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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A huge thank you to everyone that does this and that support my blog and my work.
I really couldn’t do this without your help and support.
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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!
I don’t receive any payment for any of the work that I do, if you would like to donate and can afford to do so you can find a donation button at the top and side of this blog post. A huge thank you to everyone that has supported my blog in the past I couldn’t do this without 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 DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) have once again been found to have covered up data from a forced transition pilot which took place in Harrogate.
Not only have they tried to hide this information from the public they’ve also hidden the details from MPs.
In a report by Benefits and Work it has been revealed that there is evidence of the DWP covering up not only the details of the forced pilot which took place in Harrogate, but also details of their incompetence.
This relates to the forced transition from legacy benefits to UC (Universal Credit). The social security advisory committee (SSAC) has been reported saying to MPs that there is a need for external scrutiny of the worrying process this month.
Steve McCabe MP for Birmingham Selly Oak has disclosed that copies of the Harrogate forced transition pilot report on the Harrogate pilot has been placed in the House of Commons library, after being entirely redacted with the exception of the words ‘Moved to Universal Credit’ and ‘User research’.
The total redaction tells us one thing, the DWP doesn’t want to let MPs know the details of the pilot and what happened. It goes without saying that they don’t want the public to know these details either.
MP Steve McCabe also gave details concerning a constituent who was left in a very bad both physically and mentally leaving the constituent in distress. The DWP reported that she failed to respond correctly to a migration notice despite already being told that she didn’t have a computer at home.
He went on to say that she attempted to phone the DWP but could’t find anyone to speak to. She also sent a letter by recorded delivery at her expense which the department ‘thought’ that they didn’t receive it. This left her without any payments for many weeks.
Benefits and Work went on to report that Charlotte Pickles, a member of SSAC (Social Security Advisory Committee), told MPs that the SSAC believed that some kind of external scrutiny of the ‘scary’ migration process is needed which will then supposedly give people forced to transition confidence that the process will be fair.
She went on to say ‘we are all very aware that for some groups, in particular, UC is quite a scary proposition. If you are sitting on a legacy benefit or you are a tax credit claimant, you possibly, likely, in certain groups, are very nervous and possibly reluctant to make that move to UC.”
After all who can blame them. The DWP are concealing important details not only from MPs but the public as well. The evidence from the Harrogate trial should be provided in an open and transparent way and any failings dealt with before expanding forced migration to Universal Credit.
Concealing evidence such as this will result in a failure of responsibility from the DWP and will undoubtably result in suffering and distress for those forced to move to Universal Credit.
At the time of writing the DWP are still hiding these details and I can’t see them doing so either.
Please read and share this report, its essential that we continue to get information like this out in the public domain. A huge thank you to everyone that already does or has done this.
I don’t receive any payment for the work that I do and to say its a struggle to keep the blog and campaign going is an understatement.
If you would like to donate towards this and can afford to do so theres a donate button at the top and side of this blog post.
I also have a Kofi account but I’m struggling to find out how to post a link to it on here. I can however provide details about this upon request.
Under the cover of Queen Elizabeths death the DWP (Department of work and Pensions) have been busy inflicting cruelty upon claimants. They never miss a chance to show their hatred of social security recipients, especially when they think it’ll be overlooked.
Once again the government and the DWP have refused to listen to and consider any recommendations that would help claimants financially during the cost of living crisis. Apparently even ignoring the fact that the said recommendations were made by the Commons Work and Pensions Committee.
Details included in the recommendations made by MPs are that there be a pause in the way that the DWP take deductions from social security payments, for example when a claimant owes the DWP money for loans or overpayments and suchlike.
As reported by Benefits and Work the DWP’s excuse for ignoring this request is that it is apparently ‘not in the claimant’s best interest’ to do so, stating that if the debt recovery system would be to reintroduced after next April’s benefits uprating, claimants ‘may feel no better off as a result’.
The mind boggles, they aren’t even trying to come up with half decent excuses are they.
The truth is that it’s in the DWPs best interest to make claimants repay debts at a time that they cannot reasonably afford to do so, and it comes as no surprise that they will refuse to do do until their social security have been increased thus resulting in claimants no better off financially.
Debt repayments either made by the DWP or other organisations are unfair. They take monies away from claimants payments leaving them unable to pay for even the most basic things. The repayment rates are decided with absolutely no communication with the claimant, even if they appeal the repayment amount they are likely to be ignored.
The cruelty of this decision cannot be ignored. At a time when thousands of claimants working and not working are dependant upon food banks and unable to pay the cost of heating their homes, it is vital that this help is given now.
Thousands of claimants are facing a long, cold winter which will undoubtably result in illness or even death and still the government are refusing to acknowledge their suffering, after all it won’t affect them so it simply doesn’t matter.
With Liz Truss at the helm of the government we are facing a more extreme right wing government that seeks to punish claimants even more than they do already. It’s a scary thought and one we can’t ignore.
My apologies for the lack of blog update last week. with the news of Queen Elizabeths death it would have got buried underneath all of the other news leaving it likely to be ignored.
Thanks to Benefits and Work for bringing this to my attention. Keep up the good work!
A huge thank you to everyone that reads, shares my blog updates, and also everyone that has helped me to keep this blog and campaign going. I don’t receive any payments for any of the work that I do and to say it’s a massive struggle is an understatement.
In a recent report by Benefits and Work the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be giving their officers the power to mass-request bank data more efficiently to enable them to conduct more spot-checks to see if people are committing benefit fraud..
The new powers to be given will enable DWP officers to make arrests, execute warrants, conduct searches and seize evidence themselves instead of informing the police and involving them. This will allow the DWP to dish out civil fines similar to those issued by HMRC even if a case does not make it to court.
It is estimated that approximately two million claimants will face having supposed fraud cases dredged up and to be given fines for fraud even if they’re not convicted of a crime. New and existing claims could be flagged as being potentially suspicious over five years.
It is believed that Conservative ministers will be perceived to be appealing to their voter base because at the time of writing no timetable for these new laws has been made. It’s likely to take at least a year for these plans to commence. Many of these planned new powers will need an Act Of Parliament and is thought that if these plans are to commence they will be introduced from May 2023 at the earliest.
The proposed benefit fraud crackdown will have the potential to save the government £670m a year.
Giving DWP officers the power of arrest for supposed benefit fraud even if a case doesn’t make it to court has the potential to persecute innocent claimants is extremely worrying . For many years now I’ve assisted claimants in supposed benefit fraud meetings, the majority of which showed absolutely no evidence of fraud being committed.
I found these meetings to be yet another way for the DWP to intimidate and harass claimants and I have no doubt that if I hadn’t been able to represent these claimants they would have falsely been accused of fraud and would have faced their benefits being stopped or greatly reduced.
Given the fact that that benefit overpayments were estimated to be approximately £8.3bn in 2020/21 many of which were errors made by the DWP and not claimants, accusing them of fraud as a result of this would be totally wrong and immoral.
Claiming Universal Credit is already difficult and demeaning punishing claimants for being guilty before being found to be innocent. To allow DWP officers these powers would add to the pressure that claimants already feel whilst not knowing if their benefit advisor will report them for potential fraud which could result in their payments being reduced or stopped.
I suspect that the real reasoning behind these new proposed powers is yet another way for the government to save money whilst putting the well-being of the poorest and most vulnerable at risk.
Many thanks to Benefits and Work for once again being the inspiration for this article.
Are you interested in joining a group of likeminded people for solidarity and maybe some campaigning? You can’t go wrong if you join Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC). They have lots of local branches that you can join.
The amazing people over at Benefits And Work have made a simple request asking if they can see a copy of the original, unaltered survey on the unmet needs of disabled people. It’s not a big request, it’s a simple one.
Sadly their denial can only mean that the DWP are desperate to hide the survey results. This could be because it shows that the needs of disabled people are not being met. To be honest it’s no secret that disabled people are suffering immensely.
Whilst gloating about their denial to release the results the DWP have also refused to say whether they will publish a separate survey that they have commissioned which focuses on claimants’ financial situations and what support they may need.
I can only surmise that the DWP know how important that this information is. Disabled claimants were struggling financially even before the current cost of living crisis began. I suspect that the survey results will be shockingly bad.
The cost of living crisis and the huge energy price hikes will massively increase a disabled persons outgoings, with the energy bill for a typical home set to rise £1,971 a year caused by the 54% rise in energy price cap. This already massive price increase is projected to increase even further in October, pushing thousands further into poverty.
Many disabled claimants don’t have the option of turning their heating and appliances off. Thousands need to keep their homes warmer because of health conditions or run medical equipment which will cause their energy costs to be higher than the average household.
To add salt into the wound council tax bills are increasing, water rates are rising and food bills are also inflating. This will leave many disabled people almost priced out of existence, with no way of being able to keep up with the ever increasing costs.
In an ideal world with a supportive DWP system which supported claimants they would want to release information about the inadequacy of the current social security system into the public domain. This would then help claimants and the DWP system to put pressure on politicians to increase the annual uplift and payments.They would also work alongside charities and experts to put pressure on the politicians that make the decisions.
Back to reality though, we all know that the DWP will always fight in every single way to prevent the truth of their cruel system to be revealed. They don’t care about claimants especially disabled claimants. Their priority will always be cutting costs and pushing harmful policies directed by the Conservative government.
Theres plenty of evidence to support this, people have and will continue to take their own lives as a result of unfair DWP decisions, and now with the cost of living crisis and energy price increases this isn’t going to end, and will probably worsen.
More pressure is needed to beput upon the government and the DWP is desperately needed, especially as we are facing the huge cost of living crisis that many will not survive.
Benefits And Work are challenging both refusals and will hopefully get the results that are needed.
As my friend Rick Burgess says ‘400,000 disabled people across England have been stripped of the right to free insulation, and almost 300,000 are being excluded from the warm home discount. Can you say Democide?’
A huge thank you to Benefits And work for the inspiration for this article, they do amazing work.
Thanks to Rick Burgess for his quote over on Twitter.
Want to chat to likeminded people for solidarity and maybe some activism? Head over to https:manchesterdpac.com Theres lots that you can do there that doesn’t always mean attending a physical protest. Online support and campaigning is desperately needed.
Please read, share, tweet and email my blog. An online presence is needed and getting truth out there is vitally important.
I don’t receive any funding for the work that I do and like many of you are I’m struggling financially.
If you can afford it and would like to donate to keep both the blog and campaign going theres a donate button at the top and side of this blog post.
Huge thank you to everyone that reads, shares and supports both my blog and campaign. This last year has been truly awful for me and my family. My son dying really was truly awful and I wouldn’t have got through this without your support, I wouldn’t have got through it without you.
It feels strange to be writing this blog post this week because I’ve actually been able to return to my weekly demo and advice session outside Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre.
The DWP and local council might have mistakenly thought that I had stopped doing the weekly demos. I haven’t and dependant on my health I’m back.
This week I decided to stand outside the old Jobcentre building that had been shut down and moved to the new swanky council building. The truth is they underestimated the demand for the Jobcentre and were forced to re open the old one as well.
The old building has had a bit of a makeover, Laurence Llewellyn Bowen has nothing on this transformation. The doors have been repainted, a new carpet put down and what looks like cattle pens with numbers on installed.
Obviously this transformation wasn’t made to make the people that use the Jobcentre feel at ease, I can bet it has the opposite effect.
This week I was on my own accompanied by my daughter and two lovely men filming for french tv. They’re making a programme about the UK’s benefit system and have interviewed the amazing Debbie Abrahams, myself and they’re going to interview the dark lord himself David Cameron.
I was asked many times about my opinion of him, I answered that he’s got the blood of thousands of vulnerable and disabled people on his hands. Along with Ian (I’ll hide in car boots) Duncan Smith there’s a special place in hell for them.
Back to the demo. I chose the old Jobcentre because it’s actually very busy full of people coming and going looking rather stressed whilst doing so.
It wasn’t long until I had a conversation with a man who wasn’t far from retirement age. He had been given an appointment to attend a ‘Working Well’ interview despite being disabled and unable to work.
The DWP with all their infinite knowledge sent him a text message without an address to go to. Basically he didn’t know where his appointment was.
He walked to a building down the road and was told that his appointment wasn’t there and he had to go back to the Jobcentre.
Back at the Jobcentre he was told that he had to get back to the other building and they’d changed the time of his appointment without informing him. Typical DWP communication failure once again. Call me cynical but I’m sure that they do this on purpose sometimes.
To say that this gentleman was distressed was an understatement. He said ” Why can’t they leave me alone? I can’t work and no one will employ me”.
It wasn’t long before I spoke to a young woman that is completely fed up with the DWP. She’s started her own photography business and she’s doing her best to promote it and to find work
The DWP won’t leave her alone though. Every two weeks she still has to attend a back to work interview and she can’t cancel the appointment even if she’s working.
The DWP once again making it very hard for anyone to succeed by themselves. Her business is called WJ Photography and I think she’s on Instagram and Ticktok.
As it became notably colder, probably because we had been standing there for a while we spoke to a man that looked like he was going to start crying at any time.
His story his hard, but sadly not unusual.
As is often the case he had been living in substandard social housing. His home was full of damp and unsuitable to live in.
After a few years of struggling to get the housing association to take action they finally attempted to fix it. This left him without electricity and sleeping at his son’s place on the floor.
He explained the situation to the DWP who were totally unsympathetic telling him that he still had to look for work online for 35 hours a week.
He’s been looking for work since 2018 and can’t find a job, this isn’t without trying because he’s tried damned hard.
I then had a conversation with a chap that I used to speak to on a regular basis outside the Jobcentre. He told me that he was stressed because his mobile phone and internet are due to be cut off because he can’t afford to pay the bill.
Being aware that he needs to search for work online and has to have a working phone number for the DWP to contact him on has resulted in him feeling extremely stressed.
He told me that he’s found an old sim card that’ll work for the DWP to phone him on but he’s worried about his job searching.
I advised him to use the internet at the library or Ikea, but life shouldn’t be like this for a person who’s 60 years of age.
The universal credit system was created to punish people for being poor and for being disabled, never ever forget that.
I really hope that they’re ok , telling them that I’d be back again next week if they want some advice or someone to talk to. After all kindness costs nothing and it makes a massive difference to a person’s day.
I’ll be returning again next week and I’ll be publishing a blog post tomorrow about the new Jobcentre closures.
I need your help though. I need people to share this blog post and my others as much as possible. I want to continue to report about the impact that DWP decisions have on people and how this is still happening.
It would be amazing if I could be joined by some other like-minded people. It’s a big ask I know but it’s essential that we can remind the DWP that we are still here and we are still reporting on their misdoings.
If anyone could donate towards buying someone a cuppa etc I’d be eternally grateful. It’s winter and it’s cold here. A nice hot cuppa keeps the morale going.
If anyone would like to donate towards the campaign and my blog there’s a donate button at the top and side of this blog post.
I’m intending to continue with the weekly demos which are dependant on my health. I’ve still got long covid and a lung that’s not functioning as it should be. Thanks covid.
If I have to cancel a week it’ll be for health reasons only. Apologies in advance.
A huge thank you to everyone that has and does support my blog and campaign. These past two years have been extremely challenging for us all and I really do appreciate it.
As reported by Benefits And Work there are possibly thousands of missing Long Covid PIP claimants that appear to be missing from both the Office for National Statistics. They are also missing from the DWP latest published statistics.
New figures from the Office for National Statistics estimate that 506,000 people have now had Long Covid for over a year. This number is increasing every day yet they’re missing, nowhere to be found.
247,000 Long Covid sufferers say that their ability to undertake their day-to-day activities has been “limited a lot” as a result of Long Covid.
Yet according to the latest DWP statistics on Stat-Xplore record there are just 480 claims regarding Long Covid where it is the the main condition for claiming PIP. This figure has risen from 143 claims three months earlier.
However the success rate for PIP Long Covid claims has fallen from 76%, but is still high, at almost 60%.
A quarter of those who were successful in claiming PIP received the enhanced rate of both the daily living and the mobility components.
It appears that PIP claims for Long Covid do have a better than average chance of success. Despite this hundreds of thousands of people who could be making a PIP claim appear to not be doing so.
Long Covid is exhausting to live with and is likely to hinder any employment prospects. Living with Long Covid also increases everyday living costs.
The reality of having to make a choice between eating or heating, or not being able to afford either is something that Long Covid sufferers and others have to make daily.
The reason for the missing PIP claimants could be because of a distinct lack of information regarding claiming PIP for Long Covid sufferers. This is abhorrent. Everyone that is suffering from this disabling condition should be informed of their right to claim PIP to help with their everyday living costs.
Please read, share, tweet and email this blog post. Sharing makes a huge difference in raising awareness to the public.
A huge thank to Benefits And Work for providing this information. They’re amazing and work so hard.
A huge thank you to everyone that supports my blog and campaign. I really couldn’t do this without you and your support.
For anyone that likes my blog and campaign and would like to donate towards keeping both going there’s a donate button at the top and side of this blog post.
Financially I’m struggling and every penny is appreciated. Thank you.