Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Archive for the ‘Employment and Support Allowance’ Category

Sanctions Appeal System: Time for a Change.

Many of our contributors have been concerned with this story:

Callous DWP Officials Considered Charging Disabled People To Appeal Benefits Decisions Welfare Weekly.

DWP officials considered plans to begin charging sick and disabled to challenge benefit decisions, a secret internal document reveals.

Callous Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) officials considered plans to begin charging sick and disabled to challenge benefit decisions, a secret internal document reveals.

The document seen by Mirror Online reveals how officials believed the introduction of social security tribunal fees, mirroring those for employment tribunals, “could contribute a portion of the cost of running the tribunals system” – requiring claimants to pay to challenge potentially inaccurate benefit decisions.

 Only due to sheer incompetence has the document come to the attention of the media. Because bungling officials failed to redact it correctly, which would have protected the secrecy surrounding the proposals.

Officials also considered reducing appeal times from 12 to 6 months and draconian measures to cut the number of successful appeals, at a time when more than 50% of decisions are being over-turned in favour of the claimant at appeal.

They even planned to ‘remove payment of ESA (Employment Support Allowance) pending appeal’.

The Mirror where the story broke a few days ago said this,

The document appears to have been a response to the huge number of adverse benefit decisions which are overturned on appeal.

The DWP tried to stop the report being made public – but bungling officials failed to properly redact its contents.

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith said: “This secret document shows the inner workings of a department that seems determined to make life harder for disabled people and low-wage working families.

The report concludes:

A DWP spokeswoman insisted the proposals were not taken forward by the Government as actual policies.

“These ideas were drafted by staff before the last election. They do not represent Government policy and have never been sent to Ministers,” she said.

The idea was not simply to make it harder for people to appeal – an obvious wish – but to reduce the very large number of cases going through the system.

Background  DWP appeals (August 2015):

Half of all sanctions taken against benefit claimants are wrongly imposed, new figures have shown.

Government statistics show 50% of sanctions imposed against those on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are overturned on appeal since the new sanctions regime was introduced in October 2012.

Some 575,901 sanctions were challenged with an astonishing 285,327 being overturned.

Questions over new benefit sanctions warning system. December 2015.

An SNP MP has raised questions over a new benefit sanctions warning system to be trialled in Scotland next year.

The UK government has proposed telling benefit claimants two weeks in advance that payments are to be cut off, giving them more time to appeal.

SNP social justice spokeswoman Eilidh Whiteford said “tinkering around the edges” of the system would not resolve “the deep flaws at its core”.

The UK government said the new method would “strike the right balance”.

Under the current system, benefits are cut off immediately when a claimant fails to comply with rules set by the Department for Work and Pensions.

The system came under criticism when it emerged that 58% of people who lodged appeals in 2014 were successful in having sanctions overturned.

The new proposals, to be trialled in Scotland in 2016, would see claimants given a “yellow card” or warning when a sanction was triggered, giving them 14 days to appeal and provide evidence.

In October Iain Duncan Smith, the UK government’s work and pensions secretary, said: “During this time, claimants will have another opportunity to provide further evidence to explain their non-compliance.

“We will then review this information before deciding whether a sanction remains appropriate. We expect that this will strike the right balance between enforcing the claimant commitment and fairness.”

This is therefore a widespread problem – caused by the fact that sanctions have increased – beyond the problems faced by disabled people.

Sanctions overturned following challenge

An estimated 80,600 JSA sanctions and 10,000 ESA sanctions were overturned in the 12 months to March 2015 via reviews, reconsiderations or appeals. This is a total of 90,600 cases where the claimant’s payments will have been stopped for weeks or months only to be refunded later. This figure peaked at 153,500 in the year to March 2014.

People involved in the process say that it is not simple to follow or easy to carry through appeals.

It is often incredibly, incredibly, slow.

80,600 JSA claimants have gone through a lot of misery for unjust reasons.

This story – about making things worse for one group of claimants – should be a call for a change to the whole system.

JSA sanctions If you don’t follow the rules when you’re on job seekers allowance, you risk being sanctioned. Here’s how to avoid having your JSA stopped.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 23, 2016 at 10:57 am

Suicides Linked to DWP Work Assessments.


Almost 600 Suicides Could Be Related To DWP Work Assessments, Claims New Research

This was  announced in September:

More than 2,650 people died within six weeks of being found “fit for work”, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed.

Figures released today show that between December 2011 to February 2014, 2,650 people died after being told they should find work following a “Work Capability Assessment”.

Huffington Post

Now the same Post announces this,

Almost 600 “additional” suicides could be related to the Government’s Work Capability Assessments, according to research published today.

A study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health claims the areas of England with the greatest use of the assessments has also seen the sharpest rise in reported suicides, mental health issues, and antidepressant prescribing.

The report says the assessments may be having “serious adverse consequences for mental health” and even suggested doctors involved in the process could face “ethical issues” in continuing with the tests.

You can read the report, free access,

This is the DWP reaction.

The Department for Work and Pensions, which operates the policy, described the report as “wholly misleading” and pointed out even the authors recognised no conclusions can be drawn about the assessments and the suicide rates.
The Post says,

The report, which was led by Dr Benjamin Barr from the Department of Public Health and Policy, from the University of Liverpool, reads: “Our study provides evidence that the policy in England of reassessing the eligibility of [disability] benefit recipients using the WCA (Work Capability Assessment) may have unintended but serious consequences for population mental health, and there is a danger that these adverse effects outweigh any benefits that may or may not arise from moving people off disability benefits.

“Although the explicit aim of welfare reform in the UK is to reduce ‘dependency,’ it is likely that targeting the people living in the most vulnerable conditions with policies that are harmful to health, will further marginalise already excluded groups, reducing, rather than increasing, their independence.”

The report claims that after taking into account the socio-economic background of different parts of the country, as well as long-term trends in mental health, a total of 590 additional suicides could be related to the assessments between 2010 and 2013.

There were also an additional 279,000 extra cases of mental ill health and 725,000 more prescriptions for antidepressants.
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said there were concerns people with mental illness undertaking the assessments may feel “threatened and afraid.”

She said: “An assessment is made as a snap judgement by someone who does not know the claimant’s history, with little knowledge of the fluctuating nature of many mental illnesses. Nor do they realise how long-term and debilitating some conditions can be.

“The pressure imposed by being told you are ‘fit for work’ and no longer eligible for benefits can reinforce feelings of despair, in some cases leading to people taking their own lives.”

The Guardian adds,

Tom Pollard, the policy and campaigns manager at the mental health charity Mind, said: “This worrying study shines a light on the damaging impact the work capability assessments can have on people’s mental health. We’ve long been calling on the government to overhaul their current fit-to-work tests.

“We know that people with mental health problems often find these assessments hugely stressful and, since they don’t accurately assess the extent to which a mental health problem can affect someone’s ability to work, many individuals get the wrong outcome. This could mean they are required to look for work before they are ready, or have to go through a lengthy and stressful appeals process to challenge the decision, all of which can impact further on their mental health.

“This research provides further evidence that this process can be seriously harmful, yet thousands of unwell individuals still have to endure it every week.”

Anita Bellows, of campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said: “It comes as no surprise for DPAC and confirms anecdotal evidence that we have been receiving on a daily basis of people being placed under intolerable stress, misery and hardship by the work capability assessment.

“With people hounded by the Department for Work and Pensions and subjected to endless reassessments, people consistently tell us that their conditions are worsened by this inhuman regime, especially people with mental health issues, while those with physical impairments also find their conditions worsen due to the intolerable stress.

“We have repeatedly called for the scrapping of the WCA, and the results of this survey make this even more urgent. Too many lives have already been damaged or lost.”

And the DWP?


A DWP spokesman said: “This report is wholly misleading, and the authors themselves caution that no conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect.

“In addition, it is concerning that they provide no evidence that the people with mental health problems highlighted in the report even underwent a work capability assessment.”

 But the Independent leads with..

Iain Duncan Smith’s tougher fit-to-work tests ‘coincide with 590 additional suicides’

Academic researchers also find 279,000 cases of mental ill health and 725,000 more prescriptions for antidepressants.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 17, 2015 at 12:04 pm

Benefit Sanctions and Mental Health.

Began Last Year and has got worse since…

Anybody with eyes and ears knows that there are a lot of people with mental health issues around.

Those who’ve been on the Work programme and the rest of the dreamt-up courses and schemes for the unemployed are probably aware that people with these difficulties are often shoved onto them, with no real consideration of what it means for them.

It seems that with many have been pushed off various benefits like Employment and Support Allowance (ESA ) onto JSA and all that means in terms of the above.

Anybody with an ounce of common sense can see that people with clinical depression, even just thoroughly down in the dumps, is likely to have a hard slog of it fulfilling all the criteria the out-of-work are meant to do.

Places like public libraries, not to mention the streets, are home to individuals either receiving some kind of treatment, or, with cuts in services, increasingly no help whatsoever.

Round here there’s been the endless saga of the ramshackle Suffolk and Norfolk Mental Health Trust.

This dates from June,

Revealed: Damning contents of staff report into problems within Norfolk and Suffolk’s mental health trust

Mental health staff told of feeling ‘helpless’, ‘disempowered’ and described their department as being ‘in chaos’ in a damning report, which raised serious concerns about the safety of patients they treat.

Now we have this (Thursday):

Mental health cuts ‘put lives at risk’

Cuts to adult mental health services in England have started damaging the quality of care given to patients, a report suggests.

The review by the King’s Fund think tank found there was now “widespread evidence of poor quality care”.

Researchers linked this to the use of unproven, cheaper services in a bid to balance the books.

One mental health charity says “disappearing” services are putting lives at risk.

But the government said the amount of money being made available for mental health had been increased overall.

The review also pointed to growing evidence that there was inadequate support for those with severe problems.

It said only 14% of patients had reported receiving appropriate care in a crisis, while hospital bed occupancy rates were routinely exceeding recommended levels – leading to patients being sent to units many miles away from their home.

On the same day we learnt this:

Benefit sanctions against people with mental health problems up by 600 per cent

Reports the Independent.

The number of benefit sanctions imposed on people with mental health problems has increased by over 600 per cent over the last four years, Department for Work and Pensions statistics show.

A joint analysis of the figures by the Independent and the mental health charity Mind found that 19,259 people with such conditions had their benefits stopped under sanction in 2014-15 compared to just 2,507 in 2011-12 – a 668 per cent rise.

The finding comes weeks after ministers rejected a call to investigate whether such sanctions – which involve stopping a person’s disability benefit income for weeks at a time to enforce compliance – are damaging to mental health.

The ramping up of the policy goes against the advice of mental health charities, who have previously warned that its aggressive approach worsens mental health problems and makes it harder for people to return to work.

Tom Pollard, policy and campaigns manager at Mind, said the dramatic rise was “alarming” and that the Government was refusing to listen to criticism of the sanctions’ impact.

“Stopping somebody’s benefits, or threatening to stop them, is completely the wrong approach to help people with mental health problems find work – it’s actually counterproductive. Pressurising someone to engage in often inappropriate activities under the threat of losing their benefit causes a huge deal of additional anxiety, often making people more unwell and less able to work,” he told the Independent.

Are these two articles related?


Written by Andrew Coates

November 13, 2015 at 5:13 pm

John McDonnell: we have a True Friend in the New Shadow Chancellor.

McDonnell: A Working Class Hero is something he is.

Jeremy Corbyn has unveiled what he called a “unifying” new shadow cabinet, naming his left-wing ally John McDonnell as shadow chancellor.

A short while ago….

John McDonnell speech: MP says he would ‘swim through vomit’ to oppose ‘sickening’ welfare bill.

Comrade McDonnell is simply the best.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 15, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Coming Soon: The Welfare Charter- a Sneak Preview.

Unemployed centres, trade unions (PCS and UNITE Community), London Unemployment Strategies, and Trades Councils are due to launch a Welfare Charter soon.

Ipswich Unemployed Action has a sneak preview of this document, which sets out the basis for decent treatment of claimants and a real way of dealing with unemployment.

The Charter promotes a “social security system that enables everyone to have a safe warm home, good food, propery clothing and being able to participate in society.

The Charter promotes:

  • A Political commitment to full employment achieved with decent jobs..
  • A wage you can live on for all and a social security system that works to end poverty.
  • No work conscription – keep volunteering voluntary.
  • Representation for unemployed workers.
  • Appoint an Ombudsman for claimants.
  • Equality in the labour market and workplace; equality in access to benefits.
  • And end to the sanctions regime and current Work Capability Assessment – full maintenance for the unemployment and underemployed.
  • State provision of high quality information, advice and guidance on employment, training and careers.

These demands together should form the basis for our fight for a decent life.

One for all and all for one!


Facebook : The Welfare Charter.

Twitter: @welfarecharter