The DWP Has Lost Almost 60% Of Appeals Against Removing Disabled People’s Benefits

Campaigners said the new figures demonstrated, yet again, that the welfare system was failing people who were ill or disabled.

Almost 60% of ill or disabled individuals who have challenged a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) ruling that they are “fit to work” have won their case at tribunals.

The DWP’s own figures show 58% of people who appealed against the loss of the employment support allowance (ESA), a benefit awarded to people who are unable to work due to illness or disability, for claims started between July and September last year had the jobcentre’s decision later reversed on appeal.

These are the most up-to-date statistics on appeals available, due to the DWP only recording the outcomes of completed appeals – a process that can take months.

Earlier this year, statistics released in March showed 52% of appeals lodged between October 2014 to December 2014 were upheld.

The latest figures were condemned by disability charity Mencap, which told BuzzFeed News they demonstrated a “broken benefits system that continues to fail sick and disabled people”.

Rossanna Trudgian, Mencap’s head of campaigns, said it was those most in need – who “desperately rely” on ESA – that were being failed. Without it, they would struggle to remain part of society and maintain their often fragile health.

“Behind these numbers, though,” she said, “are real people who live in fear of being assessed for their disability by people who don’t have full understanding of their condition” and “continue to incorrectly assess disabled people as being fit-for-work”.

Mother of two Charlie Foulkes, 43, was left without her full support after an assessor ruled she was “fit for work” in January of this year. Eventually, in May, a tribunal took the decision to restore her ESA entirely.

“I know this sounds melodramatic but you kind of just end up thinking, Do they just really want people to die, just to get rid of them?” she told BuzzFeed News. “It’s vile.”

The former university worker, who suffers from psoriatic arthritis, psoriasis, and migraines, had been on welfare for 10 years before her reassessment. “They said that I looked fit and well,” she noted. “They just don’t listen at all. They tell a lot of lies.”

She appeared in front of a tribunal in May. “Within 20 minutes the judge had decided that she didn’t want to hear any more and gave me full marks for just the first two descriptors, based on my mobility,” Foulkes said, “so that was it.”

But, she said, she remains very worried about the future, and has been left with severe anxiety and stress as a result of the appeals process. “It just seems that the government doesn’t care about anyone’s medical problems,” she said. “It is all just how many people they can get off benefits.”

read more here: https://www.buzzfeed.com/rosebuchanan/the-dwp-has-lost-xx-of-appeals-against-removing-disabled-peo?utm_term=.pevoo68MO#.ds0XXWBJG

Carly came forward about sexual abuse – then she lost her benefits

Carly lives with terrible pain, but when her benefits were taken away the appeals tribunal was at the same court handling the sexual abuse case

The thought of going to court makes Carly feel sick. In her 30s, she has been building up to it for years. When she was a child, she was sexually abused, and – after three decades and a breakdown – she finally went to the police last year. “I hid it from everyone until then,” she says when we first speak, a day before she goes to court.

She doesn’t regret her decision – but it has taken its toll. Flashbacks and nightmares from the abuse are vivid and the thought of going through it all in court is “traumatic”.

“It takes everything I have just to get through the days,” she says. However, it’s another “court case”, of sorts – at the hands of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – that has led to Carly not only struggling with her mental health but to keep a roof over her head.of childhood abuse has left a physical as well as psychological mark. “My body’s never been able to cope,” she says. Her adolescence and 20s were filled with ill health – throat infections, bone pain, and mood swings treated with antidepressants. And in 2013, after years of tests and trials (at one point, she had to go on low doses of chemotherapy), she was diagnosed with the rare bone disorder SAPHO. Sometimes the pain is so bad that she cries all night. “Like a knife being stuck in my bone and being twisted,” is how she describes it.

For almost 20 years Carly worked as a nanny. At times, she’d leave a job and then take another because, with memories of the abuse, she gets anxious around men – but by 2014, with the breakdown hitting on top of her physical illness, she finally had to give up work completely and go on the out-of-work benefit, employment and support allowance. She was judged to be so ill that the DWP put her in what it calls the support group: people found to have no chance of being well enough to work.

Money was tight without a wage, but another bit of social security, personal independence payments (PIP), helped Carly get by with an extra £54 a week.

That was until March this year when – just 18 months after being awarded PIP – Carly was told that she had to be tested again. If it wasn’t so grim, it would sound almost efficient: an assessor turned up at Carly’s home, filed a report, and by the end of spring Carly had lost her benefit. DWP rules meant that not only was her PIP stopped but her severe disability component of ESA too: that’s over £110 a week gone in total.

To appeal against the decision, Carly had to attend a tribunal in August. It would be intimidating for anyone to sit in a court in front of strangers on a panel but for Carly, it was devastating – it was the same court that was dealing with the abuse case. When she found she’d been sent back there for her benefit appeal, Carly tells me she “just lost it”. By the time she was at the tribunal, she was shaking and crying uncontrollably. “It was as if I was on trial,” she says.

To add to her anxiety, the medic on the panel was a man, and when he asked questions she couldn’t get words out to answer. “I couldn’t even look at the doctor,” she says. “How could I give an account?”

That night, she had flashback after flashback of the abuse. By the next morning, she’d told the police she was pulling out of the sexual abuse case. “I said, ‘I can’t do this.’” Before deciding to continue with the trial, she was in such distress she was close to being sectioned. “I’d packed bags,” she says. “I don’t know where to. I just packed.”

read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/24/lost-benefits-appeal-tribunal-court-handling-seual-abuse-case

Will disability benefits appeals become less fair?

Plans to scrap in-person tribunals and remove expert panel members risk skewing the system further against disabled claimants

The government could bring in radical changes to the benefit appeal process, including a shift away from “in-person” hearings, with judges instead making many decisions based solely on written evidence, telephone calls or video conference. The proposed changes – which are open to consultation until the end of this month – are part of a wider bid to digitise the justice system, but a range of social security tribunals could be the first services to be moved online.

Claimants wishing to appeal against a benefit decision now do so either through paper submissions or by physically attending a tribunal. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) says that non-physical appeals will only be done where appropriate and that support will be put in place to assist claimants to use the new digital system, including access to paper channels for those who aren’t able to go online. But disability advocates fear that a move from in-person hearings could result in fewer appeals being upheld.

“We get 90% success when the appeal’s in person. On paper, even with us involved, it’s barely 50% success,” says Michelle Cardno, founder and lawyer at Fightback 4 Justice, a not-for-profit group offering appeal advice and advocacy. “So it would be detrimental for claimants,” she adds

Although the MoJ states it does not collect data on the outcomes of different types of hearing, research by the University College London Judicial Institute and the Nuffield Foundation in 2013 found claimants almost three times as likely to win an appeal for disability living allowance (DLA) after an oral hearing than paper alone (46%, compared to 17%).

read more:https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/oct/12/online-benefits-appeals-tribunals-disabled?CMP=share_btn_fb

Hundreds of disabled people in Coventry denied benefits unfairly

MP Colleen Fletcher has spoken out after it emerged that more than three quarters of PIP claimants successfully appeal decisions over payments

In 2015 699 people in Coventry appealed against PIP decisions. There were a further 213 appeals set to reach the courts at the start of 2016.

According to the latest available figures (January to March 2016), 78 percent of people in Coventry who appealed against PIP award decisions won in court.

This appears to be a long-standing problem with a similar situation emerging in the figures from July to September 2015 and October and December 2015 when successful PIP appeals in Coventry stood at 69 percent and 75 percent respectively.

The most recent regional and national averages show successful PIP appeals at 65 per cent in the West Midlands and 64 per cent in England.

read more here: http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/hundreds-disabled-people-coventry-denied-11902033

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.

read more here: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/welfare/2015/09/law-students-had-help-man-debilitating-pain-fight-being-declared-fit-work

Volunteer law project wins 95% of ‘fit for work’ test appeal cases

A ‘big society’ scheme born out of legal aid cuts has won back £1m in benefits for sick and disabled clients wrongly assesssed as able to work

Almost all of the 200 “fit for work“ test appeals undertaken by a student volunteer project have been won, providing more evidence of the unreliability of the government’s controversial work capability assessment (WCA).

The programme was created by Avon and Bristol Law centre, two years ago using a handpicked team of law students to fill the gap created by legal aid cuts in 2013. Legal aid has all but disappeared for welfare benefits work.

The centre revealed this week that the students have won 95% of the appeals they took to Bristol’s Social security and Child Support tribunal, successfully reinstating £1m of benefits for ill and disabled clients wrongly assessed by the WCA as able to work.

Most of those clients who turned to the Avon and Bristol project after being found fit for work had mental health problems or severe physical illness.

 According to the law centre, the national average success rate for WCA appeals is 59%. Around 44% of those who appeal receive no professional or legal represention. But the Avon case provides more evidence that where they do, the chances of overturning the original decision increase hugely.

Bedroom Tax victims fighting to prevent disabled grandson going into care – and costing Government much more

Paul and Susan Rutherford have defeated Iain Duncan-Smith’s bid to block their legal appeal against a ruling which could see them separated from grandson Warren

A disabled boy’s grandparents have beaten Iain Duncan Smith’s heartless bid to block a court appeal on the Bedroom Tax that will decide whether he carries on living with them or goes into care. Doting Paul and Susan Rutherford were targeted by the ­cruel levy, which will force them to quit their three-bed home, two years ago and fought it with a judical review.

Grandson Warren, 15, needs round-the-clock attention from two people and because of their own disabilities the couple rely on help from paid carers – who need to sleep over regularly. Without their third bedroom they will lose their support lifeline and Warren, who has Potocki-Shaffer syndrome, will go into care with the taxpayer footing the bill.

DWP chief Mr Duncan Smith urged judges to throw out the couple’s challenge. But last month Lord Justice Underhill and Lord Justice Stanley Burnton ruled their case must be heard by the end of 2015.

Michael Spencer, a solicitor for the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “Paul and Sue work round the clock to care for Warren. “Without carers who can stay they wouldn’t be able to cope and Warren would have to go into care – at substantial cost to the taxpayer.”

Paul and Susan live in a three-bed bungalow in Clunderwen, Pembrokeshire, specially adapted to meet Warren’s needs. They share a room while Warren sleeps in another. In addition to putting up carers, the third stores Warren’s equipment. Paul and Susan – who were in BBC documentary Saints and Scroungers – claim the hated levy ­unlawfully discriminates against ­seriously disabled children requiring overnight care.

The case will be heard at the same time as an appeal brought by a domestic violence victim known only as A, who suffered rape, assault, harassment and stalking at the hands of a former partner. She lives with her 11-year-old son in a three-bed property specially adapted by police to feature a panic room. But under the reviled Bedroom Tax, she and her boy are now only entitled to housing benefit for a two-bed property.

Rebekah Carrier, the solicitor ­acting for A, told the Sunday People: “Our client’s life is at risk and she is terrified. She lives in a property which has been specially adapted by the police, at great expense, to protect her and her child. It is ridiculous that she is now being told she must move to another property where she will not have any of these protections or else take in a lodger. She is a vulnerable single parent who has been a victim of rape and assault. The Secretary of State cannot seriously suggest it is appropriate to take a stranger into her home.”

The Lord Justices ruled that both of the cases raise points of significant public importance.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/bedroom-tax-victims-fighting-prevent