Wednesday 27 February 2019

The Litany of Abuse #UniversalCredit #AlstonReport #Austerity Pt.1

The following stories have all appeared since the; "Alston Report" (Professor Philip Alston is the current Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights for the OHCHR: ), an investigation into the activities and behaviour of the British Government with regard to their treatment of the vulnerable, disabled and otherwise disadvantaged of Britain was published ( go to: );

Quote; "DWP chiefs face fury after admitting 30,000 extra sick or disabled people are owed benefit payments in an eight-year-old scandal.
New estimates suggest 210,000 people received too little Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in a blunder that dates back to 2011.
That is more than the 180,000 victims at the last estimate - and it's the second rise since the error emerged in 2017.
Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) chiefs today insisted an army of 1,200 staff is making "good progress" on fixing the blunder, paying back 58,000 people a total of £328m so far.
But the news comes too late for more than 20,000 potential victims - who have all already died.
Shadow Minister for Disabled People Marsha De Cordova said: “Once again disabled people are suffering as a result of the chaos at the heart of the DWP.

New Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd inherited the hugely costly scandal.
The blunder happened when people were put on the wrong system when they moved from the old incapacity benefit to "contributory" ESA.
The problem was spotted in 2017 - and since then the number of people affected has soared twice.
At first, ministers estimated up to 70,000 people would be hit. In October 2018 that rose to 180,000 because the DWP agreed to widen the scope of payments. Now it is 210,000, thanks to more accurate updated forecasts.
Today's update reveals 58,000 people have now received back payments worth £328million - an average of £6,000 each.
Total back payments are now expected to hit £920m, which despite more people being hit, is down slightly from the previous estimate of £970m.
By March 2025 the extra bill is set to be £1.61bn, because people will continue getting higher payments than they would have done. This is slightly down on the £1.67bn figure estimated previously."..
"..the real cost will be far higher because that figure does not include the cost of 1,200 DWP staff who are working to fix the problem."..
"Lastly, DWP chiefs today announced they will examine a further 30,000 cases that date since 2015 after new guidance was found to be less effective than first thought.
It comes after the Mirror revealed 46,448 potential victims across all groups had died since the ESA errors." Go to:
for full article.

Quote; ""The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rules in the weeks leading up to the suicide of a disabled woman with a long history of mental distress, an independent investigation has found.

The Independent Case Examiner (ICE) concluded that DWP was guilty of “multiple” and “significant” failings in handling the case of mother-of-nine Jodey Whiting (pictured), who had her out-of-work disability benefits stopped for missing a work capability assessment (WCA), and took her own life just 15 days later.

The report is the latest evidence of the institutional failure of DWP to guarantee the safety of disabled people – and particularly those with a history of mental distress – within the “fitness for work” system.

DWP has accepted the report’s findings.

Whiting’s mother, Joy Dove, has now called for DWP and those staff responsible to face a criminal investigation for the failures that led to the death of her much-loved daughter, who she described as a “lovely, caring, thoughtful” person who adored her children and grandchildren.

She said her daughter had died a “martyr” and that campaigners were right to say that the Tory government had created a “hostile environment for disabled people”.

The 42-year-old had been taking 23 tablets a day at the time she died, for conditions including scoliosis and bipolar disorder, and had been taking morphine twice daily.

She had been a long-time claimant of incapacity benefit, and then employment and support allowance (ESA), and DWP and its assessors had previously noted the severity of her mental health condition, and the risk that would be posed if she was found fit for work.

When she was approached again for another assessment in the autumn of 2016, she told DWP about her suicidal thoughts and requested a home assessment as she said she rarely left the house.

But even though a “flag” was placed on DWP’s ESA system to alert staff that she was a “vulnerable” claimant because of her mental health condition, DWP failed to refer her request for a home visit to Maximus, the company that carries out WCAs on its behalf.

Maximus also failed to act on her request, even though it had been included in the ESA50 form she had filled out.

But this was just the first of five serious failings by DWP in the weeks leading up to her death, the ICE report has concluded."..
"The report by the Independent Case Examiner, Joanna Wallace, says: “In total there have been five opportunities for DWP processes to prompt particular consideration of Jodey’s mental health status and give careful consideration to her case because of it – none of those were taken.”

She concludes that there were “multiple failings in the handling of Jodey’s case prior to her suicide”.

Wallace’s report, addressed to Jodey Whiting’s mother, adds: “I find it extremely disappointing that in investigating the complaints you have raised, we have seen that DWP have either failed to investigate, or failed to acknowledge, the extent of events in Jodey’s case.

“As such the facts of the case have not been made clear to you and no appropriate apology has been made.”

DWP has agreed to the ICE recommendation that it should pay £10,000 to the family as a “consolatory” payment for its “repeated failures to follow their safeguarding procedures” and other failings that took place after her death (see separate story).

Joy Dove, who has campaigned for justice – including through her Justice for Jodey petition – said her daughter had “died a martyr”."..
"She said: “What they have done is criminal. They had all the information in front of them. Five times they failed.

“I would like to see them charged, all of them who had anything to do with Jodey’s case." Go to:

for full article.

Quote; "A family whose daughter died after being denied the main disability benefit have been awarded £10,000 in damages.

Victoria Smith, 33, of Market Drayton, passed away last July just weeks after being told she was not eligible for Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

Her family sued Capita for making inaccurate statements on Ms Smith's health assessment.

Capita told the BBC it stood by the original decision.

Ms Smith's mother, Sue Kemlo, told the BBC: "If they hadn't cut her PIP, my daughter would still be here."

Ms Smith suffered from agoraphobia and fibromyalgia, which left her body in constant pain.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) wrote to her in early 2018 to tell her she needed to be re-assessed for the benefit, which is intended to help with the additional costs of having a disability.

As part of the process, in March she was assessed at home by a healthcare professional employed by Capita.

The assessment led the DWP to decide Ms Smith was no longer eligible for PIP, a conclusion her mother said "was a pack of lies".

Ms Smith immediately appealed, but was again turned down by the DWP. She received the decision in June, shortly after she was admitted to hospital."..
"On 8 July, Ms Smith died of a brain haemorrhage, but doctors told the family her underlying conditions, particularly the fibromyalgia, had deteriorated as well.

The week after she died, a tribunal decided she was eligible for PIP." Go to:
for full article.

Quote; "The Conservatives have been accused of “economic murder” for austerity policies which a new study suggests have caused 120,000 deaths.

The paper found that there were 45,000 more deaths in the first four years of Tory-led efficiencies than would have been expected if funding had stayed at pre-election levels.

On this trajectory that could rise to nearly 200,000 excess deaths by the end of 2020, even with the extra funding that has been earmarked for public sector services this year.

Real terms funding for health and social care fell under the Conservative-led Coalition Government in 2010, and the researchers conclude this “may have produced” the substantial increase in deaths.".. The paper identified that mortality rates in the UK had declined steadily from 2001 to 2010, but this reversed sharply with the death rate growing again after austerity came in.

From this reversal the authors identified that 45,368 extra deaths occurred between 2010 and 2014, than would have been expected, although it stops short of calling them "avoidable".

Based on those trends it predicted the next five years - from 2015 to 2020 - would account for 152,141 deaths - 100 a day - findings which one of the authors likened to “economic murder”.".. 
"The study, published in BMJ Open today, estimated that to return death rates to their pre-2010 levels spending would need to increase by £25.3bn."..
"In social care the annual budget increase collapsed from 2.20 per cent annually, to a decrease of 1.57 per cent.

The researchers found this coincided with death rates which had decreased by around 0.77 per cent a year to 2010, beginning to increase again by 0.87 per cent a year.

And the majority of those were people reliant on social care, the paper says: “This is most likely because social care experienced greater relative spending constraints than healthcare.""..
"a drop in nurse numbers may have accounted for 10 per cent of deaths, concluding: "We have found that spending constraints since 2010, especially public expenditure on social care, may have produced a substantial mortality gap in England.”

The papers’ senior author and a researcher at UCL, Dr Ben Maruthappu, said that while the paper “can’t prove cause and effect” it shows an association."..
"Professor Martin Roland Emeritus Professor of Health Services Research, University of Cambridge said: “This study suggests that a change happened to cause deaths to stop declining around 2014. This is likely to be a correct finding. However, the link to health and social care spending is speculative as observational studies of this type can never prove cause and effect."*

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “We would urge government to review the evidence behind this analysis. If correct, it would clearly reinforce the desperate and urgent need to properly fund social care"" Go tp:
for full article 

*Italics mine Nb. the only epidemiology such idiots approve of is the epidemiology that supports their own assertions! Beware the algorithms! 

Quote; "Sky News has obtained a "deflection script" which confirms Universal Credit call agents were officially told to refer claimants online instead of addressing their concerns on the phone.

The claims had been dismissed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as "completely false" after our initial report in October, when a former Universal Credit case manager, Bayard Tarpley, came forward to lift the lid on the controversial practice.

The documents reveal that the "deflection scripts" were introduced in November 2016 to "support staff during telephone calls".

The guidance was designed to cut down on the thousands of claimants contacting call centres by getting callers to log on to access their benefit."..
"According to the document, five call centres took place in a two-week pilot last year - including in Blackpool, Canterbury, Middlesbrough, Belfast and Bristol.

A call centre hub in Grimsby, where Mr Tarpley worked as a case manager, used the deflection scripts for a longer period of time."

Managers listened in on calls between handlers and claimants to see if the scripts were effective in "encouraging claimants to use their online account".

The document adds: "Encourage staff to ask what the claimant is calling for at the beginning of the call rather than moving straight to security questions this may open up the opportunity to deflect the caller online."

Danielle Rowley, the Labour MP for Midlothian, obtained the Department for Work and Pensions briefing - and described the practice as "outrageous".

She told Sky News: "When I heard about the deflection scripts that were used in the Sky News report, I was really disappointed but not completely surprised.

"People that come into my office ... we hear from them about how they often get rushed off the phone and how they're always encouraged to use their online accounts.

"I thought it was really important that, if these scripts are being used, they are in the public domain."..
"Mark Serwotka, general secretary at the Public and Commercial Services (PSC) Union, said: "It is breathtaking that ministers have been caught lying to the public about the existence of a so-called 'deflection script' for Universal Credit claimants.

"Our members would prefer to be given the resources and time to give a first class service to help claimants. However they are instructed to use this deflection script as a means to get people off the phones.

"It is another example of a government who has failed to invest in staff and support claimants. This is why Universal Credit must be scrapped and replaced with a system that supports those in need."" Go to:
for full article. 

Quote; "The number of rough sleepers has risen in almost every major city across England, especially across the Midlands and the North.

The government said a slight overall drop last Autumn showed its £100m investment to tackle rough sleeping was beginning to work. But charities pointed out that rough sleeping was still 165% higher than in 2010 and called it a ‘damning reflection on our society.’

The news comes as temperatures fall well below freezing in many places." Go to:

for full article.

Quote; "These are the images of a starving man who was denied vital benefits after being deemed ‘fit to find work’ – despite being unable to even stand.

Stephen Smith, 64, was rushed to hospital over Christmas when his severe health problems left him in such a poor state his weight dropped to just six stone.

Despite his awful condition, Stephen was forced to get a pass out from hospital to go and fight a decision by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) which repeatedly denied him benefits.

Stephen Smith, 64, was rushed to hospital over Christmas when his severe health problems left him in such a poor state his weight dropped to just six stone (Picture: Liverpool Echo)

Instead, the DWP insisted he was fit and capable of finding work.

He won his appeal after a tribunal judge saw what should have been ‘glaringly obvious’ – that Mr Smith can barely walk down the street let alone hold down a job."..
"His most debilitating illness is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, an incurable respiratory problem that causes severe breathing issues and gets worse over time.

But he also suffers with excruciating Osteoarthritis, has an enlarged prostate and uses a colostomy bag to go to the toilet.

Despite all of this, the 64-year-old failed a DWP work capability assessment in 2017 – which meant his ESA payments were stopped and he was told to sign on for a £67 a week Jobseeker’s Allowance.

He was also told to visit the job centre once a week and prove he was looking for work.

Throughout this period, Stephen said he was living alone and didn’t know where to turn as his health deteriorated." Go to: for images and full article.

Quote; "A disabled Hull veteran has been left feeling suicidal and says he is "starving" and "freezing to death" after his benefits were stopped.

Mark Smith, 46, of Holderness Road, suffers from cervical myelopathy, a compression on the cervical spinal cord, which makes it impossible for him to work, and he is in need of disability payments to get by.

The dad-of-two was diagnosed in 2016 and had two of the seven cervical vertebrae in his neck removed, which has left him struggling to walk and get out of the house.

Mr Smith claims he has been waiting "years" for his Employment Support Allowance to come through, and says his £200 Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was stopped in November, leaving him with no money to live on.

"I'm starving because I have no money for food, and I'm having to rely on Hull Veterans to feed me and bring round food parcels to my house in order to eat," said Mr Smith, who served in the Army for six years from the age of 16 and previously worked in care.

"I can't afford heating either, so I'm freezing to death, and the cold conditions in my house are making my neck even worse.

"I'm severely disabled and have been diagnosed with cervical myelopathy. I've had to have half my neck removed after getting constant pins and needles, and I'm now on 18 tablets a day for the condition."..
""My back is up against the wall and I feel like I've done everything in my power to get the benefits I'm entitled to, but I'm not being listened to or supported."" Go to:

for full article.

Quote; " does Sarah Newton know that 7,990 people died within six months of having their claim for Personal Independence Payment rejected?

The figure itself is bad enough but the possibility of a cover-up lasting many years would be a massive scandal.

We’ve had no report of any change in DWP monitoring policy.

Yet Alex Tiffin, on his blog Universal Credit Sufferer, reported that Labour MP Madeline Moon had received a response to a written question, saying: “Of the 3.1 million people who claimed PIP between April 2013 and April 2018, 7,990 died within 6 months of having their claim REJECTED.

“‘3,680 Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claimants died within three months of their initial application being disallowed.'”

It has also been revealed that “5,290 claimants who’d applied under the Special Rules for Terminally Ill people (SRTI), (those [who have] a terminal disease with less than 6 months to live), died before the DWP made a decision on their claim”.

If the figures on PIP claimants who died three months and six months after their claims were rejected are known to the DWP now, it seems likely that the figures on other sickness and disability claimants were known when my Freedom of Information request was slowly working its way past the obstacles the Tories kept putting in its way – and they lied about it."

Quote; “The claimant must move out of the household and is required to provide written evidence to their work coach that they are receiving help for domestic abuse before the easement can be granted.”

This is the shocking statement made by Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, (PCS). It reveals how low the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will really go to prevent having to help claimants.

This was just one of the issues Mr Serwotka raised in a letter to MP Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions Committee.

When I read this I wasn’t surprised, but to be sure I checked it out. Sure enough, there’s an entire page on getting help if you’re a victim of domestic a abuse on the DWP website.

On the page it lists certain conditions, yes conditions, victims must meet.

They include;

“You will need written evidence from a person acting in an official capacity showing that:

your circumstances are consistent with those of a person who has had domestic violence or abuse inflicted, or threatened, upon them, during the 6 months prior to you notifying
you have made contact with the person acting in an official capacity to tell them about any incidents that have occurred in the past 6 months

You must provide your evidence to Jobcentre Plus as soon as possible but no later than one calendar month after you first told us about the domestic violence and abuse.”

So a victim of domestic abuse not only has to open up to work coach about their abuse, then they get asked for proof?

The requirements do not end there. Once they’ve decided to accept that you have been a victim, you MAY be allowed a 13 week break from looking for work, but only if you satisfy the next set of criteria.

The most notable of them being,

“you have not had a 13 week break from work-related requirements as a result of previous domestic violence within the last 12 months”.

In some cases of domestic violence, the victim may return to their abuser. This is well known and it’s hard to think the DWP wouldn’t have known this.

This means a benefit claimant who’s endured repeated abuse, just has to battle on because they’ve been unfortunate enough to be abused twice in a year."..
"“The lack of training and expertise at the front line in Jobcentre Plus is a thread running through all of our benefits inquiries – and now it is becoming apparent to the public how this is leaving them unprepared to deal with the most vulnerable claimants.”".. "If you have been, or are a victim of domestic abuse help can be found in many places such as Women’s Aid, for women and Mankind, for Men, helpline details below.

women can call 0808 2000 247, the free 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge
men can call the Men’s Advice Line free on 0808 801 0327 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm) or ManKind on 01823 334 244" Go to:
for full article.

Quote; "The government’s new universal credit benefit system could have “disastrous” consequences for disabled people if ministers fail to make a series of major changes, according to a committee of MPs.

A report by the Commons work and pensions committee highlighted major flaws in the government’s plans to move disabled people onto universal credit.

Frank Field, chair of the committee, warned that the introduction of the new system risked forcing disabled people “further into poverty, deprivation, miserable hardship”.

Disabled activists have repeatedly warned that universal credit – which combines six income-related benefits into one – is “rotten to the core”, with “soaring” rates of sanctions and foodbank use in areas where it has been introduced, and repeated warnings about its impact on disabled people.

The work and pensions committee says in the new report that those disabled claimants not designated “severely disabled” will be “substantially worse off” under universal credit because of the scrapping of the severe disability premium and enhanced disability premium.

But the report also suggests that this will mean that even claimants with higher support needs – a group the government claims it is targeting with higher payments under universal credit – who previously received these premiums will receive less under the new system."..
"The report says that removing the “vital additional support” provided by the premiums “risks disabled people living more isolated lives, relying more on unpaid care (including from their own young children), or simply being unable to gain support to complete basic daily tasks”.

The committee points out that DWP has carried out no analysis of the financial impact of removing the two premiums on disabled people and calls for it to do so “urgently”.

The MPs say DWP should include in this analysis “clear worked examples” of the financial support that disabled people claiming different benefits under the old system will receive under universal credit.

Disability News Service is currently attempting, through a complaint to the information commissioner, to force DWP to provide similar information.

The committee’s report also says – repeating its recommendation from an earlier report on benefit sanctions – that universal credit claimants who are waiting for their work capability assessments (WCAs) should not be forced to accept strict conditions while they are waiting if they can provide a valid “fit note” from their doctor stating that they cannot work.

Such a step would restore a “vital safeguard” that “protects claimants from having to meet conditions that may be unmanageable and inappropriate”, the report says.

The report says the move to universal credit will leave 100,000 families with disabled children worse off than they would have been under the previous system.

And it says that only a third of disabled people making new universal credit claims receive their first payment in full and on time, because of delays in arranging WCAs.

The MPs also warn that the simplified process for universal credit claimants who are terminally-ill is failing many people who are forced to prove they have less than six months to live to qualify for the fast-track procedure.

The committee calls on DWP to introduce “a more humane approach”" Go to:

for full article.

Quote; "Martin Burnell, 59, from Lowestoft, Suffolk, was diagnosed with the terminal illness last November and has not worked since February when he was forced to take time off.

His employer continued to pay him while tests were carried out.

But this stopped when he was diagnosed and he faced assessments for Universal Credit (UC) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) - despite his consultant telling him he would never work again, he says.

Motor neurone disease (MND) is a uncommon condition that affects the brain and nerves. It causes weakness that gets worse over time.

The NHS says it's always fatal and can significantly shorten life expectancy, but some people live with it for many years. There’s no cure, but there are treatments to help reduce the impact it has on daily life."But at the end of the day I have MND, my consultant said I would never work again."

Mr Burnell is just one campaigner in a fight launched by the MND Association and Marie Curie, calling for a change in the law.

Under the special rules for terminal illness applications disability benefits can be fast-tracked if the person is due to die in the next six months.

But campaigners say as MND is so complex it is almost impossible to give such a precise life expectancy.

And a second reading of a bill to scrap the six-month rule is currently going through Parliament."" Go to: for full article.

Quote; "Charging disabled people for their care and support is driving many of them into debt and forcing them to cut their spending on food or heating, according to new research by a network of disabled people’s organisations and their allies.

The study by the Independent Living Strategy Group (ILSG) found that four in 10 (41 per cent) of those responding to a survey had experienced a substantial increase in charges over the last couple of years.

Nearly half (43 per cent) had had to cut back on their spending on food to pay for care.

And two-fifths of respondents (40 per cent) said they had had to cut back on heating costs to pay for care and support.

The study concludes that charging for the support disabled people need to go about their daily lives is “unfair, counterproductive and undermines the primary purpose of the care and support system”.

The effect of charging, it says, is often to “drive disabled people into care poverty, and to create confusion, stress and complexity in an already overly burdened bureaucratic system” through what is effectively “an unhelpful and unnecessary tax on disability and old age”."..
"Baroness [Jane] Campbell (pictured), who chairs ILSG, said: “Support provided under the Care Act is meant to improve the wellbeing and independence of disabled people.

“By charging many for that support, the system is making a mockery of the spirit of the legislation and causing worry, stress and poverty.

“Charging raises a relatively small sum of money which is pushing up costs elsewhere.

“The financial impact of personal care neglect such as pressure sores, kidney infections or falls, as well as stress related illnesses, means finding extra resources for the NHS.”"..

"The Independent Living Strategy Group has been working on protecting and promoting disabled people’s rights to independent living in England since 2013.

Its members include disabled people who were part of the independent living movement during the 1970s and in later years, as well as younger activists, other individuals and organisations concerned with independent living." Go to:

for full article.

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