The PIP Carbuncle Proven #ThePIPFiles

Yesterday John Pring at DNS  gave us three separate reports under the header “The PIP Files“. These contained analyses of information gained from a year long Freedom of Information battle by John Slater with the DWP,  and included findings  “multiple complaints made against scores of Atos assessors” and “Nearly one in three Capita assessments were flawed“. The information also demonstrated that Atos & Capita have “been failing to request vital evidence that would help disabled people secure the benefits they are entitled to” .

I know its highly unlikely this knowledge will be of a surprise, given the amount of posts I’ve previously put out around PIP and DWP but the reality that these are the FACTS as given BY DWP might help anyone engaged in their own war for benefits. Further this evidence will add yet more credence to MPs such as Laura Pidcock  prepared to fight the case for PIP claimants in Parliament and indeed campaigners.

A separate DNS article on PIP ‘Muddle’ and ‘confusion’ over DWP’s 1.6 million PIP reviews raises many of the questions and concerns as I did in #DWP Review of #PIP A car crash waiting to happen and unfortunately so far we have no clear responses from DWP; so nothing new here.

Personally there are many positives outcomes from these reports not least, the numerous examples of problems with PIP I and many others have been sharing via blogs and other social media outlets have once again been proven to be real. We have been vindicated and those Tories who persist in scorning us, and accusing us of scaremongering must now fight yet another set of very damaging sets of data.

Overall I wish to Thank John Slater for his tenacity, and both John Pring and Anita Bellows  for their help with analysis and their reporting.

 

 

 

 

 

#DWP Review of #PIP A car crash waiting to happen.

So the ‘Honourable’ disabilities minister Sarah Newton stated in a press release (no questions people) the DWP is to review 1.6 Million PIP application forms; so the 220,000 claimants with Mental Health problems (of which I am one) should receive the Mobility element previously disallowed.

This simply Terrifies me. On paper I ought to be able to look forward to a point some time in the (distant?) future, my PIP award resembles a similar amount to that of my prior DLA – about an extra £35 a week. However  I share the fears of  fellow blogger  Joe Halewood ‏who said on Twitter “What sort of idiot thinks reassessing 1.6 m PIP claimants – and it will be a FULL reassessment not just MH aspects – is good news? PIP will go down as well as up and some will have it taken away. 1.6 m more stressed out claimants too!”

Given the Tories track record regarding Disability Benefits, I too am concerned this review will not merely identify claims with Mental Health elements to reassess, I feel this is more of an excuse for DWP to further slash PIP payments. In the aforementioned press release Ms Newton also stated ““We are working with stakeholders to change the PIP assessment guide so that we can implement the judgment.”

Oh dear, more ‘changes’ to the assessment guide? Whilst I  think some of the expected 220,000 claimants will have their benefit increased, I also concur with Joe “PIP will go down as well as up and some will have it taken away”. The outcomes of the original ‘changes’ to ESA, as well as the introduction of PIP, demonstrated the value the Tories have for disabled people; and it is for these reasons I Fear this review.

I am also slightly perturbed that this exercise will “take years” and whilst I agree priority for the upgrade should be given to “claimants who have since died, and those who had their benefits denied entirely“. But given this, it is more likely I will be reclaiming PIP before my claim is reviewed, therefore I will presumably not benefit at all from this whole carbuncle, and I know I will not be the only one.

Overall the only thing I KNOW concerning this situation is More Stress is guaranteed.

 

Sickness worsening? Beware following DWP rules

Before Christmas I attended an emergency interim appointment with my psychotherapist, (I’m still waiting regular appointments 2 years after referral); this was due to my continuous depression and dissociation becoming dangerous, I was constantly fighting thoughts of suicide . Because the S word was used, my therapist was obliged to write to my GP, which then led to my carer being compelled to inform the DWP of a change in my circumstances; what amazed me was, this reported change resulted in me having to complete a new claim!

Why the DWP feel a deterioration in mental health would be helped by having to go through the process of a new claim I’ve no idea? Anyway my carer duly filled in the form, and on page 31, other information, he stated HE was both my full time carer and would be acting as my representative, this was then sent off along with the appropriate report from my therapist.

I received a home visit fairly quickly from a pleasant man, who after numerous requests as to his qualifications, reluctantly admitted he was a paramedic; when it came to him asking me about my mental health he decided it would be a good idea to tell me of his experiences of dealing with people who had taken their own lives. In truth all this did, was inform me where not to carry out my thoughts, and in no way made me feel any more positive; if anything it caused me to focus on my suicide plan even more.

Two weeks ago the dreaded brown envelope arrived with the decision; which along with the usual errors of the decision makers (DM) not reading the information, this unknown DM had in their wisdom, determined, because I am still on the waiting list for regular therapy, my mental health wasn’t too bad!

As if this wasn’t enough to deal with, the same day my daughter phoned and said she had also received a copy of my decision; I went ballistic. The whole reason for Tony, my partner dealing with everything was because I didn’t want my daughter knowing just how ill I was.

As this was a Saturday, I stressed until the Monday morning when Tony rang to request a copy of the assessors report, he also asked why my information had been sent out to another person; the call centre operative checked and apparently a decision maker had decided to change him as my rep and add my daughter instead?!!

A complaint was immediately written and sent off and we’re awaiting the response; so be warned, if you have a change in circumstances be prepared to go through yet another claim and hope your info doesn’t get sent to anyone else.

I’ll update this when the reply arrives.

 

Capita assessors STILL refusing to disclose qualifications

Despite the DWP informing Capita it is a “requirement” that PIP assessors must reveal qualifications, it transpires that in Leicester at least, this information has not been passed down.

Last Tuesday Nicki, one of DEAEP’s Peer Supporters went along with a customer to the local Capita Assessment centre; when she asked for the medical qualifications of Stuart the assessor, she was told it was Capita policy this information was withheld?

I’m making no suggestion this will have any influence on the decision, but it does make me wonder how much the DWP requires of assessors, is communicated to them?

I’d be interested to know if anyone else has had this experience?

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?

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