In May 2021 the body of Laura Winham was discovered after her family had visited her to inform her about the death of her father. They discovered her body after looking through her letterbox because there was no answer.
The police were called and found her mummified and skeletal body when they forced entry into her flat. They also discovered unopened bills from creditors and markings made on her calendar which stopped in November 2017.
One of her last notes read “I need help”.
Laura Winham had schizophrenia and had previously been sectioned under the Mental Health Act and as a result of her condition her family were no longer able to have contact with her as she believed that they were trying to harm her.
However the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) failed to make any checks on Laura before they cut off her payments. She subsequently died and was left undiscovered in her flat for more than three years, a pre-inquest hearing has been told.
The DWP contacted Laura in 2016 to inform her that her benefits was being transferred and therefore she had to apply for PIP or her DLA (Disability Living Payments) would cease.
Laura failed to respond to the DWP and after after several written reminders had been sent her DLA was stopped. No wellness check was made or any attempt to enquire about her situation was made despite Laura having a recorded severe mental illness. Nor did they check on her ability to take part in the transfer process either.
It is noted that although the DWP were far from the only agency that had let Laura down they are a very large and well resourced agency. They can make no excuse for stopping a very vulnerable claimants. money because they were unable and possibly unwilling to safely manage a simple transfer process.
Laura’s inquest is being held in April, please keep her and others in your thoughts.
You’d have thought that the DWP would have learnt how to deal with situations like this from previous incidents but they very clearly haven’t. Maybe it’s best to ignore their usual press statement which is usually ‘Lessons will be learnt’.
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It has recently been revealed by Benefits And Work that PIP (Personal Independence Payments) appeal figures have risen by 119% in 2022, this is compared to the same quarter in 2021.
The rate of UC (Universal Credit) appeals has also risen by 28% the latest official figures show.
The number of cases that were dealt increased by only 18% in the same time period compared to figures from 2021.
Figures show that there were 63,000 outstanding cases by the end of September 2021 which adds to an annual increase of 96%.
The average wait time for an appeal averaged at 31 weeks. This shows that it is 8 weeks down from 2021 figures , but is likely to increase over the coming quarters as the backlog rises inexorably.
The success rate for PIP appeals remains unchanged at 68%. This shows that the vast majority of those who appeal are correct in their decision to appeal however the wait time for appeals to be heard continues to rise.
For UC claimants it is revealed that the appeal success rates are now at 49% which is an increase of 7% on the previous year.
DLA (Disability Living Allowance) success rates are now at 61% which is down 6%.
Meanwhile ESA (Employment and Support Allowance success rates are now 53%, down on the previous year at 1%
Appealing against any DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) decision is always daunting and extremely stressful. Not only is the appeal process hard to navigate, the waiting times for appeals and tribunals to be heard is increasing.
The success rate shows that those making the decision to appeal have made the right decision in doing so.
Sadly many people that are entitled to appeal fail to do so because they can’t afford to wait a long time for their appeal to be heard and also can’t cope with the stress involved, many having no support network to rely upon.
I don’t need to tell you that the downright discrimination and hatred given to disabled and unemployed people is totally unfair and discriminatory.
This cruelty combined with the increasing cost of living and energy prices is making life extremely difficult for those that are most in need of financial help.
In an ideal world this wouldn’t be happening at all but there won’t be any positive changes made to the system whilst there’s a Tory government in power.
The conservative party is doing what they do best, punishing the most vulnerable and poor for their very existence, they need to be stopped and soon before more people suffer and die as a result of their actions.
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A huge thanks to all of my subscribers and readers for the help and support that you have given in the previous year. I really couldn’t do this without you.
I don’t get paid for any of the work that I do and it’s a massive struggle.
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Deductions from benefit payments is causing financial hardship pushing people into poverty and resulting in food bank reliance and inability to pay for everyday living costs.
A survey conducted by the Trussell Trust reveals that nearly half of those being referred to its food banks are experiencing deductions being taken from their benefit payments despite the government saying that they’ve twice cut the amount that can be deducted.
The government states “We recognise people are struggling with rising prices which why we are protecting millions of the most vulnerable families with at least £1,200 of support.” Whilst at the same time failing to address the reality that being repayment amounts are still too high proving that the ‘support’ being offered by the government being not nearly enough.
Once again making statements that portray themselves as the next saviour, whilst at the same time pushing policies and failing to address already existing policies that cause hardship.
The survey goes on to reveal that almost half of respondents reported deductions from their benefits to recover overpayments, sanctions or arrears, with the amounts already deducted from monthly payments before they arrived in the recipient’s account.
To put it in layman’s terms very few people manage to receive their full payment allowances and are drastically reduced before reaching them.
Meanwhile MPs on the parliamentary Work and Pensions Select Committee have said this practice needed to be paused during the cost of living crisis, as it was during the pandemic.
Thousands were already struggling to put food on the table each day before the cost of living crisis which has undoubtably made their situations much worse.
This is worsened by having to repay the advance payment loan whilst waiting for a universal credit claim to be processed. This debt on its own can cripple a person financially. Many would agree that the advance payments shouldn’t come in the form of loan to be repaid.
In July, the Work and Pensions Committee of MPs said the repayments, taken from more than 2 million claimants, were pushing the most vulnerable into destitution.
Sir Stephen Timms, Labour MP for East Ham and committee chair, said: “We think the problems are sufficiently acute now that they should be suspended again, it’s clearly not working.
“There was a university research report which made the point that the social security system is acting not so much as a safety net but more as a debt collector at the moment.”
In a statement, a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesperson said: “We have reduced the maximum amount that can be deducted from a Universal Credit award twice in recent years.
“We’ve also doubled the time period over which they can be repaid and claimants can contact DWP to discuss deductions if they are experiencing financial hardship.”
In conclusion the cost of living crisis and resulting job losses has left many reliant upon credit card borrowing which has reached it’s highest level in 18 years. Combined with benefit loan deductions has created a tsunami of debt and poverty which will undoubtably put pressure upon already struggling food banks and organisations.
Not forgetting that this will also cause irreparable damage to the economy resulting in increased inflation levels and an increase in the everyday cost of living.
I’d like to wish all readers and subscribers a happy new year and I hope you enjoyed the festive period in whatever way you chose to. Here’s to another year of campaigning and blogging, love and solidarity to you all.
Please read, share, tweet and email my blog posts, this makes an enormous difference and raises awareness dramatically. Thanks to everyone that does this for me it’s really appreciated!
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It was recently announced during a Commons debate in parliament that Universal Credit sanctions (UC) are “back with a vengeance”. This comes after the figures for the last quarter have been revealed.
According to the released figures the sanction rates are now 250% higher than they were for the three months before the pandemic.
It’s extremely worrying that the figures have risen so much in such a short amount of time makes me very concerned about the welfare of UC claimants.
The huge increase allows for the ever increasing number of UC claimants. In layman’s terms it amounts to 2.5% of UC claimants being sanctioned each month which is almost double the amount when compared to 1.4% before the pandemic.
Let’s not forget that in June 2022 £34 million was taken away from claimants as a result of being sanctioned. This was followed in July 2022 by £34.9 million and then in August taking the total to over £36 million.
When you do the maths this totals to £100 million which has literally been taken from vulnerable claimants that were already struggling to pay for basic necessities.
Upon questioning these figures Guy Opperman minister for employment speaking on behalf repeatedly avoided answering a question which asked why the number of sanctions had increased so rapidly.
The only other possibility being that the DWP may have changed its policy on applying sanctions but neglecting to inform everyone that would be affected by this. After all it’s not the first time that they’ve done this.
The only answer that Opperman eventually gave was “The hon. Gentleman asked specifically about the rise in the number of sanctions. Some 98.2% of sanctions are for missing a meeting with a work coach.”
Opperman declined to give an explanation as to why twice as many claimants are now supposedly choosing to miss appointments with their DWP advisor.
Of course this makes no sense because claimants are desperate to receive their UC payments. Methinks Opperman’s not being honest which comes as no surprise at all.
However Anne McLaughlin, SNP MP for Glasgow North East didn’t hold back from being honest in informing the commons the advice that she gives every UC claimant that has come to her after being sanctioned.
She went on to say;
“If you have your benefits sanctioned, do not take it lying down. Contact me and I will fight this for you, because this is wrong and nobody should have to live on less than the minimum income.”
This is of course correct, everyone that finds themselves in this position should fight it. The reality is that many don’t because they don’t have the strength to do so.
I have spoken to many people that had taken the decision to stop claiming UC because they can’t cope with it leaving them with little or no income to live on.
More MPs need to speak up about this in parliament but I won’t hold my breath. Only a few MPs including Debbie Abrahams actually speak up about this but others need to follow.
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TRIGGER WARNING. Contains mention of suicide and trauma.
A collection of stories that highlight the amount of cruelty that UC (Universal Credit) claimants are forced to endure has been recently published by Disability News Service (DNS). Sadly these stories won’t be a surprise for UC claimants
One such story article describes the death of a disabled woman who was left traumatized by the overbearing daily demands made by the UC system.
Upon applying for UC the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions)were told of the mental distress that the system was causing which in turn led to suicidal thoughts and an overwhelming fear of the DWP and the universal credit system.
Despite their knowledge of this the DWP continued to harass her.
Tragically she took her own life four days after being told she would need to attend a face-to-face meeting with a DWP work coach.
Another example describes how disabled claimant Philip Manion struggled enormously when he saw his UC payments cut from £1,260 to £500 due to a mistake made by the DWP.
Philip tried to attend a meeting to rectify this mistake but instead he was taken out of the Jobcentre by seven security guards. Their reasoning for this was because he found he was unable to log into his online journal from his mobile phone.
To add even more insult to injury he was then recorded as having failed to attend the meeting, despite attending and all of his UC payments were stopped.
Disability News Service went on to describe how former nurse Shirley Rudolph spent 10 years caring for her husband and was placed in the limited capability for work category due to suffering from generalized anxiety disorder.
Rudolph’s husband died in July and she subsequently informed her work coach that she wouldn’t be unable to attend their scheduled meeting because she was making arrangements for her husband’s funeral.
Rather unsurprisingly her work coach wasn’t sympathetic and moved her appointment to the following week. At the same time they sent Rudolph a job application to complete immediately.
As a result of the distress and the pressure Rudolph was forced to undergo she chose to end her universal credit claim and is now surviving on her NHS pension alone forcing her to struggle immensely.
Although horrible this comes as no surprise to many disabled UC claimants that find themselves hounded by the cruel UC system that deliberately targets disabled claimants forcing them to unfairly comply with rules that they are unable to achieve.
It goes without saying that no one should be forced to live like this disabled and non disabled, but sadly I can’t see this stopping for the foreseeable future.
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Campaigners have recently called for a ban on pre-payment energy meter (PPM) installations through court warrants. This is spurred by concerns that energy companies are using them to disconnect vulnerable customers especially during the cost of living crisis.
According to the energy companies licence conditions they are meant to protect vulnerable people from having their energy disconnected over the winter period. However the organisation End Fuel Poverty Coalition have reported that transferring households on to expensive PPMs is resulting in people already in debt to effectively self disconnect their energy because they can’t afford to top up their meters.
Its also concerning that energy companies are using PPMs frequently as a method of revenue protection for themselves.
The End Fuel Poverty Coalition have also revealed that some magistrates courts are possibly awarding warrants to install pre payment meters after revealing that freedom of information requests shows that 187,000 applications for warrants were made in the first six months of 2022. This therefore makes it unlikely they were approved on a case by-case ratio.
Reports have also suggested that energy firms are also switching customers smart meters from credit to pre-payment mode remotely without assessing the customers ability to pay for this. This is a complete failure to legally follow essential due process which includes assessing for vulnerabilities that show that it’s safe to install a PPM.
The report and figures from Ofgem reveal that approximately 152,000 households that have smart meters were switched remotely to more expensive PPM plans that also incorporate their debt by their energy supplier in 2021. During the past three months 60,000 households switched without following due process in the past three months.
The coalition calls upon the Government and Ofgem to place a ban on switching customers to a PPM with a warrant and also a ban switching smart meters to PPM mode without anyactive, informed, consumer consent.
Simon Francis, co-ordinator of the End Fuel Poverty Coalition is quoted as saying “Self-disconnection is as dangerous as disconnection by any other means, and energy firms need to be alert to the pain they are causing consumers by switching them to pre-payment meters without their active and informed consent.
“If people don’t keep their homes warm, they are at risk from the severe health complications of living in a cold, damp home, and those who are elderly, disabled or have pre-existing medical conditions are especially vulnerable this winter.”
Ruth London, of Fuel Poverty Action also went on to say “Imposition of a pre-payment meter is disconnection by the back door. When you can’t top up the meter everything clicks off, regardless of whether you are old, ill, or have a newborn baby.
“Now smart meters are being used to cut people off supply by imposing pre-payment remotely. We were all encouraged to get smart meters and told they would help us save money. Some people always suspected they would be used for illegal disconnections. They have been proved right.
Indeed we have.
Please like, share, tweet and email this report. It’s essential that we continue to raise awareness of these very important issues that are for many of us a reality. You’d be surprised about how many people aren’t aware that this is happening to us.
I don’t receive any payment for any of the work that I do and to say it’s a struggle is a massive understatement. Like you as Christmas is looming in the near future the worry of getting through the festive period becomes even larger.
If you would like to donate to keep the blog and campaign going, to help me put some gas on my PPM or buy me a cuppa and can afford to theres a donate button at the top and side of this blog post. Thank you!
As I’ve reported many times in previous blogs the distinct lack of care, compassion and understanding causes great distress for many applicants and claimants. This distress starts upon applying for Universal Credit and other benefits.
As reported by Benefits and Work the appalling lack of care, concern and service given by DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) from call centres will undoubtably result in life-threatening destitution for some claimants. This will escalate to even higher levels when the forced migration from legacy benefits to UC begins.
There are many problems that occur upon applying for Universal Credit online, those of which can and will put a distinct amount of pressure upon already distressed claimants.
Claimants who are being forced to migrate have 3 months to complete the process if they’re able to complete this complicated and time consuming procedure.
Claimants who desperately need an extension of time to make their UC claim can result in losing all their legacy benefits if they are unable to get through to the Universal Credit Migration Notice helpline on the phone.
The DWPs response to this is “If you cannot claim Universal Credit by the deadline date given on your letter, you should contact the Universal Credit Migration Notice helpline as soon as possible.
“We can only give you more time to make a claim if you have a good reason. You must request this before the deadline date on your letter.”
If only it was this easy. Hundreds of Benefit and Work readers have told the team of their horrendous difficulties when trying to contact the existing DWP helplines quoting;
“Have been calling all week various times and after over and hour some days hour half given up but my deadline day is today really is terrible situation.”
“I have been cut off 4 times after being put on hold for about 25 mins each time trying to ask for an extension to my pip review as I can’t get an appointment with the cab to help me fill it in until after the deadline”
Many claimants that apply for or will be migrated to Universal Credit have health issues and disabilities that make completing the process very challenging forcing many to try and get a much needed time extension.
However the DWP call centre systems as they stand aren’t fit for purpose, they simply can’t and won’t be able to cope with an ever increasing need of people to use them. For these systems to be made fit for purpose will require a huge injection of new resources combined with increased staffing and a huge investment being made into the facilities offered.
Combined with the already frightening cost of living crisis it’s like a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. People don’t have the resources both financial and emotionally to cope with this system, it’s cruel beyond belief.
Will this much needed investment be made? Will the DWP start treating people with the care and compassion that they deserve?
The number of households that rent their homes has risen dramatically since it’s reintroduction after the pandemic.
Figures show that the figures are now higher than pre pandemic levels thus resulting in campaigners and groups to call for the government to ban no fault evictions.
Figures show that up to 20,000 households in England have been made homeless by landlords that used section 21 notices in 2021/22. This has increased from approximately 9,000 in the previous financial year. These figures are not only alarming and are also very concerning.
Housing campaigners have expressed their concerns about no fault evictions for quite some time saying that no fault notices are often used as an excuse to inflict ‘revenge evictions’ using complaints such as essential work needed to be done to their housing or complaints about rent increases and suchlike.
Former head of the civil service, Sir Bob Kerslake former head of the civil service warned of a catastrophic level of people and families facing homeless, this will then put even more pressure on already overburdened and stretched to the limit councils and local authorities that are already struggling to find emergency and temporary accommodation for those in need. homelessness crisis.
Needless to say the Conservative government promised back in 2019 to end no fault evictions but have yet to pass the legislation needed.
The huge rise of people becoming homeless as a result of no-fault evictions is mostly down to the fact that during most of the pandemic. During this time the government had successfully acted to prevent a predicted surge in homelessness as part of its ‘everyone in’ strategy to tackle rough sleeping.
However as the latest figures show that the return of no-fault evictions are now causing more homelessness than they were in 2018/19 and 2019/20.
During the pandemic, the government had introduced a stay on house evictions with the two month notice period extended. The eviction ban was lifted in England in June 2021, and in October eviction notice periods reverted to two months.
Fiona Colley, director of social change at Homeless Link which is a membership organisation stated that the latest figures are ‘alarming.
Colley went on to say “The economic pressures we are facing are pushing more and more people to the edge as the pandemic protections ended,” also expressing her concerns that ‘The cost of living crisis has exacerbated rather than caused this issue.’
Nick Ballard, head organiser at Acorn, a tenants activist organisation is quoted as saying that they have seen a huge increase in the number of members seeking help to fight no-fault evictions.
Ballard saying “It can be devastating. At the ‘better’ end it means uprooting entire families whilst at the more extreme end this is the leading cause of homelessness. People end up in overcrowded temporary accommodation with many forced to rough sleep.”
The figures also show a 24% rise in the number of households with dependant children requesting help from councils and local authorities to prevent them becoming homeless. This is compared with figures for the previous year. Also seen is increases in the number of employed people and black and Asian people forced to present themselves as homeless.
Noting that the number of households threatened with homelessness remained below the pre-Covid level in 2019-20.
Section 21 notices are allowed under the 1988 Housing Act. This permits property owners to evict tenants without giving any reason.
Once again the Conservative government has been criticised by many for blatantly failing to act on its promise to end the practice. In their 2019 manifesto they promised to abolish it saying that it is “a better deal for renters”.
As previously noted the necessary legislation is yet to be passed. As part of Queen’s speech in May 2022 they had confirmed that a renters reform bill would be introduced in the 2022-23 parliamentary session. Details about this are very unclear also.
The proposal was that a tenancy will only be allowed to end if A, the tenant ends it, or B, if the landlord has a proven valid ground for possession. Also new grounds would be created to allow landlords to sell or move close family members into their properties and action concerning persistent rent arrears and antisocial behaviour will be strengthened.
Matt Downie, chief executive of the homeless charity Shelter said “The prime minister must commit to introducing the renters reform bill, to help give renters proper protection from being hit with a no-fault eviction and set out a clear plan to provide genuinely affordable homes,” He continued to say that “Only through such decisive action can thousands more people be protected from homelessness in the coming months.”
A spokesperson for the governments Department for Levelling Up Housing and communities is quoted as saying “A fair deal for renters remains a priority for the government. We are giving councils £316m to tackle homelessness and make sure families are not left without a roof over their heads.”
However the government are continuing with their failure to act upon these issues and implement the legislation needed to make the changes requested.
Hardly a surprise though, my bet is that its been put in a drawer and forgotten about.
Please read, share and tweet this report, its vitally important that we continue to inform people that issues such as this are happening. This in turn can help people.
A huge thanks to everyone that reads, shares, subscribes to and has helped to keep my blog and campaign going. I literally couldn’t do this without your help.
I don’t receive any payment for the work that I do, and to say it’s a struggle is an understatement. If you would like to and can afford to donate towards my work theres a PayPal button at the top and side of this blog post.