Earlier this month (May) the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) released their latest Universal Credit sanction statistics. The statistics reveal that 541,000 UC claimants were sanctioned in the year to January 2023.
The greatest majority of those (530,000) were shown to have been sanctioned for failing to attend or failing to participate in a mandatory interview.
However these figures represent a very small fall from the previous peak sanction rate and the number of claimants sanctioned is shown to be still more than double the figures pre-pandemic.
In January 2020 18,462 claimants were sanctioned.
In January 2023, the figure was 44,888.
However the non attendance of mandatory interviews are mostly for genuine issues such as not recieving a letter or notification of having to attend an interview, I’ve blogged about this many times.
Other reasons for non attendance can be Not being able to get to their nearest Jobcentre for their interview because of cost, illness and appointments clashing with childcare obligations.
It is then that the claimant is left to the discretion of their work coach as to if they’re sanctioned or not.
This is incredibly worrying especially because the DWP is now planning to give work coaches the power to decide who is capable of work. Please see my previous blogs for details about this.
Please note that as already blogged it is planned that medically unqualified work coaches could be given the responsibility of making life changing decisions on behalf of UC claimants.
Decisions such as if a disabled or ill claimant is in their opinion able to take part in work-related activities.
Based upon their decision they could be given the power to recommend sanctions and suchlike.
As a result of not being medically qualified such decisions will be based purely on opinion and not fact.
Upon being sanctioned a claimant can try to show their work coach good causes for not attending a planned meeting. They can also do this if their work coach decides that even though they’ve attended a meeting but have failed on their eyes to participate as well as expected.
This can be for many reasons such as their disability preventing them for doing so or illness.
However the work coaches decision is purely based upon their decision or mood so it’s clear that unfair sanction decisions can be sent to the decision maker leaving the claimants payments being sanctioned.
Sanction decision can be appealed and their is an appeal process. Whilst the majority of appeals are successful the whole process is very long and extremely stressful, leaving the claimant in great distress and under enormous financial pressure.
The whole benefit sanction process is heavily biased against claimants, the balance of power unfairly being in the hands of work coaches and decision makers.
Once a sanction has reached the end of the appeal process and a decision made in the claimant’s favour the damage has already been done and many claimants never fully recover both mentally and physically from this.
Sadly this won’t be changing for the better any time soon and it would be nieve to expect this.
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As I’ve previously mentioned under the proposed DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) the WCA (Work Capability Assessment) will be abolished by 2026.
To replace this it is to be replaced by one assessment which will be the PIP (Personal Independence Payment) assessment. This will decide if a claimant will be eligible for PIP and if they are also eligible for the new UC (Universal Credit) health element.
Rather unsurprisingly the DWP plans to employ unqualified UC work coaches to make these decisions rather than qualified health professionals.
It will be those unqualified UC work coaches that will decide whether a claimant must undertake work-related activities
I strongly suspect, as we have seen in the past that disabled claimants will be judged upon the mood and attitude of their work coach. If their work coach is ok and in a good mood they might be judged fairly. If not then they could be treated harshly.
Basically their quality of life will therefore be dependent upon an unqualified DWP work coach.
At a recent debate at parliament Labour MP Karen Buck asked Tom Pursglove (who is the present DWP minister for disabled people) several questions about how the proposed abolition of the WCA will work in practice.
Buck asked Pursglove if there would be a substantial risk test which would be similar to the one already used in WCA assessments.
At the time of writing the WCA rules say that Claimants do not have to undertake work-related activities if there is a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if you did so.
Needless to say thousands of appeals against WCA decisions have been successful on the basis that there would be a substantial risk to either the claimant or those around them.
Of course the DWP aren’t going to let this continue. How dare disabled people win their appeals and receive the payments that they’re entitled to.
Under the new proposed system the legal safeguards will no longer exist and all decisions will be made by unqualified work coaches, most of which might not have any or very little knowledge of physical or mental health issues. These issues if ignored will put claimants at risk.
Basically unqualified DWP work coaches will have sole power to make these life changing decisions.
God help us.
Buck asked Pursglove if there are any plans to introduce a mandatory reconsideration and appeal route against these decisions made by work coaches.
Pursglove’s answer was to totally ignored the question No surprise there.
He went on to make outlandish claims that work coaches would adopt a tailored approach that will allow work coaches to build a relationship with Claimants which will determine if any work related activities that Claimants can or can’t do.
I struggle to believe that this will actually happen given the fast staff turnover due to the stressful conditions that they work under. Not to forget work coaches having to take sick leave or indeed leave their jobs altogether.
So basically, cutting away the word salad from Pursglove as I’ve said above, decisions will be based upon attitudes and beliefs of any work coach, without any legal safeguards to prevent dangerous or clearly prejudiced decisions.
But Pursglove didn’t finish there. He went on to say that Claimants might be asked to volunteer in the first place building it up to mandatory placements with requirements added at a pace to suit individual claimants.
So voluntary work is now supposed to cure a claimant of all disabilities and illnesses? It’s not the first time that they’ve claimed this.
So going off Purseglove’s statements work coaches will decide the pace at which a claimant must increase their level of activity. As said above this will happen without any protection in place for claimants who are struggling to keep up therefore putting them at risk of being sanctioned.
When questioned about an appeal process, Pursglove would not answer, saying only that the DWP “will take time to carefully consider how best to implement these changes” and “ensure it provides the taxpayer with value for money and is accessible and effective in delivering for our service users.”
So if there won’t be any legal tests to decide who is or isn’t capable of work based upon the opinions of a work coach how can any decisions be challenged via a social security appeal tribunal?
Buck also asked “whether a benefit sanction that reduced a Claimants UC standard allowance to zero would remove a claimants entitlement to their entitlement to the Health Element of UC”
Pursglove’s initial response seemed positive stating ‘Entitlement to the new UC health element will only end when the functional impact of a person’s health condition improves and they are no longer eligible for PIP or as claimants earn more money resulting in their UC claim tapered away making them financially better off in work’
However this changed when he went on to say that ‘ As we develop our reform proposals we will consider how some interactions with the UC system will be reflected in the reformed system’
In my opinion this suggests that the DWP have not yet worked out many things about the new system, as is often the case.
Sadly this is par for the course for the government and the DWP. They’re always in a big rush to implement more draconian ideas upon the most vulnerable that they forget to actually make important decisions within their plans.
Whether this is done purposely or not is up to debate but I suspect they do.
I’ll keep my eye on this so expect more blogs upon this important subject.
Huge thanks to Benefits and Work for their hard work and original source of information about this subject..
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DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) minister Tom Pursglove admitted that claimants are waiting over half an hour on average for PIP and DLA helpline calls to be answered.
He also claimed that he is going to recruit extra staff to cope with the volume of calls on the helplines but gave absolutely no indication of how many are being employed and for how long they’ll be employed.
Nor has he confirmed if the extra staff he plans to employ are qualified to do so.
At the time of writing the average wait for a PIP enquiry to be answered is 37 minutes and for DLA enquiries it is 33.5 minutes.
However it is imperative that Tom Pursglove reveals the amount of callers that don’t get an answer at all because their calls are disconnected.
Earlier this year the DWP revealed that in March almost 90% of half a million callers to the Future Pensions Centre were faced with being call-blocked because they couldn’t cope with the rising call demand.
Implementing Call-blocking results in calls not being allowed to go on the call waiting queue because the queue is too long and they get cut off.
This is also happening to callers contacting the PIP helpline as reported to Benefits And Work by claimants trying to contact the said helpline.
We cannot ignore the fact that the claimants trying to contact these helplines are all vulnerable and are in great need of getting their enquiries answered.
The question also needs to be answered as to how many of these vulnerable people have given up trying to contact the departments. This could in some circumstances result in their payments being stopped leaving them more vulnerable than they already were. .
There’s no excuse for the DWP’s lax attitude towards the whole situation.
It’s clear that they don’t care about how this can impact upon the claimants lives and it is totally unacceptable.
Thanks to Benefits And Work for disclosing this information.
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It’s been revealed in the publication of a government white paper and a subsequent report by John Pring from Disability News Forum that job coaches with no academic qualifications could be tasked with making life changing decisions as to whether a disabled person must carry out work related activities as part of their DWP commitments.
This is dependent upon whether the government goes ahead with its plans to scrap the “fitness for work” test.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has told Disability News Service (DNS) that there are no minimum academic qualifications required to undertake the role of a work coach in a Jobcentre.
It has also been revealed that it will be these work coaches who will be given the task of deciding if disabled claimants in receipt of universal credit are able to carry out tasks such as attending training courses or work-related interviews.
Back in the day I remember when the UK had a fully functioning NHS dentistry system that many in the UK were entitled to be given treatment by an NHS dentist.
People are still entitled to this and are dependent on certain benefits, pregnant women, women who had recently given birth and some pensioners had access to the NHS free service.
As a whole the system worked well and appointments to see a dentist and to get treatment was fairly easy. If you had a toothache or dental abscess it was also easy to get a dentist to treat you before complications set in.
Roll forward to 2023 it’s near impossible to find a dentist that’s willing to take on NHS patients and a person’s condition isn’t taken into account.
Many NHS dentistry patients have also found themselves taken off their dentists patient lists. This happened to me, if you get a toothache like I get often or a dental abscess it’s tough and difficult to cope with.
Finding an NHS dentist is near impossible though.
Most doctors and a&es won’t treat people with dental problems and trying to find a local dentistry hospital can be near impossible.
It’s become very clear that the government is actively destroying the few NHS dentistry services that are still available. They clearly don’t care about the public’s health.
Basically as stated by George Monbiot the state of our mouths truly does reflect the state of the nation.
Many people find themselves without an NHS dentist because their circumstances change such as house moves and relationship changes and dentists take NHS patients off their lists.
I live in an area of the UK where there are hardly any, if any at all dentists accepting adult NHS patients I was lucky enough to find a dentist to treat my teenage daughter who needs extensive surgery in the near future. My fear is that she’ll age out before any date for the operation becomes available. She was one of the lucky ones.
Currently at the time of writing 80% of practices in the UK are no longer taking on new child NHS patients, and about 90% are refusing new adult patients.
Sounds horrific doesn’t it and it gets worse. Some dentists do offer a waiting list for NHS appointments but they’re years long and of no use for urgent appointments.
Often accessing emergency services requires finding a dentistry hospital, being able to travel a long distance and being able to afford to do so.
Idon’t know anyone can afford to pay for private treatment. Those that have in the past can’t afford to do so again.
However the reasons why dentists are refusing to treat NHS patients are pretty simple and it’s easy to understand why.
When dentists treat patients on the NHS, they actually lose money, because the government funding package doesn’t cover their costs of doing so.
Since 2006, dentists have worked for the NHS under contracts that are shockingly designed to fail NHS dentists.
Dentists undertaking NHS work are paid in units of dental activity’ which is shortened to(UDA). This method of payment doesn’t take into account the cost of treatment which bears no relation to the costs of treatment. Under this system treating a patient earns a dentist three points regardless of the length and expense of each procedure.
Under this contract each and every NHS dentist also has to meet annual UDA targets
Absolutely no regard is given to dentistry prevention work which is in great need.
Dentists are paid at the UDA rate no matter how skilled they are and their experience.
Add the above to the government cuts that are hitting hard.
In reality NHS dentists as well as other health systems The NHS as a whole requires approximately 4% a year to keep up with it.
However NHS dentist services receive 1.2%. Add this up that they are requiring 4% to function but funding for NHS services have been cut by 4% a year.
It’s also important to take into account rising costs of energy, , energy, wages and materials which accounts to about 11% a year.
Dentists working for the NHS simply cannot stay in business unless they use their income from private practice to subsidise their public practice.
Parliament’s health and social committee stated in 2008 “it is extraordinary that the public health department did not pilot or test the UDA payment system before it was introduced.”
Rather typical isn’t it.
Since then successive governments have apparently tried to change an already broken system but haven’t made any improvements.
In 2022, the government produced a so called reformed contract in England which apparently is supposed to allow better access to NHS dental services. This however hasn’t prevented the decline of NHS dentistry because they’re still going to be losing money when treating NHS patients.
Rishi Sunak recently told parliament that there are now more NHS dentists across the UK with more funding, making sure people can get the treatment they need.
He’s got the nerve to even suggest this. The number of NHS dentists is decreasing daily. If you need a dentist you’ve got virtually no chance of seeing one.
As a result of this most if not all dental practices treating NHS patients have found themselves unable to reach NHS contract targets. . If dentists deliver fewer than 96% of UDAs that they are contracted, they find themselves in a position similar to being fined by the government.
It look’s as if they will take a record hit. The dentists undertaking NHS work were forced to pay back as much as £400m from a total English dentist budget of some £3bn. This is effectively destroying remaining NHS dentistry, obviously they can’t afford to work at a loss and on top of having to pay back the government.
It’s hard to believe that as the UK is in one of richest nations that people can’t access dentistry services.
It’s horrific that people are so desperate to get rid of their pain they’re resorting to pulling their own teeth out, buying temporary fillings and suffering in pain.
People are also accidentally overdosing on painkillers which is very dangerous both to health and life. We must also take into account the adverse health effects of dental abscess and suchlike which at worse can cause death.
Cruelty is what the conservative government does best though, most of their systems are designed to punish working class people for their very existence. How dare they ask for dental treatment.
Something needs to change and soon before more people suffer and also unfortunately die.
Will this happen though? No not a chance and it’s pointless trying to appeal to them for sympathy and help because the government clearly don’t care.
This is Mike’s comment about his quest in finding an NHS dentist.
There are two dentists where I live but, after extracting all of my own teeth and wanted dentures, I could only find one NHS dentist within 20 miles that accepted new patients. York and Leeds are both within 20 miles! Reason I wasn’t previously registered was returning from Australia where I didn’t need to register.
Thanks for telling me about your experience Mike and for your continued support of my blog also sharing it. I appreciate it.
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According to new DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) plans existing PIP (Personal Independence Payments) claimants may lose their right to be in the support group.
Under these new plans they could also lose their LCWRA ( Limited capability for work and work related activity) status and be transferred to the universal credit health element.
Once there they may be required to carry out work-related activities, as early as 2026.
The government also announced plans in March to axe the work capability assessment (WCA).
Under the new proposed plans, claimants who get any element of PIP and who claim UC will automatically be eligible for an additional health element.
Sounds good doesn’t it…..
Shockingly at the time of writing the new system won’t automatically recognize any claimant as being unable to carry out any work-related activities.
Claimants might find themselves forced to undergo voluntary and mandatory work-related requirements by an appointed work coach.
Once there they could be subject to benefit sanctions if they don’t meet the mandatory requirements as set by their work coach.
At the time of the new plans announcement the government made a statement that current claimants would not begin being transferred to the new system until 2029 at the earliest.
Apparently only new claimants were said to be affected initially, with the system being rolled out by geographical area between 2026 and 2029.
Despite this announcement evidence given to the commons work and pensions committee by the DWP contradicted the above claim.
Conservative MP Nigel Mills asked: “What happens if I get a called for a new PIP assessment every couple of years and I get one of those in 2027? Does that drop me into the new rules or do I stay under the old ones?”
A senior DWP official responded:
“With the way we will roll this out, we start from 2026 with new claims only, but we will do it in a geographical, staged way. It would depend which area you were in in 2027. Yes, some people might come in under the new rules, and that means they would automatically get your UC health payment and would automatically get the support.”
As an ever increasing proportion of England and Wales will be moved to the UC health element beginning in 2026.
This suggests that thousands of existing PIP claimants when subjected to a review of their award will find themselves being forced onto the UC health element earlier than 2029.
So once again the DWP are lying.
However this does give us time to start campaigning against the new proposals but this needs to start now.
We need to prevent the DWPs plans to subject existing claimants to the attention of work coaches with targets to meet even though they deny this.
The government and their hench people will never stop persecuting disabled and poor people for their very existence.
Many have the view that they deserve to be persecuted like this. They’ll never change their opinions but we can fight them all the way.
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After many months of waiting and pressure from organisations and campaigners the DWP finally relented and published the secret sanction report that I’ve reported on previously.
This report concerned itself into the effectiveness of DWP (Department of Work and Pension) sanctions, afterall it’s a cruel tool used by them for a long time.
However in true DWP style they released it hours before the UK was closed to business for the Easter bank holiday.
The report shows that sanctioned claimants do take longer to move into paid employment and when they do so they’re most likely going to accept lower paid jobs than claimants that haven’t been sanctioned.
It also reveals that there’s no evidence that sanctions are effective in any way at all.
According to the report claimants that have been sanctioned also have 8% shorter UC claims than claimants who were not sanctioned.
The report proves that the majority of claimants with shortened claims disappear, they do not move into paid employment which is very worrying.
Claimants who are sanctioned and who eventually move into PAYE work then take longer to do so than those were not sanctioned and earn an average of £34 a month less than those not sanctioned.
The DWP rather unexpectedly argue in a ‘context note’ within the report that the research cannot be relied upon because it did not take into account the value of the ‘deterrent effect’ of the sanctions regime.
The DWPs ongoing theory is that claimants are more likely to meet their obligations because they fear being sanctioned thus sanctions are an effective tool.
In the three years since the draft report was created the DWP have chosen not to commission any independent research to test the truth of their deterrent effect theory.
Instead they intend to introduce a much harsher sanctions regime, when the only hard evidence they have about sanctions proves that they don’t work.
DWP Sanctions can and should be appealed however this takes a great deal of strength and determination of which not many have due to being completely worn down by the system.
So there we have it, the DWP once again ignoring important information that have a direct negative effect upon sanctioned claimants and their well-being.
The amount of people that decide to take themselves off the system when sanctioned is very concerning.
Don’t expect the DWP to care though, this is exactly what they want to happen and a claimants well-being isn’t even thought about let alone be a concern.
How many more deaths will there be as a result of being sanctioned before the cruel sanctioning system is forced to stop.
I predict thousands because not one political party is willing to campaign against this and apart from a few good MPs such as Debbie Abrahams they’re silent
Sanctions do kill and this report needs to be acted upon ASAP. One death is a death too many.
No one should be forced to suffer in this manner it’s inhumane and cruel.
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This week I’ve heard some truly awful stories of people suffering and I’ve done everything I can to help those that need it.
It appears that Sunak has been busy creating some extremely worrying new plans, rather predictably yet another so called crackdown on anti-social behaviour, promises to ban the sale of laughing gas and increasing fines for littering.
These plans also include a rather worrying proposal giving police extra powers to move on so called nuisance beggars with no details as to where the police are supposed to move them to and no plans to provide extra funding to give support needed for them once moved on.
I suspect he’s announced these plans to appeal to the ever dwindling Tory voters, after all theres nothing they like better than to attack people more unfortunate than themselves.
Hidden away amongst his list of proposals is an extremely worrying plan that would allow landlords to evict tenants with just two weeks notice if they are found to be disruptive to neighbours through noise, drug use or damage to property. This would automatically apply to all new private rental tenancies which are already becoming more restrictive than ever before.
Two weeks is a far too short amount of time for a tenant to find a new home, if this is indeed possible in todays climate with future private landlords requesting references from potential tenants and an extreme shortage of social housing.
Whilst I agree that no one should have to put up with neighbours that are behaving anti- socially, its extremely concerning that these tenants will suddenly find themselves homeless leaving them totally dependant upon their local authority to provide temporary accommodation.
Anyone that has either experienced homelessness can confidently tell you that getting temporary accommodation from a local authority can be nigh impossible. They’re often met with unfriendly and unsympathetic local authority employees which signpost people to local charities and organisations that are already working at maximum capacity which in turn puts extra strain on social housing.
These worrying proposals were first outlined last summer in a white paper published by the government. This new development proposes that as well as tenants that are found to be causing anti social behaviour, they could also potentially be evicted under the grounds that they might be regarded as being ‘capable’ of annoyance and disruption whilst not actually committing actual anti-social behaviour.
This is an extremely concerning development which is most likely to be published in the Renters Reform Bill, along with policies designed to protect tenants.
This Bill includes a renewed commitment to abolish Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions as well as including a ban on landlords increasing rents more than once a year. However it’s not all good news. The private rented sector is heavily biased in favour of landlords, leaving these new proposals to be taken advantage of by landlords using these new proposals to evict tenants quickly and unfairly. After all how is a tenant going to prove that they don’t have the potential to be capable of committing anti social behaviour.
Unscrupulous landlords could use this loophole to evict their old tenant and then put the property up for rent again at an increased rent. Under these proposals theres actually nothing to stop them doing this.
Domestic violence cases are also often reported as anti-social behaviour in the rental sector and tenants with some disabilities or mental health problems could well display behaviours that neighbours or landlords find to be potentially capable of potentially displaying anti social behaviour.This in itself is very discriminatory.
To counteract these potentials the prime minister must make it so that courts are aware of the circumstances of the tenants facing the loss of their homes but will he?
Those evicted from private rentals or social housing due to so called nuisance behaviour are also likely to be classed as intentionally homeless by local authorities and are therefore unlikely to be offered help. However families with children are offered help but those without children and who are not classed as vulnerable will become street homeless.
At this present time there are 1.25 million people on waiting lists for social housing, many of them being children. These proposals of reducing the time tenants have to look for a new home and to challenge upcoming evictions is going to increase the pressure on social housing and massivley increase homelessness.
Polly Neate, chief executive of the housing charity Shelter, said of the developments: ‘Millions of private renters across the country currently live under fear of eviction, which can happen with only a few weeks’ notice and no reason given. It makes renting deeply unstable and turns lives upside down. The government has rightly committed to scrap these Section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions in the long-awaited Renters’ Reform Bill.
‘Once these evictions are finally scrapped, we can’t allow new loopholes for unfair evictions to open up. Private renters deserve genuine security in their homes. Without clear guidance and safeguards in place, there is a real risk that the new anti-social behaviour grounds for eviction could be abused by landlords’.
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