A record level number of Universal Credit (UC) sanctions has recently been published by the Department of Work and Pensions on the 22nd May 2022.
It is reported by the DWP that the amount of UC sanctions had reached a record high in January 2022 this is according to statistics released by the DWP in May.
This follows the restrictions during the the pandemic when the DWP had been pressurised to remove work search and availability requirements for UC claimants also suspending face-to-face interviews due to the health risks involved. Work search and availability requirements were reintroduced gradually and are now fully implemented.
According to the latest figures released by the DWP UC sanctions prior to the pandemic consisted of 2.51% of UC claimants being sanctioned. In February 2022 sanction levels had risen dramatically to 3.90%.
According to the report in January 2022 there were reported 38,200 adverse sanction decisions showing the highest number of adverse sanction decisions on UC full service ever recorded, leaving many claimants dragging claimants further into poverty.
According to the DWP statistics released in February 2022 36.3% of UC claimants were in the conditionality groups that could be subject to sanctions, this includes claimants in the “searching for work”, “planning for work”, “preparing for work” or “unknown” conditionality groups.
It appears that the DWP have wasted no time in hitting claimants with sanctions and this is what they do best. Instead of helping claimants they find it more beneficial to unfairly sanction some of the most vulnerable people.
The conditionality requirements are confusing especially after the pandemic with many claimants not realising that their requirements had returned to normal. It’ll also be interesting to find out how many of them were affected by long Covid or indeed Covid itself and of course they wouldn’t have been able to reach out for sympathy from the DWP.
Not only will these sanctions have a terrible affect upon a persons health and well-being they will also put even more pressure upon already over subscribed food banks that were already struggling before the pandemic.
Whilst the nation is supposed to be celebrating the queens jubilee, a woman with an immense amount of privilege and wealth, thousands will be left suffering in extreme poverty unable to afford even the most basic things. It’s time that we should highlight their plights instead of celebrating the jubilee.
Once again thanks to Benefits And Work for inspiring this weeks blog.
Please share it really helps massively to raise awareness about the suffering of many people totally abandoned by the government.
I receive no payment for any of the work that I do and to say that I’m struggling is an understatement. Every penny donated helps me to continue blogging and campaigning and I would really like to be able to do so.
A huge thank you to everyone that has and does support the blog and campaign. The past two years have been a nightmare for me and I really couldn’t have done this without you.
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.
Head over to https:manchesterdpac.com to find out more.
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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.
The DWP is effectively trying to block essential and possibly life-saving university research. This research undertaken by Glasgow University with it’s purpose is to find out whether there is a link between benefits sanctions, ill health and suicide.
The research involves Glasgow University linking anonymised DWP data with NHS records. This could and most likely reveal that people that have been sanctioned have been prescribed antidepressants and people that already have existing conditions have resulted in their health declining. The research will also reveal the figures for those attempting to take their own life and sadly for those that have taken their own life.
When Glasgow University informed the DWP that they were starting their research in 2019 the DWP suggested that they would support the project. However since the project began the DWP have continually placed barriers up to try and stop this research to continue.
This comes as no shock to campaigners like myself. The DWP know how badly sanctioning people affects both their physical and mental health..
The DWP have spent years giving excuses to Glasgow University demanding that the research needed tighter security which they complied with. After these measures were put in place the DWP moved the goal post again insisting that Glasgow University must apply for permission to do the research all over again.
This has caused huge delays for the project. Professor Nick Bailey stated that the research should have been completed in 2020, but it has yet to start.
The chair of the Commons work and pensions committee, Stephen Timms told the Guardian “This emerging pattern of obstruction suggests that a culture of secrecy is entrenched in DWP. It must wake up to the harm that it is doing and commit to a new spirit of openness.”
There’s little doubt that the government will either delay or prevent any project that reveals the reality of how people suffer when they’ve been sanctioned.
It will continue to be the case until politicians stop ignoring the immense suffering of thousands of people. Although there are some politicians that don’t ignore this such as Debbie Abrahams who regularly speaks and campaigns against the cruelty of the DWP and their policies.
Ignoring the suffering of thousands of people will result in thousands more deaths. What is needed is for the opposition to start actively opposing the government on DWP related issues.
This isn’t likely to happen in the near future and MPs like Debbie Abrahams are loan voices in parliament trying extremely hard to change things. In the absence of this sadly DWP related issues and problems are going to get worse.
What is needed is for the opposition instead of concentrating about the ‘world of work’ they need to also concentrate and campaign on behalf of those unable to work.
Something has to happen and soon. With energy bills set to rise again in April and people already struggling I fear that thousands will die as a result of being cold and hungry.
It’s impossible to budget money when you have none in the first place
The conservative government has blood on their hands and they’ll never be able to wash it away.
A massive thank you to everyone that subscribes, reads and shares my articles. This makes a massive difference and it raises awareness.
This week was the first aniversary of my sons death. I’ve found it very hard to cope with but I’m still here.
Thank you to Benefits And Work for uncovering this story and for the hard work that they do.
I don’t receive any payment for my work and to say it’s a struggle is massive understatement. I’m reliant upon donations to continue to blog and campaign.
If anyone would like to donate and can afford to there’s a donate button at the top and side of this blog post.
A huge thank you to everyone that has helped me. You’ve literally kept this going and I’m eternally grateful.
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.
A friend of mine that volunteers at a foodbank has just sent me the below images. They asked if their anonymity is kept and of course I’m respecting this.
The photos were taken as they were arriving for their shift at the food bank. It wasn’t open for some time, but the queue was already massive, people arriving early to make sure that they’d get some food.
As you can see the queue consisted of People, all differing in their needs. What can’t be missed is the people using wheelchairs queueing for food parcels.on Christmas Eve.
Also in the queue are elderly people and families with children.
You don’t need me to tell you that this shouldn’t be happening , it’s heartbreaking.
You can always find the measure of a country by seeing how they look after the poor, young, elderly and disabled.
The conservative government is blatantly failing on this front. As a country we can’t be proud of this either.
Being proud of a country is about being proud of what it actually does right, and how it treats those in need. It’s not about waving flags and singing the national anthem.
We can however also look back on history and also be ashamed for the very same reasons. Ignoring the fact that the UK government is causing direct harm to people won’t make it go away.
Whilst the government has been focusing on ridiculous things like blue passports people are dying, thousands are becoming homeless and many are becoming ill from poverty related illnesses.
Meanwhile the public are bombarded with images of the royal family having a lovely Christmas, the people queuing at this foodbank and others won’t be able to celebrate.
Its simply not acceptable.
I messaged the volunteer that took the below images and this is what they said
It felt like a slap in the face for them too. It’s a reminder of their privilege. Because despite having their own difficulties they can sit in a warm house, with food, having just wrapped presents for their family.
They went on to say that it makes them angry and sad that this is happening, that they wished that they could do more to help. There’s more that many could do, so let’s do it.
Helping others doesn’t have to cost a penny. A kind word, saying hello in the street makes the world of difference to someone that lives alone and hasn’t spoken to anyone for a long time.
Being a friend costs nothing also, sharing what you no longer need doesn’t either. Of course I realise that many people have nothing to give to someone else.
Let’s spend the festive period and the coming year to be kind and thoughtful towards each other. We need to do this because the government won’t ever care about you.
Please read, share, tweet and email this blog post. This makes a massive difference and it raises lots of awareness. Thank you!
A huge thank you to everyone that has and is supporting my blog and campaign. I really appreciate it and I couldn’t do this without your support.
If anyone would like to donate there’s a donat button at the top and side of this blog post.
It has always been known that the DWP (Department Of Work And Pensions) surveil benefit claimants who are suspected of committing fraud. This is often based upon their opinion and reports made by members of the public, but how in depth their surveillance is was previously unknown.
In 2019 the DWP published their two part staff guide on conducting fraud investigations. Thanks to Privacy International who went through the 995 pages of the report to help people understand how these investigations happen and how the DWP is surveilling claimants suspected of fraud.
Here are some of their findings.
They found that the DWP do conduct physical surveillance of benefit claimants.
The DWP can ask private companies such as Paypal, supermarkets etc to hand over any data that they might have on benefit claimants to them.
Not surprisingly, because we have all seen the tabloid newspapers reporting stories focussing on benefit cheats and clamping down on them. This is because the DWP actively works with tabloid newspapers to share this narrative, which then creates a hostile environment that legitimises this narrative and creates a constant fear for vulnerable claimants.
The DWP are only authorised to conduct directed surveillance. and are entitled to surveil claimants in order to obtain information without contacting the claimant involved first.
How do they do this?
The DWP can claim papers, handwriting and departmental system prints.
Interviewing witnesses and obtaining witness statements.
Interviewing claimants under caution.
The DWP guidance states that they can examine mobile phones and tablets because of the amount of information that’s stored on these devices.
DWP officers are encouraged to approach third parties to get information.
On page 316 of part of one, the guide reads: “The Criminal Procedures and Investigation Act (CPIA) Code Of Practice (COP) makes it clear that to establish the facts about an offence you can question any person, whether suspected or not, who you think might have useful information. If a person, including a third party, has useful information you should ask for it.”
So basically a claimant is guilty before being found innocent.
The guide contains some instructions as to how DWP officers should go about approaching third parties. These instructions include that they have to be clear that they are from the DWP if they are questioned, they should also remember that the person they are investigating may be innocent. They are told to not reveal the source of the suspicion, remembering that the third party may also be involved in suspected fraud.
The guide quotes Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which is the right to respect for one’s private and family life. It is quoted on page 316 of the report and is immediately followed by an explanation on the specific circumstances in which the DWP may legitimately interfere with it.
“If DWP are to interfere with this Convention right it must be proven that all other avenues to obtain the evidence have been explored. However, in a case, which consists of various circumstantial evidence, it may only be possible to bolster the evidence to the criminal standard by providing evidence from third parties. Additional justification may be on the grounds that it would prevent or detect a crime”
Physical surveillance is also used by physically watching an individual and also using CCTV footage that can be obtained by the DWP without requiring PIPA authorisation.
The surveillance team can gather photo and video evidence.
The DWP also encouraged to use open source information such as social media, internet use, internet chat rooms, forums and websites to gain information regarding benefit fraud.
DWP officers are advised to cautious about gaining information in this way. They are told that they still need to give a claimant some expectation of privacy regardless that this very act takes away a persons privacy. This in turn causes distress for the claimant that they’re investigating.
The following advice is given: “If officers consider that there is a need to view material over a protracted period of time to accumulate private information or monitor the individuals activities, i.e. anything thing more than twice, then they should be considering an authorisation under Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), as repeat viewing may constitute directed surveillance. There is a professional responsibility for individuals to ask themselves why they want to look at the material, and what they will do with the information. Single use open source will generally not amount to directed surveillance but expectation of privacy still needs to be considered.” [part two, page 80].
The DWP uses this information to;
Obtain information about a claimants activities
Obtain information to be used in a future interview
To observe a claimants movements or work pattern
To establish where a claimant lives
To obtain evidence for a possible court case.
How does this affect disabled people?
The DWP assesses if someone claiming disability benefits is disabled. They often use physical surveillance to do so. They can also use a claimants social media to assess their mental capacity too.
They do this without any medical qualifications and often without any knowledge of a persons disability and how it affects them.
The DWP are supposed to take psychological distress component into consideration whilst at the same time not describing how to do this, thus not taking it into consideration at all.
The DWP have always used used surveillance to check upon a persons relationship and to see who a claimant lives with to see if they’re claiming the correct benefits. The DWP reminds their employees that living together as a married couple is not in itself an offence whilst at the same time financially punishing them for doing so.
The DWP also has the authority to contact third party organisations such as
- banks (including credit unions),
- credit providers,
- credit reference agencies,
- money transfer companies,
- water and sewerage undertaker or authority,
- gas and electricity providers,
- telecommunications services,
- educational establishment or institutions,
- The Student Loans Company.
- banks (including credit unions),
- credit providers,
- credit reference agencies,
- money transfer companies,
- water and sewerage undertaker or authority,
- gas and electricity providers,
- telecommunications services,
- educational establishment or institutions,
- The Student Loans Company.
- Airlines, which can hand over names of passengers and dates of travel (EasyJet is listed separately, as it falls under the “abroad fraud desk”. They can hand over passenger and booking information)
- Bingo clubs, which can hand over membership details
- The BBC, which can hand over TV licence holder name, method of payment and date of expiry
- Sky, which can hand over Sky Broadband and Sky Talk subscriber details
- Estate agents, who can hand over owner details, purchaser details, price, dates, method of payment and lettings
- Golf clubs, gyms, leisure facilities and sports club, which can hand over membership details and activities undertaken
- Harbour masters, who can hand over details about boat-ownership, boat-movements, dates and berthing fees
- Legal Aid Board, which can hand over details of Legal Aid claims.
- National Health Service Counter Fraud, which can hand over GP registration and checks of medical cards
- National Health Service Trusts, which can hand over next of kin details and declared addresses
- National Health Service Trusts & Hospitals, which can hand over details of admission and discharge and registration documents
- Universities and Colleges Admissions Services, which can hand over university details and college placements
The DWP also have singled out PayPal as an organisation that is willing to provide information in response to a standard data protection letter but only if they say that the information is requested for law enforcement purposes.
The DWP also relies upon credit reference agencies for their investigations regardless of the fact that people being investigated are more likely to be in debt and have a poor credit rating. Regardless of this it’s yet another avenue for the DWP to exploit.
This is an extraordinary abuse of power given to the DWP too often target innocent people. Benefit fraud levels are 3.6% of benefit expenditure whilst many claimants are being underpaid by the DWP due to error.
Whilst claiming any type of benefit from the DWP a person also waves goodbye to the right to privacy that they should be entitled to. I’ve seen DWP officers check a claimants social media before their appointment, thus unbeknown to the claimant they’ve lost a part of their privacy.
If this was happening to a person not claiming benefits they’d quite rightly be an uproar about it. For this to happen to a claimant it’s regarded as being ok. None of this is ok and we must continue to oppose the shocking treatment of benefit claimants.
If you have a social media account make sure that it’s set to friends only. Check any friend requests first and be wary that some so called DWP help groups are used to survey people.
Thanks given to @mrfrankzola over on Twitter for sharing this information and making me aware of this report. Also thanks given to eerie.org for their hard work producing this report.
This Monday was the funeral of my dear friend Karl who was also a member of my group Tameside Against The Cuts. Karl provided lots of hot drinks, lifts for claimants needing help and much needed support on our weekly demos. He was a wonderful person with a very kind heart, he will be sadly missed.
If you live in the Greater Manchester area and you are disabled please join Manchester DPAC where you will find support, solidarity and the option of joining in any activities that they are doing. You’ll find them over at https:\\manchesterdpac.com
If you are unemployed and would like to join a trade union head over to https:\\join.unitetheunion.org
Please can you read, share, tweet, email my blog and this post. Sharing helps enormously to raise awareness and it actually helps people.
I don’t receive any payment for the work that I do and it’s a struggle. If you would like to donate to keep my blog and campaign going there’s a donation button at the top and side of this blog post. Thank you.
A huge thank you to everyone that has and does support my blog and campaign, You have literally kept me going through this very tough year and the loss of my son. I’m not sure if I can celebrate Christmas this year.
I will be blogging next week and hopefully it will be a festive version.