Mark Wood: Had Food Phobia, Starved To Death After Atos Decision

Same Difference

A “VULNERABLE and fragile” man starved to death four months after most of his benefits were stopped and he was left with just £40 a week to survive on.

Atos Healthcare – which assesses peoples’ ability to work on behalf of the Government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – ruled that 44-year-old Mark Wood, from Bampton, was fit to work.

But at an inquest into his death, Oxford Coroner’s Court heard testimony that Mr Wood was far from fit to hold down a job.

Weighing just 5st 8lbs when he died of malnutrition in August last year, Mr Wood had obsessive compulsive disorder, Aspergers syndrome, phobias of food, pollution, paint fumes, and social situations, and cognitive behavioural problems.

His GP Nicolas Ward told yesterday’s proceedings: “He was an extremely vulnerable and fragile individual who was coping with life.

“Something pushed him or affected him in the time before he…

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Disability rights ‘disgrace’: Terminally ill facing distress and financial difficulty for weeks because of delays in benefits contract

The spending watchdog has found that disabled people are facing  “distress and financial difficulties” because of the mismanagement of a new Government benefit scheme.


Some terminally ill people are waiting a month to receive vital support, whilst other claimants are waiting an average of 107 days. That’s more than four weeks longer than the government predicted.

The National Audit Office have also cast doubt on whether the new Personal Independence Payment, which will replace Disability Living Allowance, will ever be value for money.

Within six months that PIP was rolled out in the north of England in April 2013, a backlog of 92,000 cases built up with private contractors Atos and Capita. The Department of Work and Pensions had made decisions in only 16% of the expected number of cases. In fact, Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship programme has performed so poorly that the Department has been forced to stagger the full national roll-out of PIPs,  which raises doubts that it will never deliver value for money in the long term.

As waiting times are longer than the predicted processing times of 74 days for most claimants and 10 days for those who are terminally ill, it is already forecast to save £140 million less than expected. Meanwhile people in desperate need of money are left without support.

The DWP now predicts it will save £640 million a year by 2015, rather than its prediction of £780 million. However, the government still expects to achieve annual savings of £3 billion by 2018/19, with 3.6 million claims assessed by 2018.

Each new PIP claim – worth between £21 and £134 a week to disabled claimants – costs an average £182 to administer, compared to £49 under DLA, said the report.

“It is too early to conclude on the Personal Independence Payment programme’s overall success and all major programmes run the risk of early operational problems,” said Mr Morse. “However the Department did not allow enough time to test whether the assessment process could handle large numbers of claims. As a result of this poor early operational performance, claimants face long and uncertain delays and the Department has had to delay the wider roll-out of the programme. Because it may take some time to resolve the delays, the Department has increased the risk that the programme will not deliver value for money in the longer term.”

The chairwoman of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge, said: “I was shocked to learn that, not only will Personal Independence Payment claims cost almost three and half times more to administer than Disability Living Allowance, they also take double the amount of time to process. The current backlog and delays in processing claims are simply unacceptable and will no doubt cause real distress for vulnerable claimants. Without the Department for Work and Pensions sharing details of how long claims should and do take, claimants are left facing uncertainty and potential financial difficulties whilst waiting for a decision.”

Responding to Mrs Hodge, a DWP spokesman said: “PIP is a completely new benefit with a face-to-face assessment, something missing under DLA, and there will always be initial costs so this is not comparing like with like. The figures show good value for money for taxpayers in the short and long term, with expected savings of £3 billion annually by 2018/19.

read the rest of this article by Felicity Morse in the Independent, 27/2/14, here:

‘WoW’ debate on sickness and disability benefits live blog

Mike Sivier's blog

Today's the day: The WoW Petition is being debated in Parliament today, having won the support from MPs necessary to trigger a debate. Today’s the day: The WoW Petition is being debated in Parliament today, having won the support from MPs necessary to trigger a debate.

2.30pm Speaker John Bercow has turned up to take the vote – and the ‘Ayes’ have it.

2.30pm Mr McDonnell says if the government thinks a cumulative assessment is too complicated, why not bring in the independent organisations who say they can do it, and fund them to do it?

2.28pm John McDonnell is winding up after an inadequate response from Mr Penning. “I’ve heard nothing here today that will alleviate that suffering [of disabled people because of the cuts]. If an impact assessment was published, people would be up in arms.”

2.23pm Rather than discuss the policies behind the WCA, Penning agrees that assessments are taking too long.

2.22pm Penning is departing from the usual Tory stance by admitting that problems have arisen since the Coalition took…

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Jobcentre whistleblower warns of helplines chaos for job seekers

Welsh MP Peter Hain was contacted by a civil servant who has outlined a range of problems in Jobcentres

A whistleblowing Jobcentre manager has told former Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain that the removal of helpline phones for the use of claimants will cause serious difficulties for the most vulnerable people in Britain.

The manager contacted Mr Hain after he expressed concern in the Western Mail and then the House of Commons about the planned removal of phones from the Jobcentre serving his Neath constituents. It emerged that the move was part of a nationwide strategy approved by current Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

In an email to Mr Hain the Jobcentre manager, who has asked not to be identified, stated: “I have grave concerns about the upcoming ‘digitilisation’ of [my Jobcentre].

“In essence, this means the removal of all the free phones for customers to contact the benefit centres when they have problems with their money.

“We currently have [a number of] phones which are used constantly throughout the day. The calls could be about [a range of benefits for the unemployed, the disabled and the low paid]. All of these numbers are [premium rate] 0845 numbers, and customers would prefer to spend time and money to come down to the Jobcentre, as the cost of 0845 numbers can be very expensive. And remember, the reason for these calls is ‘I haven’t received my money’.”

The manager says the line being used by the Department for Work and Pensions to placate claimants and politicians is that staff will be available locally to help people access benefit centres by computer, and if necessary to phone the relevant centre. However, says the manager, there has been no staffing increase to cope with this.

“On many days there is only one or two staff available to deal with benefit enquiries for vulnerable customers,” says the manager. “This will not increase, and therefore we will have two staff expected to deal with 200 to 300 enquiries per day. Each one takes at the least five minutes, so you can see it just doesn’t add up. The assumption is that people will phone from home, but what seems to be being ignored is that they can’t afford to. I feel this is going to lead to problems… and put vulnerable customers in a very difficult position.”

Mr Hain said: “This insider blows the gaff on claims that this whole procedure is about modernisation. It shows that cost-cutting has got to such a manic level that people will simply be prevented from accessing the kind of advice and assistance they need to get and are entitled to.

“The benefits system is a nightmarish one of complexity and ambiguity. If you deprive claimants of person-to-person contact and force everyone to go online, it’s a recipe for disaster. There are fewer and fewer staff to deal even with those claimants able to go online, while there are many especially older clients who are not.”

“This proves what I have felt for a long time – that it’s all about cuts and absolutely nothing to do with creating a better or fairer system. The consequence will be increased misery, with people finding it more difficult to get their benefits restored when they have been cut off as a result of some error. These changes are dictated by adherence to a tick-box culture, and take no account of the human element.”

A DWP spokesman said: “We have adequate staff to deal with the level of enquiries we receive at our Jobcentres and, as part of our changes, we’re making sure claimants have more information up front, which reduces their need to get in touch with us for more general information during their claim.

“The DWP does not earn any revenue from 0845 numbers, and we have already made a commitment to introduce 03 numbers, which may be less expensive under certain phone contracts. We work hard to identify vulnerable people using Jobcentre facilities, so they can be offered the most appropriate form of help and, if required, we can look to resolve their enquiry through a face-to-face appointment at one of our offices.”

by Martin Shipton on ‘Wales Online’, 24th Feb 2014:

National Audit Office Report On PIP Implementation

Same Difference

Here is the Guardian’s take on the NAO’s report on PIP implementation. The NAO report was mentioned in the Channel 4 news report last night.

Sick and disabled people trying to claim a new benefit introduced by Iain Duncan Smith are facing “distress and financial difficulties” because of mismanagement by civil servants and the outsourcing firms Atos and Capita, a spending watchdog has found.

The National Audit Office discovered that the new personal independence payment, which will replace the disability living allowance, will cost almost three and a half times more to administer and take double the amount of time to process.

It has released a report into the new benefit as the government’s £500m contract with Atos comes under increasing scrutiny. Disability minister Mike Penning described the contract with the benefits testing firm Atos as a “mess”. Atos says that it wants to pull out of the contract…

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DWP Insider: Repeat ESA Medicals Deferred For Two Years

Same Difference

Two. Years. Two years. TWO WHOLE YEARS. Two. Whole. Stress free years for the most severely disabled people in Britain. Two. Whole. Stress free years for the carers of the most severely disabled people in Britain.

The news of the deferring was big enough in itself. When I finished celebrating that news, I did wonder what the exact time frame was. As brilliant as ‘while we clear the backlog’ sounds at first, it does leave people wondering, and hanging. In matters of money, that wondering causes confusion, and fear, and stress.

Which according to the ‘DWP mole’ who revealed the rest of the memo to the brilliant Benefits and Work, was the DWP’s intention all along.

But, readers, thanks to the brilliant Benefits And Work, and the kind whistleblower,disabled people beat the DWP.

We found out what they didn’t want us to know. That’s a victory for us…

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It turns out that benefits street is populated by rich people

Wealthy private landlords are being exposed as the new face of the benefits scrounger taking Britain for a ride

Another day, another couple of front page headlines damning benefit scroungers. Except today? Today is different. The claimant-bashing Tory MP Peter Bone is apparently under investigation for an alleged housing benefit fraud relating to his mother’s care home costs. Over at the Mirror, the Queen and Prince of Wales are revealed to be reaping a fortune in publicly subsidised rent payments to their privately held property empires. I have to admit, for a snarky Guardian writer tasked with sharing First Thoughts on the day’s breaking news, this is all just too good to be true.

Bone, it must be stressed, fully denies the allegations, and legal formalities forbid comment. The Mirror’s scoop comes as part of an extensive research exercise with the GMB union and is gleaned from freedom of information requests. It is understandable that the Royals grab the headlines – these payments represent a little cherry on top of the whole cake of the civil list and personal wealth that fund a lavish lifestyle of privilege earned only through accident of birth. But appropriately enough, they feature here as merely the salient symbols of a system that is rotten. The full list of private landlords growing rich from taxpayers’ handouts is like a who’s who of the landed aristocracy, the great and the good. There is the Duke of Westminster, inevitably – the eighth richest person in Britain – whose Grosvenor Group scoops £243,000. Ninth Baronet Sir Richard Sutton is grabbing £68,000, a paltry sum compared with the £195,000 paid to Lord Robert Iliffe. And a Tory politician, Richard Benyon MP, with a personal wealth of £110m, is bringing in pocket money of £626,000 per year in housing benefit.

Elsewhere, less illustrious and notable names are doing quite nicely out of the system too. Faceless corporations with addresses in the Cayman Islands or Guernsey, of course. Or those who mine gold from the grimmest depths of poverty, such as the owners of one hotel in Glasgow, who claimed over £1.5m from housing the homeless in squalid, rat-infested rooms.

Nobody knows exactly how much of the nation’s benefits bills goes directly to private landlords. One recent estimate put the bill at £35bn over three years. The situation is largely a consequence of a degraded social housing stock that can be traced back to the right-to-buy policy and the liberalisation of the rental sector of the 1980s. Whereas once council housing served to keep housing affordable, and rent controls and protected tenancies acted as buffers for those in the private sector, the open market has led to galloping costs, creating a direct river of cash that flows direct from the less wealthy taxpayers to the wealthy and – all too often – the tax evader. Meanwhile, the one available tax policy that would have a chance of recouping some of this vast wealth – a land value tax – remains mysteriously unpopular with political parties.

Whenever there is a phone-in show or a tacky televised debate about benefits culture, someone always demands to know where all this money is going to. To a large extent, here is the answer. Britain’s benefits bill is not going to pay for flat screen TVs, satellite dishes and white cider, but a fair hunk of it is for country estates, mansions in suburbia and yachts in the marina. Britain is indeed being taken for a ride by our benefits culture. It is not the poor behind the wheel, but the rich.

By Ally Fogg in the Guardian, 24th Feb 2014:

Atos Gets 150,000 Complaints from GPs and Blames the DWP

Beastrabban\'s Weblog

This is another piece on Atos that I’ve found on Youtube. It’s a report from Sky News, put up on the 18th October 2013, revealing that doctors have officially complained about the extra workload they are being placed under by people, who have been declared fit for work by Atos. They also reveal that the Citizens Advice Bureau had received 150,000 complaints about Atos. The report also covers the case of Mr Cowper, a man dying of cancer, who was nevertheless found fit for work by Atos. Mr Cowper is only one of tens of thousands. The precise number is unknown because the government repeatedly refuses to release the figures, claiming that such requests are ‘vexatious’. See the relevant posts over at Vox Political on Mike’s attempts to get the figures out of them.

Atos, however, are complaining that they have been victimised. Their vice-president, Wayne Gibson, turns up on…

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