The divisive language that drains support for those on benefits

Further to your coverage of the sad and wasteful death of David Clapson (‘No one should die penniless and alone’, G2, 4 August), today (9 August) marks the anniversary of the discovery of the emaciated body of Mark Wood, a vulnerable sufferer from severe mental health problems, in David Cameron’s Oxfordshire constituency. Mr Wood had been erroneously and incompetently declared fit for work by Atos (on behalf of the DWP) and the consequent cutting of benefits was a clear “accelerating factor” in his death by starvation. The architects of deaths like these remain in charge of the DWP. There have of course been other well-attested deaths-by-DWP and there will be more (especially among the vulnerable disabled), as current reforms roll out their panoply of delays, despair and effective victimisation across the country. The real human costs of sick government must never be forgotten.
Stewart Eames
Cambridge

• David Clapson’s death is a sad reflection on the impact of government policies. I was fortunate enough to be able to work from the age of 15 to 70, paying all due taxes. Should we really care if a few people manipulate the system, if it means that no one is unfairly penalised and slips below the safety net necessary to provide a reasonable standard of living? I am not religious, but I do think that this heartless government should consider “there, but for the grace of God, go I”.
Wendy Collins
Batley, West Yorkshire

• The harrowing comments on benefit sanctions (G2, 6 August) didn’t discuss the political basis for these punitive measures. People mostly vote on a tribal basis, for “our sort of people”. When people become afraid of falling into poverty they take comfort in the hope that it only happens to the “other sort of people” and vote Conservative as an act of faith. This is the same mechanism that unites a country under threat of war and persuades dirt-poor Americans to oppose Obamacare rather than admit to themselves that they might one day need it.
D Sewell
Driffield, East Yorkshire

• Shame on the Guardian for describing out-of-work benefit recipients as “the idle poor” (Report, 5 August). On the basis of what evidence do you write them off as idle? Are those caring for children or infirm relatives, volunteering in the community, actively seeking work or simply working hard just to get by on a low income idle? Language matters and it is the use of othering language such as this by the media and politicians that has contributed to the “draining away of public support” for social security.
Ruth Lister
Labour, House of Lords

Via http://www.theguardian.com/


Police boss blames welfare reforms for 35% increase in shoplifting claiming cuts victims are ‘stealing to survive’

A POLICE commissioner has blamed the Government’s welfare reforms for a 35 per cent jump in shoplifting, claiming thieves are “stealing to live”.

Ron Hogg, Labour Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Durham, said usually law-abiding people were turning to crime because they were unable to feed themselves – and blamed the Coalition’s benefit changes, including the so-called bedroom tax.

Mr Hogg admitted there was no evidence of a direct link but said: “Shoplifting is up 35 per cent year on year and an awful lot of people are stealing to live.”

He added: “We predicted this tax would cause massive problems for some of the most vulnerable in our society.

“With more welfare reform yet to be implemented the situation will only get worse.”

Mr Hogg’s claims were supported by Barry Coppinger, Labour PCC for Cleveland, where there has been a 7.3 per cent rise in shoplifting.

He said: “Deep and relentless welfare reforms have a knock-on effect on other crimes, particularly shoplifting, as families turn to the black market to buy food and other items they can’t afford in the shops.”

The Conservative Party referred enquiries to the Home Office, which said it was a matter for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), where a spokesman said there was absolutely no evidence linking welfare reforms to increased crime.

He said the reforms were guaranteeing a strong welfare net and £345m had been given to councils to help the most vulnerable.

“Ending the spare room subsidy was absolutely necessary in order to get the soaring housing benefit bill under control, returning fairness to the system and making better use of social housing stock.

“These rules already applied to the housing benefit claimants in the private sector – introduced by the previous Government.”

Rebecca Coulson, the prospective Tory parliamentary candidate for Durham City, said: “It’s never sensible to make excuses for criminal behaviour, or to imply that shoplifting is acceptable.

“We all still live in straitened times, following the recession, but the Conservative long term economic plan is working.”

A recent DWP report found 522,905 households were affected by the so-called bedroom tax by last August and nearly a fifth of claimants had registered an interest in downsizing.

More than half of claimants had cut back on household essentials, a quarter had borrowed money and three per cent had taken pay day loans.

Mr Hogg and Mr Coppinger advised people to use credit unions.

In Durham, about 100 female shoplifters have avoided being charged by sitting a life issues course.

Via Welfare News Service via  http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/11393471.Police_boss_blames_welfare_reforms_for_35__increase_in_shoplifting_claiming_cuts_victims_are__stealing_to_survive_/?ref=twtrec

 

 

 

 

 


Job Seeker Sanction Advice

A new website run by “a small network of 3 disgruntled ex- Department of Work and Pensions civil servants”, featuring advice on how to foil sanctions.

 

http://jobseekersanctionadvice.com/

Via Boycott Workfare


DWP awards Atos £10 million IT contract for healthcare assessments

Atos to continue providing IT for controversial work capability tests despite paying to exit contract early

Atos is due to exit its controversial DWP contract for health and disability assessments by February next year, instead of the original end date in August.

The French multinational has come under fire for the number of work capability decisions that have been overturned and the firm recorded roughly 163 incidents of abuse or assault on staff in 2013.

The firm announced its intention to walk away from the contract in February and the government confirmed that Atos would exit the agreement early in March.

However this new contract means the firm will continue to provide the IT for the assessments until at least 2016, with allowances for it to be extended until 2020.

The contract, which the DWP described as an ‘interim arrangement’, was negotiated and set up without any competition.

The department said that this was for ‘technical reasons’, some of which were set out in the award notice, which was published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) at the end of last week.

The DWP said that an alternative provider would not be able to set up the new services in time without there being “an unacceptable level of service transition and delivery risk failure”.

In the OJEU notice, the department also claimed: “Another supplier would be unable to provide the IT services using the existing hardware, software, premises, etc, because the physical assets are owned by the current provider of the assessment services rather than the Authority.”

The DWP said: “Another supplier would be unable to replicate the current IT services because there is insufficient documentation to build them.”

It also said that another supplier wouldn’t be able to replace the physical assetes on a like-for-like basis because some of the assets were out-of-date and now unavailable.

The DWP told ComputerworldUK that although a new provider is expected to take over the contract next year, the IT will be transferred separately and at a later date.

A spokesperson said: “The DWP is seeking a new provider to help increase the volume of assessments carried out and improve the claimant experience, in particular looking to reduce waiting times and modernise delivery, including looking to replace the current IT.

“To make sure claimants get a good service during transformation, we are transferring the IT separately, and at a later date, than the rest of the service [which transfers in 2015].

“We have therefore asked Atos to continue to provide the current IT services for a further year. In the meantime work has started on planning for how we replace the IT.”

In a statement to Parliament in March, disability minister Mike Penning MP said that Atos had paid the department to terminate its contract early.

He said: “I am pleased to confirm that Atos will not receive a single penny of compensation from the taxpayer for the early termination of their contract, quite the contrary, I can also confirm that Atos has made a substantial financial settlement to the Department for Work and Pensions.”

However the DWP refused to disclose the figure paid by Atos when contacted by ComputerworldUK.

The contract for healthcare assessments between the DWP and Atos was awarded in 1998. It was renewed for seven years in 2005 and then extended for a further three in 2010 through to 2015.


Help to work

help to work


Workfare – anything but fair!

Hi there,

Our Charity sector is facing a new threat.

The government has launched its new “Help to Work Scheme” which will force long term unemployed people to do unpaid work for six months in charities or face losing their benefits for up to three years.

Unite, along with Oxfam and another 30 charities has signed up to a new campaign to Keep Volunteering Voluntary. Can you help by asking your employer to sign this simple pledge and ask your organisation to refuse to participate in the ‘Help to Work Scheme’. You can find details and sign the pledge here.

This new scheme undermines the whole principle behind volunteering. There is also no evidence that it helps long-term unemployed find jobs.

Workfare mandates people to work for free with the threat of having their benefits taken away hanging over them. It also replaces paid jobs with unpaid jobs, providing a taxpayer subsidy to major UK employers.

If you have experience of workfare in your organisation then we’d like to hear from you. Please share your stories here.

Follow our tweets using #workfare on Twitter @unite4society

Like our page on Facebook   https://www.facebook.com/UniteOurSociety

Read our blogs: http://www.uniteforoursociety.org/blog/c/workfare/

Many thanks

Sally

Sally Kosky
National Officer
Unite for Our Society


Disabled people are trapped in assessment ‘nightmare’ by PIP benefits regime, says Dr Stephen Duckworth

The head of the testing scheme at outsourcers Capita  – who is disabled himself – reveals his worries about the ‘dire consequences’ of the current system

The PIP scheme is being phased in to replace Disability Living Allowance, a non-means tested benefit designed to help with the extra costs of living with a long-term health condition.

It has proved deeply controversial, however, taking some people more than six months to find out if they are eligible for the payments – causing “severe stress and uncertainty”, according to an official report by MPs last month.

Dr Duckworth, who is himself disabled, serves as chief executive of Capita PIP, which is overseeing the roll-out of the benefits system in the Midlands, Wales and Northern Ireland. He said the evaluation process was adding to a wider culture of prejudice, particularly in the workplace.

“When it comes to recruitment, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that there is discrimination taking place,” he said in an interview. “In the corporate setting, women sometimes argue there’s a glass ceiling that means they can’t get through into the boardroom – but for disabled people lucky enough to be in employment, they often remain on the ‘sticky floor’.

“There’s often little career advancement, they enter a job and stay in that job and can’t go any further.” Dr Duckworth, who has been confined to a wheelchair for over three decades after fracturing his spine during rugby training when he was 21, has faced some vitriolic criticism from sections of the disabled community for his involvement with PIP – with opponents to the scheme claiming that up to 600,000 people will lose out on vital support, partly through alterations in eligibility criteria.

Under PIP, only those unable to walk a distance of 20 metres will qualify for the Higher Rate Mobility component. This shift away from the former standard benchmark in assessing severely limited mobility of 50 metres means that in future many highly compromised individuals will no longer receive support they have previously relied on.

PIP has also added to wider concerns about disability benefits, with the Government saying last month that it would be seeking a new contractor to replace Atos in carrying out the separate Work Capability Assessments, or “fit-to-work” tests, after the firm became widely reviled within the community for lengthy waiting times and wrongly saying people are ready for employment. Dr Duckworth has faced abuse for working on PIP, with one web forum member calling him “Judas”, while he was dubbed “Capita’s flagship supercrip” on Twitter.

However, Dr Duckworth said he was well aware of the worrying impact benefits assessments can have – and said his firm is committed to disabled people filling half its management team to ensure they fully understand the pressures involved. “Assessments can be a stressful and difficult experience for claimants. We know that prior to an assessment there’s a tendency to worry and focus on health problems, which makes them seem bigger, that’s just human nature,” he said.

“PIP assessments may be followed by a Social Care Assessment, Work Capability Assessment and perhaps one for a blue badge. It becomes one assessment after another and people end up getting stuck at home with nothing to do other than focus on their problems.”

Dr Duckworth said the Government should make an effort to reduce the burden placed on the disabled by repeated assessments.

“There are decisions that politicians can take to change things,” he said. “We could, for example, have one assessment in which 80 per cent of the information across Social Care, PIP and the Work Capability Assessment, which is ultimately mostly the same information, could be captured. At the present moment, a disabled person has to share this three times with three different people.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said: “We will continue to work with disabled people… to assess what improvements we could consider to refine our processes. We have committed to at least two independent reviews of the PIP assessment.”

Via http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/disabled-people-are-trapped-in-assessment-nightmare-by-pip-benefits-regime-says-dr-stephen-duckworth-9272423.html