Sep 082014
 

Tory welfare reform is in crisis. Last week 70 Conservative MPs ignored a three line whip and stayed away from Westminster for the vote on Andrew George’s bedroom tax bill. Protests have beaten back government attacks on benefits but we need to keep fighting to see off the hated bedroom tax once and for all and to stand up against sanctions, which remain a vicious plank in the government’s punitive policies, whose use is rocketing and which are still supported by Labour in Parliament.

Join protests happening in the areas below or hold your own. Send pictures and updates to benefitjustice@gmail.com and/or mail@dpac.uk.net.

 

Barnet

9.00am: Jobcentre Granta House 1 Western Rd London N22 6UH. Go to Barnet Housing Action Group on facebook for more information.

 

Birmingham

12 noon: Broad Street Job Centre, Centennial House,100 Broad St, B15 1AU.

1.15pm: Centenary Square, Broad Street.

Sandk123456@aol.com

 

Huddersfield

12 noon: Upper Head Row, Huddersfield, HD1 2JL. (near main entrance to bus station) juneholmes@btopenworld.com

 

Leeds

12 – 2pm: Street meeting on benefits and sanctions: Briggate, LS1 6JX (near the Body Shop). ellenrobottom@hotmail.com

 

London

11am Old Palace Yard Westminster SW1P 3JY
and 1pm DWP HQ Tothill St SW1
(Southwark Benefit Justice Campaign will be meeting 10.30am outside Metropolitan Tabernacle opposite Elephant and Castle tube station to go up to Parliament)
Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Gig: Starring: THE WICKED VENETIANS + PARVA HINTON + SEBASTIAN MELMOTH + MYLAS: New Cross Inn, 323 New Cross Road London SE14 6AS: http://newcrossinn.com/?p=1&m=09&y=2014

Milton Keynes

12 noon – 1pm outside Milton Keynes Jobcentre Plus, Midsummer Blvd, MK9 3BN. E.kate.hunter@googlemail.com

 

FRIDAY 12th SEPTEMBER

 

Brighton

11am: Brighton station forecourt: brightonbenefitscampaign@gmail.com
Witney

Paupers Picnic outside David Cameron’s Witney Conservatives event at Witney Lakes with tax-dodging, expenses-grabbing MP Nadim Zahawi. Coaches leave Oxford at 5.30pm. For more info contact: mail:dpac.uk.net

Aug 262014
 

Thursday 11th September 2014

End Bedroom Tax; No Sanctions for Claimants – No Targets for Staff

On 11th September the Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Campaign is holding a day of protest: say no to claimant sanctions, bedroom tax and benefit cuts

Government attacks on benefits mean hunger, debt and fear. Ex-soldier David Clapson died hungry and destitute after his benefits were stopped, the latest in a string of deaths and suicides related to sanctions and benefit cuts.  The overwhelming majority of referrals to food banks are due to  claimants being sanctioned.

Sanctions cutting benefits of disabled people on Employment and Support Allowance, rose by nearly 580 percent between March 2013 and March 2014, and total sanctions rose to over a million last year, from 100,000 in 2010 (DWP figures).
PCS union is supporting the 11 September protests.  Research by PCS members working in the DWP revealed that 82% of members felt ‘pressured’ into sanctioning claimants, and 62% said they had made ‘inappropriate’ sanctions decisions.Protests have forced Government to promise changes: see Review report. But sanctions remain a vicious plank of the Government’s punitive welfare reforms, and are still supported by Labour in parliament.

Join us on one of protests below or organise your own.  Demand an end to the Bedroom Tax and link it to the slogan: ‘No sanctions for claimants, No targets for staff’. Build links with local PCS members – contacts for local PCS in DWP and PCS regions.The Bedroom Tax is almost dead – we will demand MPs kill it now  and up the pressure to beat the sanctions regime too. Let us know any actions you are planning so we can promote them.

End Sanctions, Bedroom Tax and benefit cuts11am Old Palace Yard Westminster SW1P 3JY
and 1pm DWP HQ Tothill St SW1

Other protests planned in
Leeds, Sheffield, Oxford, Manchester/Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow


Aug 182014
 

We’re currently producing a brochure for campaigning work and wanted to include a few examples of how each cut has affected disabled people. We already have examples for most things but if you have been affected by the bedroom tax, council tax reduction changes, or the overall benefit cap, cuts to social care or increased charges for care could you please send us a short email about what has happened to you and how this has affected you to mail@dpac.uk.net

 

Many thanks for help with this.

Linda

 Posted by at 21:01
Aug 162014
 

 

(Report from workshop at national meeting of Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice federation)

Fighting Benefit Sanctions

 

The government has a policy  of increasing sanctions to force people off benefits. 

 

More than 800,000 people have been sanctioned in the last year. Referrals to food banks are mainly due to claimants being sanctioned. 

 

Martin Cavanagh is the PCS Group Exec member for civil servants working in the DWP.  The PCS union resolved at their recent conference to oppose both Workfare and Benefit Sanctions. He explained the three central reasons behind the Tories policy of increasing sanctions; Further demonisation of the poor, financial savings for the government, and driving a wedge between claimants and workers. 

 

PCS survey of members working in the DWP revealed that 82% of members felt ‘pressured’ into sanctioning claimants, and 62% said they had made ‘inappropriate’ sanctions decisions. 

 sanctions

The Kirklees Axe The Tax group have used a banner : No Sanction for Claimants! No Targets for Staff! This attracted claimants and some staff to their stall outside a job centre.

 

Roger Lewis speaking for DPAC said that ‘more needed to be done by the PCS.’ But, he insisted, ‘we will not allow the government to divide us. Those working for the DWP alongside claimants have a common interest, we are locked together in a common fight against the Tories.’ 

 

‘More will be done from our union the PCS over the sanctions,’ explained Martin. 

 

‘Advice for claimants on how to challenge sanction decisions has now been agreed between our union, the PCS, Unite the Union Community branches, and campaigners against sanctions. That advice will be issued shortly.’

 

Research has shown that only 1 in 50 claimants who are sanctioned appeal the decision. Of those 90% win their appeal. Forthcoming advice will explain to claimants how they can appeal. 

 

To launch the joint advice and joint campaign, we agreed a day of action against benefit sanctions for Thursday 11th September. 

 

Protests will be organised in every region outside key DWP headquarters or similar high profile government offices.

Fighting Workfare

Public campaigns work! 

 

With just a few protesters the Boycott Workfare actions have ‘shamed’ many employers into withdrawing from the Workfare scheme. Companies and businesses don’t want to be exposed as employing ‘slave’ labour. Only when a company signs up to the Boycott Workfare pledge are they removed for the Boycott Workfare website listing. 

 

Protests outside flagship venues of those companies still in the scheme will continue until the schemes are scrapped.

 

Reblogged with thanks from http://antibedroomtax.org.uk/2013-05-29-04-42-41/latest-news/110-stop-sanctions-11th-sept-day-of-action

 

 

Aug 052014
 

Permission has now been granted and the second  ILF Court Case will go ahead.

The papers went to a judge today and he has granted both permission and expedition (which means speeding up the usual timetable for the court case). The hearing should be “as soon as possible”, which could mean anything at the moment, as the judges are on holiday and the court has a very bad backlog, but we would hope we will get a trial date for some time in September/October as planned.

On behalf of all ILF recipients we’d like to say a continuing thank you to those involved in taking the case. We know from experience just how gruelling and stressful taking legal challenges can be and we offer our solidarity with you all.

 

 

 Posted by at 19:09
Jul 242014
 

 

Joint statement by Black Triangle Campaign, CarerWatch, Disabled People Against Cuts, Mental Health Resistance Network, Pats Petition, #NewApproach and WOWPetition

The WCA presumes that there are too many people on disability benefits because disabled people are too lazy or too comfortable living on benefits to work.

It is founded in the idea that disabled people need to be harassed and hounded out of their comfortable life into finding work under the threat of loss of benefits.

No one is comfortable living on benefits. Disabled people are no more lazy that the rest of the population.

The real reason that there are so many people on benefits is that society does not include disabled people.

We do not have the same access to education, transport, housing and jobs.

Social attitudes ensure that disabled people in the workplace are seen as a problem, rather than an equal opportunity.

And there are large numbers of disabled people who simply can not work. Why should they be harassed? Why should they be hounded?. Why should they have to live in fear?.

We know, and this report confirms, that many people have wrongly been found “fit for work” when they can’t work.

We also know and the UK courts have confirmed WCA discriminates against claimants with mental health impairments.

The Work and Pensions Committee report recommends “improvements” to make the system more workable and less harmful.

This is pointless, because it would not make the WCA any less wrong or any more useful

We call once again on Labour to commit to scrapping the WCA and to address the real problems that disabled people on benefits face in society.

We call once again on the British Medical Association to send guidance on DWP rules “29 and 35” which allows doctors to prevent foreseeable harm being done to ‘at risk’ patients.

They didn’t improve slavery, they abolished it, because it was wrong.

They didn’t amend Apartheid , they ended it because it was wrong

The WCA is wrong, and it needs to be abolished

Signed

Andy Greene, Disabled People Against Cuts
Annie Howard, Disabled People Against Cuts
Bob Ellard, Disabled People Against Cuts
Debbie Jolly, Disabled People Against Cuts
Denise McKenna, Mental Health Resistance Network
Jane Bence, #NewApproach
Eleanor Firman, Disabled People Against Cuts
Ellen Clifford, Disabled People Against Cuts
Gail Ward, Disabled People Against Cuts
John James McArdle, Black Triangle Campaign
Katy Marchant, Disabled People Against Cuts
Linda Burnip, Disabled People Against Cuts
Michelle Maher, WOWPetition
Nick Dilworth, #NewApproach
Pat Onions, Pats Petition
Paula Peters, Disabled People Against Cuts
Rick Burgess, #NewApproach
Roger Lewis, Disabled People Against Cuts
Rosemary O’Neil, Carerwatch
Roy Bard, Disabled People Against Cuts
Wayne Blackburn, #NewApproach
 
 Posted by at 14:47
Jul 032014
 

 Hello comrades 

ALLFIE  (the Alliance for Inclusive Education) would like to put together some short and snappy videos on disabled peoples experiences of having Disabled Students Allowance and the impact it has had in helping them benefit from higher education on our lovely website – 

In particular we would like to focus on inclusion and participation whilst recognising that for some disabled students having the DSA means the potential of getting higher grades or getting a qualification whilst studying at university.  Also it be great to hear how DSA has supported disabled students who benefited from higher education even if they have not ‘passed’ their course.  

We would like to interview disabled people (young and old!) who  are thinking twice about going to university as a result of Government’s DSA reforms.

If anyone wants to know more about the DSA reforms please follow the link – http://www.allfie.org.uk/   Please scroll down to ALLIFE’s june briefing. 

If you are going to be around for the ILF tea party on Friday  – please let me know as I will have a small video camera to do the interview with.    I will be wearing an ALLFIE teashirt.     If you want to have a chat please ring me on 0207 737 6030 during Tuesday and Thursday.

 See u there, Simone Aspis.

Jul 012014
 

Urgent – Legal Challenge to PIP 20 metre descriptor to be held in Birmingham Administrative Court, Bull Street next week on July 9th and 10th.

 

The solicitors have asked for a room for observers to the case and are waiting for confirmation of that. They would like anyone who can to attend to show how important this case is to disabled people.

 

There will also be a vigil outside the court from 1- 2pm on July 9th. Bring placards, banners and friends and supporters.

 

To get updates on room availability and to check the case will not be affected by strike action on July 10th please email

birminghambenefitjustice@gmail.com

 

 

 

 Posted by at 21:30
Jun 042014
 

Disabled people’s experiences needed

Please send me short descriptions of disabled people’s experience on 3 employment related issues.   I can tidy the case studies up and make sure they are anonymous so you don’t need to spend too much time writing them up –  I just need proof of the points I’m making!  See details below:

·       If you have examples of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimants where the loss of £40/50 will have a serious impact on the ability to pay for food and other essentials please let me know. There’s a consultation on the increase of ‘waiting days’ for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA).  Claimants will lose, on average, £40 or £50 respectively.  More information is at: http://ssac.independent.gov.uk/news/press-releases/23-05-14.pdf http://ssac.independent.gov.uk/consultations/

·       I also need examples of disabled people that have experienced difficulties either obtaining or maintaining Access to work e.g. cuts in their budget etc., changes to BSL interpreters conditions for the Access to work inquiry at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/inquiries/parliament-2010/access-to-work/

·       Lastly I would welcome recent examples (i.e. from beginning of Sept 2013) of difficulties caused by the WCA/ESA including issues around difficulties in paying bills due to benefit delays as above as well inaccurate assessments, lack of mental health champions or recording equipment or any other issues for the 5th and final review of the Work Capability assessment (to be announced shortly, see information below).   

 

Henrietta  Doyle

Policy Officer

Inclusion London

 

henrietta.doyle@inclusionlondon.co.uk

www.inclusionlondon.co.uk

Twitter: @inclusionlondon

 

 Posted by at 13:59
May 202014
 

 

By Anita Bellows

David Webster, a leading authority on UK benefit sanction statistics, reacts to the report published in March by the Policy Exchange think tank (Smarter Sanctions: Sorting out the system).

His concern is the influence Policy Exchange has on the right of British politics, (having for instance fathered the JSA ‘claimant commitment’ currently being rolled out) and that the report, if left unchallenged, might affect policy.

The report is flawed in many ways:

  • It splits sanctioned claimants into 2 groups: deserving claimants who are sanctioned for the first time for a lower level ‘offence’ and the others, the repeat ‘offenders’. The flaw is that repeat ‘offenders’ are just as likely as first-timers to be wrongly sanctioned, and there is no statistical or factual basis for the report to establish such a distinction. In fact the reconsideration/appeal success rate for ‘higher level’ sanctions is much higher than for ‘lower level’sanctions.
  • The lack of reference to the difficulties of sanctioned claimants highlighted in British literature dealing with sanctions, whichshows considerable objections to the proposed more ‘compassionate’ penalties recommended by the report for ‘deserving claimants’, and also that claimants with repeated ‘failures’ are likely to be people with difficulties that make them unable to cope with the system.
  • The report is open about its belief in ‘punishment’ which seems to be desirable in itself. The report builds on the language of criminalisation of sanctioned claimants introduced by the Coalition, although most sanctions challenged in court or through reconsideration have been found to be wrongly applied.
  • The scale of financial sanctions is breathtaking: the maximum penalty for jobseekers is £11,185.20, while the fines normally applied to all offenders by mainstream Courts range from £200 (Level 1) to £5,000 (Level 5).

For Annie Piece

It is imperative to challenge this report which relies on the system’s complexity and the use of selective figures and statistics to obfuscate the fact that most sanctions are wrongly applied, that 9 out of 10 challenged sanctions are overturned and that ‘offenders’ are mainly people who have done nothing wrong and who are facing specific difficulties. Ultimately, David Webster calls for an end to sanctions. It is an objective which must be supported.

Read also the Hit The Donkey blog for a good summary and analysis of David Webster’s comments


NOT SO SMART!

Comments on the Policy Exchange report

Smarter Sanctions: Sorting out the system’ by Guy Miscampbell, published 3 March 2014

Dr David Webster

Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Urban Studies, University of Glasgow

24 March 2014

SUMMARY

The Policy Exchange report Smarter Sanctions: Sorting out the system (March 2014) aims to address two issues in the current UK regime of sanctions for JSA and ESA claimants: hardship suffered by claimants who subsequently win their appeals, and the existence of some 30,000 claimants per year (around 5% of the total number of people sanctioned in a year) who are repeatedly sanctioned. Its proposals are misconceived and would be counterproductive. The problems of hardship, including resort to food banks, and of wrongly applied sanctions, can affect any of the people receiving the almost 900,000 sanctions handed out per year, not just the around 300,000 first-time ‘lower level’ ‘offenders’ per year who the Policy Exchange proposes should receive what it claims is more ‘compassionate’ treatment. There is no logic to the identification of this group. The proposals would do nothing to reduce wrongly applied sanctions, and while potentially reducing hardship for some, would increase it for others and leave it unrelieved in the case of most sanctions. The proposal for a shaming ‘yellow card’ instead of loss of benefit is destructive and for many claimants would reduce rather than increase engagement. Daily signing-on would also be impracticable and counterproductive for many. The Policy Exchange proposes that these penalties should be applied to people who have done nothing wrong at all. Its claim that harsher sanctions for repeat ‘offenders’ would be more effective in producing compliance is contradicted by the available evidence. Addressing the problems of destitution caused by sanctions, and of wrongly applied sanctions, would require much more drastic reform including ensuring a decent minimum income for all sanctioned claimants, and proper protections against abuse in what is a gravely defective system of administrative justice. More fundamentally, in so far as the state has valid reasons for attempting to promote particular behaviours – and the reasons are often not valid – there are better ways of doing it than taking money away from already poor and/or crisis-stricken people. Sanctions should be abolished.

Comments on the Policy Exchange report

Smarter Sanctions: Sorting out the system’

This Policy Exchange report has secured wide publicity. The Policy Exchange has influence on the right of British politics (having for instance fathered the JSA ‘claimant commitment’ currently being rolled out) and, if left unchallenged, the report might affect policy. The purpose of these comments is to point out where it is wrong.i

The Coalition has changed the official language used in referring to sanctions in such a way as to imply that sanctioned claimants are in effect a type of criminal, particularly through the drafting of the October 2012 Regulations and their Explanatory Memorandum.ii Thus we read of ‘offences’, ‘failures’, transgressions’, ‘serial and deliberate breach’, ‘failure to meet their responsibilities’, and the like. The Policy Exchange report adopts this language uncritically, and adds to it, with phrases such as ‘flout the system’ (p.6), ‘defying the conditionality regime’ (p.7), ‘separate levels of punishment depending on the offence’ (p.29), ‘prevent the system from being gamed by those who have no intention of being compliant’ (p.36), ‘abuse the leniency in the “first” sanction’ (p.36), ‘the most troublesome cases’ (p.37) ‘more extensive punishment for those who consistently abuse this system’ (p.37). But it should be remembered that even when a sanction is lawful (which is often not the case), the claimant has frequently done nothing deserving of any criticism from either a moral or a practical point of view. Very often they have simply taken a different view from the state about the most constructive way forward. Or they are exercising a fundamental right, such as the right to give up a job at any time on whatever grounds they see fit, subject only to their employment contract. Moreover, the fact that a sanction may go unchallenged does not mean that it is reasonable or lawful, since we know from the research evidence that most claimants find the process of challenge too difficult to undertake.

In what follows it has not been possible to avoid using the language of ‘offence’ and ‘punishment’ in reporting what the Policy Exchange has said, but it is important to bear the above points in mind.

BACKGROUND

In order to understand the report it is necessary to be aware that sanctioned claimants lose their benefit immediately and even if they successfully ask for reconsideration or appeal, the money lost is only refunded months later. The financial position for JSA and ESA claimants while under sanction is as follows:

  1. JSA: Since the Jobseekers Act 1995 (implemented October 1996), sanctioned claimants lose all their JSA for the varying period of weeks. They may apply for hardship payments of 60% of JSA (80% for those in a ‘vulnerable’ group) but these are discretionary and are assessed according to a special set of rules designed to ensure that the claimant has no other resources left and has exhausted any possible assistance from family and friends. Claimants not in a ‘vulnerable’ group are not allowed even to apply for hardship payments for the first two weeks. There is no assessment of ‘vulnerability’. ‘Vulnerable’ groups are arbitrarily defined and are mainly people looking after children.

  2. ESA: Sanctions were introduced for long-term sick or disabled claimants in the ESA Work Related Activity Group in October 2008. Up to 3 December 2012, sanctioned ESA claimants lost half of their ‘work related activity component’ (£28.45 per week) for the first 4 weeks and all of it thereafter. Since December 2012, they have lost all of their main payment (the ‘personal allowance’, the equivalent of JSA) but retain the smaller ‘work related activity component’. Sanctioned ESA claimants can apply for hardship payments immediately.

These sanctions are in effect fines. For claimants over 25, and disregarding open-ended loss of benefit for some types of ‘failure’ pending ‘compliance’, they range from £286.80 up to £11,185.20 for JSA, and from £71.70 to £286.80 for ESA. Under -25 benefit rates are lower, so the amounts lost through sanctions are also lower. ‘Hardship payments’ may reduce the amounts lost. About a quarter of sanctioned JSA claimants get hardship payments, but only around 1 per cent get them at the ‘vulnerable’ rate. Table 1 shows the net amounts lost by the various types of claimant, on the assumptions shown.

For comparison, the fines normally available to the mainstream Courts range from £200 (Level 1) to £5,000 (Level 5).

The impact of these sanctions varies according to the circumstances of the claimant. Those with significant financial resources and/or support from relatives or friends may be relatively little affected, especially if they quickly get a job. Those who are already without resources, especially where they do not have support from relatives or friends, and have barriers to employment such as age, literacy/numeracy problems, sickness etc., are driven into total destitution and frequently actual hunger. To its credit, this Policy Exchange report gives short shrift to Ministers’ claims that there is ‘no robust evidence’ to link the increase in food bank usage to welfare changes, including the increase in sanctions. It accepts the obvious, namely that sanctions drive people to food banks.

Table 1: Minimum and maximum financial amounts of sanctions

Age 25+

Age under 25

Minimum £

Maximum £

Minimum £

Maximum £

JSA, no hardship payment

286.80

11,185.20

227.20

8,860.80

JSA, hardship payment, non-vulnerable

200.76

4,560.12

159.04

3,612.48

JSA, hardship payment, vulnerable

57.36

2,237.04

45.44

1,772.16

ESA, no hardship payment

71.70

286.80

56.80

227.20

ESA, hardship payment

14.30

57.36

11.36

45.44

Notes: These amounts do not include open-ended sanctions for some types of ‘failure’ pending ‘compliance’. It is assumed that application for hardship payments is made as soon as permitted and is immediately successful, and that hardship payments are paid throughout the period of the sanction at maximum rate. These assumptions will probably not often be correct. Benefit rates are as at 2013-14.

Source: Author’s calculations.

SUMMARY OF THE POLICY EXCHANGE REPORT’S ARGUMENT AND PROPOSALS

The report argues that the current sanctions system is too harsh on some people and too lenient on others.

It argues that it is too harsh to an estimated 68,000 people per yeariii who receive a 4-week sanction which is subsequently overturned by reconsideration or appeal, for a first-time ‘offence’ which is defined as ‘lower level’ by the October 2012 Regulations. Therefore a policy should be piloted whereby lower level first-time ‘offenders’ should receive either or both of the following penalties (argued to be more ‘compassionate’):

  1. Upon ‘re-engagement’ with Jobcentre Plus, the claimant would have their benefits paid via a ‘yellow card’, usable only at designated shops and, technology permitting, only for designated goods. This substitute penalty should be imposed for a longer period of 8 weeks.

  2. The claimant should have to sign on daily.

The most effective permutation of these penalties (one or other or both) would be established by the pilots.

These first-time ‘offenders’ (but not other ‘offenders’) should also automatically receive assistance with applying for reconsideration or appeal.

The proposed measures would have to be applied to all first-time lower level ‘offenders’ since the outcome of reconsideration/appeal is not known until too late. The report estimates that about 19,000 people a month would be subject to them, but it does not attempt a full-year estimate. At current levels, this would be of the order of 300,000.iv This is somewhat over half the total number of individual JSA claimants sanctioned during a year, which is over 528,000, but only one third of the total number of JSA sanctions (874,850).v

The report argues that the current system is too lenient to people who incur repeated JSA sanctions defined as ‘lower level’ by the October 2012 Regulations. At present a second or subsequent lower level ‘failure’ within the same year incurs a 13 week sanction. The report proposes to add further progression, namely 26 weeks for a third ‘failure’, 39 weeks for a third, and in general 13(n-1) weeks where n is the number of ‘failures’, with a maximum of 156 weeks (which would be reached upon the 13th ‘offence’).vi This proposal would raise the maximum sanction for this group from £932.10 (under-25s £738.40) to £11,185.20 (under-25s £8,860.80). The report does not offer an estimate of the number of people who would be affected by this proposal but the DWP statistics indicate that it would be somewhat over 30,000 per year, around 5% of the total number of people sanctioned during a year.

The report also considers that treatment is too lenient for people with repeated ESA sanctions. At present, the sanction is open-ended until re-engagement and is then followed by a 1-week sanction for a first ‘failure’, 2 weeks for a second, and 4 weeks for a third or subsequent ‘failure’. The report proposes to add further unlimited progression, to 8 weeks for a fourth ‘failure’, 12 weeks for a fifth, and in general 4(n-2) weeks where n is the number of ‘failures’. The present maximum sanction for this group of £286.80 (under-25s £227.20) would be raised to a level limited only by the time to retirement.

This proposal seems scarcely worth making since the DWP statistics show that there are under 1,200 ESA claimants who have ever had more than three sanctions. The algebraic formula is certainly wasted since once beyond six sanctions the numbers are down to double figures in the whole of Great Britain.

The report does not comment at all on the treatment of people sanctioned for JSA ‘offences’ defined as ‘intermediate’ or ‘higher’ level by the October 2012 Regulations. It does not make any attempt to cost its proposals or make any kind of impact assessment.

In considering the weaknesses of the report, these comments deal separately with the ‘too harsh’ and the ‘too lenient’ aspects.

CRITICISMS OF THE REPORT: ‘TOO HARSH’

Identification of claimants who should be treated less harshly

The identification of first-time ‘lower level’ ‘offenders’ as the only claimants who should be treated less harshly is odd. It leaves the following categories of sanctioned claimants who would not be treated less harshly:

– second and subsequent time lower level ‘offenders’, whether successfully appealing or not

– all intermediate and higher level ‘offenders’, whether first-time or not and whether successfully appealing or not.

.

There is no justification for the Policy Exchange proposal to treat these groups less favourably.

Discrimination by first-time/repeat

Repeat ‘offenders’ are just as likely as first-timers to be wrongly sanctioned. Wrongly sanctioned people with a previous ‘offence’ should not be treated less favourably than wrongly sanctioned first timers. The report does not attempt to justify this discrimination, which presumably arises from an implicit assumption that an ‘offence’ renders a claimant ‘undeserving’ and that as a result they should forfeit their right to justice.

Such discrimination would be counterproductive. Consider the hypothetical case of a claimant who ‘offends’ on one occasion, is sanctioned, and who then ‘reforms’ only to find that they are then subjected to a further sanction which is wrongfully imposed, and they are told that because of their previous offence, they are not entitled to fair treatment. This would promptly undermine the supposed effectiveness of the system.

Discrimination by ‘level’

As the report itself acknowledges (p.20), the reconsideration/appeal success rate for ‘higher level’ sanctions is much higher than for ‘lower’: 31.8% compared to 19.9%.vii So there are actually more wrongly sanctioned claimants in this group, and this is even more serious as the sanctions are of much longer duration. Reconsideration/appeal success rates are also significant for ‘intermediate’ sanctions, at 12.3%. Therefore if the objective is to reduce the suffering of wrongly sanctioned claimants, the report’s proposal will not achieve it.

The report does not offer any justification for treating ‘higher’ and ‘intermediate’ ‘offenders’ less favourably than ‘lower’ offenders. It appears simply to have accepted these distinctions uncritically at face value. But this categorization did not exist until October 2012. The Explanatory Memorandum to the October 2012 Regulations did not offer any justification for the categorization, simply claiming without explanation that ‘under the existing regime some sanctions are not proportionate to the failure’. The designation of some ‘failures’ as more serious than others is shot through with unwarranted assumptions.

Intermediate level – Until October 2012 these were not treated as offences at all. They all relate to cases where the claimant does not meet the entitlement conditions for JSA because they are not available for work, not actively seeking work, have not signed on or have not completed a Jobseeker’s Agreement, or are unemployed because of a relevant trade dispute. Such claimants were simply ‘disentitled’, and a new claim showing that the claimant now met the conditions resulted in immediate restoration of JSA, apart from a few ‘waiting days’. The Coalition decided to turn these matters into ‘offences’ and by adding a fixed 4-week sanction to the disentitlement arbitrarily promoted their seriousness above that of ‘lower level’ offences.

Higher level – These ‘failures’ all relate to cases where it is argued that the claimant’s conduct has actually caused their unemployment, i.e. their unemployment is ‘voluntary’ (a claim which is obviously unsustainable in relation to almost all the reasons why claimants are currently sanctioned). This is the rationale for treating them as more serious. In the case of the new offence of ‘failing to participate in Mandatory Work Activity’, this claim is dishonest, since the claimant is not getting a job, but only ‘workfare’ – having to work for their benefits. MWA is ‘intended to help claimants move closer to the labour market, enabling them to establish the discipline and habits of working life, such as attending on time regularly, carrying out specific tasks and working under supervision while delivering a contribution to the community’.viii MWA should be classified as a ‘lower level’ failure, like the other training activities with which it belongs.

But the severity of the penalty for the other ‘higher level’ ‘failures’ has also long been challenged. For 75 years until 1986, the maximum penalty for ‘voluntary unemployment’ was 6 weeks’ loss of benefit. At that time, there were almost no sanctions or disqualifications except for voluntarily leaving a job or losing it through misconduct. During the Thatcher/Howe recession from 1979 on, job leaving was suppressed because people are more careful to hold on to a job when it is more difficult to get another. As recovery proceeded, job mobility rose – as indeed economic efficiency required – and disqualifications for ‘voluntary leaving’ and ‘misconduct’ rose with it, since many of them are imposed on people who simply miscalculate about how easy it will be to get another job. Conservative ministers of the day did not understand this and thought the penalties needed to be increased, to up to 26 weeks in 1988. The Department of Social Security itself subsequently pointed out: ‘Changes in the economic climate …play an important part in people’s attitude to job leaving and job search…Thus it is not surprising that the length of disqualification appears to have little effect on voluntary leaving’ (DSS 1989, p.5). The relatively trivial ‘offences’ introduced or made more common by the Jobseekers Act 1995 could not credibly be penalised at the level of these ‘voluntary unemployment’ disqualifications and this then left it open to the 2012 Regulations to designate the latter as ‘higher level’.

Lower level – Inclusion of missing an interview as a sanctionable ‘offence’ at all is a recent innovation, in April 2010. Before then, it was regarded as an entitlement issue, permitting a resumption of benefit after only the ‘waiting days’. The logic was that if the claimant does not attend interviews, their availability for work is put into question and their claim cannot be progressed. It was the previous Labour government which decided to turn it into a sanctionable ‘offence’.

Discrimination in relation to assistance with reconsideration/appeal

Given that wrongly sanctioned claimants can be found in any group, there is a lack of logic in the proposal that only first-time lower level ‘offenders’ should receive assistance with their appeal. The research evidence (e.g. Peters & Joyce 2006), and the low levels of both reconsiderations and appeals, show that most claimants find the process of challenging decisions too difficult – which is not surprising given the multiplicity of other difficulties which they will be attempting to cope with at the same time.

The proposed more ‘compassionate’ penalties

It is striking that the Policy Exchange report makes very little reference to the British literature on the difficulties of sanctioned claimants.ix Instead, references are mainly to US literature on ‘workfare’, revealing the Policy Exchange’s political preferences and connections.x A reading of the British literature would show that there are considerable objections to both of the proposed more ‘compassionate’ penalties.

‘Yellow card’ – This proposal is modelled on the ‘Azure card’ issued to asylum seekers denied leave to remain.xi The British Red Cross is calling for this to be abolished, a fact of which the Policy Exchange appears unaware.xii The implied withdrawal of full citizenship recalls the overt removal of citizenship rights introduced for workhouse inmates by the 1834 Poor Law. The report itself states (pp.6, 33, 36) that the card would work partly through ‘social pressure’, in other words sanctioned claimants would be publicly shamed, even when they are subsequently found to have done nothing wrong at all. Shaming is undesirable, whether claimants are wrongly sanctioned or not, for all the reasons considered by Walker et al. (2013), Ellis (2010) and Citizens for Sanctuary (2010). The report also proposes (pp.6, 32-33) that the card should have to be picked up from the Jobcentre, ‘fostering renewed contact with the sanctioned individual. If they did not re-engage then they would be unable to pick up the card and access benefits’. Given the shame involved in using the card, it seems likely that only claimants in dire need of money would opt to pick it up, and for many, there would thus be a reduced incentive to ‘re-engage’. The report itself (p.10, note 17) references a case where a teacher was wrongfully sanctioned for attending a job interview which took place at the same time as her signing-in time. An offer of a ‘yellow card’ would not only make such a person justifiably very angry; it would also most likely be rejected.

Another problem is that sanctioned claimants often have multiple urgent calls on any funds that come in, e.g. repaying informal debts, feeding a coin electricity meter, buying a child’s birthday present. Many of these would continue to require cash, so denying it would be likely to cause serious crises. The need to find and travel to stores accepting the card would impose further financial costs and waste of time. Indeed it might become impossible for some claimants even to get to the Jobcentre, unless the card was accepted on public transport – an issue on which the Policy Exchange is silent (Reynolds 2010).

The Policy Exchange proposal is that all of these problems should be imposed on people who are completely blameless.

Daily signing-on The main practical objections to this are the time and cost of travel, and the difficulties created for any kind of carer (bearing in mind that large numbers of people have some caring roles even when not classified as ‘carers’, and that there are some 140,000 lone parents with children under 12 on JSA as a result of the ‘lone parent obligation’). Daily sign-on is simply unrealistic for many claimants. It would also run counter to the Policy Exchange-inspired Claimant Commitment, since for many claimants so much time would be taken up in travel that there would be little left for job search. Because of the extremely large differences in the travel times and costs involved, especially between rural and urban claimants, this penalty would bear very unequally on different claimants. It also has a strong resemblance to the oakum-picking of the nineteenth-century workhouse – a deliberately purposeless activity, designed to depress and humiliate. It would be an abuse of the principle of signing on, whose purpose is simply to ensure that the claimant demonstrates their availability for work by their physical presence, and affirms by their signature that they meet the entitlement conditions for unemployment benefit during the relevant payment period. Again, the Policy Exchange proposes that this penalty should be applied to people who are blameless.

CRITICISMS OF THE REPORT: ‘TOO LENIENT’

The report does not cite any empirical evidence in support of its proposal to add further progression of penalties beyond 13 weeks for a third or subsequent lower level ‘failure’. It says (pp. 10-11) that ‘more needs to be done to prevent this group of individuals’ – a ‘hard core of claimants’ – ‘consistently wasting time and resources’. Sanctions should be ‘more punitive for those who are repeatedly attempting to avoid the conditionality regime’ (p.7). The harsher progression ‘would increasingly shift the most troublesome cases onto more punitive sanctions’ and ‘should help provide a more extensive punishment for those who consistently abuse this system’ (p.37). This implies beliefs that (a) claimants are deliberately not meeting requirements, (b) harsher penalties will have greater effects in producing compliance, (c) claimants waste the time of Jobcentre staff but Jobcentre staff do not waste the time of claimants and (d) punishment is desirable in itself.

  1. Claimants deliberately not meeting requirements The Scottish Government (2013) concluded that ‘Research shows that claimants who face sanction are often unable to comply with conditions rather than unwilling. The reasons why claimants receive sanctions are complex and include: lack of awareness, knowledge and understanding of the sanction process; practical barriers and personal barriers’. The evidence shows that the great majority of claimants are doing their best to find work, and that Jobcentres contribute little of value to their search.xiii For them, what the sanctions system often does is to enforce contrived and pointless actions which bring no actual benefit to anyone.

  2. Harsher penalties to produce greater effect At present JSA claimants ‘committing’ a third lower level ‘failure’ receive a sanction of £932.10 (under-25s £738.40), on top of what will have been a total of £1,218.90 (under-25s £965.60) for the first and second ‘failures’, bringing the total penalty to £2,151.00 (under-25s £1,897.70). These sums are already so large for an unemployed person that there is a lack of credibility in the Policy Exchange’s claim that a further increase to a grand total of £3,083.10 (under-25s £2,442.40) upon the third ‘failure’, with yet further subsequent increases of £932.10 (under-25s £738.40) for each subsequent ‘failure’, would succeed where the earlier penalties failed. However, what certainly would happen is that many claimants would spend much longer on the vicious ‘hardship payments’ regime, thus reducing them, and their friends or families, further towards destitution (if they are not there already), and making recovery of their lives much more difficult. ESA claimants currently face much smaller sanctions for repeated ‘failures’ than do JSA claimants, but nearly all of them will be in a weak financial position due to a weak employment record; as in the case of JSA, non-means-tested ESA now lasts only a year, so that very few sanctioned ESA claimants will have income or capital above the qualifying levels.

  3. Claimants waste the time of Jobcentre staff but not the other way round It is clear from the abundant evidence from advice agencies and claimants themselves that most of the waste of time in the JSA system is of claimants’ time by Jobcentre staff, not the other way round. Not only are there the absurd requirements for multiple token applications for jobs the claimant has no chance of getting; there is also the chasing after undelivered letters, the attempts to get phone calls efficiently dealt with and changes of circumstances properly recorded, the referrals to inappropriate courses, the struggle to find a web terminal allowing access to ‘Universal Jobmatch’ followed by the need to screen out the fraudulentxiv vacancies recorded in it, etc., etc.xv

  4. Punishment desirable in itself The report is quite open about its belief in punishment: sanctions’ ‘purpose is twofold; attempting to ensure compliance with the conditionality regime, and’ (emphasis added) ‘punishing noncompliant behaviour’ (p.6). This position is clearly different from that of more moderate advocates of sanctions, such as Gregg (2008), whose report does not mention the words ‘punishment’ or ‘punish’ at all.

The British literature indicates that claimants with repeated ‘failures’ are likely to be people with difficulties that make them unable to cope with the system, like 19-year old ‘Sally’ with learning difficulties mentioned by Broadway & St Mungo’s (2014, p.6). They simply do not fit the image of the deliberately ‘serially noncompliant’ claimant which the Policy Exchange has imagined (p.39). Oxfam (2014) comments ‘The experiences of our projects and partners suggest that someone who is sanctioned for four weeks is more likely to be sanctioned again. Many of these same people are the most vulnerable members of our society.’

A Freedom of Information disclosure by DWP (2013-1075, 18 April 2013) showed that in 2012 (to 21 October), the type of ‘failure’ with by far the highest proportion of sanctions which were repeats (33.4%, relating to 27,570 individuals) was non-participation in the Work Programme.xvi Given the many reports of unsatisfactory services delivered by Work Programme contractors, this is at least as likely to indicate their failure to meet claimants’ needs as fault on the part of claimants. This is borne out by a recent Work Programme evaluation commissioned by the DWP (Meager et al. 2013), which reported a survey of Work Programme providers as revealing that 25.4 per cent thought the Programme ‘very ineffective’ and 22.5 per cent ‘somewhat ineffective’. The same report also stated that there is ‘no conclusive evidence that sanctions were changing job search behaviour or increasing job entry rates.’

There is not much systematic empirical evidence on the effects of escalating sanctions for repeat ‘failures’. An exception is Saunders et al. (2001). Most of their findings about escalating sanctions (2, 4, 26 weeks for 1st, 2nd and 3rd ‘offences’) in the New Deal for Young People were decidedly unfavourable. Many people received 26-week sanctions because the New Deal did not meet their needs, or because of misunderstandings, and many had significant obstacles to employment. They had mainly been allocated to the most unpopular of the four New Deal ‘Options’ and had had little choice. It was felt that once a client had reached the 26 week stage they were unlikely to return to the Option which they had been sanctioned for not attending. Some claimants talked about losing their confidence in relation to job interviews. In general, jobseekers disengaged from ‘the system’ after being sanctioned, particularly those with 26 week sanctions. Many wanted to sign off and have nothing to do with claiming benefits if it meant remaining on the New Deal. Concerns were also expressed over sanctioned clients who had serious personal difficulties that really needed intensive help.

While there is some evidence that sanctions do get some people off benefits faster, and sometimes even into work, all of it appears to relate to sanctions which are much milder than the present UK regime, let alone that proposed by the Policy Exchange. The Netherlands sanctions studied by Abbring et al. (2005) ranged from around 5% of the previous wage for 4 weeks, to 25 or 30% for 13 weeks. Those studied by Van den Berg et al. (2004) were a maximum 20% reduction in benefits for one or two months. Both of these articles were cited by Gregg (2008) to support his advocacy of sanctions. There appears to be no evidence that heavy sanctions are more efficacious than mild ones.

ALTERNATIVE PROPOSALS WHICH WOULD BETTER ADDRESS THE PROBLEMS IDENTIFIED

The Policy Exchange report correctly recognises that two of the biggest problems of the current sanctions regime are the reduction of poor claimants to destitution, and the high proportion of claimants who are wrongly sanctioned. But it is evident from the above discussion that its proposals, far from making sanctions ‘smarter’, would be ineffective and largely counterproductive in addressing these problems. Much more effective solutions are available.

Destitution The report recognises that many sanctioned claimants are made destitute, but proposes to relieve the destitution only of a minority. No one should be made destitute by sanctions, and prior to the Jobseekers Act 1995, no one was. Disallowed or sanctioned claimants were entitled to a reduced rate of Income Support or Supplementary Benefit as of right from the start, assessed on the normal rules. The present vindictive provisions were introduced by the populist right-winger Peter Lilley. Although the Labour Party voted against them, and a Conservative MP crossed the floor of the House in protest, nothing has since been done to reform the system. Gregg (2008), in his review commissioned by the Labour government, side-stepped the issue. He declared (pp.14, 69, 70, 71) that ‘an effective sanctions regime is one that drives behaviour to increase the chances of finding work, and penalises non-compliance without creating excessive hardship’ (emphasis added), but he did not make any recommendations for the avoidance of hardship or even ask how the JSA regime actually impacts on the poor.

Reducing claimants to destitution does not help them to find work and is simply counterproductive (Homeless Watch 2013). Led by the churches,xvii increasing numbers of people are recognising that the creation of destitution by the state, most strikingly revealed by the growth of food banks, is unacceptable. Restoration of a decent income for poor JSA and ESA claimants, whatever they are alleged to have done or not done, is an urgent priority, demanding legislation without delay.

Wrongful sanctions If people are being wrongly sanctioned on a huge scale, as the report admits, then the obvious solution is not the report’s proposal to treat wrongly sanctioned people supposedly less harshly, but to ensure that sanctions are not wrongly applied in the first place. The report avoids this issue by arguing (p.29) that ‘It seems reasonable to conclude that sensible steps are being taken to resolve process issues.’ Presumably this is a reference to the current government-commissioned review of some JSA sanctions by Matthew Oakley, a Policy Exchange alumnus. But Oakley’s terms of reference limit him to communications and process, excluding the issue of wrongful sanctions. Although the current Employment Minister has declared her intention to hold a wider review, she has committed herself to neither the scope nor the timescale of such a review.xviii

Adler (2013), on the basis of evidence running to 2010, has pointed out how few are the protections for claimants in the JSA/ESA sanctions regime and its grave defects as a system of administrative justice. Under the Coalition, matters have become very much worse. Added to the pre-existing problems, there is now a deliberate policy on the part of ministers to drive up the level of sanctions to previously unheard-of levels through managerial pressure on Jobcentre staff. In evidence to the Oakley review (Webster 2014), I have spelled out many of the individual changes which would be required to provide a proper level of protection.

However, these reforms will not address the many other fundamental objections to sanctions. In so far as the state has valid reasons for attempting to promote particular behaviours – and the reasons are often not valid – there are better ways of doing it than taking money away from already poor and/or crisis-stricken people. Sanctions should simply be abolished (Webster 2013).

REFERENCES

Abbring, Jaap H., van den Berg, Gerard J. and van Ours, Jan C. (2005) ‘The Effect of Unemployment Insurance Sanctions on the Transition Rate from Unemployment to Employment’, Economic Journal, 115 (July), 602–630

Adler, Michael (2013) ‘Conditionality, Sanctions, and the Weakness of Redress Mechanisms in the British “New Deal”’, in Evelyn Z. Brodkin and Gregory Marston, eds, Work and the Welfare State: Street-Level Organizations and Workfare Politics, Georgetown University Press

Van den Berg G. J., Van der Klaauw B., van Ours, J. C. (2004) ‘Punitive sanctions and the transition rate from welfare to work’, Journal of Labor Economics, 22(1), 211-41

Broadway & St Mungo’s (2014) Joint Response to the Independent Review of Jobseeker’s Allowance Sanctions, at

http://www.mungos.org/documents/4559/4559.pdf

Citizens for Sanctuary (2010) ‘This new system is breaking my spirit’: A Glasgow Citizen Monitoring Report on the Introduction of the Azure Payment Card, September, at http://www.justiceandpeacescotland.org.uk/Portals/0/Resources/azurecardreportglasgowcitiz.pdf

Department of Social Security (1989) An Analysis of Voluntary Unemployed Claimants, Analytical Services Division, November

Ellis, Jonathan (2010) ‘Time to cash in the Azure card’, Guardian, 6 November 2010, at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/nov/06/asylum-seekers-azure-card

Gregg, Paul (2008) Realising Potential: A Vision for Personalised Conditionality and Support. An independent report to the Department for Work and Pensions

Homeless Watch (2013) A High Cost to Pay: The impact of benefit sanctions on homeless people, September, available at

http://homeless.org.uk/sanctions#.UtBCyLRZi8F

Manchester CAB Service (2013) Punishing Poverty? A review of benefit sanctions and their impacts on clients and claimants, October, available at http://www.manchestercab.org/news_more.asp?news_id=19&current_id=1

Meager, Nigel, Newton, Becci, Foley, Beth, Sainsbury, Roy, Corden, Anne, Irving, Annie, Lane, Pippa, Weston, Catherine (2013), Work Programme Evaluation: Interim meta-report, September. According to Channel 4 News, this report has been suppressed by Coalition ministers and the points from it cited here are as reported in the blog of Gary Gibbon, Channel 4 political correspondent, 12 March 2014, at http://blogs.channel4.com/gary-gibbon-on-politics/work-programme-work/27769

Oxfam (2014) Independent review of Jobseeker’s Allowance sanctions:

Response to call for evidence, available at http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/oakley-sanctions-review-responses-other-organisations

Peters, Mark and Joyce, Lucy (2006) A review of the JSA sanctions regime: Summary findings, DWP Research Report No. 313

Reynolds, Sile (2010) Your inflexible friend: The cost of living without cash, Asylum Support Partnership, October, available at http://www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk/what_you_can_do/campaign/azure_card

Saunders, Tanya, Stone, Vanessa, and Candy, Sara (2001) The impact of the 26 week sanctioning regime, BMRB Qualitative, April

Scottish Government (2013) The potential impacts of benefit sanctions on individuals and

households: Welfare Analysis, December, available at

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/People/welfarereform/analysis/analysisonsanctions

Walker, R., Kyomuhendo, G. B., Chase, E., Choudhry, S., Gubrium, E. K., Nicola, J. Y., Lødemel, I., Mathew L., Mwiine, A., Pellissery, S. and Ming, Yan C (2013) ‘Poverty in Global Perspective: Is Shame a Common Denominator?’, Journal of Social Policy, 42 (2), 215–233

Webster, D. (2013) ‘JSA Sanctions and Disallowances’, evidence submitted to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry into The Role of Jobcentre Plus in the Reformed Welfare System, 22 May 2013, revised and corrected 8 August 2013, available at

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmworpen/479/479vw.pdf,

pp. Ev w90-w101

Webster, D. (2014) Evidence submitted to the Independent review of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) sanctions for claimants failing to take part in back to work schemes, 10 January, revised 13 January, available at

http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/oakley-sanctions-review-responses-other-organisations

i Some technical issues about the report are not discussed here. One of these is the question of the reasons for the recent rise in ‘reserved’ and ‘cancelled’ sanctions decisions, on which the report quotes my own work. My up-to-date view on this is set out in the briefing at http://paulspicker.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/sanctions-stats-briefing-d-webster-19-feb-2014-1.pdf

ii Explanatory Memorandum to the Jobseeker’s Allowance (Sanctions) (Amendment) Regulations

2012, 2012 No. 2568

iii The figure of 68,000 is actually an overestimate of the group as defined by the Policy Exchange report. It refers to claimants with a first ‘failure’ falling within the period 22 October 2012 to 30 September 2013. The number of claimants within this group failing for the first time ever – which is the group apparently talked about by the Policy Exchange report will be smaller than this but cannot be found from the DWP’s published statistics. The 68,000 figure was incorrectly reported in the media as referring to all people wrongly sanctioned. This is actually a much larger number, at least 140,000 per year, and would be larger still if more people asked for reconsideration or appeal. Dissemination of the inaccurate figure resulted from misreporting by the Policy Exchange itself, on its website and in its press release.

iv An accurate estimate of the number of people receiving a lower level sanction for the first time in a given year cannot be obtained from the published DWP statistics. These show that 295,897 people received at least one adverse low level sanction decision in the 49 weeks from 22 October 2012 to 30 September 2013, but this is after removal of those whose adverse decision was reversed on reconsideration or appeal. Inclusion of these people would raise the number. On the other hand, definition of the group as those with a ‘first time ever’ sanction – apparently the Policy Exchange’s intention – would lower the number.

v See the author’s briefing at http://paulspicker.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/sanctions-stats-briefing-d-webster-19-feb-2014-1.pdf

vi The algebraic formulae are as used in the Policy Exchange report.

vii These are the report’s calculations, not the present author’s.

viii DWP, Mandatory Work Activity Provider Guidance – Incorporating Universal Credit (UC) Guidance

(January 2014), para.1.7, at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mandatory-work-activity-dwp-provider-guidance

ix The British literature on the difficulties of sanctioned claimants includes the two dozen or so submissions to the Oakley review of sanctions listed on the Child Poverty Action Group webpage http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/oakley-sanctions-review-responses-other-organisations. Also Homeless Watch (2013), Manchester CAB Service (2013), and Scottish Government (2013).

x The biography of the report’s author reveals that he served as an intern in the office of a US Republican Congressman for Alaska, Don Young, while the Policy Exchange website has a page inviting donations from ‘American friends of the Policy Exchange’ at http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/component/zoo/item/about-american-friends-of-policy-exchange.

xi https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/258358/vouchers.pdf. It is remarkable that the Policy Exchange (pp.32-33) cites US and Australian examples of payment cards while apparently being entirely unaware of the existence of such a card in the UK or of the voluminous literature about it.

xii http://www.migrantsrights.org.uk/news/2013/red-cross-calls-evidence-azure-card-and-its-impact-asylum-seeker-lives

xiii Almost all the organizations submitting written evidence to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry into The Role of Jobcentre Plus in the reformed welfare system who commented on the services provided by Jobcentre Plus were highly critical, accusing Jobcentre Plus of failing to assess claimants’ needs properly and of making inappropriate referrals. See http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmworpen/479/479vw.pdf

xiv http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/mar/16/dwp-jobs-website-universal-jobsmatch

xv http://blog.church-poverty.org.uk/2013/12/04/benefit-sanctions-ineffective-and-immoral/. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development reported in its Labour Market Outlook, Spring 2013, p.2, that employers are receiving 45 applications for each low-skilled job, but only half of the applicants are suitable.

xvi Non-participation in Community Action had a higher proportion of repeat sanctions than the Work Programme but there were so few repeatedly sanctioned individuals (190) that this has been ignored. The next highest proportions were for refusal of employment (16.95%), not actively seeking employment (15.80%), and missing an adviser interview (13.36%). For all other reasons, repeats were under 5%.

xvii See the comments of Cardinal Nichols on 14 February 2014 at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26200157, and the letter by 43 Anglican bishops and other clergy on 19 February 2014 at http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/27-bishops-slam-david-camerons-3164033

xviii Esther McVey MP, letter to Debbie Abrahams MP, 1 February 2014, available at http://refuted.org.uk/2014/02/21/newsanctionsreview/

 

 Posted by at 15:16
May 132014
 

I went to the Work and Pensions Select Committee meeting in Newcastle today at the Newcastle FC in the Bobby  Moncur  Suite. Access to the building was fine although parking was a fair distance from stadium, but the best they could get. Signers and induction loop were available. I enquired with Sheila Gilmore MP the terms of reference for the meeting.

Dame Anne Begg opened the meeting which was to gather information from people on personal ESA/WCA experiences only. The meeting was well attended by individuals and also charities with case studies which were presented to the committee in report form. The horrors I listened to made me cry openly which is pretty hard I can tell you, as I’m not one for showing my emotions in public or private easily, and those who know me personally know this to be the case. The committee were also struggling to remain composed.  The committee had come to Newcastle because it had the highest complaints across the entire system, so decided a one off trip to hear from people was appropriate.

Many cases of failure were given and it was brought up time and again of fabricated reports, people being humiliated by HCP’s which we have known about for years. Many cases of suicide were mentioned , many cases of where the claimant was terminally ill yet denied what they were rightfully entitled to in their time of need and that documentation from GP’s /consultants were being ignored as ‘they know better’.

I mentioned the fear of ‘brown envelope syndrome’ and that disabled peoples’ voices were not felt to be heard and our human rights were being abused on a daily basis. I called the WCA a ‘wicked regime’ which has targets even if they deny so, and is cost cutting exercise and nothing more. I also brought up as did others the fact most people would work if they could but many cannot, as getting through a day by day basis was as much as many could cope with. I also asked where the jobs were for those  who wish to work and why those meant to help like Shaw Trust/Action for the Blind were also vilified by claimants for failures when they are supposed to help? Whether they could help as the claimants’ impairments mean that employers wont take  them on  so they are abandoned to their own devices.

It was mentioned frequently during the meeting about JCP disability advisors being no use and they also, didn’t understand conditions either; often bullying the claimant into jobs they can’t perform, and that education for those who needed to gain skills was being denied .

Decision Makers are trained by ATOS I found out today  so that is a conflict of interest  which I found disgusting  given the level of control they have over peoples’ lives and the  cumulative impact on a disabled person’s well being. I mentioned that this model used is flawed and didn’t take into account those with fluctuating conditions and the cost of tribunals and re-assessments of those with long term progressive illnesses , was a waste of taxpayers’ money unless changes had occurred .

I explained how we are demonised and treated as liars and criminals when, in actual fact all we are, is disabled or have a long term health condition. I asked why shouldn’t we be afforded the same rights as non-disabled people such as holidays which we have to save for, or have a pet , or go to the supermarket without the fear of being seen as a potential fraudster, when actual fraud was 0.8% including deptartmental error. I brought it up that many claimants have had support needs, financial and other, refused saying it wasn’t available.

On a lighter note the committee  were understanding, listening and attentive and genuinely DO CARE  and were encouraged by the turnout and assured us that those who sent in personal  stories were not being ignored by them and that they were ploughing through each and every one of them, but they would encourage any further submissions of case studies by groups or individuals.

I have to say I found today harrowing as much as I do daily on facebook the horror stories that people are suffering. It has to stop!

 

 Posted by at 21:17
May 072014
 

Another Tory cut targeting disabled people

On Monday last week, Tory Universities and Science Minister David Willetts announced plans to ‘modernise’ the Disabled Students’ Allowances [DSAs] for higher education students from England. What he really means is another Tory cut.

DSAs are grants which pay for disability-related support for students. Since their introduction in 1990, DSAs have helped thousands more working class disabled students get to university who would otherwise have been unable to afford it, and to get the extra support they need when there.  In 2011-12, DSAs provided over £125 million of additional support for over 53,000 full-time undergraduate higher education students. Individual grants can be for several thousand pounds, including specialist equipment and tutorial support.

The report says that students with specific learning difficulties  such as dyslexia & dyspraxia “will continue to receive support through DSAs where their support needs are considered to be more complex”.  This means that students judged to have less complex needs will no longer be eligible.  The government will “no longer pay for standard specification computers”, using evidence from a report from Endsleigh Insurance conducted by the NUS which claims “almost all students now own or have access to a computer.” But even if this were true, the government’s own website says disabled people are less likely to own an internet-enabled computer or use a public terminal.*

The report says the government wants to “rebalance responsibilities between government funding and institutional support.”   This move to make universities pay for the additional support needs of disabled students might seem fair.  After all, universities rake in huge amounts from student fees. But it’s unlikely to work out like that.  Richer universities can afford to pay (as can richer parents), but the huge squeeze on Higher Education funding means others will try not to. Most students can’t afford to go to court to force them to cough up. So all this will lead to disabled students dropping out of their courses because they can’t get the support they need, and that less disabled students from poorer backgrounds get to university at all.

Willetts says the changes will ensure support is provided “where it is needed the most.” This argument has been used to justify other benefits cuts, and on each occasion it has led in practice to actually removing support from most who need it. That’s why we need to expose and resist DSA changes as cuts helping the Tories to make education something only the rich can afford.

Roddy Slorach

*Office for Disability Issues – see http://odi.dwp.gov.uk/odi-projects/digital-inclusion.php

NUS blasts David Willetts over changes to disabled students’ support

David Willetts is “arrogant and out of touch” in seeking “unfair” cuts to disabled students’ funding, according to the National Union of Students.

7 APRIL 2014 | BY JOHN MORGAN http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/nus-blasts-david-willetts-over-changes-to-disabled-students-support/2012501.article

Mr Willetts, the universities and science minister, says today in a written ministerial statement that he wants to “modernise” the Disabled Students’ Allowance.

The NUS said dyslexic students needing support for computer equipment to aid their studies would lose out, and warned the costs of specialist accommodation for disabled students may not be met by DSA.

The changes “look to rebalance responsibilities between government funding and institutional support,” Mr Willetts says in his statement.

Times Higher Education reported last week that the level of support offered to some disabled students varies widely between different universities.

DSA can pay for assistance including specialist equipment such as computer software; non-medical helpers, like a note-taker or reader; or extra travel costs. The maximum funding per student is £5,161 for specialist equipment (for the whole of a course), £20,520 for the non-medical helper allowance (per year) and £1,724 for a general allowance (per year).

Total government funding for DSA, the level of which varies from year to year depending on claims, came to £125 million in 2011-12, covering over 53,000 full-time undergraduates. The government said that in 2008-09, funding came to £91.7 million, covering 40,600 students.

Mr Willetts identifies a number of key changes in his announcement. The government will only pay “for higher specification or higher cost computers where a student needs one solely by virtue of their disability,” he says. The government is “changing our approach to the funding of a number of computer equipment, software and consumable items through DSAs that have become funded as ‘standard’ to most students,” he adds.

Students with specific learning difficulties will continue to receive support through DSAs where their support needs “are considered to be more complex,” Mr Willetts says. The government will only fund “the most specialist Non-Medical Help. The additional costs of specialist accommodation will no longer be met by DSAs, other than in exceptional circumstances.”

And the government will “define disability in relation to the definition provided by the Equality Act 2010, for the purposes of receiving DSAs”.

The changes, which would apply from September 2015, are subject to an Equality Impact Assessment, which assesses policies to make sure they do not unfairly disadvantage minority groups.

Hannah Paterson, NUS Disabled Students’ Officer, said: “The prospect of deeply unfair cuts to support for disabled students should concern us all. It is arrogant and out of touch to assume that disabled students can access ‘basic’ equipment or that universities will accept the new responsibilities ministers are seeking to place on them.”

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 13:34
Apr 272014
 

Please support Obi and team to continue live-streaming direct actions and events for #dpac, #ukuncut and others. Live-streaming is important for disabled people that cannot always get to events and protests because none of us should be left out of our fight for our rights

It is also important in these times ruled by the right-wing press to get a record of our news and events-its time to fight back and ensure that our voices and protests are heard, recorded, documented and visualised -live-streaming does that- lets support it to continue the  real and uncensored news is seen and heard! Please donate if you can at http://www.gofundme.com/8nzi68

see some of the events live streamed for DPAC

JohnMcDonnell MP Praises DPAC at DPAC conference April 2014

August 5, 2012 Akira: update on ATOS. Paralympics sponsor

August 29, 2012 #ATOS #REMPLOY #ParaOlympics #2012 #Protest by previous gold medal winners

August 31, 2012 #ONN #OLSX covering anti #ATOS #ATOSkills #dpac event at Triton Square, Camden

October 28, 2012 Akira and experiencing Public Transport for a Wheelchair user.

September 3, 2013 DPAC AND BLACK TRIANGLE DIRECT ACTION. BBC PORTLAND PLACE, LONDON

September 5, 2013 DPAC FREEDOM DRIVE.

June 4, 2013 DPAC Bromley Benefit Justice second Meeting

September 26, 2013 10,000 Cuts and Counting

October 5, 2013 SOLIDARITY ACTION WITH UKUNCUT AND DPAC #ROADBLOCKS4JUSTICE

Oct 20, 2013 The DPAC action in Marble Arch . TUC March 2012.

September 28, 2013 DPAC DIRECT ACTION: 10,000 CUTS AND COUNTING. SCRAP ATOS

@Obi_Live
@OccupyNN

https://twitter.com/Obi_Live
https://twitter.com/OccupyTTIP
occupylondon@lists.riseup.net

 

Apr 242014
 

We Own it logo

How do you feel about billions of pounds of public money (your money) being handed to Serco? Serco gets paid to run public services even though it is under criminal investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for defrauding the taxpayer. The company has hired Winston Churchill’s grandson (Rupert Soames) as new chief executive to try to repair its shattered reputation.

If you’re sick of Serco (and other outsourcing companies), we’d love to see you at our first action ever, outside Serco’s AGM on Thursday 8th May. Let’s tell Serco they can’t paper over the cracks. Outsourcing is failing the public. The government needs to give Serco and other dodgy dealers the boot. We’re calling for all parties to give you a better deal by signing up to our Public Service Users Bill (we blogged about how this could happen yesterday on Left Foot Forward).

Join us at Serco’s AGM:
10.30am – 11.30am, Thursday 8th May
Outside the offices of Clifford Chance LLP, 10 Upper Bank Street, London E14 5JJ

Sign up to the event on facebook or reply to this email to let us know you’re coming.
If you can’t make it (we know it’s difficult on a weekday), please help spread the word! Share this picture on facebook or twitter (#SickofSerco), or share this blog with family and friends.

serco

We are also delighted to support Fuel Poverty Action’s protest at the British Gas AGM on Monday 12th May – ‘Bin British Gas: Put Power in Public Hands’. We want to see affordable, democratic, sustainable energy – people before profit. Sign up to join the event on facebook and tweet #BinBritishGas.

It would be great to see you at one of these actions! If you can’t make it but you’d like to help out, perhaps you could spread the word or consider signing up to be one in a thousand?

Many thanks for your support

From Weownit.org.uk

Apr 092014
 

OCAP logo2DPAC_coloured_Logo_2__bigger

Reposted from the OCAP site with thanks

Austerity is Global – so is our resistance!

The Raise the Rates Campaign is excited to announce an Ontario-wide speaking tour this coming May 2014 of Ellen Clifford from Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) UK.

Who is DPAC: The Cameron Government in the UK has implemented brutal cuts to programs for unemployed and disabled people. This includes a system called the Work Capability Assessment that has been used to deny benefits to thousands of people. Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) is an organization in the UK that has been at the forefront of challenging this situation. It has mobilized disabled people to fight back and formed alliances with community organizations and unions in resisting the austerity measures of the Cameron Government. The hated private company, Atos, that was carrying out the assessments of sick and disabled people has been forced to quit as a result of the powerful resistance DPAC and others have taken up.

Here in Ontario, we also face major attacks. Ontario Works (Welfare) and ODSP (Disability) rates are too low to enable people to pay their rent and eat properly. The Special Diet and Community Start Up have been slashed by the Ontario Liberal government. Under huge pressure from ongoing community action, the Liberals have promised not to merge OW and ODSP but the danger remains that they will bring in a UK style assessment system that would pose a huge threat to disabled people on ODSP. We need to understand what is happening elsewhere and how people are fighting back and winning against the attacks. Austerity is global – but so is our resistance.

From May 4-15th, Ellen Clifford from DPAC will be visiting Toronto, Kitchener, Sudbury, Kingston and Ottawa. She has been campaigning with the disabled people’s movement for 15 years and, since 2011, has sat on the National Steering Committee of DPAC. She is also a member of Unite the Union and works to build solidarity between workers in unions and those forced to live on social benefits.

Details of the tour, with times and places for meetings will be announced soon. Visit: raisetherates.ca for the full schedule & for more information call the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty at (416) 925-6939
Join the Raise the Rates Campaign Today!
Raise the Rates is a campaign to fight poverty by raising social assistance rates in Ontario. Jointly organized by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty (S-CAP), Kingston Coalition Against Poverty (K-CAP), Poverty Makes Us Sick Waterloo Region, Poverty Makes Us Sick Ottawa, OPSEU and other grassroots anti-poverty organizers and trade union allies from across Ontario. We are a growing movement united in fighting for:

• Raise Social Assistance Rates 55%: reverse the cuts, raise the rates!
• Restore Special Diet and Community Start-Up Benefits
• Stop the Attack on Disability Benefits
• Living wage for all: Raise the Minimum wage above poverty wages

 

For more see http://www.ocap.ca/node/1148

Visit: RaisetheRates.ca
https://www.facebook.com/RaiseTheRates
#RaisetheRates

 

Apr 072014
 

DPAC_coloured_Logo_2__biggerWe are very much looking forward to seeing everyone who can come to our national conference on Saturday but it is also important that those of you who can’t get there in person are able to take part. There are a number of ways you can do this:

  • Send messages of support and your ideas for what DPAC should focus on over the next year to mail@dpac.uk.net or @dis_ppl_protest.These will be put up on the graffiti wall at the conference and included in the notes from the day.
  • Watch the conference live on:

http://bambuser.com/channel/OccupyLondon and http://bambuser.com/channel/DPAC

  • Live tweet your questions and contributions to @dis_ppl_protest

  Or email: mail@dpac.uk.net

 The program for the day is at DPAC Conference 2014 Saturday 12th April – Conference Programme

Apr 042014
 

We’ve had a great response to bookings for the DPAC conference on Sat 12th April in London, but places are now running out. Please email:  dpacfightback@yahoo.co.uk

with your details, number of places needed and any access needs.

12th April 2014 – 11am until 5pm

London Met University, Tower Building, 166 – 220 Holloway Road, London, N7 8DP

Since we started in October 2010 Disabled People Against Cuts has been at the forefront of the fight against austerity. With Atos on the run, and the bedroom tax on the ropes we are seeing the results of hard campaigning. But there is much more to do to ensure disabled people’s rights to live independently and with an adequate income.


The national conference is a chance for DPAC members to come together, to share experiences and discuss your ideas for moving forwards.


DPAC are working hard to bring to conference a surprise guest, a person who, if anyone has, has been the catalyst for the re-emergence of disability activism in the last few years, someone DPAC has enjoyed a close relationship with from visiting him at home to donating underpants to supporting his select committee appearances.


Workshops will look at: –  Where Now for the Independent Living Fund campaign,  – Developing a Social Model of Distress,  – Winning the Argument,  – Disability, Art and Protest,  – Building a National Network of Disabled People’s Organisations and Direct Action practical skills among others.

 Please note places are limited so priority will be given to DPAC members. For information about joining please contact mail@dpac.uk.net

The venue is wheelchair accessible. BSL and a note taker will be provided. For access information go to: http://www.disabledgo.com/access-guide/islington-council/london-metropolitan-university-tower-building

For access queries including booking parking please contact DPACfightback@yahoo.co.uk
To book places or for more information please contact DPACfightback@yahoo.co.uk

 

 

 

Mar 312014
 

Bedroom Tax demo in Swindon in conjunction with the  Swindon Tenants Campaign Group, on 5th April as part of a national campaign.

At the fountain, Canal Walk, Swindon Town Centre

10.30 am on April 5th

We will have leaflets to distribute and banners.

We also have a project collecting peoples stories about ATOS injustice in Swindon. We will be arranging a meeting with our MPs to present our concerns. People can join the face book group or email SPA  peoplesassemblyswindon@gmx.co.uk or phone 01793 522824 if they would like to be a part of this. All information will be treated with strict confidentiality.

https://www.facebook.com/SwindonAtosProject?ref=ts&fref=ts

 Posted by at 17:44
Mar 232014
 

Fit for Work or Survival of the Fittest? We need to Act Now to make our Voices Heard!

How can we restore dignity to disabled Welfare Benefits?

Market Hall, Assembly Rooms, Chesterfield Sat 29th 11am-4pm

Speakers

Richard Exell-TUC

Kate Green -MP Shadow minister of State for Equalities

Debbie Jolly -DPAC

Sue Marsh- Spartacus

Plus Dead Earnest Theatre Company

Food available

Ring or text Colin on 0787 387999

For info/access requirements

Unite Community membership

Welfare poster 2014

Mar 122014
 

1. Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) has not been claimed during Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) period:-

 

You receive a letter from Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) to inform you that the MR has not been found in your favour, this letter will give details of how to proceed to formal appeal, ie submitting the appeal form to HM Courts and Tribunal Services (HMCTS) When this appeal form is received by DWP from HMCTS, your ESA will automatically be reinstated; you do not have to do anything else.  When the form is received by the Dispute Resolution Teams, they will inform the appropriate Benefit Centre immediately that ESA should be reinstated.  The BC will probably contact you to ask for evidence/Fit Notes etc.

 

 

-2. JSA has been claimed during Mandatory Reconsideration period:-

 

You receive a letter from DWP to inform that the MR has not been found in your favour, this letter will give details of how to proceed to formal appeal, ie submitting the appeal form to HMCTS.  For those who have claimed JSA, they must make it clear on the appeal form that they wish to have ESA reinstated.  This information should be put in Section 5 of the form, ‘About Your Appeal’.  When HMCTS have notified DWP that you wish to progress to formal appeal, ie the form is received, ESA will be reinstated.  DWP will contact the appropriate Benefit Centre immediately.  You will be contacted for Fit Notes/medical evidence to support the claim & it’s important that throughout their JSA claim, you adhere to the conditionality of that benefit, even after DWP has been informed that they would like ESA to be reinstated & until ESA has been reinstated.

 

This infomation is doing the rounds of Disabled Peoples’ Organisations. It has come direct from the DWP. DPAC are just passing the information on, and cannot be held responsible for any errors – but if your route doesn’t progress as laid out here please let us know….

 

 

 

Feb 242014
 

In an urgent memo obtained by Benefits and Work, the DWP have told staff that due to a growing backlog at Atos all current employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants will be left on the benefit, without further medical checks, until another company can be found to do repeat work capability assessments (WCAs). The memo, dated 20 January, goes on to say that this will reduce the number of claimants moving off ESA, but that there are no plans to inform claimants or MPs about the change.

Benefits and Work obtained the memo from the DWP via a Freedom of Information request. It is headed: ‘FOR URGENT CASCADE. Control of the Referral of Repeat work Capability Assessments’.

The memo explains that back in July a ministerial statement announced that:

“in the drive to continually improve the Work Capability Assessment process and bring down waiting times for claimants, DWP had decided to seek additional capacity to deliver Work Capability Assessments.

“We are working towards having new provision in place – it will of course take some time for that to become fully operational.”

However, the memo goes on to explain that:

“The number of cases currently with Atos Healthcare has grown. A decision has therefore been taken to control the referral of repeat work capability assessments. Therefore, with effect from 20 January 2014, further routine repeat assessments referrals to Atos will be deferred until further notice.

“Controlling the volume of repeat Work Capability Assessments should help us to reduce delays for new claimants and those that have already been referred.”

The memo goes on to say that staff must still refer claimants for reassessment where there has been a reported change in condition, giving the example of a claimant placed in the Work Related Activity Group whose condition worsens and who might be expected to move into the Support Group.

Aside from this, however, reassessment of existing claimants is to end until further notice, with no new cases being referred to Atos from 20th January.

The memo is keen to point out that the decision to stop repeat assessments by Atos is not ‘linked to the quality issues outlined in July 2013’ which the DWP ‘has been working closely with Atos to resolve’. It also reassures readers that the change will have no impact on Atos’ ability to carry out personal independence payment assessments.

It does, however, admit that the result of the change is that the number of people coming off ESA each month will reduce because:

“the Work Capability Assessment is the main trigger for off-flows from the Employment and Support Allowance load. We will continue to assess the potential for alternative interventions on those whose repeat Work Capability Assessments are deferred to seek to manage this consequence.”

No details of what those ‘alternative interventions’ might be is given.

It is clear, however, that the DWP is not keen for people to be aware of the ever more disastrous state of medical assessments for benefits by Atos. The memo explains that claimants who enquire about when their next WCA will be, should only be told that:

“Although the Department will periodically review a person’s Limited Capability for Work, there is no set date for this to happen.

“The timing of this review is at the discretion of the Decision Maker acting on behalf of the Secretary of State and is influenced by the evidence available to them, which can mean on occasion longer periods between face to face assessments. “

In addition, the memo explains that as this is simply an ‘operational decision’ and not a ‘policy change’ there are no plans to notify ‘external stakeholders such as claimants, claimant representative groups, Members of Parliament, etc.’

It is hard to imagine that IDS and his fellow DWP ministers believed that they could keep this further Atos-related failure secret for long: you can’t stop reassessing thousands of claimants a week without anyone noticing. If, however, they could have kept it secret at least until they found a new company to take on the repeat assessments, it would have been easier to explain away and not added to the ever mounting pressure for a complete overhaul of the WCA.

“Yes, there was briefly a problem” IDS could have said “But we now have a new provider and it is no longer an issue.”

As it is, this news is simply further proof that the WCA is not fit for purpose, because as soon as the DWP attempts to impose proper quality controls a massive backlog results. It is, we hope, another nail in the coffin of a completely discredited system.

And, for all those claimants with static or degenerative conditions who continue to be forced to undergo repeat assessments, often followed by repeat appeals, on an annual basis, the news will come as a welcome respite.

Reposted from Benefits and Work website with thanks

 

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/2645-all-repeat-wca-medicals-to-be-stopped

 

 

 

Feb 232014
 

cdb1edb851d0f9e5497fee36183190c8_bigger

DPAC_coloured_Logo_2__bigger

47c6dee651ac495fe43bca08a9b3baad

DPAC, Black Triangle & WOW Petition

Joint Statement on the Bizarre ATOS Exit Strategy

Several years of campaigning have paid off in making more and more people realise that ATOS, the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) policies imposed by the ConDems are completely toxic, inhuman and abhorrent.

DPAC have been leading campaigns against ATOS, the WCA and DWP since 2010 including: visits to Trinton Square (shiny headquarters of ATOS), with our local DPAC groups repeatedly protesting outside their local assessment centres and feeding in to the day of protest on the 19th of February. DPAC also fed into the channel 4 program Dispatches: ‘Britain on the Sick’ which revealed the horrendous system of getting as many people removed from support as possible, has exposed the devastation and misery and led the highly successful ATOS games in 2012 which saw ATOS shares drop in value and an increase in media attention against them. DPAC have occupied Caxton House (home of the DWP) and gathered outside the entrance of the DWP on many occasions, most recently in the 7 days of action ‘Reclaiming our Futures’.

Our sister group Black Triangle have fought tirelessly with us. Black Triangle has worked with us for over 3 years fighting and exposing continuous wrong doing and working on publicising regulations that can be used by GPs to prevent further harm to thousands of disabled people under the WCA regime. Our allies at WOW have successfully raised the issue of a cumulative impact assessment, abolishing the WCA with the Wow petition, and secured a debate in Parliament on February 27th. This month also saw a UK wide protest outside local ATOS centres organised by local groups. We’ve all been clear that it is the WCA itself that needs to be scrapped immediately.

The bizarre exit strategy ATOS have developed in identifying apparent physical threats on Facebook despite the growing lists of real deaths caused by the WCA regime is an outrageous insult to all those that have died and all those that have lost family members through this regime. It is an insult to those left without their homes, without money and needing to go to foodbanks. It is an insult to every person who has suffered worsening physical and mental health through this inhuman regime.

ATOS attempting to pull out of its contact represents only a partial victory. The alphabet corporations (G4S, A4E, SECRO, CAPITA) are already lining up to take over the multi-million profits and the mantle of the new Grim Reapers. The misery imposed by this Government and the DWP will continue as long as its heinous policies continue.

Goodbye to ATOS -but the WCA must also end. The reign of terror by this unelected Coalition Government which has awarded itself pay rises, cut taxes for those earning over £150,000 while piling punishment, poverty, misery and premature death on everyone else in its policies of rich against poor must end.

Make no mistake- We will continue to demonstrate against ATOS, now delivering the complete failure of PIP in which claims are being delayed by up to a year. We will demonstrate against any other company that takes over the WCA contract. We will continue to demand the immediate removal of the WCA, and the removal of this Government.

DPAC, Black Triangle and WOW demand:

  1. That the WCA be ended with immediate effect to be replaced with a rigorous and safe system that does not cause avoidable harm to disabled people, those with chronic health issues, terminal illnesses or long term health issues. It is the WCA – the assessment itself – that is fundamentally flawed and must end now as called for by the British Medical Association (BMA), the Royal College of Nursing and the 104,725 people who signed the WOW Petition.
  1. That the UK Government at Westminster and the opposition follow the Scottish Government’s pledge that private for-profit companies are removed entirely from having anything to do with the assessment of disabled people. This area of public policy belongs firmly within the NHS and the public sector.
  1. That all support and commend the initiative being led by Black Triangle in union with DPAC and WOW to work together with the BMA to ensure that GPs are able to flag up a substantial risk of harm to disabled people, those with chronic health issues, terminal illnesses or long term health issues at the very outset of the WCA process. The complete lack of any such mechanism to assess and flag up complex risk under the current regime has given rise to countless tragedies which could thereby have been avoided.
  1. That the PIP contract be removed from ATOS with immediate effect-they have shown errors beyond incompetence affecting thousands of disabled people, leading to waits of up to a year and leaving people without income or food

We’ll celebrate Atos’ realisation that the WCA contract has always been poisonous, but we won’t rest or stay quiet. Atos’ absence from the WCA regime will not allow us forget the evil we have endured:

Suicides

(Atos, the Coalition and DWP all share responsibility)

The Decisions

The appeal rate – c40% without support, up to 70% when claimant supported by trained advocate (CAB).

Quoting the targets from the trainer in the dispatches show – just 13% expected to keep ESA

Atos have £3bn pounds in public contracts, yet pay no tax here. 
 

Whistleblowers

Greg Wood

Joyce Drummond


T
he complete failure around people presenting with MH Diagnosis.

Claimant in wheelchair left upstairs in fire drill

Claimants left out in the cold

Police called on Welfare Advisors

Atos claimed to be working with groups they weren’t.

and

Atos boss accused of 'living in a parallel universe' after claiming hated benefits assessor is popular with public - Mirror Online


Goodbye ATOS-We’ll be back….


This statement is also supported in Solidarity by:

  • Inclusion London
  • Pat's Petition
  • Carer Watch
Feb 202014
 

Bedroom tax appeal judgment

Vigil outside Royal Courts of Justice: 9.15am Friday 21 February

Disabled people and supporters will gather outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Friday morning as the Court of Appeal delivers its judgment in the ‘bedroom tax’ legal challenge.

Under new Housing Benefit rules introduced in 1 April 2013, persons deemed to have 1 spare bedroom have had their housing benefit reduced by 14% and persons deemed to have 2, or more, spare bedrooms have had their housing benefit reduced by 25%. This bedroom tax or ‘removal of spare room subsidy’ as the government prefers to call it, has had a devastating impact with two thirds of those households affected containing a disabled person.

Last year 10 claimants represented by 3 law firms, argued the new rules discriminate against disabled people. In July 2013 the High Court accepted that they are discriminatory, however decided that the discrimination was justified and therefore lawful in cases concerning disabled adults, although not in cases of disabled children unable to share a bedroom because of their impairments.

Lawyers for disabled adults went to the Court of Appeal, arguing that the discriminatory impact of the measure on disabled people cannot be justified and is unlawful. Lawyers for disabled children and their families also appealed the earlier ruling because the Government has failed to provide a date by which it will implement the high court judgment meanwhile despite the judgement families with disabled children who cannot share rooms because of their impairments are still subject to the bedroom tax.

Evidence of the injustice of the bedroom tax is widespread with families falling into arrears and at threat of eviction. A report by the Papworth trust found that 1 in 3 disabled people hit by the bedroom tax have been refused the Discretionary Housing Payment so far and of those, 9 in 10 disabled people are cutting back on food or bills. There has been at least one suicide as a direct consequence of the distress caused by the new Housing Benefit regulations.

Grassroots campaigns have presented consistent opposition to the hated tax. In April last year a group of disabled activists and supporters from DPAC and UKUncut travelled to Iain Duncan Smith’s mansion in Buckinghamshire to present an under-occupation eviction notice and enjoy an uninvited picnic in his extensive grounds. There have been a series of legal rulings highlighting the unfairness of this poorly thought out and unworkable measure.

We say that no one should have to move and the answer is to build more social housing. A legal victory against this rotten policy would highlight how unworkable and unfair the government’s so-called welfare reforms really are.

The vigil has been called by the Anti Bedroom Tax Federation and Disabled People Against Cuts.

The judgment is due to be given in court room 72 at 9.55am.

 

 

Notes for editors

1) Two thirds of the people affected by the bedroom tax nationally (around 420,000 out of 660,000) are disabled people

2) The challenge against the government was brought by 10 families through a three day hearing from 15 to 18 May: http://www.leighday.co.uk/News/2013/May-2013/Bedroom-Tax-Challenge-at-the-High-Court-(1)

3) Aragon Housing published a report on the first 100 days of the bedroom tax that evidences the disproportionate impact on disabled people as many other issues that make it unworkable

4)  In December it emerged that a loophole had been identified whereby anyone receiving Housing Benefit continuously since before 1996 should be exempt and in January the government had to publish official guidance acknowledging this. A recent Upper Tribunal ruling that defined the term ‘bedroom’ using the plain dictionary meaning also implications for implementation of the bedroom tax.

http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/regulation/full-details-of-first-bedroom-tax-tribunal-rulings/6528701.article?PageNo=1&PageSize=50

http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/housing_benefit_and_local_housing_allowance/changes_to_housing_benefit/bedroom_tax_loophole

http://www.innertemplelibrary.com/2014/01/upper-tribunal-on-bedrooms-nearlylegal/

5) Disabled People Against Cuts is a national campaign led by disabled people, set up to oppose the government’s attacks being carried out in the name of welfare reform. For more information see http://www.dpac.uk.net

6) The Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation is a federation of anti bedroom tax and benefit justice campaigns across England and Wales. We were formed in May 2013 shortly after the launch of the Scotland Anti Bedroom Tax Federation. For more information see: http://www.antibedroomtax.org.uk

 

 

 Posted by at 12:34
Feb 162014
 

The WOW petition debate which has been supported by John McDonnell MP will take place on Thursday 27th February 2014 around 11.30 am at the House of Commons chamber.

Please contact your MP to ask them to attend this important debate. You can find your MP’s email details at www.parliament.uk

You may want to remind your MP that as we are approaching an election in the not too distant future you will be monitoring to see whether they attend or not on your behalf.

Template letter mainly taken from WOW

http://wowpetition.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/draft-letter-to-mps-option-2.html

Dear …..

I am writing as your constituent to ask you to represent my views in Parliament.

I support a government e-petition, the WOW petition, which passed the 100,000 signature mark, and on the 10th December 2013 and was granted a full chamber debate by the Back Bench Business Committee in the New Year. This in itself is a historic event as it is the first time in the history of this country that disabled people have secured a Main Chamber debate.

The petition calls for a cumulative impact assessment of welfare reform as it affects disabled people and those with a long term health condition as well as family carers, and an end to the Work Capability Assessment, as demanded by the British Medical Association.

==================

Please add a personal message here to illustrate how this Government’s Policies are either directly affecting you, your family, people you know or society and why you believe the Government should properly debate their policies, the effect they are having and the hardship they are causing to specifically targeted groups with UK society. 

==================

I know you are very busy, but please allow me to present some evidence to support the need for these measures.

The Welfare Reform Act  was promoted as the biggest shake up in welfare for 60 years, so it was extraordinary that no assessment was carried out on how it would affect disabled people. I believe the government now needs to take stock, and face the fact that disabled people have been caused great distress and hardship by measure such as the Work Capability Assessment, bedroom tax, the twenty per cent cut in the budget for Disability Living Allowance, the closure of the Independent Living Fund to new applicants, and many more measures. The think tank Demos has calculated that disabled people, already more likely to be living in poverty, will lose around £28 billion over five years. This hardly seems to be sharing the burden of austerity fairly.

As for the Work Capability Assessments, these have been a disaster. The British Medical Association last year called for them to be scrapped with immediate effect. Parkinson’s UK’s research found that almost half of people with a progressive illness, when assessed, are told they will get better and placed in the Work Related Activity Group. This means they are required to prepare for work, and if they are unable to do what is required of them can be sanctioned leaving them with no income. Please remember these are people with Parkinsons Disease and other progressive illnesses.

As my representative in Parliament I am requesting that you attend and speak at this debate so that your constituents and I can understand your views on government policy towards disabled people.

I would also like to add that we are quickly approaching national elections and I and your other disabled constituents will be watching how you are willing to support us very closely.

Yours sincerely,

 Posted by at 21:23
Feb 112014
 

https://www.facebook.com/notes/tismes-page/atos-assessments-update/480168792087405

 ATOS assessments in East Anglia are at Critical levels.

Last week, a meeting held at ATOS the CEO told staff there that face-to-face home assessments were now at such level that 80,000 people across the UK are waiting for them alone.  This is JUST home visits – it does not include those people who are waiting for assessments at Assessment Centres.

The DWP are warning people it could be 6 month to a year before you will be seen for ATOS assessments and even longer to get a decision on your benefit application.  The DWP informed me in late October that they were “just starting to process May applications” and when I rang last week they were now “only just starting to process end of May/June” applications – nothing has moved in 4 months!

Yesterday management at ATOS had a CRISIS meeting in the morning which lasted over 3 hours.  ATOS is drafting people to Norwich and Ipswich from all over the country as a matter or urgency.  Yesterday they announced that every one is going to get a home visit.

Figures have emerged that the backlog has reached 40,000 in Norfolk/Suffolk area alone!

ATOS assessors are REQUIRED to now carry out 44 assessments a day in centres and 4 home visits a day per person.  However, it takes 2 hours to do paperwork per person to write report but ATOS staff are only being given 35 minutes to write reports!

Monday morning an email was circulated from “on high” – a new DWP directive was put out.   ‘We are looking at achieving’ a Fail rate 65%!

There are fewer Drs on PIP assessments than for ESA but these Drs and nurses are rebelling and putting their foot down and demanding duty of care protocols are followed!  The UK floods are only adding to the pressure and staff are deeply concerned that disabled people in flood areas are not only being left to cope with the aftermath of flooding with no support but because their benefits are being held up due to this non-assessment situation, there is going to be a MASS Starvation situation unless these benefits are sorted out ASAP.

ATOS is aware of problems but only looking at it from a Business needs perspective and not putting the right training protocols into place.  Staff are only getting 2 days PBR training (should be a week) – and only thinking of getting the queue down but all that is happening is that the queue is being shifted from one area to another.

There is good news though:  ATOS are being inundated with customer service calls.

The more people who ring the more pressure that gets put on ATOS to do assessments.

This then puts pressure on ATOS to pressurise DWP in turn to give more resources to get assessments done.

What you can do:

CALL ATOS today and COMPLAIN if you have been waiting MORE than 3 months for an assessment.  If you contact your GP and get your GP to chase you will get a Home Assessment.  If you have applied for PIP more than 4 months ago, if you ask your GP for a home visit you will be given one within 14 days!

Contact your MP and get them to ring ATOS with your NI and DOB.  This will bring extra impetus on ATOS to get your assessment moving.  Call your MP today tell them how long delay is – this is only way you will be seen before June.  People who are chased up by MPs say they are going to top of list.

PLEASE PLEASE SHARE THIS NOTE!  Get the word out – get people complaining.  This is the only way that people are going to get their assessments.

To apply for PIP 0800 917 2222

PIP Processing Centre no. (To check on PIP Claim progress):  0845 850 3322

ATOS:  0300 3300121

DLA is still 08457 123456

 Posted by at 20:15
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