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.

Government lies about disability benefits too

It's not only Universal Credit that is subject to lying by the Government.  Try this regarding Personal Independence Payments from 2012.

In, “Government’s response to the consultation on DLA reform and Personal Independence Payment – completing the detailed design” dated 13 December 2012, it was stated,

 “Our intention is that the claim process will include procedures to help identify individuals who may need additional support with their claim and the information requirements, whether from DWP or an independent adviser”.

 And, “we will ensure that the 4 week period to return the claim includes Secretary of State discretion to extend this period where reasonable in exceptional circumstances”.

I have yet to see a single case where the DWP delivered on these commitments and I've been doing PIP cases continually since 2013.

Or this December 2017 Government response to the Second Independent Review of PIP where it stated it was accepting the recommendation,

To re-emphasise and ensure that employment will not disadvantage claimants when they seek to claim PIP and explore ways in which PIP may be an enabler in improving employment retention”.

Yet time and again the DWP and its agents use the fact that a claimant is in work to argue they are not disabled enough to get PIP.

The Post Truth agenda is at home in the DWP.


The tissue of lies that is Universal Credit

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey, has told a few more lies about Universal Credit (UC) and is being encouraged to resign.

This is the latest in a long series of lies ever since the scheme was launched by one of her predecessors, Ian Duncan Smith.

The most blatant of these, and one that was pushed on the basis that if you keep repeating something people will believe it, is that UC is "simpler".  In fact UC is the most complicated system of means-testing and conditionality in the history of the UK social security system.

The real purpose of UC is to advance the cause of an end to rights-based social security provision entrenched in the decades following the Second World War.  The basic premise of UC is that claimants must prove to Officials that they are worthy of payments to get anything.  This is typically done using a mixture of questionnaires and, crucially, interviews, that fundamentally take us back towards the days when poor people had to sit in front of "Boards of Guardians" and the like to get "poor relief". 

Thank goodness for the Equality Act, which obliges the DWP to prove that UC doesn't discriminate against disabled people if disabled claimants bring claims.  Fortunately, one action has already succeeded.  And there will surely be more to come!    

Legal aid "gateway" in fact a barricade

The Government's farcical "Civil Legal Advice Gateway" delivered just 15 funded discrimination cases in an entire year.  And that's for all categories of discrimination!  And just 0.2% of people seeking support with challenging discrimination were allowed face to face advice.

The CLAG is a virtual reality service - it makes it look like help is available when in fact it isn't.  Applicants have to undergo two means tests, one with Officials tasked with assessing their case, and then another if they are passed on to a legally qualified contractor.  And if they get that far applicants are bombarded with an avalanche of paperwork that does nothing to progress the case but prevents most people getting any further.

Baring in mind this is the only route to get legal aid for discrimination claims against the DWP it is hardly surprising. 

This excellent report from Public Law Project provides further detail: PLP Research Briefing Paper - The Civil Legal Advice Telephone Gateway


PIP reassessments letters a long way from the law

PIP reassessment letters always give a fixed timescale for claiming PIP despite Regulation 8 of the Personal Independence Payment (Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2013 providing that the Secretary of State can extend DLA for any period she thinks fit.  And yet the reminder letters say, “We wrote to tell you that your Disability Living Allowance WILL END SOON” with no indication at all that the DWP can extend DLA if a claimant is struggling to claim PIP.   

And then the DWP always sets another fixed timescale for returning the wretched “PIP2” disability questionnaire – one month.  Regulation 37 of the Claims and Payments Regulations 2013 says the information or evidence requested must be provided, “within one month of first being required to do so or such longer period as the Secretary of State considers reasonable”.  And Regulation 8 of The Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) Regulations 2013, helpfully adds, “such longer period as the Secretary of State may consider reasonable in the circumstances of the particular case”.  

Furthermore the DWP does not even have to send out a “PIP2” at all because Regulation 37 of the Claims and Payments Regulations 2013 says, “The Secretary of State may require the person to supply information or evidence in connection with the claim…”.  So if it’s obvious that a severely disabled recipient of DLA would qualify for PIP they should just move them over.  This would apply in cases where severely disabled people are on the highest rates of both components and it’s obvious they would get the same on PIP.

Even more disturbing is the statement on the DWP’s standard letters that reads, “If you need help to fill in the form, you can ask a friend, relative or a local support organisation”.  It is the DWP that is obliged to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled claimants are not substantially disadvantaged by the PIP reassessments process.  It must be aware of the dramatic reduction in “local support organisation” capacity across the UK with the ending of legal aid for the vast majority of social security work and the reductions in funding for advice services generally.  The DWP has a Visiting Officer service but does not tell claimants about it.

The PIP reassessment process is yet another example of Officials ignoring the law in favour of their own fixed custom and practice.  It goes hand in hand with the routine disregard for the Equality Act duty to make reasonable adjustments. 

Claimants unable to comply with this regime due to disability who have their DLA stopped have a claim for compensation.  It's also possible to bring a claim for reasonable adjustments to avoid stoppages.

Lost motability entitlement restored in 21 days

Severely disabled Ken M from the South East of England got his higher rate mobility back after having it wrongly removed when changing from DLA to PIP.  And it took me just 21 days to get it.  The DWP said he could walk normally despite needing two walking sticks, and hadn't even offered a home visit for his "consultation".  I'll add this to my ever growing list of crazy decisions including profoundly deaf claimants being given 2 points and severely visually impaired claimants having payments stopped for failing to go to appointments notified by letter.



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