A woman with a rare heart condition, which can cause her to collapse unpredictably at any moment, has spoken about her battle with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to get the support she desperately needs.
Gail Ward was told that she did not qualify for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), despite living with the potentially life-threatening heart condition called Prinzmetal’s angina, a rare form of angina where attacks can occur even when she is resting. Remarkably, Gail was told by the DWP that she doesn’t qualify for PIP.
Prinzmetal’s angina can cause arteries in the heart to spasm during times of stress or cold weather, which severely limits a person’s independence and can also be life-threatening. It causes cardiac arrhythmias and can lead to heart attack if the blood flow to the heart deprives the organ of oxygen. The condition may sometimes arise when someone already has a serious form of Raynaud’s phenomemon, where the blood supply to the extremities is closed down because of cold or stress, causing a painful spasm. But it is a relatively rare condition.
Gail, who many of my readers will know, is also a respected disability rights campaigner. She had been claiming Disability Living Allowance for 20 years, but after being ordered to attend a mandatory reassessment for PIP, she was told that her support would stop because she ‘failed to meet the qualifying criteria.’
“I can be in the sitting room having a conversation and the next minute I have collapsed.
“I need to wear a pendant bracelet in case I collapse but sometimes I don’t even get to press that.
“It has such an impact on my life. If I have a severe attack I could not even put a sentence together but find that if I rest up it allows the body to repair itself.”
Gail, who also has arthritis and hip dysplasia, among other health problems, say’s that living with the condition leaves her feeling tired and drained and that this has been exacerbated by her battle with the DWP.
She appealed the DWP’s decision. After waiting 15 months for her case to be heard at a social security tribunal, Gail was told that her appeal had been successful and that her benefits would be reinstated.
Commenting on her own experience and that of other people who struggle to get the support they are entitled to, Gail said: “Disabled people are losing their mobility cars, losing disability entitlement when they are moving to PIP.
“It is a different criteria. It is basically about what you can and can’t do. It is a disability analysis, not a medical.”
In 2013, the government began to rollout PIP for adults to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA). One of the purposes of PIP was to reduce spending, with the intention of costing 20% less. Therefore, the conditions to satisfy in order to be entitled to the support were made stricter.
It also emphasises the professional gap between NHS medical professionals and the “health professional” employed by the state to carry out these functional capacity assessments in the context of a neoliberal welfare state, and medical health professionals, whose wider work is generally not directly linked to the politically defined conditionality of welfare support.
That said, PIP is a non-means tested support to help people maintain as much independence as they can, whether in work or not. It stands to reason that someone who is too ill to work will need more support because of their loss of earnings.
Gail said: “People with severe disabilities are losing their DLA after being on it for 20 or 30 years.”
She added: “I would like the DWP to clarify why they refuse to address poor quality assessor report failings and decision maker decisions, which put disabled people at risk of financial hardship.
“I would like answers as to why the DWP stop the mobility component money from date of applying.
“I applied in July 2018 but the assessment was in October 2018, yet if a claimant is successful the mobility component is paid from decision date.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring that disabled people get the support they’re entitled to.
“Decisions to award PIP are based on all of the evidence available to us at the time.
“Ms Ward has been awarded the enhanced rates to PIP for daily living and mobility after additional evidence was provided.
“She continued to be supported with Employment Support Allowance while awaiting the outcome of her PIP tribunal.”
This standard response doesn’t offer any explanation as to why the DWP decided that someone who they have already deemed more than once as not being well enough to work somehow failed to qualify for Personal Independence Payment.
Gail was subjected to a loss of income, her motability entitlement and high levels of stress for almost a year and a half. It’s a well known fact that stress exacerbates illness, and particularly her heart condition.
Furthermore, it is the decision of the ‘health professional’ (HP) to “determine whether any additional evidence needs to be gathered from health or other professionals supporting the claimant.”
Often at the appeal stage, it turns out HPs frequently decide not to ask for further evidence. The DWP must take all medical evidence into account when making a decision about PIP claims. Yet the DWP say: “In many cases, appeals are granted because further medical evidence is provided.”
This indicates that people are having to go to court, often waiting months for their appeal to be heard, because of deliberately under-informed, poorly evidenced DWP decisions.
Furthermore, it says in thegovernment guidance to GPs: “Your patient should complete the forms to support their [PIP] claim using information that they have to hand, and should not ask you for information to help them do this, or to complete the forms yourself.” “
After all this time, you would expect that this problem would have been addressed, especially given that the person who suffers as a consequence is always the ill and disabled person.
Anyone would think this is part of a broader enduring government strategy to ensure as few people as possible are awarded the disability support they are entitled to. After all, it takes immense strength for someone who is very ill to fight unfair decisions at tribunal, and not everyone does so.
Many die while awaiting the outcome of their claim for PIP. Up to January 2019, more than 17,000 people died while waiting to hear whether their claim had been successful,it emerged.
Among those were people with terminal conditions, but who did not meet the government’s strict ‘six month’ rule – people can only be ‘fast tracked’ for support if they are expected to die within six months. However, doctors cannot predict the precise timing of terminally ill people’s demise. Many campaigners have been pushing for this restriction to be lifted, because it’s irrational, inhumane and unreasonable.
Ministers have been accused of “failing people at the most vulnerable point in their lives” after the figures revealed 17,070 disability claimants have died while waiting for decisions on their PIP claims since 2013.
One in four (4,330) of those who died were suffering from a form of cancer, while 270 had anxiety or depressive disorders. In more than half of cases (9,020), the main disability was not even recorded.
Last year, shadow disabilities Marsha de Cordova accused the government of allowing a “cruel and callous” PIP assessment process to create a “hostile environment for disabled people”.
She is absolutely right.
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Two disabled people who moved to the UK from other EU countries have won an important Appeal Court case which entitles them to disability-related benefits in the UK from shortly after they arrived rather than having to wait two years.
The case, brought by Child Poverty Action Group and Harrow Law Centre, will ensure that disabled EU citizens and their carers who have a “genuine and sufficient” connection to the UK will receive social security support at an earlier point if they relocate to the UK.
The ruling overturns an Upper Tribunal finding that had denied both households benefits. And it confirms that the “genuine and sufficient” link which must be demonstrated by claimants in these circumstances is to the UK as a whole, rather than to its social security system.
One of the claimants, Ms Mohamed, is a Somalian-born woman who after 14 years’ residence in Germany as a German citizen came to the UK to settle here, aged 65.
When her health deteriorated to the point where she could no longer live alone and required the care of her daughter, a British citizen living in the UK, she claimed Attendance Allowance (AA). Her claim was refused.
The other claimant is 18-year-old Brandon Kavanagh, an Irish citizen who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome as a child.
His mother, a British citizen, moved to Ireland when she was a teenager but returned to the UK in 2013 with her children to escape domestic violence and to be closer to her family, from whom she receives support. Her son was then aged 12.
She claimed Disability Allowance (DLA) for her son when she arrived in the UK, but her claim was refused.
Between 2011 and 2013 she had received care allowances for her son and for herself from the Irish social security system.
Both were refused disability-related benefits on the grounds that they hadn’t been in the UK long enough to pass the so-called ‘past presence test’.
The test requires people claiming disability benefits to have been in Britain for 104 weeks of the 156 weeks before they claim. EU citizens may be able to meet this test by combining, in certain circumstances, the time they have lived in another EU state with the time they lived in the UK.
Alternatively, the test doesn’t apply to EU citizens if they can establish a genuine and sufficient link to the UK.
Both claimants appealed the refusal of their benefit claims. In Brandon Kavanagh’s case he lost the appeal while Ms Mohamed was successful in hers. Brandon appealed to the Upper Tribunal in his case and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions appealed in Ms Mohamed’s case.
The cases then went jointly to an Upper Tribunal which found that although the “genuine and sufficient link” needed to be to the UK as a whole rather than limited to its social security system and that such a link may be established on the basis of presence alone, neither of the claimants could demonstrate a sufficiently strong link to the UK.
In a judgement handed down yesterday, the Court of Appeal ruled that both claimants had a genuine and sufficient connection to the UK when they claimed disability benefits shortly after their arrival and that the approach taken by the Upper Tribunal was flawed and unduly inflexible because it failed to take account of all the particular, personal circumstances and motives of the claimants which, in the round, proved the required sufficient link.
The Judges say: “… objective evidence of the [genuine and sufficient] link is plainly critical but evidence of the motives, intentions and expectations of the applicant are not to be ignored if they are relevant to proof of the link and are convincing.”
In Kavanagh’s case, the judges found the fact that his mother was fleeing domestic violence explained and confirmed her settled intention to remain in the UK, her country of nationality.
She needed the support of her wider family in England, enrolled her children in English schools, closed her only bank account in Ireland, severed all ties with the Republic and had no intention of returning.
In the case of Ms Mohamed, she suffered a number of physical ailments including osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and high blood pressure.
She used a wheelchair, required support with mobility and daily activities such as washing, cooking meals, dressing and administering medication and had moved to the UK to join her daughter, a British citizen who provides daily care for her.
Commenting on the judgement, Child Poverty Action Group’s Head of Litigation Carla Clarke said: “This is a strong judgement which recognises that justice requires decision makers to take a wide view of all the relevant facts and motives where a genuine and sufficient link to the UK must be proved for benefit purposes.
“Both of our clients already had strong family ties to the UK and a clear intention to settle here when they first claimed disability benefits yet they were denied help with the extra costs of disability because, as today’s judgement finds, the criteria for proving a sufficient link to the UK has been too narrowly applied.
“Today’s ruling means that disabled EU citizens, including UK citizens, who relocate or return to the UK from another EU country because their carer is fundamentally connected to the UK will receive the financial help they need because of their disability at a much earlier point.”
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Earlier this year, I wrote an article about the Universal Credit (UC) rules which will leave many disabled people who are new claimants, who experience a change in circumstances or a break in their claim, without their Disability Income Guarantee.
Two disabled people decided to take the government to court over the brutal cuts to their income, which has caused them severe hardship.
Earlier this month, in a landmark judgment, the High Court ruled that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) unlawfully discriminated against two severely disabled men who both saw their benefits dramatically reduced when they claimed Universal Credit.
Lawyers representing the men said the ruling showed that the new benefit system was “not working” for the disabled or other claimants, and urged the government to halt the roll-out and overhaul the system to meet peoples’ needs and not “condemn them to destitution”. The two claimants, known only as TP and AR, had both previously been in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) and Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP), which were specifically aimed at ensuring the additional care and needs of severely disabled people living alone with no carer are met.
Both people were required to make a claim for universal credit when they moved into new local authorities where the controversial new benefit was being rolled out. According to both the men, they were advised by DWP staff that their benefit entitlement would not change. Yet despite repeated assurances from the government that “no one will experience a reduction in the benefit they are receiving at the point of migration to universal credit where circumstances remain the same”, both men saw an immediate drop in their income of around £178 a month when they were moved over to UC.
When they asked for the top up payments promised by the DWP, they were told that Government policy was that no such payments would be paid until July 2019 when managed migration is due to begin.
As both claimants testified to the court, the sudden drop of income had a devastating impact on them, both physically and psychologically. TP, a former City banker who suffers from a terminal illness, has been struggling to address his care needs, and AR, who suffers from severe mental health issues, has been unable to afford basic necessities.
Earlier this month, the DWP committed the government to ensuring that no severely disabled person in receipt of the SDP will be made to move onto universal credit until transitional protection is in place and also, made a commitment to compensate those like the claimants who have lost out.
Despite this, following the judgment, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has sought permission to appeal, maintaining that there was “nothing unlawful” with the way the claimants were treated.
Their lawyer, Tessa Gregory from the human rights team at Leigh Day, told the Court: “Nothing about either of the claimants’ disability or care needs changed, they were simply unfortunate enough to need to move local authorities into a Universal Credit full service area.”
The judge said the impact on the individuals was “clear”, and said the way they were transferred onto universal credit was “manifestly without reasonable foundation” and “failed to strike a fair balance”.
Following the ruling, Ms Gregory said: “This is the first legal test of the roll out of Universal Credit and the system has been found to be unlawfully discriminating against some of society’s most vulnerable.
“Whilst we welcome the Government’s commitment to ensuring that no one in our client’s position will now be moved onto Universal Credit until top up payments are in place, it comes too late as it cannot make up for the months of suffering and grinding poverty our clients and many others like them have already had to endure.
“We call upon Esther McVey to compensate our clients and all those affected without any further delay, and urge her to focus on fixing Universal Credit rather than wasting more public funds appealing this court decision.
“Today’s decision shows again that Universal Credit is not delivering what was promised at the outset. It is not working. It’s not working for the disabled, it’s not working for parents, it’s not working for low-income and part-time employees and it’s not working for the self-employed.
“The government needs to halt the rollout and completely overhaul the system to meet peoples’ needs, not condemn them to destitution. If this doesn’t happen further legal challenges will inevitably follow.
“Disability premiums are not a luxury. They play a crucial role in helping disabled people pay for essentials like food, clothing and bills. The needs of the people involved in this case haven’t changed, and yet they have lost more than £170 per month in support. This isn’t fair.
“Until the Government fully addresses these issues, it will unfairly penalise disabled people for moving over to universal credit.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “The court found in our favour on three of the four points raised by the claimant. We will be applying to appeal on the one point the court found against the Department. This government is committed to ensuring a strong system of support is in place for vulnerable people who are unable to work.”
Clearly the government is committed to trying it on by paying people as little as they can possibly get away with from the public fund. Deliberately cutting money from disabled peoples’ crucial lifeline support can hardly be described as “ensuring a strong system of support is in place”. This response indicates quite clearly that the cut was fully intentional on the part of the government.
The spokesperson added: “Last week, the Secretary of State announced that we will be providing greater support for severely disabled people as they move onto universal credit. And we have gone even further, by providing an additional payment to those who have already moved onto the benefit.”
Yes, because the cut has been ruled as discriminatory and unlawful, not because a choice was actually made to do so. Only the Conservatives could turn prejudice, discrimination and breaking the law into some kind of virtue.
Again this response indicates clearly that these were intended changes, and not merely a consequence of administrative incompetence. There was not a shred of regret expressed by the government regarding the severe hardship these cuts have caused for disabled people.
And this still leaves disabled people claiming the disability support component of Universal Credit for the first time without the Disability Income Guarantee. That is also discriminatory.
The Department for Work and Pensions have claimed UC means that support is “focused on those who need it most”, but a government removing Severe Disability Premium and Enhanced Disability Premium, which is support designed to help severely disabled people who live without a carer – is pulling a basic safety net from citizens with the greatest needs. The premiums were also designed in part to address the problem of cumulative poverty for severely disabled people who cannot work, or who face disadvantage in the labour market because of additional needs and barriers.
This cut will also potentially affect disabled lone parents who may rely on their benefit support to pay for support to shop, cook and wash, for example. The cut may mean that they will be forced to rely on their own children as carers.
Austerity has been carried disproportionately by disabled people
The UC system has made an estimated £11bn in savings, mainly through Treasury cuts to the original set level of universal credit rates – most notably through reductions to work allowances, which will save around £3bn, and the removal of £2bn in disability premium payments – but UC planning and delivery has also incurred £8.5bn in expenses.
Government statistics published last year show 47 per cent of people who were formerly receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) saw their support fall or stop altogether when they were reassessed for Personal Independent Payment (PIP).
Of a total of 947,000 claimants who were reassessed in the year up to October 2017, 22 per cent saw their support reduced, while a quarter were disallowed or withdrawn altogether — meaning 443,000 people will have had their claims reduced or removed.
However, the success rate for claimants when appealing Personal Independence Payments (PIP), for example, was 65% in 2016/17. The Mirror has recently reported that the rate of PIP appeal success has hit an all-time high of 71% for the first quarter of 2018.
Labour MP Rosie Duffield secured a debate (her first) which took place a couple of days ago (20 June) about the report by the UN committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The report said successive UK governments had committed “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights. The chair of the committee said the government had created a “human catastrophe” for disabled people. (You can read the full debate here).
The debate addressed last autumn’s report on the UK’s implementation of UNCRPD, and the conclusion of the UN’s disability committee that the UK government should make more than 80 improvements to the ways its laws and policies affect disabled people’s human rights.
In a briefing prepared ahead of the debate, the Equality and Human Rights Commission the other official and independent bodies responsible for monitoring the UK’s progress in implementing the convention – had called on the UK government to describe how it would “comprehensively address” the UN committee’s findings. However, the government has not made any commitment to implementing the committee’s recommendations.
During the debate, Labour MPs accused Sarah Newton, Minister of State for the Department for Work and Pensions, and the government, of making disabled people a “forgotten class”; of allowing the DWP to “endlessly mistreat” them, and of creating a “national scandal”.
Newton dismissed Labour’s comments,using techniques of neutralisation that I’vewritten about before.In short, Newton used a tactic that the Conservatives have used many times before – an indignant and outraged denial. She actually accused the opposition of ‘scaremongering’ again, (and by default, she attempted to discredit disabled citizens’ accounts of their own experiences, which of course flies in the face of democratic accountability).
The Conservatives are denying responsibility for the consequences of their policies, denying harm, denying the victims and condemning the condemners.
Newton said: “I utterly refute the allegations that have been made today: that we are discriminating against disabled people; that we are systematically undermining and violating their human rights, or worst of all that we are targeting their welfare support.”
In her attempt to defend her government’s appalling record on cuts to social security, she also told MPs that there had been “no freeze in the benefits that disabled people receive”.
Although disability living allowance (DLA), personal independence payment (PIP) and the employment and support allowance (ESA) support group top-up are exempt from the benefits freeze – which is set to last to 2020 – there is no exemption for the main component of ESA and the top-up paid to those in the ESA work-related activity group, which continues to be frozen.
Newton claimed that the UN, opposition and again, by default, disabled citizens, were making “irresponsible” allegations. And the courts. Again, this is a technique of neutralisation called “condemning the condemners”, used to ‘switch off ‘someone’s conscience when they plan, or have done, something to cause harm to others. The technique may also be used to push at the normative and moral boundaries of groups and the wider public. (*See below for a full outline of the techniques).
Newton also said that the government was “very disappointed” that the UNCRPD did not “take on board […] the evidence that the government gave them. They did not acknowledge the full range of support.” That’s because it isn’t there.
The UNCRPD report presented extensive, meticulous evidence with their thorough report, gathered from disabled people that have been affected by the welfare cuts, campaign groups, charities and research academics. It also condemned the UK government’s attempts to misrepresent the impact of policies through “unanswered questions”, “misused statistics”, and a “smoke screen of statements.”
It isn’t ‘scaremongering’ to express concern about punitive policies that are targeted to reduce the income of social groups that are already struggling because of limited resources, nor is it much of an inferential leap to recognise that such punitive policies will have some adverse consequences.
Political denial is oppressive – it serves to sustain and amplify a narrow, hegemonic political narrative, stifling pluralism and excluding marginalised social groups, excluding qualitative and first hand accounts of citizen’s experiences, discrediting and negating counternarratives; it sidesteps democratic accountability; stultifies essential public debate; obscures evidence and hides politically inconvenient, exigent truths. Denial of causality does not reduce the probability of it, especially in cases where a correlation has been well-established and evidenced. The government have no empirical evidence to verify their own claims that their punitive policies do not cause harm and distress.
Government policies are expressed political intentions regarding how our society is organised and governed. They have calculated social and economic aims and consequences. In democratic societies, citizen’s accounts of the impacts of policies ought to matter.
However, in the UK, the way that policies are justified is being increasingly detached from their aims and consequences, partly because democratic processes and basic human rights are being disassembled or side-stepped, and partly because the Government employs the widespread use of linguistic strategies and techniques of persuasion and neutralisation to intentionally divert us from their aims and the consequences of their ideologically (rather than rationally) driven policies. Furthermore, policies have become increasingly detached from public interests and needs.
Damian Green, who was the work and pensions secretary at the time the UN report was published. dismissed the highly critical findings . He said, shamefully, that the report was “patronising and offensive” and presented an outdated view of disability in the UK. He said Britain was “a world leader in disability rights and equality”.
But many of us – disabled citizens, disability activists, campaigners, charities and researchers – welcomed the report, saying it accurately highlighted the real economic and social hardships faced by disabled people after years of harsh spending cuts to social security and social care.
The shadow work and pensions secretary at the time, Debbie Abrahams, said the UN report was “crystal clear” in its identification of UK government failures. “It confirms that, despite Theresa May’s warm words, this government is failing sick and disabled people,” she said.
The UN committee said a range of measures introduced since 2010, including the bedroom tax and cuts to disability benefits and social care budgets, had disproportionately and adversely affected disabled people.
Spending cuts had negatively affected the rights of disabled people to live independently, to work and to achieve an adequate standard of living, the report said. The UN urged UK ministers to ensure the rights of disabled people were upheld.
Green said: “At the heart of this report lies an outdated view of disability which is patronising and offensive. We strongly refute its findings. The UN measures success as the amount of money poured into the system, rather than the work and health outcomes for disabled people. Our focus is on helping disabled people find and stay in work, whilst taking care of those who can’t.”
The government said at the time that it spent about £50bn a year to support sick and disabled people – a bigger proportion of GDP than countries including Canada, France and the US.
However, this is plainly untrue. In 2015, the government’s own figures show that even before some of the cuts were implemented, the UK was ninth out of 28 countries, when ranked in terms of the size of its social protection expenditure as a proportion of its gross domestic product (GDP).
In fact Newton’s highly selective statistical ‘data’ was contradicted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) who also reported that the UK actually spends less than France, as well as Norway, Germany and Spain on disability benefits.
Furthermore, Newton’s figure includes amounts that are not directly related to disability benefit, such as carers’ allowance, housing benefit, council tax allowance, and it also includessome NHS spending.
The government actually spent £39 billion on disability, incapacity and industrial injury benefits in 2017/18. That’s 76% of the total £51 billion that Newton claimed was spent.
Abrahams said the report echoed warnings Labour had been making since 2011 about the effects of the government’s policies on disabled people. It certainly echoed warnings many of us have been making – in my own case, since the welfare “reforms” in 2012.
“The UN committee is clear that its report examines the cumulative impact of legislation, policies and measures adopted from 2010 to October 2016, so the government’s claim that it is outdated does not stand up to scrutiny.
“I am also concerned that the government is labelling the report as patronising, when they are the ones dismissing the concerns raised by disabled people who helped instigate the inquiry in the first place.”
This dismissal is despite being presented with evidence from a wide range of organisations as well as disabled citizens, to whom Conservative policies are causing harm and distress. Yet the government continue to distance themselves from the consequences of their own decision-making, opting to deny them instead. Those are not the reasonable actions of an accountable, democratic government.
Decades of findings in sociology and psychology tell us that as soon as a social group are defined as an outgroup, the public start to see them differently. Because politicians have stereotyped people who claim welfare support, portraying only negative characteristics, the public also perceive only those characteristics. The government, with the help of the media, has purposefully portrayed people claiming welfare support as folk devils: lazy, dishonest, stupid and as scroungers, and so on. This is profoundly dehumanising.
The people being harmed by policies have become outsiders, they’ve been pushed out of the circle of our moral community. The government clearly don’t think of the people enduring terrible distress and hardship as experiencing the same range of autonomy, needs, thought, emotion and motivations that they do; they don’t imagine them feeling things in the same way that they do. This disconnection – a failure to recognise common human characteristics in the other – means that they are denied some measure of empathy, and consequently a sense of ethical and democratic obligation and inclusion.
The Conservatives talk a lot about “evidence-based policy”, but they don’t walk the talk. A weight of evidence has highlighted the cruel, draconian effects of the Tories’ social polices. The government have chosen to deny and ignore it.
This lack of appropriate response indicates a deliberately prejudiced, vicious attack on a significant minority of the population, which the government has absolutely no intention of stopping or putting right any time soon.
You can watch the whole debate that was secured by Rosie Duffield here:
* Techniques of neutralisation:
Used to switch off the conscience when someone plans or has done something to cause harm to others.
They identified the following psychological techniques by which, they believed, delinquents justified their illegitimate actions, and Alexander Alverez further identified these methods used at a socio-political level in Nazi Germany to “justify” the Holocaust:
1. Denial of responsibility. The offender(s) will propose that they were victims of circumstance or were forced into situations beyond their control.
2. Denial of harm and injury. The offender insists that their actions did not cause any harm or damage.
3. Denial of the victim. The offender believes that the victim deserved whatever action the offender committed. Or they may claim that there isn’t a victim.
4. Condemnation of the condemners. The offenders maintain that those who condemn their offence are doing so purely out of spite, ‘scaremongering’ or they are shifting the blame from themselves unfairly.
5. Appeal to higher loyalties. The offender suggests that his or her offence was for the ‘greater good’, with long term consequences that would justify their actions, such as protection of a social group/nation, or benefits to the economy/ social group/nation.
6. Disengagement and Denial of Humanity is a category that Alverez added to the techniques formulated by Sykes and Matza because of its special relevance to the Holocaust. Nazi propaganda portrayed Jews and other non-Aryans as subhuman. A process of social division, stigma, scapegoating and dehumanisation was explicitly orchestrated by the government. This also very clearly parallels Gordon Allport’s work on explaining how prejudice arises, how it escalates, often advancing by almost inscrutable degrees, pushing at normative and moral boundaries until the unthinkable becomes tenable. This stage on the scale of social prejudicemay ultimately result in genocide.
Any one of these six techniques may serve to encourage violence by neutralising the norms against prejudice and aggression to the extent that when they are all implemented together, as they apparently were under the Nazi regime, a society can seemingly forget its normative rules, moral values and laws in order to engage in wholesale prejudice, discrimination, exclusion of citizens, hatred and ultimately, in genocide.
In accusing citizens and the opposition of ‘scaremongering’, the Conservatives are denying responsibility for the consequences of their policies, denying harm, denying distress; denying the victims and condemning the condemners.
I write voluntarily, to do the best I can to raise awareness of political and social issues. In particular I research and write about how policy impacts on citizen wellbeing and human rights. I also co-run a group on Facebook to support other disabled people going through ESA and PIP assessments, mandatory reviews and appeals.
I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled and don’t have any paid employment. But you can contribute by making a donation and help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.
The government have persistently denied that there is a “causal link” between their welfare “reforms” (a Conservative euphemism for savage cuts) and an increase in suicides, premature deaths, psychological distress and severe hardship. However, a number of researchers and many campaigners have demonstrated a clear correlation that the government have so far refused to investigate further. Correlation quite often implies a causal relationship, and as such, requires further research.
Each case that has been presented to the government as evidence that their policies are causing severe harm has been dismissed as “anecdotal”.
Dr Simon Duffy, Director of the Centre for Welfare Reform said: “It is not enough to just stop introducing new policies to attack the rights and lives of disabled people and the poorest in society. These policies have been in place for six years and many are designed to increase poverty year on year. The Government should apologise for the harm it has caused since 2010,calculate the full impact of cuts that targeted the most disadvantaged and begin a full programme of reparations.”
This is the third harrowing article I have written this week about the devastating impact of the Conservatives’ punitive welfare policies on some of our most vulnerable citizens. I wish with all my heart that this is the last such article.
There will continue to be a need of witnesses like myself and other campaigners until the political denial stops.
Last month, an inquest in Ipswich heardhow Peter, a disabled man, struggling to cope with mental health problems, committed suicide by setting himself on fire because of fear that he would lose his lifeline support, following his compulsory re-assessment for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
The government introduced the controversial PIP to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in order to save costs and to “target those most in need” in 2013.
Peter Sherwood set fire to himself in front of horrified onlookers in Lowestoft town centre on September 4, 2015. The retired builder died in Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, which has a specialist burns unit, on September 8, 2015, following the horrific incident in Lowestoft town centre four days before.
Peter had received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions, informing him that his DLA was ending and that he needed to reapply for PIP.
He suffered with a recurrent depressive disorder and psychosis. Peter had attempted to take his own life on a number of occasions previously. He also had a condition called tardive dyskinesia, which caused involuntary movements to his mouth and is a known side-effect of anti-psychotic medications.
Giving evidence at the inquest, Lucinda Stapleton, care coordinator from the Waveney Recovery Team, said this had affected Peter’s self-confidence as he was worried people were laughing and staring at him when he left the house.
In a statement read during the hearing, Mr Sherwood’s niece, Sarah Wilby, said: “I knew he was feeling a bit low the last time I saw him, which was two weeks before he died. He held me close on the sofa and told me he loved me.
“He was a loving person and had a great sense of humour.
“He was angry at many things in life, but could put a good front on.
“I loved him very much and miss him dreadfully.”
Ms Wilby said she was shocked at the drastic way her uncle took his own life.
She added: “He seemed to want to make some kind of a statement, but I don’t know what.”
During the inquest Ms Wilby said that Peter was claiming Disability Living Allowance but not long before his death he received a letter informing him he needed to reapply for Personal Independence Payment, which she believes contributed to his low mood at that time.
She said: “I personally think quite anunderlying cause of his anger was the change in benefits.
“Knowing Peter as we did that would have had a huge impact on him.”
Paul Anderson, a community support worker for the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust, said Peter had claimed that the Government was trying to take money off him.
The Coroner, Peter Dean, read statements from witnesses, who described seeing Peter spraying something on the pavement starting with the letter ‘h’ with an aerosol can.
The inquest heard passer-by William Groves asked Peter if he was a street artist, to which he replied “no, I’m a suicide artist”.
Peter then poured liquid over his head and set himself on fire using a lighter.
Members of the public tried to douse the flames by first throwing their jackets onto Peter, and then using a fire extinguisher from a nearby shop.
Police at the scene reported that Peter had muttered the word “humanity” to them a couple of times following the incident.
On September 4, 2015, Peter was visited at home by the community mental health team and he had expressed plans to end his life.
An urgent appointment was made for Peter to see a psychiatrist the following week, but it was tragically too late.
Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust has since updated its criteria of when patients should be referred to the 24-hour crisis team, following its routine investigation into Peter’s death.
The medical cause of death was given as 75% non-survivable full thickness burns, and mental health concerns.
The coroner’s conclusion was suicide.
If you are experiencing distress and feel suicidal, please don’t suffer in silence. The Samaritans have launched a free telephone national helpline number, 116 123.
People who are going through a difficult time can access the service round the clock, every single day of the year.
This number is free to call from both landlines and mobiles, including pay-as-you-go mobiles. You do not need to have any credit or call allowance on your plan to call 116 123.
I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income.
But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.
Susan Roberts was found dead because of a morphine overdose (Photo: Philip Coburn)
A disabled mum, Susan Roberts, was found dead at home following an overdose of morphine. Susan died just metres away from a heartbreaking 11-page letter she had written to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), detailing her suffering following being told she wasn’t eligible for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
Susan, a grandmother of eight, had survived four heart attacks. She died £4,000 in debt, after taking a fatal overdose within hours of being informed that her claim for PIP was unsuccessful. She had previously claimed Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and had been given an indefinite award, as her medical conditions were considered highly unlikely to get better.
The letter from the Department for Work and Pensions(Photo: Philip Coburn)
Susan was asked to apply for PIP by the DWP following the proposed closure of her DLA claim. Many people who have previously been eligible for DLA have found that they lose their support once they are reassessed for PIP. The government introduced PIP to replace DLA and to cut costs in 2013, as a part of their welfare “reform” programme, which inflicted cuts on the poorest citizens. The Conservatives claim that PIP “targets those most in need”. However, many people with the highest level of needshave been turned down for PIP after having indefinite or lifetime awards of DLA.
Susan’s tragic death also highlights that despite their claims, the government are not succeeding in “targeting the most vulnerable people”
Before taking a fatal dose of morphine, Susan had placed the paperwork from the DWP, which informed her that she had been turned down for PIP following mandatory review, a Do Not Resuscitate note and her unsent letter, on her dresser.
Susan was shocked when she was informed that she did not even qualify for an award of PIP at the lower rate.
She began her heartbreaking letter: “Dear sirs, first of all, I request that you read this through carefully – this is my life after all.”
She said: “I am in a considerable state of depression after receiving your decision about my claim for PIP.”
Describing her health, she said: “My gall bladder needs to be removed because of multiple stones, weight loss, vomiting, excruciating pain – but specialists won’t operate because of my heart condition.”
She then describes the impact of suffering from ME, and explains that she can only manage to do tasks for just two or three hours a day.
Susan had a stent fitted after herheart attacks and spent most of her time bedbound, largely due to also having ME.
An operation to remove part of her bowel meant she needed help to go to the toilet. She also needed help with her personal care, such as showering and with shopping, as she struggled to walk. But in late 2015, the Conservatives scrapped DLA and replaced it with PIP. Anyone 65 or older on April 8, 2013 still got DLA.
Susan’s daughter, Hayley Storrow, said: “It’s so sad. If she was born a week earlier she may have still been alive today.”
Susan’s PIP assessor had somehow erroneously decided that she could wash and bathe unaided, go to the loo and walk over 200 metres. Shockingly, this type of “error” and gross inaccuracy isvery commonplace in the reports produced when disabled people are assessed for their lifeline support. In fact, earlier this year, the Labour party, the Green party and the Liberal Democrats called for the government to act on claims of widespread dishonesty by the medical professionals paid to compile benefits assessment reports, following a two-month investigation by Disability News Service.
Susan added in her letter that she would be virtually housebound without her Motability vehicle and her concluding comment is: “Thank you for reading this, with the greatest respect.”
She lost her Motability car last April because of the DWP’s decision not to award her PIP. Susan had sent a heartbreaking text to her daughter, Hayley, saying: “I’m never going to be able to see you again because they are taking the car.”
The PIP is supposed to help with the additional costs of being disabled, and in supporting disabled people in maintaining their independence and dignity, but many people are being denied the benefit because they are not assessed properly, and because the eligibility criteria have been made increasingly restrictive.
This means people previously eligible for the mobility component of DLA lose their cars and wheelchairs once they have been reassessed for the new PIP, if they don’t qualify for the mobility component. For many disabled people, this is a massive blow which impacts on their ability to remain independent, take part in their communities or get and keep a job. PIP is not means tested, so disabled people in work may claim it to help with additional support and extra costs. Many people losing their Motability vehicle will no longer be able to work.
Susan had asked for a review of the DWP decision following her first appeal. On 18 May last year, a letter arrived at her warden-assisted flat to tell her that the PIP award had been turned down yet again.
She was found dead the following morning and despite the letter and papers left out on the dresser, remarkably, a coroner said in October that she “had not taken her own life as there was no suicide note”, ruling it was a “drugs-related death”.
However, her daughter, Hayley, said: “I believe her unsent letter was her suicide note.”
It’s highly unlikely that an accidental overdose would have somehow prompted Susan to include a Do Not Resuscitate note with her letter and the bundle of DWP paperwork, too.
Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders are basically notes kept in a patient’s file that they do not want to be resuscitated should their heart stop. The medical establishment views DNR orders as the patient’s choice, though they do request that those considering DNR orders to discuss it with their family members. DNR orders may be requested by patients for a variety of reasons, all of them designed to keep the patient from suffering further. However, DNR laws do not take into account the situation of mentally ill patients framing a DNR order as a preparation for suicide.
The fact that Susan left the DNR note out with her letter and bundle of DWP documents indicates that her overdose was not accidental.
The Coroner’s verdict
By the end of 2015 it had emerged that the UK had experienced the largest annual spike in mortality rates for nearly 50 years.
Much media coverage seems to avoid reporting suicide as a response to structural conditions, and instead tends to emphasise suicide as an outcome of “mental illness” – as an individual act, rather than a problem that is influenced by socioeconomic and political conditions. The government has attempted to reconfigure wider social and economic problems as psychological problems, which has pushed highly politicised individual clinical and state therapeutic interventions – embodied in a rise of the mass provision of cognitive behavioural therapy and mandatory “attitude adjustment” classes for welfare recipients in the UK. This approach reflects political ideology and prejudices, rather than tackling the bigger issues of social inequality, poverty, lack of opportunity and an extremely punitive welfare regime. All of which are largely shaped by government policies.
Earlier this year, the Samaritans pubished their report Dying from Inequality, whichclearly recognised rising socioeconomic inequality with a higher risk of suicide. The charity called on the government to direct support to those with unstable employment, insecure housing, low income or in areas of socioeconomic deprivation.
Mary Hassell, the senior coroner for inner North London, wrote directly to the DWP in 2015, stating that the suicide of Michael O’Sullivan, a disabled man who hanged himself, had been adirect result of being ruled “fit to work.
The coroner’s verdict of Michael O’Sullivan’s suicide is widely seen as ground-breaking by disability rights campaigners and groups like Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) because the DWP, the media and charities usually frame suicide as “complex” with no single cause, which means suicide has rarely been directly linked to the austerity programme, nor have government policies more generally been seen as directly responsible for suicides.
Suicide is a significant social problem. Over 800,000 people commit suicide every year. Many of these can be quite properly understood as “economic suicides” because they take place against a backdrop of structural adjustment policies and rampant neoliberal market-led reforms. A counter discourse to the government tendency of psychologising socioeconomic conditions, making them the responsibility of individuals, rather than government and wider society, is of course crucial.
Technically, a coroner makes a finding of fact at the end of an Inquest. The coroner cannot attribute blame to any individual and cannot imply a criminal or civil liability, by law. The Coroner must use the evidence heard to decide who the deceased person was, where they died, when they died, and what the cause of their death was. Commonly, the “finding of fact” is referred to as a verdict or conclusion. A conclusion of suicide is decided where the evidence indicates a person has voluntarily acted to destroy his or her life in an intentional way. Inquest verdicts of Suicide (and Unlawful Killing) must be decided “beyond reasonable doubt”. Other causes of death may be decided on “a balance of probability”.
However, there is evidence to suggest that suicides are being under-reported because of the change in Coroner’s statutory regulations and guidelines, in 2013. Interestingly, contrary to the current trend in health and safety inquests, the Ministry of Justice guidance tells coroners that, wherever possible, short-form conclusions should be delivered, rather than the more detailed narrative conclusion.
Furthermore, open conclusions are discouraged, to be used only as a “last resort”. Concerns have been raised about the government’snew short-form conclusions and some organisations, including the Royal College of Psychiatrists, have asked the government to give due consideration to changing the standard of proof required for suicide verdicts. The 2013 reforms also enable the government to suspend an independent inquest into any death in favour of an inquiry, which under the Inquiries Act 2005 can be now be held in secret.
The House of Commons Health Committee Suicide prevention: interim report Fourth Report of Session 2016–17 says: “Our evidence suggests the need for a more rapid provisional notification of suicide at the time when a suspected death by suicide occurs. We recommend that the Government take action to improve consistency between coroners and to make routine the use of provisional notifications of suicide. Furthermore, we recommend that the standard of proof for conclusions of death by suicide should be changed to the balance of probabilities rather than beyond reasonable doubt.”
Rule 43 of the Coroners Rules (1984) states that if the Coroner is of the opinion that a death could have been prevented if different action had been taken by a particular person or organisation, he/she may make a recommendation for change. Also, the scope of the coroner’s investigation must be widened to include an investigation of the broad circumstances of the death, including events leading up to the death in question, where this wider investigation is necessary to ensure compliance with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to life). The positive duty to protect life implies a duty to investigate unnatural deaths, including but not confined to deaths in which state agents may be implicated.
Hayley has accused the government of having blood on their hands. She said: “People are living in poverty or considering suicide because of these benefits changes. My Mum won’t be the last to die.”
A DWP spokeswoman said: “Our thoughts are with Mrs Roberts’ family but there is no evidence to suggest any link between her death and her benefit claim.”
There is no evidence to suggest it isn’t, either, without further investigation, which so far, the government have refused to do. There is an established correlation between disability benefit assessments and increased mental health problems, distress and exacerbations of physical illness symptoms, too. While correlation isn’t necessarily the same thing as causation, it quite often implies a causal link, which may only be ruled out following further investigation, rather than political denial.
The DWP has quietly carried out investigations into 60 cases where benefit claimants are said to have taken their own lives. Labour MP Diana Johnson said the figures cast doubt on claims that there is no link between suicide and welfare re-assessments, with the DWP carrying out the internal reviews over the last five years.
Johnson said: “Ministers have repeatedly claimed there to be no link between suicide and welfare re-assessment whenever figures have come to light.
“This parliamentary answer to me blows this claim out of the water.
“If there was no link, there wouldn’t have been 60 reviews of suicides in the past five years.
“I am appalled that these figures have remained unpublished for so long.”
A written parliamentary question from the Hull North MP revealed that the DWP carried out 15 internal reviews into suicides or alleged suicides of so-called DWP “clients” in 2012/13 alone.
“Families who’ve been left in the dark need to know everything the DWP knows about these cases,” Johnson said.
“Most importantly, we need a welfare system that supports, rather than victimises, the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.”
Susan’s daughter, Hayley said: “When my brother went to mum’s flat after she died, he found 37p in her purse. Even with DLA she was living day to day, scraping by. She was found dead with the PIP refusal letter placed strategically on a dresser.
“She was a poorly woman and this decision tipped her over the edge – she was in a desperate situation. I feel if it wasn’t for PIP and the Tory Government, my mum would still be alive.
“They failed her like they have failed thousands.”
Susan wrote the 11-page letter criticising the decision and outlining her circumstances but as the DWP turned down her initial appeal within six days, she did not have time to send it.
Hayley said: “I just want Theresa May to know that her rules and regime are killing the most vulnerable people in society.
“With the election coming up, it is so vital that things change.
“I feel any vote for the Tories is going to lead to more deaths.”
If you are experiencing distress and feel suicidal, please don’t suffer in silence. The Samaritans have launched a free telephone national helpline number, 116 123.
People who are going through a difficult time can access the service round the clock, every single day of the year.
This number is free to call from both landlines and mobiles, including pay-as-you-go mobiles. You do not need to have any credit or call allowance on your plan to call 116 123.
I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income. The budget didn’t do me any favours at all.
But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.
This was a clear indication that the new assessment framework was designed to cut support for disabled people. A recent review led the government to conclude that PIP doesn’t currently fulfil the original policy intent, which was to cut costs and “target” the benefit to “those with the greatest need.”
That basically meant a narrowing of eligibility criteria for people formerly claiming Disability Living Allowance, increasing the number of reassessments required, and limiting the number of successful claims. The government have used the review to attempt to justify further restrictions to PIP eligibility, aimed at cutting support for people who require aids to meet fundamental needs such as preparing food, dressing, basic and essential personal care and managing incontinence. “Greatest need” has become an ever-shrinking category under Conservative austerity measures.
McVey also said that around 200 disabled people in every parliamentary constituency were likely to lose their Motability vehicle when she changed the qualifying walking distance limit from 50 metres to 20-metres.
And she pointed out that one of the Department for Transport’s own publications, Inclusive Mobility, recommends that “seating should be provided on pedestrian routes at intervals of no more than 50 metres, and that parking spaces for blue badge holders should preferably be provided within 50 metres of the facilities they serve”.
The Motability Schemehelped around 650,000 disabled people to lease specialist cars, wheelchairs and scooters. Anyone on the highest level of theDisability Living Allowance(DLA) was entitled to join the scheme which also helped to pay for expensive adaptations. Motability provides financial help (grants) to disabled people who would not otherwise be able to afford the vehicle or adaptations they need, and the charity undertakes a range of fundraising activities to contribute to the provision of financial help to those Scheme customers whose allowance does not cover the cost of the mobility solution that they need.
Last year, Motability revealed that around 100 disabled people claiming PIP are losing their crucial vehicle benefit every week.
According to Motability, who lease specialised cars and powered wheelchairs to disabled people, 3,000 out of 8,000 of their customers who have so far been reassessed for PIP, who were previously claiming the Disability Living Allowance, have lost their eligibility for the scheme and have therefore had to give up their vehicles.
Motability raised concerns that the government reforms to DLA would affect many more. It has.
Nearly 14,000 disabled people have had their mobility vehicle confiscated after the changes to benefit assessment, which are carried out by private companies. Many more, yet to be reassessed, are also likely to lose their specialised vehicles.
Under the new PIP rules thousands more people who rely on disability allowance to keep their independence are set to lose their vehicles. Many had been adapted to meet their owners’ needs and many campaigners warn that it will lead to a devastating loss of independence for disabled people.
A total of 45% or 13,900 people, were deemed as not needing the higher rate of PIP, and therefore lost their vehicles after reassessment. And out of the 31,200 people who were once on the highest rate of DLA who have been reassessed, just 55%, or 17,300 – have kept their car.
Given that many Motability vehicles are specially adapted to meet the highly individual needs of each person, I wonder what happens to all of those vehicles that are lost under the new restricted benefit eligibility criteria.
Around 51,200 disabled people have joined the Motability scheme using their PIP. Around 360,000 more people will undergo PIP reassessments and that will include “indefinite” or “lifetime” awards under the original DLA support.
Perhaps the government expect that severely and chronically ill people will miraculously recover, their progressive illness will stop progressing, maybe people will grow new limbs, find cures of their own where medical professionals and drug companies have failed and battle their “choice” of disability alone.
Being disabled is very expensive. The charity Scope has calculated that disabled people pay a huge financial penalty over and above the everyday living costs faced by the typical able-bodied person – on average £550 per month. One in ten pay more than £1000 a month over the odds.
Expenses range from door-to-door taxis to get around, extra heating costs, pricey specialist items like wheelchairs, hoists, or stair lifts. There may be extra laundry costs, continence aids, special dietary requirements, a need for home help and meals on wheels. Some disabilities place more wear and tear on shoes and clothing, some people need suitable kinds of footwear. Non-prescription medical items are also an additional cost. These are just a few examples of extra expenses. There are many more that most able-bodied people wouldn’t ever need to think of.
Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “Being disabled costs money.
The Personal Independence Payment is supposed to help with those costs, but many people are being denied the benefit because they are not assessed properly. Sometimes that means people lose their cars; a massive blow which impacts on their ability to remain independent, take part in their communities or get and keep a job.”
Mr Duncan Smith said at the Conservative conference last year that many sick and disabled people “wanted to work” and that the Government should give them “support” to find jobs and make sure the welfare system encouraged them to get jobs. I’m wondering what the word “support” actually means to Conservatives, because there’s every indication that over the past five years, there has only been a withdrawal of essential support and lifeline benefits from those who need them the most.
Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities states that persons with disabilities have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community. Article 20states that Parties shall take effective measures to ensure personal mobility with the greatest possible independence for persons with disabilities, including by:
a) Facilitating the personal mobility of persons with disabilities in the manner and at the time of their choice, and at affordable cost;
b) Facilitating access by persons with disabilities to quality mobility aids, devices, assistive technologies and forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including by making them available at affordable cost;
c) Providing training in mobility skills to persons with disabilities and to specialist staff working with persons with disabilities;
d) Encouraging entities that produce mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies to take into account all aspects of mobility for persons with disabilities.
Article 28 requires that States Parties recognise the right of persons with disabilities to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions, and should take appropriate steps to safeguard and promote the realisation of these rights without discrimination on the basis of disability.
It’s difficult to see how the government’s cuts to lifeline disability benefits can possibly be consistent with their obligations to uphold human rights law.
Mrs Abrahams has spoken in a Westminster debate detailing her concerns about the quality of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), how assessments are processed, and the huge toll slow payments are putting on thousands of disabled people and their families.
In her speech, the Labour MP said: “Along with other Labour MPs I welcome welfare reforms where we can see there will be genuine benefit.
“But the PIP process has been beset with problems since it was introduced – the toll of process cannot beoverestimated.”
The National Audit Office report, which came out in February last year, described it as a ‘poor early operational performance’ with ‘long uncertain delays’ for new PIP claimants.
At that time, the average wait was 107 days – for terminally ill claimants, claims were taking 28 days on average.
Mrs Abrahams added: “I heard from a woman whose partner has cancer and is waiting for radiotherapy – they have been living on £113 a week since they applied at the beginning of April.
“There is also an effect on passported benefits such as a carer’s allowance, disability premiums and concessionary travel.”
It is estimated that 602,000 people currently receiving Disability Living Allowance will not be eligible for PIP, by 2018 – £24billion will have been cut from 3.7million disabled people.
Mrs Abrahams noted that about a third of respondents to a survey of more than 4,000 Parkinson’s suffers said they are ‘financially worse off’ since being diagnosed.
She said: “For more than a quarter of them money concerns are having a negative impact on their Parkinson’s.
“Some 42,000 people are waiting more than 42 weeks, and four out of 10 people are still waiting for their PIP claim to be processed.”
After the debate Debbie said: “How the government expects people to manage with no money for so long is a complete mystery to me.
“It was clear from this debate that there is no remorse from the government. I still find it hard to comprehend their injustice and inhumanity.
“There is evidence of a culture of intimidation and general hassling of claimants on JSA, ESA and DLA/PIP – the delays are just another way of making people ‘give up’.
“If there is one message I would like to get across it is that this could be you or me!
“We could become ill, or have an accident and become disabled, or lose our jobs and then we’d rely on our welfare system.
“We should be proud not just of our NHS but of all parts of our welfare system. This is what a wealthy, humane society such as the UK should do for its citizens.
“Yes, there will always be people who misuse the system but they are a tiny, tiny minority and not as the government always tries to imply the majority. The evidence just doesn’t support them.”
The High Court has ordered that a judicial review challenge to the ‘benefit cap’ and its impact upon disabled people and their carers should proceed to a full hearing, and that this hearing must take place urgently. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, unsuccessfully argued that the claim should be dismissed. Mr Justice King rejected the Secretary of State’s arguments, granted permission to the claimants and ordered that the hearing must take place no later than 30th October this year.
The High Court’s Order comes shortly after the Supreme Court ruled that the benefit cap breaches the rights of children, meaning that they are not provided with “adequate food, clothing, warmth and housing, the basic necessities of life” (Lord Kerr).
Last year the Government also conceded that the cap had “unintended consequences” for victims of domestic violence living in women’s refuges, and so amended the regulations to remove women’s refuges from the cap.
Now the High Court will examine whether the cap also breaches the rights of disabled people and their carers. The High Court’s Order also comes at a time when the Government in the Queen’s Speech has made clear its intention to cut the cap even further.
The claim is brought by two families – and in both, an adult relative is providing full time care to their elderly and disabled grandmothers. They are able to perform their caring roles only with the support of state benefits, covering their housing and living expenses, and both are in receipt of Carers’ Allowance.
The families argue that the benefit cap is unfair and unlawful because of its impact on carers and those who they care for. Included in the group of families who are capped are those who receive Carer’s Allowance.
To qualify for Carer’s Allowance the benefit claimant has to be providing full time care – upwards of 35 hours a week – to a severely disabled person who receives Disability Living Allowance (DLA). This means that anyone receiving Carer’s Allowance is by definition not available to work, because they must be providing care. The Secretary of State has provided an exemption from the cap to those who receive DLA – but not to their carers.
Two categories of carer only are exempt: carers for children or spouses. Any carer who provides care to another adult, such as a parent or grandparent, is caught by the cap.
One of the claimants, Ashley Hurley, is a young woman who was brought up by her grandmother and who is committed to providing her with the care and support which she needs. She has said:
“I had understood that the benefit cap was meant to encourage people to work and to address the problem of children growing up in workless families. I do not understand why it should apply to me as I do work, looking after my grandmother. If I did not care for my grandmother, then I suppose that we would have to ask the Council to pay for care for her. It would certainly cost the State more to pay someone to provide the care that I provide, and my grandmother would be very distressed about having care provided by strangers. Indeed, I expect that both her mental and physical health would rapidly deteriorate if this happened. I do not feel that I would be able to allow this to happen, and I do not understand why the government would think it was better for the State to care for my grandmother instead of her own family.”
The solicitor for the families, Rebekah Carrier, said:
“My clients have been hit by the benefit cap because they are disabled or they provide essential care to their disabled relatives. They are not skivers – they are strivers. They provide full time care and save the State money. The Government seeks to justify the cap by the financial savings achieved but the long term consequences of this arbitrary benefit cap are likely to have not only devastating consequences for individual disabled people and those who care for them, but serious financial costs. If Ashley Hurley is forced into stopping her work as a carer, the State will have to pick up the tab and arrange alternative care. This is not a fair or sensible policy.
The Supreme Court has already ruled that the benefit cap breaches international protections for the rights of children. Now the High Court has allowed this claim to proceed, considering whether it also breaches the rights of disabled people and their carers. The Government must halt this policy which simply hits vulnerable people.”
Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for the excellent illustrations.