Posts Tagged ‘Personal Independence Payments’

It’s Not Just the Disabled Who Lose Out When They Lose their Motability Cars

February 12, 2016

Last Thursday, Mike reported a story by the Beeb that 45 per cent of the benefit claimants, who moved from Disability Living Allowance to the Personal Independence Payments had lost their Motability cars. Motability has said that there will be a one-off payment of £2,000 so that some will get a vehicle. But Samuel Miller, one of Mike’s readers, also points out that this will also eventually be scrapped. Here’s the story: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/04/motability-cars-lost-by-45-of-dla-to-pip-claimants-benefits-and-work/.

This is another case of bad politics also making for bad economics. That so many disabled people should lose their mobility vehicles is not really a surprise. When this government talks about welfare reform, this always means finding a way to throw people off benefits. Of course, the talk is always about simplifying complex bureaucracy, providing ‘value for money’, and ‘concentrating help where it’s needed’, but the intention and end result is always the same. Get people off benefits anyway they can, and never mind what happens to them.

It also shows that the Personal Independence Payment is, for 45 per cent of people who’ve moved onto it from DLA, a misnomer. Clearly, some of their independence, which the payment is supposed to preserve and support, has been lost the moment their vehicles were taken away.

This is, of course, all part of the Conservative attitude which says that if you’re too poor to afford it, you shouldn’t have it. Even if you’re genuinely poor. But it’s also an attitude that impoverishes the people and businesses around the disabled. Consider this: motability cars, and other vehicles like it, such as mobility scooters, give the disabled independence. They’re able to get around more, and do more. And people, who are able to do more are able to spend more. This may not be very much. It may be just spending a few more extra pence, or a pound or so on a lottery ticket, newspaper or magazine down at the local newsagent, an extra packed of sweets or biscuits at the local corner shop. But it means that a bit more is being put into the economy, and local businesses in particular get a bit extra trade. And that benefits everyone. One of the hopes FDR had when he introduced the very limited unemployment safety net in America was that, if the unemployed were given more money, they’d also spend it and help the American economy as a whole come out of the Recession. And this is what other people have been saying since. It ain’t rocket science. I can remember thinking about it as a teenager when Thatcher was in power.

She’s gone, but her poisonous legacy remains. And it means that some disabled people are being denied their dignity, their independence, and society is being deprived of their ability to put back into the economy, to generate wealth.

All from the venomous hatred of the poor, who are automatically viewed as undeserving. Well, this crew of bandits are undeserving. Let’s kick them out before they do any more harm.

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Private Eye on ATOS’ Incompetence Running PIP

October 17, 2015

Private Eye in their edition for the 4th to 17th September 2015 also carried this report about ATOS’ continuing abysmal performance, this time in administering the Personal Independence Payments introduced by the Tories.

ATOS
Wait for the PIPs

Outsourcing giant Atos no doubt thought that pulling out of its contract to carry out the governments “fitness for work” benefits tests would draw a line under five years of bad publicity over its pisspoor performance.

But last week the Department for Work and Pensions was finally forced to reveal figures showing that about 90 people a month were dying with 14 days of being declared fit to work under Atos’ watch. And now the claims of poor practice have shifted to the way Atos assesses some people for a different disability benefit – the new personal independence payment (PIP), which is gradually replacing disability living allowance (DLA).

In July the Disability News Service revealed that in parts of the country where Atos was running the PIP show, the proportion of disabled people stuck in the queue for an assessment was more than five times higher than in areas managed by rival Crapita. Now people who have managed to be assessed by Atos claim they have fallen prey to inaccurate and misleading reports that affect their benefit claims.

Colin Stupples-Whyley, for example, says an Atos nurse wrote that he had attended the PIP assessment alone – even though his civil partner sat with him throughout the interview. He was only able to prove he had not been alone because his partner had signed in to the Atos visitor book.

Mr Stupples-Whyley has agoraphobia, general anxiety disorder, depression, fibromyalgia and diabetes, but the impact of these impairments was he says, ignored or misrepresented by the Atos assessor. The assessor wrote that his mental health conditions had ben diagnosed by a “counsellor” when in fact he was on medication prescribed by a psychiatrist; his long list of diabetes symptoms was reduced to “urinates a lot”; and a panic attack during the assessment was not recorded. Mr Stupples-Whyley claims the entire section of the form devoted to a physical examination supposedly carried out by the nurse was fabricated, as no test took place.

This is remarkably similar to the experience of Colleen Hardy, who also has several chronic physical and mental conditions. She was able to prove that the Atos physiotherapist who assessed her (this time for the old fitness-to-work test) had inaccurately reported she had climbed a flight of stairs without help and by holding on to a bannister, because she was actually helped by her community psychiatric nurse and a friend! Different benefits, but same old Atos story.

* Mr Stupples-Whyley so distrusts Atos he has turned down the offer of a reassessment and is taking his case to a tribunal.

As the Eye itself points out, this is merely case of Atos carrying on as they always have done. Only the benefit they administer is different. Atos’ cruel attitude to claimants and their determination to declare everyone ‘fit for work’ is satirised in this cartoon on page 27 of the same issue.

Atos cartoon

If you can’t read it, the speech bubble from the doctor says ‘See? I knew you could crawl if you tried… I’ll call the mushroom farm’.

Atos aren’t quite that bad, but there’re extremely close. The mobility test does involve the patients’ ability to walk a minimal number of yards, and there have been cases where wheelchair users have been told to come to offices on the upper floors of buildings for their assessment without adequate wheelchair access. And the above article describes how they were determined to find Colleen Hardy able to walk, even though she needed to rely on the assistance of a nurse and a friend.

Atos, however, shouldn’t take all over the blame. They were hired by New Labour to find a set proportion of people fit for work according to the Neoliberal ideas coming over from Bliar’s friends in the big transatlantic corporations. And New Labour’s involvement in no way exonerates the Tories. Bliar in many ways simply carried on the Thatcherite project, which has in its turn been carried on and massively expanded by Cameron and IDS. The whole system is rotten and desperately needs to be changed. A good start would be by sacking Atos, Crapita, and the old charade of fitness to work assessments.

Private Eye on Osborne’s Cuts to ESA

October 16, 2015

Private Eye in their issue for the 24th July – 6th August published this article in their ‘HP Sauce’ column criticising George Osborne’s decision to make further cuts to benefits for the disabled.

From WRAG to RAGS

Chancellor George Osborne’s justification for yet more deep cuts in financial support for disabled people is that he is merely eliminating “perverse incentives” not to find work. If only that were true.

Until now, those who were found by strict health tests to be too sick or disabled to work but potentially capable in the future qualified for “work-related activity group” (WRAG) employment and support allowance (ESA). So someone requiring lengthy rehabilitation after an accident, for example, or with certain kinds of mental illness, would receive a payment which included an element to cover the extra disability-related living costs they would face, such as travel, care and health visits. It was subject to regular reassessment.

As Osborne well knows, most of those in WRAG are not working because they are simply too ill to do so – or they face fierce discrimination when trying to find work. But as part of the latest round of “austerity” measures, from 2017 new applicants will now receive the same weekly payment as fit unemployed people claiming jobseekers’ allowance. This means disabled people will lose nearly £30 a week, or £1,500 a year.

This is on top of other cuts, including the closure of the Independent Living Fund, further reductions in employment support and disability living allowances and personal independence payments, restrictions to Access to Work, and reductions to social care packages – not to mention the bedroom tax.

No wonder the government continues to ignore calls from its own watchdog, the Social Security Advisory Committee, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission for an “impact assessment” of austerity measures on disabled people. It would confirm that, far from a “fair and efficiently targeted” policy, benefit cuts have hit some of the most vulnerable hardest. After all, the government’s latest figures on low income show that working age families with a disabled member now have higher rates of poverty than pensioners.

From 2013: Private Eye on the Cruelty, Stress and Anxiety of the Fitness-to-Work Tests

April 8, 2014

atoskillsgraf

Atos may be pulling out of the Fitness-to-Work tests, but they’re still in charge of the Personal Independence Payments and the tests themselves will still be administered, as the Void has pointed out on his post about it today. I found this article from Private Eye’s ‘In the Back’ section attacking the tests for the harmful stress inflicted on the sick and disabled in the issue for 8th – 21st March 2013.

Fitness to Work Tests

Sick Joke

More stories are emerging of the extreme distress and hardship caused to sick and disabled people wrongly found fit to work by Atos, the French private contractor, and consequently denied benefits by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Last week the Eye was alerted by lawyers to the case of a woman with fragments of bullet and shards of her skull permanently lodged into her brain, who was deemed by Atos to have no care needs or mobility problems – despite a change in her mental state leading to extended periods of unconsciousness.

The Commons public accounts committee last month blamed ministers for the “misery and hardship” suffered by claimants, saying that while Atos (which has earned more than £100m a year over the past four years for its “work capability” contract) was getting assessments disastrously wrong, the government was doing nothing to check or improve reliability.

Nor was there any sign of improvement, with Cizizens Advice reporting an 83 percent increase in the past year in the number of people asking for support on appeals against decisions. Charities and legal advisers also complain that people with long-term, incurable or terminal conditions often face repeated assessments to prove how unwell they are, despite supplying doctors’ and consultants’ evidence that their health or condition will never improve.

Those most in need of help, meanwhile, are about to get another kicking from the government as, from next month, legal aid is withdrawn in the vast majority of benefit cases. The government is reneging on a promise from former lord chancellor Kenneth Clarke to allow free legal support in “point of law” cases at the first-tier tribunal level – the state of the tribunal process where most cases remain.

Clarke had said he was concerned about the impact on disabled people making their initial appeal against a decision by the DWP on their benefit entitlement But not so Chris Grayling, his successor, who wants to save £350m a year in legal aid by 2015 by axing free advice for most cases involving child custody, divorce, medical negligence, immigration, employment, housing debts and benefits. According to Grayling’s own figures, an estimated 623,000 people will lose out. A number of legal advice centres have already closed as the proposed cuts are already taking effect on law firms and centres, which can only claim legal aid after dealing with the case.

As one lawyer told the Eye: “What this means, in reality, is that some very ill and distressed people will simply not have the capacity to challenge appalling decisions.” Benefits tribunals will meanwhile get clogged up with badly prepared or even meritless appeals – and the only beneficiary will be Atos.

A few weeks ago Bristol’s lawyers joined a one-day strike protesting against the cuts to legal aid. It should be unacceptable that over half a million people – 623,000 – should be denied justice simply because they cannot afford it. It goes against the clause in Magna Carta, in which the king promises that he will not ‘deny, delay or sell justice’. Even earlier, English kings like Henry I sought to present themselves as a ‘lion of justice’. One of the ancient legal courts was set up by Richard II – the same Richard against whom the peasants revolted and who was overthrown by Henry Bolingbroke, Henry IV – to provide better access to justice for his subjects. This shows just how much contempt and respect the Tories have for the concept of impartial justice, which doesn’t distinguish between people on grounds of their class or economic background. And the stoppage of legal aid after Kenneth Clarke’s promise to the contrary is just another example of a broken Tory promise.

As for Atos earning £100m a year over four years, during which time as many as 55,000 people a year may have died after being assessed as fit for work, and denied benefits – this is also monumentally unjust and iniquitous. Clearly, Grayling is afraid that widespread access to legal help by some of the victims of the assessment just might stop or severely hinder the policy. Hence the government’s decision to stop free legal advice.

As for Atos stating it’s getting out of assessments, I wonder if they also share Grayling’s fear, and are getting out while the going’s good. It looks like they’re afraid that if they continue administering the assessments, one unfairly assessed claimant or group of claimants may win and the company be faced with fines, damages and compensation payments. And that might seriously hurt their profits, not to mention whatever they believe passes as their business reputation.