Tagged: Department of Work and Pensions

Mother sanctioned for taking four year old child to the toilet

Politics and Insights

430847_149933881824335_1645102229_n (1)A mother from Fife was left without money for a month because she stopped to take her four-year-old daughter to the toilet, making her 10 minutes late for an appointment.

The heartless benefit sanction has left a struggling mother unable to pay heating bills and relying on a food bank to feed her children.

Children’s charity Barnardo’s revealed the mum’s plight but have kept her personal details private.

Barnardo’s Mark Ballard said: “She was without money for four weeks and was unable to purchase fuel cards for her gas and electricity meters or feed her children.

A number of other household bills went unpaid and she had to borrow money from friends and relatives to survive. This put her further into debt and damaged relationships with people who were previously supportive.”

The Scottish Welfare Committee are investigating the impact of Tory welfare reforms on women. MSPs will hear from 12…

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Food poverty under spotlight in South Tyneside

Measures needed to tackle food poverty across Britain are being scrutinised in South Tyneside today.

Members of an all-party Parliamentary inquiry team, including South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck, visited the town’s Churches Together Key Project, at St Mary’s Centre, last summer as part of a fact-finding exercise.

The team also held a discussion session at St Jude’s Church Hall at Rekendyke, South Shields, and visited the New Hope Food Bank, in the town’s Robinson Street.

They heard poignant personal accounts from young borough people forced to rely on food banks to survive, and they were told that more than 1,680 people in South Tyneside had visited food banks in 2013.

Everything the team learned in the borough has helped inform the recommendations they made to the Government on the extent of hunger across the country and the actions needed to address it.

Today Mrs Lewell-Buck and the Rt Rev Mark Bryant, the Bishop of Jarrow, are among those meeting at South Shields Town Hall to discuss the findings of the hard-hitting report.

The report identifies a clear link between the use of food banks and tougher restrictions on access to benefits.

> Like it wasn’t always obvious ?

It insists that, contrary to Government claims, food banks have spread because of greater need.

Among a raft of recommendations, the report calls for bigger food banks to distribute more free food and advise people on how to claim benefits and make ends meet.

And it recommends a rise in the minimum wage and the provision of free school meals during school holidays for poorer children.

The report says:

“We do not believe food banks should take the place of statutory welfare provision in this country, but our evidence suggests there is a strong desire for longer-term interaction between food banks and vulnerable households, and an eagerness for these relationships to become embedded within local communities so they can help people overcome the deep-seated causes of hunger.”

Mrs Lewell-Buck said:

“We’ve had a great response to our report, and we’ve managed to get the Government to accept that some aspects of the benefits system aren’t working and are causing a lot of hardship.

“I think the Government’s priority needs to be dealing with low-paid and insecure work, as well as the harsh way benefit sanctions are being imposed.

> Yes, we all think so too. So are you actually going to do something about it ? Will your party, if they win the general election ?

“The group’s work doesn’t stop with the report, however. This is an ongoing mission to put an end to food poverty, and that is why I am holding today’s meeting to discuss the next steps for the group and for Shields.”

The Government is now considering the findings of the inquiry team.

A Government spokesman said:

“This report is a serious contribution to an important debate, with many good ideas, and recognising that the reasons behind demands for emergency food assistance are complex and frequently overlapping.

“As a country, we have enough food to go around, and we agree that it is wrong that anyone should go hungry at the same time as surplus food is going to waste.

“There is a moral argument, as well as a sustainability one, to ensure we make the best use of resources.”

SOME OF THE REPORT’S 77 RECOMMENDATIONS:

–  The Government should provide support for 12 pilot projects across the UK to draw together voluntary and public expertise to eliminate hunger.

– All supermarkets should follow the example of Tesco and add 30 per cent to any food given by its shoppers to food banks.

> Bought by shoppers in Tesco.  It might look a bit more magnaminous if they just gave something without those kind of strings ?

– Local authorities should work with food organisations to free up land for food production, retail and storage.

> But don’t we have all those things already ? Surely the problem facing people using foodbanks is that we have plenty of food, but not the money to buy it ?

– Credit unions accounts’ should be made eligible for receipt of Universal Credit to encourage use among low-income households.

– Local authorities should begin collecting information on whether landlords in receipt of housing benefit are providing basic cooking facilities for their tenants.

– The Government should reform the benefits system so it can deliver payments within five working days.

> I’m sure it could right now… if it wanted to.

– The Department of Work and Pensions ought to simplify access to hardship payments.

 > And it could do that right now too… if, of course, it wanted to…
Source –  Shields Gazette,  06 Feb 2015

Benefit cheats cost Hartlepool £400,000

Benefit fraudsters cost Hartlepool taxpayers more than £400,000 last year.

That is how much people illegally claimed from the council and the Department of Work and Pensions.

In 2013-14 the council’s Benefits Investigations Team investigated 511 cases of benefit fraud which resulted in overpayments of £418,000.

Eight people were taken to court, seven were fined and 28 offenders were cautioned.

> So lets see… 511 investgations, 8 taken to court.  Mathematics was never my strong point, but isn’t that something like only 1.6% of the investigations were actually taken to court ?

Another way to put it would be 503 people out of 511 – 98.4% – investigated were NOT taken to court.

Even if you subtract those 28 who were cautioned (what for ? Nothing they could be taken to court for, evidently)  that’s still 475 out of 511 who appear to be innocent.

It covered money that claimants were not entitled to for help with housing and council tax.

The fraudulent claims resulted from a mix of sources such as tip-offs from the public, and irregularities noticed by benefit assessment staff and in computer systems.

> 475 out of 511 innocent. How many of those tip-offs from the public were malicious ? How many of those irregularities noticed by benefit assessment staff and in computer systems were actually errors by the staff ?

But council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher said the figure represents a tiny fraction of the millions paid out in benefits by the council and the authority does everything it can to reclaim the cash.

John Morton, the council’s assistant chief finance officer, added:

“The council is committed to supporting vulnerable households across welfare benefits they are entitled to receive.

“Equally, the council is committed to preventing fraudulent claims and protecting public resources.”

Coun Akers-Belcher added:

“In the grand scheme of things the council pays out around £50million in housing and council tax benefit over the year.

“As an authority we collect over 99 per cent of council tax. The overpayments are not written off.

“If an absconder leaves the system and they reappear the money they owe is written back in.

“It is never completely written off.”

From July 1, the Department Work and Pensions (DWP) will investigate housing and council tax benefit fraud through the new Single Fraud Investigation Service (SFIS).

The DWP has approached the council about identifying benefit investigation staff to transfer to the new national service.

But the council has refused to transfer its two investigation officers because the SFIS will not probe abuses of the Local Council Tax Support Scheme.

The scheme sees the council pays out £11.7million a year to 14,500 people to limit cuts to their council tax benefits.

Mr Morton said:

“It would create a risk of criticism to the reputation of the council and potentially lead to an increase in attempted fraud activity against the council tax support scheme.”

Coun Akers-Belcher added:

“It is really important to keep a counter fraud presence in our own establishment rather than rely on the DWP to deliver services.

“We would also be reneging on our responsibilities under the Local Government Act.”

In another DWP scheme, the council will be financially rewarded for helping to reduce housing benefit fraud as part of the Fraud and Error Reduction Incentive Scheme.

> I’m suprised they’re not offering cash incentives for tip offs from the public as well… grass up your neighbour and win money.

Several years ago I was investigated because apparently someone tipped the dole off that I was working while claiming. And to be fair I was – I was working on a New Deal scheme ! Collapse of case.

I never did find out who the malicious informer was, though.

It will be up to the council, which will receive £14,000 start-up funding, how it goes about uncovering fraud and errors by claimants.

But Fens and Rossmere Labour Councillor Alan Clark said there was a misconception among the public how much benefit fraudsters cost the country compared to big business tax evaders.

> A misconception carefully fostered by the DWP, politicians and sections of the media.

“I read that there are 400 tax inspectors going after tax evaders and 14,000 going after people committing benefit fraud,” he said.

“I think that is the wrong way around.”

Source – Hartlepool Mail, 02 Feb 2015

100 Sickness Benefit Claimants With Mental Health Problems Sanctioned Every Day

Benefits claimants judged as unfit to work due to mental health problems are more likely to have their benefits stopped by sanctions than those suffering from other conditions, according to new data released today.

Policy advisers for the Methodist Church obtained the data using Freedom of Information Requests to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

It shows that people who receive the sickness and disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), because of a long-term mental health problem, are being sanctioned at a rate of more than 100 per day.

In March 2014 – the last month for which data is available – approximately 4,500 people with mental health problems who in receipt of ESA because of mental health problems were sanctioned.

Paul Morrison, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church, warned that the true number could be “a great deal higher than the 100 a day”.

Not included in these figures are people who receive ESA due to a physical illness, but who have a higher risk of mental health difficulties”, said Mr Morrison.

Homeless charity Crisis warned in 2014 of a “shocking increase” in the number of ESA sanctions. In the first three months of 2014 alone, 15,995 disabled people had their benefits docked, compared with 3,574 during the same period the previous year.

Whilst it isn’t possible to say how many of these ESA claimants also suffered from mental health problems, disability is often accompanied by mental health issues – such as anxiety and depression.

According to the DWP data, the most common reason for being sanctioned is that a person has been late or not turned up for a Work Programme appointment.

“Sanctioning someone with a mental health problem for being late for a meeting is like sanctioning someone with a broken leg for limping”, said Mr Morrison.

He added: “The fact that this system punishes people for the symptoms of their illness is a clear and worrying sign that it is fundamentally flawed,” said Mr Morrison, who is also the author of an upcoming report on the sanctions regime.

“Churches have increasingly seen people in desperate need because they have been sanctioned. The suffering and injustice we have seen caused by the sanctions system deserves serious scrutiny.”

Paul Farmer, CEO of mental health charity Mind, said:

“We’re very concerned about the number of people having their benefits stopped. This causes not just financial problems but added emotional distress.

“It’s unjustifiable that people with mental health problems are being sanctioned disproportionately compared to those who have another health problem.

“Stopping benefits does not help people with mental health problems back into work. In fact, it often results in people becoming more anxious and unwell and this makes a return to work less likely.

“Sanctions are based on a false assumption that individuals lack motivation and willingness to work, but it’s the impact of their illness and the environment in which they are expected to work which actually present the toughest challenges. That’s why they should only be used as a last resort, when someone simply refuses to engage.”

These figures – and other new data on the sanctions regime – will feature in a report that is due to be launched in the spring by a coalition of major Churches, including the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the Church in Wales.

The Revd Sally Foster-Fulton, Convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, said:

“With others in the Scottish Leaders’ Group on Welfare, we are, sadly, well aware of the negative impact of sanctions on vulnerable people, often left with no income and no security and no way out of the deeper hole they have fallen through.

“We welcome the publication of the upcoming report. It is important that we highlight these facts and begin to counter this troubling trend.

“We will use the new data in our 28 February conference looking ‘Beyond ’, for which sanctions are a key trigger.”

Source –  Welfare Weekly,  21 Jan 2015

MPs call Duncan Smith’s Work programme a ‘scandal’

Order Of Truth

idsscandThe way private companies have been running the Work Programme under contractual conditions imposed by Iain Duncan Smith and his Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has been called a ‘scandal’ by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Despite ‘promises’ to focus in hard-to-help claimants, less than half of the financial resources companies originally pledged to help claimants with disabilities and mental health problems have been spent.

The companies have been concentrating on finding jobs for people considered easier to help in to employment, and have ‘parked’ people with more complex needs who have been placed in the ‘work related activity group’ of the Work Programme by the DWP.

Margaret Hodge, the PAC’s chairman, said: “Evidence shows differential payments have not stopped contractors from focusing on easier-to-help individuals and parking harder-to-help claimants, often those with a range of disabilities including mental health challenges.

“Data from Work Programme providers shows that they…

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New “elite” team of benefit cheat hunters target recovery of £1.2 billion fraud bill

> More smear tactics, courtesy of the Daily Excess –  “hunt down” all those benefit fraudsters who are the real cause of all ills. You know it makes sense (to Excess readers, anyway…)

The Government has brought together officials from the Department of Work and Pensions, the tax office and local authorities to tackle the crime.

The streamlined approach goes hand-in-hand with powers unveiled earlier this year to clamp down on benefit fraud, including using bailiffs to confiscate high-value possessions from convicted benefit cheats.

> Now there’s a tactic which would work better against all those tax-cheating individuals and companies… but somehow they never get around to them.

Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud said: “Reducing benefit fraud and error in the system is a crucial plank of our welfare reforms to make work pay and the system fairer for everyone.

“By bringing teams from local authorities and HMRC into our investigation service we will be able to build on the hard work we’ve already done to crack down on benefit fraud.

“Alongside this change, Universal Credit is expected to reduce losses due to fraud by £1billion in five years when it is fully in place across the country.”

> Ha ha ha – Universal Credit is the biggest benefit fraud of all, millions spent on it and it still doesn’t work.  If they’d not embarked on it, there’d be plenty of money for benefits.

The new service went live in nine local authority areas on Tuesday July 1 and will be rolled out across the country in the autumn.

It started in Corby, Cornwall, Cardiff, Southampton, Oldham, Hillingdon, Wrexham, Blaenau Gwent and East Ayrshire.

Joint investigations between local authorities and the Government have already led to a string of convictions, including Alycia Mallett from Broxbourne in Hertfordshire who admitted falsely claiming £35,700 in benefits while working as an escort.

She was given eight weeks’ custody suspended for 12 months in April at Stevenage Crown Court.

Source – Daily Express, 04 July 2014

> NOT included in the Excess article – 

Fiction: People believe that some 27% of the Welfare Budget is claimed as a result of fraud

Fact: The actual figure is 0.8 % whilst tax avoidance and evasion is estimated at anywhere from £30bn to £120bn.

WHAT! Nationwide demonstration against #Atos but not a word in mainstream #media!

Order Of Truth

Photo: Atos National Demo Photo: Atos National Demo

Yesterday (Wednesday 19th February 2014) was the day Atos offices across the UK were targeted by a day of demonstration, and yet there is no mention on any of the mainstream press!

The demonstration started in Leeds at 8am, where activists gathered together with a giant inflatable rat and sound system – united in protesting against the Work Capability Assessment Atos administers on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions, and the resulting number of deaths of claimants as a direct result of Atos’ incompetent decisions.

Other demonstrations took place across an estimated 94 other locations, although this number is constantly growing as the movement has been an autonomous non-hierarchical grass roots campaign from the outset many campaign and community groups have organised events independently.

The demonstration taking place at the London HQ of ATOS included talks from campaigners Ian Jones from War on…

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Stalin, Ian Duncan Smith and Terror as Corporate Management Technique

Beastrabban\'s Weblog

Stalin

Iosip Vissarionovich Djugashvili, aka Stalin: Thuggish Dictator of the Soviet Union

Ian Duncan Smith pic

Ian Duncan Smith: Thuggish Dictator of the Department of Work and Pensions

One of the other books I’ve been reading lately is Alex De Jonge’s biography of Stalin, Stalin and the Shaping of the Soviet Union (Glasgow: Fontana/Collins 1986). During his career Stalin is estimated to have killed at least 30 million Soviet citizens – though the real figure may be a high as 45 million or over – through a series of purges and artificial famines as he transformed the Soviet Union into the military and industrial superpower that was to dominate half of Europe and challenge America for world mastery for the next fifty years. From his boyhood Stalin was a thoroughly nasty piece of work.

The son of a drunken, abusive father, who used to challenge his son to knife him when beating him and a…

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Government website publishes prostitute recruitment advert

Feel you’ve been fucked over by the DWP ?  Now they’re offering you out for money too. Gives a whole new meaning to the term Poverty Pimp

An advert for a job as a ­prostitute has appeared on a Government website.

The bungling Department of Work and Pensions allowed the “no experience necessary” offer for a single girl willing to work as a hooker to be posted on Direct Gov.

The ad, offering £10 an hour, put up by an agency called Horny Escorts on a board popular with jobseekers, offers work on a “flexitime” basis with the only qualification needed listed as “must like sex”.

The description said: “Female worker wanted to go out with guys maybe for evening or have full on sex.”

In grammatically incorrect English it continues: “This would be better if you was single and be able to work at your own pace.

“Looks and race ­unimportant. You will need a mobile phone. No experience necessary.”

The advert was posted on the Universal Jobmatch area of the Direct Gov site last Monday by the boss of the agency.

It only has one man and woman working for it but boasts of having “the most gorgeous and ­sophisticated women and men in the UK.”

The manager said: “I put the advert up there because it’s a job site and it’s a job. I was a bit shocked they allowed it.

“I also do deliveries and I had posted an ad for a same-day delivery service and then I just put the escorting one underneath it.

“The advert says ‘must like sex’ because if a man pays for it obviously he’s going to want that. I thought the Department of Works and Pensions would admin it.

“I didn’t know it would go straight online.”

He said he decided to ­advertise after business slowed down, saying: “It’s not been that good.”

A DWP spokesman admitted the blunder but refused to say if ads were read before they went live.

He said: “The post was ­inappropriate and was taken down next day.

“When advertising jobs, employers have to agree to terms and conditions. Where an inappropriate job is ­identified it is quickly removed.”

Source – Daily mirror, 29 Dec 2013

Driven to the brink of suicide: Tyneside Mind launch short film highlighting real experiences

A powerful new film captures the desperate real experiences of being judged “fit for work” for people with mental health problems.

Tyneside Mind launched a short film highlighting the real experiences of three local people with mental health problems undergoing Work Capability Assessment.

The film ‘But I’m here for mental health – three stories of the Work Capability Assessment’ used actors to tell the genuine stories of individuals who were deemed ‘fit for work’ by Atos Healthcare despite the severity of their mental health problems and the significant barriers they face to get into work.

Local MP’s were invited to the showing which was be aired for the first time at Northumbria University Cinema last week.

The film tells the story of two men unfairly dismissed from work due to ill health and one woman whose sleep apnoea and depression prevent her from being able to work. In a particularly poignant moment in the film one man, who can’t write because he has carpal tunnel syndrome, has to admit to his elderly mother that he has contemplated suicide since losing his job as she fills in the application form on his behalf.

Another scene depicts a lady standing on a bridge thinking about ending her life because she has been told she is fit for work.

“It’s been really traumatic and very confusing for people,” said Oliver Wood, vice chairman of Tyneside Mind, who has himself now been back in work for two years after claiming benefits due to a mental health problem.

“They don’t really understand the process or how, when they are really very unwell, seeing senior hospital consultants and receiving support from mental health services, they are being declared fully fit to work because they are physically capable.”

Currently 37% of all North East appeals against decisions to change or remove Employment Support Allowance are successful, which rises to more than two in five for cases involving mental and behavioural disorders.

But Oliver points to Department of Work and Pensions figures for Northumberland, Tyne and Wear which suggest that over the past eight months an average of 2,200 claimants a month – including many with mental health problems – have had their benefits sanctioned and 1,700 a month have given up their claims.

One fear is that many people with mental health problems may be suffering in silence, due to the increasing “stigma” of being on benefits.

The film uses reconstruction to depict service users’ real stories, interspersed with verbatim quotes from Tyneside Mind service users.

With funding from The Millfield House Foundation and support from Helix Arts and Tyneside Mind, the film has been produced by Meerkat Films to help raise awareness of the devastating impact this assessment process can have on vulnerable individuals with complex and fluctuating conditions.

The release of the film also coincides with the Litchfield Review – the fourth annual Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment, which is currently used to determine eligibility for the out-of-work benefit Employment and Support Allowance.

Over a third of assessments involve people who have applied primarily due to a mental health problem and many more applicants experience a mental health problem alongside other illnesses or disabilities. Yet, the film aims to show that the assessment is not suitable for people with mental health problems, and often actually pushes many people further away from the workplace by exacerbating their mental health problems and directing them to inappropriate support and expectations.

Stuart Dexter, Chief Executive of Tyneside Mind, said: “At Tyneside Mind we help people every week with benefits-related enquiries, and our resources are increasingly stretched.

“The people we represent are still not getting a fair outcome from the Work Capability Assessment. The assessment process is not sensitive enough to recognise the impact a mental health problem can have on someone’s ability to work, and can cause a great deal of stress, especially for those who get an unfair decision and then have to go through a lengthy and costly appeals process. This film aims to highlight what it’s really like for the many individuals subjected to this process and urge the Department for Work and Pensions to urgently improve the system.”

Steve, whose name has been changed, but who speaks of his experience of the Work Capability Assessment in the film, said: “The whole assessment process was so traumatic that I really didn’t think I’d be able to recover from it, let alone talk about it.

“Unfortunately I know that there are so many others like me who have felt humiliated and had their views neglected.

“Tyneside Mind suggested I get involved with this project and I wanted to help because I feel it’s so important to raise awareness of the way vulnerable people are being treated. I hope this film will help change things so nobody else will have to endure what I did.”

Source – Newcastle Journal, 27 Dec 2013