DWP spends £39m defending decisions to strip benefits from sick and disabled people

Government appeal process condemned as ‘traumatic’ and a ‘waste of time and money’

Ministers have spent almost £40m in an “appalling” attempt to stop sick and disabled people receiving the financial help they are entitled to, The Independent can reveal.

Freedom of Information requests have exposed how taxpayers’ money has been spent on futile legal battles to prevent vulnerable people receiving help. The hit to the public purse could also be far higher than the new data suggests because it is still unclear how much more the state spends running courts where sanctions are challenged.

The vast majority of appeals were lost by the Government last year, making the expense appear unnecessary. Early indications now show the problem is becoming even worse in 2017, with a 77 per cent rise in money spent trying to stop people from getting Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) payments.

Critics claim the situation has arisen because fitness to work assessments are deeply flawed, leading to incorrect decisions which need to be fought.

Senior Labour MP Frank Field, who worked as David Cameron’s poverty tsar, said: “What’s appalling is that the [Government] is prepared to spend £39m of taxpayers’ money against people who are desperately fighting off destitution.

New figures show that in 2016 the Government spent £22m processing claimants’ initial appeals against sanctions – a stage most people must pass through before they reach a tribunal.

It emerged earlier this year that government officials are given targets to reject four out of five initial appeals – known as mandatory reconsiderations – for some disability benefits.

Further data obtained by The Independentunder Freedom of Information law shows the Government then spent a further £17m fighting cases in the courts that were not settled at the initial appeal stage, bringing the total appeals process cost to £39m last year.

In the same period the Government lost 62 per cent of the tribunal cases in which it was attempting to sanction a claimant’s ESA – which supports people when impairments prevent them working.

They also lost 65 per cent of the cases in the latter half of 2016, the most recent period for which figures are available, relating to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), a longer-term benefit.

But the defeats suffered by government lawyers are not persuading ministers of the need to change tack, with the figures actually pointing to a more costly appeals process in 2017.

read more here:http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dwp-disabled-people-benefits-legal-action-lose-government-work-pensions-department-frank-field-mp-a7886166.html

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Hartlepool man found dead on beach after sickness benefits stopped

A middle-aged Hartlepool man died after going into the sea off Horden shortly after being told his sickness benefits were being withdrawn.

But County Durham and Darlington assistant coroner Crispin Oliver said it was impossible to say whether David Metcalf had meant to enter the water.

The 54-year-old was found on the beach at Grants Houses on Tuesday, January 3, four days after being visited by police and a mental health triage practitioner at his home in Arch Court, Hartlepool.

An inquest at Crook coroner’s court heard a post-mortem showed signs of drowning and hypothermia. Mr Oliver said Mr Metcalf had been ‘a somewhat solitary individual,’ with no family and apparently just one acquaintance, a local garage owner who had alerted police after Mr Metcalf gave him his car keys and bank documents, saying he would not need them any more.

He had been examined by mental health practitioner Leighann Fishpool, whose report said: “David was signed off sick for nine years due to anxiety, stress and panic attacks. “He has recently been deemed fit for work and told he would need to go to the JobCentre to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance. “He said he was frustrated and upset and thought ‘What’s the point?’

Read more at: http://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/news/hartlepool-man-found-dead-on-beach-after-sickness-benefits-stopped-1-8708019

More than 5,000 sick and disabled benefit claimants have been sanctioned for 6 MONTHS

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed the extent of punishments used against people on Employment and Support Allowance

More than 5,000 sick and disabled people have had their benefits sanctioned for at least 6 months, new figures show.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed the extent of punishments used against people on disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance.

ESA is slowly replacing the ageing Incapacity Benefit and is now paid to 2.4million people.

read more here: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/more-5000-sick-disabled-benefit-10998571

Between December 2012 and December 2016, 71,543 ESA claimants have been sanctioned – which normally involves stopping their benefits.

DWP Is Using Lost Letters To Cut Spending

“The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is using lost appointment letters for face-to-face assessments as an excuse for turning down disabled people’s benefit claims, to help it cut spending on social security, it has been claimed.

Concerns have been raised about both the government’s new personal independence payment (PIP) – which helps meet a person’s disability-related costs – and employment and support allowance (ESA), the out-of-work sickness and disability benefit.”

read more here: https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/dwp-is-using-lost-benefit-assessment-letters-to-cut-spending/

Marske woman was ‘deeply in debt’ after benefits cut before her death – inquest

Sarah Louise Wood was living on jobseeker’s allowance :: Her death was found to be drug-related

A “bubbly” young woman was found dead in her flat after suffering severe money problems following being taken off benefits.

An inquest into the death of Sarah Louise Wood heard how she had taken loans at a “phenomenal” rate of interest as her money worries piled up.

The body of Ms Wood, 30, a known drug user from Marske, was found on May 28.

In a statement read out at Teesside Coroner’s Court, her mum Janice English said she was aware her daughter had used heroin.

Ms Wood also suffered from epilepsy and bipolar disorder, and had been diagnosed with COPD at a young age.

Her mum told the hearing her daughter was “deeply in debt” and had “stopped opening her letters” because she was “sick of bad news”.

“She had been taken off her benefits and was only on jobseekers’ allowance,” Ms English added.

“She would frequently get loans where the interest rate was phenomenal. She presented as bubbly and full of fun.”

read more here: http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/marske-woman-deeply-debt-after-13455772?ref=BNTMedia&utm_medium=facebook

 

Fury over ten minute inquest into death of ‘real life Daniel Blake’

St Pancras Coroner’s Court does not hear evidence about Lawrence Bond’s work capability assessments

THE sister of a man whose death triggered protests over the government’s “fitness for work” reforms believes a coroner’s inquest has failed to answer key questions.

Lawrence Bond had seen his benefits stopped under controversial work capability assessments, which critics say are forcing people to take on jobs while they are still unwell. The 56-year-old collapsed and died in Kentish Town in January, shortly after a visit to the Jobcentre, but this back story was not considered by coroner Dr Richard Brittain.

Instead an inquest at St Pancras Coroner’s Court on Friday was completed in little more than 10 minutes with “paper-only” evidence and nobody on the witness stand. The case had led comparisons with Ken Loach’s award-winning film I, Daniel Blake, and the movie director was among protesters who joined a vigil outside the Jobcentre in Kentish Town in the days following Mr Bond’s death. Frances Coombes, Mr Bond’s sister, who did not attend the hearing, said yesterday (Wednesday): “What we would still like to know is, how can someone who had so many different things wrong with them, be classed as fit for work? What does that say about the system? Is it fit for purpose?”

She added: “I and my sister started to get seriously worried last year that Lawrence did not seem to be getting any help or understanding from the professionals he came in contact with.” Campaigners at the inquest said representatives from the Department for Work and Pensions and Maximus – the company that assessed Mr Bond – should have been called to give evidence.

read more here: http://camdennewjournal.com/article/fury-over-ten-minute-inquest-into-death-of-real-life-daniel-blake

 

Benefits cut to hit 200,000 people with mental health conditions

Cut contradicts Theresa May’s commitment to end the “burning injustice” of the treatment of people with mental health conditions, say Labour

More than 200,000 people suffering with mental health conditions are set to see their incomes reduced due to draconian social security cuts, it has emerged today.

A Freedom of Information response published today by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) reveals that over 200,000 people with mental health conditions will have their Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) payments reduced, due to cruel cuts which came into force in April this year.

read more here: http://www.welfareweekly.com/benefits-cut-to-hit-200000-people-with-mental-health-conditions/