‘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.

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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…]

Tories’ access to work cap unlawfully discriminates against deaf people, High Court hears

From the Morning Star: A Tory Government cap on the amount paid to help cover the extra costs of working with a disability unlawfully discriminates against deaf people, the High Court heard today.

Action on Disability chief executive David Buxton uses British sign language as his first language and requires full-time interpretation, historically provided under the access to work (ATW) scheme, to do his job.

When he joined Action on Disability, a “hearing-led organisation,” from a position at the British Deaf Association, Mr Buxton required increased support.

But the Department for Work and Pensions’s £42,100 cap on ATW payments means Mr Buxton could only be supported by an interpreter three days a week.

Earlier this year, the government announced it would raise the annual cap to £57,200 from April — but Mr Buxton requires £67,500 a year.

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Luke on Twitter: I was sanctioned by DWP for missing appointment while in hospital for seizures

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Woman with epilepsy so severe she set herself on fire sees benefits removed

From Metro: Pippa Hammond’s epilepsy is so severe that someone has to wait in the room with her every time she has a shower, goes to the toilet or even blow dries her hair. Despite this, she has been denied any disability benefit under the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) scheme, with her application scored zero in every category.

[Read full article on Metro website…]

More than a million benefits sanctions imposed on disabled people since 2010

From The Guardian: Disabled people receiving state benefits have been hit with a million sanctions in less than a decade, according to alarming new evidence that they are being discriminated against by the welfare system.

A comprehensive analysis of the treatment of unemployed disabled claimants has revealed that they are up to 53% more likely to be docked money than claimant who are not disabled. This raises serious concerns about how they and their conditions are treated.

The findings, from a four-year study by academic Ben Baumberg Geiger in collaboration with the Demos thinktank, will cause worry that a government drive to help a million more disabled people into work over the next 10 years could lead to more unfair treatment.

Sanctions – the cutting or withholding of benefits – are applied as a punishment when claimants infringe the conditions of their payments by, say, as missing appointments or failing to apply for enough jobs.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Theresa May refuses to reveal any details of disabled benefit claimants’ suicides, instead says “work is the best route out of poverty”

From Daily Mirror: Theresa May has refused to reveal any details of suicides by disabled benefit claimants, instead cruelly declaring: “Work is the best route out of poverty.”

[Read article on Mirror website…]

Attempted suicides by disability benefit claimants more than double after introduction of fit-to-work assessment

From The Independent: According to new analysis of NHS data from surveys taken in 2007 and 2014, nearly half of people surveyed on out-of-work disability benefits said in 2014 that they had attempted to take their own lives.

[Read article on Independent website…]

Philip Hammond: UK productivity rates low because more disabled people are in work

From Huffpost: Philip Hammond has been criticised after suggesting low productivity rates in the UK could be linked to the employment of more disabled people.

The Tory Chancellor made the claim while giving evidence to the Commons Treasury select committee on the 2017 Budget.

Asked about a fall in productivity rates earlier this year, he said: “It is almost certainly the case that by increasing participation in the workforce, including far higher levels of participation by marginal groups and very high levels of engagement in the workforce, for example of disabled people – something we should be extremely proud of – may have had an impact on overall productivity measurements.”

Anna Bird, director of policy and research at disability charity Scope, said: “These comments are totally unacceptable and derogatory.

[Read full article with video on Huffpost website…]

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

Minister: Rest of world should be learning from Tory disability policies

disability news service mordauntFrom Disability News Service: The Tory 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.

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The Tories are being investigated by the UN for ‘ongoing human rights violations’

From Evolve Politics: United Nations officials are hearing evidence from UK-wide disability organisations which shows the Tory government’s “ongoing human rights violations” have put it in breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People.

After being warned last October that welfare cuts have led to “grave and systematic violations” of rights, the UK government is now under investigation by the United Nation’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Campaigners have called the government’s lack of action “complacency at best and high-handed evasion at worst”. Read more

Fiona Robertson: Voting Tory in #GE17 is a vote to kill people like me

Disability activist and writer Fiona Robertson writes on Commonspace: “When I and my fellow disability activists woke up on the morning after the last General Election, we spent an unrelenting few days tag teaming as we tried to keep people in our community alive. We were not always successful. Over and over, hour after hour, we saw iterations of the same message: ‘I do not think I will survive this government.’

“There were 30,000 extra deaths in England and Wales in 2015 as a result of cuts to health and social care, according to research by Oxford University. There were hundreds of suicides by the very lowest estimates, though we who spend our days working with people who are struggling to survive this government know there are more which aren’t counted; that there are many, many deaths because the stress and fear and pain and malnutrition and isolation exacerbated a person’s condition to the point of lethality. Read more

Disabled man worried by benefit cuts killed himself by setting himself on fire

From Daily Mirror: A disabled man committed suicide in front of horrified shoppers in a town centre by setting himself on fire, after fearing that he faced a cut in his benefits, an inquest heard.

[Read full article on Daily Mirror website…]

“Disabled people are to be ‘warehoused’. We should be livid”

Mark Brown writes in the Guardian: 37 NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England are introducing rules about ongoing care that could force up to 13,000 people with health conditions into care homes. The CCGs will essentially begin saying to people with disabilities and long-term health needs: if you haven’t got the cash for homecare, then it’s off to a care home for you.

Imagine you have been living in your home for years. It might be where your kids were born. Being at home, having your stuff around you, having the greatest possible measure of independence, obviously means a lot to everyone, whether you’re well, ill or disabled. Then one day someone comes and tells you, “Nope, you’re too expensive here. We’re moving you to a care home unless you cough up the money to pay for what you need.

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