Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Posts Tagged ‘department for work and pensions

DWP Publishes Death Statistics: 80 Average a Month Die After Being Declared “Fit for Work”.

https://i0.wp.com/i.huffpost.com/gen/3062154/images/n-IAN-DUNCAN-SMITH-large570.jpg

Iain Duncan Smith, still “Fit for DWP Work”.

The Department for Work and Pensions has admitted defeat in its attempt to hide the number of people who have died while claiming incapacity benefits since November 2011 – and has announced that the number who died between January that year and February 2014 is a shocking 91,740.

This represents an increase to an average of 99 deaths per day or 692 per week, between the start of December 2011 and the end of February 2014 – compared with 32 deaths per day/222 per week between January and November 2011.

The DWP has strenuously asserted that “any causal effect between benefits and mortality cannot be assumed from these statistics”.

Read more on Vox Political.

The Guardian reports:

Thousands have died after being found fit for work, DWP figures show

Campaigners demand welfare overhaul after statistics reveal 2,380 people died between 2011 and 2014 shortly after being declared able to work.

More than 80 people a month are dying shortly after being declared “fit for work” according to new data, prompting campaigners to call for an overhaul of the government’s controversial welfare regime.

Statistics released by the Department for Work and Pensions on Thursday show that 2,380 people died between December 2011 and February 2014 shortly after a work capability assessment (WCA) found they were able to work.

The administration of the WCA by officials has been widely criticised as crude and inaccurate by campaigners. There have been hundreds of thousands of appeals of fit-for-work decisions over the last few years, about four in 10 of which have succeeded.

But there was widespread acceptance that the data should be treated with caution. Because the cause of death was not recorded, it is impossible to show whether a death was linked to an incorrect assessment.

Of this number, 2,380 – or 4% – had received a decision that they were fit for work, meaning that they were at risk of losing their ESA benefit.

Of the 50,580, 7,200 claimants had died after being awarded ESA and being placed in the work-related activity group – a category which aims to identify claimants who are unfit to work but may be able to return to work in the future.

Tom Pollard, policy and campaigns manager at mental health charity Mind, said: “We’re not able to comment on these specific statistics as they only tell us the number of people who have died while on employment and support allowance [ESA], not the circumstances or details of these deaths.

“Nevertheless, we do have serious concerns about the benefit system, particularly for those with mental health problems currently being supported by ESA.

“The assessment used to decide who is eligible for ESA does not properly take account of the impact having a mental health problem can have on someone’s ability to work. As a result, many people don’t get the outcome that’s right for them, and have to go through a lengthy and stressful appeals process.

“We desperately need to see an overhaul of the system, with more tailored specialised support for people with mental health problems and less focus on pressuring people into work and stopping their benefits.”

 

Official Files:   Mortality Statistics:  Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance.

Additional information on those who have died after claiming Employment and Support Allowance(ESA), Incapacity Benefit (IB) or Severe
Disablement Allowance (SDA).

You can read the report: here.

DWP Becomes Expert in “Suicide Guidance.”

DWP Now Experts in Suicidal Benefit Claimants. 

This is beyond foul: what kind of a benefits system have we now got?

 

Frontline staff at the Department for Work and Pensions have been given guidance on how to deal with suicidal benefit claimants, it has been reported.

Says the Independent.

The Sunday Herald newspaper says workers have been handed a six-point plan on how to deal with people denied benefits who appear to be suicidal.

Staff at call centres have been instructed to allow rejected claimants for Universal Credit to talk about their intention to kill themselves.

In fact the detailed story is worse than you could possibly imagine:

The guidance is meant to help staff dealing with unsuccessful applicants for Universal Credit who are threatening to self-harm or take their own life.

A manager is then meant to rush over to listen in to the call and workers – who insist they have had no formal training in the procedure – must “make some assessment on the degree of risk” by asking a series of questions.

One section of the six-point plan, titled “gather information”, demands that staff allow claimants to talk about their intention to commit suicide.

The call-centre workers, who earn between £15,000 and £17,000 a year, must “find out specifically what is planned, when it is planned for, and whether the customer has the means-to-hand”, according to the guidance seen by the Sunday Herald.

Staff are also warned in the plan that they may have “thoughts and feelings” about the situation afterwards and offered reassurance that “this is all part of the process of coping with the experience and is normal”.

Glasgow-based call-centre workers have accused the DWP of asking them to carry out the job of a psychologist or social worker.

Herald.

The Independent continues,

A DWP spokesman did not deny that the guidance had been handed out, and said: “Our frontline Jobcentre staff work hard every day supporting people to find jobs and it is only right we provide a range of training and guidance to assist them in their work.”

The guidance may be a reaction to suggestions that welfare changes and decisions are increasingly being linked to suicides.

A damning report by MPs released in March of this year found that severe financial hardship caused by benefit cuts was driving people to kill themselves.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee said 40 people had taken their own lives since 2012 because of problems with welfare payments.

Disability campaign group Black Triangle later estimated that as many as 80 suicide cases were directly to benefit cuts.

“If it was a medical trial, it would have been abandoned long ago. So many have died as a direct result of the withdrawal of benefits, as confirmed by numerous coroner’s inquests,” John McArdle, co-founder of the group said at the time.

Enough is enough!

Can anybody imagine the scene: a Work Coach talking to somebody who wants to end it all?

A  manager dashing over…..

The Call Centre at the ready…

The very idea of the DWP acting as amateur psychologists – to deal with the problems that they  have created –  has gone beyond a joke.

It is an obscenity.

Iain Duncan Smith Resign Now!

Universal Credit: MPs Say, Not Such a Brilliant Wheeze After all.

Iain Duncan Smith Reacts to Criticism.

We are really getting into reading Welfare Weekly at the moment.

This is their latest:

Commenting on the publication of the latest Universal Credit progress report, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Margaret Hodge said:

“The Department for Work and Pensions has spent £700 million on Universal Credit since the programme began in 2010.

“However, very little progress has been achieved on the front line. Fewer than 18,000 people were claiming Universal Credit by October 2014, out of around seven million expected in the longer term – just 0.3% of the eligible population.

We hope the Department’s expectation that this number will rise significantly by February 2016 proves to be accurate.

“As the Department has justified this spending on the promise of benefits in the future – such as from higher employment – rather than on the actual delivery of benefits to date, we simply cannot judge the value for money of this expenditure at this stage.

“The IT infrastructure for Universal Credit continues to be of particular concern. The Department has spent £344 million with suppliers developing its ‘live’ service systems for claimants who have straightforward initial claims which do not involve all 6 benefits, yet it expects to re-use just £34 million worth of this IT in the longer term.

(NOTE as we all know thanks to Ipswich Unemployed Action posters)

“The live systems are technically limited and expensive to operate because they require manual intervention. The Department is developing and testing a new digital service, which it intends will deliver Universal Credit to all types of claimant in the long term.

“In the meantime it has adopted a ‘twin-track approach’ – running the two separate systems in parallel. This is complicated and expensive. The Department believes this will bring forward the anticipated benefits of the programme but it must ensure it does not allow the mixed, two-track approach to continue for longer than is required.

“Both the Department and HM Treasury now regard the live service as the programme’s de facto contingency, even though the Major Projects Authority told us last year that it doubted those systems were capable of handling the full range of claimants.

“The Department ‘reset’ the programme in early 2013 following a Major Projects Authority review which expressed serious concerns about the programme lacking detailed plans, and it has now put Universal Credit on a sounder footing. Since the reset, however, the Department has already fallen a further six months behind schedule for developing the digital service.

“The Office for Budget Responsibility already assumes a further six month delay to the digital service in its independent estimates, and the Major Projects Authority recently gave the programme an amber-red rating.

More on Welfare Weekly site.

Latest Progress Report on Universal Credit here.

I for one am really really not looking forward to this change.

Plus Crapita have got their oar in….

Work and Pensions Select Committee Hearing on Sanctions, this Wednesday.

Right Hon Esther McVey MP looking a Right Sight.

Hat-tip: Obi.

 The Work and Pensions Select Committee announce the final oral evidence session for its inquiry into benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review.

Witnesses

At 9.30am, Wednesday 4 February 2015, Wilson Room, Portcullis House

Department for Work and Pensions:

  • Rt Hon Esther McVey MP, Minister of State for Employment
  • Chris Hayes, Director, Labour Market and International Affairs

Purpose of the session

The session is intended to explore the Government’s position on a range of issues highlighted during the inquiry, including

  • The development of benefit sanctions policy and the evidence base
  • The Government’s response to the Oakley Review and progress towards implementation of its recommendations
  • The setting of appropriate benefit conditions and the sanctions decision-making process
  • The culture around conditionality and sanctions within DWP/JCP and the case for an independent review
  • Protecting claimants against hardship
  • The appropriateness of ESA sanctioning

Oakley sanctions review – responses from other organisations January 2014

From the PCS  response:

Target and expectation culture must be stopped

PCS is demanding that DWP must take action to stop the target and ‘expectation’ culture for sanction referrals, which is shown by 23% of those surveyed having an explicit target for sanction referrals, and 81% having an ‘expectation’ level. These levels are shocking as both DWP and Ministers claim that targets do not exist at all.

It is no longer acceptable for WSD Management to deny that there is a problem or claim that issues are just isolated incidents. They must take responsibility for the regime that sees 61% of surveyed members experiencing pressure to refer claimants where they believe it may be appropriate.

Performance action used to threaten staff

Worryingly 36% of members stated that they have been placed on Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), and 10% have gone through formal poor performance procedures for not making ‘enough’ referrals.

It’s clear that performance procedures are being used to push staff into making more and more referrals, rather than used to challenge staff who ‘refuse to sanction’ as DWP claim. Poor performance action can lead to dismissal, it is therefore a thinly veiled threat to your employment if you don’t make ‘enough’ referrals. Nor is there any evidence that staff who make an excessive number of referrals are challenged using the same procedures.

The specific PIP tool designed by WSD management to monitor sanction referrals completely contradicts the Employment Minister’s statement to Parliament on 24th January 2014 which said that “there are no sanction targets or expectations for numbers of referrals.”

The GEC will continue to challenge WSD management and provide advice to members on how they can resist this action. Members are encouraged to seek help and support from a PCS representative if they find themselves under threat of action.

And,

Social Consequence of sanctioning

We believe the survey results highlight the devastating impact the conditionality regime has on benefit claimants. 70% of members completing the survey did not believe that sanctioning has a positive impact on a claimant finding work, and 76% have seen an increase in foodbank referrals.

The government has stated that they make no assessment of the link between sanctioning and foodbank referrals. We believe that the Government must analyse and take responsibility for the effects of sanctioning on claimants and their families.

Campaigning

The GEC is working with the Unite Community branches and the Unemployed Workers Centre on joint work to raise claimants’ awareness of their rights and to produce campaign material. This survey shows that whilst some members may support some aspects of conditionality, the punitive regime with its target culture is opposed. PCS understand but do not accept the anger directed towards DWP staff because of sanctioning and other welfare reform issues. We will use the survey results to campaign against the regime, and also raise awareness of the views and feelings of our members.

From the previous discussion,

House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee report of 20 Jan 2014 on The Role of Jobcentre Plus in the Reformed Welfare System made the following recommendations on sanctions:

para. 97 We recommend that DWP take urgent steps to monitor the extent of financial hardship caused by benefit sanctions, including by collecting, collating and publishing data on the number of claimants “signposted” to food aid by Jobcentres and the reasons for claimants’ need for assistance in these cases.

para. 100 It is important that JCP makes fair and proportionate sanction referrals and that the process is transparent. We welcome the current independent review which will focus on the clarity of communications between JCP and claimants in relation to the conditionality and sanctioning process; the availability of hardship payments for sanctioned claimants; and the clarity of the review and appeals process. We strongly believe that a further review is necessary and welcome the Minister’s commitment to launch a second and separate review into the broader operation of the sanctioning process.

para. 101 We recommend that the second review of sanctions investigate: whether sanction referrals are being made appropriately, fairly and proportionately, in accordance with the relevant Regulations and guidance, across the Jobcentre network; and the link between sanctioning and benefit off-flow, including whether benefit off-flow targets have an influence on sanctioning rates. We also recommend that this review consider whether, and to what extent, the use of sanctions is having the desired effect of encouraging claimants to engage more actively in job-seeking. We further recommend that this review is launched as a matter of urgency and reports before the end of 2014.

The Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee held an evidence session on sanctions on 1 April 2014.

The House of Commons had a debate on sanctions on Thursday 3 April, the following motion by Michael Meacher which was carried.

‘Resolved, That this House notes that there have been many cases of sanctions being wrongfully applied to benefit recipients; and calls on the Government to review the targeting, severity and impact of such sanctions.’ (col.1082)

The government published its reply to the Work & Pensions Committee report on 3 April 2014.

The government has gone back on the commitment to a further inquiry post-Oakley which was made to the Work and Pensions Committee by the Employment Minister Esther McVey on 20 November (Qu. 570-71) and reaffirmed in a letter of 1 February 2014.

Now, the government reply states:

‘We have already committed to an independent review by Matthew Oakley which will look primarily at the communications to claimants and offer recommendations to improve the operations of the sanctions process.And we will be publishing further information on sanctions through the forthcoming Work Programme Evaluation and the claimant commitment research to help inform our future strategy. We are fully committed to monitoring the current regime to ensure it continues to deliver the intended outcomes and will assess whether any further evaluation is needed once the current evaluation programmes have concluded.’

 

Benefit Sanctions in Numbers: A summary

The Department for Work and Pensions has released their most recent quarterly report including amongst other statistics, details about the number of sanctions for Jobseekers Allowance both under the ‘old regime’ and under the ‘new regime’. This article also contains information on ESA sanctions. Read the rest of this entry »