The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has contravened the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) in an apparent effort to block the release of secret reports, and in 2017, the DWP began recruiting community partners to work in jobcentres. It endeavoured to recruit around 200 of them, represented by the DWP as people with personal and professional experience of disability.
Their purpose would be to work with Jobcentre staff, to:
build their capability and provide valuable first-hand insight into the issues individuals with a health condition or disability face in securing and sustaining employment… Community Partners will also engage with local employers to help improve the recruitment and retention of disabled people and people with health conditions.
According to the Disability News Service (DNS), community partners submit regular reports on their work, often based on their experiences of visiting jobcentres. It states these reports are secret.
The DNS submitted a Freedom of Information request to the DWP, asking to view the reports written by community partners in London jobcentres in 2017 and 2018. Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, authorities are expected to reply to requests for information inside 20 working days.
The DWP did not reply inside that time, so the DNS contacted them twice more to ask for the information. The DNS reports that a staff member from the DWP’s FOI department told the service:
I chased it again this morning and I don’t know why it has taken so long. I have reminded them of their duty to reply in time and that is where I am with it…
I have tried. I don’t know why they are digging their heels. I am sorry.
In a statement, the DWP asked the DNS not to quote what the staff member stated in its reporting. The DWP further stated:
If you are unhappy with the handling of an FOI request please contact the Information Commissioner’s Office. The latest statistics show that DWP answered 95 per cent of FOI requests within 20 working days, exceeding the information commissioner’s compliance threshold of 90 per cent.
The DWP is a lot tougher on claimants than it appears to be on itself. People can be sanctioned for countless reasons, including being late for appointments or failing to update their CV. In its guidance to claimants on how to keep their benefits, the DWP recommends:
Provide as much information as you can, as quickly as possible.
The Guardian reported on the case of a disabled woman who lost her benefits after she failed to send in a form on time because of her sickness. And a former jobcentre staff member maintains they were supposed to sanction people if they were five minutes late for an interview.
So the DWP can be late, but others can’t. Welcome to the department’s double standards.
Not only that, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been conspiring with Sainsbury’s to spy on welfare claimants and disabled people.
Occasionally we share CCTV with public or regulatory authorities such as the police or the DWP or in response to requests from individuals seeking to protect their rights or the rights of others.
A Sainsbury’s spokesperson reported to The Canary:
As will be the case with other businesses and public organisations, from time to time we will receive requests to share CCTV with the police or regulatory authorities. We will consider each request on its own legal merits and only share where appropriate.
A DWP spokesperson told The Canary:
Surveillance helps us to prevent and detect crime and is only used in strict accordance with the law. The DWP uncovers thousands of benefit fraud cases every year and recovered a record £1.1bn in overpaid benefits last year.
The DWP collects information when it examines suspected benefit fraud is nothing new. As it said in response to a Freedom of Information request (FOI):
Fraud investigators can where appropriate access publicly available information, such as on Facebook, Twitter etc., to gather evidence. Investigators cannot create fake social media profiles to engage with suspects in order to obtain evidence about that individual and again these activities are carefully managed and controlled.
Fraud investigators can request CCTV footage as part of a specific investigation or operation under and in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the CCTV Code of Practice 2008, issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office.
There has been anecdotal evidence that the DWP has been asking leisure companies, like theme parks, for CCTV footage of claimants using their facilities. But further, this big brother approach to welfare claimants and particularly disabled people has been growing for years.
And the UN denounced successive Conservative-led governments of having some responsibility for society seeing disabled people as parasites, living on social benefits, and living on the taxes of other people. It previously stated that successive governments had built a public perception where disabled people:
have been negatively portrayed as being dependent or making a living out of benefits; perpetrating deception as benefit claimants; being idle and putting a strain on taxpayers, who are paying money for nothing.
The evidence verifies the UN’s claims, and between 2010 and 2015 the public reported over 1.6 million cases of alleged benefit fraud to the DWP. But of these, 85 per cent were incorrect. Furthermore, as The Canary previously reported, actual benefit fraud is comparatively rare totalling 1.1per cent of the tax credits bill. For the DWP, benefit fraud and error accounted for 1.9 per cent of its total bill.
Meanwhile, according to a group of experts, disability hate crime increased by 213 per cent under the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition government. This has all happened while the people have been served a TV diet of ‘poverty porn‘ on shows like The Great British Benefits Handout.
The United Kingdom has a hostile environment where welfare claimants and disabled people live under a veil of doubt and unworthiness. It’s this which makes Sainsbury’s plotting with the DWP all the more concerning, if we have reached the point where welfare beneficiaries can’t even do their shopping without fear of being ‘shopped’ to the DWP, then the policy is even more damaged than we imagined.
Especially when a woman with mental health problems was asked by DWP disability benefit assessors why she had not killed herself.
Alice Kirby, who also has physical disabilities, accused the Department of Work and Pensions of institutional abuse as she talked about her experience attempting to claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
The claim comes as new figures reveal private companies that manage the assessments on behalf of the DWP and rake in more than £700 million from their five-year agreements, but Labour denounced the Government of rewarding failure by contractors Capita and Atos, who had originally been expected to take just over £500 million from the contracts.
The DWP says the PIP assessment balances support for the most vulnerable with value for money for the taxpayer, but Labour promised to revise the laws for all private contractors to hold them to a higher standard.
Phrased competently and sensitively, questions about suicide and questioning a person why they haven’t killed themselves could be relevant in a psychiatric evaluation, but it should not be addressed in a benefits evaluation.
In this setting, it’s not safe to ask questions like these because assessors have not the experience or abilities to assist people with mental health problems, and there’s no consideration of the repercussions it could have on a person’s mental health.
This kind of questioning is completely unnecessary and would have no impact on that person’s award
Alice Kirby was horrified to learn how many other people had been asked comparable questions as part of assessments, and some people answered saying they felt suicidal or had attempted suicide, assessors said things such as ‘that’s understandable’, but some other people had been asked in detail precisely how they would carry out suicide if they were to kill themselves.
After Alice’s payments were reduced she believed that her health had deteriorated.
The payouts to the firms by the DWP were calculated at £198 million in 2015, £91 million in 2014 and £7 million in 2013, the year PIP started. Maybe if they stopped giving out to these wretched companies, there would be more in the kitty for people like Alice Kirby, and figures released in January and February 2017 show the firms have been given an extra £25 million.
Atos won two of the three original tenders, a £206.7 million agreement to carry out evaluations in the North and Scotland, and a £183.9 million settlement for London and the South. The other £121.6 million settlement for evaluations in Central England and Wales was gained by Capita.
More than 160,000 people originally refused PIP have had this ruling overthrown since the benefit started in 2013, and according to DWP figures, Atos and Capita have been hounded by allegations of callous evaluations, and it’s beyond belief that this Tory Government is rewarding incompetence.
The PIP process is in chaos and these private firms are getting enormous payouts in a time of severe austerity, and it’s obvious that these costs are spiralling out of control.
The Government must get an urgent grip on these extravagant salaries to private firms, particularly at a time when they’re getting more and more assessments overthrown in the courts, and the DWP maintains that all workers giving out PIP assessments get training on mental health conditions, including concerns around self-destructive thoughts, which have to be investigated further given their duty of care to claimants.
The DWP has stated that helping people with mental health conditions is their priority, and that’s why the government are giving a record amount on mental health support, over £11 billion a year, and they said that there are presently more people with mental health conditions receiving the higher rates of both PIP components than the former DLA equivalents.
They further stated that PIP assessors get training on mental health conditions, so that they’re able to examine the claimant’s circumstances, accurately and sensitively.
A spokesperson for Atos, which carried out Ms Kirby’s evaluation, stated: “The professional and compassionate service we provide to claimants is our primary consideration.
The specific question is inappropriate and if asked would not meet the high standards and training in place which enable the sensitive and appropriate handling of assessments by our professional assessors for those with mental health conditions.
They maintain value for money for the taxpayer, yet a small amount of searching reveals that the DWP wasted pretty nearly £1.4 billion pounds of taxpayers money in 2015 berating disabled people, and it’s hard enough speaking to a counsellor who’s there to help you about their illness, let alone someone who is looking for a reason to weaken their claim.
It’s not rocket science if a doctor and a hospital say that the patient is ill, then obviously they’ve had tests done to confirm that’s the case. If a patient has mental health, the doctor doesn’t simply glance at them and assume, “Oh yeah, they’ve got mental health problems. If a person has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, certain tests have to be done to reach that conclusion. If a person has been diagnosed with Cancer, multiple tests have been done to determine that fact and the list goes on.
This can’t be done by a tick box exercise, they’re real illnesses that have been checked and determined by tests, probably over and over again. These sick people don’t then need to be assessed and examined again, considering many of these ill people have been through enough already.
There are people out there that fake it, but they’re pretty limited related to the number of people that are genuinely ill.
Many people have a physical disability that you can see, others don’t have any obvious manifestations at all, such as a patient that suffers from mental health, but they don’t need to be questioned why they haven’t killed themselves because obviously as far as the assessor is concerned they have nothing to look forward to. Not only is it distressing, it makes that person feel inadequate, which is presumably why it’s done.
This is beyond shameful.
A person might be suffering from Anorexia because they were abused at school and further had families struggles, which made them go down a horrendous spiral of depression, henceforth no life and actually never went out the house except if it was to hospital appointments and then they had to go with somebody else.
Atos would find them fit for work, and then they would lie over and over stating that they enjoyed normal social activities despite never leaving the house or having a single friend because they had no social life. This would be founded on the basis that the person went to hospital appointments to see their shrink, but not on their own because they wouldn’t have been able to go out on their own, but clearly going to see your shrink is classified as social dexterity.
There are assessors out there telling people that they’re getting old and that their life is slipping away, it’s no surprise people want to kill themselves after they’ve been to see an Atos assessor.
Firms like Atos and Capita haven’t been put there for any other purpose other than to make sure people don’t claim sickness because the plan is that once the information gets out there on how tough it is to get PIP many people will feel crushed and not bother because after all, all those sick people are going to bankrupt the country. No, I think Atos and Capita are going to bankrupt the country with all the money their making, it’s not like their doing much aside from reprimanding honest people and checking off a tick list.
Being unemployed can often mean being treated as if you are less than human, and there’s the antagonistic attitude of a rather substantial abundance of people in this country towards those who aren’t healthy, rich and white is a public scandal frequently immortalised by the far-Right tabloids, and frequently by the Tory party, and usually by diehard loyal taxpayers.
But for this repugnant stance to be frequently used by the state to victimise people for what they’ve now undergone is a public scandal.
And even though suicide was sanctioned in 1961, this kind of burden is being put on a person by the government, and it appears that the government is implying that people should commit suicide rather than be a strain on the country, which is a shocking thought.
This government has endorsed the ill-treatment of people, and it should be unlawful to harry people with a disability or mental health difficulties, and it’s essentially influencing or urging people to commit suicide, and humiliating them for trying to stay alive.
It’s utterly shameful misconduct, and whoever in the government deems this is acceptable should be ousted, but how do we go about ending this abuse? Because we’re all accountable for this degradation if we look the other way.
The problem is, this is not new, and it’s been going on for years, with ludicrous sums of money going to private firms simply to make decisions they’re not equipped to make, and the number of victorious appeals is evidence of that, and it would definitely be more tangible to listen to doctor’s and psychiatrists et cetera that are actually treating the patient day to day.
That way they would know how likely the patient is able of specific tasks and whether they simply need a little push or help to be able to achieve a better life, or if it’s the worst thing for them at that present time, because there’s no way an assessor going through a checklist for 45 minutes could possibly evaluate an often extremely complex mental health condition, but then I doubt that reasoning and concern has no part to play in this brave new world of the demonised disabled formulated by our government.
The DWP are nothing more than nasty, malicious money taking savage cruel reprobates who tell us that they’re professional and compassionate and that they provide their claimants with primary consideration… more hogwash!
The very fact that the government has persecuted the disabled to the degree that it has, and including the outrageous reality that they’ve wasted more taxpayers money than they have saved.
Never judge a book by its cover, each disability or illness is complex, and simply because a person with a mental illness might be able to climb a ladder, that doesn’t mean they’d be able to get work because mental illness is highly diverse, and if your assessment was carried out by a nurse working for Atos or Capita and you felt that they’d failed to do their job correctly, you could report them, but you don’t appear to be able to report anyone from Atos or Capita, as well as, the fact that you’re in the room alone with them and they could freely abuse you physically but instead they abuse you mentally.
Not only that, we should be allowed to know the requisites of the assessor, and they should be able to show you their ability to dispense with your disability or your mental health, and anyone below the level of a psychiatrist is not equipped to diagnose or recognise a mental illness because there are many other physical causes that can prompt comparable manifestations.
If you went in with Cerebral Palsy, you wouldn’t expect to be seen by a Physiotherapist, if you went in with Cancer, you wouldn’t expect to be seen by an eye doctor, but this frequently happens.
If a person is at the end stages of having Alzheimer’s, clearly incontinent, wheelchair-bound and on a fluid intake, would the DWP demand that person to come for an assessment, of course, they would. They would stop all payments save pension because that said person couldn’t get to the assessment centre.
Eventually, they would agree to visit at that said persons home and then label that person uncooperative, totally missing the point that the person couldn’t, in fact, talk because the system is utterly idiotic, and it’s amazing how quickly the disabled have been stigmatised.
Did our country as a nation lose that amount of compassion for each other that fast? And I fail to understand how asking a person who is or has been suicidal why they haven’t killed themselves, and there’s no justification for this cruel way that people are being treated.
And even though we’re aware that fraud does go on, ironically it would be more economical to simply pay each person that is fraudulently claiming disability than it is to pay these private companies to try and stop these fraudulent claims.
The fraud percentage is 0.7, which is lower than anything else related to the government, and it seems like we now have teenagers in the bodies of adults who are governing the world, and if the DWP insist you have to have an assessment, they say that everything you say will be written down and used in evidence, what are they the Gestapo police?
There’s a daft volume of money being paid to Atos and Capita, then you need to figure in all the costs being incurred by the DWP. They’ve spent £22 million hiring additional staff to deal with appeals, each appeal costs at least £3,000.
In 20016 over 51,000 PIP or ESA appeals were lodged and statistically about two-thirds of them were victorious, so that’s at least another £10 million down the drain, and as stated by Penny Mordaunt, the Minister accountable for the disaster, if the service providers fail to deliver, DWP can implement “agreed financial remedies” but we don’t see any indication of that.
Many of these assessors have absolutely no knowledge of mental health past looking at other peoples claim forms, and then they have the boldness to ask if you’ve attempted suicide because it’s on your form, then they ask if you’re suicidal now, while the claimant is sobbing into a piece of tissue paper, and then when you tell them that you have attempted suicide, they have the temerity to ask what method you used, or do you have scars from a previous suicide attempt. The assessor is barely 22 years old who’s a nurse and who has only been qualified for 12 months but is now working for Capita doing medical assessments.
This appears to be intentional and well practised by our government. How does a political leader obtain control? Divide and control, there can be no inside without an outside to scorn or hate, by creating or pointing to an adversary, demonising them, dehumanising them, and then you can get the people to elect you and destroy those people less able.
The difficulty arises from outsourcing to private companies. The scope of the contract suggests there are so few firms competent of running it, let alone implementing. Atos and Capita are only in it to make money, integrity doesn’t come into it. It would make interesting reading to have sight of their Service-level Agreement (SLA) and how fees are structured in as £198 million in 2015 appears extreme and the expression ‘creaming fees’ comes to mind.
Please remember that some of these people are Old Age Pensioners (OAP’s), the people who played as children amongst unexploded bombs, some even exploded them! People who worked with Health and Safety Protection, not to mention the chemicals like Asbestos, and then they got sick, this is why the amount of unhealthy people is bigger than you can imagine.
The policy is based solely on the need to deal with the harassment of a few which punishes everyone because it mistrusts everyone. This comes from competitively franchising out these obscure assessments to widespread corporations with fingers in various pies, who use ill-trained and ill-paid workers who pressure them to maximise their profit.
But who should we be condemning, the sheeple who voted for Tony Blair, or the government as a whole? Because I’m still confused as to why people still continue to choose Tory when they whine about them so much, people you can’t have your cake and eat it.
Tory policies are intended to serve the wealthy minority and poop on the majority. Empathy has been lost in the United Kingdom, and austerity is a philosophy, not a necessity, and seemingly prejudice and resentment are deliberately fuelled by the powers that be.
And it appears to be from where the Tories are standing, is that a dead claimant is one less claimant for the country to support, and Atos and Capita are the freaks that have resulted from this privatisation. They’re not even British firms, and why is Jeremy Corbyn not vilifying and demonising these hideous outfits which toady money from the taxpayer through a Tory government?
And now we’re witnessing the abuse and destruction of our institution’s and the decimation of our Civil Service, which was once capable for making choices.
We have Sodexho, a French company, managing hospital catering and car parks, raking money in that should go to patient care rather than shareholders who profit from misery. The Labour government should terminate the agreements of all these firms and return to the practice of public service staffed by equipped segments of the public with a sense of responsibility, rather than silly automated models that are ruthless and unfair.
Our government are criminals, they’re knowledgeable of early mortality created by their policies, and still, they do nothing, and then they use the 30 per cent of people who voted for them as a justification of their cruel destructive policies, and they don’t have to account for anything.
Once you pay your tax, it’s no longer yours, and money raised from taxation, you don’t get to ring-fence it or track it, or choose what is done with it by the government. Therefore, if people aren’t happy about what their taxes are being used on, then just don’t pay it, yeah, like that’s going to happen!
We live in a cosmos of people who are rather idiotic, and we have crazy people that are running our motherland, and if you were a regular person doing the stuff that the government are doing, you’d have been sectioned by now.
The government are determinedly treating the most defenceless constituents of our society as vermin, and it’s shocking that disabled and chronically sick people are being intentionally withheld money they require to simply survive, whilst fat cats are being overcompensated, and then fraudulently refuse them money.