Illegal benefits stoppage results in £5,500 pay out from DWP

Before I set up Kester Disability Rights I picked up Tina's case whilst volunteering for an advice centre in Salford.  Tina had all her income removed because she was unable to respond to letters from the DWP.  Mitchell Woolf, a solicitor from Scott Moncrief and Associates, who also did a landmark DLA case, kindly agreed to take the case pro bono and was assisted by Fiona Scolding QC from counsel who also kindly volunteered to help Tina. 

The DWP agreed to make the payment without a hearing.  It flags up a problem with the Equality Act, that compensation levels are on the low side relative to the levels of distress than can be involved.  Even though it was obvious Tina would struggle with post, the DWP sent her letters and then stopped her money when she couldn't respond.  She had no other income and was threatened with homelessness as a result.  That was extreme disability discrimination.  But at least the going rates of disability discrimination compensation means these type of cases are always small claims and so the most informal and low risk of the County Court "tracks".

Don't throw anything away

The DWP's Managing Customer Records Guide indicates that records are routinely destroyed after just 14 months.  It's been the policy of the all the organisations I've ever worked for to keep such records for at least 6 years.

In several cases I've seen documents destroyed by the DWP, but retained by claimants, have been crucial.  My advice is never throw anything away you receive from the DWP - it could be important later on.

Equality Act enforcement submission made

The Women and Equalities Select Committee at the House of Commons is investigating (lack of) Equality Act enforcement.  We're suggesting that the social security tribunal is given the power to consider Equality Act claims like the employment tribunal and special educational needs tribunal already can.  We're also pushing for the courts service to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people.  See the full submission here.

DWP policies not to stop benefits revealed!

Interesting that the DWP has just revealed in correspondence that it appears to have a policy not to stop ESA claimants' payments if they're known to have mental health problems and are unable to complete and return a questionnaire,

" accordance with DWP policy, if someone with a mental health condition does not return their ESA50 questionnaire within the usual four week period their benefit does not end, as it would for other claims".

This comes hot on the heals of it being revealed that the DWP also does not stop payments when claimants' with cervical myelopathy cannot return questionnaires.

Will be interesting to see if any cases come through that have "slipped through the net"!

Equality Act enforcement Parliamentary Inquiry

Here is a link to the Women and Equality Select Committee's inquiry into enforcing the Equality Act.  Anyone can make a submission.

The obvious thing would be to have a free Equalities Tribunal where people could bring cases in a similarly risk-free way to a benefits tribunal.  However, the current ludicrous situation is that benefits tribunals are expressly forbidden from considering whether the DWP has breached the Equality Act.  That forces claimants to have to run two sets of proceedings - a social security tribunal and a County Court claim.  The difficulites of doing this have allowed the DWP to routinely discriminate against disabled people when dealing with ESA and PIP claims knowing that in the vast majority of cases disabled people will not be able to enforce their rights.

Incompetent DWP agents unchallenged by Officials

Shocking figures released by the DWP reveal that only a tiny fraction of the appalling reports written by contractors carrying out assessments are ever challenged by Officials

And in a response from Officials to me it was stated,

When a PIP award is changed by an independent tribunal, this is not because they decide the DWP decision is erroneous or unreasonable, rather they just reach a different opinion”.  The letter also stated, “As our case managers are not medically trained, we need to rely on the assessment reports we receive from the health professionals.  We are able to (and often do) challenge inconsistencies.  However, we are obliged to accept the health professional’s ultimate opinion is final

So it's official: Atos and Capita are in fact controlling the outcome of PIP claims.  They profit from the assessments and make decisions that result in lots of pointless assessments of claimants with chronic and deteriorating conditions.



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