Benefits shakeup aims to force more disabled people into jobs
Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, is poised to announce a radical reform of sickness benefits that
the government hopes will force up to 1m more disabled people into work.
Changes to employment and support allowance
(ESA) and the assessment of people claiming sickness benefits will be part of a package of announcements expected
to be made public on Monday, which aims to shrink the “disability employment gap” by taking many people off
benefits and expecting them to move into work.
The reforms will anger disability campaigners, who claim that they are being targeted as part of a £12 billion cut in the welfare bill.
The changes come days after the Department for Work and Pensions admitted it had used made-up stories from fictional claimants to demonstrate the positive impact of benefit sanctions. On Thursday, the DWP is expected to release data for the first time showing how many disability benefit claimants have died after having their benefits cut or stopped.
In a speech on Monday, Duncan Smith is expected to claim that 2m more people are in work and that the number of workless households is at a record low following previous government reforms. “There is one area on which I believe we haven’t focused on enough – how work is good for your health. Work can help keep people healthy as well as help promote recovery if someone falls ill. So, it is right that we look at how the system supports people who are sick and helps them into work,” he is expected to say.
“But we must not stop there. We need to be relentless in our efforts to get more people into work and off welfare,” he will say. “The number of disabled people working has risen by 350,000 over the past two years, the highest on record. Yet, even though we have got more disabled people into work, that is only the beginning.” According to a briefing, Duncan Smith will also announce new changes to the Fit For Work service and changes to access to mental health advice for claimants.
Last week, the DWP admitted using made-up stories from fictional claimants to demonstrate the positive impact of benefit sanctions. A DWP leaflet featured one welfare claimant, “Sarah”, who said she was “really pleased” a cut to her benefits had encouraged her to improve her CV. But after a freedom of information request by the website Welfare Weekly, the DWP said they were not real claimants. The stories were for “illustrative purposes only”, it added.
Under the sanctions system introduced by Duncan Smith, people can lose benefits for up to three years if they fail to meet the government’s requirements for jobseekers.
Statistics showing how many people die while claiming out-of-work disability benefits will be published on Thursday. The information commissioner overruled attempts to withhold the statistics, originally requested by a campaigner using freedom of information laws. The DWP said it had always intended to publish them.
In April, the commissioner asked the DWP to publish the number of claimants of incapacity benefit and employment and support allowance who had died between November 2011 and May 2014. The initial freedom of information request was sparked by concerns that disabled people were being declared fit for work, having their benefits stopped, and then dying. The prime minister, David Cameron, promised in June to publish the figures.
The so-called disability gap is the difference between the employment rate for people with disabilities and those without. According to an analysis of figures from the Office for National Statistics by the disability charity Scope, 48% of disabled people are in employment, compared with 73% of the general population. However, disability rights activists have called for the government to do more to normalise perceptions of disabled people at work, rather than treating the situation as “a problem that needs to be explained away to employers”.
A DWP spokesman declined to discuss the figures in Duncan Smith’s speech or release further details. A spokesman said: “This isn’t a policy announcement; it’s the start of a conversation.”
Row breaks out over benefit cuts 'suicide watch' claims
The SNP and Labour have hit out over claims that frontline benefits staff are getting guidance on how to deal
with claimants threatening suicide and that the advice has been given to Scottish Department for Work and Pensions staff.
The SNP said it highlighted the "devastating impact" of benefit cuts and sanctions, while Labour said cuts were hitting the vulnerable.
The DWP said staff can refer claimants for support and this was "nothing new".
The guidelines for call centre staff are designed to help staff deal with unsuccessful applicants for Universal Credit who are threatening to self-harm or take their own life, the newspaper reported.
SNP MSP Dennis Robertson said: "The evidence reported today shows that there is a clear link between a person's income and their health and wellbeing - particularly their mental health.
"That the UK government are issuing suicide guidance to their frontline staff is an acknowledgement by them of the devastating impact of their social security cuts on people's lives - it's not new guidance they need, it's a new approach."
Labour's equality spokeswoman Jenny Marra said: "The Tory's welfare cuts have hit some of the most vulnerable people across Scotland - many who are struggling to find work and are suffering because of an unfair sanctions regime.
"Government policies should not be pushing people into a position where they feel they have nothing left to live for."
A DWP spokesman said: "As you would expect, our frontline staff have always been trained to look for signs of vulnerabilities.
"They can refer individuals to specialist support - including specialist teams at Jobcentre Plus - and this is nothing new."
Tory assassins the DWP admits using 'fake' claimants in benefit sanctions leaflet
Sanctions are pushing the mentally ill over the edge. Mass murder of the vulnerable by draconian psychological
and financial torture.
The Department for Work and Pensions has admitted using made-up stories from fictional claimants to demonstrate the positive impact of benefit sanctions.
A DWP leaflet featured one welfare claimant, "Sarah", who said she was "really pleased" a cut to her benefits had encouraged her to improve her CV.
But after a Freedom of Information request by website Welfare Weekly, the DWP said they were not real claimants.
The stories were for "illustrative purposes only", it added.
Under the sanctions system - introduced by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith - people can lose benefits for anywhere between a few weeks and three years if they fail to meet the government's requirements for jobseekers.
Stephen Timms, Labour's acting shadow work and pensions secretary, said: "You couldn't make it up - but it seems Iain Duncan Smith can. The only way he can find backers for his sanctions regime is by inventing them."
The leaflet features the apparent stories of two sickness benefit claimants, Sarah and Zac.
"Sarah" - whose story features alongside a woman's picture - says she failed to complete a CV despite agreeing to do so on her work "action plan".
"I didn't have a good reason for not doing it and I was told I'd lose some of my payment. I decided to complete the CV and told my work coach," she says.
Sarah says her benefits were cut for two weeks, but now she is "really pleased with how my CV looks" and it will really help her find a job.
Zac, meanwhile, says he let his work coach know when he was going to miss a meeting and because he did so, "my benefit payment hasn't changed".
According to Welfare Weekly, the response to its Freedom of Information request from the DWP said the images used were "stock photos and along with the names do not belong to real claimants".
The DWP later said in a statement: "The case studies were used for illustrative purposes to help people understand how the benefit system works. They're based on conversations our staff have had with claimants.
"They have now been removed to avoid confusion".
The system of benefits sanctions - introduced under the coalition government - has been accused of having a detrimental impact on some claimants.
Earlier this year, the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee called for an independent inquiry into the way the sanctions were applied, saying that in some cases they were causing food poverty and "severe financial hardship".
Mr Timms added: "Instead of fabricating quotes pretending the system is working, [Iain Duncan Smith] should scrap unfair sanctions targets for jobcentre staff and do more to protect vulnerable people from facing benefit sanctions."
200,000 join petition demanding Tories reveal how many people died after being found 'fit for work'
Only sick bastards would vote back into power gangsters who use state assassins ATOS (now Maximus) and the DWP to psychological torture victims
of their psychopathic murderous tendencies
The government is refusing to release the figures despite a watchdog ruling. Now campaigners are asking - what has Iain Duncan Smith got to hide?
More than 200,000 people have now joined a petition demanding to know how many benefits claimants died after being found fit for work.
The Mirror reported how the government is refusing to release the figures despite being ordered to by its own information watchdog.
Now an online petition - started by an ex-benefits advisor who saw the effect of Tory cuts first-hand - has amassed vast support.
Founder Maggie Zolobajluk, 63, used the milestone to put fresh pressure on Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith - and ask what he has to hide.
She told rhe Mirror : "Iain Duncan Smith should look and see 200,000 people are saying publish these figures.
"Don't drag it out through the courts - let's publish them and have some transparency and end the anguish people have had to go through.
"These people have horror stories. They need answers."
The pensioner worked for the Citizens' Advice Bureau in Sutton, Surrey, for 7 years while the Tories were introducing their welfare reforms.
The changes saw some people told to find work despite having chronic illnesses - some of whom died before getting their benefits back.
Tragic Mark Wood starved to death in David Cameron's constituency four months after his benefits were cut - weighing just 5st 8lbs when he was found.
And ex-nurse Jacqueline Harris, 53, took her own life after she was ruled fit to work despite having slipped disks in her back and severe pain.
Ms Zolobajluk said: "I'd have people who'd come in because they'd been thrown off the housing register because they weren't deemed as overcrowded despite living in a house with nine adults.
"The pressure we were under as volunteers, the number of people coming who you could no longer help - it was awful.
"I got quite upset about it. If I see something I have to say what I feel. I don't like bullies."
There was anger in 2012 when figures showed 80 people had died within six weeks of being told they could move into a 'work-related activity' group.
But since then the Department for Work and Pensions has published no more figures on the topic, prompting a freedom of information battle.
A searing ruling by the Information Commissioner said chiefs had acted unreasonably after not publishing any figures for 3 years.
Instead of giving in, the DWP is fighting its own watchdog at a tribunal to get the decision overturned.
The request to release the figures was made under the Freedom of Information Act by campaigner Mike Sivier.
He asked how many people who died between November 2011 and May 2014 had been found 'fit for work', or told they could move towards getting work.
The DWP refused his request because chiefs said they were already preparing to publish the information in their own time, and it'd be unfair to rush them.
But Information Commissioner Christopher Graham ruled: "It is not reasonable for the DWP, having had enough time to extract the information and prepare internally for publication, to seek further time to provide the information.
"The previous statistics published were around 2 years old at the time of the request."
Ms Zolobajluk's petition asks the tribunal to refuse the request and force Iain Duncan Smith's department to publish the data.
A DWP spokesman declined to say why chiefs are appealing the verdict.
She added: "It’s irresponsible to suggest a causal link between the death of an individual and their benefit claim".
Heartless benefits ghouls axed man's payments for missing Jobcentre appointment after heart attack
The ruthless treatment being meted out to men who have paid their dues while the evil tory government
renege on their legal entitlements
A HEART attack victim had his benefits axed just days after having emergency surgery to save his life.
David Duncan’s jobseeker’s allowance was stopped last week when he was unable to make a Jobcentre appointment.
The 58-year-old suffered a major cardiac arrest two days before his scheduled meeting. But finding himself under the surgeon’s knife as he had blockages cleared from his arteries and two stents fitted didn’t win him any sympathy from staff.
David said: “I suffered a major heart attack – but apparently that isn’t a good enough reason for missing an appointment
at the Jobcentre in Dunfermline.”
He spoke out about his ordeal on the day the Tories made it clear that things are only going to get worse for benefits claimants.
Brushing aside the concerns of tens of thousands of protesters who took to the streets of London and Glasgow on Saturday to demand an end to the UK Government’s austerity programme, Chancellor George Osborne and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith vowed to push ahead with plans to slash the welfare bill by another £12billion.
David, of Dunfermline, has been looking for work since he was made redundant from his job in a bank just more than a year ago.
He had never missed any of his fortnightly Jobcentre appointments but his problems started on Saturday, June 13, when he suffered a heart attack at home.
He called NHS 24 and was rushed to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where surgeons operated on him as soon as he arrived.
David called the Jobcentre first thing on the Monday morning and was shocked to be told that because he wouldn’t be able to turn up for his appointment – and
hadn’t filled out an online diary to prove that he had undertaken job searches – his benefits would be stopped.
The bachelor, who had planned to complete the online diary on the Sunday, said: “I was told if I was going to be unable to work for more than 13 weeks, then I would have to switch from jobseeker’s allowance to employment and support allowance.”
David spent more than an hour on the phone to the Jobcentre as he was forced to switch his claim to ESA.
He said: “The likelihood is that I will be better before the 13 weeks are over,
and will have to go through the rigmarole of switching back to jobseeker’s
“I don’t know if my application for ESA will be accepted – to be honest, it is stress I can do without at this time.”
He added: “Staff at the Jobcentre showed no compassion or humanity whatsoever.
“I don’t want anyone else to suffer what I have been through.”
Tory axemen Osborne and Duncan Smith yesterday insisted they had
inherited a “crackers” welfare system from Labour in 2010.
Writing in a Rupert Murdoch-owned Sunday paper, they said: “It took many years for welfare spending to spiral so far out of control, and it’s a project of a decade or more to return the system to sanity.
“This Government was elected with a mandate to implement further savings from the £220billion welfare budget.
“For a start, we will reduce the benefit cap, and have made clear that we believe we need to make significant savings from other working-age benefits.”
The deluded pair even claimed the reforms would actually help people suffering poverty.
They said: “Welfare reform is fundamentally about opportunity and changing lives, supporting families to move from dependence to independence – a vital point, because without social mobility there can be no social justice.
“It is the right thing to do.”
But the real effect of five years of welfare cuts under the previous Con-Dem government was revealed by the shocking news yesterday that the number of children in the UK living in poverty rose last year – for the first time in a decade.
The Tory proposals, which include banning anyone under 25 from claiming housing benefit and restricting child tax credits to a couple’s first two children, were slammed by the SNP’s social justice and welfare spokeswoman Eilidh Whiteford.
The MP said: “The Tories have shown time and time again that they simply cannot be trusted on welfare.
“Their heartless cuts are hitting the working poor and vulnerable in our society hardest, including disabled people.
“The Tories are intent on balancing the books on the backs of some of the poorest families in the country.”
Whiteford demanded that the Scottish Parliament be handed more powers over welfare in a bid to protect Scots from the cuts.
David is just the latest in a long line of vulnerable Scots hit by the savage cuts to the benefits system.
Earlier this month, we told how Paralympic world record holder Kayleigh Haggo is set to have her mobility car taken from her – because benefits bosses say she is not disabled enough.
The 16-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer, of Maybole, Ayrshire, says if she
loses the vehicle, which is driven for her by mum, she will be unable to continue training as she can’t use public transport.
In March 2013, Jim Elliott, of Cambuslang, near Glasgow, was passed fit for work – despite suffering the onset of a heart attack during his 20-minute work capability assessment with Atos assessors.
And in November 2012, we told how the Con-Dem crackdown led to forces families such as that of Germany-based war hero Colin Smyth losing their child benefit.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said yesterday they were unable to examine David’s claims because the Jobcentre is closed at the weekend and they couldn’t contact the staff who dealt with him.
But he added: “Anyone who misses an appointment with good cause will not be sanctioned.
“This would include someone having suffered a heart attack.”
Tory assassins the DWP deliberately and illegally held up disability payments
Delays caused extreme distress and hardship
for applicants with severe physical and mental health difficulties
A delay in paying welfare benefits to two disabled people was "unlawful" and "unacceptable", the High Court says.
The unnamed pair waited nine months for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs), and they said this left them dependent on loan sharks and food banks.
During the test case, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) argued that it took prompt action when delays in processing claims were identified.
There are currently 78,700 people waiting to hear if they can claim PIP.
The court heard that the two claimants, Ms C and Mr W, asked Mrs Justice Patterson to declare that Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith breached his common law and human rights duties to make payments within a reasonable time.
This breach was caused, they said, because of the magnitude of the delay.
The judge ruled that in both cases, the delay was "not only unacceptable, as conceded by the defendant, but was unlawful".
Even some wealthy celebrities can end up on welfare VIDEO
Pay heed those who THINK it won't happen to them
Tory scum continue to justify the persecution of the disabled VIDEO
Hundreds of mental health experts issue rallying call against austerity
Tory mass murdering of the mentally ill using psychological torture by ATOS and DWP
400 counsellors, psychotherapists and others sign letter saying ‘society thrown completely off balance’ by ‘emotional toxicity of neoliberal thinking’
Austerity cuts are having a “profoundly disturbing” impact on people’s psychological wellbeing and the emotional state of the nation, hundreds of counsellors, psychotherapists and mental health experts have said in a letter to the Guardian.
Austerity and a malign benefits regime are profoundly damaging mental health
Letter: Over 400 psychotherapists, counsellors and academics condemn government plans and call on Labour and other parties to denounce anti-therapeutic practices
They said an “intimidatory disciplinary regime” facing benefits claimants would be made worse by further “unacceptable” proposals outlined in the budget.
These amounted to state “get to work” therapy and were both damaging and professionally unethical, they said.
Increasing inequality and poverty, families being moved out of their homes and new systems determining benefit levels were part of “a wider reality of a society thrown completely off balance by the emotional toxicity of neoliberal thinking”, according to more than 400 signatories to the letter. The consequences were “most visible in the therapist’s consulting room”.
The letter’s writers said it “sounds the starting bell for a broadly based campaign of organisations and professionals against the damage that neoliberalism is doing to the nation’s mental health”.
Labour first introduced work capability assessments but the coalition introduced a much more stringent regime.
The 2015 budget included plans to provide online cognitive behavioural therapy to 40,000 claimants and people on the Fit for Work programme, as well as putting therapists in more than 350 job centres.
The letter was being organised before the Conservative party manifesto was published earlier this week. This said that those with long-term but treatable conditions, including drug or alcohol addiction and obesity, might lose benefits if they refused recommended treatments.
The response from main political parties was muted, each stressing only their commitment to improving mental health rather than addressing the call for professionals to wake up to “malign developments” in social policy.
The letter’s supporters included psychotherapist and writer Susie Orbach. She called “beyond shocking” the Conservative manifesto proposal.
“It undermines the fundamental principles of one’s right to physical and mental care – that you have to be able to consent and that the people you go to have to be highly trained and have your best interests and aren’t meeting targets.”
She added: “And we certainly don’t want claimants’ and job-seekers’ aspirations and paltry money dependent on whether they take up treatment options, which bounce them into mental health treatments which may not suit them, and which violate all of our notions of what constitutes a minimum standard for productive engagement in therapy: in short, consent.”
“If Labour decides afterwards all this is in order, it will go on. But I don’t think it will. I don’t see how it can,” he said.
Samuels believed there was “a bit of a public school ethos” behind the work-capability regime introduced under the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition and new Conservative plans.
Characterising the government attitude as “Pull yourself together man, for heaven’s sake,” Samuels added: “It is wholly inappropriate. It symbolises a society that has lost all moral compass.”
Richard House of the Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy, the letter’s main organiser, said there had been a mounting groundswell of concern. “When one hears story after story of dramatic negative health impacts, psychological and physical, after people are subjected to these back-to-work practices, the time has surely come for an ‘emotional audit’ of the impact of what, to many, appear to be heartless, un-thought-through policies that are merely penalising and punishing the already disadvantaged still further.”
A Conservative spokesman said: “Under this government inequality has fallen, child poverty is down and there are now 1.9 million more people in jobs than there were at the last election. We have legislated to ensure mental health is treated equally to physical health, and are introducing new waiting time standards.”
The party spokesman added: “Overall spending on mental health has increased, including over £400m to make a choice of psychological therapies available for everyone who needs them.
“We will continue to invest in mental health and are committed to spending an additional £1.25bn over the course of the next parliament. All of this is only possible because our plans are backed by a strong economy.”
Luciana Berger, Labour’s shadow health minister, said: “Mental health is the biggest unaddressed health challenge of our age and it is essential that we give it the priority it deserves.
Labour would create a new right to talking therapies in the NHS constitution, working towards a standard of 28 days waiting time, said Berger.
“We will end the scandal of the neglect of child mental health, too, by increasing the proportion of the budget spent on these services.”
Norman Lamb, Lib Dem minister in the Department of Health, said: “The Liberal Democrats are on a mission to end the discrimination against mental health in our society. That’s why in government we introduced the first ever waiting time standards. It’s also why we are pledging at least £3.5bn extra funding over the next parliament to provide better mental healthcare.”
“The economic shock that this country faced five years ago has of course had an impact on mental health, and that’s why we were determined to build a stronger economy and why we fought to exempt disability benefits from cuts.
“We want to make sure people with mental health problems get the right help to stay in, or get into, work that can help their recovery. We will block the £12bn welfare cuts that the Tories propose.”
Father killed himself after his benefits were cut and he was threatened with eviction
Murdering tory scum and their state assassins ATOS (now Maximus) and DWP behind the psychological torture of the most
vulnerable sections of society.
Benjamin McDonald, 34, who had suffered from depression for 11 years, was found hanging in the fields where he played as a child
A father-of-three killed himself after his benefits were cut and he was threatened with eviction.
Benjamin McDonald, 34, who had suffered from depression for 11 years, was found hanging in the fields where he played as a child in Nelson, Lancashire, an inquest heard.
Mr McDonald’s sister Mickayla Carr told an inquest in Burnley, Lancs that her brother - who was found dead in November last year - was a “happy-go-lucky” person who doted on his five-year-old daughter.
East Lancashire coroner Richard Taylor, referring to a written statement from Ms Carr, said: “Something must have happened to make him behave the way he did.
“He had so much more to live for, especially his relationship with his daughter who he lived for. She meant the world to him.
“At the time, his money had been stopped, he had no form of income.
“He said he was threatened with eviction from his home - all matters that can play one someone’s mind very much.
“The appropriate conclusion for me today is that while he was suffering from a significant bout of depression, he took his own life.”
Mr McDonald's benefits had been stopped by the Department of Work and Pensions which is under pressure to review the way in which it axes vital payments to people suffering mental illnesses.
A spokesman for mental health charity Mind said: “It would be helpful to see what could be going wrong in the benefits system that leads to these tragic situations.”
Sue Bott, director of policy and services at Disability Rights UK, added: “There have been allegations and anecdotal evidence for a while that the benefits regime has tipped people over the edge.
“It should be looked into in a transparent way. There is a lot of concern about the way benefits are administered.”
Compilation of tory MURDERING PSYCHOPATHIC SCROUNGER IDS VIDEO
Iain Duncan Smith gets OWNED and called a "scrounger" by Salma Yaqoob on BBC
Iain Duncan-Smith's Explosive Row With James O'Brien
Iain Duncan Smith is a psychopathic murdering wanker
Iain Duncan Smith not welcome in Bootle.'ya bell end'
Ex-DWP employees expose the DWP sanctions regime VIDEO
Churches call Tory scum government welfare sanctions 'inhumane and un-Christian'
Thousands of the most vulnerable have been psychologically tortured to suicide and thousands more removed
from the stats as if they have found a job instead of being removed from benefits
Report by religious leaders says Department of Work and Pensions targets vulnerable families in order to make cuts under guise of regulations
A group of churches has called for an urgent overhaul of the government’s benefits sanctions regime, describing it as punitive, inhumane and un-Christian.
The churches say the sanctions regime deliberately causes harm to claimants, and suggest that it is aimed more at cutting welfare payments rather than helping people back into work.
More than 1 million unemployed claimants were subjected to sanctions last year – a punishment whereby benefit payments are stopped for between four weeks and three years for apparent breaches of benefit rules.
The churches warn that that the problems could be exacerbated under the government’s proposed new welfare system, universal credit, which will extend the sanctions regime to low-paid working families who are in receipt of benefits.
A report by the churches, to be published on Monday, says: “We have concluded it is very hard to justify a system which impacts most harshly on the people who most need help and support … It is incumbent on the Christian community to speak out against any system which treats people so unjustly.”
The archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, said: “The findings of this report are disturbing. It exposes a system that is harsh in the extreme, penalising the most vulnerable of claimants by the withdrawal of benefits for weeks at a time.”
Niall Cooper, director of Church Action on Poverty, said: “Most people in this country would be shocked if they knew that far from providing a safety net, the benefit sanctions policy is currently making thousands of people destitute. This policy must be reviewed urgently.”
The report will further provoke the work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, who last month criticised the churches for attacking coalition policies.
It is published by the Church of Scotland, the Church in Wales, the Methodist church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, and the United Reformed church, as well the charity Church Action on Poverty. It calls for a review of the system and an immediate suspension of sanctions on claimants who are mentally ill or have dependent children.
It says that while the churches accept that all social-security systems must have a measure of conditionality, the punishments imposed by the government regime are disproportionately harsh.
The report cites a series of case studies showing sanctions were imposed on vulnerable claimants for trivial breaches of the rules, such as missing appointments. The effects on claimants have included stress, depression, hunger and in some cases suicide. It says the regime – which it describes as “one of the most severe in the developed world” often forces sanctioned claimants to become reliant on food banks to survive.
Although a Department for Work and Pensions hardship fund exists to help the most vulnerable the report says this is difficult to access. A separate investigation by Channel4’s Dispatches, to be transmitted on Monday night, highlights claims from jobcentre officials who say that they were put under pressure by managers to sanction claimants.
Ex-jobcentre advisor Alan Davies told Dispatches he felt the sanctions regime he was forced to impose on claimants was ethically and morally wrong. “The pressure was enormous. I just felt that what they were asking me to do was totally wrong. They were asking me to hammer people who were in their own way doing the best that they can to get a job.”
The findings echo evidence presented to a House of Commons select committee hearings into benefit sanctions in January and February. This is expected to report before May.
A DWP spokesman said: “The truth is that every day Jobcentre Plus advisers work hard to help claimants into work – unemployment is falling and a record number of people are in work. Sanctions are only used as a last resort for the tiny minority who fail to take up the support which is on offer. ”
The DWP added that claimants who are sanctioned and have children receive hardship payments right away.
Tory assassins DWP caught giving disability propaganda to Harmsworth's vile Daily Mail
Harmsworth's vile rag used as a propaganda tool by the tory assassins DWP and ATOS to justify the mass
psychological torture, misery and financial pain inflicted on the most vulnerable in society many who
have since committed suicide. The gestapo had one idea to get rid of the 'useless' eaters the tories
have the DWP as an alternative to the gas ovens.
Remember these? Time and time again, the Daily Mail has published stories about disability benefit claimants who supposedly did not deserve their benefits because they were either fit for work, or because it was too easy to claim benefits.
Time and time again, the Work and Pensions Committee and/or the UK Statistics Authority which has investigated complaints about the media treatment of disability benefit claimants, have found DWP guilty of giving ‘direct quotations from Ministers [which] can give undue credence to inaccurate or misleading reports’ and they recommended that DWP ‘ensure that significant statistical releases are accompanied by a press release setting out the context and providing background explanatory notes’.
To which DWP responded that it ‘takes great care’ when publishing statistics to ensure that the information is used in an appropriate manner but it also stated that ‘The Committee and Government need to be mindful of the widespread public unease about the number of people claiming incapacity benefits and it is therefore unsurprising that this is reflected in the media. […] However, it is important to stress that it is not the Department’s role to dictate what can appear in stories in the media’. [Underlined by the author]
Not only have DWP or Iain Duncan Smith been found guilty of providing to some media selective information which were not supported by statistics or were not evidence based, but also that ‘the statistics do not comply fully with the principles of the Code of Practice… and that they were shared with the media in advance of their publication’.
Added to this, Iain Duncan Smith had ‘the belief’ that the benefit cap is driving benefit claimants into work, although no causal link has ever been established. The latest DWP press release on the benefit cap titled People are moving into work as a result of the benefit cap and the supporting document show that there is an increase in the percentage of capped claimants moving into work compared with the percentage of uncapped claimants, although the number is very small, but do not take into consideration the fact that potential capped claimants were also receiving additional support from Job Centres. Which means it is impossible to disaggregate the impact from the benefit cap from the impact of this additional support or to know whether the benefit cap has any impact at all.
This gave rise to a very interesting Freedom of Information request (for which S.Banks deserves credit) which DWP took over 2 months to respond to:
After getting the clarification he was looking for on whether there was a DWP press release about the Worst excuses used by benefit fraudsters, he asked the question:
Dear DWP CAXTON HOUSE Communications,
Thank you. In regards to your last point; to answer my query specifically can you please confirm that the dwp initiated contact with the Mail in this particular instance?
To which DWP responded:
Dear S Banks
The answer to your query below is yes, DWP initiated contact with the Mail in this particular instance.
Communications FOI Focal Point
Remembering what was quoted above: ‘However, it is important to stress that it is not the Department’s role to dictate what can appear in stories in the media’, it seems that DWP knows that it can rely on the Daily Mail to publish stories which are derogatory to disability benefit claimants, paving the way for more cuts. The Daily Mail did not publish the latest statistics showing that 90% of reassessed Incapacity Benefit claimants were entitled to their benefits or any article to re-establish some kind of balance in its treatment of disability benefit claimants.
But ultimately, the responsibility lies with DWP, the largest employer in the Civil Service, which has forgotten its duty of impartiality and have been using selected media and especially the Daily Mail to demonise disabled people, to turn the general public against them and make cuts to disability benefits more acceptable, also leading to an increase in hate crimes against them. DWP employees should hang their heads in shame.
Demands for DWP minister Esther McVey to launch probe into benefit sanction targets
How the tory assassins DWP and ATOS psychologically murder with impunity
BENEFITS axewoman Esther McVey is under pressure today to launch an independent investigation into evidence staff feel forced to penalise welfare claimants.
The SNP demanded the probe after McVey’s Tory colleague David Mundell denied there are targets for benefits sanctions at the Department for Work and Pensions.
Mundell – Scotland’s only Tory MP – dodged responsibility during a grilling at Holyrood on Tuesday. He was taken to task after the PCS union claimed advisers are under “immense and intolerable” pressure to stop benefits for minor infringements.
All four SNP members of Holyrood’s welfare reform committee spelled out their anger in a letter to Employment Minister McVey.
Kevin Stewart, one of the SNP members, said: “There is growing evidence of the pressure being piled on to staff. We are therefore calling for an extensive independent investigation to be carried out and the findings made public so we know if staff are pressurised into imposing sanctions on people and, if so, what kind of pressure the employees are being put under.”
The PCS have email evidence which shows managers demanding a tougher approach from their staff.
One in four staff feel they have been given a target and four out of five feel under pressure to sanction people.
A DWP spokeswoman said: “There are no targets for sanctions.”
DWP whistleblower on how the tory assassins psychological torture welfare claimants
Thousands of Britain's poorest and most vulnerable have died under the tory 'NAZI' influenced regime
Angela Neville, 48, is describing events she witnessed as a special adviser in a jobcentre that prompted her to write a play about her experiences.
“We were given lists of customers to call immediately and get them on to the Work Programme,” she recalls. “I said, ‘I’m sorry this can’t happen, this man is in hospital.’ I was told [by my boss]: ‘No, you’ve got to phone him and you’ve got to put this to him and he may be sanctioned.’ I said I’m not doing it.”
Neville worked as an adviser in Braintree jobcentre, Essex, for four years and has written a play with two collaborators, her friends Angela Howard and Jackie Howard, both of whom have helped advocate for unemployed people who were threatened with benefit sanctions by jobcentre staff.
The title of the play, Can This be England? is an allusion to the disbelief that she and the others feel at how people on benefits are being treated, she says. And she unashamedly describes the play, in which she also acts, as a “dramatic consciousness-raising exercise”.
Can This be England? deals with the quagmire that awaits people caught in the welfare system. Scenes are set in jobcentres and in characters’ homes addressing some of what Neville calls the “everyday absurdity” of what occurs, such as when people with disabilities and fluctuating health conditions are wrongly declared “fit for work” inflicting additional suffering in the process. It also examines the dilemmas faced by staff in jobcentres, many of whom Neville believes feel stripped of any power to do good and are crumbling under the strain as managers enforce new rules.
“You’re not doing the job, you’re firefighting,” she says. “From my own experience, staff are subjected to constant and aggressive pressure to meet and exceed targets. Colleagues would leave team meetings crying. Things were changing all the time. The pressure was incredible. Advisers were actively encouraged to impose sanctions (along the lines of “sanction of the month”) to contribute to the points system that ranks jobcentre offices. It was often for stupid reasons,” she adds.
“And it was happening all the time. A customer maybe would be a little bit late or would phone in and the message wasn’t passed on. It was very distressing to have customers literally without food, without heat, without resources and these are unwell [and] disabled customers. If it hadn’t been for the fact that most of my colleagues were dedicated and compassionate people I wouldn’t have lasted more than a few months.”
A demonstrable shift took place once the coalition settled in, says Neville. Along with “relentless” targets, huge caseloads, and less time to spend with individual claimants, she lists the increasing complexity of the system including the many and very complicated forms that needed to be filled in and problems with the fitness to work test administered by Atos. “It used to feel like we were doing something for clients, now it was [doing something] to them,” she says.
Things were made all the more difficult, she adds, when staff were given far fewer opportunities to assist claimants with things like accessing grants previously available for interview preparation, such as getting a haircut. “These small things can mean a lot. Over time, though, this fund was chipped away until requests were routinely turned down,” she says. “Initially I felt that I had the resources to genuinely support customers. Sadly, this changed once the coalition came in – to the extent that the work almost became the persecution of some of the most vulnerable people in society.”
A central motivation behind the play was how “morally compromising” the job had become, says Neville. In one scene an adviser tells her mum that it’s like “getting brownie points” for cruelty. When Neville herself became redundant in 2013, she was warned about being sanctioned for supposedly being five minutes late to a jobcentre interview.
There was also a strong feeling among the playwrights that the tendencies in wider society and the media to stigmatise and vilify benefits claimants needed to be refuted. The play opens with a scene where nosey neighbours spot someone on sickness benefit in the street and assume they must be skiving instead of working. “This play is about getting people to bloody think about stuff. Use their brains. Sometimes I think, crikey, we are turning into a really mean, spying on our neighbour, type of society,” says Neville.
She is one of many former jobcentre workers speaking out with revelations about a “culture” of targets and accelerating pressure on staff to shift people off benefits, (repeatedly denied by the Department for Work and Pensions) often by the overuse of arbitrary and harsh sanctions that mean people’s benefits can be stopped for weeks and sometimes months. Like others, Neville says the new regime rolled out by the government as part of its “back-to-work” drives and budget cuts has caused enormous stress for claimants but also for the staff expected to implement them. Some advisers’ stories have been officially documented, such as that of John Longden, a former jobcentre official who gave written evidence to the ongoing parliamentary committee investigation into sanctions of “hit squads” setting claimants up to fail. Today, work and pensions minister, Esther McVey, will be grilled by the committee on the increased use of benefit sanctions.
Neville acknowledges that she has worked in just one jobcentre but argues that as the evidence from other frontline workers comes out it is clear that poor practices are commonplace.
She insists she isn’t normally a political person. “I don’t have a particular axe to grind … but it does always seem to happen under the Conservatives,” she adds.
Can this be England? has only had a couple of performances in Quaker meeting houses, but more are planned in the coming months. As for what lies ahead, Neville is adapting the stage play for radio and says the script is freely available to other performers who want to put the play on. One reason for doing so is to gain a wider audience but it is primarily because she and her co-writers worry about serious problems down the road with social security reform. “I’m really scared that these next [welfare spending] cuts are going to come along and that people are going to get used to it and say: ‘that’s just the way it is’. It’s the acceptance of it I can’t bear to think about.”
DWP sanctions behind mass suicides of poor and disabled
The tory assassins at the DWP the PCS (Public and Commercial Services Union)
claim data provided by the Department for Work and Pensions showed 74,000 would lose more than
£19million in Jobseeker’s Allowance. Those responsible for the deaths of thousands of the
disabled NOW finally accepting their decisions have aided those deaths.
Around 80,000 families face benefit cuts of £250 this month in further sanctions against the jobless and disabled, it has been claimed.
The Public and Commercial Services Union said data provided by the Department for Work and Pensions showed 74,000 would lose more than £19million in Jobseeker’s Allowance.
And £700,000 in employment and support allowances are being taken away from 6,800 disabled people.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Use of these sanctions has spiralled in recent years.
“But they do nothing but heap blame and misery on some of the poorest in society and should be scrapped.”
He added: "There is no evidence that stopping people's benefits improves their chances of finding long-term employment.
"Many are being punished for simply turning up late to an interview or refusing to work for free for a profitable company on one of the government's failing workfare schemes.
The union is opposed to the system, known as the stricter benefits regime, which means jobseekers can have their benefits removed for up to three years and which charities cite as a reason for the rise in the use of food banks.
But the DWP continues to claim there are no targets for advisers in job centres to refer people for sanctions.
Another victim of tory assassins ATOS/DWP commits suicide
Former nurse killed herself after controversial health test led to change in benefits
Jacqueline Harris, aged 53, died after a fitness to work test ruled she could start looking for work and her incapacity benefit was axed
A former nurse killed herself after a controversial test led to a change in her benefits, an inquest has heard.
Jacqueline Harris, aged 53, had her incapacity benefit axed despite being in constant pain.
She was declared fit to work after a check by ATOS, the Government-appointed benefits assessors.
But the half-blind widow pinned a suicide note to her pyjamas and left post-it notes detailing who should be gifted her personal possessions.
The inquest heard Jacqueline had slipped and bulging disks in her back and neck after an accident at work.
Jacqueline was found dead shortly after a failed operation to relieve pressure in her back.
She was preparing for an appeal hearing against the Department for Work and Pensions' (DWP) decision.
Her sister Christine Norman told the inquest: "She had a slipped disk, a compressed disk in her neck, she had radiating pain down both of her arms and was constantly dropping things.
"She decided to take up dog sitting but unfortunately she was badly bitten and ended up in hospital.
"This led to an infection and and several bones had to be removed from her left hand.
"She was also under pressure from ATOS - refit to work.
"She was called as a 'fit to work'.
"She told them she was waiting for an operation but they didn't give her any dispensation or even a review date.
"She had pressure put upon here and she got no help."
The Bristol inquest heard Jacqueline was left partially sighted after an industrial accident in 1987.
She later suffered back pain which became worse and left her struggling to walk.
But a back operation in December 2012 failed to ease the pain.
Jacqueline was expected to attend her local Job Centre because of the ATOS ruling.
She was found dead on the kitchen floor of her home in Kingswood, Glos, in November last year after taking a cocktail of powerful drugs.
Psychiatrist Dr Helen Sterling told the hearing: "She was not fit to work.
"She could not have fulfilled a job."
Coroner Dr Peter Harrowing ruled Jacqueline committed suicide.
Sister Christine,58, who is also a nurse, claimed after the hearing that the benefits decision "triggered" Jacqueline's decline.
She said: "It gave her no hope.
"She was defeated.
"What hope did she have?
"A month after her death we got a letter about her appeal hearing. I didn't tell them she had died and went along myself.
"I said to them 'I'm disgusted'.
"Because of them she was having to go along to the Job Centre to look for a job - even the staff in the Job Centre said to her 'what are you doing here? Get back to bed'.
"Just because she said 'yes' to being able to get on a bus, she was declared fit to work."
Christine said the change to Jacqueline's income was minimal after the Atos assessment because her incapacity benefit was replaced by job seekers' allowance.
A spokesman for Atos Healthcare said: “Our sympathies go out to Ms Harris’s family.
"We work hard to treat people with compassion and respect during what we understand can be a difficult process.
“We carry out assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions and under its guidelines, sending them detailed information about a person’s health conditions.
"But we do not make decisions on people’s benefit entitlement, nor are we involved in the appeal process.”
A DWP spokesman said: “Our sympathy goes out to the family of Mrs Harris.
“It is not true that Mrs Harris was found ‘fit for work’ - she was receiving ESA.
“A decision on someone’s benefit entitlement isn’t just based on an Atos assessment but all supporting evidence including evidence from the claimants GP.
“People have the right to appeal and Mrs Harris’ appeal was going through the correct procedure”.
Murdering tory scum now under investigation by the UN over abuse of disabled
Activists welcome UN inquiry ‘decision’
Disabled activists have welcomed the UN’s apparent decision to launch an inquiry into allegations of “grave or systematic” violations of its disability convention by the UK government.
Disability News Service (DNS) revealed last week that the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) appears to have made the UK the subject of its first inquiry into alleged violations of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
CRPD has refused to confirm or deny that the UK is being investigated, because the process is carried out confidentially, but a recording has emerged [watch from one hour and four minutes] of a former member of the committee revealing that the inquiry has been launched.
The DNS story spread rapidly across social media, and was mentioned by a string of disability blogs after it was published on 15 August, although the news has yet to be picked up by the mainstream press.
Julie Newman, acting chair of the UK Disabled People’s Council, said she hoped the inquiry would provide “some form of legitimate challenge” to government attacks on disabled people’s rights.
She said: “I hope it’s happening and I hope there is a way of putting some teeth into it.”
Newman said she hoped the inquiry would eventually force the government to “backtrack”, and added: “One of the things that has disturbed me greatly is there doesn’t seem to be any accountability.
“For a government to be so implacable in insisting on its course of action without any resort to due care and attention is appalling.
“The breaches are now so blatant, the fact that people are dying and the coroner’s courts are recognising suicides or lack of care as direct results of benefit reform… there is a limit to how much can be said without anybody listening, and if it has to be from outside the country, so be it.”
Kate Green, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said: “After leading the way internationally on disability rights for decades, it is very disappointing that under the current government the UK appears to be the first country to be investigated for a breach.
“The coalition has let down disabled people – demonstrated in shameful policies like the bedroom tax and the rising numbers of disabled people facing absolute poverty.”
Philip Connolly, policy and communications manager for Disability Rights UK, said the possibility of an inquiry was “welcome news”.
He said: “At our recent independent living conference we reviewed the progress of UK governments since 2009 and documented the erosion of disabled people’s rights.
“It may now be the case that international lawyers are coming to similar viewpoints.
“We would now expect parliament to obtain confirmation from the government whether this is indeed the case when it reconvenes in around 10 days’ time.”
And Jane Young, a disabled consultant and campaigner and lead author of last month’s report by the Just Fair consortium, Dignity and Opportunity for All – which suggested that the UK had gone from being an international leader in disability rights to risking becoming a “systematic violator of these same rights” – also welcomed the apparent decision to carry out the inquiry.
She said: “All disabled people and people with a long term health condition should welcome scrutiny by the UN disability committee of the UK’s compliance with its obligations under the UNCRPD to respect and realise disabled people’s human rights.”
But she added: “The committee needs space, away from the gaze of publicity, to make its findings on the evidence.
“It’s important that we don’t try to speculate on the topic of the inquiry or pre-judge the outcome, however tempting that may be.”
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) made no attempt this week to deny that CRPD had launched an inquiry into potential violations of the convention by the UK.
A DWP spokesman said: “All United Nations inquiry processes are confidential. That confidentiality should be respected.
“The UK is working hard on protecting the human rights of all its citizens in accordance with human rights law, including under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
“The UK is cooperating fully with the UN and supports its treaty monitoring mechanisms.”
Meanwhile, DWP has again refused to offer any explanation for why the number of disabled people having out-of-work benefits temporarily removed for breaching strict conditions soared in the first three months of this year.
The figures show that 2,882 decisions were made to sanction claimants of employment and support allowance in December 2013, rising to 3,750 in January 2014, them 4,698 in February and 7,507 in March, an increase of nearly 580 per cent since March 2013.
But DWP has refused to explain why it believes the numbers have shot up.
A DWP spokeswoman said: “As you can see from the numbers, there’s been an increase in the number of those on ESA WRAG [work-related activity group] who aren’t taking up all of the support that is offered to them – but it’s clear that the overwhelming majority of claimants – ie around 99 per cent – are doing the right thing and taking up the support.”
But when asked again why the numbers had risen so drastically, she said: “I’m satisfied we’ve answered your questions.”