Iain Duncan Smith dropped out of a hustings in his own constituency at the last minute, frightened of facing the sister of David Clapson, the diabetic former soldier who died after his benefits were cut.
IDS should have appeared on a platform with candidates from six other parties in Chingford, north London on Monday night.
Gill Thompson, the sister of David Clapson, was there to talk about how having his benefits stopped for missing an appointment had led to her brother’s death and to call IDS to account.
But, with just hours to go, IDS was suddenly called to “to the north-west of the country” for unexplained reasons.
According to the Daily Mirror, Thompson moved some in the audience to tears as she explained the circumstances surrounding her brother’s death.
“My brother died because of Iain Duncan Smith’s policies,” she said. “He wasn’t a scrounger. He was a former soldier. He died with a pile of CVs next to his body. He was a diabetic. After he was sanctioned he couldn’t even keep his insulin cold in the fridge.”
Just last week, we asked After Harper no-show on Newsnight, will IDS duck his benefits debate too? This followed DWP minister benefits stopped for missing an appointment’s last minute refusal to appear in a Newsnight debate on benefits.
It’s beginning to look more and more likely that the answer to that question will be ‘Yes’.
Source – Benefits & Work, 29 Apr 2015
Reposted from Change.org
Few of us, I am sure, can forget the tragic and appalling death (by DWP sanctions) of David Clapson
His sister, Gill Thompson took to Change.org to petition David Cameron for an enquiry into the benefit sanctions that killed her brother.
Whilst dealing with her own grief, Gill amassed a huge 211,821 signatures for her petition, the result of which informed the DWP select committee enquiry (see link to report below)
It is interesting to note, that the Labour party have committed to accept all the recommendations in the DWP select Committee Inquiry report.
14 Apr 2015 — Dear All,
On 24th March the DWP Select Committee Inquiry’s findings and recommendations were officially published.
There are also attachments to the witnesses’ written evidence including David’s story.
It proves a rather hard read with page 56-62 listing the recommendations (26 in total).
I record below some of…
View original post 698 more words
This article was written by Karen McVeigh, for The Guardian on Sunday 14th December 2014
The Department for Work and Pensions has been urged by mental health and disability charities to publish its secret investigations into suicides that may have some link to benefit changes, following revelations that it has carried out internal reviews into 60 such cases.
A Freedom of Information request by the Disability News Service has revealed that the DWP has carried out “60 peer reviews following the death of a customer” since February 2012. A peer review is triggered when suicide or alleged suicide is “associated with a DWP activity”, according to its internal guidance.
Despite growing concern over the way benefits are administered in relation to vulnerable individuals, and amid a number of reports of related deaths, the department told the Guardian it had no plans to publish the reviews.
Disabled People Against the Cuts said that, because of the way the reviews were carried out, the DWP figure was likely to be the “tip of the iceberg”.
Tom Pollard, the policy and campaigns manager at Mind, told the Guardian the figures were a concern. He stressed that suicide was a complex problem but added:
“It would be helpful for organisations to see what things could be going wrong in the benefit system that could lead to these tragic situations.”
Sue Bott, director of policy and services at Disability Rights UK, said DWP reviews should be transparent.
“There have been allegations and anecdotal evidence for a while that the benefits regime has tipped people over the edge. It should be looked into in a transparent way,”
“This is not just about the nature of the decision taken as to whether it was right or wrong. It’s also about the process and there is a lot of concern about the way benefits are administered.”
The DWP’s latest figures show that sanctions to punish disabled ESA claimants had risen by 470% in 18 months, from 1,096 in December 2012 to 5,132 in June 2014.
According to DWP figures released as the result of an FoI request, 62% of adverse ESA sanction decisions in the first three months of 2014 were made against people with mental or behavioural problems (9,851 out of 15,955).
The calls for transparency from the DWP come after a number of reports of the deaths and suicides of vulnerable individuals after adverse benefit decisions.
David Clapson, 59, a former soldier and type-1 diabetic, died in July after his benefit was cut. Clapson had no food in his stomach, £3.44 in the bank and no money on his electricity card, leaving him unable to operate his fridge where he kept insulin.
MPs are to look into his death after a petition written by Gill Thompson, his sister, gathered more than 200,000 signatures.
Thompson, told the Guardian:
“All I’ve ever asked for is lessons to be learned. I can’t bring him back but we should know what is going on. There are certain people who shouldn’t be sanctioned. People with terminal cancer, waiting for heart operations, people with diabetes. Before they sanctioned my brother, they knew his disability. He was waiting to hear from a job, he had been on work placement. He was claiming the bare minimum.”
Christine Norman, a nurse whose disabled sister, Jacqueline Harris, took her own life in November 2013 after her benefits were cut, said:
“It’s too late for my sister. Everything is stacked against you. If you’ve got a great education, if you have great health, you’re OK. But if you haven’t, you have to fight against the odds. The government want you to work. The ones they pick are the ones that are vulnerable and ill.”
An inquest found last month that Harris, 53, of Bristol, who was partially sighted, took her own life after months of constant pain and following a “fit for work” ruling that replaced her incapacity benefit with jobseeker’s allowance. Staff at a jobcentre Harris was told to attend had to call an ambulance after she blacked out in pain.
Disabled People Against Cuts said that, because the DWP’s reviews only relate to suicides or alleged suicides and were triggered by regional managers within the benefit system, the number of deaths was likely to be far higher than the 60 cases that reached review.
Anita Bellows, of Disabled People Against Cuts, said:
“The triage for advising whether a peer review is to be carried out is done by regional managers at seven regional centres, who may not have an interest in putting them forward. Also, the guidance for peer review is focused on suicide, which does not cover people like David Clapson.”
She called on the DWP to open a proper investigation into the deaths, and include evidence from medical experts.
“These should be public documents” she said. “They are also only focused on the process. There are no medical experts on it.”
The DWP said it was unable to disclose the names of individuals under review because of provisions of the Social Security Administration Act.
However, the Mental Welfare Commission of Scotland, a Scottish government-funded watchdog, published its comprehensive review of the suicide of a claimant known only as Ms DE this year. The MWCS concluded that the WCA process and the subsequent denial of ESA was at least a “major factor in her decision to take her own life”. It concluded that the work capability assessment process was flawed and needed to be more sensitive to mental health issues.
Colin McKay, chief executive of the Mental Welfare Commission of Scotland, said he was disappointed with the DWP response to the report on Ms DE, who died on 31 December 2011.
“Certainly, nothing in what they said gave us confidence that if another Ms DE was claiming benefit, the outcome would be any different,” he said. “If the number of deaths are 60, that’s a lot. You would expect any organisation experiencing deaths as the potential consequences of their actions would be seriously considering whether they needed to do anything differently.”
This year a whistleblower tasked with getting claimants out of the ESA sickness benefit told the Guardian that some of her clients were homeless, many had extreme mental health problems – including paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism – and some were “starving” and extremely depressed after having benefits stopped. “Almost every day one of my clients mentioned feelings of suicide to me” she said.
Mind released research on Thursday that found that people with mental illness were having their benefit cut more than those with other illnesses. It also found 83% of those with mental health problems surveyed said their self-esteem had worsened, and 76% said they felt less able to work as a result of DWP back-to-work schemes.
The DWP said: “We take these matters extremely seriously, which is why we carry out peer reviews in certain cases to establish whether anything should have been done differently. However, a peer review in itself does not automatically mean the department was at fault.
“Since its introduction in 2008 there have been four independent reviews of the work capability assessment and we have made significant improvements to make it better, fairer and more accurate.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 14 Dec 201
This article was written by Patrick Wintour, political editor, for The Guardian on Thursday 23rd October 2014.
An inquiry into how the benefit sanctions regime is administered is to be mounted by the Department for Work and Pensions select committee.
The Commons all-party committee has already looked at the issue during other inquiries, and the DWP has held internal and external reviews specifically into how the sanctions regime is communicated on the Work Programme.
The new select committee inquiry, likely to be completed before the general election, follows the death of an ex-soldier after his jobseeker’s allowance was stopped.
More than 211,000 people signed a Change.org petition started by Gill Thompson after her diabetic brother, David Clapson, 59, was found dead in his home.
Thompson’s three-month campaign called for an independent inquiry into benefit sanctions – when money is withheld from claimants if they fail to meet terms agreed.
Clapson, of Stevenage, Hertfordshire, who worked for 29 years, had his £71.70 weekly allowance stopped and died three weeks later. When his body was found by a friend, his electricity card was out of credit, meaning that the fridge where he kept the insulin on which his life depended had not been working.
There is intense controversy over whether jobcentres are asked to work to targets for the number of claimants sanctioned each month. The DWP acknowledges that statistics on sanctions are collated centrally and that managers can be contacted if their performance is out of line with other jobcentres. But the DWP says this is a matter of good management, and no league tables are compiled or targets set.
“It’s wasn’t just for David. Nothing can replace him, but the one thing I thought I could do was to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. I’m not normally a campaigner and David wasn’t someone who liked being made a fuss of, but sometimes in life there are certain things you have to do – and starting this petition was one of them.“
The issue is one that all frontbenches are reluctant to take up, partly because public opinion is thought to be hostile to so-called “benefit scroungers”.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 24 Oct 2014
Guardian readers on benefit sanctions
Our story on David Clapson, who died after his benefits were stopped, prompted a deluge of stories from Guardian readers struggling with the benefit payment sanctions regime.
Earlier this week, we published an article highlighting the case of David Clapson, who died last year with an empty stomach and just £3.44 in his bank account after his benefits had been stopped. An online petition set up by Clapson’s sister, which calls for an inquiry into the benefits regime in the wake of Clapson’s death, has gathered 68,000 signatures.
The article also reported on the wider debate around the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)’s sanctions regime, seen by charities and welfare advice organisations as being excessively draconian, particularly since a new, tougher regime was introduced by the coalition in October 2012. Last year, 871,000 people in the UK were sanctioned, losing some or all of their benefit payments for a minimum of three weeks, rising to three years in exceptional cases.
The article received over 2,000 comments, including accounts from readers who have been sanctioned by the DWP. Below are a selection of their stories
“Staff make you run around in circles”
With hardship payments, it isn’t just that people don’t know, but even when you do know they exist, staff make you run around in circles to get them.
I was sanctioned over Christmas 2013 for 4 weeks. The way DWP did it in my case was my claim was suspended for two weeks (the time they said it took to come to a decision on the sanction) and sanctioned for a further two weeks. During the suspension Jobcentre staff told me I could not apply for hardship, although after a quite tense conversation a staff member gave me the forms. I was told I could not apply until I was actually sanctioned. However, nobody would tell me when that happened despite phoning them every day.
It took me so long to find out if I had been sanctioned that when I eventually was told I could claim, I was turned down because DWP said I was not now in hardship because my JSA had been reinstated.
It’s also worth mentioning letters.
The letters from DWP are sent second class and in my case, take 6-10 working days to arrive. In one example Jobcentre advisers sent me on a one-day course that started on the same day as the letter arrived. It was only by sheer luck that I caught the postman early and was able to attend. The letter was dated eight days before I received it, so as far as my adviser was concerned if I hadn’t turned up it would have been my fault.
From what I am told from other claimants the exact same thing happens to them with some saying they have missed appointments because letters arrive so late. I have heard that too many times for it to be an excuse.
“It is very counterproductive with regards to actually finding work”
I have just been sanctioned for 3 weeks for missing an appointment. Although they say missing, I was actually there, but five minutes late. You get a letter asking you to explain your reasons: obviously mine wasn’t a good enough one so I got sanctioned.
Ironically the past few days I have spent far less time actually looking for work, as I am frantically calling up energy suppliers and those I have payment plans with , asking if I can delay payment for a month. As my housing benefit only covers 60% of my rent (no property in the area can be paid in full with housing benefit alone, or even up to 70%), much of my jobseekers’ allowance is used to pay that off.
It is very counterproductive with regards to actually finding work, and just places those living on their own in further debt.
“For the crime of being unemployed, you can be sentenced to 780hrs of work punishment”
Around two years ago, when the new harsher sanctions were announced, I read in a local paper of a court case involving grievous bodily harm. For repeatedly sticking a glass in someone’s face, a man was fined £200 and given a community service order of 100 hours. For the crime of being 10 minutes late for an appointment, you can be fined £1,000+. For the crime of being unemployed, you can be sentenced to 780hrs of work punishment. Welcome to ToryWorld.
“When I saw what was happening, I was horrified”
I worked in advice for five years on the frontline, dealing with people who were claiming benefits and helping people to move forwards. In all that time I never had a single person come to me about sanctioning until after this government was elected. When I saw what was happening, I was horrified because the Tories also removed a lot of the free schemes to help people, while sanctioning them. The Conservatives also prioritised giving advice contracts to private companies, over FE, community and charity organisations, and the system became fake target- and profit-driven over actual results.
Labour were tough too, but they put in place a lot of support and free training and access to education.
“My nephew was initially too proud to tell anyone what had happened”
My nephew got sanctioned for turning up seven minutes early for his appointment. He was, apparently, supposed to turn up 15 minutes early, but he hadn’t understood that. He tried arguing with them, pointing out that he was still easily in time for his appointment, but they called the heavies over and made him leave. He’s got a wife and child, and none of us knew a hardship payment even existed, so the rest of the family just had to stump up cash for the next month to make sure they were OK. My nephew was initially too proud to tell anyone what had happened, we only found out when my mum found his wife crying. They had been trying to live without food, in order to feed their child with what little was left in the house.
“People with more money than most people can dream of, making up rules to take those with nothing into minus nothing”
A friend of mine was sanctioned last year. She had applied for everything she could and was one job short of her weekly quota. Shamefully, if the government hadn’t moved the goalposts on retirement age she wouldn’t even have been searching for work.
Sanctioning never works – people with more money than most people can dream of, making up rules to take those with nothing into minus nothing. I don’t for one moment believe the DWP’s talking head that says people are informed that they are being sanctioned. Everything I have read points the other way.
Central government, with its city blinkers on, has no idea how expensive it is to get to one of the ever diminishing jobcentres. If you live in a rural location, the bus fares are exorbitant.
I also have never understood forcing people to apply for jobs they have no experience or hope of getting. It is demoralising for them and makes the search all the more difficult.
“There’s some good people in the system”
[Having been threatened with sanctions twice] the only advice I can give is as soon as your adviser informs you that your claim will be looked at, ask what the process is, and before leaving the jobcentre, go to to the front desk and pick up a hardship payment form. Assume you’ll be sanctioned and ring up before the letter arrives to confirm it, ask for a mandatory reconsideration and explain why you think it’s unfair. Someone called me back the next day and overturned it. There’s some good people in the system. If the worst happens, make sure your hardship form is completed and filled in ASAP and hand it in to the jobcentre, so you get at least some money to live on. It’s a percentage of what you’d normally get and it may take two to three weeks, but at least you’ll have something at some point. Also ask about being referred to a foodbank in the meantime
“We got him a lift to the hospital pronto and he came back voluntarily”
Last year, I taught a course where some learners were mandated to attend. One guy was clearly not happy with the ground rule of turning mobile phones off so I took him aside to talk to him. Turned out that his son was having surgery that day and the jobcentre had refused him permission to attend the course on a later date so that he could be with his son while he was put under and brought round. He wanted to keep his phone on in case there was news from the hospital. Needless to say, the official record shows that he attended the course, which he did because we got him a lift to the hospital pronto and he came back voluntarily to do the course the following week.
“The thought of JSA sanctions makes my stress go through the roof”
I’m going on to jobseeker’s allowance soon and I’m very scared of sanctions. I’ve been on employment support allowance and my medical issues have been improving. I’m really happy about this, looking forward to being classified as “normal” again, looking forward to hopefully finding work.
Stress has been a problem for me, in addition to other physical medical issues and just the thought of JSA sanctions makes my stress go through the roof. I know how easily it can happen. I phoned up the jobcentre this year, wanting to know when my next ESA appointment was. I was told it had been that morning. But I’d never received the letter. The woman I spoke to was pleasant and believed me that I’d never got the letter but said that if I’d been on JSA instead of ESA, I would have been sanctioned.
“He’s applied for 500+ jobs and has had not a sniff”
In a day centre now. Fifteen people in now. At least half of them have been sanctioned in the past two years. It’s crazy. Guys come in for some grub who are on government-sponsored back-to-work schemes. Steve has been spending four hours a day, three days a week filling in application forms for jobs. For 18 months. He’s applied for 500+ and has had not a sniff. He’s been sanctioned. Lorna missed an appointment – removed from JSA, her benefits cancelled. She is 18 years old, both parents dead and a 16-year-old brother in tow. Mark: three heart attacks, a couple of strokes, a big drink problem, yet expected to be able to work, apply for work or face penury.
“Then started the Kafkaesque battle with the system”
The jobcentre has always been an incompetent joke. When I was unemployed they wanted to sanction me for missing an appointment. Fair enough, except the jobcentre had told me to stay at home while an investigator came to my house.
They thought I had some hidden bank account, this turned out to be complete rubbish, but they stopped my payments anyway for missing my signing on. Then started the Kafkaesque battle with the system. The department that told me stay at home – despite me telling them I was signing on at that time – refused to contact my jobcentre to explain the situation.
I tried ringing the jobcentre, but of course you can only contact the national call centre, who gave me the wrong number. I ended up talking to a rather confused shop assistant. Eventually got through, was told to come in that afternoon.
Eventually, they gave in after I argued with them face-to-face. Since I was polite, refused to shout, swear or get violent, just sat there in a kind of defiant middle-class way, the poor sod at the jobcentre couldn’t find an excuse to get rid of me and simply gave in.
“Even the sight of a CV would give me an anxiety attack”
I was once sanctioned for attending a job interview and moving my signing to another day. I didn’t bother appealing because I got the job. Not long after, the job came to an end unexpectedly. A few months down the line, I was sanctioned for turning up on my signing day, rather than for an inexplicable appointment the day before, this time for much longer because of the previous sanction never having been appealed.
I fell into depression. I felt persecuted and unable to make sense of the world. My ability to job search suffered because even the sight of a CV would give me an anxiety attack. To try and appease the Jobcentre and to gain free bus travel out of my village, I asked them to put me on an unpaid work placement. Through people I met there, I managed to get a job (through my own initiative).
I have now been in that job one year next month, but some of the financial issues caused by my sanctions followed me for months and if it weren’t for my family and friends I’m not even sure I would be here today.
“To have the threat of sanctions hanging over you for so long is frightening”
Not entirely true that you aren’t told about sanctions, at least I was in my current situation. Four months ago due to a mix up I missed a Friday appointment. I managed to contact direct the Jobcentre on the Monday, saw my advisor an hour later and we sent a statement to DWP although he did say that I could be sanctioned for up to four weeks. What was worrying was that it took the DWP five weeks to write to me saying they accepted my explanation. To have the threat of sanctions hanging over you for so long is frightening.
These sanctions are designed to scare people and save the Government money and will get harsher as Universal Credit is introduced. I have been told by my advisor that the new rules are four weeks sanction for a first “offfence”, two months for a 2nd and six months for a 3rd with no right of appeal. Also under the new rules you will have to have internet access to even claim Universal Credit.
“Even getting a CV printed becomes a monumental task if you have absolutely no resources”
In 2011 I was starting my life over, again, with what little I could carry, again. Complicated by an intensified bout of depression, bereavement and other things. Having gone from the upper end of the games industry to washing cars was bracing, but I managed for a few months and even enjoyed it. But I felt the itch and left that job to try and pursue a few projects which had been forming in my mind during this time.
Unfortunately, they didn’t work out. As I lost steadily more ground I wound up entirely homeless, between periods of decorating guest houses in exchange for lodging.
When I came to sign on, I found it particularly difficult during 2012, as the rules were changing almost fortnightly.
As an example, job search criteria changed regularly, adding to the list of punishable offences. Keeping meeting appointments became difficult as their frequency proliferated, although these meetings served no purpose and the topics discussed seemed arbitrary from session to session. Living out of a borrowed rucksack was difficult, you have to carry it every where you go. Often, to find somewhere I could sleep without being punched or kicked awake, I’d walk miles outside the city and have miles to walk back in the morning in order to attend a purposeless meeting the next day. Being without food or sleep, often for several days at a time is disorienting. Some periods I had maybe a few hours sleep in the space of two weeks. Often the only food I could find was windfall, but I had already learned where the fruit trees were within a wide radius around the city. Which doesn’t help before season.
My first sanction came when I missed an appointment because I’d mistakenly tucked the notification letter in the bottom of my rucksack. Everything had to be meticulously packed, rolled up, jammed in precisely, in order to fit, and unpacking it is no small pain in the ass, especially if it’s cold, wet and raining. But generally I didn’t know date it was anyway. So I took to frequently asking people what day it was to be sure I wouldn’t miss a meeting.
But all of that was after I’d spent the best part of a year existing without signing on, because I felt like a scrounger, but also without work. I’ll be frank, eventually I was too despairing to give a shit. After constant petty fogging rule changes and pointless obligatory activities. Now I’d have to sign on until the last judgement, jumping through all the hoops, before I’d be be eligible for any kind of payment.
Atos recently disqualified me too, I’d been claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) after my doctor diagnosed depression, so I am entirely out of the system, and ineligible for benefits.
There are no longer any phones in the job centre. If you don’t have phone credit, several services – which you have to be pushy to even discover – require non-free phone numbers. Even if the most vulnerable can find out what they need to know, and what is required of them, they can’t always make the call. Especially if too confused, weakened or despairing to make use of the Citizens Advice Bureau.
The increasing load of obligations actually gets in the way of finding work. The help aspects have been dramatically scaled back: clothing allowance for interviews, travel allowance etc. Even getting a CV printed becomes a monumental task if you have absolutely no resources, and the job centre doesn’t even provide for that.
If the government were serious about helping people back to work, there are dozens of small, relatively cost effective things they could do to help the most vulnerable. But that isn’t the purpose of job centres. The truth is, they exist to ration access to benefits, despite the best efforts of staff.
Source – Guardian, 05 Aug 2014