Personal independence payments are a punishment of the poor and ill

PIP should be a national scandal: Iain Duncan Smith’s new system already has a huge backlog and people are dying waiting

She calls it: “Heartbreaking, truly astonishing, I’ve never seen anything like this.” Emma Cross is a senior Macmillan Cancer Support benefits adviser, and she says delays in Iain Duncan Smith’s new personal independence payments (PIP) leave the sick utterly destitute. “Does anyone know how many people are struggling?”

Macmillan’s mountain of PIP cases includes a mother being treated with chemotherapy for bowel cancer, whose operation left her with a colostomy bag. She gave up work and, with no other family to help, her husband gave up his job to care for her and their two-year-old child, taking her to frequent hospital appointments. They claimed PIP last September – and they have heard nothing since. No-one answers queries, lost in the gigantic backlog.

Until registered for PIP, which pays from £21-£134 a week, they can’t claim other crucial benefits: carers allowance, severe disability premium, escape from the bedroom tax, a bus pass, taxi cards to get to hospital, or a heating grant (she feels intensely cold). With credit cards maxed out, they have no idea what they’re due as PIP has tougher criteria: if this woman can just about walk more than 20 metres, she may get nothing now for mobility. Macmillan says people in this backlog are missing chemo appointments for lack of a bus fare.

“I wish this couple were an exception,” says Emma Cross. “But this is happening to so many.”

PIP replaces the disability living allowance, which Duncan Smith cut by 20% and abolished for new claimants; old claimants are being moved over. It used to pay out quickly, but PIP is an administrative calamity. The public accounts committee (PAC) queried why Atos won the contract to run it with its record of failure: Sue Marsh’s latest Spartacus report says 43% of appeals against DWP decisions based on Atos tests for employment support allowance are upheld. Margaret Hodge, the PAC chair, unearthed Atos’s tender for the PIP contract and found it had been “grossly misleading”, pretending to have hundreds of test centres inside hospitals, when in reality it had very few.

The last figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that 220,000 made PIP claims, but less than a fifth were processed. Ask any MP about PIP cases piling up in their surgeries and all parties tell tales of woe.

reaeast of this article by Polly Toynbee in the Guardian here:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/11/iain-duncan-smith-pip-payments-punish-poor-ill-dying

 

DWP Target Mental Health Claimants For ESA Sanctions

Originally posted on Same Difference:

Thanks to the brilliant Benefits And Work.

A staggering six out of ten employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants hit with a sanction are vulnerable people with a mental health condition or learning difficulty, according DWP figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. The proportion has rocketed from 35% of sanctioned claimants in 2009 to a massive 58% in 2013. The statistics prove that sanctions are now overwhelmingly aimed at the most vulnerable individuals by a government department which relies on a policy of institutional discrimination to cut benefits costs.

Sanctions of £71.70 a week are handed out when ESA claimants in the work-related activity group are forced onto the work programme and then fail to meet mandatory conditions imposed on them by private sector companies.

However, for a claimant to get into the work-related activity group on mental health grounds, they need to score a minimum of 15…

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A Guide To DWP Euphemisms

Originally posted on A New Place Of Exile:

"I love you this much"

“I love you this much”

‘Reintroducing fairness to the welfare system’ – introducing means-testing in order to dismantle the welfare system.

‘Fairness’ – discriminating against people.

‘Creating a system based on fairness’ – ignoring need, in favour of targets.

‘Work experience’ – unpaid labour.

‘Fit to work’ – somebody suffering from an incapacitating condition, whose heart still beats.

‘Tough’ – punitive.

‘Tough but fair’ – punitive and arbitrary.

‘Employment Support Allowance’ – financial support for people incapable of retaining employment due to illness/disability.

‘Unconditional support’ – strictly conditional support.

‘Scrounger’ – somebody who is poor.

‘Hardworking people’ – people on very high salaries, such as company executives.

‘Striver’ – somebody who works for a low salary, and who doesn’t object to a pay cut. Alternatively, somebody who works for a high salary, and who doesn’t object to a pay rise.

‘Skiver’ – somebody who is temporarily too ill to work…

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Black hole fears as Atos ends ‘fit-to-work’ contract early

French outsourcing firm Atos has walked away from a contract to assess whether benefit claimants are fit to work.

Senior industry sources warned that the Government would not find anyone prepared to take on the £100-million-a-year contract. They suggested the Government would be forced to pay a “substantial premium” to any new contractor.

Officials in the DWP are believed to be talking to two other companies, Capita and the American outsourcing firm Maximus, about taking over. It is understood that they want to split the contract up with the possibility of two or more companies sharing the assessments.

However, sources with knowledge of the assessment programme predicted the department would “struggle to get anyone to do it on anywhere near the same terms”. The pointed to the reputational damage done to Atos as a result of its involvement in the contract and changes to the complexity of the assessments – which meant any new entrant would charge much more to take on the work. Maximus hinted that it would be unlikely to bid for the contract on the existing terms.

The Government also became embroiled in a dispute with Atos after Mike Penning, Minister for Disabled People, suggested that ministers had been responsible for the early end of the contract. “They haven’t pulled out actually, we’ve removed them from the contract,” he said. “This is not them walking away.”

However, sources close to the company dismissed this. “People don’t usually pay a fine if they’ve been sacked,” they said. “Atos went to the Government to negotiate its way out of the contract, not the other way around.”

Atos is understood to have become increasingly unhappy with the terms of the work capability assessment contract and the public anger associated with it. The company said that last year there were on average 163 instances per month of staff being abused or assaulted, culminating in a week of protests in February. Jenny Gulliford, of The Work Foundation, said another problem facing any new provider would be the costs associated with taking over the contract.

“I can imagine it would be more expensive because of the administrative costs of having to set it up for such a short period of time,” she said.

“The speed at which it’s likely to be set up is something I do worry about. We’ve had previous contracts which have been set up very quickly, like the work programme, which did take a long time to settle down and for outcomes to improve.”

Gillian Guy, of Citizens Advice, added: “The work capability assessment is broken and innocent people are caught in the middle. Atos terminating its contract is not going to result in an overnight improvement in support for sick and disabled people. We need urgent root-and-branch reform of this whole system.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said it would never comment on the value of contracts.

by Emily Duggan in the independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/black-hole-fears-as-atos-ends-fittowork-contract-early-9219832.html

Atos is out: Government seeks new company to carry out fit for work tests

(thanks to Martha Tulip for pointing me to this)
The government has announced it will be seeking a new company to carry out disability assessments, replacing controversial French outsourcing company Atos.

Minister for disabled people Mike Penning said he was “pleased that Atos will not receive a single penny of compensation from the taxpayer for early termination.” In fact, Atos made a “substantial financial settlement” to the government, he added.

Atos has repeatedly come under fire during its tenure, with Labour MP Dennis Skinner describing Atos as a “cruel heartless monster”. There have been questions over the application of their tests, with claims people are being wrongly recommended for work, or put through stressful medical interviews Charities have branded the test “farcical” and “hugely flawed.” Meanwhile Labour has repeatedly called for the firm to be stripped of its contract, accusing it of making too many mistakes after 42 per cent of appeals against the DWP were upheld. The government has admitted as many as 158,300 of the assessments wrongly branded people fit for work.

Deputy Chief Executive at deaf blind charity Sense, Richard Kramer, said that more needed to be done to ensure that the next provider was fit for work.

“There needs to be a root and branch reform of the system to ensure disabled people are judged fairly on their ability to work,” he said.

 “The current points-based test is simply not responsive enough to people’s individual circumstances and fails to take into account all of the factors that may limit their ability to work. Ending Atos’ contract will not fix all the underlying problems that led to so many people appealing their work capability assessment decisions.”

Ursula Morgenstern, CEO of UK Atos said: “We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the Government to allow us to exit this contract early and we remain committed to delivering essential services to the UK Government as a strategic supplier.

“We have supported and been flexible in implementing all the changes asked of us from the reviews of the Work Capability Assessment process.”

The DWP said the aim of the new contract would be to drive up the number of assessments and cut waiting times.

However Atos Healthcare will continue to deliver the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments in Scotland, north of England, London and south of England.  This is separate from the Work Capability Assessment contract, which is used when the government decides whether people should get disability benefits because their ability to work is affected.

read the rest of this article by Felicity Morse on 27th March in the Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/atos-is-out-government-seeks-new-company-to-carry-out-fit-for-work-tests-9218505.html

Benefits and Work Newsletter: DWP Use Morecambe and Wise To Defend PIP Disaster

Originally posted on kickingthecat:

In perhaps the most famous Morecambe and Wise sketch ever, as Morecambe mangles Greig’s piano concerto, Andre Previn protests: “You’re playing all the wrong notes.”

But Morecambe grabs him by the lapels and snaps back: “I’m playing all the right notes . . . but not necessarily in the right order.”

It’s a forty year old sketch. But Benefits and Work can reveal that it was dusted off for use at a televised meeting of the Public Accounts Committee about Personal Independence Payment (PIP) last week.

First Lisa Coleman, senior vice president at Atos, looking opulent in pearls, repeatedly denied accusations that Atos had lied in their PIP tender document about how many assessment centres their partner organisations had made available. References in their bid document to contractual commitments couldn’t possibly be understood to mean that there were any sort of . . . well, contracts, she argued.

Then it…

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I would like to get a message across to benefit Decision Makers.

From the Facebook page ‘Atos Miracles’

I would like to get a message across to benefit Decision Makers.

Imagine having to wake up every day in severe pain and confusion only to find there is no electricity, gas or food and you have prepayment meters and no one else at home to help you.

No money through wrong decisions or sanctions.

You may say there is other help for these people,WRONG,income support is only if you have children,in some areas the Council after checking may provide up to 2 £70 payments per year but how the hell can you sort these out in these situations no electric,money,you cannot leave your home and by the way the mobile phone got cut off ages ago.

I and perhaps many others have been through this and during Winter,so please Decision Makers think carefully before denying benefits.

Disabled Benefit Claimants Live In Fear Of The Sound Of The Letterbox

I’m sat on the bottom of the stairs, shaking and looked at the brown envelope (marked DWP) on the mat – Helen Sims.

As I write this I am recovering from what we campaigners call ‘Brown Envelope Disorder’ – or ‘White Envelope Disorder’ (since it applies in equal measures now). It is what happens to a disabled or ill [benefit claimant] when a brown or white envelope appears on the doormat, particularly those marked ‘DWP’ –Department for Work and Pensions.

I was upstairs, waiting for my painkillers to kick in, when the letterbox went. For an ‘everyday’ person, it is normality. It is part of life. However, if you are disabled or an ill benefit claimant, living under the constant threat of an ATOS assessment or benefit sanction, [the sound of the letterbox] immediately causes the blood pressure to rise, and panic to kick in.

read the rest of this article by Helen Sims on the Disability News Service here: http://welfarenewsservice.com/disabled-benefit-claimants-live-in-fear-of-the-sound-of-the-letterbox/

Its bad enough having to cope with my illness, without worrying about continual reassessments.

Found on the Facebook page Atos Miracles, 21st March 2014
In 2009 I was diagnosed with severe lung disease and went on to have a respiratory arrest then a cardiac arrest

I was on life support and my family were told there was only a small chance I’d survive, I fought back but was left with depression also, as I had a traumatic experience in hospital prior to my dying for 10 minutes ie ignored by the nurse on the ward. My consultant told me I was a ticking time bomb and needed op to remove most of my left lung. Had the op that November and was told I’d need further surgery on my right lung in the future.  Atos sent for me 2 months later ,the assessor was a cold fish despite me breaking down on account of her attitude, I was allowed ESA for 6 months then filled in a form and went for another medical with the same assessor as before. This time she found me fit for work,my GP was livid and wrote a report demanding they give me back me benefit,but to no avail. My sister took me to my local CAB and they helped me to appeal. The tribunal was harrowing and the doctor on the panel interrogated me to a point that I broke down ,it was so awful that my sister was crying also,but I won.

Soon after I had yet another form and again had another assessment but this time had a different assessor who told me that he was advising the DWP that I was unfit for work. I was put into the support group,that was 2 years ago. I had to fill in another form in January and am now waiting for that dreaded letter telling me to go for another medical. I’ve got in touch with CAB again and they tell me that although I have a degenerative disease they may well find me fit for work this time,,,

All this has taken its toll on my mental health. I’ve had counselling for my depression and I have panic attack. The time they found me fit for work I contacted the DWP to ask for copy of the medical report and saw that the assessor had disregarded everything that I told her and just wrote what she thought. I am now terrified beyond words waiting for that letter to pop through my door. Its bad enough having to cope with my illness without worrying about the next assessor I have to meet and how they will treat me

Work programme needs more work

The government’s own assessment of how the work programme is going, conducted for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) by independent experts, suggests it is still badly under-performing.

The “work programme evalulation: interim meta-report” was signed off ready for publication in September 2013, but has been sat on ever since.

A Whitehall source told Channel 4 News that the decision not to publish was taken “at a ministerial level” on the basis that the department didn’t want another embarrassment to deal with.

The report is not written in the most strident language, but contains confirmation that one of the DWP’s pet projects is failing in one of its central tasks.

- See more at: http://blogs.channel4.com/gary-gibbon-on-politics/work-programme-work/27769#sthash.3xpVN1r1.dpuf

Exclusive: The government’s own assessment of how the work programme is going, conducted for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) by independent experts, suggests it is still badly under-performing.

The “work programme evalulation: interim meta-report” was signed off ready for publication in September 2013, but has been sat on ever since.

A Whitehall source told Channel 4 News that the decision not to publish was taken “at a ministerial level” on the basis that the department didn’t want another embarrassment to deal with.

The report is not written in the most strident language, but contains confirmation that one of the DWP’s pet projects is failing in one of its central tasks.

- See more at: http://blogs.channel4.com/gary-gibbon-on-politics/work-programme-work/27769#sthash.3xpVN1r1.dpuf