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.
Please share this blog post it helps enormously to raise awareness! A huge thank you to everyone that has done and does.
Please subscribe to my blog if you haven’t already done so, it costs nothing and you’ll be informed every time I publish a new article. Thanks to everyone that have subscribed.
I don’t receive any payments for the work that I do and to say its a struggle is an understatement. If you like my work and can afford to donate to help me continue theres a donate button at the top and side of this blog post.
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.
A huge thank you to everyone that reads, likes and shares my blog posts. It’s vitally important especially that in times like these we continue to raise awareness of what life is like for the poorest and most vulnerable in the UK.
I don’t receive any payment for any of the work that I do and to say its a struggle is an understatement. If you would like to and can afford to donate to keep my blog and campaign going theres a donate button at the top and side of this blog post.
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’.
Please read, share, tweet and email this blog posts and my others it makes a massive difference.
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.
I don’t receive any payment for any of the work that I do, if you would like to support my work and can afford to theres a donate button at the top and side of this blog post.
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.
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 reference agencies,
money transfer companies,
water and sewerage undertaker or authority,
gas and electricity providers,
educational establishment or institutions,
The Student Loans Company.
banks (including credit unions),
credit reference agencies,
money transfer companies,
water and sewerage undertaker or authority,
gas and electricity providers,
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
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.