Revealed: DWP’s secret, ‘financially devastating’ proposals for benefits appeals
The heavily-redacted document was sent to Disability News Service (DNS) by DWP following a freedom of information request, but disabled activists from the grassroots campaign network Black Triangle managed to reveal the words behind the blacked-out areas.
The document, titled Appeals Strategy – Post Election Planning (pictured), was drawn up by civil servants just before last year’s general election, and contains 11 policies for a new government to consider, most of which are aimed at reducing the number of successful benefits appeals and cutting welfare spending.
Eight of the policies – which appear to be focused heavily on disability benefits such as employment and support allowance (ESA), personal independence payment (PIP) and disability living allowance – were redacted by DWP so they could not be read.
Work on introducing two of the three non-redacted policies is already underway.
Among the eight redacted policies is a plan to introduce a completely new appeal system, which would mean far fewer appeals being heard by tribunals, for example those concerning a point of law, with others heard by “an alternative dispute regime”.
The document warns that such a move would “raise significant concerns around restricting access to justice”.
One of the most controversial proposals is to stop paying ESA to claimants while they wait for their appeals to be heard, a process which can take many months.
Ministers have already stopped paying ESA to claimants waiting for a mandatory reconsideration (MR) of their claim, the new compulsory stage of the appeals process.
The document warns that such a move would be “controversial”, particularly because the Commons work and pensions select committee has “continually called for the reinstatement of ESA during the MR process so would be likely to oppose the withdrawal of payment pending appeal”.
The document also suggests that ministers could reduce the time limit to appeal to a benefits tribunal – for those who miss the initial one-month deadline – from 12 months to just three, but warns again that this would “attract criticisms that we are limiting access to justice”.
Another idea would restrict appeal tribunals so they would only be allowed to consider whether DWP had followed the “correct decision making processes” rather than carrying out “a full review of the facts of the case”. Appeals that need the facts of a claim to be looked at would be heard instead by the high court.
A fifth policy would introduce charging for appeals, and it warns that such a proposal “attracted negative coverage in the media/lobby when reported previously”, while the introduction of fees for employment tribunals (ET) has been “blamed for the large reduction in ET appeals this year”.
Although DWP said last night (20 April) that the “speculative policy formations” in the document do not represent government policy, a spokeswoman admitted that they had been redacted under the Freedom of Information Act because they contain “information in relation to formulation of government policy”.
John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, said the policies being considered were “absolutely shocking”.
He said the document “lays bare the Tory government’s unrelenting quest to emasculate disabled people’s access to benefits, and to justice”.
McArdle said that the document, together with DWP’s attempts to hide secret internal reviews carried out into benefit-related deaths, and the refusal of its ministers to act on a coroner’s “prevention of future deaths” report following the death of ESA claimant Stephen Carré in January 2010, showed the government’s “driving force” was to “cut disabled people’s support, rather than address these issues and the grave danger to wellbeing and indeed life that they represent”.
He said: “They are now looking at how they can suppress our fundamental human rights even further.
“They are playing Russian roulette with disabled people’s lives and are looking to put more bullets into the chamber.”
McArdle said the policies would be a “flagrant violation” of article six of the European Convention on Human Rights, which he said protects “the right to a fair hearing and equality of arms before an impartial judiciary in an open, free and democratic society”.
David Beckett, who supervises the welfare benefits team at Coventry Law Centre, part of Central England Law Centre, said the “draconian” policies were “clearly about restricting the rights of appeal to claimants” and “restricting people’s access to justice”.
He said they could be “financially devastating” for people if introduced, and could mean the difference between “choosing to eat, choosing to heat your home, choosing to pay your rent… anything other than mere existence”.
He added: “Some of the potential measures are effectively saying, ‘We are not just restricting it, we are getting rid of your rights to access to justice,’ because people will not be in a position to challenge decisions.
“Most of the measures are about stopping people having any right of redress.
“Effectively it means far more DWP decisions would go unchallenged, particularly in relation to disability benefits.”
He said DWP’s assessment process appeared not to be fit for purpose, with three-fifths of PIP appeals successful.
He said: “If people are put off [appealing]by charges, or tribunals are not able to look at the facts of the case, people’s redress is significantly compromised and those decisions are more likely to stand.
“Effectively it cuts people’s benefits entitlement.”
He added: “The tribunal system does work, it works well. It just needs more resources.
“Access to justice should be a fundamental right. This is stopping that and it would mean people have no benefits, or significantly reduced benefits, and I am sure people could lose their lives as a consequence of that.”
Dr Eilidh Whiteford, SNP’s social justice and welfare spokeswoman, said: “Even for the Tories these proposals are utterly shocking – I want clear assurances from the new [secretary of state for work and pensions]Stephen Crabb that they will never see the light of day.”
“The UK government’s ridiculous denials are getting them in a tangle as these ideas were clearly being discussed as part of their policy development.
“It highlights once again the relentless attacks by this government on the disabled.”
Among other ideas proposed in the document is to provide “paper based” hearings at the first-tier tribunal (FtT), instead of claimants having the chance to make their case in person.
DWP suggests that this would cut spending on benefits, because fewer cases are overturned with paper-based appeals.
Beckett said such a change would cause “significant difficulties” for groups such as people with learning difficulties or dyslexia or for whom English was not their first language.
Other measures proposed include “controlling the FtT – ensuring tribunal decisions are accurate”, and forcing tribunals to adjourn a hearing if presented with “late documentary evidence” by a claimant.
A DWP spokeswoman said: “These speculative policy formulations were drafted by staff before the last election as part of their preparation for a new government.
“They have not been raised, do not represent government policy and have never been sent to ministers.”
But when asked whether ministers had permanently and definitively ruled out the eight redacted policies, the spokeswoman would only say that the department “has no plans to introduce these changes”.
Terminally ill Northampton woman has appeal over disability benefits refused
northamptonchron.co.uk/news – 20th April 2016
A terminally ill cancer patient who was refused a disability benefit by the Government has had her appeal turned down though her GP provided a lengthy description of her illness.
Jane Windle, from Parkwood Street, St James, was first diagnosed with a carcinoid form of cancer in 2001 and has tumours in her lungs and pelvis.
But last month it was revealed the 52-year-old would not be entitled to receive the Personal Independent Payment (PIP) even though she has been receiving the Disability Living Allowance, which PIP is phasing out, since she got ill.
Mrs Windle has a stent fitted and has difficulty, breathing, moving and even struggles to stand up unaided.
The couple appealed the decision at the start of April and supplied the Department for Work and Pensions with a DS1500 form from her GP explaining the extent her cancer affects her, listing a range of other debilitating conditions including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
But they have now learned their appeal has been refused.
Mrs Windle says the decision has left the couple desperate.
She said: “It is so stressful.
“Now that money has stopped it is just crazy.
“We just think, how are we going to manage?
“I will have to get rid of all sorts of things – my phone will have to go, there is no way I can afford that.”
Mrs Windle and husband William have met with Northampton South MP David Mackintosh, to see if he can get their assessment overturned.
They are also looking to take the DWP to a tribunal to contest the decision – a process that can take months.
Mrs Windle says there is no way she can go out and find work.
“I just can’t,” she said. “I can go to sleep for two to three days at a time.”
“What if I am at work for a couple of hours and need to sleep? What are they going to do, roll out a bed?
Mr and Mrs Windle can apply for Jobseekers’ Allowance, but that would mean both would actively need to seek employment, even though Mrs Windle has regular doctors’ appointments and needs her husband for assistance.
Mr Windle said he will not stop fighting the decision.
“Jane’s assessment simply isn’t true.
“If these assessors were working in a hospital we would be looking at a complete misdiagnosis.”
Whitehall officials secretly plotted to charge disabled people for the right to appeal cruel benefit decisions.
‘Pensionless Pensioner’ Brands UK Government Most Brutal ‘Regime’ In Living Memory
Woman stripped of her right to state pension says UK Government doesn’t care whether vulnerable people live or die. – she knows as we do.
Tory MP’s have got their snouts in the financial trough once again (and of course, they deny all of it!)http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tory-mps-pay-themselves-20000-7807052
A prominent Scots disability campaigner is calling for the resignation of the equality watchdog’s disability commissioner for voting in favour of benefit cuts.
Susan Archibald, a former Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations board member, is being backed by a raft of individuals and groups in her call for Tory peer Lord Chris Holmes to stand down as disability commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) after he voted in favour of disability benefit cuts when they had been condemned by his own organisation.
Archibald has both written a letter and created an online petition calling for his resignation.
It is part of a new campaign from an alliance of anti-austerity, grassroots groups from Scotland and the north of England that are committed to fighting for equality – the Cross Border Alliance –will “name and shame” public figures “colluding in the cuts to disabled people and not addressing disabled people’s rights”.
The coalition includes Disabled People Against Cuts, Black Triangle, The Centre for Welfare Reform, Carer Watch, and the Spartacus online campaigning network.
Lord Holmes voted in favour of measures to cut payments by £30 a week for new employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants placed in the work-related activity group
SNP calls to see reports on suicides following benefits cuts
THE SNP’s Westminster spokeswoman for Social Justice and Welfare, Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP, has insisted “lessons must be learned” after disability rights campaigners won an appeal against the UK Government’s refusal to publish reports into the deaths of people who took their own lives after their benefits were cut.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may now be forced to disclose details of the investigations into suicides and other deaths.
Whiteford said: “The SNP has twice asked the Prime Minister why these reports have not been published by the DWP and twice there have been no answers.
“Lessons must be learnt from these tragic deaths and more must be done to ensure that there are no more deaths as a result of the Tories’ deeply damaging policies.”
The National Thursday 21st April 2016
The Kicker: The BBC should realise some things are more important than Deila’s job ~ THE BBC’s Scottish Colonial branch office reached a new nadir in its editorial judgment yesterday when it led its lunchtime news bulletin with an item on Ronny Deila leaving Celtic.
That gave the Beeb’s Unionist acolytes the excuse to downgrade the launch of the SNP manifesto by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to third in the running order behind the funeral of Paige Doherty.
No quibbles with that as her killing was truly shocking. But to lead on Deila and consign items on rising unemployment and a possible cure for Type 1 Diabetes to fourth and fifth (last item) respectively shows a skewed sense of priorities at Pacific Quay.
For goodness sake, a football manager losing his job is deemed more important than very serious news? So much for Scotland being a one party state in thrall to the SNP – the Nats can’t even control the broadcasters.
It just shows how football and the Old Firm in particular can warp people’s minds, so much so that we had little serious media comment on the displays of tribalism on Sunday. Disgraceful, all of it.
Yesterday, the fans with mobiles let rip on social media about Deila, and some of it was not pretty at all – one fan was moved to say on Kerrydalestreet.co.uk: “I’ve found the personal insults directed at him by some on here to be unworthy of what I feel are the characteristics of a Celtic supporter.”
A great many contributions made a lot of sense, however.
James O’Connor wrote on Facebook: ‘Best outcome for both parties. A few of the players should follow his exit.”
Also on Facebook, Joseph Alfie Henry wrote: “Nice guy just wasn’t the right man to take the club forwards. You can see he is a proper football person though, wouldn’t surprise me at all if he turns into a really successful manager elsewhere. Just not at Celtic.”
Pointing to poor signings, one fan wrote in a forum: “A club of Celtic’s size simply can’t get things that wrong and for that long and expect any level of progression, and especially in a time with little competition to drive our players.”
Another fan opined: “He was given the opportunity too soon in his career. He had incredible success at Stromsgodset but was too stubborn to change his ways when the same tactics clearly didn’t work here.”
Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell came in for harsh criticism in some quarters: “Some say that Peter Lawwell is answerable to the board. It actually appears more that he is answerable only to himself.”
On the club’s own Facebook page, Tony Kenny wrote: “The bigger issue is the chairman, majority shareholder and corporate ethos of the club…the failed experiment of training young players for profit is over. Time to get back to building a team for success and respecting our roots.”
Norman Fraser opined: “So the manager takes the fall again, I hope the club cleans out these players that don’t want to be part of the team, they are the ones that failed the club not the manager.”
source for all the above: in the comments of: https://bankanglesensor.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/a-new-direction-from-crabb-and-the-dwp-outright-fucking-lies/
see also: The poverty of responsibility and the politics of blame. Part 3 – the Tories want to repeal the 2010 Child Poverty Act
May 11, 2016
Disabled activist John McArdle of the Black Triangle campaign lodged a complaint with police in March against Iain Duncan Smith and Chris Grayling, according to the Disability News Service news agency.
He told police in Edinburgh that the two ministers had ignored a coronor’s concerns about the safety of the tests, which are used to judge whether a disabled person receives benefits.
1/16 above pic: “One case where the claimant’s wife went into premature labour and had to go to hospital. This caused the claimant to miss an appointment. No leeway given”
see more shocking pics: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/iain-duncan-smith-police-assessing-possible-investigation-into-dwp-ministers-over-fit-to-work-tests-a7020471.html#gallery
- A spokesperson for Police Scotland told the Disability News Service: “Police in Edinburgh received a report of misconduct in public office on 23 March 2016.
SNP MP Tommy Sheppard has reportedly written to the chief constable of Police Scotland asking to be kept informed of any investigation.
“It is important we make sure that people are receiving the right support, and they are not simply written off to a life on benefits,” a spokesperson said.
“The Work Capability Assessment has been improved dramatically since 2008 following a number of reviews, including five independent ones.”
- Read more:
If the DWP is forced to publish its secret records on benefits claimants’ suicides, everything could change
DWP could be forced to publish secret details of benefit claimant suicides
- Thousands of young people forced to go without food after benefits wrongly stopped under ‘draconian’ new sanctions regime
THE PRICE OF WAGING WAR ON THE SICK AND DISABLED
Also, the report said the practice was “unable to identify patients experiencing poor mental health or those with dementia”.
Under ‘special measures’ the CQC will conduct a follow up inspection in six months. If no improvement is made the commission can cancel the surgery’s registration.
Ruth Rankine, chief inspector of general practice, said: “During our inspection we saw that staff were caring and treated patients with compassion, dignity and respect. However, we also found that care and treatment was not always delivered in line with best practice.
“We have found significant areas of concern, which is why we are placing the practice into special measures – so opening the way for the practice to receive support from NHS England among others.”
Surveys showed the practice was in line with national averages for patient satisfaction.
However working age patients expressed dissatisfaction about inflexibility in its appointment system.
Other issues identified by the CQC were a lack of “timely” action to identify abnormal results after investigations, a shortfall in infection control procedures and a failure to show staff were approved to give vaccines.
NORTHBOURNE Surgery declined to comment about the report when visited by the Daily Echo.
However, it has published a statement for patients on its website in which it claimed the failings had not lead to “reported incidents of harm”.
The statement said:
“We would like to apologise to patients for any anxiety that the results of the inspection could cause and would like to reassure them that that the issues identified by the CQC have not led to any reported incidents of harm.
“We have already been working with local commissioners and national NHS organisations along with local providers to ensure that those issues that were identified by the CQC which led to the overall rating will be improved on and look forward to demonstrating these improvements to the CQC during their return visit later this year.”