Former DWP ministers could face police investigation over fit-to-work tests

A complaint was made against Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling

Police in Scotland are assessing whether to launch a criminal investigation into two former DWP ministers’ handling of so-called disability fit-to-work tests.

Disabled activist John McArdle of the Black Triangle campaign lodged a complaint with police in March against Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling, according to the Disability News Service news agency.

He told police in Edinburgh that the two ministers had ignored a coronor’s concerns about the safety of the tests, which are used to judge whether a disabled person receives benefits.

He also produced evidence of suicides he said were related to fitness-to-work tests.

Mr McArdle says the ministers may be guilty of “willful neglect of duty by a public official”, which is a criminal offence.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service, willful neglect “can be the result of a positive act or a failure to act”.

“There must also be an element of knowledge or at least recklessness about the way in which the duty is carried out or neglected,” the CPS explains.

“The test is a subjective one and the public officer must be aware that his/her behaviour is capable of being misconduct.”

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Revealed: universal credit sends rent arrears soaring

Housing chiefs’ warning on effect of flagship Tory welfare reform

Ministers are coming under intense pressure to put the brakes on the government’s flagship welfare reform programme, following damning new evidence that it is leaving thousands of low-paid workers unable to pay their rent and at risk of homelessness.

The Observer can reveal a catalogue of concerns from landlords, councils and charities about universal credit, which have been handed to a parliamentary inquiry investigating the programme.

With the accelerated roll-out of the new system just weeks away, some warn that rent arrears among tenants receiving universal credit are running at three, four or even five times the level of those on the old system. Three councils whose tenants have already been moved on to universal credit said they had built up about £8m in rent arrears. Croydon, Hounslow and Southwark said that more than 2,500 tenants claiming it were now at risk of eviction.

Some food banks reported that marriages had broken down as a result of the extra pressures of waiting for payments, while some landlords are now choosing not to accept tenants on universal credit.

Figures obtained by the Observer under the Freedom of Information Act also show that half of all council tenants across 105 local authorities who receive the housing element of universal credit – which replaces housing benefit – are at least a month behind on their rent, with 30% two months behind.

By contrast, less than 10% of council tenants on housing benefit are a month behind on their rent, with under 5% running more than two months behind.

read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/sep/16/universal-credit-rent-arrears-soar?

Welfare reform ‘will see £50 a week more cuts to 900,000 disabled people

About 900,000 disabled people will see their weekly incomes fall by at least £50 a week by 2020, because of the continuing impact of the government’s welfare reforms, according to new research.

The research by the consultancy Policy in Practice found that, of 7.2 million working-age, low-income households, more than two-fifths of those containing a working-age disabled person would lose at least £50 a week, compared with November 2016.

read more here: https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/welfare-reform-will-see-50-a-week-more-cuts-to-900000-disabled-people/

DWP using benefit sanctions to force claimants into zero hours jobs, Tory minister admits

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has admitted that is using the controversial benefits sanctions regime to force unemployed and low-paid workers into insure and exploitative zero-hours jobs.

Zero hours employment notoriously offers no guarantee of hours and lacks many of the employment rights enjoyed by people in full-time and part-time employment.

read more here: http://www.welfareweekly.com/dwp-using-benefit-sanctions-to-force-claimants-into-zero-hours-jobs-tory-minister-admits/

Farron slams DWP over breaking promise to stop re-testing claimants with lifelong illnesses

Tim Farron has slammed the Government for lying to local people over plans to stop re-testing benefit claimants who have long-term chronic illnesses such as Huntingdon’s, MS, and Parkinson’s.

Back in October last year, the then Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions, Damien Green, said that they would no longer reassess benefits for those who have long-term sickness as it is “pointless” and “only adds to their anxiety and difficulties”.

However, a freedom of information request from Tim Farron has revealed that the DWP never intended to carry out this proposal as they do not even record data which would allow them to pull out the group of claimants who have chronic illnesses.

Tim said: “The Government have let down millions of people across the country who have chronic diseases with another shameful U-turn.

“This pathetic decision to break their promise on re-testing benefit claimants who have long term illnesses will cause more misery and discomfort for many people up and down the country who continue to be dragged to medical assessments just because the DWP can’t be bothered to make records of who is chronically ill.”

An example of someone who the Government has broken their promise to is John Heaton. John has a degenerative brain disease and severe obstructive pulmonary disease of which he has a sick note to cover him from his doctors. He is also suffering from a hip injury and extreme weight loss for which his dietician nurse makes home visits.

Kath Dunning, who is John’s carer, said: “I received a letter from the DWP saying that John had missed a medical assessment. I rang the relevant authorities to tell them that I hadn’t received a letter about the assessment.

“They told me to put it in writing which I did. They then replied four weeks later after numerous phone calls from myself to say that they were upholding their decision. This meant that I would have to take it to a tribunal and John would have to apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance.

“For me the current system is a joke and doesn’t seem to care for the people who are ill.”

read more here: http://www.cumbriacrack.com/2017/09/11/farron-slams-dwp-breaking-promise-stop-re-testing-claimants-lifelong-illnesses/

Stroke sufferer may need to sell his home after being denied benefits

A Somerset man, who was left partially paralysed after suffering a stroke, may be forced to sell his house. This is because he has accumulated high levels of debt whilst waiting to receive benefit payments.

Chris Gold was initially refused the Universal Credit benefit after being told he should be working.

This was despite Chris suffering brain damage as well as paralysis following the stroke.

After a life driving a lorry around the world, in a job he loved, Chris now rarely leaves the downstairs of his house.

His current situation means that he can barely afford to live there at all.

A stroke in 2015 left Chris with brain damage and without feeling in parts of his body.

When his employment and support allowance was stopped he was told to apply for the new Universal Credit. However when he did so, he was told he should be working.

Chris said, “The doctor’s given me a sick note saying I’m unfit for work – I have to do what the doctors tell me. They’ve got the knowledge – they know how stroke victims are.”

“I just think it’s unfair that the Department for Work and Pensions can do this to people when they’re unwell. Irrespective of what they say, the doctors are saying I’m not well.”

“I want to keep the house because I’ve worked hard for thirty eight years but it just seems unfair that I’ve worked all my life to buy a house and now I’m going to end up with nothing.”

read more here: http://www.itv.com/news/westcountry/2017-06-30/stroke-sufferer-may-need-sell-his-home-after-being-denied-benefits/