Mother of ‘fit for work’ victim calls for ministers to face criminal charges

The mother of a disabled man who starved to death after he was found “fit for work” and lost his out-of-work disability benefits has called for ministers to face criminal charges.

Jill Gant says work and pensions ministers should be tried for misconduct in public office for failing to take action that could have saved the life of her son, Mark Wood.

read more here: http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/mother-of-fit-for-work-victim-calls-for-ministers-to-face-criminal-charges/

‘Degrading and cruel’ – claimants view of the benefit system

In a series of special reports, Granada Reports looks at the current benefits system.

James Harrison died after Job Centre staff wrote to his GP telling them not to issue him any more sick notes.

He was a Community Centre manager in Liverpool for 35 years but his health deteriorated when he was made redundant. He was declared ‘fit for work’ after a Work Capability Assessment, something his doctor disagreed with, even though he had a serious lung condition and depression.

He died of heart failure still waiting for a second medical assessment to prove he was ill. His daughter Abbie said he was forced to use a food bank and was made to feel ‘degraded and ashamed’

The film director Ken Loach has made a film to show the harsh reality of applying for benefits in his film “I Daniel Blake’.

In April, the government plan to cut the new Employment Support Allowance (ESA) for ill or disabled claimants who are judged to be able to work in the future.The allowance will be reduced by a third to £73.10 per week, the same as Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and is designed to give an incentive to disabled people to find work.

Ken Loach says the most vulnerable are being targeted by the new ‘benefit reform’. His film “I Daniel Blake’ follows two benefits claimants plunged into poverty, its distributor is Entertainment One UK.

This week on Granada Reports we will be taking to claimants who’ve had their benefits cut, the charities trying to support them and those forced to go to court to prove they are ill

read more: http://www.itv.com/news/granada/update/2017-02-06/degrading-and-cruel-the-harsh-reality-of-the-benefit-system/

Disabled claimants may not meet costs with cut in unemployment benefit, warn MPs

Government plans to cut unemployment benefit for new disabled claimants could leave some unable to meet essential living costs, MPs have warned.

The Commons Work and Pensions Committee said the evidence that reducing Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) would provide an incentive for disabled to find work was “ambiguous at best”.

While the Government’s aim to halve the “disability employment gap” – the difference between the employment rates of the disabled and non-disabled – was laudable, it said ministers had failed to commit to a timeline for achieving it.

Under Government plans, from April new ESA claimants adjudged to be capable of work in the future will receive £73.10 per week – the same as the Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) – a reduction of £29.05 on the current rate. However, the committee said the measure – intended to save a total of £1 billion by 2020-21 – could leave some with lower disposable incomes than JSA claimants as they often faced unavoidably higher living costs.

It was imperative, the committee said, that the Department for Work and Pensions provided additional financial support for those claimants in the so-called work-related activity group (WRAG) who found they were unable to cover their essential living costs due to their condition.

“The Government expects the new, lower rate for the ESA-WRAG to enhance incentives to work. The evidence is, at best, ambiguous,” it said. “We heard substantial concerns about the possible impact of the new rate on disabled people’s capacity to look for and move into work.”

The report also noted, that at current employment levels, halving the “disability employment gap” would require an extra 1.2 million to 1.5 million disabled people to find work.

However, it cited one estimate by the Learning and Work Institute that on current rates of progress, it would take over 200 years to achieve.

Committee chairman Frank Field said: “We expect the Government to respond to this report before the proposed new lower rate of ESA is due in April.

“If they intend to proceed with these cuts, we expect an explanation of how this will not be detrimental to its target of halving the disability employment gap, by making finding and keeping a job even more difficult for disabled people than it already is.”

Coroner orders inquest into ‘fit for work’ man who collapsed after leaving jobcentre

About 100 activists and their allies have taken part in a protest and vigil to mark the death of a disabled man who died minutes after leaving a jobcentre… six months after a government contractor found him “fit for work”.

Lawrence Bond is said to have collapsed on the pavement shortly after leaving Kentish Town jobcentre, following a back-to-work appointment.

read more here: http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/coroner-orders-inquest-into-fit-for-work-man-who-collapsed-after-leaving-jobcentre/?

Man spends last day alive at a Jobcentre being told he’s ‘fit to work’. He dies on the way home

A man collapsed and died in the street on the way home from the Jobcentre on 12 December. He had been declared ‘fit for work’.

Lawrence Bond suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after leaving the Kentish town Jobcentre, reports The Camden New Journal. The 56-year-old had longstanding health problems such as difficulty with mobility and breathing.

Last year, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) cut Bond’s Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This happened after US private firm Maximus carried out his Work Capability Assessment (WCA) in July. The DWP turned down a subsequent appeal. His sister, Iris Green, said that Bond was waiting for the outcome of a second appeal when he died.

Bond’s situation

Bond had suffered prolonged health problems, associated with being heavily overweight. But in turn, his obesity may have been linked to his mental health problems.

Green said she thought he “suffered from anxiety all his life”. She said things got worse after he lost his last long-term job two years ago, and “his weight and unfitness made him unemployable”.

She continued:

[he] held down regular jobs and was never out of work from the age of 16 when he trained as a car mechanic, then did computer studies and went to companies fixing computers, photocopiers, cash tills – so he had his van which he felt safe in – but, of course, his diet was shocking so he put on weight.

Bond was distressed about a lack of treatment for his mental health issues, his sister said:

His anxiety was getting worse as he could not pay bills and was afraid to leave home to go to the shops. Two referrals his GP had made for mental health services had been lost and he said he felt annoyed about that.

He functioned very well when he had a job, and money, and a van and functioned as a productive tax-paying member of society, but he was frustrated that, although he was an intelligent person, he could not seem to get his needs met.

She expressed concern about the controversial Work Capability Assessment, and called for change:

I realise that the reception staff have no clinical knowledge or responsibility for doing it, but the rules need to be changed so that they have the right and discretion when they see a human being turning up in physical distress to flag the situation up and ask for urgent re-assessment.

Read more here: http://www.thecanary.co/2017/01/19/man-spends-last-day-alive-jobcentre-told-hes-fit-work-dies-way-home/

Malnutrition has tripled since 2008 but the Tories say the cause can’t be identified. It’ll be ESA

Isn’t it interesting that the official figures show malnutrition increasing hugely, year-on-year, from 2008 onwards – the year when Employment and Support Allowance was introduced – but the Conservative Government is insisting that no cause can be identified?

ESA, with the hated, nonsensical Work Capability Assessment that governs whether a claimant qualifies for the benefit, was introduced in 2008.

This Blog ran an article on the increase in malnutrition in November, but reader Tony Dean went further – requesting information from the Department of Health.

In the financial year 2007-8, there were 7,695 primary diagnoses of malnutrition – up from 6,704 the previous year. Secondary diagnoses had fallen from 58,344 the previous year to 57,052.

From then on, the figures started to increase – hugely. In 2015-16 there were 17,166 primary diagnoses of malnutrition and a massive 167,362 secondary diagnoses.

Primary diagnoses describe the most serious or resource-intensive condition suffered by a patient who is hospitalised for any period of time. A secondary diagnosis describes those conditions that coexist at the time of admission, or develop subsequently, and that affect the patient for the current episode of care.

So we are seeing not only an increase in malnutrition as an illness in its own right, but a massive increase in it as a contributory factor to other illnesses.

The information may be found here. It was provided by Health Under-Secretary Nicola Blackwood in response to a question by Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth in November.

Ms Blackwood said: “The cause of the malnutrition is not presented in these figures and it not possible to make assumptions on which factor was responsible for the admission.

read more here: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/21/malnutrition-has-tripled-since-2008-but-the-tories-say-the-cause-cant-be-identified-itll-be-esa/

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