Iain Duncan Smith’s work capability assessments, sanctions & updates on ESA/PIP & psycological assessments.( pt 2)

At least 10,600 people who had been receiving benefits were found to have died of undisclosed causes (between January and November 2011) & the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) refuses to update or elaborate on the figure.

A petition calling for the Conservative government to reveal exactly how many people had died within six weeks of being forced back into work after undergoing work capability assessments is gaining momentum, with more than 180,000 signatures.

You can still sign here


“Iain Duncan Smith should come clean about the full impact of benefit changes. He must end this cover up,” said Green Party work and pensions spokesman Jonathan Bartley.

“The public needs to know exactly how many have died after being certified ‘fit for work’ as part of his reforms.

Ten people were confirmed to have killed themselves after their benefits were taken away for up to a year — leaving them with very little to no money for daily essentials.

Claiming benefits under the Conservatives involves waiting times that are, in some cases, literally illegal, even if not actually criminal. And there’s also a question mark over the legality of the increasingly common practice of forcing ESA claimants to undergo psychological testing and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) training.

But none of this stops the new minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, crowing about not having to pay compensation to PIP claimants waiting over a year for vital benefits.

ESA delays
The latest employment and support allowance (ESA) statistics show that one third of claimants have still not had a decision on their claim after 8-11 months. Another 40% recover or die before they have any chance of an assessment.

The figures relate to claims made between July and September 2014, before Maximus took over from Atos. Politicians and claimants alike will be watching to see whether Maximus can really make a difference to these outrageous delays.

Being unemployed is a mental health issue
ESA claimants who do finally get an award now face the possibility of forced psychological assessments and obligatory NLP workshops if they wish to hang on to their benefits.

The idea appears to be that if only sick and disabled claimants had the right attitude they would be able to return to work. Whether it is lawful to force claimants to undergo these interventions under threat of the removal of their benefits is unclear and, with the difficulty of obtaining legal aid, the issue may never be tested.

But the forced testing and training has been condemned in an article in the British Medical Journal at the same time as the British Psychological Society (BPS) has demanded a complete overhaul of the work capability assessment (WCA).

And the continued refusal by the DWP to release the ‘ESA death statistics’, relating to claimants who died soon after a WCA, is now being challenged by a petition that has attracted over 150,000 signatures in less than a fortnight.

Updated ESA guides
We’ve now updated our guides to claiming ESA to cover the dangerous guidance issued to decision makers on how to take account of the effects of work-related activities when making submissions about the ‘substantial risk’ regulations. These regulations are one of the most important routes into the support group, especially for claimants with mental health conditions.

We’ve also updated the ESA sanctions guide to include information on the steps work programme providers must take before sanctioning vulnerable ESA claimants, such as those with mental health conditions.

PIP delays
Meanwhile, the high court has ruled that delays in paying out personal independence payment (PIP) to people who are ‘amongst the most vulnerable in society’ were both ‘unacceptable’ and ‘unlawful’. However, while common law rights had been breached, the judge did not find that the claimants human rights had been.

The immediate response by Justin Tomlinson, minister for disabled people, was not to apologise for the harm caused by delays of over a year in some cases. Instead, he crowed that the claimants ‘are not entitled to damages’ because the judge had not upheld what Tomlinson regards as their ‘absurd’ human rights claim.

Clearly, the idea that people have a right to receive the benefits they are entitled to in a timely fashion is laughable for ministers like Tomlinson and the decisions of courts are of no account.

Tomlinson himself is rapidly becoming hated and feared in equal measures by disabled claimants, as a rash of letters in today’s Guardian demonstrates.

And, in fact, the claim was not ‘absurd’ in the view of the high court judge, who awarded costs against the DWP – not something that happens if your claim has no merit.

PIP rollout not delayed
Tomlinson now claims that the average waiting time for a PIP decision is just seven weeks. As a result, in spite of pressure following the high court decision, there will be no delay to the final stage of the rollout of PIP in October. From then on, working age DLA claimants with ‘indefinite’ or ‘lifetime’ awards will begin being assessed for PIP.

The rollout will begin in postcode areas where the DWP thinks the extra volume of work can be most easily handled. DLA claimants will be chosen at random from the selected postcodes until the migration is complete in 2017.


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