DWP derides claimant complaints over digital rollout of Universal Credit


By Tony Collins

dwpLess than 24 hours after the Institute for Government criticised the DWP’s “tendency not to acknowledge bad news”, the department’s press office has poured scorn on complaints to an MP about problems with the rollout of Universal Credit’s “digital” system.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions has described as “anecdotal” complaints by the public about the “full” digital Universal Credit system in south London.

The DWP has declined to publish reports that would give a factual account of the performance of the Universal Credit digital system during rollout.  Its spokespeople can therefore describe claimant complaints as “anecdotal”.


Ministers hope that the in-house and cheaply-developed “full”  digital system will ultimately replace a “live” service that has many workarounds, has cost hundreds of millions of pounds,  has been built by the DWP’s traditional IT suppliers, and deals with only limited groups of claimants.

But the agile-developed digital system has had its problems at a pilot site in Scotland – where the DWP described claimant…

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SNP pledge to block DWP’s hated benefits sanctions regime from operating in Scotland

QUALITIES Secretary Angela Constance is not going to ‘assist’ the UK department responsible for sanctions when Holyrood takes new welfare powers.

THE SNP are pledging to block the hated sanctions regime when Holyrood takes control of more welfare-to-work powers, the Record can reveal today.

Equalities Secretary Angela Constance said she would refuse to “assist” the UK Department for Work and Pensions if they attempt to penalise claimants.

Her promise follows a report which warned 13,000 Scots face being sanctioned each year. The figure was revealed last month in research into devolved benefit powers heading to Holyrood.

At the time, the Scottish Government declined to comment directly on the proposal.

But in an interview with the Record, Constance said: “While we can’t stop the UK Government putting conditions on the work-related benefits, we’re not going to be giving them any information or responding to inquiries if we think that might lead to a sanction.

The reality is we’ll have two systems – we’re trying to design a new system. It is easy for people to get confused. But what I can say, and what the minister for training and employability can say, is our skills programmes are voluntary and we’re not going to deal with an inquiry if it would add to the risk of a sanction.”

read more: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/politics/snp-pledge-block-dwps-hated-8801234


Benefit claimants die as DWP staff keep failing to follow suicide guidelines

September 8th 2016 John Pring

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has refused to consider an inquiry into its repeated failure to prevent the deaths of benefit claimants, despite the release of damning new information from nine secret reviews.

Key information from reviews into the deaths of nine benefit claimants had been requested by Disability News Service (DNS) in April – following the release of 49 earlier reviews – but DWP has only released it now after pressure from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Although most of the information from the reviews – previously known as peer reviews but now called internal process reviews – was redacted, DWP did release the authors’ recommendations for how procedures should be improved locally and nationally.

Those recommendations show that DWP staff repeatedly failed to follow strict guidelines on how to support benefit claimants who have expressed thoughts of self-harm or threatened to take their own lives, which were introduced in 2009.

That guidance – known as the six-point plan – “sets out the framework for managing suicide and self harm declarations from customers”.

The plan tells staff to “take the statement seriously”, “summon a colleague”, “gather information”, “provide referral advice – if the situation is non-urgent”, “summon emergency help”, and “review” the incident afterwards with their line manager.

DWP managers are supposed to use this framework to create their own local six point plans.

But the information released to DNS shows that with two of the nine deaths, which were all reviewed between August 2014 and January 2016, the author called for DWP to “remind staff about the Six Point Plan” and pointed out the need to “embed” the plan in DWP procedures because the failure to follow the guidance was “a recurring theme”.

Of the nine reviews, seven of them involved people who had taken their own lives, and five included recommendations for local or national improvements.

Other concerns raised by the reviews include the apparent use of out-of-date information to decide an employment and support allowance (ESA) claim, and benefits staff apparently failing to visit a claimant marked in their files as “vulnerable” who had failed to attend an assessment before their claim was rejected.

As in all nine cases, the claimant lost their life, although no other information is known about the circumstances of their deaths.

read more: http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2016/09/08/benefit-claimants-die-as-dwp-staff-keep-failing-to-follow-suicide-guidelines/

DWP repeatedly warned of failures to protect vulnerable benefit claimants, internal documents reveal

Inquiries into the deaths of benefit claimants have revealed the government was repeatedly warned that vulnerable people were struggling to cope with benefit cuts, it has been reported.

The inquiries highlight a number of concerns that vulnerable people, including those with mental illnesses or learning disabilities, were not being sufficiently supported by Department for Work and Pensions staff or adequately protected from sudden benefit cuts, The Guardian reports.

The internal ‘peer review’ reports have been released to campaigners following a two year legal battle with the Department. The reports are undertaken by the government when a benefit claimant’s death appears to be “associated with DWP activity”. There is no suggestion that the DWP is responsible for the deaths.

49 reports have been released from February 2012 and August 2014, of which 40 are understood to relate to a person who has died as a result of suicide. Findings include that Department staff did not always follow guidelines when dealing with vulnerable people and reportedly often had issues with poor communication or rigidly sticking to policies rather than showing flexibility or common sense approaches.

A report into one death states: “We need to ask whether or not in the context of fast-moving environment of high [claimant re-assessment] volumes and anticipated levels of performance, the current process requires, encourages and supports… colleagues to independently and systematically consider claimant vulnerability.”

Another says: “This case may highlight a dislocation between policy intent and what actually happens to claimants who are vulnerable.”

In two cases investigators reportedly state that their inquiries were impaired as DWP records had been destroyed or were missing.

read more: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dwp-repeatedly-warned-of-failures-to-protect-vulnerable-benefit-claimants-internal-documents-reveal-a7029691.html


Mum in Braintree told she’s too healthy for sick benefits on the day she dies

A MOTHER battling a serious lung condition was told she no longer qualified for benefits on the day she died from her illness.

Dawn Amos, 67, died as a result of suffering chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a collection of lung diseases. It left her with difficulty breathing, unable to walk for long periods of time, dress herself or do daily tasks independently.

She received attendance allowance from the Department of Work and Pensions to help with the cost of her personal care.

Heartbroken husband Mick Amos, 64, of Masefield Road, Braintree, discovered a letter sent from the department two days after his wife’s death. It notified Mrs Amos that her allowance was being withdrawn based on ‘treatment, medication, symptoms and test results’.

It had been sent on the day, November 27, Mr Amos had taken the decision to turn off Dawn’s life support machine.

Mr Amos, a self-employed window cleaner, said: “It’s disgusting and heartbreaking. We had to turn her machine off. How ill do you have to be? On the day she died I came downstairs and she couldn’t breathe properly so I phoned the ambulance, who said if she gets worse call us back. As soon as I got off the phone she collapsed and I was on the phone again. She had stopped breathing and I was doing CPR while I was on the phone to the ambulance.”

Dawn was taken to Broomfield Hospital, where she was put on a life support machine. Mr Amos and Dawn’s daughter Karina Mann agreed to turn off the machine the same day.

Karina, 42, of Vernon Way in Braintree, said her mum had received attendance allowance for six months before they asked to reassess her.

She said: “Obviously she was ill enough for the benefit because we had to watch her die.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said, “Our thoughts are with the family of Mrs Amos. The decision was based on evidence which included the opinion of Mrs Amos’ own GP.”


PIP applicant takes legal action over DWP’s inaccessible claim process

A disabled campaigner who has been refused permission to apply for a vital disability benefit in a way that is accessible to him has begun legal proceedings against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Graham Kirwan has been told that he is unable to communicate via email as he attempts to claim personal independence payment (PIP).

Kirwan had previously been a long-term claimant of disability living allowance (DLA), but had his payments suspended when he failed to respond to letters asking him to apply for PIP, letters that he says he never received and that would not have been accessible to him anyway.

Kirwan, who is partially-sighted, has computer software that can magnify text, but it does not generally work with scanned or PDF documents.

He has been told by DWP to use the charity Citizens Advice to help with his application for PIP – which is gradually replacing working-age DLA – but he wants to fill in the form himself, so he can take responsibility for the accuracy of the answers.

And he points to DWP guidance that states that email is an acceptable alternative for communication for people with his access needs.

Kirwan says that while most people can fill in their PIP claim form with a pen costing just 10 pence (DWP provides a free envelope and postage), he has spent £1,200 equipping himself with the necessary technology to communicate effectively, as well as facing annual costs of about another £700.

He said: “In this instance the disability is being deliberately created by the DWP. I have no communication disability​ when allowed to use email and assistive software.

read more here: http://www.disabledgo.com/blog/2015/12/pip-applicant-takes-legal-action-over-dwps-inaccessible-claim-process/?utm_source=DisabledGo+Blog&utm_medium=facebook