The staggering rise in PIP complaints shows there’s rot in the system

It’s not just the scale of the complaints, it’s the increasing evidence that disability benefits are being removed on fabricated grounds

What happens when the system designed to help you is actually hurting you? This is the question I keep coming back to as I look at the newly released evidence of widespread failings in the disability benefit system. Complaints about the personal independence payment (PIP) assessment process rose by nearly 880% last year, according to the Department for Work and Pensions.

That translates to almost 1,400 people, who might have Parkinson’s or severe depression, put through the government’s flagship disability benefit who – after months of gruelling paperwork, assessments, and perhaps even tribunals – are so desperate that they then find more energy to put in a formal complaint. These can’t be dismissed as being unjustified either: DWP statistics also show that the number of complaints that were upheld rose by 713% in the same year (from 67 in 2015-16 to 545 in 2016-17).

For the past four years, I’ve been reporting on the radical changes to disability benefits orchestrated by Conservative governments. The lack of humanity is glaring: there’s the Open University student with agoraphobia, Asperger’s and complex mental health problems living without a washing machine, oven or television after benefit cuts left her destitute; the 14-year-old child carer listening to her disabled dad crying because he doesn’t know how he’s going to pay the bills after having his disability benefits taken. But as the DWP’s complaints show, the scandal of this goes even further: there’s increasing evidence that benefits have been removed from disabled people based on entirely fabricated grounds.

The picture that’s emerging should disturb anyone who cares about the welfare state, poverty, or basic government transparency.

The specialist disabled news site Disability News Service (DNS) has been carrying out an investigation into claims of widespread dishonesty in the disability benefit system, with more than 250 PIP claimants alleging assessors repeatedly lied, ignored written evidence and dishonestly reported the results of physical examinations. It’s a regular occurrence for disabled readers to show me the reports of their benefit assessment, point to a statement, and tell me that it never in fact happened.

Even the latest official independent review of PIPs this March found there was “inherent distrust” of the system, due to the “lack of transparency in the assessment process” and the scale of faulty decisions (four out of five cases where a disabled person is denied disability benefits are now overturned on appeal).

Almost 80% of disabled people put through the PIP test have seen their health deteriorate due to stress or anxiety, a major survey found last month. More than a third of those who have had their benefit cut said they were struggling to pay for food, rent and bills. Forty per cent had become more isolated, and more than 50,000 disabled people have had their Motability cars removed after undergoing the PIP test.

read more here: http://www.computerweekly.com/news/4500248772/Universal-Credit-costs-leap-by-more-than-20-to-158bn

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Tales from the Universal Credit frontline

It’s more than the 6 week wait that makes Universal Credit a disaster. Here’s a few tales picked up from my Facebook feed.

…….

“My experience claiming UC can only be described as absolutely disastrous. Every month having to query delayed/late payments via their shambolic telephone system. Umpteen letters informing me my claim’s been suspended that were sent in error and tomorrow I’ll be contacting them again in regards to an overpayment. The issues never seem to subside . . . Teething problems??! No, the system’s unfit for purpose!”

“I am utterly distraught and have never been so poor in my life. I work ..for the NHS, hilariously!!! on minimum wage. Will run out of gas and electric tomorrow and I don’t know where to turn. Am soooo worried and stressed. Working on UC sucks”

“I work full time and am paid 4 weekly, so this month I have no UC, due to being paid twice in 1 assessment period, and my wage isn’t even enough to cover the rent and bills. Any journalists about?”

“When speaking to the council last week the guy said to me that the council tax system had changed. For those who get housing benefit automatically get council tax support, but with universal credits they take your housing element as a form of income, and calculate your income based on everything u get! This morning we received our council tax bill from now as just moved until April! 668! Wtf!!! So because I get more as I’m disabled and husband is my carer, we have to pay the full council tax amount!!! How can we even afford this?!?!”

“So iv just received my universal credit payment today of 5.77 as opposed to 250. It turns out I was sanctioned from 8/09/2017 But they thought it wasn’t at all necessary to notify me of this sanction. I phoned on the 15th to explain why i wasn’t there on the 8th and rescheduled another appointment for the 20th where i would present my evidence for the reason for not attending. However when i arrived on the 20th i was left waiting over 30mins and had other things to do that day. It was then rescheduled again to today which they canceled and then rescheduled to the 18th 
They are responsible for me not getting to work today.
A job I have ONLY just started. How I’m supposed to live on
5.77 for a whole month is simply beyond me.”

“Last year, two days before Xmas my benefits got frozen! I was gutted, what a time to skint a mother out with her child tax that was to cover me and my son through the week holiday! I remember feeling so upset, had to borrow money from people. No warning, nothing! Didn’t know what was going on or why my money was frozen two days before Xmas, universal fucking credit! And then got nothing till March!”

“Was homeless in a hostel but got kicked out as my universal credit not enough to cover it; what we supposed to do??? Government should re-think it as it’s causing so much grief that people can do without! !”

“I’m newly self employed. 
I have a year to get my income up to my minimum income floor which is 25 x £7.50 (minimum wage). This is because I have a child under 13. 
So after a year my earnings will be considered to be £750 per month whether they are or not!! I’ll loose council tax benefit and some housing. Plus free prescriptions and dentist!
This means I have to earn double that amount to be able to maintain my overheads.
This is really hitting us self employed people hard.”

Well once again I have been sanctioned!!! Fucking had enough of this! 2 months for not doing enough work search! I wrote it all down and she took it at the job centre I’ve applied for job after job. Going to every appointment and even going to work programme! I seriously can’t handle this anymore universal credit can have the money!!”

 

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/

UN demands annual UK progress report on correcting ‘grave and systematic violations’

A UN committee has told the UK government to produce an annual progress report on how it is implementing the recommendations of a damning inquiry that found it guilty of “grave and systematic violations” of key parts of the disability convention.

The committee of disabled human rights experts concluded last November that the government had violated the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) under the articles on independent living, work and employment, and social protection.

read more here: https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/un-demands-annual-uk-progress-report-on-correcting-grave-and-systematic-violations/

DISABLED SALFORD MAN BARRED FROM HOUSING MOBILITY SCOOTER

MOBILITY SCOOTER RIGHTS AGAIN UNDER SCRUTINY AT SALIX HOMES

“You’ve got a right to freedom of movement but mine is curtailed…”

In what is now becoming a growing problem, a disabled man living in sheltered accommodation at Salix Homes’ Heraldic Court says he has to charge his electric mobility scooter at his carer’s as he is not allowed to charge or park it where he lives.

Three times a week he has to get a taxi to the carer’s house to pick up his scooter so he can use it…”Without it I wouldn’t be able to get out” he says “I struggle to walk fifty yards with my sticks.”

James Hayes is chronically disabled and can hardly walk, due to a degenerative spinal injury in his lower lumbar… “I struggle to walk fifty or one hundred yards with my sticks” he explains “I have to stop and lean against a lamp post as most of the time I’m unaccompanied.”

The only salvation for James is his mobility scooter, which allows him to get out and about and do his shopping in big stores while sitting down. In February it became necessary for him to move into sheltered accommodation at Salix Homes Heraldic Court, off Langley Road South, but was told that he couldn’t take the scooter onto the property.

He left it in a yard for six weeks and then confronted Salix… “They said ‘You can bring it on the premises but you can’t charge it’” James recalls “I can charge it in my flat but that’s on the second floor and I can’t charge it in the communal area, so I’ve had to take it to my carer’s house.”

Home Safety Guide, issued by Salix Homes last year, brought complaints and accusations of discrimination, with guidelines stating that “Mobility scooters must not be stored in communal areas in blocks and sheltered schemes” and “We do not currently provide charging facilities for mobility scooters…”*

Instead, James has had to charge the scooter at his carer’s house, which entails getting a taxi for a double journey three times a week at £6 a time… “It’s costing me loads and I haven’t got a lot of money” he says “But without it I wouldn’t be able to get out…You’ve got a right to freedom of movement but mine is curtailed without it.”

Now James and his advocate are further confronting Salix with Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 which states that public bodies have a ‘general duty’ to ‘have due regard to’ a list of considerations, such as the need to advance equality of opportunity.

Indeed, James believes that Salix Homes could help its disabled tenants by looking at practical solutions. At Heraldic Court – scene of protests when Salix increased service charges recently** – there are three former bin bunkers which could be used as a mobility scooter parking and charging point… “It wouldn’t need much to adapt them, put points in them and upgrade the facilities” he explains “I’ve put it to them but haven’t had a reply.”

He does have a meeting with Salix Homes on Friday, where it is hoped that common sense prevails…

“It’s disappointing because I need the mobility scooter, I’m lost without it” James explains “It’s been a nightmare…”
Salford Star asked Salix Homes for a comment but the email was not even acknowledged and the company has failed to respond.

http://www.salfordstar.com/article.asp?id=4082

Austerity has trampled over disabled people’s rights. But the UK won’t admit it

The UN has found that current policies violate both a UN convention and UK legislation. There is little hope for change when the government simply denies it

Like a lot of other disabled people, I’ve been eagerly following the progress of the United Nations’ inspection into the UK’s record on disability rights. Last month in Geneva, a UK delegation faced questioning by a UN committee based on 2,000 pages of evidence gathered during the course of its inquiry. The UN’s final report, published on Thursday, as widely expected, is a 17-page-long catalogue of shame, and highly critical of the UK’s record on almost every area covered by the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD).

read the rest of this article by  Mike Lambert in the GUardian here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/04/austerity-disabled-people-rights-uk-un-government