It appears that the DWP have extended their total disregard and lack of care to their Future Pension Center helpline.
DWP minister Laura Trott disclosed in a written answer to parliament that between the 27 January and 26 March 2023, 1,007,868 calls were made to the Future Pension Centre helpline.
Of these, 47,345 were answered.
18,006 calls were abandoned.
It also revealed that a massive 942,517 calls were cut-off by the DWP before the callers got through to an operative.
That means a shameful 94% of all calls were deliberately disconnected.
This once again proves that the DWP and the government are totally ‘incompetent’ and are totally failing those that are desperately in need.
Personally I think that it’s deliberate and not down to incompetence after all they save money because people give up trying to contact them. They like to save money especially off the backs of vulnerable people.
Their systems aren’t fit for purpose and this proves this to be the case.
Will the government invest in their call systems and make them fit for purpose?
Don’t hold your breath. It’s beneficial for them not to do so. Meanwhile vulnerable people will continue to get distressed whilst trying to contact the DWP and many will give up altogether.
This isn’t acceptable but don’t expect the government to care enough to do anything about it.
Many thanks to Benefits And Work for their original reporting of this.
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Earlier this month (May) the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) released their latest Universal Credit sanction statistics. The statistics reveal that 541,000 UC claimants were sanctioned in the year to January 2023.
The greatest majority of those (530,000) were shown to have been sanctioned for failing to attend or failing to participate in a mandatory interview.
However these figures represent a very small fall from the previous peak sanction rate and the number of claimants sanctioned is shown to be still more than double the figures pre-pandemic.
In January 2020 18,462 claimants were sanctioned.
In January 2023, the figure was 44,888.
However the non attendance of mandatory interviews are mostly for genuine issues such as not recieving a letter or notification of having to attend an interview, I’ve blogged about this many times.
Other reasons for non attendance can be Not being able to get to their nearest Jobcentre for their interview because of cost, illness and appointments clashing with childcare obligations.
It is then that the claimant is left to the discretion of their work coach as to if they’re sanctioned or not.
This is incredibly worrying especially because the DWP is now planning to give work coaches the power to decide who is capable of work. Please see my previous blogs for details about this.
Please note that as already blogged it is planned that medically unqualified work coaches could be given the responsibility of making life changing decisions on behalf of UC claimants.
Decisions such as if a disabled or ill claimant is in their opinion able to take part in work-related activities.
Based upon their decision they could be given the power to recommend sanctions and suchlike.
As a result of not being medically qualified such decisions will be based purely on opinion and not fact.
Upon being sanctioned a claimant can try to show their work coach good causes for not attending a planned meeting. They can also do this if their work coach decides that even though they’ve attended a meeting but have failed on their eyes to participate as well as expected.
This can be for many reasons such as their disability preventing them for doing so or illness.
However the work coaches decision is purely based upon their decision or mood so it’s clear that unfair sanction decisions can be sent to the decision maker leaving the claimants payments being sanctioned.
Sanction decision can be appealed and their is an appeal process. Whilst the majority of appeals are successful the whole process is very long and extremely stressful, leaving the claimant in great distress and under enormous financial pressure.
The whole benefit sanction process is heavily biased against claimants, the balance of power unfairly being in the hands of work coaches and decision makers.
Once a sanction has reached the end of the appeal process and a decision made in the claimant’s favour the damage has already been done and many claimants never fully recover both mentally and physically from this.
Sadly this won’t be changing for the better any time soon and it would be nieve to expect this.
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As I’ve previously mentioned under the proposed DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) the WCA (Work Capability Assessment) will be abolished by 2026.
To replace this it is to be replaced by one assessment which will be the PIP (Personal Independence Payment) assessment. This will decide if a claimant will be eligible for PIP and if they are also eligible for the new UC (Universal Credit) health element.
Rather unsurprisingly the DWP plans to employ unqualified UC work coaches to make these decisions rather than qualified health professionals.
It will be those unqualified UC work coaches that will decide whether a claimant must undertake work-related activities
I strongly suspect, as we have seen in the past that disabled claimants will be judged upon the mood and attitude of their work coach. If their work coach is ok and in a good mood they might be judged fairly. If not then they could be treated harshly.
Basically their quality of life will therefore be dependent upon an unqualified DWP work coach.
At a recent debate at parliament Labour MP Karen Buck asked Tom Pursglove (who is the present DWP minister for disabled people) several questions about how the proposed abolition of the WCA will work in practice.
Buck asked Pursglove if there would be a substantial risk test which would be similar to the one already used in WCA assessments.
At the time of writing the WCA rules say that Claimants do not have to undertake work-related activities if there is a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if you did so.
Needless to say thousands of appeals against WCA decisions have been successful on the basis that there would be a substantial risk to either the claimant or those around them.
Of course the DWP aren’t going to let this continue. How dare disabled people win their appeals and receive the payments that they’re entitled to.
Under the new proposed system the legal safeguards will no longer exist and all decisions will be made by unqualified work coaches, most of which might not have any or very little knowledge of physical or mental health issues. These issues if ignored will put claimants at risk.
Basically unqualified DWP work coaches will have sole power to make these life changing decisions.
God help us.
Buck asked Pursglove if there are any plans to introduce a mandatory reconsideration and appeal route against these decisions made by work coaches.
Pursglove’s answer was to totally ignored the question No surprise there.
He went on to make outlandish claims that work coaches would adopt a tailored approach that will allow work coaches to build a relationship with Claimants which will determine if any work related activities that Claimants can or can’t do.
I struggle to believe that this will actually happen given the fast staff turnover due to the stressful conditions that they work under. Not to forget work coaches having to take sick leave or indeed leave their jobs altogether.
So basically, cutting away the word salad from Pursglove as I’ve said above, decisions will be based upon attitudes and beliefs of any work coach, without any legal safeguards to prevent dangerous or clearly prejudiced decisions.
But Pursglove didn’t finish there. He went on to say that Claimants might be asked to volunteer in the first place building it up to mandatory placements with requirements added at a pace to suit individual claimants.
So voluntary work is now supposed to cure a claimant of all disabilities and illnesses? It’s not the first time that they’ve claimed this.
So going off Purseglove’s statements work coaches will decide the pace at which a claimant must increase their level of activity. As said above this will happen without any protection in place for claimants who are struggling to keep up therefore putting them at risk of being sanctioned.
When questioned about an appeal process, Pursglove would not answer, saying only that the DWP “will take time to carefully consider how best to implement these changes” and “ensure it provides the taxpayer with value for money and is accessible and effective in delivering for our service users.”
So if there won’t be any legal tests to decide who is or isn’t capable of work based upon the opinions of a work coach how can any decisions be challenged via a social security appeal tribunal?
Buck also asked “whether a benefit sanction that reduced a Claimants UC standard allowance to zero would remove a claimants entitlement to their entitlement to the Health Element of UC”
Pursglove’s initial response seemed positive stating ‘Entitlement to the new UC health element will only end when the functional impact of a person’s health condition improves and they are no longer eligible for PIP or as claimants earn more money resulting in their UC claim tapered away making them financially better off in work’
However this changed when he went on to say that ‘ As we develop our reform proposals we will consider how some interactions with the UC system will be reflected in the reformed system’
In my opinion this suggests that the DWP have not yet worked out many things about the new system, as is often the case.
Sadly this is par for the course for the government and the DWP. They’re always in a big rush to implement more draconian ideas upon the most vulnerable that they forget to actually make important decisions within their plans.
Whether this is done purposely or not is up to debate but I suspect they do.
I’ll keep my eye on this so expect more blogs upon this important subject.
Huge thanks to Benefits and Work for their hard work and original source of information about this subject..
Massive thanks to everyone that likes, shares and tweets my blog posts. This makes a massive difference in raising awareness of subjects such as this.
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Excellent blog from long time reader and supporter of my blog. You can find his blog over at thephisophicalmusehttp://thephisophicalmuse Thanks Mike!
I was started receiving Pension Credit at age 60 after having been on JSA for 18 months (sanctioned for the last 2 months). When I applied I was asked how I had learned about Pension Credit and I replied that DWP had told me 6 months previously that I would have a choice of staying on JSA or switching to Pension Credit – I would have been foolish to continue looking for work and receive half as much money even if I hadn’t been sanctioned!
I still receive some Pension Credit to top up my State Pension, but Independent Age https://www.independentage.org/ is campaigning to ensure more people are advised of their entitlement
I used to work for the Department of Social Security in Australia. If someone over 55 had been unemployed for 6 months they’ld receive Mature Age Allowance, which basically acknowledged that they were unlikely to find a job so were not expected to continue looking for one to continue receiving the same benefits.
Seems similar to what I found in U.K., except that I had to wait 5 years longer to qualify but got twice as much as on JSA.
As part of my last job I was required to attend a training session on pensions and was told that one needed to be paying National Insurance for most of our lives to qualify for state pension. I piped up and said, “Where does that leave me, I’ve been out of the country for 27 years?”
I got some attention as I was quite evidently closer to retirement age than anyone in the room, but I didn’t get an answer!
No chance of me building up a pension fund, I had to wait until after I retired to find that I would be entitled to State Pension because of a reciprocal agreement with the Australian government – not the full amount, but Pension Credit makes up the difference.
WASPI women should be complaining that their pension age was to be increased to 65, not that they didn’t have sufficient notification of the increase.
What does it matter if they tell you they’re gonna raise your pension age in 10 years time, unless you’re within 10 years of pension age?
We need to stop of thinking of ourselves and ask why anyone should be required to work beyond 60 years of age unless they choose to!
Those of us already retired can ask these questions because we’ve got nothing to lose, do we?
The triple lock on our pensions cannot be assured under a Tory government. Everyone should join a union, I joined Unite Community after I retired ✊
According to statistics released today by CPAG (Child Poverty Action Group) 350,000 more children are in poverty in the U.K than last year.
This shows that 29% of all children in the UK are growing up below what is regarded as the breadline. In total that’s 4.2 million children in the UK, I’ll repeat this again 4.2 million children in the UK are growing up in poverty.
One of the main contributors to this sudden rise since 2022 is the stopping of the £20 universal credit uplift that happened half way through 2022.
At the same time £3.1 billion has been spent on Pupil Premiums and Early Years Entitlement for two-year olds that were introduced in 2008 has risen since 2021 from £2.5 billion to £2.7 billion a year whilst spending on the Early Years Entitlement for two year olds has fallen from £0.5 billion to £0.4 billion.
Forecasts of continued growth in child poverty mean that the current estimated £39.5bn annual cost will reach £40.4 billion in 2027 in today’s prices.
Commenting on today’s DWP’s child poverty statistics and CPAG’s own research on the economic costs of child poverty, Chief Executive of the charity Alison Garnham said:
“Children pay the highest possible price for poverty – they pay with their health, their well-being and their life chances. Our research shows the country also pays a heavy financial price.
Today’s DWP figures show that investing in social security is the way to remove children from poverty. Indeed, the Government did lift many kids from poverty with the £20 universal credit increase, but it plunged them back again with a subsequent cut.
In the face of today’s grim figures, and with another rise in inflation, it’s inexcusable for Ministers to sit on their hands. The Government must extend free school meals, remove the benefit cap and two-child limit and increase child benefit. The human cost for the children in today’s figures is incalculable. The economic fallout for all of us is vast. But if the political will is there, child poverty can be fixed.”
Meanwhile as the cost of living and energy price crisis continues to worsen even more children will be plunged into poverty leaving many to go hungry and at the same time foodbank donations are falling as the price of groceries increases leaving many having to close their doors to those in need.
It takes a truly evil and callous government to knowingly put the health and wellbeing of those most vulnerable at risk whilst they continue to profit from doing so.
The sooner this government has left office the better, to deliberatlty cause the suffering of 350,000 children and more is totally unforgivable.
Those responsible for making these decisions sleep well at night because they don’t care one bit and it’s pointless reaching out to them for sympathy.
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It was announced in yesterdays budget that the WCA (Work Capability Assessment) is likely to be abolished however details of conditionality agreements, sanctions and other conditionality details have nit been revealed yet.
Theres also been rumours of the introduction of automated sanctions possibly implemented by bots for UC (Universal Credit) claimants
With the abolition of the WCA the small protection from conditionality that exists for those who are placed in the support group has been removed but the question is how soon they can enact this and is it a done deal?
From my knowledge this can’t happen without it first being in the white paper which it already is but this then has to go through parliament as a bill and then become an act so none of this is a done deal and it’s uncertain that they’ll have time to do this before a future general election.
If all of the above is successful and the WCA is abolished there are no details as to how the DWP will make decisions upon who will qualify for extra payments because they’re unable to return to work because of illness and disability.
Theres also the question of will the LCWRA (Universal Credit Work Related Activity) continue to stay or will they remove this as well in the future?
Theres also no details given as to who or what will decide if you should be subject to sanctions if you can’t look for work because your condition prevents you from looking for work and attend meetings.
As well as abolishing the WCA, the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) is allegedly already planning to ‘strengthen’ UC sanctions, with rumours of using possible Bots and specially trained staff to do so. These measures could automate the issuing of sanctions notices.
If these rumours are correct, this could mean that sanctions which are already at a record level high could well increase even more when DWP bots possibly send out sanction notices. Sanction notices are notorious for arriving late leaving the claimant with no idea why they haven’t received their payments.
Not to forget that bots aren’t programmed to ask for and look for reasons as to why a claimant has allegedly missed an appointment and they certainly don’t take into account a persons ability to attend meetings.
Whilst any changes to the WCA are very likely to take years to introduce and there is time to challenge these decisions, changes to sanctions could well be introduced rapidly and without warning.
Another question that needs answering is will these changes apply to existing claims? If so this will most likely take a long time to transition. So don’t panic nothing is going to suddenly change if you are currently in support group / LCWRA.
So when will these changes happen?
They will be rolled out geographically for new claims first from 2026/27 to 2029. Only then would existing claimants begin to be affected. There will be some transitional protection for claimants who have LCWRA but do not get any element of PIP.
The degree of change in our proposals will require primary legislation, which we would aim to take forward in a new Parliament when parliamentary time allows. These reforms would then be rolled out, to new claims only, on a staged, geographical basis from no earlier than 2026/27
Below is a government link to their proposals in their white paper.
I’ve tried to be concise and to word things simply, I don’t want anyone to panic and think that these changes are going to happen soon because they aren’t and theres time to oppose these proposals and protest against them.
Regarding Universal Credit claimants they’re most likely to bear the brunt of this much sooner and we still need to continue to support them and campaign against the extremely harsh treatment being thrown at them.
It’s no surprise that the government has yet again chosen to target the most vulnerable and I can see no end to their cruelty. We need to support each other in these cruelest of times.
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According to Tom Pursglove DWP Minister For Disabled People, 42,000 claimants lost their PIP Personal Independence Payments) awards in 2021 because they allegedly failed to return their AR1 PIP review forms.
This has caused an astonishing unexplained increase of almost 300% in just two years.
Theres a strong probability that many of the claimants that have been disallowed their payments have indeed returned them in time and the inept and archaic DWP system could be either losing them or taking far too long to record that they have been received.
Not to forget that some claimants may have failed to return the review form because the distress that completing these forms can cause triggering physical or mental health conditions.
As I reported a couple of weeks ago the tragic death of Laura Winham who’s disability benefit was stopped without any welfare checks by the DWP and other organisations after she failed to return her PIP claim form after being told that she needed to transfer from DLA to PIP.
Please note that all agencies involved were aware that she had a severe mental illness and needed support to do so.
According to Pursglove, claimants with serious mental health or cognitive conditions or who are vulnerable in other ways should have their files ‘watermarked’ to show they need additional support. Clearly this isn’t happening in all cases.
According to DWP policy claimants such as these should not have their PIP stopped because of a failure to return a form.
Are the DWP ignoring their own policies and procedures?Unsurprisingly this appears to be the case doesn’t it.
It has been reported that in February 2023 a high court found that the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) guilty of lying to a claimant concerning their legal rights and also guilty of keeping vital legal guidance secret in order to recover an overpayment of £8,000 from a claimant.
This overpayment was also found to be a result of mistakes made by the DWP leaving the claimant not at fault.
This resulted in the court preventing the DWP from taking the overpayment back from the mother of two disabled children. In doing so it has been revealed that possibly thousands more claimants may have been lied to in the same manner.
The claimant had made her appeal on the grounds that the DWP had kept secret its detailed policy which advises that in this situation overpayments should be waived.
Upon hearing this the judge in this case found that this secrecy was unlawful.
It was revealed that the DWP repeatedly lied to the claimant by telling her that she had no right to ask them to consider waiving the debt of which the judge found this to be ‘manifestly unlawful’.
Evidence showed in the trial also revealed that in the year to March 2021 a total of 337,000 universal credit claimants were asked to repay overpayments that were caused by errors made by the DWP.
The total value of those overpayments was £228 million.
Unsurprisingly the DWP claimed that only 47 claimants asked for their overpayments to be waived in the whole of 2020 and just 7 of those requests were granted.
The judge saying that “If the claimant’s experience of twice having her request for waiver rebuffed without consideration is not unique to her, the number of requests in fact made may exceed the number recorded ”
The truth is that thousands of claimants might have requested a waiver and been ignored or even denied by the DWP.
At the same time thousands more might not have been aware that they even had the right to ask for one.
This case shows that the DWP continues to harass and financially withdraw monies from extremely vulnerable people brazenly most likely not expecting to be challenged.
It also has to be acknowledged that the claimant in this case was extremely brave for taking the DWP to court. It’s a very difficult thing to do and her doing so has possibly helped thousands of other claimants in similar situations.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive.
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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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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.
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