Tagged: disability benefits

New minister for disabled strongly against disability benefits and human rights

The prime minister has announced that the new minister for disabled people is Justin Tomlinson, Conservative MP for North Swindon. Tomlinson has a strong anti-benefits and anti-human rights background.

Tomlinson has replaced Mark Harper, who is now the Conservative chief whip.

Tomlinson is a former national chairman of Conservative Future, the youth wing of the Conservative party and has been an MP since 2010.

He is a party loyalist, with a strong record of voting against the interests of sick and disabled claimants.

According to They work For You, Tomlinson:

  • Voted strongly for of the bedroom tax
  • Voted very strongly against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices
  • Voted very strongly against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability
  • Voted very strongly for making local councils responsible for helping those in financial need afford their council tax and reducing the amount spent on such support
  • Voted very strongly for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits
  • Voted very strongly against spending public money to create guaranteed jobs for young people who have spent a long time unemployed.

Tomlinson also voted in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act.

His responsibilities a minister for disabled people include:

  • cross-government disability issues and strategy
  • Employment and Support Allowance, Work Capability Assessment and Incapacity Benefit Reassessment Programme
  • disability benefits (Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance)
  • carers
  • appeals reform
  • fraud and error (including debt management)

Tomlinson has some interest in health issues, but does not seem to have shown any great interest in disability issues during his time as an MP.

Source – Benefits & Work,  12 May 2015

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/3093-new-minister-for-disabled-strongly-against-disability-benefits-and-human-rights

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SNP manifesto not afraid of supporting claimants

The SNP manifesto, published yesterday, proposes a number of pro-claimant policies that set it apart from any of the main parties at Westminster.

The SNP’s benefits pledges include:

  • increases of at least the cost of living in welfare benefits
  • halting the roll out of both Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Universal Credit
  • reversing the replacement of Disability Living Allowance with PIP
  • people already supported by the Independent Living Fund will continue to be supported.
  • an urgent review of the system of assessments for disability benefits.
  • increasing the universal credit work allowance, to boost to the incomes of people moving into work
  • overhauling the Work Capability Assessment.
  • urgently reviewing the conditionality and sanctions regime, taking particular account of the needs of people with mental health issues. and recognising that the removal of cash benefits should be a last, rather than a first, resort.
  • Increasing Carers’ Allowance so that it matches Jobseekers’ Allowance.
  • not supporting attempts to restrict housing benefit for 18 to 21 year olds
  • stop war disablement pension being treated as income in the assessment of entitlement to other benefits.

It seems likely that there will be many sick and disabled claimants south of the border who will read these policies and regret that they don’t have the opportunity to vote SNP.

You can download the SNP manifesto from this link.

Source –  Benefits & Work, 21 Apr 2015

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/3077-snp-manifesto-not-afraid-of-supporting-claimants

IDS plans “dramatic and “life-changing” benefits cuts

Iain Duncan Smith yesterday warned that claimants face “dramatic”, “life-changing” cuts if the Conservatives win the election. He refused to rule out cutting disability benefits and the support group, whilst explaining that the Conservatives “may not decide that it’s relevant” to tell people prior to the election where the cuts will be made.

Chilling warning
In an interview on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday, IDS gave what many sick and disabled claimants will view as a chilling warning that:

“I didn’t come into this job after years looking at this to just make cheese paring cuts.”

Instead, he said, he wanted to do things that will have a “life changing, dramatic effect, and that is about getting people back to work and improving their life chances.”

The ‘back to work’ reference appears to be a clear warning that employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants are in the firing line of any ‘dramatic’ changes.

This is especially the case as Jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) is expected to cost just £2.39 billion in 2016-17, when the cuts come in, compared to £14.47 billion for ESA. So cuts to JSA would go nowhere near meeting the £12 billion in welfare savings the Conservatives have said they will make in just two years.

Disability benefits
But cuts to ESA would still not go far enough and IDS refused to rule out an attack on disability benefits as well. He argued that:

“Throughout all of my changes, we have protected the most disabled, we have kept disability benefits out of the freeze and we’ve supported the support group.”

But when Marr asked: “Will that continue?”

IDS would only respond that:

“Well, as I said, as and when the time is right, we will make it very clear what our position is.”

“When we’re ready”
Unfortunately for voters, IDS repeatedly made it clear that the right time to reveal their plans may not be until after the election, saying that “when we’re right and when we’re ready, we will talk about what we plan to do.”

When specifically asked by Marr:

Will they know before they vote what you plan to do?

IDS replied:

“Well you know we may, we may not decide that it’s relevant to put something out there about some of those changes.”

No decisions made yet
In fact, according to IDS it would be impossible for the Conservatives to reveal their plans to voters because, in spite of warning for two years that they planned to make £12 billion in benefits cuts, no decisions have been made yet about what to cut.

I can tell you now no decisions have been made. As and when decisions are made, of course we will be very open to the public.”

Improved quality of life
Perhaps the most alarming claim made by IDS was that his time at the DWP has resulted in an improvement in people’s lives:

“And I’ve said that these changes would improve the quality of lives, and I have to tell you right now our welfare reforms have improved the quality of life for the vast majority of the British people and also saving taxpayers’ money – which is the key point.”

Sick and disabled claimants have already been hit by the bedroom tax, the switch from DLA to PIP, the time-limiting of contribution-based ESA, changes to council tax, changes to the way benefits are uprated and more.

The prospect of IDS spending another five years improving their lives may ensure a very high turnout of claimants on May 7th.

You can read the full transcript of the Andrew Marr interview here.

Source – Benefits & Work, 30 Mar 2015

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/3057-ids-plans-dramatic-and-life-changing-benefits-cuts

£19 per week benefits cut for working age claimants under Tories

Working age claimants are likely to face an average cut in income of over £19 a week if the Conservatives form the next government .

The drastic drop, likely to be taken from housing benefit (HB), employment and support allowance (ESA), disability living allowance (DLA) and personal independence payment (PIP), will be needed to allow the Tories to cut £12 billion from benefits spending.

Cuts timetable
The cuts will come in the years 2016-17 and 2017-18, after the current agreed spending round ends.

The chancellor’s plan is to have huge cuts in these two years, followed by much more modest cuts in 2018-19 and then a big surplus to pay for giveaways in the year leading up to the 2020 election.

bar chart showing planned cuts

Target benefits
The Tories are still refusing to say which benefits will be cut until after the election.

But the reality is that pensioner benefits, which make up well over half the benefits bill, are entirely protected.

And the proposed limiting of child benefit to the first three children would save just £300 million.

While cuts to housing benefit for some under 25s could save as little as £50 million.

So, the only place cuts can realistically come from is working age benefits. And Jobseeker’s allowance makes up only a tiny proportion of these, so rising employment will make little difference.

Jobseeker’s allowance is expected to cost just £2.39 billion in 2016-17, compared to:

  • Employment and support allowance: £14.47 billion
  • Disability living allowance: £10.11 billion
  • Housing benefit: £24.8 billion
  • Personal independence payment: 4.78 billion

The benefit that was supposed to transform the system and save billions, universal credit, doesn’t even make up one hundredth of a percent of the benefits bill and the DWP refuse to make predictions about future totals.

£2,000 per claimant
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the cuts the chancellor has outlined so far, primarily a freeze on the uprating of most working age benefits, including the ESA personal allowance but not the two additional components, would save just £2 billion.

So that still leaves around £10 billion in cuts to be absorbed by the 5 million working age claimants in the UK. That’s a terrifying £2,000 per claimant over two years, averaging out at over £19 a week.

We have no way of knowing how the chancellor plans to make these cuts.

But it could be a combination of measures such as abolishing the work-related activity component of ESA; removing the lower rate of DLA care and/or mobility for working age claimants; making the points system for PIP much harsher; reducing the percentage of rent that housing benefit covers . . . and much more.

Tax credits
One possible way out of devastating cuts for sick and disabled claimants would be for the chancellor to pile a large part of the cuts on to tax credits. But there are major problems with this.

Firstly, ‘welfare’ has a precise meaning for a chancellor – particularly one delivering a budget – and tax credits are not part of the welfare budget at all, so Osborne would have clearly been misleading voters and the commons.

More importantly, the Tories have resolutely divided people into ‘strivers’ and ‘skivers’ over the past five years. ‘Skivers’ get ‘welfare’, ‘strivers’ go out to work and get tax credits if they are on a low income. The reality, of course, is very different, but this is the tale politicians and the press tell.

If it turns out that Osborne was pretending he was going to hit the ‘skivers’ with another round of cuts , but in reality planned to slash the incomes of millions of ‘strivers’ instead, his reputation will suffer enormous harm. So too will the idea that work always pays more than benefits.

The Tory party will quite possibly recover from the damage by the time of the next election, but George’s chances of becoming the next leader of the Conservatives in 2018 or 2019 will probably have been irreparably damaged.

It’s very unlikely to be a risk he wants to take.

“Radical changes” will be needed, says IFS
It’s not just Benefits and Work that is arguing that the chancellor will have to make radical cuts to disability benefits and housing benefit.

Paul Johnston of the IFS told the BBC, following the budget:

“He has told us he wants to freeze working age benefits. That will save up to about £2 billion. That’s something he has told us. It’s the other £10 billion we know nothing about.

“It’s of course possible to cut benefits by £10 billion or £12 billion, if that’s what you really want to do.

“But you need to recognise especially if you’re protecting pensioners which the conservatives have said they want to do, this will involve radical changes to, for example, the housing benefit system, big cuts to child benefit, big cuts to disability benefits.

“These are the big benefits. If you want to save £10 billion you have to find radical things to do to those big parts of the benefits system.”

Labour and Tories no different?
Our ‘Benefits sanctions and deaths survey’ found that 59.5% of respondents thought that the Conservatives would be harshest with claimants, but 40% believed Labour and the Conservatives are as bad as each other.

In truth, all the indications so far are that the Conservatives will be vastly worse for claimants.

Labour are only aiming to make a total of £7 billion in cuts over the course of the next parliament, compared with the Conservatives £30billion.

We are no fans of Labour here at Benefits and Work. We despise the way they have privatised chunks of the benefits system and helped to demonise claimants.

But, for the coming five years, we have absolutely no doubt which party will plunge millions of claimants into unbearable poverty and, like Tory minister Hugo Swire, find it all mildly amusing.

Source – Benefits & Work, 25 Mar 2015

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/3052-19-per-week-benefits-cut-for-working-age-claimants-under-tories

“Big cuts to disability benefits” if conservatives win, warns IFS

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) is warning that cutting the benefits bill by £12 billion will lead to “radical changes” to housing benefits and “big cuts to disability benefits”, amongst others. They have challenged chancellor George Osborne to explain where the cuts will be made.

In an interview for the BBC today, Paul Johnston of the IFS pointed out that:

“The chancellor has been saying for nearly two years now that he wants to find £12 billion of welfare cuts by 2017.

“He’s told us maybe where he’ll find £2 billion of that £12 billion. If he really wants us to take seriously the idea that other spending will be protected, he needs to tell us something about where the additional £10 billion of welfare cuts will come from.

“They will not be easy to find.”

Johnston explained that a freeze on working age benefits, which would itself cause increasing hardship for working age claimants, would go nowhere near saving enough cash.

“He has told us he wants to freeze working age benefits. That will save up to about £2 billion. That’s something he has told us. It’s the other £10 billion we know nothing about.

“It’s of course possible to cut benefits by £10 billion or £12 billion, if that’s what you really want to do.

“But you need to recognise especially if you’re protecting pensioners which the conservatives have said they want to do, this will involve radical changes to, for example, the housing benefit system, big cuts to child benefit, big cuts to disability benefits.

“These are the big benefits. If you want to save £10 billion you have to find radical things to do to those big parts of the benefits system.”

For claimants, especially those who are sick and disabled, the result of the next election could well have a dramatic effect on the quality of their lives for decades to come.

You can see the full interview on the BBC website.

Source – Benefits & Work, 20 Mar 2015

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/3046-big-cuts-to-disability-benefits-if-conservatives-win-warns-ifs

Iain Duncan Smith’s Directory Of Death

More than 60 people have tragically lost their lives after having benefits docked or removed, say campaigners.

Some argue the true figure could be in the hundreds, or even the thousands.

Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith MP, has overseen some of the biggest changes to Britain’s welfare system in decades. This hasn’t come without incident and campaigners say most, if not all, of the lives lost to welfare reform were avoidable.

Below are just some of the names of people where welfare reform, and removal of benefits, has been cited as a contributing factor to that persons premature death.

If you are affected by the issues raised in this article, please contact the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90, or visit their website at www.samaritans.org/.

Terry McGarvey, 48. Dangerously ill from polycytheamia, Terry asked for an ambulance to be called during his Work Capability Assessment. He knew that he wasn’t well enough to attend his WCA but feared that his benefits would be stopped if he did not. He died the following day.

Elaine Lowe, 53. Suffering from COPD and fearful of losing her benefits. In desperation, Elaine chose to commit suicide.

Mark Wood, 44. Found fit for work by Atos, against his Doctors advice and assertions that he had complex mental health problems. Starved to death after benefits stopped, weighing only 5st 8lb when he died.

Paul Reekie, 48, the Leith based Poet and Author. Suffered from severe depression. Committed suicide after DWP stopped his benefits due to an Atos ‘fit for work’ decision.

Leanne Chambers, 30. Suffered depression for many years which took a turn for the worst when she was called in for a WCA. Leanne committed suicide soon after.

Karen Sherlock, 44. Multiple health issues. Found fit for work by Atos and denied benefits. Fought a long battle to get placed into the support group of ESA. Karen died the following month of a heart attack.

Carl Payne, 42. Fears of losing his lifeline benefits due to welfare reform led this Father of two to take his own life.

Tim Salter, 53. Blind and suffering from Agoraphobia. Tim hanged himself after Atos found him fit for work and stopped his benefits.

Edward Jacques, 47 years old and suffering from HIV and Hepatitis C. Edward had a history of severe depression and self-harm. He took a fatal overdose after Atos found him fit for work and stopped his benefits.

Linda Wootton, 49 years old. A double heart and lung transplant patient. Died just nine days after the government found her fit for work, their refusal letter arriving as she lay desperately ill in her hospital bed.

Steven Cawthra, 55. His benefits stopped by the DWP and with rising debts, he saw suicide as the only way out of a desperate situation.

Elenore Tatton, 39 years old. Died just weeks after the government found her fit for work.

John Walker, 57, saddled with debt because of the bedroom tax, John took his own life.

Brian McArdle, 57 years old. Suffered a fatal heart attack the day after his disability benefits were stopped.

Stephen Hill, 53. Died of a heart attack one month after being found fit for work, even though he was waiting for major heart surgery.

Jacqueline Harris, 53. A former Nurse who could hardly walk was found fit for work by Atos and her benefits withdrawn. in desperation, she took her own life.

David Barr, 28. Suffering from severe mental difficulties. Threw himself from a bridge after being found fit for work by Atos and failing his appeal.

David Groves, 56. Died of a heart attack the night before taking his work capability assessment. His widow claimed that it was the stress that killed him.

Nicholas Peter Barker, 51. Shot himself after being told his benefits were being stopped. He was unable to work after a brain haemorrhage left him paralysed down one side.

Mark and Helen Mullins, 48 and 59 years old. Forced to live on £57.50 a week and make 12 mile trips each week to get free vegetables to make soup. Mark and Helen both committed suicide.

Richard Sanderson, 44. Unable to find a job and with his housing benefit cut forcing him to move, but with nowhere to go. Richard committed suicide.

Martin Rust, 36 years old. A schizophrenic man who killed himself two months after the government found him fit to work.

Craig Monk, 43. A vulnerable gentleman and a partial amputee who slipped so far into poverty that he hanged himself.

Colin Traynor, 29, and suffering from epilepsy was stripped of his benefits. He appealed. Five weeks after his death his family found he had won his appeal.

Elaine Christian, 57 years old. Worried about her work capability assessment, she was subsequently found at Holderness drain, drowned and with ten self inflicted wrist wounds.

Christelle and Kayjah Pardoe, 32 years and 5 month old. Pregnant, her benefits stopped, Christelle, clutching her baby son jumped from a third floor balcony.

Mark Scott, 46. His DLA and housing benefit stopped and sinking into deep depression, Mark died six weeks later.

Cecilia Burns, 51. Found fit for work while undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She died just a few weeks after she won her appeal against the Atos decision.

Chris Cann, 57 years old. Found dead in his home just months after being told he had to undergo a medical assessment to prove he could not work.

Peter Hodgson, 49. Called to JCP to see if he was suitable for volunteer work. Peter had suffered a stroke, a brain haemorrhage and had a fused leg. His appointment letter arrived a few days after he took his own life.

Paul Willcoxsin, 33 years old. Suffered with mental health problems and worried about government cuts. Paul committed suicide by hanging himself.

Stephanie Bottrill, 53. After paying £80 a month for bedroom tax, Stephanie could not afford heating in the winter, and lived on tinned custard. In desperation, she chose to walk in front of a lorry.

Larry Newman suffered from a degenerative lung condition, his weight dropping from 10 to 7 stone. Atos awarded him zero points, he died just three months after submitting his appeal.

Paul Turner, 52 years old. After suffering a heart attack, he was ordered to find a job in February. In April Paul died from ischaemic heart disease.

Christopher Charles Harkness, 39. After finding out that the funding for his care home was being withdrawn, this man who suffered with mental health issues, took his own life.

Sandra Louise Moon, 57. Suffering from a degenerative back condition, depression and increasingly worried about losing her incapacity benefit. Sandra committed suicide by taking an overdose.

Lee Robinson, 39 years old. Took his own life after his housing benefit and council tax were taken away from him.

David Coupe, 57. A Cancer sufferer found fit for work by Atos in 2012. David lost his sight, then his hearing, then his mobility, and then his life.

Michael McNicholas, 34. Severely depressed and a recovering alcoholic. Michael committed suicide after being called in for a Work Capability Assessment by Atos.

Victor Cuff, 59 and suffering from severe depression. Victor hanged himself after the DWP stopped his benefits.

Charles Barden, 74. Charles committed suicide by hanging due to fears that the Bedroom Tax would leave him destitute and unable to cope.

Ian Caress, 43. Suffered multiple health issues and deteriorating eyesight. Ian was found fit for work by Atos, he died ten months later having lost so much weight that his family said that he resembled a concentration camp victim.

Iain Hodge, 30. Suffered from the life threatening illness, Hughes Syndrome. Found fit for work by Atos and benefits stopped, Iain took his own life.

Wayne Grew, 37. Severely depressed due to government cuts and the fear of losing his job, Wayne committed suicide by hanging.

Kevin Bennett, 40. Kevin a sufferer of schizophrenia and mental illness became so depressed after his JSA was stopped that he became a virtual recluse. Kevin was found dead in his flat several months later.

David Elwyn Hughs Harries, 48. A disabled man who could no longer cope after his parents died, could find no help from the government via benefits. David took an overdose as a way out of his solitude.

Denis Jones, 58. A disabled man crushed by the pressures of government cuts, in particular the Bedroom Tax, and unable to survive by himself. Denis was found dead in his flat.

Shaun Pilkington, 58. Unable to cope any more, Shaun shot himself dead after receiving a letter from the DWP informing him that his ESA was being stopped.

Paul ?, 51. Died in a freezing cold flat after his ESA was stopped. Paul appealed the decision and won on the day that he lost his battle to live.

Chris MaGuire, 61. Deeply depressed and incapable of work, Chris was summonsed by Atos for a Work Capability Assessment and deemed fit for work. On appeal, a judge overturned the Atos decision and ordered them to leave him alone for at least a year, which they did not do. In desperation, Chris took his own life, unable to cope anymore.

Peter Duut, a Dutch national with terminal cancer living in the UK for many years found that he was not entitled to benefits unless he was active in the labour market. Peter died leaving his wife destitute, and unable to pay for his funeral.

George Scollen, age unknown. Took his own life after the government closed the Remploy factory he had worked in for 40 years.

Julian Little, 47. Wheelchair bound and suffering from kidney failure, Julian faced the harsh restrictions of the Bedroom Tax and the loss of his essential dialysis room. He died shortly after being ordered to downgrade.

Miss DE, Early 50’s. Suffering from mental illness, this lady committed suicide less than a month after an Atos assessor gave her zero points and declared her fit for work.

Robert Barlow, 47. Suffering from a brain tumour, a heart defect and awaiting a transplant, Robert was deemed fit for work by Atos and his benefits were withdrawn. He died penniless less than two years later.

Carl Joseph Foster-Brown, 58. As a direct consequence of the wholly unjustifiable actions of the Job centre and DWP, this man took his own life.

Martin Hadfield, 20 years old. Disillusioned with the lack of jobs available in this country but too proud to claim benefits. Utterly demoralised, Martin took his own life by hanging himself.

Annette Francis, 30. A mum-of-one suffering from severe mental illness, found dead after her disability benefits were ceased.

Ian Jordan, 60. His benefits slashed after Atos and the DWP declared Ian, a sufferer of Barratt’s Oesophagus, fit for work, caused him to run up massive debts in order to survive. Ian was found dead in his flat after taking an overdose.

Janet McCall, 53. Terminally ill with pulmonary fibrosis and declared ‘Fit for Work’ by Atos and the DWP, this lady died 5 months after her benefits were stopped.

Stuart Holley, 23. A man driven to suicide by the DWP’s incessant pressure and threat of sanctions for not being able to find a job.

Graham Shawcross, 63. A sufferer of the debilitating disease, Addison’s. Died of a heart attack due to the stress of an Atos ‘Fit for Work’ decision.

David Clapson, 59 years old. A diabetic ex-soldier deprived of the means to survive by the DWP and the governments harsh welfare reforms, David died all but penniless, starving and alone, his electricity run out.

Chris Smith, 59. Declared ‘Fit for Work’ by Atos as he lay dying of Cancer in his hospital bed.

Nathan Hartwell, 36, died of heart failure after an 18-month battle with the ­Department for Works and Pensions.

Michael Connolly, 60. A Father of One, increasingly worried about finances after his benefits were cut. Committed suicide by taking 13 times the fatal dose of prescription medicine on the 30th October – His Birthday.

Jan Mandeville, 52, A lady suffering from Fibromyalgia, driven to the point of mental and physical breakdown by this governments welfare reforms. Jan was found dead in her home after battling the DWP for ESA and DLA.

Trevor Drakard, 50 years old. A shy and reserved, severe epileptic who suffered regular and terrifying fits almost his entire life, hounded to suicide by the DWP who threatened to stop his life-line benefits.

Unnamed: Death of a severely disabled Dorset resident, unnamed, who took her own life while battling the bedroom tax.

Source: List sent to Welfare Weekly via twitter.

Source – Welfare Weekly, 04 Jan 2015

http://www.welfareweekly.com/iain-duncan-smiths-directory-death/

IDS loses legal appeal to keep universal credit problems secret

Iain Duncan Smith‘s latest effort to prevent the publication of documents warning of the dangers of universal credit has been dismissed by a judge.

The information commissioner ruled the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) should release documents about the progress of universal credit, an assessment of independent reviews and a record of problems with it. He ruled against the release of a risk register – a department document listing possible problems with the scheme – but a tribunal overruled him and said it too should be published.

The DWP insisted publication would have a “chilling effect” on the working of the department. The information tribunal ruled there was no evidence of that but that there was “strong public interest” in publication.

IDS appealed. The DWP’s first argument was that the tribunal misunderstood the nature of the chilling effect and the evidence needed to support that argument.

Judge Wikeley gave it short shrift.

“[The chilling effect] is a well known concept, and I can see no support for the argument that the tribunal misunderstood its meaning…[it] applied its expertise and reached a decision that the chilling effect argument was unpersuasive.”

The DWP’s second argument is for ‘perversity‘. This states that the tribunal reached a decision which no reasonable tribunal, on a proper appreciation of the evidence and the law, would have reached. It’s obviously a very high threshold which they did little to reach.

Judge Wikeley found:

This challenge, in my assessment, does not get near clearing this high hurdle. The tribunal identified the relevant issues, analysed the material evidence, made its findings and in that context reached its conclusions, explaining why it had done so. It seems to me its approach was entirely sustainable. The perversity ground is not arguable.”

Finally they tried to argue that the tribunal had not given due weight to the expertise of the DWP’s witness. This was irrelevant, Judge Wikeley found. He said:

An appeal to the upper tribunal is confined to a point of law… I conclude it is not arguable.”

No-one knows how much taxpayer money has been dedicated to making these frivolous legal appeals – all in a bid to save the work and pension’s secretary’s blushes.

When there are disability benefits which need cutting, every pound counts. When it’s the secretary of state who needs saving, the government’s wallet bursts at the seams.

It will still be possible for IDS to keep fighting this ruling through the courts, possibly for years, and ultimately to issue a ministerial veto to prevent publication regardless of what the courts say.

Read the full commentary in Politics.co.uk

Source –  Benefits & Work,  27 June 2014

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/2823-ids-loses-legal-appeal-to-keep-universal-credit-problems-secret

Commons inquiry comes to Newcastle to ask residents about Atos

An influential Commons committee is asking Newcastle residents for first-hand accounts of a controversial testing regime for people claiming disability benefits.

MPs are asking residents to meet them at Newcastle United Football Club on Tuesday, May 13, to discuss the Work Capability Assessments carried out by Atos.

The event has been organised by the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, a cross-party group of backbench MPs from across the country which scrutinises the work of the Government.

They are holding an inquiry in to Employment and Support Allowance, the new allowance which has replaced incapacity benefit, and the Work Capability Assessment, a test which claimants are forced to undergo to see if they are able to work.

The Committee would usually meet at Westminster and hear evidence from senior figures ranging from Government Ministers to charity managers.

But they have taken the unusual step of asking any member of the public with experience of applying for the benefits or going through the assessment to meet them in Newcastle.

The Work Capability Assessment has been the subject of bitter criticism. Speaking in the House of Commons earlier this year, Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery said: “The attack on the disabled and the vulnerable is relentless.”

Anger has focused on the role of Atos Healthcare, the firm contracted to carry out the tests. Critics claim Atos gets decisions wrong and declares people fit for work when they have a disability or serious illness which makes finding a job impossible.

Committee chair Dame Anne Begg, said: “Committee Members, not least in our role as constituency MPs, have heard many concerns about Employment and Support Allowance and about the Work Capability Assessment in particular.

“We are therefore keen to get out of Westminster and find out how the system is working on the ground.

“We want to hear from people who have experience of making a new claim for Employment and Support Allowance or who have been through the incapacity benefit reassessment process.

“Their observations on how the system is working and, crucially, suggestions for how it can be improved, will help inform our ongoing inquiry.”

The meeting will take place in the Moncur Suite, St. James’ Park, between 10.30am and 12.30pm on May 13.

Anybody with experience of applying for Employment and Support Allowance or going through a Work Capability Assessment is invited to speak to the MPs.

Source –  Newcastle Journal   09 May 2014