Thought I would put some bits of this months newsletter up for all to read,,, it's mainly about the plans of IDS aka DWP!
Welcome to the first newsletter following the summer.
It’s undoubtedly a summer the DWP will be desperate to put behind it, after being repeatedly hit with bad publicity, as you can read below.
But for claimants, the two most important items of news over the summer are probably:
the early roll out of forced DLA to PIP transfers for ‘lifetime’ claimants to 29 more postcode districts; and
Iain Duncan Smith’s announcement that he wants to radically change ESA to get one million more sick and disabled claimants into work.
Whilst IDS’ vicious JSA sanctions regime has helped enormously in cutting JSA claimant numbers, he has had nothing like the same success in reducing the number of people claiming ESA. Although the news that sanctions against ESA claimants rose by 38% in just one month suggests that IDS has not given up trying.
However, over the summer IDS announced that he wants to make big changes to the work capability assessment. In a speech last month he argued that:
“We need to look at the assessment we use for ESA – and I want to look at changing it so that it is better geared towards helping to get people prepared for and into what work they may be capable of, rather than parking them beyond work.”
Whether this means an assault on claimants in the work-related activity group or the support group or both, we will have to wait and see. But there’s little doubt that, for ESA claimants, a new fight is on the horizon.
PIP TO DLA ROLL OUT
For DLA claimants the fight to hold onto their benefit has already begun. In the first 10 postcodes where claimants with an ‘indefinite’ or ‘lifetime’ award of DLA are forced to claim PIP instead, the DWP began targeting claimants in July, rather than October as originally planned.
Then, at the end of last month the DWP announced that a further 29 postcodes would also begin the reassessment process early, starting on 1 September.
The complete transfer of claimants is expected to take over two years, with the DWP saying claimants can be contacted at any time up to 30 September 2017.
But this latest announcement suggests that the DWP is already in a rush to get up to the full rate of 1,800 assessments a day of lifetime DLA claimants.
PIP MEDICAL REPORTS WANTED
Have you had a medical assessment for PIP and obtained a copy of the report that was produced about you? Would you be willing to provide us with a copy? You can post or scan and email the report and we will pay £7.50 per report to cover your costs.
Benefits and Work wants to examine PIP medical reports produced by Atos and Capita about a range of different health conditions to help us with our training and our guides. We may publish extracts from the reports, but they will always be completely anonymised and, where necessary, details changed to ensure that you cannot be identified.
If you have a medical report and would like more details, please drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with PIP medical report in the subject line. Please do not post or email your report until you have heard back from us.
DWP’S NIGHTMARE SUMMER
It’s been a bad summer for the DWP.
They have faced huge criticism over the ESA death statistics, which they unsuccessfully tried to bury over the last bank holiday.
The figures released are unclear in many regards. But what is apparent is that thousands of claimants have died within weeks of being found fit for work, leading to calls in the national media for the resignation of IDS.
The DWP were also shamed by the revelation that they had invented bogus ESA claimants who praised their sanctions regime. Leaflets featuring the fake claimants have now had to be withdrawn. The issue created even more of a scandal in the media than the deaths of thousands of claimants.
Finally, there was the leaked news that the government’s long-term violation of the human rights of claimants - and in particular the multiple cuts to benefits – are being investigated by the United Nations.
THE NEW FORCE IN CLAIMANTS RIGHTS
What is particularly notable about these news items is that they were all brought about by tiny, private sector or unfunded groups or individuals.
The ESA death statistics campaign is the work of Vox Political blogger Mike Sivier.
The bogus sanction claimants were revealed by Welfare Weekly – a one-person online news aggregator.
And the UN investigation has come about due to the tireless work of activist group Disabled People Against Cuts.
Add to this the story of the 49 secret DWP investigations into claimant deaths, revealed earlier this year by John Pring’s Disability News Service, and a startling truth emerges.
The DWP is now largely being held to account not by opposition politicians, not by well-funded charities such as Disability Rights UK, but by activists with virtually no income.
One of the main weapons of these new campaigners is the Freedom of Information Act. But we know that the government is already taking steps to try to dramatically curtail the use of the Act.
How long before the government – or its multinational partners - also decide to take action against the campaigners themselves?
Support for ever more harsh benefits cuts depends on people accepting that claimants are bad and the DWP is good. These campaigners are inconveniently proving that the opposite is true.