“I was trained to get Universal Credit claimants off the phone”

From Sky News: Former Universal Credit case manager Bayard Tarpley writes about his experience working in its Grimsby call centre for two years…

Have you ever wondered if the service person on the end of the phone is being deliberately being obstructive?

Well the answer is yes. And I should know – I worked as a Universal Credit case manager where agents were trained to get people off the phone without answering their query.

The answers were from a “deflection script”.

And they were not what you want to hear if you’re a single mother desperate to pay your rent or face being kicked out your home.

[Read full article on Sky News website…]

DWP ignores concerns from disabled people who shun activity over benefit fraud fears

From Disability News Service: The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has refused to offer a solution to disabled people who say they are fearful of taking more exercise in case they have their support cut or are branded benefit cheats.

A new report by the disability sports organisation Activity Alliance found that four-fifths (83%) of disabled people they surveyed would like to be more active, but nearly half (47%) feared losing their benefits if they took more exercise.

More than a third (34%) had either had their own benefits sanctioned or removed because of being physically active or knew someone this had happened to.

The Activity Trap: Disabled People’s Fear Of Being Active – which was commissioned by the Dwarf Sports Association – says that “ambiguity remains a problem in terms of what level of physical activity is acceptable and what might lead to removal of support”.

One of those surveyed said: “I have a lot of concerns when it comes to benefits and the constant fear of them being taken away or worry of being reassessed.

“It then impacts my life and any involvement in sport and physical activity which is none at the moment due to the concerns I have and not wanting my benefits to be taken off me, as DWP are not known for being understanding or nice and will try and find any reason to remove someone’s #disability benefits.”

[Read full article on Disability News Service…]

‘Indifferent’ DWP took six years to correct error depriving disability claimants of £340m

From The Guardian: A cross-party group of MPs has criticised the Department for Work and Pensions’ “culture of indifference” after it took six years to correct a major error which left chronically ill and disabled benefit claimants thousands of pounds out of pocket.

An estimated 70,000 claimants were underpaid by between £5,000 and £20,000 between 2011 and 2016 because the DWP failed to ensure they received the correct amounts when moving them from incapacity benefit on to the employment and support allowance (ESA).

As well as losing out on thousands of pounds through underpayments, the DWP’s failure to check claimants’ entitlements meant some were also denied their rights to help with dentistry costs, as well as free school meals and free medical prescriptions.

The report criticised the DWP for rushing into the transfer without taking legal advice or making basic checks, brushing aside evidence that people were being underpaid, and ignoring warnings from its own policy advisors that it should pause and fix the process before proceeding.

Read more

DWP silence over ‘thousands of ESA claims lost in IT black hole’

From Disability News Service: The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has told a disabled woman whose benefit claims repeatedly went missing that thousands of other claimants have lost their applications in the same departmental black hole.

Vicky Pearson, from Lincolnshire, had to survive for nearly two weeks without food over Christmas and the new year, a distressing experience that she believes caused significant long-term damage to her health.

When she asked a DWP civil servant what she should do over Christmas, she was told to “rest a lot and drink a lot of water”.

[Read full article on Disability News Service website…]

Benefit delays leave hundreds of thousands penniless and reliant on foodbanks

From Welfare Weekly: Delays in processing new benefit claims are leaving tens of thousands of vulnerable adults and children without money for long periods of time and dependent on foodbanks to stave off hunger, damning figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reveal.

Minister of State for Employment Alok Sharma confirmed in a written Commons answer that the DWP failed to achieve its own target of processing new claims within ten days on 214,000 occasions last year.

This is equivalent to more than 1 in 10 claims, leaving some of the poorest in society struggling to heat their homes and put food on the table.

The same figures also reveal how more than 970,000 claims took longer than a week to be processed.

Mr Sharma admitted 110,180 Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) claimants and 103,650 Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants waited more than two weeks for their first payment.

More than 671,000 JSA claimants and 302,900 ESA claimants were made to wait longer than a week before hearing from the DWP, iNews reports.

[Read full article on Welfare Weekly…]

Inquiry into disability benefits ‘deluged’ by tales of despair

From The Guardian: A House of Commons inquiry into disability benefits has heard from more than 3,000 people in despair at the system, including dozens who say they have been driven to suicidal thoughts by the process.

The evidence includes testimony from many saying their mental health had deteriorated as a result of trying to claim the employment support allowance (ESA) for daily living costs and/or the personal independence payment (PIP) to cover the extra costs caused by long-term disability.

It comes after longstanding concerns among mental health groups, medical professionals, user groups and MPs about the operation of both benefits, which see claimant assessments run by outsourced providers and final decisions made by officials at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The submissions included more than 100 people reporting that they or someone they care for feels their suicidal feelings have worsened or been triggered by the process. Read more

DWP ‘tells disability benefits assessors to discriminate against people with mental health conditions’

From The Independent: New guidelines from the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) to assessors for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefit appears to explicitly single out those with mental health conditions who suffer identical impacts as those with physical conditions.

[Read article on Independent website…]