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..
Massive thanks to everyone that likes, shares and tweets my blog posts. This makes a massive difference in raising awareness of subjects such as this.
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Excellent blog from long time reader and supporter of my blog. You can find his blog over at thephisophicalmusehttp://thephisophicalmuse Thanks Mike!
I was started receiving Pension Credit at age 60 after having been on JSA for 18 months (sanctioned for the last 2 months). When I applied I was asked how I had learned about Pension Credit and I replied that DWP had told me 6 months previously that I would have a choice of staying on JSA or switching to Pension Credit – I would have been foolish to continue looking for work and receive half as much money even if I hadn’t been sanctioned!
I still receive some Pension Credit to top up my State Pension, but Independent Age https://www.independentage.org/ is campaigning to ensure more people are advised of their entitlement
I used to work for the Department of Social Security in Australia. If someone over 55 had been unemployed for 6 months they’ld receive Mature Age Allowance, which basically acknowledged that they were unlikely to find a job so were not expected to continue looking for one to continue receiving the same benefits.
Seems similar to what I found in U.K., except that I had to wait 5 years longer to qualify but got twice as much as on JSA.
As part of my last job I was required to attend a training session on pensions and was told that one needed to be paying National Insurance for most of our lives to qualify for state pension. I piped up and said, “Where does that leave me, I’ve been out of the country for 27 years?”
I got some attention as I was quite evidently closer to retirement age than anyone in the room, but I didn’t get an answer!
No chance of me building up a pension fund, I had to wait until after I retired to find that I would be entitled to State Pension because of a reciprocal agreement with the Australian government – not the full amount, but Pension Credit makes up the difference.
WASPI women should be complaining that their pension age was to be increased to 65, not that they didn’t have sufficient notification of the increase.
What does it matter if they tell you they’re gonna raise your pension age in 10 years time, unless you’re within 10 years of pension age?
We need to stop of thinking of ourselves and ask why anyone should be required to work beyond 60 years of age unless they choose to!
Those of us already retired can ask these questions because we’ve got nothing to lose, do we?
The triple lock on our pensions cannot be assured under a Tory government. Everyone should join a union, I joined Unite Community after I retired ✊
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.
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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.
Fitch Ratings a top credit ratings agency has warned the government that mortgaged homeowners in the UKare now more at risk of falling into arrears than in any other major developed country.
They also warn that the share of mortgaged homeowners missing more than three months of mortgage payments is most likely to double in 2023 to 1.5% as a result of high rates being charged to borrowers.
These figures are based upon the current number of residential mortgages in the UK which adds to approximately 135,000 households facing mortgage repayment arrears.
Research conducted by Fitch reveals Thar banks in the UK are more exposed to the housing market than in any of the 10 developed markets ranked by Fitch which include Canada, the USA, Germany, Australia and Italy.
A statement issued by Monsur Hussain at Fitch reveals “The UK scores the worst in terms of borrower risks.”
Fitch have also forecasted that the Bank of England will most likely raise the Bank Rate to a peak of 4.75%, up from 4% currently by May this year.
Jessica Hinds, director of economics at Fitch, said: “We have seen much bigger increases in mortgage rates, the Bank of England started tightening much earlier, and we have shorter mortgage terms than in other countries.”
Rather shockingly British borrowers fix for short periods of time either two or five years, buyers in the US commonly fix for around 25 years.
Mr Hussain from Fitch went on to say that in the year to November 2022 the average mortgage rates in the UK jumped by 4.5 percentage points compared to 3.5 points in the US.
As a result of this the UK’s housing market has come under immense pressure after mortgage rates increased dramatically when Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget was revealed inciting chaos in financial markets.
Even though rates have since started to fall concerns about the cost of living crisis and ever increasing energy bills have deeply impacted employment stability and less money available to pay mortgage and everyday household costs.
This has already had a massive effect upon mortgage repayments and is undoubtedly resulting in many being forced to sell their homes with many being repossessed and then becoming homeless.
Although this might not be seen as an important issue for some it is indeed a massive problem for not only people becoming homeless but for local authorities that are already massively underfunded being forced to bear the burden of this.
I can’t see this getting better and a housing recession could well be on the cards in the near future.
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