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.
I don’t receive any payment for the work that I do and I really am struggling to keep going.
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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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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 statistics released by the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) the rate of universal credit recipients hit an all-time high of 6.86% in October 2022.
This total decreased slightly to 6.51% in November 2022.
The statistics released by the DWP show that sanctions have risen by 4.16 percentage points in the last 12 months.
Sanctions given to universal credit recipients can be and are not excluding other reasons for failure to attend or participate in a mandatory interview, failure or inability to complete their online journal or being seen as not to be looking for work enough in their time allotted to do so.
Over the last year over half a million claimants were sanctioned which includes a total of 98.4% of all sanctions given for not attending an in-face or telephone interview.
Needless to say most universal credit recipients do not purposely miss important interviews and there is usually a good reason for doing so which are often not taken into consideration by the DWP.
At a time when most people are struggling because of the current cost of living and energy cost crisis the DWP continues to financially punish the most vulnerable.
It’s abhorrent that the DWP continues to do this, they extend a person’s punishment to such an extent that they can’t see a way out.
It needs to stop before even more people die as a result of the DWPs actions and decision making.
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A huge thank you to everyone that reads, subscribes to and supports my blog and the work that I do.
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A 87 year old woman died after developing hypothermia at home after expressing concerns that she was worried about paying her energy bills.
Barbara Bolton, 87, had previously told relatives she had felt cold after they had visited her at her home in Bury to check on her wellbeing. Sadly as a result she was rushed to Fairfield hospital where she was then diagnosed with hypothermia.
However despite the good care given by NHS medical professionals, her condition sadly deteriorated and as a result of her worsening condition she sadly died several weeks later.
Hospital notes given to the inquest indicate that her illness and subsequent death was linked to the fact she couldn’t afford to put her heating on.
Her son, Mark Bolton, 61, said his “proud” mum had refused his offer to help to pay her power bills as reported in the Mirror. She had been heating her home by using a single gas fire in her living room and used portable electric heaters to warm the rest of her two-bedroom house.
Ms Bolton had previously worked as a pharmacy assistant at her local Tesco until the age of 82 and she had lived at her home on Dawson Street in Bury for several decades.
Her son Mark told the inquest that he spoke to his mum every night and that she had told him that she was worried about her heating bills, despite assurances from him that he would cover the costs.
Mark said “She was concerned about all her bills because she was a pensioner. She was careful, she was mindful of the prices and worried about them going up,” he said.
Mark told the coroner that he had always told her to ‘just keep your heating on’ and ‘don’t worry about the bills mum.’ “But she was very stubborn and proud about paying her own way,” he said.
He told the hearing that his mum had ‘felt cold’ when she was found sat at her kitchen table by one of her grandchildren, who had gone round after the family had not been able to contact her.
Police coroner’s officer Jane Scullion told the hearing: “Barbara was admitted to hospital on December 11, 2022, with hypothermia, and a chest infection.
“During that time she continued to deteriorate. After a discussion, she was placed on end of life care and passed away.”
Assistant coroner for Manchester North Julie Mitchel adjourned the inquest and has requested statements from her doctor and asked for a medical cause of death to be provided.
“Her death was particularly accelerated by hypothermia and there is a possibility of self-neglect due to the lack of heating so her death has been referred to the coroner,” she said.
Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposures to very cold temperatures and requires immediate medical intervention. Causes include not wearing warm clothes in winter, falling into cold water and living in a cold house.
Sadly I fear that her death caused by living in a cold house isn’t the first and will certainly not be the last. Thousands if not more people are being forced by an uncaring, cruel government to live in cold and in many cases, damp houses as a result of the ever increasing energy costs.
For those saying that she should have jut accepted the help offered, it isn’t always as easy for various reasons. Admitting that you’re poor and can’t afford to heat your home is a very difficult thing to have to admit, and as a parent this can be even harder.
Society deems that parents should look after their children and not the other way round, and asking your children for help can make a parent feel like an absolute failure, and she wouldn’t have made her decision lightly.
This nightmare isn’t going to end soon, I wish it was.The reality is that thousands, including myself are counting down the days until spring arrives and warmer weather returns, it can’t come a minute too soon.
The government has absolutely no intention of changing things for the better, they prefer to spend their time trying to cover up senior ministers deception and lies rather than help those in need.
It’s one rule for them and one for us and the death of Ms Bolton and others won’t bother them in the slightest.
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Vodafone Group PLC has announced a new social broadband tariff for households giving them connectivity for £12 a month. They will also give small businesses free broadband for a year as part of their new cost-of-living package.
The new Vodafone Essentials Broadband deal will be available to anyone in receipt of Jobseekers’ Allowance, Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Disability Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.
As part of their new cost of living package they will be also offering small business owners and any new or existing customers that are eligible to upgrade free business broadband for 12 months on a 24-month plan.
Vodafone have based these new packages on research that shows that people are reliant upon connectivity to help them cope better with the cost of living crisis..
These new packages will also enable people to connect to the internet which is essential for people claiming Universal Credit and job searching.
Having access to the internet has become an essential part of daily life and life without internet access can be very difficult.
Vodaphone Chief Executive Ahmed Essam says “The rising cost of living is putting a million families at risk of falling on the wrong side of the digital divide,”
He goes on to say “We must not allow this to happen. So as part of our everyone.connected programme, today we are launching Vodafone Essentials Broadband at just £12 a month, the cheapest on the market, and 12 months free broadband for small businesses.
“Vodafone is the only network provider to offer social tariffs across fixed and mobile, meaning eligible customers can access mobile and broadband connectivity for 72 pence a day.
“These new tariffs complement Voxi for Now and the 750,000 free sims we’ve donated so far as part of our everyone.connected programme.
“We’re on track to meet our commitment to donate a million connections by the end of this year and will continue to put the cause at the heart of our business until the problem no longer exists.”
Original source Martyn Landi, PA Technology Correspondent