensure that we have a social security system that, like the NHS, is there for us all in our time of need, and our proposals for Universal Credit stand at the heart of that ambition.

Debbie Abrahams is a Labour MP and Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary

SOURCE

God Help the Rest of the World if they Treat Their Disabled like the UK

The UK wants to promote its disability policies to rest of the world, says Mordaunt

Translation: How to cull the worlds disabled people 

The minister for disabled people has dismissed a damning UN report on her government’s disability rights record, arguing that the rest of the world should instead be learning from the UK’s policies.

Penny Mordaunt was speaking weeks after the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities said the government’s social protection policies had caused a “human catastrophe” for disabled people.

The short debate was secured by the SNP’s Deidre Brock, but took place towards the end of the parliamentary week, when most MPs had returned to their constituencies, so only a handful of MPs were in the Commons chamber to hear the debate.

Brock said the government’s austerity policies were responsible for causing disabled people “a river of human misery”.

And she said the UN committee had criticised the government’s “austerity fetish” and had called on the government to “backtrack” on its cuts to independent living support.

BLACK TRIANGLE

Brock called on Mordaunt to promise to include disabled people and their organisations in its work to address the more than 80 recommendations made by the committee, and to ensure that they were adequately funded for this work.

She also called on Mordaunt to commit to carrying out an assessment of the cumulative impact of all her government’s cuts and reforms to disabled people’s support – and to review the benefits system’s conditionality and sanctions regime – as recommended by the report.

The Labour MP Luke Pollard criticised the government for failing to provide a full statement to MPs after the UN report was published.

But Mordaunt (pictured) defended her government’s record and even said she wanted to “promote” its disability policies so that they could be a “catalyst for change elsewhere in the world”.

She insisted that the government had “shown what can be done to facilitate disabled access, both physical and service-based, and how that can be achieved in co-operation with business and the third sector”.

She added: “Our work promotes change elsewhere in the world, which is why we would like the UN to recognise what we have been doing.”

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Mordaunt’s response came only weeks after Disability News Service (DNS) reported how a disabled woman was forced to quit her job because the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs refused to allow her to use one of the parking spaces close to the offices where she worked.

Much of Mordaunt’s response was not aimed at the contents of the UN report but at explaining why the UN was wrong to criticise the UK government so extensively.

She wrongly claimed – as her department did last week in a response to DNS – that the UK was “one of the few nations” to ratify the convention’s optional protocol, when 92 have done so.

And she claimed the government’s next step would be to “correct some of the factual inaccuracies in the UN report”.

But Mordaunt also said that the Office for Disability Issues was “reflecting” on how it could take forward the call by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for a “co-ordinated, UK-wide action plan” to implement the UN convention.

She told MPs that spending on disability benefits would be higher than in 2010 for every year until 2020 and was “currently at a record high”.

Mordaunt also said her department would shortly be making an announcement on the conditionality and sanctions regime as it affects people with mental health conditions.

DNS reported earlier this month how work and pensions secretary David Gauke had admitted that the system of benefit sanctions often fails to work and can instead cause harm to claimants, particularly those with mental health conditions, and that he would try to find a way to make the sanctions system less damaging to people with mental health conditions.

Mordaunt said her government had worked in many other ways to support disabled people, including tackling disability hate crime; working to improve building regulations and accessible housing, and the provision of Changing Places toilets; “tackling the extra costs of disability”; and improving education “and extending opportunity”.

Mordaunt also spoke of how she had volunteered in the early 1990s in Romanian orphanages and hospitals, where most of the children were disabled, and all but one of the aid workers were British.

She said she was part of a government whose aid efforts had “prioritised” the 15 per cent of the world’s population who are disabled, and how it wanted to “establish the UK as a global leader in this field”.

Mordaunt also claimed that she regularly received requests for advice from ministers for disabled people from around the world on “how to set up welfare systems and improve accessibility, employment and representation”.

SOURCE

The Tories are a pious loan shark

The Tories couldn’t shut down the UK’s youngest MP. One line was all she needed
The Conservatives couldn’t shut down the UK’s youngest MP. One line was all she needed. [VIDEO]UK

On 18 October, the UK’s youngest MP delivered a speech apparently so blistering that the Conservative benches tried [5.30] to shut her down. But one line was all Mhairi Black needed. She branded [03:44] the government a:

pious loan shark.

The SNP MP expanded:

except that instead of coming through your front door, they are coming after your mental health, your physical wellbeing, your stability, your sense of security – that is what the experience is for all of our constituents.

In the Commons, MPs were preparing to vote on pausing the rollout of Universal Credit, the government’s six-in-one flagship welfare reform. Later that day, the Conservative government lost the vote 299-0. But every Conservative MP except one abstained. This means the opposition day motion is non-binding for the government, rendering the opposition victory purely symbolic.

“Forcing people into hunger does not incentivise work”

For many ordinary people, Universal Credit actually represents a huge cut to their support. Overcoming [5;37] shouts from the Conservative benches, Black attacked the government line that Universal Credit gets people into work:

Plunging people into debt does not incentivise work. Forcing people into hunger does not incentivise work. Causing anxiety and distress and even evicting some families from their homes does not incentivise work.

“Arrogant and idiotic”

During her speech, Black also linked [4.11] Universal Credit to the Conservatives piling on public debt:

We’re not dealing with the national debt, we’re simply shifting it onto vulnerable households.

The Conservatives have added £813bn to the national debt since 2010.

Packaged as a modern reform, Universal Credit will actually leave many ordinary people with less money overall. So it is in fact more Conservative austerity. With this in mind, the 22-year-old MP said that to continue with the rollout is “callous” at worst and “arrogant and idiotic” at best.

Watch Black’s blistering speech here:

SOURCE

ANOTHER DWP ATROCITY: Hollie needs chemotherapy to treat severe arthritis – but NOT entitled to disability benefits?

Hollie, seven, from New Marske, suffers from a severe form of childhood arthritis :: DWP says her family is entitled to appeal the decision

The mum of a brave little girl who needs chemotherapy to treat severe childhood arthritis has told how her daughter doesn’t qualify for disability allowance.

Since the age of 18 months, little Hollie Stonehouse, from New Marske, has suffered from Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA).

The disease, affecting around 12,000 UK children, is so severe in seven-year-old Hollie’s case, that it leaves her unable to move on mornings and requires chemotherapy drugs to treat it.

In November last year, Hollie’s JIA appeared to be in remission and in March this year all disability benefits, including carer’s allowance paid to Hollie’s mum, Andrea Keenan, were stopped.

But Andrea, 48, said that Hollie’s arthritis came back “with a vengeance” just before Christmas.

She said: “In November she appeared to be doing well so the doctors tried to wean her off her medication as it looked as though she was going into remission.

“But a week before Christmas, Hollie’s arthritis had come back, not only to all the joints in her body – knees, ankles, toes, fingers – it had sadly spread to her neck.”

Now, more six months later, Andrea – who works night shifts as a support worker to fit around looking after her daughter – still receives no help from the Government.

“The saddest thing is she can’t even get disability allowance,” said Andrea.

“Because she gets her medication in the hospital and, on good days like today, she can be up and about, they say she’s not eligible.

“But no two days are the same. Tomorrow she might be as stiff as a board.

“Some mornings she wakes up with stiffness in her joints so sore she can’t face the day ahead.

“It causes her high pain, fatigue, swelling and can cause an eye disease. She’s had the chemotherapy for the past two years.

“Hollie throughout her five-and-a-half year illness has had to endure countless theatre visits, and is under the children’s rheumatology team at the Newcastle RVI.” Hollie, a pupil at New Marske Primary, said: “Some days it’s in all my joints and everywhere really.

“It’s hard to move – but I’m not going to let it beat me.”

A DWP spokeswoman said: “Decisions on DLA for children like Hollie are made following consideration of all the information provided by the family and their GP or medical specialist.

“Anyone who disagrees with a decision can appeal, and any further evidence will be considered by the independent assessor.”

Hugging her daughter close, Andrea nominated Hollie as a Gazette Community Champion Child of Courage.

She said: “Despite her illness, Hollie was determined to climb Roseberry Topping to conquer ‘her dream’ which she did this summer.

“Sometimes I really have to sit back, look at this kid and say ‘how on earth does this child do it?’

“She gives me the strength to keep going. Her showing of love for everyone is unconditional.

“She is one truly inspiration little girl. I’m immensely proud.”

What is Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis?

• JIA is inflammation of one or more of the joints

• It first occurs before the age of 16

• It is slightly more common in girls

• It most commonly occurs in pre-school age children or teenagers

• Most cases are controlled with treatment

• The symptoms are painful, swollen, stiff or warm-to-touch joints, increased tiredness, and returning fever

SOURCE

Advisor says 30 local claimants with terminal cancer had PIP rejections overturned

A welfare rights advisor has described how at least 30 local benefit claimants with terminal cancer have had their claims rejected in the last year, with every one of the decisions later overturned by an appeal tribunal.

In every case, the claimant has been terminally-ill with cancer but has been told by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that they were completely ineligible for support from personal independence payment (PIP), before later being awarded the highest rate of PIP by a tribunal.

The evidence provided by welfare rights expert Duncan Walker, who works in the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire area, appears to be further proof of the dishonesty at the heart of the PIP assessment system.

Disability News Service (DNS) has so far heard from more than 250 PIP claimants who say that healthcare professionals from government contractors Atos and Capita wrote dishonest reports for DWP after carrying out face-to-face assessments of their eligibility for the extra-costs benefit.

Walker, secretary of the Stoke and North Staffordshire branch of the Unite Community union, told DNS this week that he was “ashamed” that the money he pays in taxes is being used to support such a dishonest assessment system.

He has dealt with at least 30 cases over the last year in which a claimant with terminal cancer has been found ineligible for PIP, but has later been awarded the enhanced rates of the benefit (for both daily living and mobility) by an appeal tribunal.

In one case, a man with stage four lung cancer was assessed in his own home, and was awarded no points (a claimant needs at least eight just to qualify for the standard rate of PIP).

Walker had attended the assessment as a Unite Community volunteer, and witnessed the claimant using an oxygen supply and having to stop and breathe it in every few minutes.

But the assessor reported seeing “no signs of breathlessness”, marked “not applicable” in the respiratory section of the report, and said there was no need for a review of his case for at least another two years, even though he had three months to live.

The appeal tribunal took just five minutes to overturn the decision, and he was awarded the two enhanced rates of PIP. He died several weeks later.

In another case, a woman with a spinal tumour had to be brought to her appeal tribunal by the ambulance service, with paramedics wheeling her into the hearing.

Again, the tribunal took just five minutes to award her enhanced PIP rates for mobility and daily living.

A third case Walker has worked on saw a terminally-ill ex-miner with metastasized cancer denied any PIP following an assessment. Again, a tribunal took just five minutes to overturn the DWP decision and award him the highest rates of PIP.

It was Walker who persuaded Stoke-on-Trent City Council late last year to hold an inquiry into the PIP assessment system.

He had been trying to raise concerns about the dishonesty he was witnessing, but he said no-one had been paying any attention to what he was saying.

He said: “I was banging my head against a wall. Nobody was listening to me.”

But after he met with the council’s adults and neighbourhoods overview and scrutiny committee, and presented his evidence, the committee decided unanimously to launch an inquiry into his allegations.

The council’s review concluded last month that the PIP assessment process was “distressing, inconsistent and not fit for purpose”.

Walker told DNS this week that he could not understand the level of dishonesty he has been witnessing in the assessment reports he has read.

He said: “I look at the reports and I am thinking, ‘How can they write this? This can’t possibly be true.’

“For me personally as a tax-payer I am beyond ashamed that my money is being used in such a perverse way.

“I am ashamed of my own government treating the sick and terminally-ill in this way and using my money to do it, and private companies making a profit out of the terminally-ill and producing fictitious reports.

“Report after report is a work of fiction. It is 100 per cent dishonesty.”

Walker works as a welfare rights advisor for the disabled people’s organisation Disability Solutions West Midlands, but also voluntarily for Unite Community.

His Unite Community branch now plans to submit detailed evidence to an inquiry into the disability benefits assessment process being carried out by the Commons work and pensions select committee.

A DWP spokeswoman said in a statement: “Decisions for PIP are made based on all the information provided by the claimant, including any supporting information from their GP or medical specialist.

“We’re helping people with the most severe conditions to get the extra support that they need.

“This includes fast-tracking claims, and ensuring they can get the highest rates of benefit payments.

“Claims to PIP under the special rules for terminally-ill people are currently taking on average six working days*.

“As we’ve previously said, we do not accept that there is dishonesty among PIP assessors.”

MP’s anger over red-tape appeals limbo for disabled people

She added: “Since PIP was introduced, 2.4 million decisions have been made, and of these eight per cent have been appealed and four per cent have been overturned.

“In the vast majority of cases where a decision is overturned, further evidence has been provided.

“As you know, we constantly review our processes to make sure they are working in the best way possible and, to date, there have been two independent reviews of PIP.”

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

“If someone has questions about the assessment service we have provided, they can contact us by phone, text phone, email or post.”

*For those not expected to live more than six months

source

MP’s anger over red-tape appeals limbo for disabled people

Disabled Scots who lose out on essential vehicles are having to wait up to five months for appeal verdicts.

Disabled Scots who lose out on essential vehicles are having to wait up to five months for appeal verdicts. 

DISABLED Scots who lose out on key vehicles or payments are having to wait nearly five months for their appeals against the decisions to be heard.

Claimants who previously claimed Disability Living Allowance (DLA) have been transferred to a new benefit Personal Independence Payment (PIP) under welfare reforms.

But with the UK Government hoping the move will cut spending by 20 per cent, charities say tens of thousands of disabled Scots are losing out on benefits under the changes, either seeing payments cut entirely reduced, with others losing out on aids such as motability vehicles.

Many decisions are overturned on appeal, but official figures obtained by Inverclyde MP Ronnie Cowan, show appeals are taking months to be resolved, leaving the disabled reliant on food banks in some cases to survive.

HM Courts and Tribunals Service figures show that the time taken for appeals to be settled has risen steadily since PIP was rolled out in 2014. Across Scotland, in 2014, The average waiting time for an appeal against a mandatory reconsideration of a decision on personal independence payments was 12 weeks, but is now 15 weeks. In Mr Cowan’s Greenock constituency, the figure is higher still at 19 weeks.

He described the figures as shocking and said the system was fundamentally flawed.

“In Inverclyde alone, people are waiting almost five months to learn the fate of their appeal to the UK Government, which is either cutting or stopping their payments.” Mr Cowan said.

“While waiting for the decision of an appeal the claimant has already lost their payment and this can lead many people being referred to foodbanks. This is a scandal and further evidence that the UK Government are failing some of the most vulnerable in our society,” he added.

He approached Minister for Disabled People, Penny Mordaunt, after receiving continued correspondence from constituents who have lost their benefit entitlement and cars under the Motability scheme, while their appeals were still being heard.

One constituent said appeals were vital and needed to be heard more promptly.

He claimed PIP was letting them down: “The forms are extremely complex, the people who conduct the assessments often don’t understand the difficulties people face, and the rules mean many people who used to get support are now losing out,” he wrote. “Decisions are often wrong, even after mandatory reconsideration stage, and have to go to appeal,” he said.

Mr Cowan highlighted problems experienced by local people with Ms Mordaunt and has put together a briefing document to assist hundreds of Inverclyde constituents he says are facing difficulties with PIP. The SNP MP added: “At a time when MP’s from both sides are urging the UK Government to halt the rollout out of universal credit, these PIP figures demonstrate how lacking in compassion and humanity the current welfare system is,” he said.

In his letter to Ms Mordaunt, Mr Cowan said PIP was designed to treat all conditions fairly and added: “it is only right support is targeted at those disabled people who require the most assistance to lead independent lives and PIP is achieving that,” she said. She said only eight percent of decision were appealed, half of those successfully.

However, in a report last month the Disability Benefit Consortium, a coalition of disability charities, claimed 64 per cent of appeals in the last quarter of 2016/17 had been successful and PIP appeals now made up 45 per cent of the work of the Social Security and Child Support tribunals.

source