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PIP / ESA Assessments ? Sanctions / Guardian / Private Eye & Other Articles - Page 3 - Carers UK Forum

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

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One article almost guaranteed to put a smile on your face ... for the wrong reason ?

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... nvironment

Former watchdog chief labels disabled benefits process a " Hostile environment. "

Andrew McDonald, who chaired Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, says system is " Kafka-esque. "

A former top civil servant has criticised the disability benefits assessment system as a “hostile environment” after being told he was ineligible for support despite having Parkinson’s and terminal prostate cancer.

Andrew McDonald, 56, who ran the parliamentary body overseeing MPs expenses before retiring on health grounds, had his benefits stopped after assessors decided he was no longer ill enough to qualify for personal independence payment (PIP).

McDonald described the assessment process undergone by hundreds of thousands of chronically ill and disabled people each year as crude, unprofessional and Kafka-esque in its complexity.

“I was shocked by the way this was being administered against the interests of some of the most disadvantaged people in the country,” he said. “PIP is beset by profound administrative failures which work to the disadvantage of disabled people.

“My personal interactions with the [PIP] process were perfectly pleasant; but the system as a whole does create the impression of it being a hostile environment and one where two of the foes are complexity and the sense that it is not a level playing field [for claimants]”.

McDonald, who chairs the disability charity Scope, said: “I thought this was a system to give people a hand up; in practice they encounter a sleight of hand that is completely out of kilter with the best traditions of British public service in which I was not only raised but worked for most of my career.”

He called on the government to look afresh at the entire PIP process, which has been dogged by controversy since it was introduced in 2014 as a way of cutting the disability benefits bill. The controversial assessments are carried out by private contractors Atos and Capita.

Earlier this year, a cross-party committee of MPs concluded that the PIP process was error-strewn and insensitive, after hearing evidence of poor practice from more than 4,000 claimants. The government responded that it was working to improve the system.

McDonald, who has challenged the decision to stop his benefits, said it was shocking that the latest official figures show 71% of PIP decisions were overturned when appealed against at tribunal. “The government should set aside any notion that PIP has been fixed,” he said.

PIP is intended to help with the additional costs of living with disability, estimated at £570 a month. It is not means tested or related to employment status and is typically used to meet special transport needs or health-related heating or food bills.

McDonald was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, in 2007. Three years later, he discovered he had prostate cancer and was subsequently told by doctors it was incurable. He is shortly to undergo brain surgery in attempts to mitigate some of the worst effects.

He retired in 2014 as the chief executive of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority and qualified for PIP the following year, a decision which was reaffirmed at review in 2017. Each time, assessors awarded him 11 points, comfortably over the eight point threshold for lower-level PIP support, which amounted in his case to about £3,000 a year.

At his third review assessment in March, however, he was awarded two points – a decision which suggested his health was improving. “I was flabbergasted: I had two progressively degenerative conditions and my Parkinson’s had become worse since the turn of the year,” said McDonald. “It’s now described by my neurologist as ‘very severe’.”

The assessor – an occupational therapist – had little understanding of Parkinson’s, he said. “She did a common test of twisting the forearm at the elbow. She concluded from this I have full power in my upper limbs. It’s nonsense. Daily, it is a nuisance to me that I am weak as a kitten in my upper body. ”

The system failed to account for the way Parkinson’s fluctuates dramatically, through the day and over time, he said. “I got dressed today without too much trouble, though my cufflinks eluded me. Two days ago, it took me 90 minutes because of the tremor in my hands, my lack of strength. Putting on jackets is a nightmare.

“That sort of variation from day to day could be captured in the system but, in practice, the people in the system I was working with were not capturing it.”

He asked the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to review the decision but it upheld it on the grounds that, although it was “surprising”, the assessment showed his condition had improved and it was up to him to supply evidence to prove that it had not. The DWP was effectively suggesting the loss of his benefit was his own fault, he said.

A DWP spokesperson said it monitored the quality of the PIP process to ensure it worked well for everyone. “We constantly seek to improve the quality of PIP assessments. We have undertaken two independent reviews of PIP and most recently announced that we will pilot video recording of assessments, to help increase people’s trust in the assessment process.

McDonald’s benefits were stopped in April and he lodged a tribunal appeal against the decision within weeks. Four months on, he is still awaiting a date for a hearing.

Although the government has promised that people with long-term degenerative diseases should no longer be given annual PIP assessments, this does not apply to claimants, such as McDonald, who received lower-level awards.

He had been able to manage financially without PIP, he said, but he was aware not everyone could. “If you are on a low income the sudden decision to stop PIP is a really serious blow – and it’s a blow from a bewildering system.”

Crocodile tears ?

Perhaps ... time all the academics and suits out there got to drink that snake oil they sell to everyone else ?

Doesn't taste good ... does it squire ?
Maybe we need more senior civil servants and politicians to get debilitating and disabling diseases and injuries, but I suppose the problem is they have sufficient money not to need the extra PIP gives
Free private health insurance is part and parcel of the packages normally offered to staff higher up the ladder.

Why it is so easy to sell snake oil without having to sample it oneself.

Same for us ... we're sold snake oil by all and sundry ... the very same academics and suits that never have tried it for themselves.

For them , caring IS a choice ... they can afford to buy in support if needed.
Private health insurance only tends to pay for acute conditions, anything chronic or long term gets referred back to NHS or else patient has to pay full amount

When I had eye trouble, the first 3 procedures over a couple of years were covered by insurance but when we got to the ' no further improvement but keep taking the drops 'stage, they wouldn't pay for ongoing. Interestingly the drops are cheaper to buy from the private hospital than on NHS prescription. Then I got old and prescriptions come free now. :)
A lot of common place medications are cheaper on the open market than through a prescription.

That's one to be sorted out by the NHS ... as opposed to not offering common place medications on prescriptions ... which can be devastating for those in The Street ... to eat / heat / keep a roof etc ... to which now add afford medications ?

Trussells and other food banks now have " Medications " counters inside many ... which tends to support my point and ... for once ... supported by CUK itself when providing a reply to the consultation carried out a few months ago.

https://www.carersuk.org/forum/social-a ... edications

I posted a full list of now not free medications on page 2 of that thread.

To save the NHS monies ... by passing on some of the cost to the poor ????????
A very welcomed from Frances Ryan ... on my hit list to appear on this forum in a Q&A session :

DOUBLE STANDARDS ... well known / prole ... at it's finest ???

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfr ... led-people

So when a high-profile civil servant is disabled, the press finds its sympathy.

Andrew McDonald’s case deserves attention of course, but most disabled people get a different reception when the benefits system casts them aside.

I want to tell you about two very different disabled people, both going through Britain’s benefit system.

“Disabled person 1” has Parkinson’s disease and terminal cancer. The effects of the Parkinson’s are so severe, he’s about to undergo brain surgery in attempts to mitigate them. Still, he had his benefits stopped after assessors decided he was no longer ill enough for personal independence payments.

“Disabled person 2” has fibromyalgia – “Like the Incredible Hulk grabbed me, lifted me off the floor and flung me against a brick wall” – as well as a host of other conditions.

For years she has bounced round the benefit system: tested, rejected, overturned at appeal, then tested again. Now she’s about to be re-tested twice in the space of three weeks: once for PIP and then for her out-of-work sickness benefit, employment and support allowance. It means she could potentially lose all her income at once. “So what will I live on?” she says. “More to the point, where will I live? Once they cut ESA, that means rent will stop too. That means eviction and homelessness.”

One of the two disabled people had their story picked up by sympathetic national newspapers this week, with broadcast journalists also respectfully discussing their plight. The other sent their story to me in the early hours of Saturday morning. She had already contacted her MP but with little hope of reply, she wrote to me too.

The difference? The first was a high-profile former civil servant, Andrew McDonald, who spoke out at the weekend over what he described as the “hostile environment” created by the system. The second was an ex-IT worker with no connections, struggling to get by on benefits.

It is not surprising that the experience of a former high-ranking civil servant would gain media interest and McDonald’s case deserves attention. But the double standards can’t have escaped many disabled people’s notice: if McDonald fitted the mould of a typical “benefit claimant”, he would likely have found himself experiencing a very different reception by the media. What thousands of disabled people in poverty have been saying for years about the “Kafkaesque” benefit system is apparently credible and important now a middle-class senior official is saying it.

It reminds me of the Grenfell victims, who warned before the fire about the safety risk of the cladding but were ignored as poor, migrant, and black people; or the women who talk relentlessly about sexism but it’s only when a man says it that it’s seemingly worth listening to. It is not enough to speak out about the harm being done to you. You have to be the sort of person those in power want to listen to.

Britain’s benefit system runs on a sort of institutional gaslighting, in which disabled and poor people are simultaneously pushed into starvation, homelessness and mental health crisis, while their hardship is either repeatedly ignored or openly vilified.

Think of the rightwing headlines distorting stats to bemoan “sick note scroungers”, or the way some privileged commentators mocked the realism behind Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake. It is not for lack of evidence; be it the rates of successful appeals (at last count 70%) or the behaviour of assessors, report after report backs up disabled people’s accounts of ill treatment by a social security system that is meant to help them.

For an insight into the toxic culture of disbelief “welfare” claimants face, research this week found that almost half of disabled people fear being stripped of their benefits for being “too active”. (If this fear sounds far-fetched, disabled people are routinely falsely reported for benefit fraud to the authorities for even going to the shops.)

A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission to the UN this week warned that one in five disabled people are suffering “erosion of their rights” because they are disabled, and this can’t be seen as separate to the downplaying of disabled people’s suffering in the benefit system.

Given our place in the economy and society – as more likely to be in poverty, unrepresented and excluded – most disabled people have few means to influence debate or change policies. I’m writing this as one of the few disabled columnists working for a national newspaper. It’s not a coincidence that a media – or parliament – that is widely made up of white upper-middle-class non-disabled men don’t naturally listen to the voices of poor and disabled people. It’s surely an in-built bias as much as wilful exclusion: people are largely socialised to put less value on a person’s life and voice if they are black, disabled, female or poor.

The fact McDonald had been a senior civil servant but only became aware of the reality of benefit policy once he was affected, and the media’s reaction to it, are both clear arguments for better representation of marginalised groups in power. Get more people in positions of influence who actually experience the brunt of the policies being brought in, and these issues would be more likely to be addressed.

It’s hard not to think that if officials were on the social housing list or applying for universal credit, council homes would be plentiful and assessments would be humane and competent. As it stands, the McDonald furore shows not only how broken our benefit system is, but something altogether more disturbing: some disabled people are just worth more than others.

Put's our Andrew's case into a proper perspective ?

The guy who works in my local shop used to be quite friendly to me, until I told him I was on ESA for fibromyalgia. The fact I can limp and hobble for a minute to get the shop apparently means I should be working.

Anyway, the problem I have with Andrew McDonald is he must have heard hundreds if not thousands of people tell him this is what the benefit system is like, but he only decided to speak out against it when it happened to him.

Did he not believe us?

Not his job to " Believe " us.

One does not ask questions during a State sponsored pogrom.

If he did , and went public , a P45 would await !
" Like walking through treacle " - Vulnerable people waiting months on end for PIP and ESA appeal hearings.

Vulnerable people appealing decisions over disability benefits are being left in limbo for months waiting for their hearings.

The average applicant looking to over-turn decisions on personal independence payments (PIP) and employment support allowances (ESA) faces a wait of more than six months for cases to be resolved - time spent without their benefits.

Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures say the average waiting time for the first quarter of 2018/19 - between April and June - was 24 weeks for ESA and PIP appellants.

However, anecdotal evidence supplied by the charity Equal Lives suggests some waits have been as long as 40 weeks - 10 months.

And with more appeals successful than not, questions have been asked over the way in which these individuals are assessed to begin with.

In the same period, 173 out of 221 ESA appeals and 138 of 204 PIP appeals were won, 78pc and 67pc respectively.

Norman Lamb, member of parliament for north Norfolk said the situation was “intolerable”, having raised the issue in commons.

He said: “I have experienced a lot of constituents waiting months for an appeal, which puts their life on hold.

“Often these people are appealing against wrong decisions to begin with, which begs the question of why these are being made in the first place.

“The number of appeals that are successful just demonstrates that the decision-making process is flawed.”

Mr Lamb suggested part of the issue was to do with the level of communication between the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) - which is responsible for the benefits system - and the Ministry of Justice.

He added: “The DWP and the MoJ need to work together better. I think the MoJ does not necessarily see it as core business for them.

“It seems to be people are being left in the lurch. It often feels like people are being turned down in the hope they will not want to go through the appeal process.”

An HM Courts and Tribunals Service spokesman said: “We understand that delays can be stressful which is why we have appointed more than 370 medical and disability panel members to speed up the appeals process.

“We continue to appoint more judges and are developing a new digital system to improve processing of benefit appeals.”

" Like walking through a sea of treacle. "

A north Norfolk man has told of how an agonising 28-week wait for a PIP appeal hearing left his mental health in tatters and led to the breakdown of his marriage.

The 58-year-old, who wished to be known as Robert, described his experience as “like trying to walk through a sea of treacle”.

After a car crash in 1993 left him with serious brain injuries, Robert was given disability living allowance for life.

However, when this benefit was replaced with personal independence payment, he experienced difficulties getting through the application process.

Ahead of a tribunal, he was awarded just three points on the assessment scale, which entitled him to no PIP allowance. However, 28-weeks later he was reassessed with 21 points, entitling him to £145 per week.

He said: “Throughout the waiting period, my mental health was in tatters. Every day was like walking through a sea of treacle above your knees.

“I was losing out on around £600 per month and had to borrow money from family just to survive.”

Robert said the experience had led to him losing all faith in the Department for Work and Pensions, the government department he has depended on for more than 20 years.

He said: “I had always felt the DWP was caring and a real source of support, but I no longer feel that way.”

A spokesman for the DWP, though, said: “We are committed to ensuring that disabled people get the full support they need. Assessments work well for the vast majority of people, but one person’s poor experience is one too many, and we are committed to continuously improving the process.

“Decisions are made following consideration of all the information provided by the claimant, including supporting evidence from their GP or medical specialist.

“Latest figures show that of the seven million ESA and PIP decisions made, 8pc of ESA and 9pc of PEP decisions have been appealed, with 4pc being overturned.

“Where decisions are overturned at appeal, it is often because people have submitted more oral or written evidence.”

Yarmouth Lad • an hour ago

Nice to see this as news... i sent paperwork in to PIP in june,made a few calls about a month apart and told its still sitting on a guys desk. After my third call in Sept i was told that i had to reply on a new form, nothing about the missing months before that...and now its another 2 months etc of waiting... so for me i been waiting since June and i know they going to say NO because they are told to say that, and so you start again... Mental stress never leaves when you are waiting for justice to be done... Over the last 8 years i think the DWP have caused more health problems then just my own health issues alone....
The fully qualified and registered nurse who did my PIP assessment for Capita lied in my assessment report.
My partner was a witness and she like me is an ex qualified professional. But I did not consent to a physical examination, I did not have a physical examination and i did not do any of the movements that she claimed i did. I could not hop on one leg even if i tried is one example of the lies she told.

As a qualified and registered nurse she lied repeatedly. It is disgusting how disabled people and carers are treated and liars like this nurse who do assessments can get away with it. Surely there must be some financial reward in the form of bonuses for them to cut people out of support they are entitled to and need? Or do they lie out of personal politics or bigotry?
Why do qualified professional nurses lie like this?

These specific lies by PIP assessors about giving a medical and asking the claimant to make movements is not uncommon from what i have read online.
I prefer to call them "misrepresentations", just in case they aren't deliberate(!), but yes, my caree recently had a PIP assessment and got turned down flat. When we asked for the report so that we could request a mandatory reconsideration, much of it was complete fiction. Obviously nobody bothered to compare her application and the report and wonder at the discrepancies.

I remain shocked that someone with a professional qualification like this would misrepresent situations so badly - surely it should be a question of professional ethics?
I gave the dwp and capita the opportunity to consider whether the nurse had indeed made a genuine mistake or lied but both of them refused to consider my word and the word of my carer who was present throughout the assessment. The nurse told us during the assessment that she was leaving Capita in 6 weeks time. But capita and the dwp stood by her report and that was grossly unfair.
I intended to take it to Tribunal and had my date come through. I took legal advice prior to the hearing and the advice was that because I had been given an ongoing award which is technically ten years and because I was getting the same money I was getting from DLA, also because the decisions being made at Tribunals are inconsistent and I could come out with less or nothing. That was the formal legal advice I was given and I was advised to withdraw my appeal. It was my decision though and I decided the legal advice was prudent and I withdrew my appeal.
The injustice by capita and the dwp still remains however. Whether the nurse lied or made a mistake was not up for discussion.

Since my assessment I have seen online on disabled forums that this fictitious physical exam and range of movements scam is not uncommon. So it looks like a known ploy to scam claimants out of essential support.

Its like a very hard game of 3D chess dealing with the assessors and the DWP. I find myself having to try and second guess what stunts they will pull next. It is horrendous because none of them are professional. This exacerbates my ptsd and anger issues. It badly exacerbates other medical issues. All of this has an adverse effect on me as a carer and on my partner who is my carer.
But I will keep on fighting them and calling them out for what they are.