UA-79233833-1

50shadesofsun

News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Doubt that ‘missing’ benefits letter was ever sent

Postal delivery services make mistakes. They all do, from time to time. To err is human and those services are run by …. wait for it …. humans.

Those services can deliver mail after a delay and sometimes, but extremely rarely, they manage to lose it, so it never turns up at the intended destination.

Then, there are those “it’s in the post” people who say they have sent you a letter, but haven’t really. Worse still, though, are organisations that make a habit of saying “we sent you a letter”, when they didn’t.

The UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) causes numerous allegations of this sort of behavior. Just look at these examples, originally published by voxpolitical.com website.

Example 1 A new mother – and her baby – are facing eviction because the DWP cut off her Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Why? The DWP claimed she had missed an appointment for a Work Capability Assessment (WCA) even though she protests that she was not told about the appointment.

Letter delivery assumed by DWP

letterThe department says it “can be assumed” that the letter was delivered as there was no evidence to the contrary. But, how can anyone prove they did NOT receive a letter? Evidence of something not happening never exists. As some organisations say ‘proof of posting is not proof of delivery’.

This young mother says she had no idea any letter had been sent, until the DWP sent her one – which did arrive – asking her why she hadn’t turned up to the WCA.

Example 2 Nicol Hart, on the Vox Political Facebook page, wrote: “They (the DWP) DON’T care…!! No one believes that the letters are even sent out…!! It is a deliberate ploy by the DWP to manufacture a reason to stop paying people benefits…!! I know people who have never had the letters and have had their benefits stopped because they never received any letter informing them of an interview that had been arranged for them.

Sitting in the home of a claimant, I watched him open his mail and there WAS a letter there notifying him of an appointment made for him by the DWP…!! The only PROBLEM was – that the appointment was for 2 days BEFORE the letter arrived at his house…!!

Example 3 A lone parent family member arrived at usual signing on time. She was told: “You should have been here two hours ago. We sent a letter. You’re sanctioned.” “I didn’t get a letter,” she said. “We sent it,” they maintained.

She rang me in tears, I told her to go back in and ask to see a supervisor, and to ask the supervisor to print a copy of supposed letter or record thereof, off her file. Surprise, there wasn’t one, because it was never sent. Payments restored. Trust destroyed.

Letter of the law?

Vox Political  commented: “The evidence is clear: The Department for Work and Pensions lies about its activities. DWP officers either deliberately fail to send appointment letters to vulnerable people or they delay those letters until after the date of the appointments. Then they claim they are above suspicion and accuse innocent people of dishonesty.

“This has to end.”

I agree. It’s high time, that people who are sick, have a disability, or are vulnerable, were treated with respect and honesty. Whether or not the DWP is capable of that is another matter. It’s certainly open to doubt.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming individuals here. The real problem is the all-pervading culture of the DWP, a culture that starts at the top.

* * * * *

Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

2 Comments »

Good news about WCAs and Scotland BUT Universal Credit to roll out faster

As dust settles following UK prime minister Theresa May’s farcical conference speech, there’s mixed news for people claiming disability benefits. This includes people with MS and other diseases that cause disability.

disability

Theresa May’s distress call at party conference (Pic: Daily Star).

Good news is some Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) recipients will no longer face repeated work capability assessments (WCAs).   

I say ‘some’ as this is only a limited concession. It affects claimants in the ESA support group or any with limited capability for work-related activity for Universal Credit (UC).

There are two further conditions to qualify for exemption from repeat WCAs. Firstly, claimants need to have a severe, lifelong disability, illness, or health condition. Secondly, they must be unlikely to ever be able to move into work.

Department for Work and Pensions secretary David Gauke said this week: “After early tests of this approach, it has now been implemented and I can tell you that around twice as many people are expected to benefit from this reform than were originally thought.”

The government has devolved, to the Scottish parliament at Holyrood, control of some benefits paid to people living in Scotland. These benefits include Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disabled Living Allowance (DLA), and Carer’s Allowance.

Holyrood has decided that Scottish people should get a better deal than anyone elsewhere in the UK.

Disability benefit changes for the Scots

It has decided that, in Scotland:

  • Benefits will rise annually by at least the rate of inflation.
  • Private companies will no longer be allowed to carry out assessments for disability benefits such as PIP, DLA, and Attendance Allowance.
  • Any child in receipt of DLA will be given an automatic award of that DLA to age 18, to allow for continuity for families.
  • Mandatory reconsiderations of claim denials will have to take place within a set time limit or claimants will be able to take their case to a tribunal without needing to wait any longer.

Perhaps, other parts of the UK will follow suit in due course. We can only live in hope – certainly not in expectation.

On the downside, the government has decided to continue to roll out the highly criticized Universal Credit. However, it is now doing so 10 times faster than originally planned. Now, 50 areas a month will transfer to the new benefit, instead of just 5.

Compassionate? DWP secretary David Gauke (Picture: South West Herts Conservatives Association).

The government decided to proceed despite warnings of ‘disaster’ and a ‘human and political catastrophe’ from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and politicians from all parties, including 12 Conservative MPs

What seems perverse to me is that this government takes pride iin the harshness with which it treats claimants, while always claiming to be compassionate.

In his speech, Gauke also spoke of the government’s vision. He said: “It is a vision of the welfare state that is compassionate, practical and aspirational. It is, in short, a Conservative vision for a modern welfare state.”

Compassionate? No, just some sick joke.

* * * * *

Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

1 Comment »

Department helpline worker lambasts mismanaged disability benefits system

Once again, we have a story of government mishandling of disability benefits and allegations of the existence of targets. Targets that don’t officially exist, as if we believe that.

dwp

Photo: The Independent.

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) insider has described to the Disability News Service (DNS) that a “mismanaged” and under-funded social security system is leaving many disability benefit claimants penniless and helpless. And those claimants include people with MS and other disabilities.

George (name changed to protect his anonymity) works on DWP’s employment and support allowance (ESA) helpline. He told DNS that the experience has left him shocked and frustrated at the deeply flawed system.

Also, he says he believes – although he does not have direct evidence of this – that DWP decision-makers do have targets for the proportion of claimants that they need to find “fit for work”, and so ineligible for ESA.

DWP decision-maker ‘hates job’

Additionally, George claimed that a colleague in another part of DWP, who actually works with a decision-maker, told him that the decision-maker hates his job. This is because he must “disallow people” and was “struggling to hit his disallowance targets”.

DNS has been unable to verify this claim, but disabled activists have been warning for years that they believe DWP decision-makers, and the healthcare professionals who work for the government contractor Maximus, are set targets for the proportion of claimants they must find fit for work.

DWP has continued to deny imposing any such targets and no-one has been able to provide strong evidence that they exist. Even George says he believes such targets do exist, although he cannot prove it.

“I think decision-makers are trying to meet targets,” he told DNS.

No disparaging story about the DWP’s management, or mismanagement, will ever surprise me. I hope you feel the same way.

Read Disability News Service’s full report here.

* * * * *

Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Clinical Writer with Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

1 Comment »

DWP fights to hide WCA ‘under-performance’ and PIP assessments

I suppose, by now, that the ineptitude of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should not surprise me. And while that is true, what does amaze me is its ability to keep proving it – over and over again.

Right now, besides all its usual carryings on, the department is fighting two similar but separate battles. It is trying its best, or maybe its worst, to hide information from the public. Information that we have a right to know.

hide

Photo: The Independent

First, the DWP is trying to hide from public scrutiny a report showing how well assessment company Maximus is doing. The company carries out the controversial, and widely despised, work capability assessment (WCA) for the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). It also includes a look at Atos’s record as far back as 2011.

The Information Commissioner has already ordered the release of a copy of the report, which would give a breakdown of Maximus’s performance at each assessment centre. The DWP, however, is refusing to publish it and is now taking the case to an information tribunal.

Under-performance could damage reputations

The DWP claims that the information could “give a perception of under-performance’ which could ‘damage the reputation and standing of the companies involved”.

Duh, that’s the point. We all know the WCAs are a mess, this report would go towards proving just how bad it is. And the DWP as good as admits that the report could damage the standing of both Maximus and Atos.

The government ministry is therefore claiming that the report is exempt from disclosure because publishing it could damage the commercial interests of both Maximus and Atos, as well as the DWP itself.

Its second fight is to hide differences between Atos and Capita assessments, this time for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP),

This time the DWP is refusing to release training materials which would potentially highlight difference between the way that Atos and Capita carry out PIP assessments, according to Benefits and Work (B&W).

DWP refuses Freedom of Information request to hide facts

hideBack in June, Benefits and Work made a Freedom of Information Act request for training and guidance materials issued by Atos to staff carrying out PIP assessments. Detailed guidance covers issues such as the way in which requests for the recording of PIP assessments are dealt with.

However, the DWP refused to release the guidance on the grounds that it was commercially confidential.

The campaigning website asked the DWP to reconsider its decision. B&W says these are not commercially confidential matters and there is a strong public interest in how PIP is administered on a day-to-day basis.

It says: “If there is a difference in how PIP is managed by different companies, then this is also a strong matter of public interest. Claimants ought to be able to be sure that their assessment is a standardised one and not one based on which company carries it out.”

The DWP, however, is having none of it. Once again, it continues to hide the documents because it considers them to be commercially confidential.

DWP says “commercially confidential” tag exempts it from FoI

The DWP said: “Release of this information would reveal to their competitors commercially sensitive information which would disadvantage IAS’s (Independent Assessment Service, the name that Atos now uses) competitive position in the marketplace.

“This in turn would prejudice the ability of the department to secure best value for the taxpayer when the contract is re-tendered. Release of this type of key financial information would also undermine the effectiveness of the department’s future dealings with IAS or other service providers.”

A B&W spokesman said: “The DWP now routinely refuses a large proportion of freedom of information requests on the grounds of commercial confidentiality. It does this without attempting to justify in any way how anyone’s interests would be threatened.

“Benefits and Work is now applying to the Information Commissioner to have the documents disclosed.”

I receive both ESA and DLA, because of disability caused by MS. As such, I cannot allow horrendous cover-ups like these to go unchallenged – and I urge you to do the same. Public interest and freedom of information must triumph over so-called ‘commercial confidentiality’.

That is just a smokescreen behind which the DWP is using to hide the facts…the facts we need and deserve to see.

* * * * *

Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Clinical Writer with Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

1 Comment »

Government figures prove UN’s human catastrophe verdict

Shocking new figures underline the facts behind a UN committee’s decision to describe UK welfare benefits as a human catastrophe.

And the figures come from the government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Not that they were provided willingly. The MS Society forced them out by a freedom of information request.

During the first three years of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), people with MS have lost at least £6 million a year in benefits, according to the society. PIP started to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in 2013.

The Department for Work and Pensions admitted that between October 2013 and October 2016:

  • almost one in three people (2,600) with MS who received the highest rate mobility component of DLA had their payments cut after they were reassessed for PIP.
  • nearly a quarter (800) who received the highest rate for the care component of DLA had their payments cut after being reassessed for PIP.

System doesn’t make sense

reassessed

Genevieve Edwards (pic: MS Society).

MS Society director of external affairs, Genevieve Edwards, said: “These staggering figures show how PIP is failing some people with MS who need the highest level of support.

“It doesn’t make sense that people are losing money they once qualified for, when they are living with a progressive condition.” I agree, the disease gets worse progressively, not better.

The society is rightly worried that many people no longer get what they were entitled to, and should still be able to claim. Their individual situations are no better but their care benefits have been cut.

One problem is when people are unable to explain the reality of living with MS when reassessed for PIP. And assessors, who are of dubious quality, rarely understand how unpredictable it can be.

Harder to get highest rate mobility under PIP

Additionally, it’s now also harder to qualify for the highest rate of mobility support for PIP. And that’s what you need to take advantage of the Motability car scheme.

Before the changes, under the DLA claimants wouldn’t receive the highest level of support if they could walk more than 50m. Now, under PIP, they won’t get the higher rate if they can walk more than 20m – including the use of sticks or walking aids, if needed.

Exactly what the basis of that change is, I just don’t know but it is unfair. Interestingly, on May 4 last year Baroness Altmann, then minister of state at the DWP, said in the House of Lords: “I would like to clarify what appears to be a widespread misconception regarding the differences between the mobility assessment in PIP and the mobility assessment in DLA. (See my post of May 16, 2016, Disability: There is no 20-metre rule, says minister).

“Many noble Lords have spoken of a ‘20-metre rule’, but there is no such rule. Some people believe that we have changed the assessment of a distance a claimant is able to walk from 50 metres to 20 metres. This is not the case.”

What a load of absolute codswallop.

  • Have the requirements changed between being assessed for DLA and being reassessed for PIP? YES.
  • Is the cut off for highest rate mobility payment now being unable to walk 20m instead of 50m? YES.
  • Did Baroness Altmann lie? Well by archaic tradition, she cannot be accused of lying as she made the statement in the House. She can only be guilty of “misleading the House”. It is clear, she did mislead the House.

Now, what is a non-parliamentary term for deliberately misleading the House? Let me think. Oh yes, I remember, it is LYING.

Fix this broken system, MS Society demands

The MS Society is calling on the government to urgently fix “this broken system” and ensure PIP assessments reflect the realities of living with MS. I couldn’t agree more.

“Having MS is hard enough. It shouldn’t be made harder by a system that doesn’t make sense,” said Ms Edwards.

And so say all of us. 

* * * * *

Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Clinical Writer with Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

 

No Comments »

Benefits for disabled people are in chaos, government admits delays

Introductions of two flagship benefits that affect people with disabilities are both behind schedule. The government department responsible has confirmed that the nationwide roll out is going slower than anticipated.

benefits

Photo: The Independent.

The UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has confirmed that Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is far behind schedule. This is the benefit brought in to replace the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which the government thought unfit for purpose.

And the much-vaunted Universal Credit (UC) has just 540,000 recipients, that is 90% behind schedule. UC was designed to replace six other benefits. These are: income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and Income Support.

As far as PIP is concerned, all existing DLA claimants should have received ‘invitations’ to claim PIP by April of this year. Well, that didn’t happen, that target is now history. Now, the aim is that all working age DLA claimants will have received their invitation letters by late 2018. And final assessments and transfers are now expected to be completed around mid-2019.

Benefits massively behind schedule

According to Benefits and Work website, there has been a huge fall in the number of DLA to PIP cases being sent to DWP’s assessment companies Atos and Capita since January of this year. So, maybe the DWP will not be able to keep to that new target either.

Roll out of UC is massively behind schedule.  It is unlikely to be completed before 2022.

Call me a cynic, if you like, but I believe that target is wildly optimistic. Most UC claimants so far have made the simplest claims, what’s going to happen when they make complex ones? Can the DWP cope?

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) published a report, last month, and urged the government to pause the roll out of UC. This was because of major problems it is causing even the most straightforward claimants, including 57% having to borrow money while waiting for their first payment.

The DWP, however, has dismissed the concerns of the CAB and has confirmed that the roll out of full service UC will increase from 5 areas a month to 50 areas a month from October.

Whether that will happen, though, is matter for conjecture. I have my doubts.

* * * * *

Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

11 Comments »

Disabled politician condemns government’s ‘suffer and die’ policies

New Labour MP Jared O’Mara, who has a disability, has accused the Conservative government of introducing policies in the hope that disabled people will “suffer and die”. It is a view with which I find it hard to disagree.

O’Mara is now one of just a few disabled MPs, he has cerebral palsy, in the UK´s House of Commons. At the general election, he won Sheffield Hallam from former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg. Clegg was also deputy prime minister in the 2010-2015 Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government.

disabled

Jared O’Mara MP.

Speaking to Disability News Service (DNS), O’Mara said he knew that his comments would be controversial. But he said he firmly believed that Tory ministers had “completely torn up the welfare system” which had previously supported disabled people. He particularly criticised cuts and reforms to disability benefits, the decision to close the Independent Living Fund, and cuts to social care.

“They want disabled people to suffer and die. That’s literally what’s happening.

“Disabled people are out there suffering and dying because they have not got the financial means and financial support and nor have they got the legal means to lead an equal life, or even to lead a satisfactory life.

“I’m not going to shy away from it, people might say I am taking it too far, but as far as I am concerned, what I have seen and what has happened across the board, it’s been eugenics1.”

He promised that he would be “taking no prisoners” as an MP, and would “call them out on this”.

He said: “There are people just like me and people who have got conditions that make things even worse for them than mine does, and they are dying and they are suffering.

“I am in it to shine a light where the mainstream (media) do not shine a light and where the Tories (Conservatives) are turning their backs.”

He said he “absolutely” endorses efforts by user-led anti-cuts groups such as Black Triangle to secure a criminal prosecution of Duncan Smith and fellow former work and pensions minister Chris Grayling.

In December, Scottish authorities decided not to investigate the refusal of the two ministers to improve the safety of the government’s “fitness for work” test. This was despite evidence that the refusal caused the deaths of at least three benefit claimants with mental health conditions.

Coroner warned DWP about disabled tests

This evidence mirrored flaws uncovered by a coroner in January 2010, following an earlier suicide. The coroner passed his findings, as a warning to the Department for Work and Pensions.  This was a few weeks before Duncan Smith and Grayling took up their new posts following the 2010 general election.

Duncan Smith and Grayling failed to act on the coroner’s warning.  Campaigners, and families of some of those who died, believe this failure led to further deaths.

O’Mara said: “The legal system is ‘innocent until proven guilty’. We need to ascertain that (innocence or guilt) with what Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling did.

“If they’ve not done anything wrong then they can walk free. If they have done wrong then they can be punished.

“I believe there is a case to answer and they should go there. I support that campaign without reservation,” he said.

1 Eugenics is the idea that society can be improved by selecting those who are allowed to survive and breed (definitions of eugenics vary).

* * * * *

Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

No Comments »

Atos tries to escape its past though superficial rebranding

There is a new company providing assessments of people claiming government disability benefits in the UK. Well, no, there isn’t.

You see, the new name, Independent Assessment Services, is just a rebranding exercise.

True, the name is new but it is the same bad old company.  It is still Atos Healthcare but now in disguise. No doubt it hopes to escape its reputation. as Atos has been the subject of numerous allegations.

atosIts assessors have been accused of numerous, serious and harmful failings in the way they have carried out assessments. The most recent example is that one of its assessors left a disabled woman to sit in her own urine for nearly two hours. Now, Atos launched an investigation.

This was after a Disability News Service (DNS) investigation that found many cases where claimants described how assessors from both Atos and the other assessment company Capita, filed dishonest reports of face-to-face assessments.

According to DNS, Gail Ward, from disability activist Black Triangle Campaign, responded to the rebranding by accusing Atos of “trying to create a “smokescreen” to cover up its “incompetence” in carrying out assessments.

She said: “Atos can rebrand all they wish. We will still call them Atos at every opportunity.”

She stated that Atos’s actions had left many disabled people trapped in their own homes, after losing their entitlement to Personal Independence Payment (PIP), with many having to return their Motability vehicles.

Many grassroots campaigners were receiving requests for help in dealing with “fabrication of facts” in Atos PIP assessment reports. This had caused many sick and disabled people “a great deal of distress”.

Her Black Triangle colleague John McArdle added: “Atos has not changed its spots and is still working as the government’s henchman.

“We see the same litany of wrongdoing reported by DNS. Fraudulent reports, and catastrophic harm being caused to disabled people.”

He said the attempt to rebrand itself as a “respectable organisation” would fail6. He added: “Atos is infamous for carrying out systematic abuse of the fundamental human rights of disabled people.

“It is a toxic brand. It is a byword for corporate wrongdoing worldwide.”

Atos defends new name

An Atos spokesman said last week: “We believe the new name better reflects the role the company undertakes on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions and the assessment work the company carries out.

“The change also follows the first independent review by Paul Gray which recommended a number of changes to claimant communications.

“It was planned and implemented in consultation with a number of disability representative organisations. They are supportive and welcome the change.”

However, DNS denied that. It said: “The two disability organisations Atos said supported the name change told DNS that they did no such thing.”

Interesting!

The spokesman added that policies – and assessment procedures – remain unchanged,

Now, that is a shame, because it seems that all the problems stem from those policies and procedures.

Changing the name is not enough. It is superficial. The company needs to change how it does its work, its culture.

People who are responsible for dishonest assessments, whether individual assessors or in management, have no business being there. Heads should roll.

* * * * *

Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

No Comments »

New welfare boss is either loyal party stooge or genuinely uncaring

David Gauke is the new man in charge of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in the UK. He has been appointed by lame duck prime minister Theresa May.

Gauke

David Gauke MP. (Picture: South West Herts Conservatives Association).

So, as the PM works on a deal with the Democratic Unionists, can we expect more compassion from the DWP? Regretfully, the answer is ‘no’.

Look at the way Gauke has voted on welfare and benefits in the House of Commons to see the truth.

Gauke’s voting record

TheyWorkForYou.com says this is how David Gauke voted:

  • Generally, he voted to reduce housing benefit for social tenants deemed to have excess bedrooms. Labour describes this as the “bedroom tax”. 11 votes for, 0 votes against, 6 absences, between 2012 and 2014.
  • He consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices. 0 votes for, 5 votes against, in 2013.
  • Almost always, he voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability. 0 votes for, 13 votes against, 2 absences, between 2011 and 2016.
  • He consistently voted for making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council tax and reducing the amount spent on such support. 4 votes for, 0 votes against, in 2012.
  • Almost always, he voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits. 45 votes for, 1 vote against, 8 absences, between 2012 and 2016.
  • He consistently voted against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed. 0 votes for, 9 votes against, between 2011 and 2014.

Still no care at top?

That means David Gauke is loyal and votes as he is told by his party. Either that, or he is as genuinely uncaring as his Conservative predecessors.

Whichever is true, his appointment seems likely to prove disappointing for all who receive welfare benfits. And that includes everyone who is elderly, has a disability, has a low income, or is without a job.

Source of voting record: TheyWorkForYou.com. For an explanation of the vote descriptions please see the FAQ entries on vote descriptions and how the voting record is decided.

* * * * *

Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

No Comments »

ESA New Compulsory ‘Conversation’ brings more Sanctions, and a Dispute over Co-design Claim

We can tell when politicians are lying because it happens whenever their lips move and words come out.

We don’t like it but we know it’s true; it’s the same as a politician’s promise – worthless. But it is now spreading beyond those who are elected, and I find that extremely concerning. This time we have caught out two senior civil servants.

esaOnce again, the UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is at the heart of the matter. It claims, wrongly, that disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) had “co-designed” a new scheme with Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) sanctions attached.

I have to congratulate the Disability News Service (DNS) for its tenacity and determination to expose the truth in the face of continued denials from the DWP.

The DNS revealed in March that nearly all new claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA) would have to attend a new Health and Work Conservation (HWC) with a DWP job coach. Attendance would be compulsory and claimants’ benefits sanctioned if they failed to take part “without good cause”.

The HWC can take place weeks or even months before claimants have their ability to work tested through the work capability assessment.

HWC co-designed or not?

DNS reported details of the HWC from a presentation delivered by the two senior DWP civil servants.

They are Ian Anderson, DWP’s project and programme management head of profession, and Matt Russell, its policy advisor for disability employment strategy. They claimed the HWC was “co-designed with the Behavioural Insight Team (BIT), health charities, front-line staff, disabled peoples’ organisations and occupational health professionals”.

DNS says it has now obtained the names of those DPOs and charities. It used a freedom of information request to DWP to obtain the list.

All of those contacted by DNS have denied any endorsement of the HWC. In its report issued yesterday, it quotes four leading DPOs. Each refutes the DWP’s claim.

DWP stands firm on ESA

A DWP spokesman refused to apologise for the claims by Anderson and Russell. That is despite the DPOs stating clearly they are firmly opposed to sanctions, conditionality and a mandatory HWC.

He said: “We used various feedback to help design the HWC – however not all contributions will have been used.”

He said that any actions agreed by an ESA claimant in the mandatory HWC would be voluntary. There will be DWP “safeguards” to ensure “appropriate exemptions from attending the HWC,” he added.

Of course, we all believe that – don’t we?!

* * * * *

Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Diagnosed with MS in 2002, he continued to work until mobility problems made him retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective. Besides that, he is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

 

No Comments »