DPAC Report into abuse of statistics by the Department for Work and Pensions and UK Government Ministers

At the end of June, the Department for Work and Pensions will be releasing their Annual Report.

Iain Duncan Smith and his hench-ministers will no doubt be touring the TV studios to deliver more propaganda about worklessness and disability.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) have released their own report of the DWP.

The report outlines 35 cases where Ministerial claims using statistics on the subject of Work and Benefits have fallen short of the standards expected of Government Ministers. DPAC believe that this demonstrates a consistent pattern of abuse of official statistics by Ministers of the present Government to paint a false picture of benefit claimants in the UK in support of policies which are aimed at cost cutting to the detriment of jobless, sick and disabled people.Within the document, each case is presented, and fully referenced to source material throughout.

When you next see Iain Duncan Smith on the TV News, ask yourself – is he lying? or is he simply making it up out of thin air again?

We’ve decided that he’s lying.

dpacDPAC is a grass roots campaign body. It was formed by a group of disabled people after the first mass protest against the austerity cuts and their impact on disabled people held on the 3rd October in Birmingham 2010, England. It was led by disabled people under the name of The Disabled Peoples’ Protest. DPAC has over 15,000 members and supporters and works with many anti-cuts groups, Universities, Disabled Peoples’ Organizations, and Unions

How To Deal With Benefits Medical Examinations

welfare-wrongs

Never Face Them Alone

This article describes how claimants for disability benefits can deal with the medical examinations by medical professionals, which for many claimants are central in deciding whether or not you are entitled to disability benefits.

Before The Examination

The examinations are run by Medical Services (MS) which is operated by the private profit making company ATOS on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Before a MS examination your own GP sends info to the DWP. It is important that this info is as full as possible and states clearly whether or not in their medical opinion you are fit for work at that time and in the foreseeable future (at least 6 months ahead).

It is frequently the case that people with a long-term illness gradually minimise in their own minds the effect of their illness on their everyday lives and develop survival strategies to cope on a daily basis in an attempt to lead as normal a life as possible.

This can cause a problem as this habit when taken into a medical examination does not present a true picture of the illness and could be misleading. It might be helpful to discuss the reality of your illness and the limitations it imposes on your life with someone who knows both the illness and yourself well. The reality of your illness is what must be presented to the MS medical professional and to the DWP.

If you have a Medical Services examination, either at the MS office or at your home, always have someone accompany you. This is your right. We have often done this. They cannot refuse you this right – if they try then just insist you need someone with you.

To obtain benefits you are legally required to attend this examination, and the information obtained at the examination is used, within a legal framework, to decide on your benefit entitlement – it is therefore vital to make sure your legal rights are protected.

If the date for the examination is not suitable, eg your accompanying person cannot make it on that date, you can get the date changed. If you are unable to travel to the examination you can ask for a home visit instead. If you change the arrangements over the phone write to confirm the changes. You have the right to be seen by a medical professional of the same sex.

Meet the accompanying person beforehand to discuss what’s going to happen. Before the examination you should be clear that:

  • The examination can be halted to allow you to go to the toilet, have a glass of water, take a pill, or if you feel faint or ill.
  • The examination should only proceed if you feel happy to continue.
  • You should refuse to do anything that hurts or distresses you.
  • The person accompanying you should take a pen and paper and also a watch.
  • If possible, take a tape recorder. Take your medicines, and any aids you use, such as a walking stick or crutches.
  • You can claim travel expenses for going to the examination – but if you need to take a taxi you must contact the MS beforehand.

At The Examination

You should be aware that the examination begins on entry to the examination centre and does not end until you leave the centre. An evaluation of your medical condition does not only take place when you are in front of the examining doctor, but also potentially on your way into the building, in the waiting room, and on your way out. They could note the length of time you can sit without apparent discomfort, how you pick up your bag, etc..

At the examination the medical professional should:

  • Be courteous and considerate.
  • Spend some time explaining the purpose of the examination.
  • Ask if you are willing to be examined.
  • Ask you and give you time to explain YOUR OWN VIEW of how you are affected by your condition, including how it affects your ability to do day to day tasks like shopping, cooking, cleaning and so on.

The examining medical professional should not attempt to ‘manipulate’ parts of your body.

During the examination you should:

  • Make sure the medical professional realises the full extent of your illness/ disability, including any other conditions/ illnesses you may have. Remember, unlike your GP, this medical professional does not know your medical history.
  • Describe how you feel on a “bad day”, rather than on a “good day”.

If you are accompanying the claimant you should:

  • Write down the name of the medical professional, the place of examination, the time of starting and finishing the examination.
  • Take notes on everything the medical professional and the claimant say, what the Doctor asks the claimant to do and what happens. Especially note any aggressive attitude or manner adopted by the medical professional. Note the exact words spoken.
  • Intervene and ask for the examination to be halted if the claimant becomes unwell or distressed. The claimant should have a break until they feel well enough to continue.
  • Object to and stop any attempt by the medical professional to have the claimant do exercises which could injure or distress them.
  • You should have the examination stopped if the claimant is becoming ill or distressed for any reason. If the claimant is not fit to continue then the examination should be postponed until another day.
  • If the claimant’s distress is due to mistreatment by the medical professional, stop the interview, then say that you will be making a complaint with a request for an examination at a future date with a different medical professional.
  • Time the length of the examination and any breaks taken (some medical professionals have been known to exaggerate the length of time of the examination to make it appear more thorough than it was).
  • At the end of the examination ask the medical professional to read back their notes, to check that they have made an accurate record. If the medical professional refuses, then note that together with the reason given for refusing. If there seem to be any inaccuracies in the medical professional’s notes, check with the claimant, then if necessary ask the medical professional to change their notes. If they refuse then make a note of that, writing down exactly what they said.

After The Examination

If the medical professional did anything wrong, then as soon as possible afterwards write a letter of complaint to DWP – don’t wait for the decision to come through. The letter should be signed by both the claimant and the accompanying person.

How You Can Be Found Incapable Of Work Even If You Don’t Score Enough Points

Even if you don’t score enough points under the personal capability assessment – the medical test to decide if you’re incapable of work – you may still have a chance of being found incapable of work either at claim or appeal stage. This is because of the little known ‘exceptional circumstances’ rules.

There are a number of these, but probably the most important is regulation 27(b), which states that you will be found incapable of work if:

  • “There would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if he or she were found capable of work’’

This regulation could apply to you on physical health or on mental health grounds.

For example, if you experience severe anxiety attacks and might harm yourself or somebody else if placed in a situation you find threatening, then this might be grounds for applying regulation 27(b).

Or you may have a lung condition which is made much worse by stress and, in the past, such situations have led to a serious deterioration in your health and perhaps hospitalisation. If you would find being found capable of work, having to sign on for Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and take part in training or work experience very stressful, then that may be grounds for declaring you incapable of work under the exceptional circumstances regulations.

However, neither doctors nor decision makers are quick to identify people who might be covered by these clauses. And very few claimants even know they exist.

ATOS And The Bigger Picture

atos2

ATOS are currently recruiting more staff to help meet Government targets to force more people off disability benefits to reduce the public debt problem caused by banks gambling in the financial markets. The process is driven by cost cutting not objective medical opinion. The most vulnerable in society are being made to pay for the greed of others and the inevitable booms and busts of capitalist economics.

Medical professionals, including physiotherapists, with no experience of mental health problems, for example, are only given a matter of days training before making assessments of claimants. They are paid substantially more than NHS doctors and nurses for leaving their ethical concerns at the door. ATOS claim that they do not make the decision as to whether someone can work and have their benefits reduced, but that the decision is made by the DWP from their report and that performance targets are based simply on the number of claimants seen in a day. However they admit that if a medical professional passes all claimants for disability benefits it will not go unnoticed.

This information has been reproduced from The Crutch Collective formerly Anti Benefit Cuts Glasgow

Please contact BPACC if you require any further information, support or advice. We are not experts in this field but will always show solidarity and try to help in whatever way we can.

Related links:
How to prepare for a ESA Tribunal Hearing – The Crutch Collective
ESA Internal Handbook via The Crutch Collective (pdf)
How points are awarded in ESA assessments via The Crutch Collective (pdf)
Links to factsheets relating to benefits, debt and mental illness – Rethink
Personal Independence Payment – Our free guide to making a claim – Disability Rights UK

underattack

Independent Living Fund recipient interviews

Reproduced from False Economy

The videos on this page are interviews made, by False Economy, with people who are directly affected by the government’s atrocious recent decision to close the Independent Living Fund (the ILF).

The ILF was set up as a standalone fund to pay for extra carer hours for people with severe disabilities. That additional funding made it possible for people to pay for enough care to continue to live independently in their homes, rather than in residential care. At the end of last year, the government made an extremely unpopular decision to close the fund and devolve it to local authorities. A recent attempt to challenge the closure was lost, but claimants plan to appeal.

In these videos and linked case studies, ILF recipients around the country explain how vital the fund is to them and what will happen if they are no longer able to pay for the high levels of care that they require.

Mary Laver

In this video, Mary Laver, who lives in Newcastle, talks about the life that she leads with carer hours paid for by the Independent Living Fund. The ILF pays for about 46 of Mary’s carer hours a week. With that support, she does everything and a lot more: last year, for example, she raised money for the Royal British Legion by travelling from Lands End to John O’Groats in her electric wheelchair and went to London as a 2012 Olympic volunteer. Without that funding, things will change drastically:

Gabriel Pepper

Gabriel is 41. He began his working life as an archaeologist after completing a Phd. He has had three brain tumours and has sight, speech and mobility impairments. The ILF pays about two-thirds of his care costs. Waltham Forest council pays for the rest. His view on the importance of taking legal action to fight to save the ILF fund in court (he was in the group of ILF recipients that took the recent court action): “I don’t believe the Tory party will ever hang their heads in shame, because they don’t have shame.”

He also talks in the video about the effort that he’s had to make to convince MPs to sign early day motion 651 – an EDM which called for the government to “look at ways of expanding the Independent Living Fund to provide needs-based support to all adults in the UK who require it.”

Sophie Partridge

Sophie is an actor, writer and workshop artist from Islington:

“My PAs [carers] do everything for me – everything physically that I can’t do for myself. It’s all aspects of personal care – like getting up, going to the loo, washing, dressing, cooking for me, cutting my food up, cleaning, laundry, driving me in my van. I still need the same levels of assistance whatever I’m doing, so if I’m working or round at a friend’s house, I need them with me to do all those things.

Fighting the cuts has been difficult. [In their arguments against benefit cuts], people do use this word “vulnerable” a hell of a lot. I actually wrote a letter to David Cameron – and I’m still waiting for a reply – in which I said: ‘It’s not my impairment which makes me vulnerable. It is your cuts. It is your policies. Give us decent resources and we will add to your economy. We can’t be cast as victims all the time. It’s difficult, because we do have to fight the good fight without appearing pathetic cripples. It’s hard to find the right balance.”

Penny Pepper

Penny Pepper is an Islington writer and journalist: “The reason I get the independent living fund (ILF) is that I’m judged to have a severe disability with severe levels of mobility impairment. I’m assessed as needing 24/7 care. The ILF pays for just under half of my care costs(and Islington council pays the rest. I need support to do most things of a physical and practical nature – from getting out of bed, using the bathroom, getting dressed and food preparation to moving from A to B, getting into my wheelchair and getting out of my wheelchair. I would not be able to work without that funding. This is what is terrifying to me. Council funding alone, for carers, would not be enough to retain my personal assistants.

There is this bizarre idea coming our way that you can eat sandwiches, lie in bed and use incontinence pads. If that happens, then that is, in effect, the end of my career. Now, we’re being forced backwards into having to go on about how pathetic we are as individuals – you know, with your poor legs and your this and your that. If the council ever tries to put me in a care home [because it cannot afford to fund independent living costs ] I will take it to court.”

Kevin Caulfield

Kevin lives in West London, works in Brixton and is training to be a barrister.

“For my care, I need two people during the day at some points during the day, so my care package totals 25 hours. It’s quite significant. It’s enabled me to stabilise my health and it’s improved quite a lot. I’ve been able to work during the last 15 years. I’ve been able to go to college. I’m training to be a barrister – things that I would have been able to do in my life if I wasn’t a disabed person, but certainly things that I couldn’t do without this support.

Hammersmith and Fuham council pay for about 60% of my care package and about 40% of the pacakge comes from the Independent Living Fund. For disabled people to be included as equal members of society, [the great thing about the ILF is that the assessment really is based on your needs and you don’t feel that someone has come in with a cash register next to them.”

There are more testimonies from people on the Disabled People Against Cuts site:

What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people – Mary’s story
What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people – Justine’s story
What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people – John, Paul and Evonne’s story
What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people –Roxy ’s story
What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people – Kathy’s story
What the Closure of ILF means to disabled people – Richard’s story
What the Closure of ILF means to disabled people – Penny’s story
What the Closure of ILF means to disabled people – Anthony and David’s story
What the Closure of ILF means to disabled people – Kevin’s story
Template letter to MPs to stop ILF Closure
What Local Authorities said about the Closure of ILF

false economy

Statement from Boycott Workfare: Stop the Sanctions!

Boycott Workfare call on the PCS to take action on conditionality, workfare and sanctions

Public sector workers, including at the DWP, will soon face sanctions under Universal Credit unless we take action now

Public sector workers, including at the DWP, will soon face sanctions under Universal Credit unless we take action now

The PCS conference takes place in Brighton later this month. Join a rally urging delegates to support a position of non-cooperation with sanctions against welfare claimants at 12.30pm on 21st May.

We are extremely disappointed that PCS leadership have decided not to allow debate at their conference on two motions which called for the union to move from theoretical to practical unity with claimants in challenging sanctions.

Current welfare policies and reforms represent an unprecedented attack on claimants and on the welfare state itself. Conditionality, workfare and the huge rise in sanctions are driving claimants further into poverty and destitution. At the same time a vicious campaign of hatred driven by the media and political classes has stigmatised those on benefits and poisoned public debate.

Workfare forces claimants to work without wages under the threat of sanctions. Those on workfare are exempted from legislation that protects the rights of people at work and denied access to union membership and representation. Sick and disabled people claiming ESA can now be forced onto workfare. Workfare drives down wages and conditions for all workers and it is in all our interests to end it completely. Between 2009 and 2011 the number of sanctions handed out to claimants tripled to reach over half a million. In January this year 85,000 people were sanctioned, suggesting that the number of sanctions could reach one million this year. People are now having benefits withdrawn for up to three years (including for failure to participate in workfare). As the PCS have said this increase in the number and severity of sanctions is purely a political decision.

As conditionality and sanctions have increased and become more severe so the range of claimants subject to them has been extended. Sick and disabled people found “fit for work” by the hated Work Capability Assessment are now subject to this regime as are single parents with young children. Plans for in-work conditionality will see sanctions applied to part time workers and the self employed. The introduction of Universal Jobmatch and a requirement for claimants to spend 35 hour each week on jobsearch or workfare will inevitably lead to more sanctions and is intended to do so. Plans to make hardship payments a recoverable loan will force those who are sanctioned into debt. Housing benefit is increasingly being suspended where people are sanctioned. This systematic removal of welfare support is causing sharp increases in homelessness and the use of food banks.

Boycott Workfare welcome the fact that the PCS have spoken out against workfare and the huge rise in sanctions. We also understand that the primary role of the PCS is to represent their members including around 84,000 staff in the DWP. It should be obvious that there is a tension here where the PCS are campaigning against policies that their own members are required to implement. But there is also the possibility that the PCS could take concerted action to defend the welfare state in the interests of both claimants and their members. Government policies cannot be implemented without workers to implement them.

At meetings with the PCS we have raised the possibility of action being taken. Sadly the PCS have been dismissive of our suggestions and they have been met with arguments for inaction. PCS leadership have argued that anti-strike laws prevent action being taken in solidarity with claimants. But the interests of claimants and PCS members are intertwined and these policies directly impact on the working conditions of PCS members. Increased aggravation between PCS members and claimants put both at risk. And under Universal Credit many DWP staff will themselves face conditionality and sanctions. The right of workers to withhold their labour is fundamental. Laws which undermine this right do not comply with international obligations and should be challenged. Without those prepared to take risks and challenge injustice we would not have unions or a welfare state.

This is not about blaming those PCS members tasked with implementing unjust policies. We know that the blame lies elsewhere. This is about the role that unions could and should take in building solidarity between workers and claimants and in empowering workers to take action. If the PCS are sincere about campaigning for social security justice then they should refuse to cooperate with the implementation of unjust policies. Words are not enough. Boycott Workfare therefore calls on the PCS to take action to protect welfare provision and to frustrate the imposition of policies designed to undermine it.

Boycott Workfare would like to thank those PCS branches who have signed our pledge and those members who have taken part in our actions. We are grateful to members of the PCS in the Civil Service Rank and File Network who put forward a motion to this year’s PCS conference. We urge all PCS members to call for proper debate and practical action on challenging sanctions and to support the emergency motion calling for non-cooperation with sanctions to be debated as well as the rally on the 21st May.

© Copyright 2013 | Boycott Workfare | All Rights Reserved

Appealing against the Bedroom Tax

The Bedroom Tax, as part of the Welfare Reform Act came into force in April 2013. It reduces housing benefit by between 14% and 25% for those in social housing (council housing or housing association housing) if they are deemed to be ‘under occupying’. Plain and simple, the bedroom tax is an unjust attack on the poorest members of our communities.

‘Under occupying’ includes:

  • Having one more room for each single person or couple (even if the ‘extra’ room is a box room or for storing disability equipment)
  • Having more than one room for two children under 16 of the same gender
  • Having more than one room for two children under 10 of the same gender
  • Having a room for a foster child

The government claims that this change will encourage more efficient use of social housing. However the reality is not only are many people in need of their ‘extra’ rooms but there are not enough properties for those affected to move into. Across the country there are already 1 million people on council waiting lists for one bedroom properties. The vast majority of those who do ‘downsize’ will switch from social housing to the private rented sector which will inevitably lead to higher rent costs and local authorities paying out more in Housing Benefits. The solution to a lack of social housing is not to punish those who live in social housing but to build more council homes.

It has been estimated that nationwide, 660,000 people will be liable for additional rent costs and of those around 420,000 are disabled or carers. Many of their properties have been modified by social housing landlords to assist people in daily living. It is highly unlikely that people forced to move through financial difficulties, will find private landlords willing to spend out to modify properties.

All those affected should have already received Notices stating the amounts they are liable to pay. Any appeals against these decisions must be made within one month of the notices being sent. So in most cases, the deadline will be May 1st

Whilst it is unknown what proportion of appeals will be successful, it is strongly recommended that those affected exercise their democratic right to appeal, as the alternative is simply to pay up and fall further into poverty.

It is also strongly recommended that you apply for Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) from your local council.

If you decide to appeal, click here to access a good source of advice compiled by Initiative Factory

Whether people are affected or not, it is important we all campaign to put pressure on our local councils and housing associations to:

  • Publicly oppose the bedroom tax and join the campaign to have it abolished
  • Promise NOT to evict any tenants who fall into arrears as a direct result of these cuts
  • Start building thousands of new social rented homes

And with this mind, BPACC will soon be announcing details of protests at Bournemouth and Poole town halls.

Sources:
Appeal Letter – Initiative Factory
What is the ‘bedroom tax’? – Hands off our Homes

April 1st 2013 – A dark day for the Welfare State

April 1st 2013 will go down as a dark day in the history of the Welfare State, not only and very depressingly, did the Health and Social Care Act become law but yet another avalanche of benefit cuts were brought into effect. This is despite the prolonged and persistent lobbying and protests by disability groups calling for the govt to assess the impact of its benefit cuts along with the UK’s leading experts on social policy and the welfare state urging the government to reconsider. And, staggeringly, at the same time, those with an income of over £150,000 per annum will see their tax rate reduced from 50% to 45%. Anyone who believed the Government’s rhetoric that “those with the broadest shoulders should carry the greatest burden” could be forgiven for thinking that all this an April Fools prank.

This week also saw the conviction of 3 people for the manslaughter of 6 children. The death of any child is a tragic and emotive issue, the judge described the act as “outside the comprehension of any right-thinking person” yet George Osborne and his fellow government ministers seem hell bent on using this tragedy to justify their policies of welfare reform / cuts. We have seen both the government and the media suggest and imply that the perpetuators of this evil crime are “a vile product of Welfare UK”.

George Osborne has questioned why the Welfare State subsidises such people with the underlying suggestion that “living off benefits” somehow turns a person into an abhorrent scumbag. That suggestion is in itself abhorrent. The fact is the small percentage of evil people that commit such atrocities come from all walks of life, are both rich and poor, employed and unemployed. We are led to believe there is a massive problem with people who have never worked having multitudes of children to boost their benefits. However this is simply untrue. Only 4% of families with a parent on Jobseeker’s Allowance have more than two children and only 1.5 per cent of those on benefits have never worked. The extreme cases as highlighted by the court case are even rarer; out of the 1.35 million households where one of the adults is claiming out of work benefit, only 190 of those families have 10 or more children.

The question should be turned back on George Osborne and we should ask why the government does not put all its efforts into catching those who defraud the system. Official figures show that 0.8% of benefit spending is due to fraud. So why are the 99.2% in receipt of assistance from the State being portrayed in some parts of the media – with full knowledge and acceptance of the government – as “scroungers and skivers”. Good people, who through no fault of their own require support, are being demonised and scapegoated whilst it is highly probable that a minuscule minority continue to defraud the system. The government should of course go after those who commit fraud and while they are it, they should also close down the loopholes that allow corporate giants and individuals to avoid paying tax which is estimated by some to be around £25 billion a year and by others to be £70 billion while some state it to be closer to £100 billion. Whatever the exact figure is, it is blatantly clear that there are alternatives to hammering those who have the least.

We all need to ask ourselves the kind of society we want to live within. The Welfare State should be considered as an insurance scheme which was set up without incentives to make a profit. All who can contribute, do so at a progressive rate and it is something that is there for all of us whenever we need it. Public services run along the same lines (or rather most used to before the influx of outsourcing!). Make no mistake it is highly unlikely that anyone in this country has not been reliant upon or received the benefits both offer; from Child benefits to the NHS; libraries to refuse collection; education to state pensions. Are we prepared to throw all this away so a small minority can prosper?

Click here to sign the WOW petition from the Site of the resistance to the War on Welfare
“We call for a Cumulative Impact Assessment of Welfare Reform, and a New Deal for sick & disabled people based on their needs, abilities and ambitions”

first the came corder

This week we have also learnt that the government are coming after the National Minimum Wage. In 2008, a senior Tory source said: “The minimum wage won’t be scrapped but it will be allowed to wither on the vine. A series of smaller, more affordable increases will mean it will just melt away.” This seems to becoming to fruition with government ministers hinting that the national minimum wage could be held back from rising due to difficult economic circumstances.

Click here to sign the petition to protect the minimum wage.
”We believe that the minimum wage should be protected from being cut or frozen. The poorest paid should not be paying the price for this Government’s failed austerity economics. We call on the Government to stop their changes to the Low Pay Commission’s terms of reference, and protect the lowest-paid workers from these pay cuts.”

In one way or another we are all being affected by the savage policies of austerity, directly or indirectly. Of course the natural tendency is to fight your own corner but now, more than ever before, we must all come together in solidarity to oppose all the cuts irrespective of whether we are directly affected, which groups we belong to or individual political beliefs. We must organise and resist in whatever way we can. Online, offline, inform, educate, write to your MP, petition, leaflet, take direct action, partake in civil disobedience, strike and occupy. This is not only a metaphorical life and death struggle; people are dying as a direct result of the actions of this government. Resist, resist and then resist some more.

Videos from the Benefits Justice Summit 9th March 2013, London

The start of Benefits Justice Summit

Winvisible

Mental Health Network

Using the law to fight the cuts – Wendy Pettifer (1 of 2)

Using the law to fight the cuts – Wendy Pettifer (2 of 2)

Using the law to fight the cuts – Liz Davies (1 of 2)

Using the law to fight the cuts – Liz Davies (2 of 2)

Closing session – Action plan

Building campaigns locally (1 of 2)

Building campaigns locally (2 of 2)

Tenants Federation

Food & Allied Workers Union

Pensioners Association

Single Mother’s Self-Defence

defend council housingdpac

right to work