Welfare system failing thousands of its most vulnerable claimants, MPs told

Long waits for payments biggest cause of food bank use, and are forcing people including terminally ill into debt and ‘survival crime’, inquiry evidence says

Britain’s social security system is failing thousands of its most vulnerable claimants, with delays and errors in processing welfare benefits leaving many sick and disabled people, including some with cancer, for months without income.

MPs have been told that long waits for benefit payments are the single biggest cause of food bank use and are forcing claimants into debt and “survival crime” such as shoplifting, as well as triggering stress, mental illness and homelessness.

Charities and local authorities say the millions of pounds they spend providing advice and help to vulnerable individuals left in crisis by avoidable benefit delays is unsustainable, and they cannot “shore up” the system’s failings indefinitely.

The claims are contained in over 60 evidence submissions by frontline charities, food banks, councils, housing associations, private landlords, academics and individuals to a Commons select committee inquiry on benefit delivery which starts on Wednesday.

A Guardian analysis of the evidence reveals:

  • Widespread concern that a key design feature of universal credit, which requires new claimants to wait 42 days before receiving payment, will plunge thousands of families into hardship and debt.
  • Anger from care organisations that claimants with terminal illnesses such as cancer are still subjected to delays to their benefit entitlements, despite government promises to fast-track such applications.
  • Disquiet that official hardship funds are often not offered to vulnerable claimants facing long delays, forcing them to rely on charity help, take out doorstep loans, or go without food and heating.

Benefit reforms: One year on, universal credit is not working

The Independent newspaper’s Social Affairs Correspondent Emily Dugan meets claimants and officials in Warrington, where testing of the new benefit has been beset by problems

The people of Warrington have been feeling like Iain Duncan Smith’s guinea pigs. For most of the past year, the town in Cheshire has been a testing ground for the Secretary of State for Work and Pension’s pet project, universal credit, and those people involved are losing patience.

Peter Fitzhenry, director of Warrington’s biggest social landlord, Golden Gate Housing, is unequivocal in his assessment of IDS’s latest welfare reform. “This is what I think of it,” he said, turning around his computer to show a picture of York’s ancient market street, The Shambles.

Payments have been so haphazard that 92 per cent of those on Golden Gate’s books using the new benefit are in rent arrears, and two have been evicted since moving on to it. A further 13 are on suspended possession orders or notices seeking possession. Typically, around half of housing association tenants on housing benefit are in rent arrears, according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). “The problem seems to be that the scheme is running but they’re making it up as they go along”, said Mr Fitzhenry.

Universal credit was intended to create a simple single benefit that claimants receive monthly and use to pay rent and other bills themselves. Some of the build-up in rent arrears is down to welfare claimants struggling with the change to monthly budgeting. But experts say much of the debt is because of administrative errors and computer glitches causing the DWP not to pay.

For more than half of its universal credit tenants, the housing trust has asked for the rent payments to now go directly to the trust. But this has not curbed the spiralling arrears. “Of the direct payments we do get from DWP, about half of the amounts are wrong,” Mr Fitzhenry explained. “It’s always too little.”

Read the rest of this article here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/benefit-reforms-one-year-on-universal-credit-is-not-working-9391283.html

Food Bank Demand Driven By Cuts And Sanctions To Benefits, New Report Finds

More than half of people driven by acute poverty to apply for emergency food aid are there because of delays, sudden cuts or sanctions imposed on welfare payments, according to new research

The Trussell Trust’s findings are a direct challenge to the coalition government’s insistence that the meteoric rise in the numbers of food bank users is unconnected to the cuts to the social security system, and is only linked to the growth in provision.

The charity, which runs the country’s largest network of food banks, analysed more than 900 different users at a range of facilities across the country, as well as conducting 40 more in-depth interviews and 178 different caseloads from people accessing one of their advice services.

Up to two-thirds of those analysed by the study, which was commissioned by the charity along with the Church of England, Oxfam and the Child Poverty Action Group, said they were waiting for their benefits which had been delayed, because they had been sanctioned by jobcentres or because they had been suddenly hit by the so-called bedroom tax.

“The promise of a social security safety net that is there to protect people at times of crisis is something that can, and must be, preserved and protected. Food banks, whilst providing a vital and welcoming lifeline to many, should not become a readily accepted part of that formal provision,“ the study says.

The Trust has handed out food parcels to at least 913,000 people from 2013-2014, a threefold increase. The Trust says those figures are a low estimate for the numbers suffering from acute personal finance crisis, many more are likely to be relying on help from friends or neighbours.


Read the rest of this Huffington Post article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/11/19/food-bank_0_n_6183928.html

Capita and disability assessments

Capita and PIP assesments

The government has contracted outsourcing specialist companies to carry out its disability assessments. ATOS is the most infamous of these. But other companies like Capita are entering this lucrative market. All of these companies are carrying out the instructions given to them by the Government via the Department of Work and Pensions, so does the name of the company carrying out the tests make any difference?

Here’s some feedback from disabled people trying to get themselves assessed for PIP through Capita.

Taken today from the Facebook page ‘Capita Cures – Son of Atos Miracles

“Had first appointments cancelled I attended as advocate. Second appointment cancelled 15 minutes after appointment time after we had phoned to see where they were.then lied wouldnt give details said couldnt contact the client as had no phone number then his mobile rang was them on it to make another appointment even tho they didnt have his number? New appointment made 2 days later rang client again to make appointment denied they had already phoned him and made one? On day of new appointment the man who came out denied everything and said they had never had a application to claim pip off client just some doctors reports? He did interview anyway 2 hours client twice breaking down a emotionless not affected reaction from the man even when client cried in agony at losing his son 2 years ago… capita un organised uncaring un helpfull unable to carry out these assessments….”


“Recently had my PIP refused. They gave me 0 points for “can take meds without prompting” and 0 points for “can make complex budgeting decisions” – even though I clearly stated @ assessment that I have a daily prompt to take meds from a friend (via ‘phone) and monthly help planning my budget. I ‘phoned them and asked for reconsideration and the woman was quite abrupt until I told her that I had been through the ‘guidelines for assessors’ with my solicitor AND had a timestamped recording of the assessment. She said, “Oh, you’ve already got a solicitor, have you?” in quite a sarcy tone. Now I am waiting for a new decision.”


I insisted I had a home assessment after they initially gave me appointment 50 miles away in the morn. I cant get up early and am virtually housebound. They then failed to turn up on the day of the home assessment. After making a further appointment, assesor admitted tht she had very limited mefical knowledge and is trained as an occupational therapist. This assessment was over a month ago and needless to say, I’m still waiting on a decision.


If anything is to go by in King’s Lynn, people are having their home appointments cancelled (not only on the day but at the time of their appointment) this as been documented with at least 1 person having 25 appointments cancelled like this!! Then having to wait for that dreaded brown envelope coming through the door with yet another appointment. Suicides must be on the radar!!


Iain Duncan Smith Doesn’t Want You To Know How Badly He Is Failing On Universal Credit, Say MPs

Iain Duncan Smith and his fellow ministers have been accused of obstructing MPs’ attempts to scrutinise his flagship Universal Credit welfare scheme by failing to give them “accurate, timely and detailed information”.

The Commons Work and Pensions Committee lashed out at ministers as it warned that the Universal Credit, which aims to roll together six benefits, was being brought out at “snail’s pace”.

Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit scheme has been bogged down in IT problems that has forced its introduction across the country to be delayed and resulted in tens of millions of pounds being wasted.

“It is concerning that it took so long for the government to acknowledge openly that there were problems with Universal Credit IT,” the report said. “The government has hampered the committee’s scrutiny of Universal Credit implementation by not providing accurate, timely and detailed information. It is not acceptable for the government only to provide information about major policy changes when forced to do so by the imminent prospect of being held to account in a public evidence session.”

Dame Anne Begg, the Labour chair of the committee, said that only 4,280 people were claiming Universal Credit at the end of last year out of 1.22 million jobseeker’s allowance claimants.

“Whilst it is right to ensure that the system works properly before extending it, there is a difference between cautious progress and a snail’s pace,” she said. “Given the excruciatingly slow pace of roll-out to date, it is hard to see how the most recent implementation timetable can be met.”

Shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves, said: “The select committee is right to raise serious concerns about Universal Credit which has suffered endless delays and waste. Ministers promised one million people would be on the scheme by April 2014 but the latest figures show under 4,00 are.

“£131 million has been wasted already and on this programme which is so far costing an astonishing £161,905 per person. David Cameron must urgently get a grip of this crisis-hit policy before any more taxpayers money is wasted.”


read the rest of this article in the Huffington Post here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/04/09/iain-duncan-smith-universal-credit_n_5116336.html

Disability rights ‘disgrace’: Terminally ill facing distress and financial difficulty for weeks because of delays in benefits contract

The spending watchdog has found that disabled people are facing  “distress and financial difficulties” because of the mismanagement of a new Government benefit scheme.


Some terminally ill people are waiting a month to receive vital support, whilst other claimants are waiting an average of 107 days. That’s more than four weeks longer than the government predicted.

The National Audit Office have also cast doubt on whether the new Personal Independence Payment, which will replace Disability Living Allowance, will ever be value for money.

Within six months that PIP was rolled out in the north of England in April 2013, a backlog of 92,000 cases built up with private contractors Atos and Capita. The Department of Work and Pensions had made decisions in only 16% of the expected number of cases. In fact, Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship programme has performed so poorly that the Department has been forced to stagger the full national roll-out of PIPs,  which raises doubts that it will never deliver value for money in the long term.

As waiting times are longer than the predicted processing times of 74 days for most claimants and 10 days for those who are terminally ill, it is already forecast to save £140 million less than expected. Meanwhile people in desperate need of money are left without support.

The DWP now predicts it will save £640 million a year by 2015, rather than its prediction of £780 million. However, the government still expects to achieve annual savings of £3 billion by 2018/19, with 3.6 million claims assessed by 2018.

Each new PIP claim – worth between £21 and £134 a week to disabled claimants – costs an average £182 to administer, compared to £49 under DLA, said the report.

“It is too early to conclude on the Personal Independence Payment programme’s overall success and all major programmes run the risk of early operational problems,” said Mr Morse. “However the Department did not allow enough time to test whether the assessment process could handle large numbers of claims. As a result of this poor early operational performance, claimants face long and uncertain delays and the Department has had to delay the wider roll-out of the programme. Because it may take some time to resolve the delays, the Department has increased the risk that the programme will not deliver value for money in the longer term.”

The chairwoman of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge, said: “I was shocked to learn that, not only will Personal Independence Payment claims cost almost three and half times more to administer than Disability Living Allowance, they also take double the amount of time to process. The current backlog and delays in processing claims are simply unacceptable and will no doubt cause real distress for vulnerable claimants. Without the Department for Work and Pensions sharing details of how long claims should and do take, claimants are left facing uncertainty and potential financial difficulties whilst waiting for a decision.”

Responding to Mrs Hodge, a DWP spokesman said: “PIP is a completely new benefit with a face-to-face assessment, something missing under DLA, and there will always be initial costs so this is not comparing like with like. The figures show good value for money for taxpayers in the short and long term, with expected savings of £3 billion annually by 2018/19.

read the rest of this article by Felicity Morse in the Independent, 27/2/14, here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/disability-rights-disgrace-terminally-ill-people-facing-distress-and-financial-difficulty-for-weeks-because-of-delays-in-atosmanaged-benefits-contract-9156999.html