A regulator has found widespread mishandling by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) of complaints it has received about the way nurses working for government contractors have carried out disability benefit assessments.
In an annual review of the NMC, the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) found that nearly every one of the 28 complaint cases it examined in detail showed potential for undermining public confidence in its work.
It said NMC’s failure to deal fairly with complaints about nurses carrying out personal independence payment (PIP) assessments had “significant implications” for the system that decides whether nurses are “fit to practise”.
And it said these failings had had “a significant impact on the fairness, transparency and focus on public protection” of NMC’s fitness to practise system.
NMC had told the investigators that only two of 83 complaints about nurses carrying out PIP assessments for government contractors Capita and Atos had led to a full investigation in 2017-18.
After receiving those figures, PSA decided to carry out its own audit of PIP assessment complaints made to NMC, looking at one-third of the 83 cases.
It reviewed 28 of them and found that 26 had been closed at the initial screening stage, while another was closed by the case examiners with no further action, and one led to a published warning*.
PSA found a string of failings by NMC, including a refusal to consider all the concerns raised by complainants.
It also found that NMC relied on the findings of Atos and Capita to justify closing cases about their own employees, and failed to consider crucial documentary evidence, often ignoring the evidence of the person who had lodged the complaint, and failing to ask them for further information.
NMC also told some complainants that the role of PIP assessor was not relevant to the nurse’s fitness to practice, unless it involved dishonesty.
PSA, which oversees the UK’s nine health and care professional regulatory organisations, concluded that NMC’s failure in at least two cases “might not be sufficient to protect the public”, while it was unable to reach a conclusion on public protection in another nine cases.
And it found that the handling of 24 of the 28 cases “might undermine confidence” in NMC.
PSA acted after hearing concerns from disabled people that NMC was dismissing concerns about nurses, even when claimants were saying there were witnesses to the nurse’s actions or they had taken a recording of their face-to-face PIP assessment.
But PSA also criticised NMC’s failure to tell disabled people who had raised concerns about their assessments that they should ask the Department for Work and Pensions for a mandatory reconsideration of the decision made on their PIP claim.
And it said that NMC often failed to tell those who had made complaints to come back to PSA if any concerns about a nurse’s fitness to practise were identified by DWP after it had been asked to look again at their case.
The PIP failings contributed to NMC failing on two of the standards for “good regulation for fitness to practise”.
Andrea Sutcliffe, NMC’s chief executive, said in a statement: “I’m sorry that our approach to a small number of PIP related cases fell short of what is expected.
“Our failure to fully address the concerns of some people making complaints and the lack of clarity in our decision making was not good enough.
“Since 2018 we have taken action. This includes additional training for those making and communicating case decisions, as well as a new quality assurance approach to the way we initially review cases.
“We are committed to treating everyone who brings concerns to us with dignity and respect and in 2018 established the Public Support Service to strengthen our support for members of the public.
“I do not believe that the NMC set out to discriminate against disabled people. While we accept we did not handle some of these cases as well as we could have done, our values are focused on fairness.
“Prior to the PSA’s report, we had reviewed the cases in detail and we will now consider the final report and decide whether any further regulatory action is required.”
PSA said it recognised that the NMC “accepts the issues of concern that we have identified and is working to address them” and added: “We support its work and will monitor progress.”
A PSA spokesperson said a copy of the report would be passed to DWP “as a courtesy, as they are mentioned a number of times within the report”, while it would also be shared with the Department of Health and Social Care.
He said he was unable to provide any details about the cases PSA audited.
And he said he could not say whether PSA would also now look at how NMC has dealt with complaints about nurses who have carried out work capability assessments (WCAs), and whether it would take a similarly detailed look at how the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) has dealt with complaints about PIP assessments and WCAs.
Last year, PSA concluded in an annual review of HCPC that there were “issues of concern” with the way it dealt with complaints about physiotherapists and paramedics carrying out PIP assessments.
PSA had agreed to act after being contacted in 2017 by disabled activist Mark Lucas, who had twice appealed successfully against the results of what he believed were dishonest PIP assessments.
PSA said last year that HCPC was “undertaking an action plan” to address the concerns it had raised about its fitness to practise processes, and that it would probably review further HCPC cases in detail over the next couple of years.
Disability News Service (DNS) spent months investigating allegations of dishonesty at the heart of the PIP assessment system, hearing eventually from more than 250 disabled people in less than a year about how they had been unfairly deprived of PIP.
It continues to receive such reports today, nearly two-and-a-half years after the investigation began.
*A published warning is handed out if there is a “real possibility” that NMC’s fitness to practise committee would find a nurse’s fitness to practise impaired but there is “no current need to restrict their practice because [they have] accepted the regulatory concern, shown insight, and… put any problems in their practice right through remediation, where relevant”
2 May 2019
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and its private sector contractors have been failing for years to alert local authorities to concerns about benefit claimants whose safety was at risk, “shocking” new research has shown.
Years of previous research have shown how government social security reforms have often caused serious harm to disabled people claiming benefits, or even led to their deaths.
But only 25 of 80 council social services departments across England, Scotland and Wales said they had received a single safeguarding alert from DWP over the last three years, freedom of information (FoI) responses have shown.
The record of DWP’s three private sector outsourcing companies was even worse, with Maximus – which carries out work capability assessments (WCAs) on behalf of the department – failing to make a single safeguarding referral to any of the 80 social services departments.
Atos and Capita – which both assess claimants for person independence payment (PIP) – made just two referrals each over three years.
The FoI requests were submitted by disabled campaigner and former safeguarding expert Mike Owen, who has become increasingly concerned about the failure of staff working for DWP and its contractors to alert local social services departments when a benefit claimant’s safety is at risk.
He said he was “deeply shocked” by the figures, which showed “a massive failure” by DWP to support people in vulnerable situations.
Owen said the figures showed yet again the need for an independent inquiry into links between DWP and the deaths of claimants, and for any evidence of criminal misconduct to be passed to the police, as called for by the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition*.
He said: “My research shows the clear need for an inquiry to take place due to the levels of which both the Department for Work and Pensions and its outsourced private assessment providers have ignored serious concerns raised by the claimants and medical professionals about their health and wellbeing.”
He highlighted the case of Stephen Smith, who died last week, months after he was found fit for work by DWP, despite being in hospital with such severe health problems that his weight had fallen to six stone.
The Liverpool Echo revealed this week that DWP had ignored two separate doctors’ letters about Smith’s serious health problems.
Owen decided to carry out his research mainly because of the injustice he faced when disclosing to DWP that he was a survivor of child sexual exploitation and was experiencing significant mental health issues because of that trauma.
He said he had been told by DWP that “sensitive” issues like his are not passed on to assessment providers, which he said can mean that the companies are not aware of the need to make certain adjustments to ensure their safety.
One DWP PIP manager even told him: “Safeguarding is not my responsibility.”
But DWP’s own internal guidance says that if a claimant who is at greater than normal risk of abuse or neglect “faces clear and significant risks to their welfare or safety”, such as the risk of injury, ill-treatment, abuse, neglect or exploitation, staff should “take any reasonable steps which [they] feel are necessary in order to address these risks… without any undue delay”.
The guidance adds: “You should volunteer information which is directly relevant to the issue of concern to Social Services, Social Work Department in Scotland or the police, as appropriate, without the customer’s or individual’s consent.”
But of the 80 local authorities that sent Owen figures for the whole three-year period he requested, only 25 said they had received any referrals from DWP between January 2016 and January 2019.
In total, there were just 111 DWP referrals in three years across the 25 councils, with 17 of them being sent to one Scottish local authority – North Ayrshire – 15 to Staffordshire County Council, and 11 to Newcastle City Council.
So far, more than 50 other councils have been unable to comply with Owen’s FoI request in full or in part.
Owen’s research is just the latest evidence of the failure of government ministers to ensure the safety of benefit claimants over the last decade.
In March, the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition* was launched, calling for an independent inquiry into deaths linked to DWP failings, and for the department to “urgently change its policies and administration of social security benefits to make the safety of all claimants a priority”.
The petition has so far secured nearly 38,000 signatures, and needs to reach 100,000 to be considered for a House of Commons debate.
In January, Disability News Service (DNS) revealed how ministers had failed to include DWP in a new cross-government plan aimed at reducing suicides, despite years of evidence linking such deaths with the disability benefits system and social security reforms.
The following month, Owen told DNS how he had been informed by a senior Maximus executive that the company did not have a safeguarding policy, nearly four years after taking on the WCA contract, although it claimed it was in the process of creating one.
In February, the Independent Case Examiner found that DWP had failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rules in the weeks leading up to the suicide of Jodey Whiting, a disabled woman with a long history of mental distress who had had her out-of-work disability benefits stopped for missing a WCA, and took her own life just 15 days later.
And last month, DNS revealed how DWP destroyed a damaging internal report about its failure to ensure the safety of benefit claimants in jobcentres, preventing it being released under freedom of information laws.
This week, DWP denied that Owen’s research suggested that it was failing to ensure the safety of the disabled people it assessed for disability benefits or that it needed to take urgent action to guarantee this safety.
But a DWP spokesperson admitted that the department kept no central record of how many safeguarding referrals were made, because they were “made locally by staff on a case by case basis”.
He said the department did not know how or if each council recorded its data and therefore the FoI responses could not be an accurate portrayal of when referrals were made.
He said: “We have clear guidance on making referrals to local authorities for all DWP staff dealing with claimants, to ensure vulnerable claimants get the support they need, however we cannot control how or if local authorities record these.
“It would not be accurate therefore to compare responses from councils on the number of recorded referrals, to those actually made by the department.”
Atos refused to say why it had made so few safeguarding referrals to local authorities, and whether the figures suggested the company was failing to ensure the safety of the disabled people it assessed.
But an Atos spokesperson said in a statement: “We take the safety of claimants seriously and follow DWP guidance to alert their GP to any concerns we identify.”
Maximus also refused to answer the questions or say whether its failings were connected with the company’s previous failure to have a written safeguarding policy in relation to the disabled people it assessed for benefits.
A Maximus spokesperson said in a statement: “We have always trained our staff to identify safeguarding issues, and all concerns are referred to the customer’s GP or the appropriate authorities.”
Capita refused to comment.
Owen said he was shocked by these responses, and added: “It is highly inappropriate for the private assessment providers to refer safeguarding concerns to the claimants’ GPs because it could delay any safeguarding needs that need to be urgently met.”
And he said he was pleased DWP had admitted not recording safeguarding referrals centrally because that was one of the measures that needed to be introduced.
*To sign the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition, click on this link. If you sign the petition, please note that you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the House of Commons petitions committee
2 May 2019
Documents that could reveal why the government has refused to remove the two iconic – and inaccessible – steps that lead to the front door of 10 Downing Street will not be released, because of a risk that the information could be useful to terrorists.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has told Disability News Service (DNS) that although some information does exist, it does not need to be released by Historic England because doing so could cause “a direct or immediate threat to the UK”.
The information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, even visited Historic England to view the documents because of their “sensitive nature”.
DNS has been trying for more than 18 months – through freedom of information (FoI) requests – to discover what discussions have taken place about the possibility of removing the steps.
Although there is step-free access at the rear of 10 Downing Street, wheelchair-users wishing to use the front door must rely on a portable ramp.
DNS has also tried to obtain information from the Cabinet Office, but it has insisted that the only relevant recorded information was in a draft memo that said that increasing the size of an internal lift had “improved accessibility”.
Despite this claim, Historic England has previously told DNS that the Cabinet Office was “rolling out a programme of improvements to the grade I listed complex to proactively address disabled access” and that an “accessibility audit is still being worked through”.
Now ICO has decided that Historic England – the government-sponsored public body responsible for “championing England’s heritage” – was right not to release relevant documents it holds about access at 10 Downing Street.
It said Historic England was correct to rely on regulation 12 (5) (a) of the Environmental Information Regulations (EIR), which provides an exemption to its usual duty to release such information for reasons relating to “international relations, defence, national security or public safety”.
An ICO senior case officer told DNS: “The withheld information does reveal a greater level of detail about No 10 than is currently publicly available and it cannot be dismissed that this information could be of use to individuals wanting to commit acts of terrorism.”
She said Denham was aware of “the importance of disability access to public buildings and the need to address poor provision” and so “accepts that there is an argument in favour of disclosure of information relating to information concerning such access to No 10 to demonstrate the actions taken for inclusive access to such a significant building”.
But Denham has decided that the public interest in ensuring the safety of No 10, and individuals there and in the surrounding area, “clearly outweighs the public interest” in releasing the information.
A government spokesperson refused to comment on the information commissioner’s ruling, but she said in a statement: “We are committed to improving access to Downing Street and have recently installed a new lift and more accessible toilets as part of work to improve facilities in this historic building.”
An Historic England spokesperson said: “We are aware that the information commissioner has agreed with our decision to withhold information relating to the accessibility audit at Number 10 Downing Street.
“We will continue to work closely with Cabinet Office on the important process of improving access to this significant complex of buildings.”
2 May 2019
The health and social care secretary appears to have ruled out sweeping changes to the funding system for adult social care.
Matt Hancock, giving evidence about the adult social care funding crisis to a House of Lords committee on Tuesday, told peers that he saw a “series of injustices” in the system but was “more attracted to options that build and directly improve on the system than ripping the whole thing up and starting from scratch”.
He had earlier confirmed to the Lords economic affairs committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the funding of social care in England, that the government’s green paper had been delayed yet again due to the parliamentary Brexit crisis.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) originally promised that the green paper would be published by the end of 2017, and then July last year, before delaying it to the autumn and then the end of 2018.
After missing the December 2018 deadline, it was delayed until “the earliest opportunity” in 2019, before Hancock told MPs it would be published by April.
Now that deadline has been missed as well, and Hancock said he could only promise that it was “coming in due course”.
He added: “I wish that the green paper had been published by now and we are continuing to work on it in the department because this is such an important issue and a longstanding policy problem that needs to be tackled.”
He also ruled out proposals that would change the system to one that was solely funded nationally, with no financing by local authorities, saying: “I don’t agree with that.”
And he suggested that the green paper – when it was finally published – was unlikely to include a definitive plan for how he believed adult social care funding should be reformed.
He said: “What I would like to do is bring forward a green paper that can bring together the debate, because it does have to be cross-party, and bring that debate behind a direction of travel where we can make progress.”
But he did stress to the committee that the funding crisis affected both working-age adults and children, as well as older people, pointing out – as many politicians fail to do – that about 50 per cent of local authority funding in this area is spent on working-age adult social care.
And he also said he wanted to see more funding for home-based support, rather than residential care.
He said: “I think there’s a big difference and a big opportunity to make social care better, better for the individual being cared for and better value for money, by a shift from residential to domiciliary care.
“Domiciliary care is cheaper than residential care. People want to stay at home for as long as possible.”
He added: “That sort of thing is much easier to fix than the long-term ‘who’s going to pay for it?’ and that will get a mention in the green paper no doubt.”
He accepted that there was often a financial incentive for councils to place older and disabled people into residential care because it can allow the local authority to take account of a family home as a financial asset when deciding how much the person should pay towards their care, which it cannot do if they remain in their own home.
He told peers: “What we do know is that more people go into residential care than is clinically justified and that domiciliary care is on average… better as well as being better value for money.”
Hancock said that “taxpayer” funding would “inevitably be part of the solution” but that he believed it was “impossible” to put an “exact figure” on how much would be needed, and that he could not confirm that there would be an increase in taxpayer funding for the system because of the government’s forthcoming spending review.
He said the government had put an extra £10 billion into social care over the last three years, while its spending was £3.9 billion higher this year in real terms than in 2015-16, a nine per cent real terms increase.
Two years ago, the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities warned the UK was “going backwards” on independent living, and called on the government to draw up a “comprehensive plan” to address the problem, and to take “urgent action” to ensure disabled people were provided with “adequate support to live independent lives”.
2 May 2019
MPs have been asked why they are failing to speak out to back calls for a police investigation into alleged criminal misconduct by ministers and civil servants that may have led to the deaths of benefit claimants.
The Justice for Jodey Whiting petition* calls for an independent inquiry into deaths linked to failings by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and for any evidence of criminal misconduct by civil servants or government ministers to be passed to the police.
It also calls for MPs to recognise that DWP is institutionally disablist and not fit for purpose, and for DWP to “urgently change its policies and administration of social security benefits to make the safety of all claimants a priority”.
Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Greens – and now the SNP, although it does not accept that DWP is institutionally disablist – have all backed the petition, but no MP appears to have spoken publicly yet of the need for evidence of criminal misconduct to be passed to police.
The only such comments from a politician appear to have come from Jonathan Bartley, the co-leader of the Greens, who is not an MP, but has made it clear that he believes DWP has “blood on its hands”.
Disabled activists have now questioned why MPs have been so reluctant to mention this key element of the petition, and they have called on them to speak out about the need for justice for those who have died.
Eight families of disabled people whose deaths have been linked to DWP failings have so far backed the petition, and its call for any evidence of criminal misconduct that comes from an inquiry to be passed to police.
Denise McKenna, co-founder of the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), said: “MHRN is determined that there will eventually be a criminal investigation into benefit deaths, however long we have to wait.
“There is a huge amount of evidence that many deaths have been a direct result of the actions of the DWP following the policies of this government.
“Are those who are implicated in these deaths above the law? Are there people in government and government departments who can do whatever harm they want with impunity?
“Disabled people will fight for such an investigation; we will continue to do so even if it takes years to get one.
“It seems strange and sad that MPs have not been calling for this to happen now.
“Why drag this out for disabled people and the families of those who have lost their loved ones?
“MHRN want MPs to act now to make this investigation happen as soon as possible. Why should we have to wait any longer for what is inevitable?”
Bob Ellard, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said: “Enough MPs know about the harm and death caused by the hostile environment against disabled people perpetrated by this government, but why haven’t they joined the supporters of the Jodey Whiting petition in calling for a criminal investigation?
“Disabled people will be watching for MPs to join the call for a criminal investigation, and we’ll be watching who remains silent.”
John McArdle, co-founder of Black Triangle, said: “While MPs busy themselves obsessing with the ludicrous fiasco that is ‘Brexit’ we should like to remind them that sick and disabled people’s lives are being crushed under the weight of systems and policies that are driving disabled people into destitution, hunger, rent arrears, homelessness and, tragically, suicide.
“This, too, requires their urgent, immediate, and undivided attention.
“We think that it is unconscionable that we should be forced to jump through hoops to obtain the help and support that we have a right to expect from our elected representatives in the face of such a humanitarian catastrophe.”
Laura Stringhetti, of the WOWcampaign, said: “For the past nine years, we have heard of far too many deaths caused by the failings of the DWP.
“Each of these deaths has left heartbroken families and friends behind.
“Yet nothing has changed; on the contrary, with universal credit things are getting even worse.
“The WOW Campaign believes that an independent inquiry into all the deaths linked to the DWP is needed; we must know if there has been any misconduct and we would like to see more MPs speaking out on this matter.
“We have the feeling that a potential criminal investigation might sound extreme to some MPs but we strongly believe that we owe it to the victims and their families to find the truth of what happened and if there is a culture of negligence and victimisation in the DWP, this must be addressed now before we have any more unnecessary suffering.”
The petition is backed by five grassroots groups: Black Triangle, DPAC, MHRN, the WOW Campaign and WinVisible, as well as Disability News Service.
Among the relatives backing the petition is Peter Carré, whose son Stephen took his own life in January 2010 after being found fit for work following a work capability assessment (WCA), with DWP failing to ask his GP or psychiatrist for further medical evidence that would have proved his eligibility.
His son’s death led to a coroner writing to DWP, just before the 2010 general election, warning that the “trigger” for Stephen’s decision to take his own life had been the decision to find him fit for work, and telling DWP to take action to prevent any further such deaths.
The coroner called for a review by DWP of “the decision not to seek medical advice from the claimant’s own GP or psychiatrist” if they have a mental health condition.
But Tory ministers failed to act on the coroner’s letter – or to produce a proper reply, despite their legal duty to do so – and instead pushed ahead with plans to reassess hundreds of thousands of people on old-style incapacity benefit through the WCA.
Research would later show that this use of the WCA to reassess claimants of incapacity benefit was “associated with” hundreds of suicides.
*To sign the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition, click on this link. If you sign the petition, please note that you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the House of Commons petitions committee
2 May 2019
Disabled people’s support to live independently in England is subject to a “dramatic” postcode lottery, according to new research carried out by disabled activists.
The research by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) – based on freedom of information requests to councils across England – shows huge differences across local authorities in how the number of adults receiving social care support changed between 2010 and 2018.
But it also shows striking differences in the proportion of social care service-users who receive their council-funded support through direct payments, and in the financial contributions they must make to their care packages.
The research also provides further evidence of how many disabled people have had their care packages slashed following the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in June 2015.
Linda Burnip, a DPAC co-founder who helped carry out the research, said it showed “the desperate need for a national care service and care free at the point of delivery”.
She said: “It is not acceptable that the needs for support disabled people have can be met in different ways, or even not met at all, depending solely on where people live.”
Of local authorities that responded, the biggest increase in recipients of social care came in Peterborough, where the number of adults receiving social care rose between 2010 and 2018 by 131 per cent, contrasting with the London borough of Sutton where it fell by 55 per cent.
Nearly all councils that responded said that less than 30 per cent of service-users were receiving direct payments, with the lowest proportion in Bournemouth, with just five per cent, Portsmouth (six per cent) and Wolverhampton (seven per cent).
Of the 57 councils that were able to say how many former ILF-users had seen their care packages cut following the ILF closure, only 12 could calculate proportions and they varied from Wirral council (23 per cent saw a cut to their package) to Hounslow (83 per cent saw a cut).
Of the 57 councils, 10 said no care packages had been reduced, but three local authorities saw between 54 and 110 people have their support cut after the ILF closure.
Five of the councils said some former ILF-users had had their support cut after the closure but others they were responsible for had had their packages increased.
On charging, only one local authority in England – Hammersmith and Fulham – does not charge any service-users for support.
All the others take account of how much the person receives through the care component of disability living allowance or the daily living part of personal independence payment when assessing how much they must pay towards their care.
Only 16 of the 134 local authorities that answered the question said there was a maximum charge for the amount a disabled person could contribute to their care.
The lowest maximum charge was in Newham (£200 per week), while the highest was in Blackpool (£650 a week).
DPAC said the responses showed a postcode lottery “not just in relation to the amount of direct payments provided to meet eligible care and support needs but also in relation to how much people have to pay for any needs to be met”.
Last week, at a parliamentary meeting hosted by Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, Marsha de Cordova, the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) – of which DPAC is a member – set out its demands for a new national independent living support service that would eliminate the postcode lottery in support.
The meeting last Thursday (25 April) was also supported by the TUC disabled workers’ committee and DPAC.
ROFA’s position, first revealed in January, is based on principles laid out in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Article 19 of the convention describes how countries signed up to the treaty – like the UK – must recognise the right of all disabled people “to live in the community, with choices equal to others”.
ROFA wants a new national independent living support service to be free, non-means-tested, “provided on the basis of need, not profit”, and funded through general taxation, with a legal right to independent living, and accompanied by an independent living bill of rights.
And it wants to see a strategy for investment in local user-led services alongside the closure of institutionalised, segregated settings including long-stay hospitals and assessment and treatment units.
Mark Harrison, from ROFA, told the meeting that its vision for the future of independent living had been inspired by former ILF-users, some of whom had become “prisoners in their own homes” since its closure.
He warned about the “dangerous” moves towards the re-institutionalisation of disabled people, particularly in private-run assessment and treatment units.
And he called on Labour to work with disabled people now, ahead of drawing up its next general election manifesto, to co-produce an independent living service.
One disabled service-user who spoke at the meeting, Rob Surrey, said: “Members of the public just assume I get 24/7 support.
“I don’t and I wouldn’t want that, but they assume if you are disabled and have high support needs you get all your needs met. That just isn’t true.
“Care is like a postcode lottery – depending on where you live, it does depend on how many hours you might get given.
“If the care budget was centralised and could be accessed from all over the country this could take away that lottery.”
2 May 2019
One in seven of all government decisions to reject claims for personal independence payment (PIP) is eventually overturned, new figures obtained by Disability News Service (DNS) have revealed.
The figures show that, of all the PIP claims rejected by Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decision-makers in the year to June 2018, 14 per cent were eventually overturned because the decisions were found to have been wrong.
They also show that this rate of overturned rejections has continued to climb every year since 2014-15.
In the year to June 2015, eight per cent of rejected claims in that year were eventually overturned, rising to 12 per cent in the year to June 2016, and then 13 per cent in the year to June 2017.
Now they have risen again, to 14 year per cent of rejected claims in the year to June 2018, of which eight per cent were over-ruled at the mandatory reconsideration (MR) stage – where DWP civil servants review decisions, if requested – and another six per cent at tribunal.
The figures, secured through a DNS freedom of information request, could rise further as some appeals have not yet been heard.
And the true proportion of incorrect PIP decisions will be even higher, because many rejected claimants do not challenge those results, with DWP’s own research – published last autumn – showing that hundreds of thousands more claimants would have taken further steps to challenge the results of their claims if the system had been less stressful and more accessible.
As well as casting fresh doubt on the introduction of PIP in 2013 and how it has been managed by ministers over the last six years, the new figures also raise fresh concerns about the performance of outsourcing companies Atos and Capita, which are being paid hundreds of millions of pounds to assess PIP claimants.
The figure of 14 per cent is far higher than the statistics repeatedly used by the government to defend its reforms, with ministers often stating that about nine or 10 per cent of all PIP decisions have been appealed and only four or five per cent have been successfully overturned.
But those figures include the hundreds of thousands of successful claims, where a disabled person has received a fair decision and therefore has had no need to appeal.
When releasing the latest figures, DWP warned that they were “unpublished data”, “should be used with caution” and “may be subject to future revision”.
DWP this week declined to say whether the figures showed that the PIP assessment process was not fit for purpose, why the figures were continuing to rise, and whether it accepted that they provided a more accurate picture of how well the PIP assessment process was working than the figures usually given by ministers.
But a DWP spokesperson said in a statement: “3.9 million PIP decisions have been made and, of these, 10 per cent have been appealed and five per cent have been overturned.
“As the secretary of state has said, we recognise that the number of people having their decision overturned is too high.
“We will therefore do more to gather the evidence we need to make the right decision earlier, so that fewer claimants have to seek redress through tribunal.”
One of the demands of the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition is that MPs recognise that DWP is not fit for purpose. To sign the petition, click on this link. If you sign it, please note that you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the House of Commons petitions committee
2 May 2019
Disabled people from working-class backgrounds are three times less likely than non-disabled people from privileged backgrounds to be in higher-paid jobs, according to a new report from the Social Mobility Commission.
Only 21 per cent of disabled people from working-class backgrounds are in professional or managerial jobs, compared to 63 per cent of non-disabled people from a professional or managerial family background, says the report.
The figures are contained in the commission’s sixth state of the nation report, which was published this week and includes extensive analysis of Office for National Statistics data.
The report highlights the “double disadvantage” faced by disabled people from working-class backgrounds, who are half as likely to be in the highest-paying jobs as disabled people from professional and managerial family backgrounds.
It is the first time the commission has examined how class interacts with gender, ethnicity and disability to affect social mobility.
Its report says that women, disabled people and minority ethnic groups from working-class backgrounds “generally experience multiple disadvantages in occupational outcomes”.
But disabled people from more privileged backgrounds “still face a huge disadvantage” and are 30 per cent less likely to enter professional occupations in comparison to their non-disabled peers.
The commission also examined the impact of disability in education.
Its report highlights the practice of “off rolling” – removing children from the school roll – and warned that the incentive for schools to perform well in performance tables meant some headteachers “may off-roll pupils facing disadvantage just before their exam year”.
The report says: “The national proportion of students with special educational needs and disabilities is 13 per cent, whereas 30 per cent of pupils who leave their school between Year 10 and Year 11 (GCSE examination year) have special educational needs.
“This is of concern, particularly given the intersection of disability and socio-economic disadvantage.
“This indicates that the system may be having the effect of rewarding schools for ineffective and even unethical behaviour.”
The report also highlights concerns about the impact of school funding pressures on disabled pupils, and it warns that the “increasingly fragmented education system” can mean that single academy trusts and maintained schools find it difficult to buy in the support their disabled pupils need.
Although the commission produced no recommendations for how to address the barriers facing disabled people, it is believed to be publishing a report focusing on disability this summer.
The report concludes that social mobility has stagnated over the last four years at “virtually all stages from birth to work”.
It adds: “Being born privileged in Britain means that you are likely to remain privileged.
“Being born disadvantaged, however, means that you will have to overcome a series of barriers to ensure that you and your children are not stuck in the same trap.”
The Social Mobility Commission is an advisory, non-departmental public body originally established by Labour’s Child Poverty Act 2010 as the Child Poverty Commission, but subsequently renamed under the Conservative-led coalition.
It has a duty to assess progress in improving social mobility in the UK and to promote social mobility in England.
2 May 2019
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com