Work Capability Assessment – Government responds to 5th Independent Review

DWP has accepted the majority of the recommendations from the fifth Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

The final review, which was carried out by Dr. Paul Litchfield, was published in November 2014. Dr. Litchfield looked at the changes that had been made to the WCA in response to the first four reviews. Although he made some recommendations for further improvements, Dr. Litchfield said:

“My counsel would be to let the current WCA have a period of stability – it is by no means perfect but there is no better replacement that can be pulled off the shelf.”

Dr Litchfield made 28 recommendations and 26 have been accepted. These relate to a range of issues including: • An increase in the number of people being placed in the Support Group, especially younger people; • The need to ensure that communications are as good as they can be especially for more vulnerable claimants; • Better support for claimants with learning disabilities.

One of the recommendations from the fourth independent review was that DWP should make it clear that evidence from care professionals such as community psychiatric nurses, support workers and carers can prove extremely useful when deciding whether someone is entitled to Employment and Support Allowance. This is particularly the case if someone has a mental health condition.

Mental Health LogoAs a result DWP has improved the ESA50 questionnaire, which people complete when they claim ESA. DWP sought the views of disability organisations to help inform these changes. The revised ESA50 questionnaire will be issued from March.

The Government’s response to the fifth independent review is available at Focus on Disability

“Community support workers for people with mental health conditions/learning difficulties have been chopped left, right and centre through the millions of pounds slashed from county council budgets. Are we supposed to believe it will get better in todays fiscal climate? – I don’t think so”

Golfer Cheats £26K from DWP but gets 6 Months Jail

Victoria Austin reports in the Daily Star, today, that a man who pocketed £26,000 in disability benefits while winning golf tournaments has been jailed for six months.

Alan Bannister exaggerated his arthritis for eight years and was given top-rate payouts reserved for people unable to walk, a court heard.

Disabled GolferThe former mechanical engineer, 56, claimed he could not hold a saucepan or peel potatoes, and said it took him 15 minutes to walk 50 metres. But secret footage was taken of Bannister lifting a bag of clubs before launching a 240-yard drive from the first tee and approaching the 18th hole four hours later.

Bannister, of Barry, was found guilty of obtaining money transfers by deception at Cardiff Crown Court.

Jailing Bannister yesterday, Recorder David Miller described his actions as a “blatant” fraud.

“Mr Bannister has justifiably been driven into the ‘rough'”

Benefit Penalties – 93,000 Kids Left to Go Hungry!

A DAMNING REPORT shows almost 100,000 of Britain’s poorest children went hungry last year due to cruel benefit sanctions.

David Cameron has hugely increased the use of cash-saving punishments such as stopping payments for a month or more for welfare claimants who fail to meet strict Job Centre demands.

But the Coalition’s brutal penalties hit society’s most vulnerable hardest and in effect punish kids for their parents’ failings, a report claims today.

More than 100 people with severe mental health problems are sanctioned every day, according to figures compiled by a coalition of UK churches.

More than 93,000 children suffered in the last year as their parents were slapped with sanctions. And of 49 deaths reviewed by officials following sanctions, 40 were down to apparent suicide.

Niall Cooper of Church Action on Poverty, which helped produce the report, said: “If you commit a crime, no court is allowed to make you go hungry as a punishment.

“But if you’re late for an appointment at the Jobcentre they can remove all your income and leave you unable to feed you or your family for weeks.”

More than million sanctions were imposed last year and 880,000 remained after appeals, the report said.

The authors added: “We are disturbed that a benefit system intended to provide for the needy and vulnerable is used as a means of coercion and compliance. The penalties often do not appear reasonable or proportionate to the ‘failure’ that has occurred.

“If a similar system operated in a workplace, where pay was removed for a month for being late for a meeting or not achieving a target, we might reasonably expect action to be taken against the employer.”

The sanctions regime is one of the most severe in the world, the report said, but it found no evidence it helped people into work.

In a probe for Channel 4’s Dispatches tonight, two Job Centre whistleblowers tell how they were forced to “hammer” claimants with sanctions to meet Government targets. Alan Davies, who quit Leicester Jobcentre, said: “They weren’t willing to look at them as human beings.”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales said the scale of poverty in modern-day Britain is horrifying.

He added: “It’s shocking in a country as wealthy as ours that there are still people dependent on absolute charity.”

The Department for Work and Pensions said it did not recognise the report’s figures. A spokesman said: “Every day Job Centre Plus advisers work hard to help claimants into work.

“Sanctions are only used as a last resort for the tiny minority who fail to take up the support which is on offer.”

Blanchard. J 2015 Daily Mirror 02/03/2015 P. 2

“If you draw a middle line through the severity of this report, it still headlines an issue that discredits the DWP.”

Britain’s Benefits Crackdown: Channel 4 Dispatches – Tonight 8.00pm

£26,000 Payout after Officialdom Walks Over Pensioner and Family

The Government has been heavily criticised after a series of blunders left an elderly pensioner £26,000 worse off.

The Pension Service – part of the Department for Work and Pensions – failed to send a computerised prompt to the woman’s council that would have automatically triggered  a housing benefit claim she was entitled to. Her family who are from Essex, discovered the mistake, but were forced to spend five years battling with government officials from the Pension Service who, according to the family, had refused to correct the problem.

The Pension Service did not look at the complaint until the woman died, aged 90, and then it refused to compensate the family. The service said she had died before it had had time to consider the complaint. However, it was the agency’s own officials who had refused to deal with the complaint while she was alive, the family said.

The DWP fell back on “policy” which the pension service wrongly claimed prevented it from compensating the next of kin of people who had died. The Independent Case Examiner investigated the complaint but, to the family’s astonishment, upheld the department’s decision.

Eventually, the family turned to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, which put things right, forcing the DWP to hand over the money owed plus compensation for its mistakes.Parliamentary and Health Service OmbudsmanThe Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor, said: “An elderly woman and her family were let down because of service failure and poor complaint handling.

“Our investigation upheld the complaint and recommended that both the Department for Work and Pensions and the Independent Case Examiner apologise to the family and pay her family the £26,514 plus interest that she was owed.”

The DWP also agreed to pay the family £1,000 as an apology for its mistakes, while the Independent Case Examiner paid them £250 for its part in the debacle

Read. S 2015 The Independent Daily Briefing  27/02/2015  P. 7

“This family were determined not to be ‘walked on’, as so many are, and got justice. These officials believe they are untouchable – and the country stinks with them.”

Average waiting for PIP assessment halved – ‘People still left worrying’

The DWP have just released new figures which show that the average waiting time for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has more than halved since last summer.

Department of Work and PensionsThis improvement is due to a range of factors including:

• PIP assessment providers have almost quadrupled the number of health professionals they employ since the start of 2014;
• Providers have more than quadrupled the number of assessments they are completing as they continue to consistently clear more assessments than referrals;
• Providers have more than doubled the number of assessments they cleared in the second half of 2014;
• DWP Operations has doubled the number of people working on PIP;
• DWP’s decision makers have increased their productivity and have doubled the number of cases they now clear each day compared to April.

Claimants now have an average wait of 14 weeks for an assessment from the time they return their ‘How your disability affects you form’ to DWP. DWP will now rollout PIP to working age Disability Living Allowance (DLA) claimants in an extra 18 postcode areas where the assessment provider has the capacity to handle the increased volume of claims.
From 23 February PIP will be rolled out to working age DLA claimants in the following postcode areas:

Aberdeen (AB)
Blackburn (BB)
Bradford (BD)
Dundee (DD)
Doncaster (D)
Exeter (EX)
Portsmouth (PO)
Preston (PR)
Sheffield (S)
Southampton (SO)
Cleveland (TS)
Wakefield (WF)
Halifax (HX)
Kilmarnock (KA)
Kirkcaldy (KY)
Leeds (LS)
Perth (PH)
Plymouth (PL)

The latest rollout applies to DLA claimants where:

• Their fixed term award is coming to an end;
• Someone is approaching 16;
• DWP receives information about a change in someone’s care or mobility needs;
• Someone chooses to claim PIP instead of DLA.

The majority of existing DLA claimants who have a lifetime or indefinite award will not be affected until October 2015 at the earliest, unless DWP receives information about a change in their condition that would affect their rate of payment or if they reach the age of 16.

“It’s taking an eternity to rollout these benefit changes – with people worrying how they will be affected – with it costing a fortune to implement”

Disabled Teachers £14k benefit fraud

A teacher has been convicted of falsely claiming nearly £14.000 in benefits.
Kelly Hopkin was originally granted disability payments in 2008 because of a back injury. But a video posted YouTube in 2011 – which was found by the Department of Work and Pensions – shows her praising successful surgery to treat the problem.

The 35-year-old, from Rugeley in Staffordshire, pleaded not guilty of failing to report a change in circumstances. But she was convicted by Burton magistrates court and ordered to pay back £13,866.

Daily Express 30th October 2014, p.11.

Elderly Among EU’s Worst Off

An article by Jaymi McCann of the Sunday Express reveals Britain’s pensioners are among the poorest  in the EU, with a greater risk of poverty than those in Poland or Latvia.

Despite the UK being the second richest country in Europe, a new report says 15 states do better when it comes to pensioner poverty.

A failing state pension system and low employment in later life has left 1.7 million below the poverty line.

The International Longevity Centre report due out next week shows 16.1 percent of British pensioners live in relative poverty compared with 15.4 percent in Romania and 13.9 percent in Latvia.

The elderly also fare better in Germany, Austria, Spain, Denmark, Poland, Ireland, France, Norway, Slovakia, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Hungary and the Netherlands.

About 1.5 million over-50’s have lost their jobs since 2006 due to redundancy, ill health or forced early retirement, according to the Prince of Wale’s Initiative for Mature Enterprises.

The ILC said “The state pension is being squeezed and it is difficult for people to keep saving when earnings are not rising but costs are increasing.” Its report says the state pension is now just 31.9 percent of average pay in Britain. Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said “Many pensioners live on very low, fixed incomes and have been walking a tightrope in recent years as food and utility bills have escalated.

“The government must do more to get vital money benefits to those who need extra support.”

Pensions expert Ros Altmann said “The UK has one of the lowest state pension in the developed world . We rely heavily on private pensions but those who don’t have the chance to save are living in poverty.”

The Department of Work and Pensions says it is switching to a more effective single-tier system next year, while the “Triple Lock” introduced by the coalition will ensure the state pension increases each year by inflation, wages or 2.5 percent, whichever is greater.


Benefit Claims to be capped at £23K

The Cap on benefits is to be slashed by £3,000 to  £23,000  a year, ministers will announce this week.

Thousands more families will see their benefits drop when the new lower limit comes into force. But cash saved will be pumped into providing  three million more apprenticeships for youngsters.

David Cameron decided to cut the cap as he launches a blitz on welfare dependency.

The PM will unveil a wave of measures including a ban on out-of-work youngsters claiming housing benefit.

Jobseekers’ allowance for 18 to 21-years-old will be replaced with a youth allowance – to stop if they fail to find work in six months.

The cap – started 18 months – saves taxpayers £2million a day. About 33,000 families who were getting over £26,000 a year in benefits saw their incomes drop. But Works and Pensions supremo Iain Duncan Smith says £26,000 – equivalent to £35,000 before tax – is still to high.

Workers in north-west Leicestershire earn an average £22,130 but keep only £17,866 after tax.

Mr Cameron has said that he wants to make sure young people are earning or learning and end the situation where they can finish school , leave home, sign on and get a flat with housing benefit too.

We don’t have a welfare state anymore  – we did not begin investing in are industrial heritage ( the residual wealth of our country) in the 50’s/60’s and watched exports reduce and imports increase over the years (never to claw it back).

This has lead to lost well payed jobs and tens of thousands of apprenticeships a year plus the ability to amply provide welfare in a modern world.

The government is trying to reform (years to late – “as always”) welfare in the UK and reduce NHS and community care budgets by ongoing cuts and slashes.

Support from the “cradle to the grave” – unfortunately a rough ride for many.

Iain Duncan Smith to Pay Back £130million in Benefits

I bet Iain Duncan Smith is not a happy bunny as he faces having to pay £130million in benefits to people who wrongly had their cash stopped after refusing to work for free.

The High Court yesterday ruled that a retrospective law he rushed in was illegal

Graduate Cait Reilly had challenged having to work for free at a Poundland store.

When the Supreme Court said she should have been told she risked losing benefit, the Work and Pensions Secretary brought in the emergency law.

But Mrs Justice Laing said it was incompatible with European Human Rights.

Lawyers acted for Ms Reilly said: “This case is another massive blow to this Government’s flawed and tawdry attemps to make poor people on benefits work for companies who already make massive profits, for free.

“I call on the DWP to ensure that the £130million unlawfully withheld from the poorest of our society is now repaid.”

The department said it would appeal. It said: “We disagree with the judgement on the legislation. It was discussed,, voted on and passed by Parliament.”