From The Independent: Thousands of old and disabled people are at risk of losing vital support because long-term funding for adult social care has been neglected by successive governments, care chiefs have warned.
From The Guardian: Helen Purdon, 47, had been on disability living allowance (DLA) for 10 years, following a diagnosis of epilepsy, which means she has seizures every 10 to 15 days. She is unable to work and assumed her transfer to PIP would be seamless. But she was wrong. “It was unreal. My DLA stopped, which was around £400 a month. I didn’t get any money at all for months,” she says. “We couldn’t afford to put petrol in the car, we were living off pasta and beans.”
Purdon’s case is all too common. According to the latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions, more than half of existing epilepsy patients and two-thirds of new claimants are being denied disability benefits.
PIP was introduced in England, Scotland and Wales in 2013, replacing DLA. The benefit is supposed to cover some of the additional costs of having a long-term health condition, and is available to people in or out of work… But since PIP was introduced, 65% of claims from people with epilepsy who did not have DLA were rejected, while 54% of those in receipt of DLA were turned down for PIP, the second-highest refusal rate of all health conditions and double the national average. Of those who challenged the decision 78% won on appeal. According to Epilepsy Scotland, which obtained the figures, the benefit assessment system is flawed because it fails to take account of fluctuating conditions like epilepsy. Claims assessors focus too heavily on the type and number of seizures a person has, while ignoring other symptoms like memory impairment, confusion, anxiety and depression.
From Disability News Service: Two government departments are breaching equality laws and their human rights obligations by failing to ensure that disabled people can record their face-to-face benefit assessments and appeal tribunals, legal researchers have concluded.
They say the delay by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in ensuring that all disabled people can record their assessments for personal independence payment (PIP) is causing them “significant and predictable harm”.
And they say the failure of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to ensure that all PIP appeal tribunals can be recorded is also causing “significant and predictable harm” to disabled people. MoJ’s failure to assess or even acknowledge the harm caused by the absence of recording equipment at many tribunal venues means its actions are unlawful, say researchers from the International Disability Law Clinic (IDLC) at the University of Leeds.
They say both DWP and MoJ are breaching the Equality Act, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the European Convention on Human Rights. And they say the government’s policies are unjustified and have an “adverse impact” on disabled people.
From Welfare Weekly: A chronically ill father hung himself shortly after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) took the cruel decision to stop his lifeline benefit payments, an inquest has heard.
Kevin, from Leeds, who suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and mental health problems, was found dead by his daughter shortly before Christmas 2018.
An inquest into his death heard how the 48-year-old often struggled to breath because of his condition, but was still found “fit for work” following a medical assessment for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
His daughter, Leanne Dooley, is convinced that the DWP’s decision to stop her father’s benefit payments “led to him taking his own life”, due to being left in financial distress and unable to pay bills.
From The Daily Record: The Department of Work and Pensions told a terminally ill man to reapply for his benefits – despite having just six months to live.
From the Daily Mirror: Tens of thousands of sick or disabled people have had to wait more than two weeks for vital welfare payments.
From Welfare Weekly: Union bosses and the Labour Party has responded angrily to news that hospitals are abolishing free parking for sick patients and people with disabilities.
The Mirror reports that Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust introduced the controversial policy just days before Christmas, with dialysis patients and carers among those will be affected by the cruel decision.
And Nottinghamshire University Hospitals Trust, which the Mirror claims made £3.6million from parking charges last year, are scrapping free parking for Blue Badge holders from January next year (2019).
From Daily Mirror: 4,600 disabled people were wrongly stripped of their benefits, the Tories admitted today in a fresh humiliation for their welfare regime.
From the Daily Record: A seriously ill woman was refused benefits after DWP officials mixed up sensitive medical information with notes from a complete stranger.
Labour blasts Tory response to tax-dodging private firms locking up people with learning disabilities
From the Morning Star: People with learning disabilities are having to put up with Bedlam-like conditions in institutions that should have been shut down years ago, shadow health minister Barbara Keeley said today.
The current situation was “nothing short of a national scandal” with patients being treated in a way that has “no place in the 21st century,” while private operators of the institutions profit and squirrel millions of pounds in offshore tax havens, she added.
She made the demand after reports emerged last month that an autistic teenager called Bethany was locked for almost two years in solitary confinement and fed through a hatch, which reignited calls for immediate closure of such institutions.
The news led Sir Stephen Bubb to claim the government had “ignored” his independent report into the 2011 abuse scandal at Winterbourne View, which recommended a dramatic reduction in the use of institutions for people with learning disabilities.
Asking an urgent question on the issue in the Commons seven years after the original scandal, Ms Keeley called for immediate action to “rid the country” of these institutions.
She said: “Can the minister tell us why the NHS is still sanctioning the use of settings which expose thousands of vulnerable people to abuse at a cost of half a billion pounds despite the government pledging to close them?
Former trawlerman battling lung disease hits out at benefit bosses after being declared fit for work
From Eastern Daily Press: A Suffolk man has hit out at benefit bosses after being declared fit to work, despite battling COPD and severe back pain for nearly four decades.
David Macalpine, 62, moved to Lowestoft, Suffolk, from Coventry aged 17 to begin a fishing career as a trawlerman, but has not worked for more than 35 years after suffering a deformed disc in his back.
Yet the Department for Work and Pensions have declared him able to return to work.
Mr Macalpine said: “I am suffering with COPD and it is a long-term illness. The council recognise COPD as a disability but the DWP look at it differently which is just stupid.
“I have also been diagnosed with a muscular disorder because I have a deformed disc in my back since I was fishing and I have been told not to lift anything. I do push myself and just get on with it but I get severe back pain and shortness of breath and I am not fit to go back to work.
“I have got a sicknote from my doctor which lasts until the end of November. They are going against the doctors professional advice.”
From Disability News Service: Staff working for discredited benefit assessments contractor Atos threatened to call the police after a claimant asked about the mental health qualifications of the nurse who was assessing his eligibility for personal independence payment (PIP).
She appears to have wrongly blamed the decision to refuse him a home assessment on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), when such decisions are taken by the assessment companies, Atos and Capita.
The assessor can then be heard leaving the room after Weston began asking about her experience and qualifications in mental health.
She told Weston that she was “not happy to sit in this room with you” because she said he had questioned her qualifications and was “being difficult for no reason”.
Weston, who did not raise his voice or threaten the assessor at any point in the conversation, told her: “You seem to have had a bit of an attitude from the start, a bit of a blasé attitude.
“You didn’t look at me, you didn’t say hello to me, you didn’t treat me like a human.”
Despite the lack of any aggression or threats from Weston, a colleague of the assessor then told him he needed to leave the building “or we’ll call the police”, before repeating: “We’ll call the police if you don’t leave.”
From The Guardian: Neil MacVicar writes… “Just a couple of weeks after my brain surgery, still struggling with fatigue and other side effects, I went to the Jobcentre to apply for universal credit. I desperately needed some help, after everything I’d been through. But instead of a saving grace, I was faced with another ordeal as I had to sit in front of a computer for an exhausting six hours to fill in the painstakingly long application form. I couldn’t believe this was the process for people, like me, who had been forced to leave jobs they loved because of ill health and were just trying to get by. Worse still, because I registered at the Jobcentre in Scotland, when I did eventually move back to London, I couldn’t change my home and benefits to there.
“A further insult was that, because I was under 26, I wasn’t termed an adult, so I was entitled to even less. This was despite the fact that I left home at 19 and have been independent since then. The whole thing was humiliating.
“People on the Universal Credit helpline weren’t any better. They dismissed my problems and told me I should go back home to Scotland. I felt real pressure to do this, but there’s nothing really left for me there. I don’t know many people there any more, it would just be me, mum and dad – and I’m no longer allowed to drive, which is a real disadvantage in a rural place like Inverness. I love being independent but cancer stole that and universal credit made it even worse. I feel like I’ve been penalised for having cancer and I just want to get my life back. Universal Credit was the worst part. I could deal with the cancer and the treatment, but not Universal Credit.”
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.”
From Welfare Weekly: Theresa May has refused to scrap her government’s controversial Work Capability Assessments, despite reports almost one in two women taking part in the assessments say they have attempted suicide before or after the process.
Ian Blackford, Commons leader of the SNP, congratulated the Prime Minister on her appointment of a Minister for Suicide Prevention, but said if the Prime Minister was serious about the issue, she would eradicate polices that lead people to believe suicide is their only option.
A series of secret internal inquiries into the deaths of people claiming social security revealed that UK government ministers were repeatedly warned of shortcomings of their social security policies.
Nearly one in every two women (47%) claiming incapacity benefits and undergoing the WCA have attempted suicide.
From Welfare Weekly: Nearly half of sick and disabled people who were in receipt of the highest mobility rate of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) were denied the equivalent level of support when moved to Personal Independence Payment (PIP), a Freedom of Information (FOI) request has revealed.
In response to an FOI request, the DWP state that 471,000 DLA claimants who were receipt of the higher mobility rate of DLA had been reassessed for PIP by 31 October 2017.
Of these, 241,920 (52%) were awarded the enhanced PIP mobility rate, 65,200 (25%) had their benefit reduced to the standard PIP mobility rate, and 65,200 (23%) lost their mobility rate entitlement altogether.
“Those disabled people whose entitlement has been reduced to the standard mobility rate of PIP have lost £37.10 per week (the equivalent of £1929 per year)”, says Disability Rights UK.
They have also lost their entitlement to the Motability scheme, because it is restricted to only those receiving the enhanced mobility rate of PIP.
Those sick and disabled people who have lost all entitlement to mobility support when moved to PIP have lost £59.75 per week, or a staggering £3107 per year.
From Daily Mirror: Tory ministers have spent £200 million fighting to stop people getting sickness and disability benefits.
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.
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”.