Category Archives: ESA/Atos

Number of Sick And Disabled Claimants Facing Sanctions Triples In Just Six Months

sanction-sabsThe number of sick or disabled people who have had there benefit sanctioned for not taking part in ‘work related activity’ has almost tripled compared to just six months ago the latest figures show.

7.507 claimants on Employment Support Allowance (ESA), had their benefits sanctioned in March 2014, up from 4,698 the previous month and 2,369 In Sepetember 2013.  This has taken the total number of ESA claims sanctioned to over 100,000 since the regime was disgracefully introduced by Labour.

These clamaints are in the Work Related Acivity Group (WRAG) of ESA, meaning they have been judged unable to work at present but may possibly be well enough for employment in the future.  They include people with serious and life-threatening conditions including cancer.  Astonishingly this group are still sent on the Work Programme, where they may face compulsory ‘back to work’ training or even workfare.  Should they fail to attend any activity the private sector providers running the scheme dream up then they will have their benefits sanctioned.

These are not the only sick and disabled claimants who face sanctions.  Inhumane Atos assessments have led to many people with serious health conditions or disabilties being forced to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance.  According to the DWP, since the tougher new sanctions regime was introduced in December 2012, over 150,000 disabled people have had their benefits stopped.  Whilst people on sickness benefits only generally lose a portion of their benefits, those on JSA can lose every penny.  For people with special dietery needs or other conditions, this can prove fatal as the tragic death of David Clapson recently showed.

Appalling many of those sanctioned will have been driven into poverty due to failure to attend workfare with so-called charities and community organisations.  The first names of these organisations accepting workfare placements on the latest scheme, which involves 780 hours of unpaid work, are now starting to leak out.  Lanarkshire Association for Mental Health (@_LAMH_ also on facebook) have been reported to be accepting this form of workfare and have remained silent about their grotesque exploitation since being exposed.  @SumoWaste have protected their tweets on twitter and also have nothig to say about their grubby exploitation after they were named and shamed on the facebook page of Edinburgh Coaltion Against Poverty.  Also recently named as taking part are @DISC_Services, a so-called charity who will be receiving tax payer’s money to arrange workfare placements and who are also on facebook.

The DWP refuse to name the charities taking workfare placements, if you know of one contact Boycott Workfare to have them named and shamed.

Please sign, share and tweet the petition for an inquiry into the benefit sanctions that killed David Clapson: https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-cameron-hold-an-inquiry-into-benefit-sanctions-that-killed-my-brother

The latest benefit sanctions figures can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/jobseekers-allowance-and-employment-and-support-allowance-sanctions-decisions-made-to-march-2014

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Iain Duncan Smith In The Dock Again Over Unlawful Atos Assessments

MHRNThe DWP are back in court next week for the closing part of a successful challenge to the despised Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

This is the test run by Atos which is used to find people ‘fit for work’ and stop their sickness or disability benefits.  It is mired in chaos with a huge backlog of appeals and an ever growing number of tragic deaths linked to the process.  Even Atos themselves are pulling out of the assessments after fierce campaigning saw their carefully managed corporate identity demolished due to their involvement in the cruel and bungled system.

The WCA has also had its share of legal problems after a Judicial Review last year ruled the assessments are unlawful under the Equalities Act for those with a mental health condition.   Rather than accept this defeat and improve or scrap the tests for this group of claimants – or better still everybody –  Iain Duncan Smith appealed this decision and lost.  During the time this took many people will have seen their mental health worsen, been admitted to hospital or even taken their own life due to being forced to undergo assessments which are not suitable for their condition.

Next week’s court case will largely be about what amendments can be made to make the WCA legal.  As Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) explain:

“Under the Equalities Act of 2010, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is required to make “reasonable adjustments” to mitigate any disadvantages experienced by disabled people. The forthcoming hearing will be concerned with establishing what adjustments the DWP should make to the WCA process. We already know from the original hearing that they plan to run a pilot study to assess the “reasonableness” of obtaining further medical evidence. We want to ensure that any study will be fair, honest and approached with an open mind. Unfortunately we find it hard to trust that this will happen.”

A vigil called by MHRN and supported by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) will be held outside the court next week on Tuesday, 8th July 2014 at 12 noon to 2 pm.  Head to the Royal Court of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL.  Full details at: http://dpac.uk.net/2014/07/vigil-for-the-wca-judicial-review-tues-8th-july/

MHRN say they have been too cautious about publicising this important victory.  Sometime people have been working so hard for so long that they don’t even see when or what they’ve won.  But the Work Capability Assessment – introduced by Labour and which looked unbreakable at the time the current government weren’t elected – is beginning to look broken.  That didn’t happen by accident.  It happened because disabled people and benefit claimants have fought these vicious assessments in the courts, on the internet and in the streets.

The real opposition to this Government has not been the Labour Party, the unions , charities or even the growing range of celebrity left-wimgers.  It has been people who are disabled, sick, carers or people on their own with kids to look after.  People dealing with shit housing, homelessness, low or no wages, the bedroom tax, workfare, benefit sanctions and most of all poverty.  The people that liberal do-gooders call vulnerable and the Tory press calls benefit scum.  Yet we keep winning and those victories should be shouted from the rooftops.  As MHRN say:

“We believe that it is vital that people do know about this victory. After all, outrageous lies about disabled benefit claimants have been shouted from the rooftops in much of the national press. Yet where have the front page headlines about this victory been? Nowhere! We now want to rectify this by making as much noise as possible about the truth: that the WCA does not fairly assess people with mental health problems and there has been terrible suffering as a result.”

Please blogs, tweet,share and spread the word about the MHRN/DPAC vigil, and about the court case.

Don’t forget this Friday’s Independence Day Party outside the DWP and around the UK called by DPAC.

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Number Of Employment Support Allowance Claims On The Rise – Is Iain Duncan Smith Making Us Sick?

IDS-I-dont-care-whos-diedThe total number of claimants claiming out of work sickness or disability benefits rose by 15,000 between March and April provisional DWP statistics report.

2.485 million people were claiming Employment Support Allowance or Incapacity Benefit in April, representing a steady rise of 1.2% since November 2013. This comes despite the horrific Atos regime which has seen hundreds of thousands of claimants being stripped of benefits after being assessed as ‘fit for work’.  The number of people on out of work sickness benefits should be plummeting, and it was until just over a year ago.

It is hardly surprising that people are still becoming ill or disabled despite the magical Atos assessments. The UK did not have significantly more people on out of work sickness or disability benefits than other comparable countries even before the despised Work Capability Assessment began. It is unusual however that the number of people unable to work for health reasons should be rising at a time when unemployment is allegedly falling.

There is growing evidence that Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms are damaging people’s health. Some parts of the UK have reported soaring malnutrition linked to benefit cuts. A report produced by Citizen’s Advice last year told of people being unable to meet special dietary needs due to sanctions or having to beg or go through bins to find food. Homelessness charities have said that sanctions are causing people to lose their homes. And a damning report by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland claimed that 35% of psychiatrists said at least one of their patients had been admitted to hospital as a consequence of the stress of Atos assessments.

Using hunger and homelessness as a weapon against benefit claimants will not incentivise people to find work, it will demolish lives.  Forcing people with mental health conditions into stressful and demeaning assessments under the threat of destitution will not magically cure them of their condition – in many cases it will make it worse.  Iain Duncan Smith really is making us sick, and with more workfare and sanctions on the way then things are only going to get worse.

The latest ESA figures can be downloaded from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dwp-statistical-summaries-2014

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The Nastiest Shambles Yet, Quarter Of A Million People Awaiting New Disability Benefit Decision

atos-professionalsPersonal Independence Payments (PIP) have lurched even further into chaos with over quarter of a million people waiting months on end for a decision on the new benefit.

PIP is Iain Duncan Smith’s replacement for Disability Living Allowance, the benefit paid to many disabled people to meet costs associated with mobility or care.  The new system launched for new claims in April last year and means sick and disabled people will be forced to attend demeaning and stressful assessments carried out by the notorious Atos and bungling Capita.  The purpose of these assessments is to strip benefits from a fifth of disabled people.

335,000 people have claimed the new benefit since it began last year, but appallingly only just over 80,000  have had a decision made on their claim.  Some people have been waiting for months.  In August last year 95,500 people had claimed Personal Independence Payments meaning that the wait for some has been around eight months and counting.

For people on low incomes this wait will be devastating.  Many PIP claimants will be newly disabled, or will have faced an existing health condition becoming significantly worse.  Some will simply not have the money to pay for care or mobility until the DWP can get their act together.  This delay will mean people trapped in their homes, or going without vital care at a time in their lives when they’ve really got better fucking things to be dealing with.

Atos recently pulled out of similar assessments for out of work sickness and disability assessments and know only too well that most medical professionals are far to ethical to involve themselves in grubby benefit tests that harm people’s health.  It is possible that much of the shambles is down to a failure to recruit enough healthcare professionals who have no desire to be part of Iain Duncan Smith’s horrifying attempt at destroying disabled people’s lives.

Whatever the cause the disaster that PIP has become shows just how much the safety net of the welfare state is being swept away by a combination of callousness and incompetence.  If you become sick or disabled, and need the help you’ve already paid for to live an independent life, then expect to strung along for months and treated like dirt by the DWP.

To download the latest statistics go to: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/personal-independence-payment-official-statistics-june-2014

Thanks to Richard Cole for the pic.

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Universal Credit Boss Has Been On The Sick For Nearly Five Months! Where’s Atos When You Need Them?

atos_dr_nickThe man in charge of bungling the introduction of Universal Credit is currently only working a day a week after being on the sick since last Christmas.

Howard Shiplee is the builder that Iain Duncan Smith brought in to rescue his doomed project to reform benefits last year.  He is the sixth boss Universal Credit has had in the last two years and after just a few months in the job went on long-term sick leave.  According to Computer Weekly, who uncovered the story, he was suffering from bronchitis which has now developed into something more serious.  The publication claims the DWP are looking for someone to replace him behind his back.

Of course Shiplee, like everyone else, has the right to take time off if he is unwell.  But 20,000 people with respiratory conditions have been found fit for work since the Atos assessments began.  Under Universal Credit some of those claimants could be sent on workfare, or will face endless ‘work related activity’ to bully them off benefits.  This is the system that Howard Shiplee is being paid huge amounts of tax payer’s money to introduce, or at least he is when he actually turns up to work.  So fuck him.  Send him a pack of fags as a get well soon present.

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Welfare Reform Has Failed: Number Of Long Term Claimants Soars Under Tories

long-term-claims-tableThe number of long-term claimants on the main out of work benefits has almost doubled since 2010 when this Government weren’t elected DWP statistics have revealed.

In 2010 a total of 698,000 people had been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, the Work Related Activity Group element of Employment Support Allowance (WRAG ESA), Income Support for Lone Parents (ISLP), or a combination of these, for three out of the last four years.  By 2013 this figure had leapt to an astonishing 1,244,000.

This does not represent everyone who has been on long-term benefits.  Whilst the statistical release doesn’t explain why these claimants were singled out in the figures it seems likely it is because all of those on these benefits are subject to ‘conditionality’.  That means they face workfare, benefit sanctions and all the so-called ‘help’ of the welfare-to-work sector to try and bully them off benefits.  Many will have endured two years of the shambolic Work Programme and like most sent on the scheme have failed to find lasting work.

The figures are particularly embarrassing for Iain Duncan Smith as this is exactly the groups of claimants many of his bungled welfare reforms have been aimed at.  Billions has been spent harassing and stigmatising this group only to make the problem far worse than when the Tories came into office.

The analysis of the figures points out that one reason for the growing number of this kind of long term claimant is that it does not include all those on working age benefits including people in the Support Group of ESA – who are not forced to look for work, or those still claiming the old Incapacity Benefit.  The DWP’s excuse is that the Atos re-assessments, which have found hundreds of thousands of people ‘fit for work’ and so placed them under a conditionality regime, are responsible for this huge rise in the number of long-term claimants.  Whilst on the surface this seems to make sense, it actually turns out to be complete bollocks.

This is because the total number of people on all working age benefits for three of the last four years –  including the ones left out of the first figures – has also risen since 2010, from 2.46 million to 2.49 million.  The ESA re-assessments, which have caused untold suffering and are linked to an ever growing number of suicides, have not made a dent.  This is backed up by the official figures for the number of people on all forms of out of work sickness or disability benefits which despite Atos, has only fallen by about 200,000 since 2010.  This comes nowhere near to explaining the jump of half a million people on long-term conditionality based benefits.

Iain Duncan Smith’s reforms are absolutely hurting – unprecedented numbers of people are finding themselves dependent on foodbanks to feed their children.  Welfare reform is costing a fortune, with billions of tax payer’s money being shovelled into the pockets of grasping parasites like G4S.  But it clearly isn’t working.  4% of the working age population has now been on benefits for three out of the last four years, up from 2.3% in 2010.  Iain Duncan Smith’s reckless experiment has failed.  And the cost of his breath-taking arrogance has been homelessness, child poverty and in some tragic cases, even death.

View the figures at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/307634/duration-on-working-age-benefits-may-2014.pdf

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Just For The Record, The WCA Is Not Being Scrapped, Yet

atoskillsgrafThe report in The Daily Record which claims that Atos style assessments for sickness and disability benefits are to be scrapped should sadly be treated with caution.

There is no doubt that the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is in chaos, after the announcement from Atos that they are pulling out of the contract to run the tests.  This has led to a predictable tantrum from Iain Duncan Smith, who is now running round telling everyone he was going to dump Atos anyway and is threatening them with huge fines.  This is the same Atos that he is dependent on to sort out the shabby assessments for Personal Independence Payments, which are currently also mired in chaos.  But there has been no announcement as yet that the WCA is to be scrapped, and the report the Daily Record’s story seems to be based on does not call for this.

The story refers to the recently published response by the Government to the review of the Work Capability Assessment carried out by Dr Paul Litchfield.  The Government have accepted all but one of the recommendations in this report, which includes agreeing to carry out an impact assessment into whether in some cases a decision could be made without a face to face assessment.

Litchfield recommends: “The Department carries out a full impact assessment on an alternative process whereby DWP Decision Makers triage cases” and that “where suitable and sufficient evidence is available on paper and a face-to-face assessment would provide no additional value, the Department should make a decision without referral to its HAP;”

The Government have responded: “DWP will carry out the recommended impact assessment to inform decisions about if and how triage of cases by Decision Makers might be implemented.”

So unless the Daily Record know something that no-one else does, and if they do urgent clarification is required, that unfortunately, appears to be it.  An impact assessment into whether in some cases a face to face assessment is not required – as in fact already happens in some cases – will be carried out.  A small step forward perhaps but a long way from the claim that assessments are set to be scrapped.  Atos still kills, for now at least.

Some of Litchfield’s recommendations will be welcomed, such as a six month time limit before someone who has recently won an appeal against a WCA decision can be called for re-assessment.  Others are more dubious, including the idea of involving the Government’s snake oil salesmen, the nudge unit, in the drafting of correspondence sent to claimants about the WCA.

Perhaps the most telling part of the Government’s response to this review is the recommendation that is rejected.  Litchfield makes the fairly reasonable suggestion that so-called Healthcare Professionals carrying out assessments of people with mental health problems should have: “suitable and sufficient previous experience of dealing with people with mental health problems”.

We’re not having that say the DWP, who have deferred agreement on this point complaining that they don’t know what suitable and sufficient means.

All of the recommendations and the Government’s response can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/296328/wca-review-year-4-response.pdf

Litchfield’s initial report is at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/265351/work-capability-assessment-year-4-paul-litchfield.pdf

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