£3.7bn in cuts to disability benefits needed to help cut the deficit, says cabinet minister

Despite cuts Conservative chairman Patrick McLoughlin claimed ‘we do very proudly in this country’ at helping disabled people

A cabinet minister has rebuffed calls to cancel more than £3.7bn worth of cuts to a disability benefit, setting the scene for a showdown in Parliament.

Patrick McLoughlin said ministers had to view the funding, which would go to people with conditions including epilepsy, diabetes and dementia, in the context of a wider need to reduce the UK’s budget deficit.

Liberal Democrats have tabled a motion in the House of Lords, where the Conservatives are in a minority, that would undo the measure to severely restrict the benefit.

Ministers have said the Government will introduce emergency legislation to tighten the criteria of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) after they were ordered at tribunal to cover a broader spectrum of claimants, leading to the £3.7bn in extra spending by 2022.

While charities have warned of the impacts of the cuts, Tory party chairman Mr McLoughlin told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We are spending as a country over £50bn a year supporting people who have got disabilities in this country.

“I think we give, overall, very generous schemes. There are changes that come about as a result of tribunals and we have to look at that.

“But as far as supporting disabled people, I think overall we do very proudly in this country.”

Asked again about the changes, Mr McLoughlin said: “We will obviously listen to what people say and look at the proposals that come forward, but overall we are still spending as a country over £60bn more each year than we are getting in as a country and we have got to look at trying to balance that budget and reduce that deficit.”

The Department of Work and Pensions was advised to expand the reach of PIP by two separate tribunals to give claimants more points for “psychological stress”.

read more here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/37bn-pip-cuts-patrick-mcloughlin-lib-dems-lords-a7600151.html

 

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

Carly came forward about sexual abuse – then she lost her benefits

Carly lives with terrible pain, but when her benefits were taken away the appeals tribunal was at the same court handling the sexual abuse case

The thought of going to court makes Carly feel sick. In her 30s, she has been building up to it for years. When she was a child, she was sexually abused, and – after three decades and a breakdown – she finally went to the police last year. “I hid it from everyone until then,” she says when we first speak, a day before she goes to court.

She doesn’t regret her decision – but it has taken its toll. Flashbacks and nightmares from the abuse are vivid and the thought of going through it all in court is “traumatic”.

“It takes everything I have just to get through the days,” she says. However, it’s another “court case”, of sorts – at the hands of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – that has led to Carly not only struggling with her mental health but to keep a roof over her head.of childhood abuse has left a physical as well as psychological mark. “My body’s never been able to cope,” she says. Her adolescence and 20s were filled with ill health – throat infections, bone pain, and mood swings treated with antidepressants. And in 2013, after years of tests and trials (at one point, she had to go on low doses of chemotherapy), she was diagnosed with the rare bone disorder SAPHO. Sometimes the pain is so bad that she cries all night. “Like a knife being stuck in my bone and being twisted,” is how she describes it.

For almost 20 years Carly worked as a nanny. At times, she’d leave a job and then take another because, with memories of the abuse, she gets anxious around men – but by 2014, with the breakdown hitting on top of her physical illness, she finally had to give up work completely and go on the out-of-work benefit, employment and support allowance. She was judged to be so ill that the DWP put her in what it calls the support group: people found to have no chance of being well enough to work.

Money was tight without a wage, but another bit of social security, personal independence payments (PIP), helped Carly get by with an extra £54 a week.

That was until March this year when – just 18 months after being awarded PIP – Carly was told that she had to be tested again. If it wasn’t so grim, it would sound almost efficient: an assessor turned up at Carly’s home, filed a report, and by the end of spring Carly had lost her benefit. DWP rules meant that not only was her PIP stopped but her severe disability component of ESA too: that’s over £110 a week gone in total.

To appeal against the decision, Carly had to attend a tribunal in August. It would be intimidating for anyone to sit in a court in front of strangers on a panel but for Carly, it was devastating – it was the same court that was dealing with the abuse case. When she found she’d been sent back there for her benefit appeal, Carly tells me she “just lost it”. By the time she was at the tribunal, she was shaking and crying uncontrollably. “It was as if I was on trial,” she says.

To add to her anxiety, the medic on the panel was a man, and when he asked questions she couldn’t get words out to answer. “I couldn’t even look at the doctor,” she says. “How could I give an account?”

That night, she had flashback after flashback of the abuse. By the next morning, she’d told the police she was pulling out of the sexual abuse case. “I said, ‘I can’t do this.’” Before deciding to continue with the trial, she was in such distress she was close to being sectioned. “I’d packed bags,” she says. “I don’t know where to. I just packed.”

read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/24/lost-benefits-appeal-tribunal-court-handling-seual-abuse-case

Ministry of Justice ‘consultation’ toward scrapping disability benefits tribunals

What is mentioned directly in a government ‘consultation’ and what is not specified?
I blogged yesterday about a Ministry of Justice ‘consultation’ toward scrapping disability benefits tribunals,
and then attempted to reply to the online ‘consultation’ and found that it is about much more than was reported at
as well as being more insidious.
Eg, on the responses page regarding benefit tribunals, there was not a word of ESA or PIP that I could see, and that other sections of the responses pages also deal with stuff about magistrates courts and more.

Claimant Refused PIP By Tribunal- For Spending Too Much Time On Facebook

Same Difference

With many thanks to Benefits And Work.

A shocked welfare rights worker, posting on Rightsnet, has revealed how his client had their personal independence payment (PIP) appeal refused because of the amount of time the claimant allegedly spent on Facebook.

Accused of lying
The claimant had appealed to a first-tier tribunal about the decision on their PIP claim and attended an oral hearing with a representative.

Whilst considering their mental health, the claimant was asked by the panel whether they ever used Facebook. The claimant replied that they did so ‘now and again’.

After all the evidence had been taken, the claimant and their representative returned to the waiting room while the tribunal made their deliberations.

However, when they were called back before the panel to hear the decision, the claimant was accused of lying to the tribunal. The medical panel member had the claimant’s Facebook page open on their…

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Law students had to help a man in debilitating pain fight being declared “fit to work”

Disabled claimants are increasingly vulnerable, with justice more difficult to access, and the need to be reassessed after being declared “fit to work”,

The first Paul Crane knew of having his benefits cut off was when his landlord called up to ask where the rent was.

It was the start of a harrowing time. After ten years of receiving support for debilitating pains – caused when gamma knife radiosurgery to repair a haemorrhage on his brain stem caused radiation damage to surrounding tissue – he had suddenly been declared “fit to work”.

Paul’s life has never been the same since the operation, which repaired the haemorrhage but left parts of his brain and spinal cord permanently damaged. Every day he is haunted by stimuli – light, noise, crowded places – anything that sets off his “excitable nerves” will leave him in agony with migraines, cause numbness and dizziness, or leave part of his face sagging. Even sneezing or tiredness can cause a traumatic flare up.

He says: “Tiredness causes pain and pain causes tiredness. I don’t socialise much, I’ve let people down too many times. I go fishing, which is my only relaxation but even that sometimes is too much”.

Over a decade of suffering and being prescribed a cornucopia of drugs – none of which have fully worked – Paul has learnt to live with the pain. But a new regime at the Department for Work and Pensions, which he says was “like the difference between black and white”, has been hard on him. This was when the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) replaced the Incapacity Benefit, and new work capability assessments (WCA) were brought in to test whether or not claimants were “fit to work”.

“It was as if they were trying to fail me,” he says, “like the system was designed to make me fail. I realised how lucky I had been before. The ESA people looked at me as if to say, ‘Oh God another scumbag’”.

When the news that he had been refused ESA hit him, Paul says he found himself in “a very dark pit”, confused and afraid of what would happen next.

“How could they come to this conclusion? I answered as truthfully as I could and they failed me. I’d just spent two weeks either in bed or on the sofa.”

It’s a painfully common story. Disability rights campaign groups such as the WOWPetition and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) have been pressing the DWP to take notice of the plight of people like Paul, and are fighting for a comprehensive impact assessment of how changes to the benefits system and wider government spending cuts affect people with disabilities.

In August, after months of pressure, the DWP released the official figures for mortalities following “fit to work” verdicts between December 2011 and February 2014, revealing that 2,380 died in that period.

And even more damning, the Avon & Bristol Law Centre (ABLC) revealed that, of a hundred WCA appeal cases taken on by volunteer law students, 95 had been successful.

read more here: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/welfare/2015/09/law-students-had-help-man-debilitating-pain-fight-being-declared-fit-work

Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was ‘a very bad move’

Cable admitted that the charges are deterring women from seeking compensation for unfair treatment in the workplace

The number of workers taking cases to employment tribunals has dropped dramatically since the Government introduced fees of up to £1,200 two years ago.

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, admitted the Coalition made a mistake and that the charges are deterring low paid women from seeking compensation for unfair treatment in the workplace.  He said the Conservative-inspired move was an example of the Tories being the “nasty party” as  they tried to “chisel away” at the rights of workers and trade unions.

In an interview with The Independent, Mr Cable disclosed that a review by his Business Department officials found that the total number of claims at employment tribunals fell by almost 70 per cent – down from 340,000 in the first three months of the 2013-14 financial year to just over 110,000 in the third quarter of  2014-15. He said sex discrimination claims were down  82 per cent from  21,000  to 3,500 over the same period, while the number of equal pay cases dropped by 72 per cent from almost 27,000 to 7,500.

read the rest of this article here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/generalelection/vince-cable-interview-charging-fees-for-employment-tribunals-was-a-very-bad-move-10213703.html