DWP again refuses to release data on disability benefits….

From The Independent –   Are the Media finally catching up?

The Department for Work and Pensions has again refused to release data about the impact of changes to the disability benefit system after a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

Last week the DWP was forced to reveal how many people had died shortly after being found fit to work by disability tests.

Ministers and officials had resisted the demand for months and only accepted it after a warning from the Information Commissioner and a campaign that went all the way to Parliament.

But on Tuesday DWP officials refused another request for basic information about disability benefits using the same “Section 22” exemption they had tried to use before.

The Department had been asked under the Freedom of Information Act to disclose how many Disability Living Allowance claimants had been made worse off after being moved onto the new Personal Independence Payment benefit.

The Department refused the request, made by a user of the WhatDoTheyKnow website, a tool which helps people scrutinise the Government’s record.

Some claimants have lost out from the move from DLA to PIP. The reason given for rejecting the request is the same as that given in the case of the death statistics – under section 22 of the Act, data which officials say is reserved for future publication can be blocked from release.

The Department also previously stalled on responding to the request based on the fact that the person who made it had initially used a pseudonym.

The civil servant who answered the reply ultimately said that thought there was a public interest in the data being released, they should be allowed to publish it “in a manner of form and at a time of their own choosing”.

“I can confirm that the Department holds the information you are seeking. However, Section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act exempts this information from disclosure. This is because the information is intended for publication at a future date,” the Department said in its reply.

“This exemption requires the public interest for and against disclosure to be weighed in the balance. There is a public interest in information being released as soon as possible. However, I am satisfied that there is a strong public interest in permitting public authorities to publish information in a manner and form and at a time of their own choosing.”

Disabled people are being transitioned by the Government from the Disability Living Allowance benefit to its placement, the Personal Independence Payment. Some people lose out from this change because of the new way in which the PIP is calculated.

One person affected by a payment cut, Jane, wrote in her blog about the difficulties the changes had made for her and criticised the DWP’s lack of transparency.

“I have found myself so behind with bill payments, I now am past ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ and am at the bailiffs knocking on the door stage,” she said.

“Once again the DWP hide behind Section 22, but fail to indicate when these figures are to be produced; could this be because the data once revealed, will show another proven case of how the Welfare Reform Act is persistently failing disabled people?”

In the case of the benefit death figures, the Information Commissioner said the Government had no good reason to withhold the stats under Section 22

Mr Duncan Smith at one point caused confusion when he told Labour MP Debbie Abraham in Parliament that the stats did not exist.

“She knows very well that the department does not collate numbers on people in that circumstance,” he told her in Parliament.

The block comes after ministers announced a crackdown on the Freedom of Information Act, which Justice Secretary Michael Gove needed to be “revisited”.

Civil servants have long complained that disclosing information can be time-consuming and costly, and that ministers and officials should be allowed to discuss things in secret without the public knowing.

Campaigns say any attempt to water down the act would make it more difficult to hold the Government to account when things go wrong.

More disability benefit data refused for release by DWP.

Back in January I wrote about how my transition from DLA to PIP lost me £140 per month, and in March I posted about the saga I had with my Mandatory Reconsideration; both of these pieces demonstrated precisely what this loss meant to me in real terms. Since then I have found myself so behind with bill payments, I now am past ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ and am at the bailiffs knocking on the door stage.

The reason for raising this is, today a FOI request asking  ‘The percentage of current DLA claimants, who, on conversion to PiP, were reduced in their claims’…was answered by the DWP. Unsurprisingly their response was “I can confirm that the Department holds the information you are seeking. However, Section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act exempts this information from disclosure. This is because the information is intended for publication at a future date.

Once again the DWP hide behind Section 22, but fail to indicate WHEN these figures are to be produced; could this be because the data once revealed, will show another proven case of how the Welfare Reform Act is persistently failing disabled people?

The recent outcome of the 18 month long fight by Mike Sivier confirmed that “10,000 people lost their lives” after being determined they were well enough to be placed in the Work Related Activity Group! Will this latest refusal for information, demonstrate yet a further number of disabled people, who although surviving, being adversely affected by the decisions of civil servants

We were warned back in 2012, by the then Minister for disabled people Esther McVey that, “more than 300,000 disabled people will have their benefits cut” under the transition from DLA to PIP, are the DWP refusing to release this data, because this figure is already much higher?

Government #Disablism Discrimination in Action

This week a woman not known for her timidity, admitted how a non-disabled man had used his presence and the environment to disempower her; I’m referring to Dame Anne Begg and the she interview gave to the BBC. In the Daily Record Dame Anne is quoted as saying “Iain Duncan Smith took to standing behind me during Prime Minister’s Questions. He stood at what’s called the Bar of the House and occasionally he would lean on my wheelchair…Our working relationship was slightly fraught anyway because I’d been critical of him a lot. I wanted to keep that criticism a professional criticism, not a criticism of him as a person so I never quite built up the courage to actually say: ‘Please don’t do that.’” Dame Anne also was recorded as having explaining how “she would normally reproach people who invaded her personal space but she let him off“.

This is an excellent example of how competent, intelligent, and independent disabled people not only experience prejudice – as people either knowingly or subconsciously, use their bodies, words or actions to oppress us; but how this actively exasperates and diminishes us.

It is no coincidence I use this example with IDS being the perpetrator, as it is again his department, the DWP, I am discussing today. In November last year I introduced you to Burt, who with our support at DEAEP was transferred from WRAG to the support group last December; since then Burt has received up to three letters a month plus texts reminding him of his “Back to Work” appointments! Each month Burt has responded to each letter with a phone call saying “but I’m in the Support Group”, he has received an apology and a promise to rectify this from each call; yet it has continued.

Burt is a former career soldier who fought in wars all over the world, until being retired out with a crushed spine and severe PTSD, amongst other conditions, all contracted during his service.  He isn’t a naturally timid man, he loved his Army life and willingly gave everything to “Queen & Country”, as his service record and the plethora of photographs and awards proudly displayed in his lounge demonstrate; and yet the persistent harassment he has experienced from the DWP in the past 2 years has left him joyless, feeling without purpose and literally unable to complain.

As Dame Anne alluded to regarding IDS, his actions which amount to bullying in my opinion, makes it difficult if not impossible to positively challenge the perpetrator(s); and this is the situation Burt is in. Personally I can totally relate to this, and would suggest many readers and other claimants can also. It is these dismissive attitudes and continuous intimidation by the DWP that creates the ‘Brown envelope Syndrome’, so well recognised by those of us unfortunate enough to claim benefits; it is also this oppression, and misuse of positions of power, that has contributed to the deaths of many us.

How much worse this is going to get following the closure of ILF and a budget, which I believe initiates the removal of WRAG? Being forced to deal with increasing poverty is physically and psychologically damaging enough without having to deal with this prejudice and discrimination from the DWP.

I find this particularly ironic that jobseekers (presumably including those who would have been placed in WRAG)  are being mandated to participate in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), which claims to Stop negative thought cycles; I can’t help but think IDS, his ministers and the staff at DWP would benefit far more from CBT than claimants?

#DWP no longer produce data for Hardship Fund – WHY?

In this month we’ve finally seen National (and even International) press, about the DWP’s refusal to publish the numbers of people dying after their benefits had been stopped. This is fully justified and it is with no small thanks to fellow blogger Vox Political for his persistence, that at the time of writing 80,572 people are demanding the DWP release these numbers.

Today in daily updates from whatdotheyknow,  another DWP response caught my eye, a FOI request enquiring about a statement from #Cameron re the Hardship Fund for claimant facing financial difficulties. The request asks several questions including what the Hardship fund is, the criteria for application and the number of applicants, both successful and rejected. The DWP’s response did explain what and how but… regarding the numbers, the response intrigued me:

Data on JSA awards was last published in September 2012 which stated “the number of hardship awards made between April 2011 and March 2012 was about 64,000; it continued with “A commitment was made to publish updated figures in May 2015 during the Work and Pensions Select Committee review of sanctions in February 2015.

Now I may be a little cynical here but if these figures were to be published last month – Where Are They? I’ve been unable to find them, and also tried to think of reasons for a delay, but in the end could only arrive at the conclusion the DWP are hoping the data update announcement will by forgotten.

Therefore as I’d like to know just how many claims and refusals have been made for Hardship Funds since March 2012, mostly because I think its highly likely there will be substantial growth in these claims? And also because this promise to publish data in the future, has been used numerous times before, including queries regarding the number of Benefit related deaths; I’ve submitted my own FOI

Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

In your recent response to FOI – Hardship Fund for claimant facing financial difficulties? made 28 April 2015 by JCG ; on May 29 2015 you stated “A commitment was made to publish updated figures in May 2015 during the Work and Pensions Select Committee review of sanctions in February 2015.”

Therefore, my request is where and when are these numbers to be published?

Yours faithfully,

JayneL

I’ll keep you posted.

#Together WE Fight for Our Survival

What NOW? #TogetherWeCan

There’s seemingly no end of blogs about WHY the Tories ended up back in Government; there also many many posts on social media discussing how disabled people are going to survive when the next round of Welfare Cuts come in; here’s my view…

At the time of writing we don’t yet know Who will be the Work & Pensions Minister, we do now that #McVey, in maybe the only good news of the election, being deselected won’t be there, and Mark Harper has gone as the Minister for disabled people but as for the others, we’ll have to wait?  What I believe is no matter WHO fills their seats (and that of #IDS of course) things will not get any better.

I was SICK of the whole Carbuncle of Welfare Reform before May 7 – now we await with trepidation the announcements of the next round of proposed £12Million of Cuts; we’ve already read of the possible taxation of disabled benefits and making it harder for sick people to claim state aid by introducing “stricter” fit-for-work tests and/or tighter limits on eligibility, what’s next remains as yet unknown.

What I am convinced of is it is time now for ALL of us affected by the discriminatory actions of the Tories, to come together and Fight Back in Unity; we must ensure that whatever campaigns, petitions, demos etc work collectively to complement each other in the Battle for Survival under a Tory Government.

I believe it is time to TALK, for disabled organisations, social media groups, local projects etc, to communicate and work collaboratively; I’m not suggesting we all have to use the same approaches or methods but…we DO have to ensure we support the campaigns of others. Imagine if every Demo was coordinated across the UK – just as we did with ATOS? We KNOW this works and this is why I’m pleading with ALL groups leaders to do this; think -TOGETHER  a petition with ELEVEN MILLION signatures could Not be Ignored?

Then consider what would happen if WE worked with all other discriminated Groups – We’d be Unstoppable

What do you think??        #TogetherWeCan

The Cost of PIP – Decision Makers – A Law unto themselves

In November last year I reported I’d received my PIP award and disagreeing with it I’d contacted the DWP;  due to the closeness to Christmas, the Call Centre staff member had put in my request for the assessment report and noted  it was “my intention to ask for a Mandatory Consideration” (MR), this was so as I would not run out of time if post was caught up in the Mail.  I duly waited for my copy of the assessment report, which arrived on December 23rd and  submitted my formal request for a MR along with the evidence on January 10th.  Five days later I received a letter dated January 11th, it had clearly crossed with my own submission in the post, it informed me the DMs had already carried out a MR and had, of course, upheld the original decision!

I duly phoned, well actually my daughter phoned for me as I was screaming mad, the next working day;  Nicki clearly informed them, that when I had contacted them back in November, it was to request the assessment report, and on advice from the call centre staff member I was advising them I would be asking for a MR, to keep within the DWP time scale. She went on to quote a DWP response to a FOI that states:

“While a request can be made for a Mandatory Reconsideration by telephone or in
writing, under no circumstance should an approach for advice be treated as a
Mandatory Reconsideration request. However should this occur, any erroneous
request can be withdrawn once the error has been identified and any subsequent
requests would be dealt with on their own merit.” 

The DWP call centre operator took down the details and said she would sent an email to the decision makers (DM), this is apparently the only way call centre staff can communicate with the DMs, the email requested they call me back and asked they review my initial phone call asking for my assessment report.

I waited to no avail until yesterday, when I received another letter stating, the DWP decision makers had determined my submission of evidence was a request to Appeal to Tribunal; this is despite the information in my reconsideration letter, the information taken during the phone call and their failure to phone me back!!

I immediately called them and spoke with a lovely woman at the call centre, she read the notes made, during the call with my daughter, and stated there were no further actions noted against it; she then whilst still on the phone with me, emailed the DMs explaining the situation and requesting another call back. More importantly she advised me. I now must initiate the Tribunal process within the next 4 weeks or lose my option to do in future!!

So I had to find the energy to complete a Notice of Appeal, and explain why a) it is out of time – it should have been completed within one calendar month of their MR (Jan 11) and b) I am actually asking FOR a MR?! I’ve also discovered I’m not alone in losing almost HALF my benefit inthe transfer from DLA to PIP

I was SICK of the whole Carbuncle of Welfare Reform before May 7 – now we await with trepidation the announcements of the next round of proposed £12Million of Cuts; we’ve already read of the possible taxation of disabled benefits and making it harder for sick people to claim state aid by introducing “stricter” fit-for-work tests and/or tighter limits on eligibility, what’s next remains as yet unknown.

What I am convinced of is it is time now for ALL of us affected by the discriminatory actions of the Tories, to come together and Fight Back in Unity; we must ensure that whatever campaigns, petitions, demos etc work collectively to complement each other in the Battle for Survival under a Tory Government

Statistics don’t LIE Politicians Twist them and the Media swallow the Spin

Today I came across two articles, once again calling into question the behaviour of Politicians and Government Departments when using statistics; it is clear from these that  “Once again, DWP has shown itself to be a master in statistics manipulation and in the use of selective figures” this was on sanctions; and on pay and living costs “an act of statistical trickery to change the landscape of pay bargaining in the UK for the worse.”

This persistent misuse of data and the ensuing Spin’ fed to the media by the likes of IDS, is precisely what we have been saying this for the past 2 years; and it is the reason for our petition TO: KATHRYN HUDSON PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSIONER FOR STANDARDS to :

“Use the full Powers of the Commission and investigate Iain Duncan Smith Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, for his regular use of untruths and the persistent deception misleading of The House of Commons, Select Committees and the Media”

If this isn’t enough to convince you it is time for the people to respond, the Guardian’s editorial today produced their view on Welfare Reform – their verdict  “In Dire Straits” ; this is summarised with the opinion “Mr Duncan Smith’s department is in clear breach of commitments it has given, and the sanction is upheld“.

If you agree it is past time for IDS to answer for the total chaos in the DWP – Support us by signing https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/investigate-ids-for-lies. Do it Today before its too late – Because Does anyone really think IDS will be here after May??

#IDSTimeForTruth  #IndictIDS

A Cry for HELP

With only 80 days left to the Election, Time is Running Out‘; Debbie & I  have be slogging at our Truth Campaign for almost two years!! And our latest stage is a petition to Kathryn Hudson, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards demanding Iain (Duncan) Smith be investigated for his Lies.

I say Time is running out because who knows if IDS will actually Be a Politician come May 7 and, even if he is re-elected, will he be Minister for Work & Pensions after this date?

This is why it is imperative we get as many signatures as possible, currently 5,346 people have signed but we need many more than this, to even get mentioned in the press.

So, this is a plea to everyone that reads this, if you haven’t yet signed, please do…but I guess more importantly, please make it your mission to get at least one other person to sign as well.

This is possibly our LAST Chance to hold IDS to account – so if you agree with us that, He MUST ANSWER for the plethora of policies and reforms that have damaged our lives and been responsible for the Deaths of others; and If you believe He, is behind the raft of LIES spouted in the media…

 JOIN US and make sure the TRUTH petition gains enough signatories to get noticed

THANK YOU 

 #ImpeachIDS   #IndictDWP #   #IDSTIMEFORTRUTH

IDS plan to kill social housing in 4 years

Before anyone dismisses this as just another of #IDS ‘fag-packet’ ideas, read Joe Halewood’s take below: and to quote his closing point “ please stop calling this the ‘daftest policy’ you have ever heard. Stop saying you are speechless at this etc, and grow a set of balls and tell IDS and this government (and the next government and the one after that) to go f**k themselves and to start dealing on your terms.”

The Times and Daily Telegraph have a story today – the latest hare-brained idea of the tyrannical despot called Iain Duncan Smith.

If you have worked for a year you get your council or housing association property given to you for nothing!!

Yes seriously!

The plan is outlined here in an article in 24Dash:

Iain Duncan Smith is keen for the party to include a pledge in its election manifesto to give people who have managed to stay in work for a year a free council or housing association home. As part of the deal, the recipient would no longer be allowed to claim housing benefit, and would have to pay out 35% of the proceeds if the house was sold within three years of the handover.

The rationale it then says is this:

According to Tory thinkers, money generated by the policy would be used to build new homes, while the cash saved on housing benefit would outweigh any other concerns.

Ok, leaving aside ‘according to Tory Thinkers’ – if ever an oxymoron in itself – what would this mean?

Take the Smiths, Wayne and Waynetta Smith who live with their 4 children in a council house in London.  They pay rent of £130 per week and the property is worth £500,000. They get £500 per week in benefits and housing benefit because of the cap and that is shortly to reduce to £440 per week should the Tories not be voted out in May

Wayne and Waynetta approach a bank to say advance us £25,000 and in year one they sign off completely and receive not a penny in benefits.  They then ask for £7k per year for each of the next 3 years to cover the HB they have lost but they sign back on to receive welfare benefits.  They put up the property as collateral.

The bank says ok we will give you £50k – £4k more than they asked for on day 1 and charge you 25% interest per year.  After 4 years the bank are owed £122k by Wayne and Waynetta and the house is now worth £600k.  So the bank force the sale of the house and get their money and Wayne and Waynetta are still left with nearly £400k in their pocket

OK I now that is a bit far-fetched as the bank would charge more than 25% being totally greedy bastards!

Note too the same principle works in depressed low rent areas ‘oop North.’

Result is NO SOCIAL HOUSING IN THE UK AT ALL WITHIN FOUR YEARS – IDS HAS KILLED IT OFF

But where are the old the sick the disabled and the supported going to live?  Well it just so happens the banks and their friends have bought a lot of ex social housing properties which they lease back to councils en masse at 5 times the rent they were charging four years before and the Housing Benefit bill goes from today’s £24 billion per year to about £100 billion per year

AND of course the private sector gets their hands on and now owns a further 4 million plus properties and can charge what they like for them and can do whatever the hell they like to their tenants as they have no security and there is no regulation of the Private Sector landlord at all.

READ the rest at : IDS plan to kill social housing in 4 years.

#DWP Decision Makers Crying for Help or playing the #Tory Blame-Game?

Out of respect for you, I APOLOGISE in advance for my language because I’m LIVID

The ever excellent Benefits and Work website reveal welfare rights workers are experiencing DWP Decision-Makers calling up benefit claimants “‘in tears’ or ‘sobbing’“, pleading with them Not to appeal following a Mandatory Reconsideration !! HOW THE FUCK DARE THEY??

These unqualified low grade civil servants may well be genuinely feeling sorry for themselves, worried at how their bosses will react at their figures.. but, borrowing the much quoted line Frankly..I DON’T GIVE A DAMN.

If the Decision Maker truly feels sympathy for the vulnerable person who’s life they’re ruining, then they should do the decent thing and RESIGN and join the ever growing list of ‘Whistleblowers’, otherwise they have no right to attempt to push their agenda onto you or I. This behaviour is is keeping with the actions of their Bosses – we’ve witnessed plenty of pseudo-psychology tactics from the #DWP already and I can’t help feel this is yet another attempt to persuade us how to think?

IF anyone experiences this type of behaviour from a DWP employee I hope you’ll do one thing in return, Laugh and take tell them exactly how high to jump – and then APPEAL.

Yet another reason to STOP THE SPIN from #IDS & Co #ImpeachDWP