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PIP / ESA Assessments ? Sanctions / Guardian / Private Eye & Other Articles - Page 2 - Carers UK Forum

PIP / ESA Assessments ? Sanctions / Guardian / Private Eye & Other Articles

Share information, support and advice on all aspects of caring.
Magic !

THE WORDS FROM A JUDGE ... the most potent ally we have never had ?

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/ho ... 22861.html

High Court rules Tories' disability benefit changes ‘blatantly discriminate’ against mental health patients.

Judge rules government regulations to personal independence payment (PIP) breach human rights and 'cannot not be objectively justified.'

The High Court has ruled that government changes to the disability benefit system “blatantly discriminate” against people with mental health problems and are in breach of their human rights.

The landmark court case, brought by a woman with mental health difficulties on Thursday, ruled that the regulations “cannot not be objectively justified”.

An amendment to personal independence payment (PIP) earlier this year introduced regulations limiting the amount of support people with psychological distress could receive for making journeys.

But the judge said the Government’s claims that mental health sufferers require less support to travel were in breach of the Human Rights Act, and amounted to no more than “subjective opinion”.

Because they were discriminatory, the judge also found that the Secretary of State did not have lawful power to make the regulations without consultation, because they went against the very purpose of what the PIP regime sought to achieve.

The case, brought by the Public Law Project on behalf of the woman, could see more than 160,000 people with mental health problems become entitled to additional support from PIP if this ruling stands.

Campaigners and senior opposition politicians hailed it as a “significant victory” for people with mental health problems, urging that the Government should now compensate all those who have been adversely affected and suffered hardship.

During the course of the trial, the Government accepted that the testing carried out for PIP had not looked at whether the basis for treating those with psychological distress differently was sound or not, and the testing actually done was limited.

The woman’s claim was supported by evidence from the National Autistic Society, Disability Rights UK, Revolving Doors and Inclusion London, with charity Mind and the Equality and Human Rights Commission also intervening.

In response to the ruling, she said: “This judgment is important for a community of people with mental health problems fighting for their lives against discrimination.”

Debbie Abrahams, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “This landmark ruling is a damning indictment of the Government’s discriminatory approach to PIP support and its refusal to make this support available to people with mental health conditions.

“So much for the Prime Minister’s commitment to deliver parity of esteem for mental health. When the Government should have been listening to successive court rulings on PIP payments and correcting injustices for people with debilitating mental health conditions, they decided to undermine the legal basis for the judgments and introduce emergency legislation.”

Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley said: “The courts have ruled that the Government’s actions were discriminatory and unlawful. The Government should now compensate all those who have been adversely affected and suffered hardship.

“Disabled people shouldn’t have to go to the courts to win basic rights which should already be theirs. The Government must not be allowed to go on treating disabled people as second class citizens.”

Dr Jed Boardman, the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ social inclusion lead, welcomed the ruling, saying: “We can’t accept a benefits system that treats people with mental health difficulties worse than those with physical health difficulties.

“The medical evidence I gave to the court was clear, mental health conditions such as agoraphobia significantly impact on sufferers’ ability to plan or follow the route of a journey.

“I’m delighted that the court has agreed the Government’s decision to change the law to prevent people with mental health conditions accessing the support they need was blatantly discriminatory.”

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said the ruling acknowledged that the regulations discriminate against people with mental health problems and upheld the principle that PIP should look at the impact your condition has on one’s life, not the condition itself.

“The judgment is clear that the Government has no evidence for its claim that people who experience psychological distress need less support than other disabled people,” he added.

“The Government’s stance on this issue is symptomatic of all the deep concerns that we have about the benefits system as a whole – it just does not understand mental health problems and the impact they can have on a person’s life.”

The Government intends to appeal the decision. The regulations will not be quashed until the Court of Appeal decides whether or not the appeal should proceed. A decision is anticipated in early 2018.

A DWP spokesperson said: “PIP replaced a system that was less generous for people with mental health conditions and is designed to consider the broader picture of how someone’s life is affected by their disability or health condition.

“We are disappointed the judgment fails to recognise that PIP provides more support to people with mental health conditions than ever before.”

A victory ?

No ... just reaffirming a citizen's rights.

Second leg scheduled for the new year.
This morning's Guardian ... a climbdown by the DWP :

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... r-payments

Esther McVey makes disability benefits U-turn over payments.

High court ruling says policy was discriminatory against people with mental health issues.

Up to 164,000 people are in line for increased disability benefits after ministers gave in to a high court ruling that said government policy had been “blatantly discriminatory” against people with mental health conditions.

In a major U-turn, the new work and pensions secretary, Esther McVey, said she would not challenge the December ruling that found changes to personal independence payments (PIPs) could not be justified.

Campaigners called the announcement a major victory for thousands of disabled people who had faced “crude and unfair distinctions” between those with physical impairments and mental health conditions.

McVey’s decision overturns moves by ministers last spring to stop people qualifying for enhanced payments within the mobility component of PIP for reasons of “psychological distress”. The decision led to an outcry from campaigners and many disabled people who lost money.

Individuals with conditions such as severe anxiety and bipolar disorder warned that they were scared to leave the house and needed support to walk 200 metres, but were stripped of payments because they did not need a stick or a physical aid.

A challenge to the high court resulted in a judgment before Christmas last year, in which Mr Justice Mostyn said: “In my judgment, the 2017 regulations introduced criteria ... which were blatantly discriminatory against those with mental health impairments and which cannot be objectively justified.”

Charities widely expected McVey to challenge the decision but she said the government had decided not to do that, although she said ministers did not agree with some of the detail of the ruling.

“Our intention has always been to deliver the policy intent of the original regulations, as approved by parliament, and to provide the best support to claimants with mental health conditions,” she said.

However, she has now asked the Department for Work and Pensions to begin an exercise going through all affected cases in receipt of PIP.

“We will then write to those individuals affected, and all payments will be backdated to the effective date in each individual claim. I hope that by making this statement it is clear that the government is committed to improving the lives of people with mental health conditions,” she said in a written ministerial statement.

Officials would not put a number on how many people might be affected but a government impact assessment did suggest 164,000 claimants could be affected by the change to the mobility component of PIP. However, not all will have gone for a reassessment during the period since the changes, so will not all receive backdated payments.

Mark Atkinson, chief executive of disability charity Scope, said: “It’s absolutely right that the government has accepted the high court’s ruling over the ‘discriminatory’ changes made to PIP last year. This announcement is a victory for the many disabled people who have been unable to access support they are entitled to.

“The regulations introduced last March made crude and unfair distinctions between those with physical impairments and mental health conditions.”

He argued that thousands relied on PIP to live independently and meet “often substantial extra costs” as a result of their condition or impairment.

“While those affected by these misguided changes will now receive the payments they are entitled to, the fundamentally flawed PIP assessment process still needs radically overhauling so it accurately identifies the extra costs disabled people face,” he added.

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, Debbie Abrahams, said the government was wrong to bring in the new regulations and ignore the view of the courts “time and time again”.

But she added: “Serious questions remain including: how many people have been adversely affected by the government’s reckless decision to oppose the tribunal’s original judgment? How much public money has been spent on lawyers, trying to defend the indefensible? And how quickly will people with severe mental health conditions receive the support to which they are rightly entitled?

“This is yet more evidence of the duplicity and disarray of the Tories’ social security policies.”

Frank Field, the Labour MP who chairs parliament’s work and pensions select committee, called it a very welcome first move for McVey, adding “hopefully the new broom sweeps clean”.

“I hope she will now put into place the high court’s ruling for past claimants who may have lost out, or are waiting for their appeals,” he said.

The words from a judge .... our number one ally.

How many cases involving carers are in the pipeline ... ?
Coverage appears in most media outlets , today's Guardian on the toss of a coin :

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... ter-u-turn

Government to review 1.6m disability benefit claims after U-turn.

Estimated 220,000 claimants will get backdated higher personal independence payments.

The government is to review about 1.6m disability benefit claims made over the past four years as part of major U-turn that will see an estimated 220,000 claimants eventually receive backdated higher awards.

The exercise, which could cost billions and take years, comes after the government agreed earlier this month not to challenge a high court ruling in December that said it had been “blatantly discriminatory” against people with mental health conditions.

The review involves identifying all claims made for personal independence payments (Pip), a benefit awarded to people to help them with the added costs of disability. Pip, formerly the disability living allowance, is not means tested and is not linked to employment status.

Claimants are assessed by health professionals employed by the private firms Atos and Capita using a points system. A claimant needs to score at least eight points for a standard award and 12 to qualify for an enhanced benefit award on each of two elements – daily living and mobility.

Last year ministers moved to stop people qualifying for enhanced payments within the mobility component of Pip for reasons of “psychological distress”. The decision led to an outcry and legal challenge from campaigners.

In a high court ruling before Christmas, Mr Justice Mostyn said: “In my judgment, the 2017 regulations introduced criteria ... which were blatantly discriminatory against those with mental health impairments and which cannot be objectively justified.”

In a written statement on Monday, Sarah Newton, minister for disabled people, health and work, said: “This will be a complex exercise and of considerable scale, as we will be reconsidering approximately 1.6 million claims.

“Whilst we will be working at pace to complete this exercise it is important that we get it right.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said it was not known how much the exercise would cost or how long it would take. An official impact assessment published a year ago put the cost of the review at £3.7bn.

Debbie Abrahams, shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “Today’s admission that the department will have to reconsider 1.6m Pip claims to ensure that all claimants receive the correct award is shocking.

“The minister refused to publish a timetable of how many months or even years it will take for this ’complex exercise’ to be completed, despite the secretary of state being pressed on this point in the Commons last week.

“The government was wrong to bring in the Pip regulations last year and it was wrong to ignore time and time again the views of the courts. This sorry debacle is one of their own making. They must now get a grip on the Pip process and ensure all those affected by this policy receive back payments as soon as possible.”

The DWP said it was directly contacting anyone affected and additional payments would be backdated to the effective date in each claim. Claimants do not need to write to DWP in order to receive the correct award, and will not have to undergo a new assessment.

If one thing of note comes out of this debacle it is this :


Campaigns / petitions / demos ... nothing in comparison to a legal challenge.

Trouble is , as we mere carers know , taking legal action is not straightforward.

That entails collective action or an organisation ready to support the motion.

In CarerLand , mere fantasies if the past is to be the judge.
I was delighted to see on TV this morning that DWP are going to review ALL PIP claimants as a result of this discrimination. Fingers crossed they keep to this!
A bottomless money pit for tax payers ?

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/po ... 89291.html

Government spending on private firms carrying out 'brutal' disability benefit assessments soared by £40m in a year.

Exclusive: Campaigners say amount paid to Independent Assessment Services and Capita for ‘fear-provoking and destabilising’ assessments is ‘damning.’


Private firms carrying out controversial disability assessments have received a £40m increase in funding despite widespread concerns with the system, it can be revealed.

A freedom of information request by The Independent found the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) paid Independent Assessment Services (formerly known as Atos) and Capita nearly £255m last year to perform personal independence payment (PIP) assessments – the highest amount spent on the scheme since its launch in 2013.

A senior Labour politician said the figures were “damning” and showed the Government was “rewarding failure”, while others branded PIP assessments “brutal, fear-provoking and destabilising”.

It comes after the High Court ruled the system was “blatantly discriminatory” against people with mental health conditions, prompting the Government to announce it will review 1.6 million disability benefit claims. It could see up to 220,000 claimants receive higher payments.

Spending increased by 19 per cent in a year, from £214.7m in 2015-16 to £254.7m in 2016-17, figures showed. The latest available data from April-October 2017 revealed a further £145.9m spent. In total, the firms have been given £824m in government funding.

The DWP said the reason for the year-on-year increase was due to a rise in the number of assessments.

PIP was intended to replace the disability living allowance (DLA) to help pay for the extra costs of those living with a long-term health condition or disability. But the scheme has been dogged by controversy since its inception.

Debbie Abrahams, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, told The Independent the Government was “rewarding failure” by increasing funding for assessments which leave “lives in tatters”.

“It is damning that the Government are spending more public money on private, profit-making contractors at a time when a record 68 per cent of PIP decisions taken to tribunal are being overturned by judges.

“They are rewarding failure at a time when the assessment process is getting worse, not better.”

She said a Labour government would end the privatisation of assessments and scrap PIP and the work capability assessment.

A previous report by more than 80 organisations found 79 per cent of respondents said their assessments for PIP had made their health worse due to stress or anxiety.

It also found more than a third of those who had their funding cut said they were struggling to pay for food, rent and bills.

A small number also said the assessment process was so stressful it had caused them to have suicidal thoughts.

“Atos and Capita are profiting, quite literally, from the suffering of claimants,” Dr Jay Watts, from the Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy, told The Independent.

“It is difficult to communicate quite how brutal, fear-provoking and destabilising the process of constant assessment is,” the consultant clinical psychologist said. “Many claimants report feeling more traumatised by the process than anything else that has happened to them.”

Campaigners have called on the Government to look at a new approach to assessments.

Ken Butler, welfare benefits adviser at Disability Rights UK, told The Independent: “PIP is failing in a number of ways, including those who qualify for the benefit but are turned down because of poor assessments. It’s no wonder around seven out of 10 appeals are successful.

“Atos and Capita rely on healthcare professionals who are cheaper than doctors or specialists because they are commercially driven contractors. Their priority is profit, rather than what helps disabled people get the support they qualify for. It’s no surprise that occupational therapists or paramedics, for example, are wrongly assessing people with mental health conditions.

“The Government should be looking seriously at a new assessment approach, such as partnerships between qualified medical professionals and disabled people’s organisations. Until a robust assessment process is in place, PIP will remain a broken benefit, in a broken system, which fails disabled people.”

Without an “urgent overhaul” of the assessment process, “the system will continue to work against disabled people, instead of for them”, James Taylor, head of policy at disability charity Scope, said.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We’re absolutely committed to ensuring that disabled people and people with mental health conditions get the support that they need.

“PIP is a modern, dynamic and fairer benefit than the former DLA and focuses the most support on those experiencing the greatest barriers to living independently. Approximately 66 per cent of PIP recipients with mental health conditions receive the higher rate of the benefit, compared to just 22 per cent under DLA.”

Following the High Court’s judgment, the DWP said it would “write to those who may be entitled to a higher rate of PIP, and any payments will be backdated to the effective date in each individual claim”. It added: “Supporting people with mental health conditions remains a top priority, which is why we commissioned two expert-led reviews and have invested a record £11.6bn into mental health services.”

Both Independent Assessment Services and Capita were contacted by The Independent but they declined to comment.

In some instances , more like a factory farm as to who passes , and who is rejected ?

Comments section that follows the above article is very interesting !
So that's where OUR tax payments go ?

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/20 ... ns-figures

DWP spent £100m on disability benefit appeals, figures reveal.

Data for two-year period shows something is ‘seriously wrong’, says former Tory minister.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has spent more than £100m in just over two years on administering reviews and appeals against disability benefits, figures show.

Tens of millions of pounds a year are also spent by the Ministry of Justice on the appeals, about two-thirds of which were won by claimants in the past 12 months.

The costs were described as “staggering” and a former Conservative minister said “something is seriously wrong with the system”.

The DWP said a small proportion of decisions were overturned and most employment and support allowance and personal independence payment claimants were happy with their assessments.

But the department is facing questions from the work and pensions select committee over the figures, following claims that it was not given similar information for MPs’ inquiry into PIP and ESA.

Figures obtained through a freedom of information request show the DWP has spent £108.1m on direct staffing costs for ESA and PIP appeals since October 2015.

The amount covers mandatory reconsiderations, an internal DWP review and appeals to tribunals run by HM Courts and the Tribunals Service.

Neil Heslop, the chief executive of the disability charity Leonard Cheshire, said: “To spend this amount on admin fighting to uphold flawed decisions that shouldn’t have been made in the first place is staggering.

“Thousands of disabled individuals have had to fight to receive support to which they are legally entitled.”

Since October 2015, 87,500 PIP claimants had their decision changed at mandatory reconsideration, while 91,587 others won their appeals at tribunal.

In the first half of 2017-18, 66% of 42,741 PIP appeals went in the claimant’s favour.

The figures for ESA since October 2015 show 47,000 people had decisions revised at mandatory reconsideration and 82,219 appeals went in the claimant’s favour.

So far in 2017-18, 68% of 35,452 ESA appeals have gone in favour of the claimant.

Ros Altmann, a Conservative peer and former DWP minister, said the money could be spent on benefits for those who need them, rather than the costs of fighting claims.

“Disability benefits need an overhaul and, of course, we must not let people make bogus claims, but the extent of the appeals we are seeing clearly indicates that something is seriously wrong with the system,” she said.

Figures released to the select committee inquiry show further costs to taxpayers.

The Ministry of Justice spent £103.1m on social security and child support tribunals in 2016-17, up from £92.6m the year before.

In a letter to the committee, the then justice minister Dominic Raab said the average cost of an appeal had more than doubled to £579 in 2014-15 because PIP cases “now comprise a much larger proportion of the caseload” and require more members on the tribunal.

The MPs are due to publish the results of their inquiry on Wednesday.

Frank Field, the committee chairman, has written to Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, to ask why MPs were not given the information.

The DWP gave the committee the average cost of a mandatory reconsideration and appeal for PIP and ESA, but Field said it was unable to work out the full cost because information on whether PIP appeals were from new claimants or those being reassessed, which have different costs, was not available.

“That this data was provided in response to an FoI request, but not for our report, is doubly regrettable, since the key theme of our report is the need to introduce much greater trust and transparency into the PIP and ESA systems,” Field wrote.

A DWP spokeswoman said it was working to improve the process, including recruiting about 190 officers who will attend PIP and ESA appeals to provide feedback on decisions.

“We’ve already commissioned five independent reviews of the work capability assessment, implementing more than 100 of their recommendations, and two independent reviews of PIP assessments,” she said.

“Meanwhile, we continue to spend more than £50bn a year on supporting people with disabilities and health conditions.”

One article that does not need any further comment ?
Oh dear , assessors FAILING to meet quality standards ... who would have thought that ?

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/ho ... 08271.html

Disability benefit assessors failing to meet Government's quality standards.

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.

Eight per cent of assessments by Capita failed to meet the quality standards in the three months to November 2017, more than double the target of 3 per cent, while in 2015, as many as 56 per cent of their reports received this grading.

The grading is part of an independent audit process used by the DWP to ensure reports are of sufficient quality to enable accurate decision-making. Reports are generally considered “unacceptable” if they would either cause a decision maker to be unable to make a decision, or if they would lead them to make the wrong award.

In light of the findings, Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, 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.

"Government cannot, must not, fail to recognise the unprecedented response the Committee had to this inquiry, remarkable for the consistency and clarity of themes that emerged through thousands of individual accounts. No one should have any doubt the process needs urgent change.

He urged that recording the face-to-face assessment – one of the report's main recommendations – would help increase transparency and restore trust, adding that it "beggars belief" that this is not already a routine element of the process.

Mr Field added: "The resistance from the Department to instituting this is equally bewildering. The cost of providing a record of the assessment is surely nothing compared to the benefits of restoring trust. Those benefits should include far fewer decisions going to appeal – and being overturned there - at considerable legal expense to taxpayers."

“The current contracts have not made the system fairer, have not made it more transparent and have not made it more efficient... The Government should be prepared to take assessments in house.”

The report comes after The Independent revealed both companies had received nearly £255m last year to perform PIP assessments – the highest amount spent on the scheme since its launch in 2013 and a 19 per cent increase on the previous year.

MPs urged the lack of confidence in the process adds considerably to the claimants’ distress by exacerbating an already “stressful and challenging” process of applying for disability benefits reflecting concerns raised in December, after The Independent reported on figures showing a surge in suicide attempts among out-of-work disability benefit claimants since the assessments were introduced.

Attempted suicides among this group had more than doubled since the introduction of assessments in 2008, with nearly half of people surveyed on disability benefits in 2014 saying they had attempted to take their own lives.

The MPs urged that with the contracts for carrying out disability assessment soon coming to an end, the Government must consider whether private firms are capable of delivering assessments or whether it would be better carried out “in house”.

Sue Bott, deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “Sadly there are no surprises in the strong language being used by the select committee in this report – hundreds of thousands of disabled people are being failed by the assessment services for disability benefits.

“The pervasive distrust in the system blights the claims process and creates misery for disabled people when they are in need of support.

“The recording of assessments, and the early provision of assessor reports to claimants and their advisors, would go some way in improving matters and we would strongly recommend the Government implement those ideas as soon as possible.

“It’s ironic that so many disabled people are sanctioned within our benefits system when the assessment companies in the shape of Atos and Capita are making such a poor fist of doing what they are paid for – hundreds of millions of pounds of tax payers money for a very poor service indeed.”

Genevieve Edwards, director of external affairs at the MS Society, echoed Ms Bott’s comments, saying the findings would come as “no surprise” to people living with MS.

“Thousands have already lost millions of pounds in vital support because of a completely unsuitable assessment process. The committee’s recommendations are an important step towards rebuilding the trust of disabled people, but they won’t be enough on their own,” she added.

“For too long the welfare system just hasn’t made sense. The Government must take responsibility to deliver a fairer and more transparent system that recognises the immense challenges disabled people face.”

Recent figures showed decisions by the DWP not to award PIP were being overturned at 68 per cent of appeal hearings, with 14,188 cases found in favour of the claimant between July and September last year.

Successful appeals brought against the DWP over also soared in recent years, with the proportion of cases found in favour of the claimant at 67 per cent in the last quarter, compared with 62 per cent in the same period the previous year.

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.”

Yet another article which does not need much further comment ?
One headline that really does do the talking for an article :

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... since-2010

More than a million benefits sanctions imposed on disabled people since 2010,

Groundbreaking Demos study reveals ‘culture of disbelief’ about disability among jobcentre staff leads to money being docked.

Disabled people receiving state benefits have been hit with a million sanctions in less than a decade, according to alarming new evidence that they are being discriminated against by the welfare system.

A comprehensive analysis of the treatment of unemployed disabled claimants has revealed that they are up to 53% more likely to be docked money than claimant who are not disabled. This raises serious concerns about how they and their conditions are treated.

The findings, from a four-year study by academic Ben Baumberg Geiger in collaboration with the Demos thinktank, will cause worry that a government drive to help a million more disabled people into work over the next 10 years could lead to more unfair treatment.

Sanctions – the cutting or withholding of benefits – are applied as a punishment when claimants infringe the conditions of their payments by, say, as missing appointments or failing to apply for enough jobs.

While the sanctions regime has been championed by the government as a means of encouraging people to take a job or boosting their chances of finding one, most experts consulted as part of the Demos project concluded that conditionality has little or no effect on improving employment for disabled people. There was also widespread anecdotal evidence that the threat of sanctions can lead to anxiety and broader ill health.

The study found that disabled claimants receiving jobseekers’ allowance – given to people who are out of work – were 26-53% more likely to be sanctioned than claimants who were not. Those hit by sanctions reported that the disparity arose because jobcentre staff failed to take sufficient account of their disabilities.

However, a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said it did not recognise these figures: “If someone has a health condition, we work with them to reduce what they need to do, and people are always supported to meet the requirements of a tailored claimant commitment, which they agree with their work coach. This sets out what is expected of them in return for the support they will receive. Sanctions are only used when someone has failed to meet these requirements without good reason – this is in a minority of cases and people are given every opportunity to explain why they have failed to do so before a decision is made.”

The new study found that more than 900,000 JSA claimants who report a disability have been sanctioned since May 2010. People who claim a different benefit, employment and support allowance, and have been placed in a work-related activity group – which requires them to attend jobcentre interviews and complete work-related activities –can also be sanctioned. The research found that more than 110,000 ESA sanctions have been applied since May 2010.

The findings have caused alarm among charities, many of which have dealt with cases in which disabled people complained of poor treatment and a lack of understanding.

Mark Atkinson, chief executive at disability charity Scope, said: “Punitive sanctions can be extremely harmful to disabled people, who already face the financial penalty of higher living costs. There is no clear evidence that cutting disabled people’s benefits supports them to get into and stay in work.

“Sanctions are likely to cause unnecessary stress, pushing the very people that the government aims to support into work further away from the jobs market.”

Polling for the Demos project found that while the public often supported the imposition of sanctions for disabled people, they did not back the way in which they were applied in practice.

A majority thought that disabled people’s benefits should be cut if they do not take a job they can do, but they were less supportive of sanctioning for minor noncompliance, such as sometimes turning up late for meetings. Even those who supported sanctions preferred much weaker punishments than those the government uses.

The research recommends a reduction in the use of so-called “benefit conditionality” for disabled people and a strengthening of the safeguards to ensure disabled people are not unfairly punished.

Polly Mackenzie, director of Demos, said it was now clear that the benefits system isn’t working for disabled people: “Conditionality is important in any benefits system, but when disabled people are so much more likely to be sanctioned, something is going wrong. Jobcentre advisers and capability assessors too often have a culture of disbelief about disability, especially mental illness, that leads them to sanction claimants who genuinely could not do the job they are being bullied into applying for.

“We need to think again about how we assess work capability. Employers also need to be better at adapting to disabled people’s needs so that more jobs can be done by people with fluctuating conditions.”

This follows a damning report by the National Audit Office in 2016, which found that there was no evidence that sanctions were working. It also found a failure to measure whether money was being saved, and that the application of sanctions varied from one jobcentre to another.

‘There’s no room for compassion’

Nina Grant, 32

Nina Grant has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a genetic collagen defect that causes chronic pain, fatigue and frequent joint injuries. She was sanctioned in 2016 after she informed the Department for Work and Pensions that she was carrying out what the department specifically describes as “permitted work” while on disability benefits. “I only found out about the sanction when I checked my bank balance and realised the payment hadn’t gone in as usual.”

After she complained, her benefits were reinstated. “They didn’t apologise. They didn’t offer any explanation. If I hadn’t called them, it could have gone on for months. It made me feel like I was being punished for trying to contribute while disabled, and scared that they were going to use that as an excuse not to pay me.”

The Londoner is reliant on a wheelchair outside her home, and finds it extremely painful even to use a pen most days. “I understand that people exploit the system, but this government treats disabled people with utter contempt.”

Josie Evans, 42

Ten years ago Josie Evans was working as a nurse when she suddenly went into anaphylactic shock. After 41 further life-threatening attacks, she has been diagnosed with idiopathic anaphylaxis, which means she is extremely allergic to more than 100 antigens and triggers.

She relies on disability benefit to pay her rent and buy food but was sanctioned in 2016 after failing to send in a form on time: “The document was 20 pages long and I was in too much pain to write, because my hands were swollen from a recent allergic reaction I’d had.”

She explained this and was told she could take her time. Ten days later, a letter arrived from her landlord saying her housing benefit had not been paid. She discovered all her disability benefits had been stopped because the form had been late. “I was scared. I knew I’d need to buy food in the next 48 hours, and I can’t use a food bank because of all my allergies.”

It took weeks for her benefit to be reinstated, and she had to borrow money from her family. “It was so stressful it brought on an allergic attack. The people who work at the DWP simply do not understand the reality of what it’s like to be disabled. There is no room for compassion.”

Being passed " Fit " to work is only one hurdle for any disabled person.

Being able to find work with declared disabilities , bearing in mind transport to and from the place of work , is another.

In that respect , a disabled person is at a major disadvantage in the eyes of ANY employer.

No easy answers beyond theneed for more support for disabled people across many areas.
Ground zero ... Hull , East Yorkshire ... report from PIP claimants' experiences :

https://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/news/hu ... st-1425077

Leading charity says some of Hull's most vulnerable are being failed by the benefits system.

Hull and East Riding Citizens Advice says some assessment reports bear little or no resemblance to clients' symptoms.

Hull is still seeing the effects of major changes to the benefits system, with a leading charity claiming some of the city's most vulnerable are being left in dire straights.

Of particular concern is the way assessments are carried out, according to Citizens Advice Hull and East Riding, based at The Wilson Centre, in Alfred Gelder Street, city centre.

The charity states it is seeing clients whose assessment reports bear "little or no relation" to the symptoms they present.

Here, Andy Coish, the charity's advice session supervisor, gives his take on the problem that shows no sign of easing.

What are the main issues affecting people in Hull ?

From a benefits perspective, we are seeing an awful lot of ESA and PIP appeals, so people being told they are fit to work or that their ailments do not quality them for help with their care and mobility needs.

What are ESA and PIP are ?

Employment Support Allowance (ESA) was introduced in October 2008. It replaced Incapacity Benefit. It is available to people of a job-seeking age who are unfit to work.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) was introduced in April 2013 and replaced the Disability Living Allowance. It does not relate to income. Anyone under 65 with a physical or mental disability, with care or mobility needs, could be eligible for this.

The Department for Work and Pensions is still transitioning people from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payment (PIP). People are receiving letters informing them of the date that payments will stop. It is down to them to apply for the new payment.

So what's the crux of the problem ?

Large numbers who were on DLA are being told they do not qualify for PIP or their rate is being reduced.

We are seeing cases where people were comfortably meeting the requirements for DLA but are now scoring zero in assessments for PIP.

What's the effect of this ?

If they are not getting PIP, it means these people can be over £100 a week down.

It could also mean the loss of a mobility car. If you have a carer, your carer could lose his or her Carer's Allowance, which is £64.60 a week, but gets topped up to £109.10 with Income Support.

People can always appeal, can't they ?

It's been reported that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is using a quota system in respect of the appeal process. DWP is turning down over 80 per cent of 'mandatory reconsiderations'.

What are 'mandatory considerations' ?

They are the first stage of the appeals process if someone disagrees with the outcome of an assessment.

How does this effect Hull Citizens Advice Bureau ?

We are having to help people who have been turned down for ESA / PIP. We are seeing people who have been turned down on a daily basis.

There has been a lot in the national media about the fairness of the assessment process. What's your view?

We are aware of reports circulating in the media about how assessments are done. There have been claims that assessors are encouraged to score low.

We are seeing clients whose assessment reports bear little or no relation to the symptoms they present.

For example...?

Okay. You're signed off sick. You feel you can't work. Your doctor agrees. You apply for ESA. Unfortunately, the DWP assessor disagrees with you and your doctor. It's felt by them that you are fit for work.

So you put in an appeal. Unfortunately, that appeal might take six months. In the meantime, your only option is to claim Jobseekers' Allowance (JSA), which is £73.10 a week. In effect, you are saying, 'I am fit for work', even though you and your doctor both feel you are not.

We actually see cases where people, who are not familiar with the benefits system, are unaware that they can claim JSA. As a result, they claim nothing, surviving on handouts from family and foodbanks,

How concerned are you and your colleagues about all of this ?

Very concerned. It is putting a lot of strain on everyone. We know the foodbanks are feeling the strain. We issue vouchers, which allow people to access Hull Foodbank.

What the Department for Work and Pensions say

A spokeswoman said DWP is "absolutely committed" to ensuring disabled people get the support they are entitled to.

She said: "Only a small proportion of all PIP and ESA decisions are overturned at appeal – 4 per cent for both. In the majority of cases where appeals are successful, decisions are overturned because people have submitted more evidence.

"Assessments work for the majority of people, with 87 per cent of PIP claimants and 82 per cent of ESA claimants telling us that they're happy with their overall experience."

What Hull Foodbank thinks.

Each year, around 5,000 people turn to Hull Foodbank, which is run by The Trussell Trust's Foodbank and based behind Jubilee Church, city centre.

Manager Russ Barlow was unable to say what proportion of his clients are in receipt of Employment Support Allowance and /or Personal Independence Allowance, with figures embargoed until the end of this month.

However, he told of the desperate situations people many face.

"People face tough times if they are awaiting appeal decisions," said Russ. "People, generally, are finding it difficult on low incomes.

"Every week we see people who have not eaten for a day or two.

"We have had one person who ate their food parcel there and then."

Winter brings tough decisions.

"It's the old choice of eating or heating," said Russ. "Some can't afford both."

In most cases, people who access the foodbank have experienced two or more life crises.

Russ said: "They might have lost their job and had large debts to pay, for example. Something else may then have come up, which has been the final straw for them."

.... and that's just Hull !!!
Progress ... of sorts ... the words SNAIL'S and PACE spring to mind :

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/h ... 16746.html

Government response to damning inquiry into disability benefit system " Falls short ", say MPs.

Ministers accused of refusing vital recommendations to restore trust among disabled claimants after report found " Pervasive lack of trust " in system with " Untenable human costs."

The government’s response to a damning inquiry into the disability benefit system “falls short”, MPs have said, after it refused to accept a number of recommendations designed to restore trust in the assessment process.

A report by the Work and Pensions Committee published in February found failings in the process for assessing personal independence payment (PIP) and employment support allowance (ESA) claims had contributed to a “pervasive lack of trust” in the system with “untenable human costs” to claimants, as well as financial costs to the public purse.

It revealed that all three private firms contracted to assess people for disability benefits were failing to meet the government’s own quality standards, and concluded that the process was in need of “urgent change”.

In its response, the government said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) would improve the recording of assessments and the design of application forms to make it easier for claimants – two recommendations that were made by the committee.

But ministers rejected both the suggestion that claimants should receive their assessment reports without having to ask, and the recommendation that the DWP should conduct an audit of arrangements for home visits, including reasons for refusal.

Responding to the government’s response to the inquiry, Frank Field, chair of the committee, said the decision to record PIP assessments as standard was a “tremendous step forward” and would “go a long way” to restoring trust. But the Labour MP added that the response “fell short” in certain areas.

“A commitment to improving the gruelling application forms is also very welcome, and clearly the government has listened to the thousands of claimants who contributed to our work,” he said.

“But the response falls short in several areas. For example, we think claimants should always receive their assessment reports without having to ask, and we are concerned that the government lacks the levers to get value for money out of its private contractors.

“This response marks the start of another stage in our work on PIP and ESA – we will use House of Commons debates to push the government to go further in support of disabled people.”

Margaret Greenwood, the shadow work and pensions secretary, accused the government of “failing sick and disabled people”, saying the response “fell far short of the urgent action needed to end the unnecessary stress and anxiety being inflicted through the assessment processes”.

She continued: “Under private contractors these processes are getting worse, not better, often damaging the health and wellbeing of the very people who need support.

“The government should scrap the current assessment regime, put an end to the privatisation and work to deliver a social security system in which people can have confidence.”

Philip Connolly, policy manager at Disability Rights UK, said he welcomed the government’s commitment to recording PIP assessments, but added that confidence in the assessment process for disability benefits was “scant and threadbare”.

He continued: “We were very sorry to see the government refuse the recommendation that all claimants should be sent a copy of their assessment report as a matter of course. This would be a huge step forward in helping disabled people understand what is being said about them, and why, in relation to benefit claims.

“Overall, the current assessment providers offer poor value for money for the taxpayer and we urge the government to consider very seriously the option of returning the assessment process in house, given the contracts are up for review.

“But we have to remember that PIP and ESA are not well designed benefits, and fail to meet the needs of many disabled people. Changes to the assessment process for the better are welcome, but there are wider issues which need to be addressed.”

Genevieve Edwards, director of external affairs at the MS Society, meanwhile said: “We’re disappointed the government hasn’t fully taken on board the practical steps that could have radically improved the way disability benefits are assessed.

“Some actions, like recording assessments, are a start but a lot more needs to be done before we see a welfare system that makes sense.

“We’re particularly concerned the government won’t make improvements around how healthcare professionals can consistently provide evidence. Without this, assessors don’t have enough knowledge about MS and this is causing many people to be denied what they are rightly entitled to.”

It comes after figures published at the end of last year revealed that the government’s new benefit system was wrongly denying disabled people financial support at a higher rate than ever.

Decisions by the DWP not to award PIP were being overturned at 68 per cent of appeal hearings, the data showed, with 14,188 cases found in favour of the claimant between July and September this year.

Successful appeals brought against the DWP over ESA had also soared, with the proportion of cases found in favour of the claimant at 67 per cent in the last quarter, compared with 62 per cent in the same period last year and 58 per cent the year before.

A DWP spokesperson said: “As the Committee highlights, assessments work well for the vast majority of people. But one person’s poor experience is one too many, and we’re committed to continuously improving the process for people so that they get the support they need.

“We’ll continue to take forward our actions to improve assessments, with an emphasis on promoting transparency and ensuring people get the right decision, first time round.

One comment worth repeating in full ... the present , flawed , system summed up to a tee :

My understanding is that the assessments for both ESA and PIP are underpinned by the principles of ''statistical norms''.

And that the healthcare professionals conducting the assessments face audits if they're likely to submit more than a pre-determined average number of reports to the DWP Decision-Makers which are likely to result in a claim being successful .

In other words these assessments have de facto targets built into them.Which in turn discriminates against claimants living in the poorest areas because they have the highest proportions of their working-aged populations claiming either ESA and/or PIP.

The assessments for both ESA and PIP aren't fit for purpose for not only are they causing an appalling amount of stress and fear to claimants they've also been responsible for untold numbers of deaths including suicides.

These assessments koever have been highly successful in driving large numbers of claimants off benefits and off the radar altogether.

Because about 50% of claimants who either fail their assessment or voluntary withdraw their claims neither appeal,find work nor go on to claim any other benefits.And that in itself should be cause for concern.For how are they coping without any income ?

Recording assessments is a step in the right direction and hopefully will go some way in reducing the real problem of healthcare professionals either misrepresenting what claimants tell them or blatantly lying.And hopefully may act as a deterrent to those healthcare professionals forced by their line managers to change reports because they've already filled their quota of successful claims acceptable withing the ''statistical norms'' framework.

Another area which causes problems to claimants is the gathering of medical evidence to support their claim for many GP's and other medical professionals are either refusing to provide it or charge for it and claimants can't afford to pay.

Surely it should be the responsibility of the healthcare professionals conducting the assessments to get the medical evidence they need especially for vulnerable claimants and those with long term conditions.Something they rarely do and it's relevant because one of the reasons so many appeals are successful is because the appeals panels do get to see and hear evidence that should have been made available when the initial assessment was made.And that includes oral evidence which the the original assessor may well have ignored.

The current system needs to be scrapped and until it is it's inevitable more claimants will become so stressed out by the process they'll get sicker and more disabled and may well end up dying prematurely as a result.