ESA Claimants Hit By Unlawful Housing Benefit Stoppages

Originally posted on Same Difference:

With many thanks to Benefits And Work.

The DWP have had to issue an urgent bulletin to all housing benefit staff to try to prevent them unlawfully stopping housing benefit payments to sick and disabled claimants who have had their employment and support allowance (ESA) sanctioned.

The ‘Urgent Bulletin’ has been issued in response to groups representing claimants pointing out that some jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) and ESA claimants are wrongly losing their passported housing benefit when hit with a JSA or ESA sanction.

It appears that some local authority staff cannot tell the difference between a sanction, where a claimant remains entitled to the sanctioned benefit even if they do not receive payments or get reduced payments, and a disallowance, where the claim itself ends.

Reminders have been issued to staff about this issue since 2010, but apparently the message has still not sunk in, leading to desperate hardship…

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Conservative Think Tank at Tory party conference-: Cut pensioner benefits ‘immediately’

Ministers should waste no time to make unpopular cuts to pensioner benefits, a think tank director has said.

Many of those hit by a cut to the winter fuel allowance might “not be around” at the next election, said Alex Wild of the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

And others would forget which party had done it, he added.

At the group’s meeting at the Conservative conference in Manchester, former defence secretary Liam Fox said spending cuts must be “for keeps”.

Mr Wild said the Tories could not wait until a year before the next election to make the necessary cuts to the winter fuel allowance, free bus passes, the Christmas bonus and other pensioner benefits.

Mr Wild, who is research director of the think tank which campaigns for lower taxes and highlights examples of Government waste, said the cuts should be made “as soon as possible after an election for two reasons”.

“The first of which will sound a little bit morbid – some of the people… won’t be around to vote against you in the next election. So that’s just a practical point, and the other point is they might have forgotten by then.”

He added: “If you did it now, chances are that in 2020 someone who has had their winter fuel cut might be thinking, ‘Oh I can’t remember, was it this government or was it the last one? I’m not quite sure.’

“So on a purely practical basis I would say do it immediately. That might be one of those things I regret saying in later life but that would be my practical advice to the government.”

Blind disabled girl who can’t speak ordered to attend INTERVIEW to make her WORK

A PARALYSED and blind teenager who has the mental age of a three-month-old baby was told by Government officials to attend a ‘work-focused interview’ – even though she can’t speak.
Danika Smith, 19, has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, which has left her unable to walk and with the mental age of a zero to three-month-old, and she also has cortical blindness.

After mother Donna, 41, put a benefits claim in for her several disabled daughter, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) sent a letter calling Danika in for a meeting.

Ms Smith, who is her daughter’s full-time carer, planned to attend the meeting as she was “intrigued” to watch the adviser try and discuss work prospects with her.

But after publishing the letter on Facebook, the DWP cancelled the meeting.

Ms Smith, from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, said: “I would gladly have taken her just to see how farcical it is.”

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Agaraphobic who has not left her home in 20 years facing eviction due to bedroom tax.

Mrs R, an agoraphobic who has not left her home in 20 years as a result of her condition, is facing eviction after accruing a £1,500 bill due to unpaid bedroom tax.

Mrs R has not been able to set foot outside her home since 1995 when her phobia became so severe it prevented her from leaving the house.

However, she now faces court proceedings and potential eviction from her property after accruing £1,500 worth of arrears due to unpaid bedroom tax.  She has been hit with the tax since her two daughters and her son moved out of the property leaving her and her husband, who is her full-time carer as the only occupants of the three-bedroom house.

If Mrs R attempts to leave her house, or even go for a walk in her back garden she immediately suffers from severe panic attacks.

Mrs R is registered disabled and her income consists of Personal independence Payments.  She received a letter from the Council at the beginning of July 2015 informing her that she owed £1,400 in bedroom tax.  After her daughters moved out she was receiving full Housing Benefit, rather than the amount she was entitled to due to her failure to notify the correct agencies of the change in her circumstances.  Mrs R should have been left with a rent shortfall of £14 per week due to the percentage reduction in Housing Benefit for having two spare bedrooms.  Since the letter the bedroom tax has continued to have effect and she has now racked up over £1,500 in arrears due to the bedroom tax.

Mrs R says, “We use the bedroom for my husband, because I often get sick in the night and I keep him awake, so he sleeps in the spare room.  I told them the room is always in use, but they said it doesn’t make any different because he’s my carer, and the courts said he should live in the same room as me.  I think people like me should be exempt from bedroom tax because I am agoraphobic and can’t leave the house.  Even if they offer me a two bedroom place I wouldn’t be able to get there because I’m agoraphobic, they are discriminating against me because of my illness  How can you expect people to move if they cannot even leave the house? It doesn’t make sense; there is no way I can get out.”

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37 weeks pregnant and sleeping in a churchyard

A WOMAN who is just two weeks away from giving birth is sleeping in a tent behind a Bournemouth church, a soup kitchen founder has said.

Claire Matthews, who runs Hope for Food, spoke out just days after news that a two-month-old boy forced to sleep in a car with his homeless parents had died. She said the pregnant woman – who wished to be referred to as ‘Jan’ to protect her identity – simply needs support and a roof over her head.

 The 20-year-old mother-to-be is initially from Wakefield in West Yorkshire, and went into care at the age of two. She moved to Dorset a year-and-a-half ago, where she met boyfriend ‘Paul’, also a rough sleeper, who has been living in the county for around five years.

The two previously had a bedsit in the Triangle, but were made homeless over rent arrears that Jan said had been notched up by Paul’s ex-partner. She added that she had been offered accommodation in a mother and baby unit in Bournemouth – but that she wanted to stay a family.

“I have borderline personality disorder, and I find it really hard to be on my own,” she said. “Paul’s the father and he wants to be a real dad. We just need somewhere to go so we can be together.”

Every morning, the couple take down their tent and put their belongings into bushes around the church grounds so they won’t be stolen.

Jan is set to be induced at Poole Hospital in a fortnight. The baby – a son – will be her first. But she said she’s been unable to enjoy her pregnancy over fears of what will happen when the child is born. “I either go into a mother and baby unit without the man I love or my baby goes into care,” she said.

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Homeless Crisis: Number of homeless people in Stockport almost triples in 12 months

Stockport homeless charity The Wellspring revealed that in 2013 they supported 124 known homeless people, and in 2014 this had risen to 340 – a rise of 174 per cent. This figure is expected to rise again this year.

A number of issues have been cited including welfare cuts and the housing shortage, as well as the availability of legal highs which many have turned to in their time of crisis.

Critics are also concerned about the upcoming scrapping of housing benefits for people under the age of 21 and sales of the most expensive council houses in the town, a scheme under which Stockport will be the most affected borough in the north west.
Jonathan Billings, project manager for The Wellspring, said: “In the last few years we have noticed an increase at The Wellspring and unfortunately this is the situation in most of the towns and cities across the UK.

“We have had to deal with at least a doubling in numbers and rely on donations from the generous community. We are trying to do the best we can to support the already homeless in Stockport and prevent more residents from ending up at this point.”

Jonathan also expressed fears that many of the charity’s clients are under 21 and rely on the housing benefits which are set to be scrapped.

Campbell Robb, chief executive at national homeless charity Shelter, added: “Deeper cuts to welfare will do no more than add fuel to the fire of this growing crisis.

“The only way for the government to break the cycle of homelessness is to invest in building homes that people on lower incomes can actually afford.”

Tragically, many have died on the streets of Stockport, including Stefan Tomkins, 31, who was crushed to death after the dustbin he was sleeping in was loaded onto a bin lorry

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Law students had to help a man in debilitating pain fight being declared “fit to work”

Disabled claimants are increasingly vulnerable, with justice more difficult to access, and the need to be reassessed after being declared “fit to work”,

The first Paul Crane knew of having his benefits cut off was when his landlord called up to ask where the rent was.

It was the start of a harrowing time. After ten years of receiving support for debilitating pains – caused when gamma knife radiosurgery to repair a haemorrhage on his brain stem caused radiation damage to surrounding tissue – he had suddenly been declared “fit to work”.

Paul’s life has never been the same since the operation, which repaired the haemorrhage but left parts of his brain and spinal cord permanently damaged. Every day he is haunted by stimuli – light, noise, crowded places – anything that sets off his “excitable nerves” will leave him in agony with migraines, cause numbness and dizziness, or leave part of his face sagging. Even sneezing or tiredness can cause a traumatic flare up.

He says: “Tiredness causes pain and pain causes tiredness. I don’t socialise much, I’ve let people down too many times. I go fishing, which is my only relaxation but even that sometimes is too much”.

Over a decade of suffering and being prescribed a cornucopia of drugs – none of which have fully worked – Paul has learnt to live with the pain. But a new regime at the Department for Work and Pensions, which he says was “like the difference between black and white”, has been hard on him. This was when the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) replaced the Incapacity Benefit, and new work capability assessments (WCA) were brought in to test whether or not claimants were “fit to work”.

“It was as if they were trying to fail me,” he says, “like the system was designed to make me fail. I realised how lucky I had been before. The ESA people looked at me as if to say, ‘Oh God another scumbag’”.

When the news that he had been refused ESA hit him, Paul says he found himself in “a very dark pit”, confused and afraid of what would happen next.

“How could they come to this conclusion? I answered as truthfully as I could and they failed me. I’d just spent two weeks either in bed or on the sofa.”

It’s a painfully common story. Disability rights campaign groups such as the WOWPetition and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) have been pressing the DWP to take notice of the plight of people like Paul, and are fighting for a comprehensive impact assessment of how changes to the benefits system and wider government spending cuts affect people with disabilities.

In August, after months of pressure, the DWP released the official figures for mortalities following “fit to work” verdicts between December 2011 and February 2014, revealing that 2,380 died in that period.

And even more damning, the Avon & Bristol Law Centre (ABLC) revealed that, of a hundred WCA appeal cases taken on by volunteer law students, 95 had been successful.

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