PIP assessor told claimant to ignore her ‘irrelevant’ suicide attempt… then challenged her son to a fight

A benefits assessor told a disabled woman to ignore “irrelevant” information about a suicide attempt, shoved her son after he was asked to halt the assessment, challenged him to a fight, and then damaged their house as he left.

The shocking incident in Cardiff last week has left Cheryl Matthews terrified that the healthcare professional who carried out her face-to-face personal independence payment (PIP) assessment for the outsourcing giant Capita could return to her home.

As he left the house, the assessor even told her 22-year-old son that he intended to return for a fight.

Capita has confirmed that the assessor has been suspended as a result of the incident, but the company has refused to say if it will now re-examine the other face-to-face assessments he has carried out for the company on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

But within two hours of her lodging her complaint, Capita had already offered her £600 compensation.

South Wales police is now investigating allegations of criminal damage by the PIP assessor.

Matthews, who works as a customer service agent and has several long-term health conditions, including one that could cause a fatal aneurysm if she becomes anxious, has struggled to sleep since the incident last Wednesday.

She already receives the PIP standard rates for daily living and mobility, but she had requested a new assessment after her health worsened in recent months.

She says she has been told by Capita that the assessor confirmed to his bosses that the incident had taken place, after he was called in for an interview about the allegations.

Matthews has told Disability News Service (DNS) how the assessor agreed to carry out the face-to-face assessment in her bedroom because her stairlift was broken.

Her husband Paul was also in the room during the assessment, while her disabled son was in his bedroom nearby.

But she said the assessor began to grow angry after she told him she couldn’t say which of her various health conditions was causing her the most problems with her mobility and ability to live independently.

And when she told him that she had recently been to hospital with one of her conditions, he told her: “Absolutely irrelevant. Irrelevant, irrelevant, irrelevant.

“I don’t need to know about the past. I just need to know about your condition.”

As she grew increasingly alarmed by his attitude, she told him she found him “very, very rude and quite abrupt”.

When she said she had been treated for a kidney infection and was being tested for lupus, the assessor said: “As I told you, I’m not going to repeat myself again…”

She then told him that she had tried to take her own life six weeks earlier, but he again told her this was “irrelevant”.

At this point, her son, who was passing the room and could see how upset his mum was becoming, told the assessor: “Excuse me, I have heard you being quite rude to my mum.”

The assessor, who she believes is in his 50s, asked her son if he wanted him to end the assessment and leave, and he said yes.

Matthews said: “With that he slapped his laptop closed, ripped the plug out of the extension lead and as he left the bedroom he pushed my son so hard that he fell against the door.”

The assessor ran downstairs and then turned and told her son, who was still at the top of the stairs: “You want a fight do you, mate, because I can give you a fight?”

Matthews’ son told his mum to phone the police and told the assessor: “I have told you three times now to leave the house.”

The assessor then left the front door open and kicked the safety gate that protects their three dogs off its hinges, damaging the wall of the house.

As he left, he told her son: “Don’t worry, I will be back for you because clearly you want a fight.”

Matthews was told later that day by Capita that the company had immediately called the assessor in for an interview after she lodged her initial complaint.

She said she was concerned about other disabled people who were in more vulnerable situations than she was who could have been visited in their own homes by the same assessor.

She said: “He’s in a very powerful position.”

She said his behaviour raised concerns about the other face-to-face assessments he has carried out for Capita.

She was too unwell to go to work for the two days following the incident, and added: “I have had to go to the doctors because I was so upset. I have been really quite anxious, worrying if he was going to come back.”

She has been visited twice by a police officer about the allegations.

She said she still could not believe what had happened and how the assessor had behaved.

She said: “I don’t think you could have written it.

“I would never in my wildest dreams have thought that somebody in such a position would have been so aggressive.”

The incident is just the latest in a series of failings that have plagued the PIP assessment process since the government launched the new benefit in 2013.

Evidence from disabled people – collated by the grassroots WOWCampaign and published in July – shows that PIP assessment reports are still often riddled with distortions, twisted facts and ignorance.

DNS spent months investigating allegations of dishonesty by PIP assessors in late 2016 and throughout 2017, hearing eventually from more than 250 disabled people in less than a year about how they had been unfairly deprived of their benefits.

And last month, DNS revealed that PIP claimants are now almost twice as likely to win their tribunal appeal than claimants of disability living allowance – which is being replaced by PIP for working-age claimants – were almost a decade ago.

A Capita spokesperson said: “We have apologised to Ms Matthews and offered her compensation following this incident.

“The assessor involved has been suspended pending an investigation.”

But she declined to say whether the company would now review his past face-to-face assessments, and if Capita would contact those claimants he has assessed.

She also declined to say whether he was a nurse, a paramedic or an occupational therapist, and whether there had been other similar complaints made against him.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We take these allegations extremely seriously – the assessor in this case was immediately suspended while Capita is carrying out their investigation.

“We expect the highest standards from our providers and all claimants must be treated with dignity and respect.

“Capita’s investigation is ongoing – we cannot comment any further.”

A South Wales police spokesperson said: “South Wales police is investigating an allegation of criminal damage to a property in [Cardiff], on October 16.

“Statements have been taken and enquiries are ongoing. There have been no arrests.”

24 October 2019


Police admit officers have no guidance on when to pass protesters’ info to DWP

Police forces across the country have admitted that they have no policies or guidance that would tell officers when they should pass information about disabled protesters to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Concerns had been growing this year after two forces – Lancashire and Greater Manchester* – admitted passing information and video footage to DWP about disabled people taking part in protests, including anti-fracking demonstrations.

The human rights organisation Liberty has warned that this is likely to have been unlawful.

The admissions by Lancashire and Greater Manchester police have fuelled fears of a growing hostile environment facing disabled people, which were further heightened by the treatment of disabled activists by the Metropolitan police during this month’s Extinction Rebellion protests in London.

Police forces appear to have been relying on the Data Protection Act for legal authority to pass information to DWP, without any advice or guidance to their officers on when this can or should take place.

Because of this concern, Disability News Service (DNS) submitted requests under the Freedom of Information Act to 10 police forces, asking each of them for a copy of any guidance or policy documents that they use to assist their officers in deciding when information about disabled people taking part in protests can or should be shared with DWP.

Of the eight forces that have replied so far – the other two have breached their legal duty to respond within 20 working days – not one of them has said it has any such document.

Those admitting to failing to hold any guidance include Greater Manchester*, Lancashire and the Metropolitan police.

Leading disabled activists, who have all taken part in protests, this week raised serious concerns about the “extremely worrying” admissions.

Andy Greene, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said the admissions were “disturbing” and showed forces were “clearly failing” in their legal obligations to “treat everyone equally before the law”.

He said: “Disabled people should be able to exercise their democratic right to protest without fear.

“But in these and other instances, disabled people are being targeted by state institutions exactly because they are exercising that right.”

He said the responsibility for these actions lay with senior decision-makers in each of the police forces.

He said: “Leaving individual officers free to make arbitrary decisions about who has the right to protest and who doesn’t, doesn’t absolve decision-makers of responsibility when those officers get it so badly wrong. Like here.”

He added: “Disabled people’s lives have been ripped apart over the last 10 years by austerity and we have been a central plank in building a progressive movement for change in the UK over that period because we refused to accept what was happening without a fight. And rightly so.

“DPAC has always encouraged disabled people to be active in all the struggles which affect them.

“Our message now is the same: Demand your rights. Hold these institutions to account. Become involved.

“It’s only by confronting these failings and demanding more from those who are responsible for them that we will begin to see anything change.”

Dennis Queen, from Manchester Disabled People Against Cuts (MDPAC), who has taken part in numerous protests in Manchester, said the admission from GMP was “extremely worrying to us, as it seems to mean that officers in GMP are making reports to the DWP, but without any kind of clear framework or guidance.

“On what basis are reports being made to the DWP? How does the police force know who has a relationship with the DWP? How do they decide when and how to contact DWP? Are individual officers taking it upon themselves to do it at random?”

She said: “This is unacceptable and we will do everything we can to work with Liberty to get to the bottom of this.

“Disabled people have the same right to protest as everyone else, and at least as many reasons to fight back.”

She pledged that MDPAC would continue to demonstrate against an “oppressive government” and those who profit from its policies.

Rick Burgess, also from MDPAC, added: “In the absence of official guidance, I advise the police to never pass on a disabled protester’s details to the DWP, because the ministry has been identified as a human rights abuser by the UN.”

Burgess suggested that Greater Manchester police might like instead to investigate DWP.

Sandra Daniels and Bob Williams-Findlay, who both took part in this month’s Extinction Rebellion protests in London as part of the Disabled Rebels group, said it was vital to ensure that the relationship between police forces and DWP was exposed to scrutiny.

They said that – for at least the last decade – disabled people had become caught up in a political agenda that suggested many of them were “faking their lack of functionality or simply abusing the system”.

They said this had been “supported by a rabid mass media presenting the scrounger narrative which increases disabled people’s anxiety and fear”.

But they also raised concerns that the lack of clarity and transparency over the actions of police was causing fear and anxiety among disabled people and was therefore playing into the hands of DWP because it helps it “continue its narrative of skivers and scroungers” and “monitor the growing militancy amongst disabled claimants”.

They said: “We need to ask how does taking part relate to claiming either employment and support allowance or personal independence payment.

“Both benefits operate activity descriptors, so unless the evidence shows a breach of these, the only possible use of the police’s information can be to trigger a fishing exercise or to intimidate.”

They added: “To what extent the police are gathering intelligence is hard to know for certain, or whether or not this is just a tactic to disarm and intimidate disabled people during this fractured moment in history.”

But they said: “The fear that now exists is a direct consequence of the policies and culture of the institutionally disablist DWP.

“We need to publicly hold the DWP and the police to account by demanding that their relationship is open to scrutiny.

“Whatever the truth is about this relationship and the type of information that is or could be passed on, what is clear from disabled people’s experiences at the Extinction Rebellion is that the police are showing increased contempt for disabled people’s rights.”

Sam Grant, policy and campaigns manager for the human rights organisation Liberty, said this week: “Some police forces have been found to be sharing information about disabled protestors with the DWP; this is likely to be unlawful.

“Forces need to guarantee that they will not report disabled people to the DWP simply for exercising their fundamental right to protest.

“Liberty is very concerned the police appear to have no guidance on how, why and when they would share information.

“Without guidance there will be inconsistency between police forces and protestors will have no idea under what circumstances and to what end their information is being passed on.

“The right to protest is one of the building blocks of our democracy and is a tool we use to protect all our rights.

“Any time the police undermine this right is a dangerous step, but it is particularly deplorable when they do so in a way that is discriminatory.”

The College of Policing – the professional body for those working in the police service in England and Wales – said in a statement on Tuesday: “Information sharing protocols are agreed between individual police forces and the relevant partner agencies and statutory bodies.

“In all cases officers and staff would be expected to use their professional judgement, comply with [data protection regulations] and information sharing protocols and follow the National Decision Model to guide their decision making around sharing information with other bodies based on the specific circumstances of each case.”

DNS told him that DWP had made it clear that there were no information sharing agreements with police forces, and asked him to explain what the “National Decision Model” was, but he had failed to comment further by noon today (Thursday).

The National Police Chiefs Council refused to provide an on-the-record comment on the freedom of information responses.

*Yesterday (Wednesday), Greater Manchester police confirmed in a freedom of information response to DNS that it had provided details of “a number of” disabled people to DWP following their involvement in protests.

It said this was done “on the basis of information sharing for the prevention and investigation of criminal offences, in order for DWP to undertake their own investigation” and is “believed to have included names, video and photographic footage”.

24 October 2019


Met’s disabled advisers lodge complaint over police ‘discrimination’ during XR protests

The Metropolitan police’s own disabled advisers have lodged a formal complaint about the force’s “discriminatory” treatment of disabled protesters during this month’s Extinction Rebellion protests in London.

A joint letter from every member of the Disability Independent Advisory Group (DIAG) to commissioner Cressida Dick says they are “disappointed and angered” by the force’s actions.

They say they believe the force breached the Equality Act by discriminating against disabled protesters.

And they warn that those actions risk causing “irreparable damage” to relations between disabled people and the Metropolitan police, and that the consequences of its actions will “take many years to heal”.

The want Dick to order a full investigation into the force’s decision-making surrounding the policing of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) protests in relation to Deaf and disabled protestors, and into the actions of individual officers.

Among the incidents they highlight in the letter are the force’s decision to confiscate equipment that was intended to make it safe and accessible for disabled people to take part in the XR protests.

This included two mobile accessible toilets and showers, wheelchairs, ramps, noise-cancelling headphones for autistic protesters, and solar-powered charging equipment for wheelchairs and scooters.

They also highlight the decision to arrest a wheelchair-user because she needed support from a personal assistant – who was also arrested – during a solo, peaceful protest outside New Scotland Yard.

Another incident highlighted in the letter is the way a police officer was seen to be “visibly shaking with anger” as he and about 20 other officers threatened to arrest a small group of members of the XR Disabled Rebels group, who again were taking part in a peaceful, non-disruptive protest outside New Scotland Yard.

But DIAG members are also angry that the force failed to engage with them before, during and shortly after the protests.

DIAG chair Anne Novis – who in June was recognised with a commendation by the force for her service with DIAG – repeatedly attempted to contact the force to offer advice from DIAG when she and her colleagues became aware of incidents unfolding during the XR protests.

The letter says that “all members of the DIAG are disappointed and angered” at the failure to seek their assistance in the lead-up to XR “in understanding the complexity of addressing the needs of disabled protesters, despite the fact that we have on several occasions tried to engage with the team”.

It adds: “The actions of the MPS* have not been received well by the disabled and Deaf community, many of whom now fear that their legal right to participate in peaceful protests can no longer be exercised if their mobility equipment is to be confiscated, and personal assistants/carers arrested.

“The effect on the relationship between the MPS and members of our community is at risk of irreparable damage.

“The actions in the last few weeks will have long-lasting consequences for our community and will take many years to heal.”

The Metropolitan police had failed to comment by noon today (Thursday).

*Metropolitan Police Service

24 October 2019


NAO action on suicides ‘could be long-awaited recognition of deaths caused by DWP’

A watchdog’s decision to question the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about the information it holds on benefit-related suicides could be a long-awaited recognition of the damage caused by the government’s policies, say disabled activists.

They spoke out after the National Audit Office (NAO) confirmed that it would seek information from DWP about what records it holds on suicides linked by coroners to its actions.

The watchdog decided to act after Justin Tomlinson, the minister for disabled people, claimed in a parliamentary answer that it would be too expensive to produce such information.

Tomlinson was asked about the figures last month by Frank Field, the independent MP who chairs the Commons work and pensions select committee.

He had asked Tomlinson how many times since 2013 DWP had submitted evidence to inquests into the deaths of benefits claimants who had taken their own lives, and how many of the coroners holding those inquests had ruled that DWP policies were partly responsible for the suicide.

Field raised concerns about Tomlinson’s answer with NAO.

Now Gareth Davies, NAO’s auditor general, has told Field in a letter – seen by DNS – that it is a “very important and serious topic” and that he will ask DWP about the information it holds.

Davies also suggested that NAO might decide to compile the information itself, depending on how DWP responds to his questions.

The decision to question DWP about benefit-related suicides has been welcomed by disabled activists, despite concerns that much more needs to be done to uncover the actual number of deaths caused by the actions of DWP ministers and officials over the last decade.

Less than two years ago, Field’s committee refused to put questions to the then minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton, about figures that showed attempted suicides among people claiming out-of-work disability benefits had doubled between 2007 and 2014.

The figures, which showed how the proportion of claimants reporting a suicide attempt rose sharply after the introduction of employment and support allowance (ESA) and the work capability assessment (WCA) – although the figures did not prove a link to the WCA – had been passed to the committee by Disability News Service (DNS) in advance of an evidence session with Newton.

Field’s committee also refused to comment in May this year when DNS secured proof that DWP had failed to pass crucial documents linking the assessment with suicides and other deaths to its own independent reviewer of the WCA.

Years of research have shown clear links between the government’s social security reforms and suicides.

Four years ago, public health experts from the Universities of Liverpool and Oxford showed in a study that, across England as a whole, the process of reassessing people on incapacity benefit for the new ESA between 2010 and 2013 was “associated with” an extra 590 suicides.

A petition calling for an independent inquiry into deaths linked to the actions of DWP, and for any evidence of misconduct by ministers and civil servants to be passed to the police for a possible criminal investigation, secured more than 55,000 signatures by the time it closed last month.

The Justice for Jodey Whiting petition secured almost no support from large disability charities like Leonard Cheshire, RNIB, Scope and Sense, but was backed by grassroots organisations of disabled people and the families of disabled people whose deaths have been linked to DWP’s actions.

Rick Burgess, from Manchester Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “Anecdotally we all know of deaths that would not have happened if it weren’t for the DWP.

“It is hard to quantify with precision and this exercise will likely undercut the true total due to a reluctance of state authorities to accuse other organs of the state of unlawful killing.

“Perhaps an epidemiological approach could discover the true scale of harm caused.”

But he added: “What I would hope this signifies is a recognition that the DWP’s hostile policies towards disabled people have caused immense suffering, deaths, and human rights abuses, and that this has to be stopped and then accounted for through a truth and reconciliation process, that will inevitably include prosecutions of key government personnel.”

John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, welcomed NAO’s decision to examine the figures held by DWP.

He said: “Black Triangle welcomes Mr Field’s activism on this issue which we have been campaigning on for so long.

“It has come not a moment too soon.”

But he said it came in the wake of the “disappointing” failure of the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition to secure the 100,000 signatures necessary for a parliamentary debate.

He added: “Families are crying out for justice. Really the police and the Crown Prosecution Service should be looking at this.

“We believe there is sufficient evidence that would give rise to the prosecution of DWP ministers and officials for misconduct in public office and possibly other offences.”

Field was not available to comment this week on why he had changed his mind on probing DWP on the issue of deaths linked to the government’s social security reforms.

But he said in a statement issued earlier this week, and passed to DNS by his office, that he had asked the question in parliament after a constituent took his own life when his personal independence payment was withdrawn.

Field said: “I struggle to believe that, given the amount of time it must take to put together evidence for inquests, attend court hearings, and internally review the decisions to see what part the DWP policy may have played in a claimant taking their own life, there is no record of such.

“It shocks me even more that the department is apparently unconcerned with the most drastic effects of its policies and conducts no internal monitoring of the tragedies in which it could be complicit.”

He added: “Amongst many other things, I hope the NAO will, through these initial enquiries, find out the cost the DWP will incur to answer this parliamentary question, as it would be most helpful to understand what expense the department considered out of proportion to the infinite preciousness of the human lives it is supposed to serve and protect.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “The NAO has been clear that they have not opened an inquiry into this and has made no commitment to opening one in the future.

“They are interested in the information we hold.

“The death of a claimant is always a tragedy and whilst this is not an inquiry, the NAO rightly considers it an important topic which we will engage with them on.”

An NAO spokesperson said: “We can confirm that we have received correspondence raising concerns about a reply by the Department for Work and Pensions to a written parliamentary question relating to inquests of benefits claimants who ended their lives by suicide.

“We are engaging with the DWP about the information it holds on this issue and will reply to the correspondent with our findings in due course.”

Samaritans can be contacted free, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by calling 116 123 or emailing jo@samaritans.org

24 October 2019


MPs criticised over ‘disgraceful’ omission of ALLFIE inclusive education evidence

MPs who released a report criticising the implementation of the government’s reforms of the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) system have been accused of a “disgraceful” omission of crucial evidence on inclusive education.

The Commons education committee, chaired by the disabled Tory MP Robert Halfon, released its report yesterday (Wednesday) following an 18-month inquiry.

The report was heavily critical of how the reforms in the 2014 Children and Families Act have been implemented, which it said had left families in England “facing a nightmare of bureaucracy, buck-passing and confusion”.

The reforms saw the introduction of education, health and care plans, which last from birth to the age of 25 and should set out all the support a family should receive across education, health and social care.

But the committee said the “significant” shortfall in government funding for SEND since 2014 was a “serious contributory factor” in the failure to deliver on the reforms.

It also called for a culture change within government, councils and schools and a more rigorous inspection regime, while it accused the Department for Education (DfE) of a “piecemeal” approach which creates “reactive, sticking-plaster policies”.

But the report almost completely ignores growing concerns about the increasing numbers of disabled children being educated in segregated settings.

A report by the National Audit Office last month found the number of pupils with SEND who attend special schools or alternative provision rose by more than a fifth between 2014 and 2018.

This week’s report makes no mention of evidence given in person to the committee by Tara Flood, former director of The Alliance for Inclusive Education, who spoke last November about the “perfect storm” facing parents who wanted their disabled child educated in a mainstream school.

After that evidence session, Flood had criticised the committee for a “sham” inquiry that was refusing to discuss the increased levels of segregated education in England and what needed to happen for the system to be more inclusive.

This week’s 127-page report makes almost no mention of the need to address the growing levels of segregated education.

ALLFIE’s omission came despite the report quoting a string of council leaders, ministers, charities, parents, special and mainstream schools and colleges, NHS leaders, regulators and tribunal judges.

Michelle Daley, ALLFIE’s interim director, said: “It is disgraceful that we have not been mentioned in the report.

“We are extremely disappointed that the points made by Tara on 20 November 2018 have not been mentioned

“You should not cherry pick what’s in your report. It should be fair and accurate.”

She said the report only mentions inclusive education “in passing”, for example through a call for Ofsted to inspect schools on the basis of how inclusive they are and how they deliver SEND support.

But she said it ignores how disabled children are being “bully-pushed” into special schools because mainstream schools are not being resourced to support them.

The report even calls for local authorities to be allowed to open more special schools.

Daley said the report still provided a “damning” verdict on the government’s reforms and provides “a catalogue of issues that are hampering and jeopardising the future generation of our disabled children and young people”.

And she said it shows a failure to both enforce the 2014 reforms and protect the rights of disabled children and young people.

The report says failures of implementation have led to “confusion and at times unlawful practice, bureaucratic nightmares, buck-passing and a lack of accountability, strained resources and adversarial experiences”.

But Daley said she was concerned that the committee appears to hint that the government’s failings justify the unlawful behaviour of some local authorities.

She said: “We know the only way to achieve improvement for disabled learners and properly deliver on inclusive education is for our government to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in our domestic law.”

Among the report’s recommendations are for parents and schools to be able to appeal directly to DfE if local authorities are not complying with the law; and for the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman to be given powers to investigate complaints about schools.

Halfon said in a statement issued alongside the report: “Families are often forced to wade through a treacle of bureaucracy, in a system which breeds conflict and despair as parents try to navigate a postcode lottery of provision.

“A lack of accountability plagues the system as local authorities, social care and health providers too frequently seek to pass the buck rather than take responsibility for providing support.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “No child should be held back from reaching their potential, including those with special educational needs.

“That’s why we recently announced a £780 million increase to local authorities’ high needs funding, boosting the budget by 12 per cent and bringing the total spent on supporting those with the most complex needs to over £7 billion for 2020-21.

“This report recognises the improvements made to the system over five years ago were the right ones, and put families and children at the heart of the process.

“But through our review of these reforms [announced last month], we are focused on making sure they work for every child, in every part of the country.”

24 October 2019


Two more PIP reviews could mean DWP has had to fix 10 benefit blunders in two years

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has had to carry out what appear to be as many as nine or even 10 costly trawls through the records of disabled people unfairly deprived of benefits in just two years.

DWP quietly slipped out its latest admissions last week in response to a legal ruling that found the department had made serious errors in relation to claims for personal independence payment (PIP).

The announcements were spotted by the Benefits and Work website.

Because of the refusal of DWP’s press office to answer questions about the latest reviews, it is not clear how many there have been in total, but it appears that there have now been at least nine, or even 10, with as many as eight related to PIP.

In addition to the two revealed last week, there appear to have been as many as eight other reviews launched by DWP during 2018 and 2019 as a result of court and tribunal rulings.

The two latest reviews follow an upper tribunal ruling on 28 November 2016 which found that DWP had been wrongly deciding some PIP claims.

But DWP continued to make errors in the assessment process after that ruling.

The first review relates to the way DWP assesses the extra help disabled people need to follow a special diet.

DWP is now reviewing PIP claims which might have been entitled to a higher rate of support and some claimants who were originally found ineligible for PIP, and it says it will be backdating any claims that were wrongly decided after 28 November 2016.

The second review relates to the way DWP assesses the need for supervision, prompting or assistance to manage medication and monitor a health condition.

This review will only affect those whose claims were decided by DWP between 28 November 2016 and 16 March 2017, the date the government changed the law to take account of the tribunal ruling.

Neither of the new reviews will see claimants invited for face-to-face assessments.

The two latest reviews mean DWP may now have had to launch nine or 10 such trawls through its records as a result of serious errors by its senior civil servants.

In June 2018, DWP announced a review following a tribunal ruling delivered in March 2017 – concerning a PIP claimant referred to as RJ – on how DWP assesses whether disabled people can carry out activities safely and need supervision to do so.

This was likely to affect people with conditions such as epilepsy, with (at the time) an estimated 10,000 PIP claimants set to benefit by £70 to £90 per week by 2022-23.

In the same week, DWP announced a review of an estimated 1.6 million PIP claims to find claimants who experience mental distress when making or planning a journey.

This followed a court ruling in December 2017 – in the case of a claimant referred to as MH – which found that new rules introduced that year by DWP were unlawful, “blatantly discriminatory” and breached the UN disability convention.

A third review announced in June 2018 related to the way DWP had been assessing an estimated 420 PIP claimants with haemophilia who have the associated condition haemarthropathy (a severe type of arthritis caused by bleeding into the joints).

Another review was thought to have been launched last year so that DWP could trawl through the files of thousands of PIP claimants who need support to take medication and monitor their health conditions, following two tribunal findings – in the cases of AN and JM – that found that DWP should have been scoring such claimants in the same way as people needing support to manage treatment therapies such as dialysis.

This may relate to one of last week’s two reviews, which also concerns support for taking medication and monitoring health conditions.

The fifth review followed a high court ruling in June 2018 that DWP had unlawfully discriminated against two disabled men who each lost disability premiums worth £178 per month when they moved to a new local authority area and were forced to transfer onto the new universal credit.

The sixth review came as a result of the botched migration of former claimants of incapacity benefit and other benefits to employment and support allowance (ESA).

DWP failed to realise that many of these claimants were entitled to income-related ESA – and therefore to associated disability premiums – rather than just the contributory form of ESA.

Last week, DWP adjusted its estimates of how many claimants would receive arrears through this review, from a previous estimate of 210,000 to about 120,000.

A seventh review began in January this year, following an upper tribunal ruling in November 2017 in the case of a claimant moving from disability living allowance (DLA) to PIP who had his DLA stopped because he had failed to attend an Atos face-to-face assessment, even though the upper tribunal found he had had “good reason” for not doing so.

DWP said at the time that it expected about 4,600 claimants to benefit from a review of such cases.

The eighth review followed a Supreme Court ruling in July that found that more people with mental distress who have problems with social situations should receive PIP.

DWP’s press office was asked late on Tuesday afternoon to answer a series of questions about the reviews, some of which were merely seeking clarity, but it has refused to answer any of them.

Shortly before noon today (Thursday), DWP produced the following statement: “There are a variety of reasons why a review is undertaken, including legal judgments that are the result of new judicial interpretations of the benefit.

“We are dedicated to ensuring everyone receives the benefits they are entitled to.”

24 October 2019


ROFA’s draft manifesto calls for end to austerity and a right to independent living

Political parties are set to be told to promise an end to austerity, a legal right to independent living and an immediate end to universal credit, if they want disabled people’s support at the next general election.

The Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) is carrying out a consultation with members across England on a draft Disabled People’s Manifesto, so a final version can be ready in time for an election that most commentators believe will be called within months.

The ROFA manifesto can then be compared with the disability policies included by parties in their general election manifestos.

ROFA is an alliance of disabled people and their organisations, including Sisters of Frida, Inclusion London, The Alliance for Inclusive Education, Disabled People Against Cuts, the Trade Union Disability Alliance, People First (Self Advocacy), Change, and Equal Lives.

The draft manifesto says: “Disabled people’s inclusion must be a right and a reality from the beginning of our lives, not a continuous struggle in the face of daily exclusion, injustice, prejudice and discrimination.”

Disabled people, it adds, “must have the right to enjoy the same degree of autonomy, and control over their day-to-day lives, and their long-term futures as non-disabled people”.

The manifesto includes about 20 “priority demands”, including a call for the next government to implement in full the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The manifesto highlights the need for the next government to bring an end to austerity, and to reverse the cuts to disabled people’s support that have been introduced by successive Tory-led governments since 2010.

It points to reports which have shown the impact of austerity on disabled people, including research which showed a likely 120,000 “excess deaths” as a result of austerity cuts to adult social care and health spending between 2010 and 2017.

Among the draft manifesto’s other priority demands are for a legal right to independent living, under UNCRPD’s article 19, and the introduction of a National Independent Living Support Service (NILSS).

And it calls for an urgent programme to end the use of institutional care for autistic people and people with learning difficulties.

A series of demands for social security reform includes scrapping all benefit sanctions, universal credit, the bedroom tax, and the work capability assessment, and producing a new assessment system for disability benefits in co-production with disabled people and in line with UNCRPD, as well as restoring benefits to the same real levels as 2010.

There are also calls for a fully inclusive education system that would see an end to all segregated special schools and colleges, and for a major programme of building accessible homes.

Other priority demands cover investment in accessible infrastructure; access to justice; enforcement of the Equality Act; barriers to employment; the response to Brexit; the needs of disabled people in a climate emergency plan; and the need for “real and effective co-production” with disabled people’s organisations at local, regional and national levels.

ROFA has also issued a separate document that sets out priorities for the first 100 days of a new government.

This document includes calls for an assessment of the cumulative impact of austerity cuts on disabled people, and a commitment to address that impact; for the announcement of a legal right to independent living; for the new government to make spending commitments to address the funding crises in social care and special educational needs and disabilities; and for a pledge to provide strategic funding for disabled people’s organisations in every local authority area.

24 October 2019


News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com