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PIP / ESA Assessments ? Sanctions / Guardian / Private Eye & Other Articles - Page 5 - Carers UK Forum

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

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Disability benefit cuts will cost taxpayers more than they will save, charity warns.

Cutting support for multiple sclerosis sufferers will cost additional £10m.

Government cuts to disability benefit for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) will end up costing more than it will save, a leading charity has warned.

Research by the MS Society suggests cuts to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) planned over the next three years could end up costing the taxpayer almost £10m in increased spending in other areas.

It is estimated that around 16,600 MS sufferers will lose out on PIP support because of the government’s 20-metre rule – which bans anyone who can “safely” walk 20 metres from receiving the higher rate of mobility support.

Without the higher rate, people are stripped of their Motability vehicles and often left trapped in their homes and unable to work, causing their health to deteriorate, the charity said.

It comes after The Independent revealed that tens of thousands of disabled people were being left out of pocket for increasing lengths of time while they wait for wrongly refused PIP claims to be overturned.

The MS Society report estimates that between 2020 and 2023, the government will lose £57.4m in tax revenue from people with MS and their carers leaving work or reducing their hours.

The charity claims the government will also spend an additional £22.3m on the NHS, £11.4m in extra benefit payments and £1.7m processing appeals and reassessments as a result of the cuts.

The total extra spend of £92.8m outweighs the £83.3m of savings created by cutting PIP benefits.

MS sufferer Emma Williams, 51, had been receiving the highest Disability Living Allowance (DLA) rates of both mobility and daily living, but was downgraded to the standard rates for both when she was reassessed for PIP in 2016.

Ms Williams, who lives in Kent, said: “A woman came to my house for the assessment and ignored a lot of what I told her. I explained that my mum, who is my full-time carer, cooks for me and washes my hair.

“But my report directly contradicted this and said I could cook meals for myself and don’t need help with washing. She also estimated how far I can walk after I pointed to a spot in my back garden. She said it was 50 metres, but I know for a fact it was less than that.”

The 51-year-old said she has had to cut down on food and has had to rely on her 75-year-old mother a lot more since her benefit was cut, even borrowing money that had been put away for her funeral to buy a mobility scooter.

Genevieve Edwards, director of external affairs at the MS Society, accused the government of “squandering millions from the public purse while derailing lives”.

“We’ve long known about the enormous harm caused when PIP takes vital support away from people with MS,” she said.

“Our new report shows for the first time that this harm is rebounding on the government: the knock-on costs from people losing support are greater than the original cuts.

“Scrapping this senseless rule would stop this unnecessary waste and help people with MS finally get the support they need.”

A DWP spokesperson said people who can walk more than 20 metres could still receive the enhanced rate of the mobility component if they could not do so safely, to an acceptable standard, repeatedly or in a reasonable time period.

“We’re spending more than ever supporting disabled people and those with health conditions,” the spokesperson added.

“Over two thirds of MS claimants receive the same or a higher award after DLA to PIP reassessment. We work closely with organisations such as the MS Society to ensure that PIP is working well, and people with the most severe, life-long conditions no longer have to attend regular reviews for PIP.
The new disability minister should listen to us. Don’t merge benefit tests.

Disabled people already live in fear of losing their benefits. This new welfare " Reform " would just hurt them more.

You might not have heard it but, amid the noise of Brexit, the government is planning a multibillion pound overhaul of disability benefits.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has published a contract notice worth £3.1bn for private companies to bid to win a seven-year contract to conduct multiple benefit assessments. At its heart appears to be a full-scale transformation of disability social security.

There are currently two separate assessments for the two key disability benefits – personal independence payment (PIP) and employment and support allowance (ESA). This contract will see a “one-stop” test for both and was issued a few weeks after work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd launched a small-scale trial to test the feasibility of a merger.

For years, MPs and campaigners have stressed that the disability benefits system is in need of widespread reform (70% of ESA and PIP appeals overturn a rejection at tribunal) but it is hard to imagine how combining the tests for two failing systems will achieve anything other than cost-cutting. It is reminiscent of an inventor soldering two corpses together and expecting the body to spring to life.

Fundamentally, PIP and ESA are benefits with two entirely different purposes: while ESA is designed as an income replacement for people who are too sick to work, PIP has no link to employment status and is meant to pay for extra costs of disability, such as higher heating bills or care fees. For a government with a competent record on “welfare”, it would be hard to see how a combined assessment could effectively keep the integrity of each crucial benefit.

As it is, this is being proposed by a DWP so “shattered” by repeated failings that last month the thinktank, Demos, recommended that the department be stripped of its duties to even deal with disabled benefit claimants. To ministers, large-scale reform may seem like abstract policy planning but to the disabled people relying on these benefits, it’s as real as whether they’re going to be able to afford regular meals.

Talk to disabled claimants about a merger of the tests and the reaction is one of real fear that has led to the launch of a petition against it. Many are already falling into destitution after being rejected for one of their disability benefits. The move would potentially see disabled and chronically ill people being denied both benefits at the same time, losing much of their income at once.

This risk is only increased by the fact the contract suggests disability benefit applications will be moving online through a “DWP-owned single digital platform”, despite the fact official figures show that one in five disabled adults had never used the internet in 2018. Ahead of such large-scale reform, any government should be preparing to put its very best person on the job.

In fact, weeks after Sarah Newton resigned as minister for disabled people over Brexit, it was only due to pressure from charities that Theresa May eventually replaced her. The Conservative deputy chair, James Cleverly, had said the post would be left unfilled until Brexit was resolved, before the government U-turned last week and appointed Justin Tomlinson (the sixth person in the job since 2013).

If the revolving door nature of the post has long been emblematic of the cack-handed nature of this decade’s disability benefit reform, having no minister was crassly symbolic of the government’s attitude towards disabled voters. As one disabled reader remarked to me, it is hard to imagine the government saying it could manage without a defence minister until after Brexit.

And that, perhaps, is the real crunch. After years of pulling billions from the “welfare” budget, whipping up “scrounger” rhetoric, and wrongfully withholding disability benefits, there is no trust that new “reform” will do anything other than hurt disabled people more. The disaster of universal credit should surely be a warning in how large-scale mergers can soon end in crisis for those they purport to help.
DWP to restore benefits of disabled woman it called " Lying bitch."

Department does U-turn, amid calls for it to be stripped of delivering disability benefits.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has offered to restore the full benefits of a claimant whom it called a “lying bitch” in legal papers after she appealed against a decision to strip her of some of her disability entitlements.

The DWP has apologised to the woman and, following outrage when it emerged the insult had been inserted into appeal tribunal papers, has said it no longer plans to cut her Personal Independence Payment (PIP) entitlement.

It also said she would be considered for a “consolatory payment”, issued in exceptional cases where departmental action had resulted in claimants suffering “gross embarrassment, humiliation, unnecessary personal intrusion and … severe distress”.

The incident, which was revealed with the claimant’s permission last month by her welfare advice worker, was condemned at the time as exposing “a canteen culture of contempt among many decision makers at the DWP”.

The DWP’s offer to the claimant to drop its previously vigorous defence of the original PIP decision is likely to be seen as a damage-limitation exercise, amid continuing scepticism over the accuracy and reliability of disability benefit assessments.

Just a fortnight ago, the DWP was preparing to go to court to defend its PIP decision in the case – in effect arguing the woman was not disabled enough to claim mobility support. It had already reviewed the case internally in a process called mandatory reconsideration and upheld the initial assessment.

However, since the Guardian reported the case, the department has hastily reconsidered its verdict after yet again reviewing the available medical evidence. It has apologised to the woman and told her it would like her to agree to close the case before it is brought before a judge at tribunal.

A redacted copy of a letter, again published with the woman’s permission on the Rightsnet website by her advisor, Derek Stainsby, of Plumstead Community Law Centre, reveals that a DWP official wrote to the woman earlier this week offering “sincere apologies” for the distress the incident had caused her.

It said: “I want to assure you the department takes these matters extremely seriously. We expect the highest standards of professionalism from all colleagues and are thoroughly investigating the circumstances brought to our attention. Whilst I cannot go into the details I want to assure you that appropriate action will be taken once that investigation is concluded.”

It continued that officials had “fully reviewed” her case, using a range of evidence already in its possession, and concluded that “you are entitled to mobility [payments] at the standard rate in addition to standard rate for daily living” – the benefits she was entitled to before she was reassessed.

The woman has yet to decide whether to accept the DWP’s offer to drop the tribunal case and reinstate her contested benefits.

The offending passage was contained in the DWP’s submission to her PIP appeal tribunal. In it, an official questioned whether she was genuinely entitled to a carer’s allowance, a benefit for people who care for another person for at least 35 hours a week.

The official wrote: “In this lying bitches [sic] case she is receiving the mid-rate carers [sic] allowance component for providing day time supervision to another disabled person. The tribunal may wish to explore this further.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “We have apologised for any distress caused and are thoroughly investigating this matter. Any behaviour like this is completely unacceptable and we will take appropriate action against any staff who breach our clear standards.”

Last month the thinktank Demos called for the DWP to be stripped of its responsibility for providing disability benefits because it said years of failings have eroded trust among ill and disabled people.

There is widespread concern that PIP assessments, which are carried out by private firms on behalf of the DWP, are inaccurate and unfairly discriminate against mentally-ill claimants. Nationally, at least 70% of appeals against PIP decisions are successful.
Health of vulnerable patients " Endangered " by benefit advice given to GPs by government.

Claimants health is being potentially endangered, medical bodies say.

The health of vulnerable patients may be being endangered by benefit advice given to GPs by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), doctors have warned.

Medical bodies said they were “deeply concerned” about government letters informing them that they no longer need to issue “fit notes” to refused benefit claimants.

Issued to doctors since 2017, they raised concerns about the potential impact of the letter, called an ESA65B, on potentially vulnerable patients.

Experts said the letter fails to make clear that if the claimant is challenging the decision in relation to Employment Support Allowance (ESA), they still need the medical evidence from their doctor.

In a letter to the DWP, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, said: “Without a fit note from their GP, claimants who are awaiting the outcome of their appeal will not be able to receive ESA.

“They would therefore have to seek universal credit or jobseekers’ allowance, and subsequently try and meet the work-seeking requirements of those benefits, potentially endangering their health in the process. As such, the college is deeply concerned about the potential impact of this on doctors and their relationships with potentially vulnerable patients.”

The British Medical Association meanwhile said in a separate letter to the Work and Pensions Committee that it would be “helpful to revise the wording” of the ESA65B to “ensure greater clarity”.

Signed off by chair Peter Holdren and deputy chair Mark Sanford-Wood, it states: “We believe that DWP should consider consulting with a range of stakeholders, including the BMA, to achieve this aim."

The correspondence was released by the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, which had asked the RCGP and BMA whether they had agreed to the wording of ESA65B.

The DWP said the medical bodies had agreed to the revised wording of the letter on 4 August 2016.

But the RCGP said there was some “ambiguity” about what was said in the referenced meeting with the DWP, and said it was “deeply concerned” about the guidance.

It comes amid growing concern around the DWP’s work capability assessment, with campaigners and disabled people saying it too often deems sick people fit to work.

Stephen Smith, who made headlines earlier this year when photographs emerged of him emaciated in hospital after he had been deemed “fit for work”, died last week, prompting claims that he and many others had been “let down” by the welfare system.

A DWP spokesperson said “clear guidance” had now been issued to GPs and talks were taking place about a revised version of the ESA65B.

The spokesperson said: “We have regular discussions with the BMA and RCGP to ensure we deliver effective support to disabled people and those with health conditions.

“The wording of this letter was discussed as part of these meetings, as both organisations confirm, as was the release of the final letter. Of course, we recognise the concerns of GPs which is why we are discussing a revised letter with the BMA and RCGP and have issued clear guidance for GPs in the meantime.”
Yet another victim for the scrapbook :

Man with incurable cancer has benefits stopped.

A man who has an incurable form of bone marrow cancer had benefit payments stopped after an assessor deemed him " Fully capable to do everything ".


Alan Goff, 57, from Eltham, south-east London, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2016, which he said left him partially sighted and unable to work.

But benefits to help with his mobility and living needs ended in December.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has now reinstated and backdated the former carpenter's payments.

This followed Mr Goff's case being highlighted by his MP, Labour's Clive Efford, at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

Mr Goff began claiming a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) - designed to cover extra costs faced by those with a long-term ill-health or disability - the year after his diagnosis in 2017.

In September 2018, he underwent assessment by the DWP and filled in a self-assessment form in which he had to describe his capabilities.

This resulted in his PIP being stopped two months later.

Mr Goff said: "My consultant told me I should stay away from public transport because my immune system is so weak... but the DWP basically put me down as fully capable to do everything."

The former carpenter added: "I can't work either. I can't use power tools, because anything with sudden impact can be dangerous for my bones, which are very brittle as a result of the cancer."

Mr Efford called on the government to "show some compassion, intervene and stop this injustice".

Dr Moira Fraser Pearce, from Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "The government must fix the well-documented issues that vulnerable people, including cancer patients, are facing when trying to access benefits, before thousands more are put at risk."

A DWP spokeswoman said: "Our thoughts are with Mr Goff at this difficult time and we have apologised for the distress caused."

My daughter has had both ESA and PIP assessments in recent months. We just had a letter saying she will get PIP and the amount is, surprisingly, quite a bit more than she got for DLA.

We have not heard anything back from her ESA assessment so I am keeping my fingers crossed but I am wondering whether they will stop that now she is getting more for PIP.
The PIP awards will have no adverse effect whatsoever on your ESA payments.

PIP is a totally different " Benefit ", and it is not liable to Tax, nor is it classed as income for
the purposes of a means test for Income Related (IR)ESA of other IR benefits.
Chris From The Gulag wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 4:35 pm
The PIP awards will have no adverse effect whatsoever on your ESA payments.

PIP is a totally different " Benefit ", and it is not liable to Tax, nor is it classed as income for
the purposes of a means test for Income Related (IR)ESA of other IR benefits.
You are a star Chris! Thanks for that. We can now go on holiday safe in that knowledge. Thanks again.
Your welcome.

Send me a post card ?

^ Wishing you were here instead of me " ... very popular if Great Yarmouth is the chosen destination ?
What have the DWP and too many social care organisations in common ?


DWP accused of " Rewarding failure " after companies given £630m for more disability benefit tests.

Contracts condemned as " Nonsensical " by campaigners who point to flaws in medical assessments.

Private companies will be given around £630m of government money in the next two years to test people claiming disability benefits, despite ongoing concerns about the “flawed” medical assessment process.

Ministers at the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) have been accused of “rewarding failure” after the two companies that currently determine who gets Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) had their contracts extended.

Atos will be given up to £394.7m to carry out further PIP tests, while a subsidiary of Maximus will be given up to £236.4m to run more of the ESA tests until July 2021.

A DWP spokeswoman confirmed the sums, but told The Independent they represent a maximum budget and the amount spent on the tests over the next two years could be less.

Genevieve Edwards, of the MS Society, condemned the decision to extend the contracts.

“It’s nonsensical to reward this lack of understanding and failing system with extra millions of pounds, when what is really needed is an overhaul so people don’t have to fight to get the support they need," she said.

The assessment process for PIP – a benefit that replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in 2013 – has been strongly criticised by charities who say it forces claimants to “fight” for the support they are entitled to.

It is available to anyone who needs help with daily activities or getting around because of a long-term illness or disability.

Government figures released last month show 9,320 complaints were received about PIP assessments in the year to February 2019 – a 6,000 per cent increase in three years.

Jess Leigh, policy and campaigns manager at disability equality charity Scope, attacked the DWP for sticking with the same two firms until at least 2021. “Extending these contracts is rewarding failure and neglecting the flaws in the assessment system,” she told The Independent.

“We know that the assessment processes for PIP and ESA aren’t working for disabled people. Disabled people rely on these financial lifelines to live independently and be part of their community.

“Without urgent action, vast numbers will continue to be unfairly denied this support. The government must overhaul the assessments for PIP and ESA to iron out the mistrust, lack of transparency and routine inaccuracies which disabled people continue to report on.”

Labour MP Marsha de Cordova, shadow minister for disabled people, said: “It is scandalous that hundreds of millions of pounds more have been handed over to private companies … that are wreaking havoc on disabled people’s lives.

“Labour will end the hostile environment that these assessments have created and bring them in house.”

A DWP spokeswoman said the sums agreed until 2021 did not mean the nature of the medical tests would change.

“These figures refer to the previously announced extensions of the PIP and ESA contracts to 2021, and not to any additional extensions or new costs,” she said. “We’re committed to providing the best possible service for disabled people, which is why we’re continually improving the assessment process for PIP and ESA. We regularly monitor our assessment providers to ensure they are delivering against the high standards we expect.”