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.”

http://www.clactonandfrintongazette.co.uk/news/north_essex_news/14185620.Mum_told_she_s_too_healthy_for_sick_benefits_on_the_day_she_dies/

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

Sickness benefit medical test caused massive increase in mental illness, research shows

“The programme of reassessing people on disability benefits using the Work Capability Assessment was independently associated with an increase in suicides, self-reported mental health problems and antidepressant prescribing. This policy may have had serious adverse consequences for mental health in England, which could outweigh any benefits that arise from moving people off disability benefits.”

Read more here: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/11/17/sickness-benefit-medical-test-caused-massive-increase-in-mental-illness-research-shows/

and the original research document here: http://m.jech.bmj.com/content/early/2015/10/26/jech-2015-206209.full

Edinburgh Jobcentre shut down as claimants insist “Advocacy is not a crime”

(Just to make it clear the DWP, in both their published  guidance to job centre advisors and in their answers to freedom of information requests, says that people have the right to be accompanied by someone to the jobcentre, whether a friend, family member, or representative. – Argotina)
“SOLIDARITY DEMO CALL FOR 9am MONDAY 14th SEPTEMBER AT HIGH RIGGS JOB CENTRE

The entire ground floor of Edinburgh’s High Riggs Jobcentre was closed down for almost three hours on 10th September as Jobcentre managers called in police and refused to permit a jobseeker to exercise his right to be accompanied to an appointment. Members of Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty defied threats of arrest and stayed in the jobcentre to support the claimant and the ECAP advocate.

Now ECAP are calling a solidarity demo for this Monday 14th at 9am at High Riggs Jobcentre, when the jobseeker, Adam, will attend his rearranged appointment, once more accompanied by an ECAP advocate.  ECAP say: “We will not be intimidated by the DWP bullies, G4S security or the police.  We will assert claimants’ right to be accompanied.  The DWP themselves state: “Claimants accessing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) benefits and services can have someone to accompany them to act on their behalf..””

JOBCENTRE DENY RIGHTS

Jobseeker Adam had been called to the Jobcentre for an appointment to review his Jobseekers Agreement.  Having suffered months of harrassment from the Jobcentre, who have been trying to force him onto workfare schemes, Adam asked ECAP rep Mike to come with him.  Having that very morning received the distressing news that his brother was having to undergo a serious emergency operation, Adam asked Gerry, the Jobcentre adviser, if his review could be postponed and if he could just quickly sign on and go to the hospital to be with his brother.

The adviser completely ignored this request and instead aggressively demanded that ECAP rep Mike produce photographic ID to prove who he was.  This despite the fact that Mike has not only attended dozens of interviews in High Riggs, including with senior managers, but had even accompanied Adam to an appointment with the same adviser, Gerry, very recently.   When Mike replied that there was nothing requiring the provision of ID in the DWP documents which confirm the right to representation, Gerry stormed off.  G4S security demanded the ECAP rep leave – he refused.  Management called the police.

SOLIDARITY

At this point ECAP members, who had been leafleting outside, entered the jobcentre to give solidarity to Adam and Mike, and demanded to speak with the manager.  Soon police descended on the Jobcentre and the management closed off the entire ground floor.  For some time the whole Jobcentre was shut, with steel door roller shutters barring claimants from entry.   Despite frequent requests for a meeting, manager Linda Gibb refused any dialogue.  Meanwhile members of ECAP’s solidarity network, alerted by an emergency call-out, gathered at the Jobcentre in growing numbers.

This incident follows the arrest of advocate Tony Cox at Arbroath Jobcentre where he was accompanying a vulnerable jobseeker.  Supporters are due to besiege Forfar Sheriff Court when Scottish Unemployed Workers Network activist Tony faces trial on 13th October.

read more here: http://edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk/node/182

The DWP is now largely being held to account not by opposition politicians, not by well-funded charities such as Disability Rights UK, but by activists with virtually no income.

This is from the ‘Benefits and Work’ newsletter.

THE NEW FORCE IN CLAIMANTS RIGHTS
What is particularly notable about these news items is that they were all brought about by tiny, private sector or unfunded groups or individuals.

The ESA death statistics campaign is the work of Vox Political blogger Mike Sivier.

The bogus sanction claimants were revealed by Welfare Weekly – a one-person online news aggregator.

And the UN investigation has come about due to the tireless work of activist group Disabled People Against Cuts.

Add to this the story of the 49 secret DWP investigations into claimant deaths, revealed earlier this year by John Pring’s Disability News Service, and a startling truth emerges.

The DWP is now largely being held to account not by opposition politicians, not by well-funded charities such as Disability Rights UK, but by activists with virtually no income.

One of the main weapons of these new campaigners is the Freedom of Information Act. But we know that the government is already taking steps to try to dramatically curtail the use of the Act.

How long before the government – or its multinational partners – also decide to take action against the campaigners themselves?

Support for ever more harsh benefits cuts depends on people accepting that claimants are bad and the DWP is good. These campaigners are inconveniently proving that the opposite is true.

Tory welfare cuts to force single mums back to work when youngest child turns three

THE new rules, to be introduced in 2017, have been slammed by the SNP as targeting vulnerable women

Campaign groups have warned that Scotland does not have sufficient childcare arrangements to cope with single parents workign full-time when their children are at such a young age.

SINGLE mums will be forced to look for work when their youngest child turns three under the latest Tory welfare cuts to be debated today.

The SNP last night branded the controversial proposals further proof that the UK Government is deliberately targeting vulnerable women in their attack on benefits.

And campaigners warned Scotland does not have sufficient childcare arrangements in place to allow all single parents to work full-time when their children are such a young age.

One parent families are currently entitled to benefits with no strings attached until their children start school aged five.

But proposals contained in Chancellor George Osborne’s poor-punishing budget would lower this age limit to three and require parents to begin to look for work if they want to keep getting the money.

read the rest  of this story here: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/politics/tory-welfare-cuts-force-single-6099323