Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Archive for the ‘Welfare State’ Category

NHS Mental Health Recruiting 300 Employment Coaches as “Work as a Clinical Outcome” returns.

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Yuk!

The NHS is set to roll out mental health employment specialists across the country, as a new analysis of services shows that 2,300 patients have been helped into work in the last year.

NHS mental health job coaches help thousands of people into work.

Investment in improving employment prospects via health services like IPS can increase productivity and reduce demand for employment and disability support payments like Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance.

NHS England. 12 of June.

The NHS really ought to get up to date about the Vale of Tears that is Universal Credit.

Not to mention the stress of work outlined in books like James Bloodworth’s Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain.

This move is part of a broader picture.

It seems that with the Work and Health Programme (“The Work and Health Programme helps you find and keep a job if you’re out of work it’s voluntary – unless you’ve been out of work and claiming unemployment benefits for 24 months”),   the DWP, Job Centres and the NHS are getting even closer.

Recently in Ipswich I was asked by Coachey if I’d like to have a health check up – NHS – at the Job Centre.

The below marks another step in the merging of services, in a much more contestable area.

The NHS is to hire 300 employment coaches to find patients jobs to “keep them out of hospital.”

 

It is essential to read the full article but here are some important points made by ‘Kitty’.

There has already been an attempt to provide mental health services for people who claim social security support, which includes a heavily resisted pilot to put therapists into job centres. Another heavily opposed government proposal was announced as part of the  health and work pilot programme to put job coaches in GP surgeries. The proposals have been widely held to be profoundly anti-therapeutic, potentially very damaging and professionally unethical.

….

The government announced the creation of the Joint Health and Work Unit and the Health and Work Service in 2015/16, both with a clear remit to cut benefits and “get people into work.” Given that mental health is a main cause for long-term sickness absence in the UK, a key aspect of this policy is to provide mental health services that get people back into work.

There has already been an attempt to provide mental health services for people who claim social security support, which includes a heavily resisted pilot to put therapists into job centres. Another heavily opposed government proposal was announced as part of the  health and work pilot programme to put job coaches in GP surgeries. The proposals have been widely held to be profoundly anti-therapeutic, potentially very damaging and professionally unethical.

The government have planned to merge health and employment services, and are now attempting to redefine work as a clinical outcome. Unemployment has been stigmatised and politically redefined as a psychological disorderthe government claims somewhat incoherently that the “cure” for unemployment due to illness and disability, and sickness absence from work, is work.

Pause.

Remember this? (BBC June 2015).

Unemployment is being “rebranded” by the government as a psychological disorder, a new study claims.

Those that do not exhibit a “positive” outlook must undergo “reprogramming” or face having their benefits cut, says the Wellcome Trust-backed report.

This can be “humiliating” for job seekers and does not help them find suitable work, the researchers say.

Here is the report:

 

 

Back to Kitty:

The latest strand of this ideological anti-welfare crusade was recently announced: the NHS is to hire 300 employment coaches who will find patients jobs to “keep them out of hospital.” The Individual Placement and Support services (IPS) is aimed at ‘supporting’ people with severe mental illness to seek work and ‘hold down a job’. Job coaches will offer assistance on CVs, interview techniques and are expected to work with 20,000 people by 2021. Pilot schemes running in Sussex, Bradford, Northampton and some London boroughs suggest that the coaches manage to find work for at least a quarter of users. The scheme is to be extended nationwide.

The roll out of mental health employment specialists across the country is based on  analysis of the pilots, which is claimed to show that 2,300 patients have been helped into work in the last year. However, the longer term consequences of the programme are not known, and it is uncertain if there will be any meaningful monitoring regarding efficacy, safeguarding and the uncovering of unintended consequences and risks to participants.

It is held that those in work tend to be in better health, visit their GP less and are less likely to need hospital treatment. The government has assumed that there is a causal relationship expressed in this common sense finding, and make an inferential leap with the claim that “work is a health outcome”.

However, support for this premise is not universal. Some concerns which have been reasonably raised are commonly about the extent to which people will be ‘pushed’ into work they are not able or ready to do, or into bad quality work that is harmful to them, under the misguided notion that any work will be good for them in the long run.

Of course it may equally be the case that people in better health work because they can, and have less need for healthcare services simply because they are relatively well, rather than because they work.

Undoubtedly there are some people who may be able to work and who want to, but struggle to find suitable employment without adequate support. This section of the population may also face the lack of knowledge, attitudes and prejudices of potential employers regarding their conditions as a further barrier to gaining appropriate employment. The scheme will be ideal for supporting this group. That is, however, only provided that engagement with the service is voluntary, and does not become mandatory.

It must also be acknowledged that there are some people who are simply too ill to work. Again, it’s a serious concern that this group may be pressured and coerced to find employment, which may prove to be detrimental to their wellbeing. Furthermore, placing them in work may present unacceptable risk to both themselves and others. How can we possibly know in advance about the longer term risks presented by the impact of an illness, and the potential effects of some medications in the workplace? If something goes catastrophically wrong as a consequence of someone taking up work when they are too unwell to work, who will hold the responsibility for the consequences?

In the current political context where the public are told “work is the route out of poverty” and “work is a health outcome”, people feel obliged to try to work, when they believe they can. But what happens when they are wrong in that belief? Who is responsible, for example, when someone has a loss of consciousness or an episode of altered awareness, caused by a condition or medication, while operating machinery, at the wheel of a taxi, bus or refuse waggon?

This is the key point: work as a “clinical outcome”.

As the Royal College of Psychiatrists says,

Work is a key clinical outcome

Employment is Nature’s physician, and is essential to human happiness’

Galen of Pergamon, Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher, 172 AD

As the quote from Galen, the Greek physician shows, it has long been recognised that work, be it paid or unpaid, plays a central role in the health and well-being of most people.  We know that work gives us material rewards, but it also gives people a sense of identity and connection with others in our society; it gives us a sense of personal achievement; it is a means of structuring and occupying our time and helps us to develop mental and physical skills.  Work also provides us with the financial and material resources necessary for our daily lives.

 

The problem is, unemployment is not a clinical problem to be solved by psychiatrists or Job Coaches.

 

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Universal credit changes will bar 2.6 million children from free school meals.

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No More Free Grub for the Nippers of 2,6 million UC Claimants.

Debbie Abrahams resigned from/temporarily stepped aside from her position as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary in March.

Since then we have heard little from Labour on the important issues surrounding Universal Credit, not least the hint of a serious worked out alternative to the shambles we can now see.

All you can find is a campaign to “fix Universal Credit’

Our campaign to fix Universal Credit

The Tories’ failing Universal Credit programme is plunging millions of people into poverty, leaving them unable to pay rent or put dinner on the table, and facing debt and eviction as a result.

So far, our campaigning has made major steps towards fixing the programme. The Tories were forced to scrap the up to 55p per minute helpline charge and the waiting time to receive the first Universal Credit payment was cut from six weeks to five weeks.

This is a great achievement, but there’s work still to do. Families are still going hungry, relying on food banks and unable to make ends meet.

Frankly, this is not much.

We need a full alternative worked-out policy.

However today this speech will flag up a very worrying area and state that, “Labour’s plan involves providing free school meals for all primary school children.”

Universal credit changes will bar 2.6 million children from free school meals, warns Labour.

Independent.

Eligibility changes mean 1.1 million children receive free school meals but 2.6 million would be entitled by 2022 if they had been kept the same.

Up to 2.6 million children whose parents are on benefits could be missing out on free school meals by 2022, the shadow education minister will warn.

Angela Rayner will tell a GMB union conference on Sunday that the Government’s claims on school meals are “falling apart” after changes to eligibility under Universal Credit (UC).

When the system was first introduced in 2013, all children of recipients – who were all unemployed – were eligible for free school meals (FSM), as they would have been under the old system.

But in April the criteria was tightened based on income. In England, the net earnings threshold will be £7,400 whereas in Northern Ireland it will be £14,000.

A government technical note published in May said that if the change had not been made, “around half of all (state school) children would become eligible for FSM and the meals would no longer be targeted at those who need them the most”.

Nursery World backs this claim up.

DfE admits millions of children at risk of losing free school meals

Up to 2.6 million children could lose out on free school meals by 2022, reveal newly published DfE figures.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 3, 2018 at 10:33 am

McVey calls ‘rape clause’ an ‘opportunity’ for victims.

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It is the opinion of many people, including this Blog, that Esther McVey is unsuited for the post of Work and Pensions Secretary.

That is putting things mildly.

Nicola Sturgeon blasts ‘out of touch’ Esther McVey over Tory rape clause claims.

Speaking after her speech at the STUC annual congress, Nicola Sturgeon said: “To me that just illustrates how out of touch Esther McVey and the Tory government are on these really sensitive issues of social security policy.

“I think most people think the rape clause is just abhorrent – the very notion of asking a woman or expecting a woman to prove she has been raped in order to access benefits for her children, no woman should even have to contemplate that, so to try to justify that by saying that it offers some benefits, I think, adds insult to injury.”

Labour said McVey’s presentation of the rape clause was “skin crawling”, the Lib Dems said it was “deluded” and the Greens said she tried to “defend the indefensible”.

As the latest scandal at her behaviour broke out she has made no public apology, no doubt finding more time for such pressing issues as this:

This is the scandal:

McVey calls ‘rape clause’ an ‘opportunity’ for victims.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has been criticised for describing the so-called “rape clause” as an opportunity for victims to get help.

The minister was giving evidence to the social security committee at Holyrood.

She told MSPs that sexual assault victims having to give DWP staff details of their ordeal was offering “potentially double support”.

The session was disrupted twice by heckling from members of the public.

Ms McVey was invited to the hearing to discuss the universal credit policy and the controversial “rape clause” changes to child tax credits.

Reforms of the welfare system, which came into force last April, mean child tax credits are now capped at two children.

A clause in the new rules means mothers who have a third child as a result of rape can be exempted – but would have to provide evidence to do so.

There has been a political row over the policy, which Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has called “disgusting”.

Tory welfare chief Esther McVey heckled in furious scenes after claiming rape clause ‘supports’ women

One audience member shouted “you can’t get into work if you’re dead” as the Work and Pensions Secretary was grilled in the Scottish Parliament

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 17, 2018 at 10:11 am

Key Benefit Cuts this Year. End the Benefit Freeze!

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The Labour Party has been criticised for not campaigning for an end to the Benefit Freeze.

This is the last time it came up, on the 25th of August 2017, “Jeremy Corbyn will today call on the Government to end the benefits freeze – despite failing to contain a similar pledge in Labour’s election manifesto.” (Politics Home).

The Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Debbie Abrahams, has said nothing recently on this burning issue – at least that can be tracked down.

She has however retweeted the following article:

Anybody  worried about fuel bills after the hard winter, and the fact that everytime you go to the supermarket some price seems to go up, not to mention the next round of Council Tax demands (payable up to 20% of the total in some councils even for even those on benefits), would want an answer, beginning with calls to end the benefit freeze.

Today (as in the above Tweet) the Observer publishes a long article, Millions of families on brink face deepest benefit cuts in years by 

He highlights that this is far from a minority concern.

There are four key benefit cuts this year. Working-age benefits will be frozen for a third year, saving £1.9bn and affecting almost 11 million families. The 3% real-terms cut in working-age benefits this year will be by far the biggest of the freeze, set to last four years.

A measure limiting benefit claims to a family’s first two children, costing up to £2,780 for a family having a third child, saves £400m this year and affects 150,000 families.

The withdrawal of the family element of support for new tax credit and universal credit claims from families with children will cost families up to £545. It saves the public purse £200m this year and will affect 400,000 families.

Finally, the rollout of the controversial universal credit system, which combines several benefits into one payment, saves £200m because some claimants have lower entitlements compared with the existing system, especially the long-term sick and working families.

This is particularly striking,

New research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that the decision to press ahead and freeze most working-age benefits and tax credits this year would see a couple with two children left £380 worse off compared with a scenario in which their universal credit claim had increased in line with prices.

Savage says this,

Labour is planning to embarrass the government and Tory MPs on Tuesday by forcing them to have a vote on controversial changes that are set to leave some poor families without free school meals for their children or free childcare.

What we need is an end to the Benefit Freeze!

Written by Andrew Coates

March 11, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Compulsory Employment “Schemes” for Jobseeker’s Claiming Council Tax Support.

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Is Workfare For Council Tax Support part of the new Austerity Agenda?

Council Tax support is falling apart.

This affects people on Job Seeker’s Allowance, and now, Universal Credit,.

Hard.

You can expect a great deal of thieving from Tory Councils.

Barnet led the way:

Everyone of working age has to pay a minimum contribution of 20% from 01 April 2015 (the contribution for the period 01 April 2013 to 31 March 2015 will remain at 8.5% as agreed in January 2013) of their Council Tax liability unless they are in a protected group. (War pensioners, war widow(er)s and people who receive Armed Forces compensation scheme payments will not have to pay the minimum contribution).

This 20% rule is pretty widespread now.

A hefty sum, around £287.8 a year (National average, band D,  Band D property to £1,439).

In Labour run Ipswich, by contrast,

In Ipswich, all people of working age have to pay at least 8.5% of their Council Tax bill, regardless of their income. From 1st April 2018, this will reduce to 5%.

But now we learn Leeds Labour Council is running this compulsory scheme.

Personal work support programme

If you are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance and have been claiming Council Tax support for 26 weeks or more, you will be offered a place on the personal work support programme.

You will have to complete this programme to keep receiving Council Tax support unless you’re part of one of the exempt or protected groups (PDF 1.2MB)​​.

You will be required to complete five review appointments with one of our employment advisors who are able to support all aspects of looking for work which includes:

  • Help to update your CV
  • Advice and support for applying for vacancies online
  • Advice on how to find the type of work you are looking for
  • The latest job vacancy information
  • Free access to our computers
  • Help with any health, money, benefit or housing concerns that you may have

To book an appointment with an advisor, please call 0113 222 4404.

You can find further information on the package of support available in our Council Tax Support for Jobseekers leaflet (PDF 223KB)​​.

Ipswich Unemployed Action has been informed that there are other councils, some Tory, who have similar schemes.

Some, it is said, involve workfare.

In the opinion of a professional Welfare Adviser this is not legal

Written by Andrew Coates

February 23, 2018 at 3:43 pm

The Feckless Poor, The Stigma of Welfare. Mary O’Hara

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Tory Pick-Pockets Idea of Poverty.

There is a theory, a well-attested theory, that the key to the  government ‘welfare reform’ is that they intend to make life for claimants as unpleasant as possible. This will not only reduce the number of people willing to apply for benefits, it will compel them to take whatever work they can get. Over the years they have tried to a variety of schemes, The Work Programme, and now (for a more limited group), the Work and Health Programme, that are intended to guide people into employment.

Over the years ‘nudges’ (this is not a joke, they tried at one point with this daft plan, “Jobcentres try ‘nudging’ the workless” 2013), were replaced with pushes, sanctions.

Some would say that the massive increase in rough-sleeper numbers, a result of housing crisis and the fact that these days the down and out get not benefits  is – for the more hard-line Tories – a welcome ‘nudge’, a constant reminder of where you could fall if you do not pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get work.

Now Universal Credit looks set to cause a lot more misery for a much wider group of people.

Not to mention this:

A lot has to do with the cock-ups of those who created the system, and the way its run.

But the message about the feckless poor keeps on and on.

Mary O’Hara is the author of Austerity Bites,

After coming to power in May 2010, the Coalition government in the United Kingdom embarked on a drastic programme of cuts to public spending and introduced a raft of austerity measures that had profoundly damaging effects on much of the population. This bestselling book by award-winning journalist Mary O’Hara chronicles the true impact of austerity on people at the sharp end, based on her ‘real-time’ 12-month journey around the country just as the most radical reforms were being rolled out in 2012 and 2013. Drawing on hundreds of hours of compelling first-person interviews, with a broad spectrum of people ranging from homeless teenagers, older job-seekers, pensioners, charity workers, employment advisers and youth workers, as well as an extensive body of research and reports, the book explores the grim reality of living under the biggest shakeup of the welfare state in 60 years. with a new Foreword by Mark Blyth, Professor of International Political economy and International Studies at Brown University, USA, Austerity Bites dispels any notion that “we are all in this together” and offers an alternative to the dominant and simplistic narrative that we inhabit a country of “skivers versus strivers”.

This is a review of the book,

Mary O’Hara, Austerity Bites: A journey to the sharp end of cuts in the UK, Policy Press, 2014, xiv + 320 pp, 1 4473 1560 5, hbk, £19.99

During 2012 and 2013 Mary O’Hara travelled the UK to find out what effects the Coalition Government’s public sector cuts were having by interviewing some of the people affected by them: both those suffering directly from the austerity measures and those working with them to try to mitigate the measures’ effects.

The introduction describes in broad terms the ways in which wages have fallen, poverty and debt have increased, new sanctions have been imposed on jobseekers, and public services have been cut – and all this in the cause of an austerity that further damages the economy.

O’Hara’s visits and interviews reveal the depth of the crisis: increasing food poverty (and hence the rise in the number of food banks); mounting pressure on household budgets as costs rise but incomes – both in and out of work – stagnate; the disruptive effects of the bedroom tax; and the rise of personal debt and of high-street high-interest lenders. They also reveal the increasing stigma imposed on people who cannot find employment, and on people with disabilities and long-term health problems; declining wages and job security; cuts in local authority services on which some of our most vulnerable citizens depend; and rising rents and homelessness.

This is in many ways a familiar story, but what gives this particular telling of it an added authenticity are the excerpts from the interviews. Here we find the voices not of statisticians, journalists, or politicians, but of those suffering the effects of cuts in services. In the concluding chapter, we hear the voices of those voluntary sector workers who are coping with increasing demand, disappearing grants, and staff redundancies. The concluding chapter ends with a description of the way in which the Government and the tabloid press have succeeded in persuading us that the previous Labour Government and the poor are responsible for the country’s financial problems, and therefore for austerity; and with a description of small-scale resistance to that austerity – as if local pressure groups can defeat the Government- and media-driven prejudice to which we have been submitted for the past four years. They can’t.

Perhaps for our readership the most significant finding from O’Hara’s visits and interviews is that ‘the social security system that had protected much of the population from the worst vagaries of inequality was being ripped from its foundations’. She goes on:

I saw at first hand how destabilised and fearful it was leaving people. What I observed during my travels was a society in deep existential as well as economic and political flux. It seemed to me that austerity was generating social and economic schisms faster than they could be tracked, never mind adequately countered. There was a sense of an expanding segregation of the rich and poor, the entrenchment of a ‘them and us’ view of the world that produced not only a lack of social contract but also a political gap so wide as to seem unbridgeable. (p.15)

As a society we need to take to heart what is being said here, and determine to build a new social security system that will protect everyone from ‘the worst vagaries of inequality’ and will heal our ‘social and economic schisms’.

Today she writes in the Guardian.

Let’s tell the truth about poverty – and stop this assault on welfare

When the Department for Work and Pensions last week decided to issue a Valentine’s message to people on benefits – clearly implying that recipients lie about their “living arrangements” to fleece the state – it was the latest attack designed to blame and shame. It is a well-worn pattern, especially for people who qualify for benefits.

Since the emergence almost a decade ago of the poisonous rhetoric of “skivers and strivers” that has helped to prop up the fiasco that has been Tory austerity, a culture of dismissing poor people has become well and truly entrenched. The despicable idea that being poor is somehow the byproduct of personal flaws rather than bad policy, and that strong welfare systems should be rejected, is pervasive.

How else to explain the fact that food banks have become normalised or that the repeated denial of benefits – and dignity – to people with disabilities has failed to provoke a nationwide revolt? How else to compute that a homeless person dies on the doorstep of the Houses of Parliament and registers only as a temporary blip on the national consciousness?

The DWP’s Valentine’s message on Twitter to benefit recipients

 

In the early days of austerity Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP framed the slashing of the welfare state as welfare reform in order to sell it to the public as an improvement that would prevent the system being exploited. This tactic was straight out of the American playbook from the mid-1990s when Bill Clinton all but ended the welfare system under the guise of reform, only to exacerbate poverty.

This pernicious, repetitive narrative that has underpinned bad poverty policy for so long is a maliciously clever ruse. But if what it means to be poor can be framed one way, then it can be framed in another, more truthful way, too. In fact, it is already starting. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has launched an initiative called “talking about poverty”,to which I will be contributing, that explicitly aims to examine how to change the conversation. It is incumbent on us to make that happen.

I am not entirely convinced that O’Hara is right to refer exclusively to the USA.

In France there’s been political and media attacks on unemployed ‘spongers’ – if not on the UK scale (France has no Daily Mail, no Express and no Sun for a start)  – for some time.

Presidential Macron announced at the end of last year something that looks to me a ‘job seeker’s agreement’ for the out-of-work on benefits complete with a sanctions regime if you don’t look hard enough for employment (Le gouvernement va renforcer le contrôle des chômeurs.  27.12.17).

I could extend this to other European countries.

But her overall points are well taken.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 20, 2018 at 4:36 pm

Private firms contracted to assess people for disability benefits, failing to meet the Government’ s own quality standards.

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Government Responds to Critical Report by Wheeling out Lies.

Capita and Atos, the latter later replaced by Maximus, names that should be on every infant’s lips… as bogeymen.

The crooks contacted to run our public services have come a cropper again.

This time they have created misery for thousands and thousands of disabled people caught in the Benefit’s system.

Disability benefit assessors failing to meet Government’s quality standards

Independent.

Errors in assessment process lead to ‘pervasive lack of trust’ in system and ‘untenable human costs’ to claimants, MPs find

All three private firms contracted to assess people for disability benefits are failing to meet the Government’ s own quality standards, leading to decisions being made based on inaccurate or incomplete assessments, new research shows.

A report by the Work and Pensions Committee found failings in the assessment process have contributed to a “pervasive lack of trust” in the system and an “untenable human costs” to claimants, as well as financial costs to the public purse. They concluded that the process was in need of “urgent change”.

In one case flagged up by MPs, a person with Down’s syndrome was asked when they “caught” it, while in another, a woman reporting frequent suicidal thoughts was asked why she had not yet killed herself. In a third case, a claimant’s assessment stated that she walked a dog daily, when she could barely walk and didn’t own a dog.

Of the 170,000 appeals for personal independence payments (PIP) claims that have been taken to the Tribunal in the past five years, since 2013, claimants won in 63 per cent of cases. In the same period, there have been 53,000 employment support allowance (ESA) appeals, of which claimants won in 60 per cent of cases.

Both Atos and Capita – the companies contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)’ to carry out the bulk of the assessments – saw a rise in the proportion of reports graded “unacceptable” last year.

The article concludes:

A DWP spokesperson said: “As the Work and Pensions Committee highlights, assessments work for the majority of people, with 83 per cent of ESA claimants and 76 per cent of PIP claimants telling us that they’re happy with their overall experience. However, our aim has to be that every person feels they are treated fairly, with respect and dignity.

“We are committed to continuously improving the experience of our claimants, that is why we’ve commissioned five independent reviews of the work capability assessment – accepting over 100 recommendations – and two independent reviews of PIP assessments.

“We continue to work closely with our providers to ensure people receive high quality assessments, and are exploring options around recordings to promote greater transparency and trust.”

We know what kind of ‘research’ they use to reach this conclusion:

As Kitty writes,  Summary of key problems with the DWP’s recent survey of claimant satisfaction

The Government says: “This research monitors claimants’ satisfaction with DWP services and ensures their views are considered in operational and policy planning.” 

Again, it doesn’t include those claimants whose benefit support has been disallowed. There is considerable controversy around disability benefit award decisions (and sanctioning) in particular, yet the survey does not address this important issue, since those experiencing negative outcomes are excluded from the survey sample. We know that there is a problem with the PIP and ESA benefits award decision-making processes, since a significant proportion of those people who go on to appeal DWP decisions are subsequently awarded their benefit.

The DWP, however, don’t seem to have any interest in genuine feedback from this group that may contribute to an improvement in both performance and decision-making processes, leading to improved outcomes for disabled people.

Last year, judges ruled 14,077 people should be given PIP against the government’s decision not to between April and June – 65 per cent of all cases.  The figure is higher still when it comes to ESA (68 per cent). Some 85 per cent of all benefit appeals were accounted for by PIP and ESA claimants.

Francis Ryan writes in the New Statesman.

The mass rollout of PIP and the out-of-work sickness benefit, the employment and support allowance (ESA) – first started by the coalition government – were in many ways the centre of the Conservatives’ anti-welfare drive, with ministers handing out hundreds of millions to private companies to run the assessments while claiming there are hordes of scrounging disabled people whose benefits should be withdrawn to get the “welfare” bill down.

It’s resulted in a system so inept that vast numbers of disabled people are having their support removed incorrectly: since 2013, of 170,000 PIP appeals taken to tribunal, 63 per cent won, while 60 per cent of the 53,000 ESA appeals succeeded.

Bear in mind this is at a time when legal aid cuts and the closure of welfare advice centres means many disabled people forced to appeal have no help to do so (imagine what the appeal rates would be if these were healthy people given legal support).

The impact of this is brutal. More than a third of those who have had their benefit cut say they’re struggling to pay for food, rent and bills, while 40 per cent say they’ve become more isolated as over 50,000 disabled people lost access to Motability vehicles.

The recent appointment of Esther McVey – famed in her role as Minister for Disabled People for her punitive attitude to benefit claimants – as the new Work and Pensions Secretary does not bode well for hopes to reform the system.

But the past month has shown with enough pressure, the government can be forced into a climb-down: in January, the Department for Work and Pensions announced every person receiving PIP – that’s 1.6 million people – will have their claim reviewed after a court challenge.

This week’s coming report could be another nail in the coffin in the Conservatives’ disability benefit agenda. In the meantime, cancer patients and people with severe depression are being left without the money they need to live.

Public Finance reports that the call is out for an end to the contracting-out scam:  MPs highlight breakdown in trust over disability benefit tests

Mark Smulian

Public contract failures have led to a loss of trust that risks undermining the operation of the Personal Independence Payment and Employment and Support Allowance disability benefits, MPs have said.

In a report published today, the Commons work and pensions committee called for urgent reforms to the system.

Chair Frank Field said: “For the majority of claimants the assessments work adequately, but a pervasive lack of trust is undermining its entire operation.

“In turn, this is translating into untenable human costs to claimants and financial costs to the public purse. No one should have any doubt the process needs urgent change.”

Field said the Department for Work & Pensions should immediately require recording of face-to-face assessments and provide these to claimants, adding “it beggars belief that this is not already a routine element of the process”.

He called the DWP’s resistance to this idea “bewildering”, noting that making recordings available could in itself reduce the incidence of disputes leading to costly appeals.

Assessments have been carried out by contractors Capita and Atos, the latter later replaced by Maximus.

Ministers should consider taking assessments in-house, Field said, as “the existing contractors have consistently failed to meet basic performance standards but other companies are hardly scrambling over each other to take over”.

PIP and ESA assessment work was outsourced in the name of efficiency and consistency but the committee said no provider had ever hit their quality performance targets while many claimants experience anxiety and other damage to their health over a process regarded as “opaque and unfriendly” throughout.

The committee also urged better understanding amongst health and social care professionals and claimants of what constitutes good evidence for PIP and ESA claims, improved accessibility at every stage and better quality control.

It said there had been an unprecedented response to its call for evidence from service users and a recurrent, core theme had been “that claimants do not believe assessors can be trusted to record what took place during the assessment accurately [which] has implications far beyond the minority of claimants who directly experience poor decision making”

Still there’s this: Happy Thought for the Day from the DWP..

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 14, 2018 at 11:30 am