Tag: PIP

PIP refused for allegedly spending too much time on Facebook

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Thanks to Benefits and Work for this post.

A shocked welfare rights worker, posting on Rightsnet, has revealed how his client had their personal independence payment (PIP) appeal refused because of the amount of time the claimant allegedly spent on Facebook.

Accused of lying
The claimant had appealed to a first-tier tribunal about the decision on their PIP claim and attended an oral hearing with a representative.

Whilst considering their mental health, the claimant was asked by the panel whether they ever used Facebook. The claimant replied that they did so ‘now and again’.

After all the evidence had been taken, the claimant and their representative returned to the waiting room while the tribunal made their deliberations.

However, when they were called back before the panel to hear the decision, the claimant was accused of lying to the tribunal. The medical panel member had the claimant’s Facebook page open on their smartphone and was reading from it, clearly taking the view that the number of posts was too frequent to be regarded as ‘now and again’.

Because the evidence gathering phase of the appeal had ended, the claimant was not allowed to respond, they could only listen to the decision of the tribunal in shocked silence.

Thus they were given no opportunity to challenge the accusation that they were lying or to explain that their partner also used their Facebook page.

Instead, they must now go through the lengthy process of asking for a statement of reasons from the tribunal judge – which can take many weeks or months to be provided – before asking for the decision to be set aside or appealing to the upper tribunal.

Breach of natural justice
There is a very strong probability that the decision will be overturned because it is such a flagrant breach of natural justice: the decision was based on evidence acquired by the panel itself from elsewhere and the claimant was given no opportunity to comment on it.

But, as well as leaving a big question mark over the quality of training for tribunal members, this episode also raises the possibility that claimants’ use of social media may in the future be used as evidence when making decisions on benefits entitlement.

If all the facts are collected and the claimant is given the opportunity to comment on them, this may just be another indignity that claimants are expected to learn to live with. Either that or claimants will need to make sure that their online life is kept as private as possible.

But if decisions are made based on partial evidence and wrong assumptions, as in this case, it will simply lead to more unfairness and injustice for sick and disabled people.

View the topic on Rightsnet

Debbie Abrahams MP Calls Slow Disability Payments “Unjust And Inhumane”

536738_306169162785952_999031084_nOldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams is calling for an end to the ‘injustice of delayed payments to disabled and terminally ill people’.

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 be overestimated.”

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.”

Thanks to Neil Athey.

10177255_710935002309364_996655242459079802_nPictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone.

The ESA ‘Revolving Door’ Process, and its Correlation with a Significant Increase in Deaths amongst Sick and Disabled People

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A Department for Work and Pensions Freedom Of Information request (FOI) yielded a response showing that people having their claim for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) stopped, between October 2010 and November 2011, with a recorded date of death within six weeks of that claim ceasing, who were until recently claiming Incapacity Benefit (IB), totalled 310. Between January and November 2011, those having their ESA claim ended, with a recorded date of death within six weeks of that claim ending totalled 10,600. 

Bearing in mind that those who were successfully migrated to ESA from IB were assessed and deemed unfit for work, (under a different assessment process, originally) one would expect that the death rates would be similar to those who have only ever claimed ESA. This is very clearly not the case.

Furthermore, there are NO alarming increases in mortality rates amongst those who are still in receipt of Incapacity Benefit – there were approximately a million and a half claimants, compared to less than a million ESA claimants for this period. Many of those migrated so far have not yet had a Work Capability Assessment, as the Government decided to re-assess those people when their review from the Incapacity Benefit  Personal Capability Assessment is due, for practical reasons. The migration process won’t be completed, it is anticipated, until 2014.

David Green from the DWP has urged that “care should therefore be taken when interpreting these figures”. Well I have taken care interpreting this data, Mr Green. My careful interpretation is that there is a probable correlation demonstrated here, linking the reformed Work Capability Assessment process and the withdrawal of lifeline benefits with an increase in mortality amongst sick and disabled people.

Incapacity Benefit was fair, it was a genuine social security provision. The “reforms”, including the new Tory-shaped ESA benefit, by stark contrast, are all about taking support and provision away from the sick and disabled, leaving them potentially very vulnerable. It’s very evident that there are measures in place to reduce successful claims for ESA, and many lose their lifeline support for the most arbitrary or manufactured reasons.

Indeed, the Tories have been very keen to articulate the welfare “savings” that they anticipated with regard to the disability benefits, including PIP, which is replacing DLA. But of course, these anticipated “savings” reflect a dark truth: the Government are setting targets to remove benefits from people, regardless of the impact of that imposed deprivation (and frank State theft of our tax funded welfare) on their wellbeing, health and safety. How else is it possible to predict probable “savings?”

Those claiming IB were not required to have continuous assessments, whereas those on ESA are constantly required to have the Work Capability Assessment. Many claimants have described a “revolving door” process of endless assessment, ceased ESA claim, (based on an outcome of almost invariably being wrongly “assessed” as fit for work), appeal, successful appeal outcome, benefit reinstated, only to find just 3 months later another assessment is required. The uncertainty and loss of even the most basic security that this process creates, leading to constant fear and anxiety, is having a damaging, negative impact on the health and wellbeing of so many.

A significant proportion of those required to have endless assessments have very obviously serious illnesses such as cancer, kidney failure, lung disease, heart disease, severe and life threatening chronic conditions such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, myalgic encephalomyelitis, rheumatoid arthritis, brain tumours, severe heart conditions, and severe mental health illnesses, for example. To qualify for ESA, the claimant must provide a note from a doctor stating that the person is unfit for work. There can be no justification for subjecting people who are so ill to further endless assessments, and to treating us as if we have done something wrong.

Marginalising and stigmatising vulnerable social groups via political propaganda in the media, using despiteful and malicious terms such as “workshy” and “feckless” is a major part of the Government’s malevolent “justification” to the public for removing the lifeline support from sick and disabled people, amongst whom are some of our most vulnerable citizens.

We are climbing Allport’s Ladder.

I have often suspected that Iain Duncan Smith is channelling the spirit of Goebbels.

In addition to very justified anxieties regarding the marked increase in disability hate crime that the Tory-led propaganda campaign has resulted in, many sick and disabled people have also stated that they feel harassed and bullied by the Department of Work and Pensions and Atos. Many talk of the dread they feel when they see the brown Atos envelope containing the ESA50 form arrive through the letter box.

The strain of constantly fighting for ESA eligibility/entitlement and perpetually having to prove that we are a “deserving” and “genuine” sick and disabled person is clearly taking a toll on so many people’s health and wellbeing. Many families of those who have died have said that the constant strain, anxiety and stress of this revolving door process has contributed significantly to their loved ones’ decline in health and subsequent death. The figures from the DWP, and the marked contrast between the ESA and IB death statistics certainly substantiates these claims.

The horrific, unforgivable and massive increase in deaths over this period coincides with the Government’s totalitarian styled rapid fire legislation – the “Reforms” – in the face of protest, horror, disbelief, fear and mass opposition. The Tories cited “financial privilege” to trample over opposition and stifle dissent, to drown out the voices of protest. Those protesting this Bill notably included many from the House of Lords. I lobbied the Peers, and emailed every single one of them, stating very clearly that the welfare reforms must not happen. I got a high number of encouraging responses. But  David Cameron got his own way.

Cameron made a Freudian-style slip when he announced to Ed Miliband recently, during Parliamentary debate, that We are raising more money for the rich.” Not that we didn’t already know this was so. Many of us – around 73 sick and disabled people every week –  are paying for that wealth increase for the already wealthy with our very lives.

There are many who have so tragically lost their lives because of this malicious Government’s brutal and grossly unjust economic war on the poorest, on sick and disabled people and on the most vulnerable citizens, because of the Tory-led ransacking and plundering of our welfare provision and social support programs.

But just one life would be one too many.

Further reading:

The Black Triangle Campaign

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Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his outstanding artwork.

This is an excerpt taken from a much longer piece of work – Remembering the Victims of the Welfare “Reforms.”