Housing benefit cuts for young people may be scaled back : Guardian.


UK: New reports show harm to disabled and sick from ‘fit for work’ tests – 091213 1345z

“Two new reports draw attention to the damaging impact of fit for work assessments on many sick and disabled people, giving more evidence of the misery and hardship they experience, and providing further clues as to the underlying cause of the flawed process.

The People’s review of the WCA: further evidence, produced by the Spartacus network of disabled researchers and campaigners, is published today, 9 December 2013. It is also being made available through the think-tank Ekklesia and other supportive NGOs.

How Norms Become Targets: Investigating the real reason for the misery of fit for work assessments, by leading independent disability campaigner Kaliya Franklin, also part of the Spartacus network, was published on 2 December by the Centre for Welfare Reform.

Despite minor improvements in the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), politicians, doctors, other medical professionals, church leaders, journalists, disabled people and thousands of others continue to express serious disquiet over its impact on sick and disabled people, critics say.

The assessment is used to determine eligibility for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which provides support for people who are unable to work for health reasons, but there remains little confidence in its operation.

The People’s review of the WCA: further evidence has been written by an anonymous author determined, despite seriously failing health, to do everything she possibly can to raise awareness of the impact of the WCA on the lives of sick and disabled people.

Like the first Peoples Review, published a year ago, this new report aims to give a voice to those whose lives have been devastated by the impact of the assessment on their physical and mental health and financial security.

It shows how the WCA very often fails in its purpose to identify those who need secure financial support because they are unable to work due to an impairment or serious health condition.

The Centre for Welfare Reform paper includes whistle-blower evidence and analysis showing that despite consistent denials by ministers outcomes for sick and disabled ESA claimants are governed, to some extent at least, by a system of norms.

In practice these norms behave as quotas, ensuring that no more than a certain percentage of claimants are eligible for ESA. This cynical approach to assessing claimants for sickness benefits has its roots in Lord Freuds report ‘Reducing Dependency, Increasing Opportunity: options for the future of welfare to work’, published in 2007, and provides a distressing explanation for the experiences described in the second Peoples Review, says the Spartacus network.

In a news release, the group says: “It seems clear that without de facto quotas, explained in Kaliya Franklins report, it is much less likely that the process of being assessed for support would inflict so much suffering on so many people. Taken together, the reports add more detail to an emerging picture of the political manipulation at the heart of an assessment process that continues to cause sick and disabled people immense hardship and suffering a full five years after its introduction.”

Simon Barrow, co-director of the beliefs and values think-tank Ekklesia, says that the two reports illustrate the need for government to shift its approach and attitudes to welfare radically.

He commented: “The accumulating research evidence of the hugely damaging impact of ‘fit for work’ assessment processes on a significant number of disabled and sick people is not something a civilised government or society can ignore.

“We agree with the British Medical Association and other expert bodies and analysts that the Work Capability Assessment is not fit for purpose. Further serious questions are also being raised about intentions and actions of the Department of Work and Pensions.

“The publication of new evidence about the impact of WCA from the Spartacus network of disabled researchers and campaigners illustrates the crucial need for policy in this area to be formulated with the substantial involvement of those most directly affected.

“The case for an independent, cumulative impact assessment of welfare reform in the UK, together with a new deal for disabled and sick people based on their needs and aspirations, is now overwhelming.

“Ekklesia is delighted that this proposal will now be discussed in parliament, following huge public support for the WOW petition, and urges that this should take place in the parliamentary chamber itself, not in a Westminster annex.”

* People’s review of the WCA: further evidence – http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19621

* Spartacus network – http://wearespartacus.org.uk

* ATOS and DWP stand accused over flawed ‘fit for work’ assessments – http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19623

* Centre for Welfare Reform – http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org

* Urgent action: letter to MPs asking parliament to listen to disabled and sick people – http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/19587

[Ekk/3]” – ekklesia staff writers 9 Dec 2013

UK: Local Government Association report shows devastating impact of UK welfare policies – 120813 2350z

LGA report shows devastating impact of UK welfare policies

By ekklesia staff writers
12 Aug 2013
“Research from the Local Government Association (LGA) in England has highlighted the true destruction and dislocation caused by UK welfare cuts.

(Photo: presstv) ‘Bedroom Tax’ protest

The LGA’s latest report indicates that four in five welfare recipients are likely to need help from their councils to cope with the coalition government’s new social security changes.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, commented: “The government has tried to sell its welfare reforms on the back of mistruths and nasty stereotypes. However, this research exposes what a devastating impact its policies are having on communities throughout the country.”

She continued: “Ministers are not cracking down on cheats as they claim, but destroying the safety net that our welfare state is meant to provide for those who fall on hard times through no fault of their own.

“The government’s attack on social security provision is not only hurting those unable to find work. Millions of working families are seeing an even bigger reduction in their financial support.

“Rather than addressing the shortage of jobs and affordable housing that is blighting many areas, ministers are slashing local authority budgets and expecting councils to deal with the fallout from their reforms,” said the TUC chief.

Charities, churches, community groups, users, practitioners and researchers have all been highly critical of the government’s determination to restructure welfare in ways that hit the most vulnerable.” – ekklesia

‘Poor Must Learn to go Without’, Says err…Rupert Ponsonby, 7th Baron de Mauley

Scriptonite Daily


Conservative Environment Minister Lord De Mauley has today called on the poor to reconsider their buying habits and resist the temptation to spend more money on the latest electronic gadgets, clothes and food that they will not eat” in efforts to recapture the spirit of “make, do and mend”.  In a week that has echoed with unchecked privilege, this takes the biscuit.

Make, Do and Mend?


The current Environment Minister, Rupert Ponsonby, 7th Baron De Mauley was educated at Eton, the fees for which are currently more than £30,000 a year (more than the average UK wage). He went on to marry the daughter of Lord Fanshawe of Richmond (former Tory MP and peer), Lucinda.  He is a hereditary peer and succeeded his uncle, the 6th Baron De Mauley.  He is the proud owner of myriad farmland and property in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. It…

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UK Sleepwalking into Fascism: Workhouses for Disabled, The #RacistVan, Racial Profiling

Scriptonite Daily


This week has seen a plethora of actions by the UK government, which if adopted by any other country, any compassionate person would consider fascist. Government sponsored vehicles are roaming the streets telling people to dob in suspected illegal immigrants, the UK Border Agency are stopping mostly non-white commuters on the transport networks and requesting they display credentials to prove their right to be here, and disabled people are being carted off to modern day workhouses. Yet in spite of all this, many are still reluctant to face the gut wrenching reality that all is not well in blighty.

Godwin’s Law? Oh Give it Up


No doubt someone is already preparing a comment accusing me of Godwin’s Law for making this comparison.  So I’ll take a moment to set out why I am making it, and why it does not conform to the term.

Godwin’s Law was intended…

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DWP Announces Jobless to be ‘Targeted By a Hit Squad’ – Not Satire

Scriptonite Daily


A press release issued by the Department of Work and Pensions this afternoon outlines tough new sanctions on the unemployed, using inflammatory language.  The press release states that the long term unemployed will be ‘targeted by a hit squad’ of ‘specialists’ where they will either find work or lose their access to benefits.

Workfare Plus


The Government has a whole host of programmes purportedly in place to support the jobless back into paid employment.  Workfare refers to all of the programmes which are mandatory, long term and paid less than minimum wage.

Earlier this year, as all but one of the WorkFare schemes were found to compel a person’s labour and deemed illegal by the Court of Appeal at the Royal Courts of Justice.  The response of Mark Hoban, Minister for Employment, was that the regulations would simply be redrafted, the work programmes continued and not a…

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MPs Get 30% Pay Rise, Average Worker Gets 20% Pay Cut

Scriptonite Daily


It was announced yesterday that MPs could receive a 30% pay rise, seeing their wages rise £20,000 a year to £86,000.  Meanwhile, the average wage earner in the UK has seen their wages drop 20% in real terms since 2008. The government is certainly Making Work Pay…just not for 99% of the population.

The Wage Drop of the 99%


Increased access to personal debt (credit cards, loans, store cards, buy now pay later, hire purchase etc.) has been masking the expanding gulf between cost of living and wage inflation for decades.

In the ten years between 1999 and 2009, the annual salary rose 13.6%.  During the same period, house prices went up 130%, a loaf of bread went up 147%, and a litre of petrol went up 42%.  This goes some way to accounting for the fact that personal debt rose during this period…

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Doctor who worked for ATOS (private company which assesses people for disability benefits) says its methods are unfair – 160513 1825z

Disability benefit assessments ‘unfair’, says ex-worker


Disabled man at workA doctor who worked for the private company which assesses people for disability benefits says its methods are “unfair”.

Greg Wood, a former Royal Navy doctor, resigned from Atos earlier this month, after working as an assessor for two-and-a-half years.

He told the BBC the system was “skewed against the claimant”.

But Atos Healthcare says it submits “clinically justified reports” and completely refutes Dr Wood’s claims.

Atos, which has been criticised in the past by disability campaigners and MPs, carries out work capability assessments (WCAs) on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Claimants have to score a required number of points in order to qualify for the full sickness benefit under the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

In a statement, Atos said: “We never ask healthcare professionals to make any changes to a report unless there are specific clinical quality issues identified within it.

“We do not deviate from government guidelines in our training. We do not have targets for getting people on or off benefits.

“We have a large team of fully trained doctors, nurses and physiotherapists who provide a professional and compassionate service through what we recognise can be a difficult and emotional process for people…

“We are a professional and ethical organisation.”

‘Compelled to speak’

In an interview with the BBC, Dr Wood says he believes Atos assessors are not free to make truly independent recommendations.

He said he felt compelled to speak out because it was “embarrassing to be associated with this shambles”.

Case study

Ema Hackett

Ema Hackett, 24, has a mid-range disability and is unable to work. A trained graphic designer, she has Hypermobility Syndrome which makes her joints abnormally flexible. She lives with chronic pain and also suffers from mental health problems.

She has a carer who comes in once a day to help with household chores and cook her dinner.

In the past three years, she has twice been rejected for full sickness benefit following assessments and twice she’s successfully challenged the decision through Atos’ internal appeal system.

“It feels like not only am I fighting my body to get up everyday, but I’m also fighting the system to get the money I need just to exist.

“I don’t have a frivolous life. I don’t really ask for much – I just want enough to live a normal life.

“The letters from the Department for Work and Pensions come in a brown envelope with a certain address on the back. Any brown envelope I look at the back and if it’s from the Department for Work and Pensions, I’m scared.”

“It’s very unfair on the people making claims, they deserve a fair assessment and as a taxpayer I’m pretty cheesed off about the £100m plus that’s being sprayed away on this dog’s breakfast,” he said.

The assessments – or fit to work tests – sparked protests from disability campaigners after their introduction in 2010.

But Dr Wood has criticised some of the tests which he says contain “dubious concepts and shaky reasoning”.

He claims assessors are told that if a claimant can walk from the kitchen to the sitting room, it proves they can walk 200m (650ft); and if a person can dress themselves once during the day that is proof they have enough concentration and motivation to hold down a job.

He insists these rules are not published in handbooks and guides, instead they are simply spoken about in training sessions.

Mr Gibson said the rules detailed by Dr Wood were incorrect and several questions were asked to build up a complete picture, alongside the medical evidence.

Dr Wood, who was given special responsibility to champion mental health at Atos, said: “I was instructed to change my reports, to reduce the number of points that might be awarded to the claimants. I felt that was wrong professionally and ethically.

“My view is the government has tried to catch more people in the net than the current test allows by pulling strings behind the scenes to get the result they most desire,” he added.

Mr Gibson said a report was only changed if there was insufficient medical evidence to back it up.

There were “no targets to take people off benefits” and that had always been the case, he added.

‘Highest level’

Dr Wood says the people being most adversely affected by the system have significant, mid-ranging disabilities, such as Parkinson’s disease, mental illness, and head and spinal injuries.

The percentage of people entitled to ESA is now at its highest level

- Department for Work and Pensions

He also claims some of the most severely disabled people are being asked to attend face-to-face assessments, instead of the normal practice of examining their application on paper.

He says he saw a lot of people who had suffered severe strokes and brain damage.

“There was a man with a motor neurone condition who I actually put in the terminal illness group,” he said. “He should not have come for a face-to-face assessment. It was cruel and he was hopping mad.”

The DWP said between March and May 2012, 58% of decisions to award the full sickness benefit were made on paper only, so did not require a face-to-face assessment.

Employment minister Mark Hoban says the evidence speaks for itself.

“When we came to Office one in 10 people were getting the highest level of support. That has now gone up to three in 10,” he told the BBC.

“What’s important to me is to make sure the decisions which are made are good quality decisions and people are getting the right support.”

He said the assessments had undergone several independent reviews and were devised in conjunction with health professionals and charities.

“The percentage of people entitled to ESA is now at its highest level with over half of people completing an assessment eligible for the benefit,” a DWP spokesman added.

Labour MP Tom Greatrex, who has asked a series of Commons questions on the assessments, said Dr Wood’s allegations were “serious and shocking” and he had written to the prime minister asking for an investigation.

“The head-in-the-sand approach Tory ministers are adopting isn’t good enough,” he said.

“They need to get a grip on this chaotic process which is not only causing misery for some of the most vulnerable members of our society, but also costing taxpayers a fortune at a time when we can least afford it.”

Atos senior vice president Wayne Gibson told the BBC it was “surprised and concerned that someone thinks we are unethical”.

“We don’t make the decision about who gets a benefit or not.

“Our role in the process is to do an assessment, gather the medical evidence and write a report that goes to the department, upon which they can gather more evidence and make a decision.”

In a later statement, the company said the claims were “false and damaging”.

It added: “Clinical judgement is the foundation of our part of the Work Capability Assessment process. We send the DWP independent, clinically justified reports to help the department’s decision makers make a decision on benefit entitlement…

“We are a professional and ethical organisation which has carried out this work on behalf of the department for over a decade.

“Atos Healthcare conducts its business based on a code of ethics and a strong legal compliance culture.”

Whistleblower says Atos Work Capability Assessments are unfair

(Video credit: latentexistence)

UK: Benefits cap trial begins in London – 150413 1325z


Iain Duncan Smith. Secretary of State for Work and Pensions


Benefit cap

DWP: “The benefit cap is part of the Welfare Reform Bill that received Royal Assent on 8 March 2012.

From April 2013 a cap will be introduced on the total amount of benefit that working age people can receive. This will mean that workless households should no longer receive more in benefits than the average earnings of working households.

In the first instance, the cap will be administered jointly by DWP and local authorities through deductions from Housing Benefit payments. In the longer term it will form part of the new Universal Credit system.

More detailed information about the cap can be found in the factsheet and the latest impact assessment below:


The benefit cap will be implemented from April 2013, starting in four local authorities in London – Bromley, Croydon, Enfield and Haringey. These were chosen as London has the highest percentage of potential benefit cap claimants and a diverse cross section of residents. This will be a phased roll-out with the remaining local authorities implementing the cap from the 15 July 2013, with all appropriate households capped by the end September 2013.

A phased roll-out allows us to:

  • test our systems and processes end to end in a controlled live environment
  • ensure the supporting products and services for both staff and claimants are effective
  • ensure there is a measured approach to rolling out the cap to affected households
  • build capacity to learn and respond to issues raised in the initial phase of rollout to inform national rollout.

How you can help to support those affected

It’s important that claimants potentially affected by the cap are aware of the impact it could have on them.

Finding work and qualifying for Working Tax Credit may be the best way to ensure that the cap doesn’t apply and we will be offering employment support to all those potentially affected.

You can help them to understand what the cap might mean for them and encourage them to take up the offer of support and to respond proactively by finding work.

Households that aren’t affected by the cap

The cap won’t apply to households where a partner or any dependant child qualify for Working Tax Credit or receive any of the following:

  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Personal Independence Payment
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Benefits
  • Employment Support Allowance, if paid with the support component
  • Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments
  • War Pension Scheme payments (including War Widow’s/Widower’s Pension and War disablement Pension).

Those affected may avoid or reduce deductions to their Housing Benefit if they:

  • negotiate the rent to a more affordable amount
  • move to cheaper accommodation, if possible
  • become entitled to an exempting benefit if the qualifying conditions are met.

There is also additional funding available through the discretionary Housing Payment scheme to support vulnerable households. This will be distributed to local authorities in the normal way.

How we are informing those affected

From the beginning of May 2012 we have been writing to all claimants potentially affected by the cap to give them as much notice as possible. An online calculator is available which can be used to get an estimate of how their Housing Benefit might be impacted at:

Claimants will need to be aware which benefits they receive and how much their award is for, in order to understand how the cap might affect them. They can get this information from their award letters or by contacting the departments that pay their benefits.” – DWP

News Reports

Benefits cap trial begins in London

guardian.co.uk Monday 15 April 2013 07.16 BST

“A cap on the amount of benefits people can receive begins on Monday in a policy that is being trialled in parts of the capital.

The cap, being introduced in four London boroughs – Croydon, Bromley, Haringey and Enfield – will see couples and single parents receive no more than 500 a week in benefits. The limit for single people is 350, although there are some exemptions.

National implementation of the cap will begin in July, and the policy is scheduled to come fully into force by the end of September.

The cap is being brought in to cut spending and to bring benefits payments into line with average income.

The work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, said last week: “The benefit cap sets a clear limit for how much support the welfare state will provide – the average wage for working households.

“But it’s also a strong incentive for people to move into work and even before the cap comes in we are seeing thousands of people seeking help and moving off benefits.

“We have a very clear message: we will provide support to those who need it, but the days of outrageous claims giving people incomes far above those of working families are over.”

The government last week claimed the number of people expected to be hit by the cap had fallen from 56,000 to 40,000, with 8,000 claimants finding work through JobCentre Plus.

Duncan Smith hailed the figures, saying the cap had provided a strong incentive for people to look for jobs, even before it had started to affect their incomes.

But Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and a former chief economist at the Department for Work and Pensions, said there was no evidence that the cap had affected people’s behaviour.

The cap was originally expected to save 275m a year from the welfare bill.

Couples and single parents to get no more than 500 a week in trial in four London boroughs before national rollout” – guardian.co.uk

Scroungers: How Much Does the Corporate Welfare State Cost the Tax Payer

Scriptonite Daily


The UK Government has announced a war on the welfare state, claiming it has become too big a burden for the UK taxpayer to bear. They are correct.  The problem is that they are tackling the wrong welfare state.  It is the Corporate Welfare state that the UK can no longer afford.

What Does the Human Welfare State Cost?

The UK Government spend a total of £694.89bn a year, to do everything.  The amount the government spend on benefits is £159bn, with £72bn (45%) of that going on pensions.  So, we have £85bn (12% of spending) a year actually going on working age benefits.  The UK’s current unemployment rate stands at 7.8%, whilst 19%.  It makes sense that we spend this proportionate amount of shielding citizens from poverty induced by involuntary unemployment, and support sick and disabled people who cannot work or who bear additional financial costs to…

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Homelessness following Halpin

In a society that appears to be becoming more unforgiving and less compassionate the plight of those without a home becomes even more accute

Homelessness affects more than just the individual and is ethically, socially and economically harrowing for all in society. Following years of decline, the 2010 economic downturn has seen an accrual of numbers resulting in a net increase of a third and the reports on Halpin have forced an issue undermined by a lack of media exposure back into the public realm.    

The startling death of Lee Halpin, an aspiring investigative journalist after having slept rough for just 3 of the 7 days intended, epitomises the intrepid venture of “fearless reporting” he wished to demonstrate. The tragic nature of the outcome of a good-willed proposal encourages tenacity to the notion that his proposals went awry with many saying that he has paid the ultimate price, and indeed he has, whilst post-mortem examinations are still taking place his death is suspected to have been the result of hypothermia. However, dark…

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Filmmaker,27, found dead


Lee Halpin

Lee Halpin, a 27-year-old filmmaker, was found dead 3 days after embarking on a project to spend a week living on the streets in his home city of Newcastle. He is believed to have frozen to death while making a documentary about sleeping rough on the streets. In a video explaining his project, he claimed he was applying for a position on a Channel 4 investigative journalism program. He said he hoped to show the channel he could be “fearless” – a key “value” of the broadcaster.

View original post

Iain Duncan Smith Says He Could Live on £53 a Week? His Lunch Cost More than That

Petition calling on Iain Duncan Smith, DWP Sec to live on 53 a week for a year now (at time of writing) 95,606 signatures. In a day

Scriptonite Daily


Today is Black Monday for the UK Welfare State with a raft of cuts to social security, legal aid and advice services which leave the UK’s poor abandoned to their poverty.  When challenged, architect of the cuts Iain Duncan Smith retorted that he could live on £53 a week. His expenses records suggest he might not.

The Cuts


The £53 pound figure relates to what one benefit claimant has been left to live on after the Coalition’s cuts.  To anyone who has been living in a cave for the last few months, today marks the first day of Black April, when a series of cuts to the social security take effect.

There is a hike in Council tax which will see single parents in work paying up to 333% rises in their council tax contributions.  There is the Bedroom Tax which will see 660,000 households, 420,000 of…

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WELFARE – The result of government benefit reforms trial is more debt and evictions for the poor

Order Of Truth

Number of UK poor receiving emergency food aid doublesThe Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been trialling the governments Universal Credit scheme in six areas, which the department has called ‘demonstration projects’, from July 2012 to January 2013, and the outcomes are not looking good.

In one of the trial areas in Wales, Torfaen, tenants rent arrears soared from a total in the region of £20,000 to an astonishing £140,000 during the seven months of the trial.

Landlords are warning that the number of evictions will increase in proportion to the seven fold increase in arrears, putting tenants and landlords in financial difficulty.

Under the current housing benefit system, recipients can opt to have their rent paid directly to their landlord – which is very useful for those with health problems who find coping with household finances difficult or confusing.

When the new Universal Credit system is implemented in the autumn, all benefits will be paid direct…

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UK: New benefit will mean seriously injured armed forces veterans will be guaranteed financial support of around £7,000 pa for life – 170213 1925z

Seriously injured veterans to get financial support for life

A new benefit will mean that seriously injured armed forces veterans will be guaranteed financial support of around £7,000 a year for life.

In April 2013, the Ministry of Defence and Department for Work and Pensions will introduce the Armed Forces Independence Payment, a brand new benefit for members of the Armed Forces and former members of the Armed Forces who have been seriously injured as a result of their service.

In recognition of their immense sacrifice serving their country this will ensure that they receive around £7,000 in financial support every year for the rest of their life. This is in addition to the financial support they receive through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme.

The Government is committed to helping those that have served their nation in as many ways as possible so it has decided to put in place these special arrangements for seriously injured personnel. Rather than face separate assessments, the Armed Forces Independence Payment will ensure that seriously injured personnel continue to receive on-going payments to help with the additional costs associated with their injuries.

This is the latest measure to be announced as part of the Governments commitment to uphold the Armed Forces Covenant so that personnel and their families are not unfairly affected by their service to their country and to ensure special consideration is given to the injured and bereaved.

Minister of State for Defence, Personnel, Welfare and Veterans Mark Francois said:

The men and women of our Armed Forces have served their country with honour and bravery so it is only right that those seriously injured by their service receive financial support to help with the additional costs associated with their injuries. So I am delighted that seriously injured serving personnel and veterans will be able to avoid the unnecessary duplication of reassessments and continue to receive disability benefits via these new arrangements. This is part of honouring the Armed Forces Covenant and I look forward to the introduction of the Armed Forces Independence Payment in April.

Work and Pensions Minister Esther McVey said:

A considerable sacrifice is made by a number of courageous members of the Armed Forces who have been injured as a result of their service to the Nation. That is why we are simplifying and streamlining the welfare support for the most severely injured veterans when they return to the UK. It will help to recognise the unique support needs of veterans.

The Armed Forces Independence Payment will be an alternative to the Personal Independence Payment and is paid for by the Department for Work and Pensions. It will be distributed to the seriously injured through the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme and will not affect any other benefits to which claimants are entitled. However, those eligible will not be able to also receive Personal Independence Payment, Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance.

Doctors employed by ATOS Healthcare to assess people claiming disability benefits could be struck off – 070113 1615z

“Twelve doctors employed by the firm that is paid 100m a year to assess people claiming disability benefit are under investigation by the General Medical Council over allegations of improper conduct.

The doctors, who work for Atos Healthcare, a French-owned company recently criticised by MPs for its practices, face being struck off if they are found not to have put the care of patients first.

(Photo: socialistworker.co.uk) Disability rights campaigners protest at Atos

The Observer has found that seven of the doctors have been under investigation for more than seven months. The other five were placed under investigation this year following complaints about their conduct.

It is understood that the majority of allegations concern the treatment of vulnerable people when the government’s controversial “work capability assessments” were carried out, but the GMC refused to comment on individual cases. The development will add to fears over the pace and radical agenda behind the government’s welfare-to-work policy, which led to protests in Westminster in May by thousands of disabled people. It will also raise concerns about ministers’ commitment to Atos Healthcare, which was recently granted a three-year extension on its contract.

The government has repeatedly publicised figures showing that the “vast majority” of claimants for employment support allowance (ESA), which has replaced incapacity benefit, are fit for work. But four out of 10 of those who appealed the decision by Atos – whose parent company is run by a former French finance minister, Thierry Breton – to deny them benefits are successful on appeal, a process that costs the taxpayer 50m a year.

Last month Atos, whose staff assess around 11,000 benefit claimants a week, was savaged by the cross-party work and pensions select committee after it found that many people had “not received the level of service from Atos which they can reasonably expect”.

MPs further claimed that a combination of the company’s conduct and the test itself had prompted “fear and anxiety among vulnerable people”. ” – The Guardian (Link to full story)


Atos Healthcare (wikipedia)

UK Disability Benefits: Security Guards Short-Listed For DLA To PIP Medical Assesment Contracts


Disability living allowance (DLA) claimants have been divided into four regional lots and are being sold off to ten shortlisted bidders including multinational security companies – for the purpose of being medically assessed for personal independence payment.

A fifth, nationwide lot is also up for grabs, but the DWP have said they do not intend to use this contract unless things go wrong with regional suppliers.

PIP is due to begin replacing DLA for working age claimants from spring next year, with all current DLA claimants having to be reassessed for the new benefit. The contracts for PIP medicals are worth up to a billion pounds in total and have attracted the attention of many multinational companies.

Amongst the bidders through to the final round in all four regions is the increasingly heavily criticised Atos, who will undoubtedly be hoping that their LIMA software will give them the edge over their rivals.

Relative newcomers to the scene are security guards G4S, who have also been shortlisted for every contract. Their forensic medical arm, though more used to helping catch rapists and paedophiles, won a small contract to pilot PIP assessments last year. In 2010, three G4S security guards were bailed after the death, whilst they were restraining him, of an Angolan refugee being deported from Heathrow.

Serco, another company with a heavy security presence, have been shortlisted for Northern Ireland. Amongst many other contracts, Serco run prisons, detention centres and immigration removal centres in the UK and abroad. In Australia, a Serco training manual is alleged to have taught employees how to use pain, including punches and kicks, to subdue asylum seekers.

Capita, which runs the Criminal Records Bureau on behalf of the Home Office and is invariably referred to as Crapita by Private Eye, has also been shortlisted for all regions. The company has been involved in a number of less than successful public service contracts in the past, including Individual Learning Accounts which were subject to fraudulent claims on an unprecedented scale and which were shut down after just one year.

Other potential providers include Avanta, Ingeus Deloitte, APM UK, Reed In Partnership and Vertex.

A4E, currently mired in fraud investigations, did not make it through to any of the shortlists. – http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk

More details of the contract are available from the DWP website. (External link)

UK: 30 March 2012 – Important changes to Employment and Support Allowance



From 30 April people who are able to get back into the workplace will get Contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA (C)) for a maximum of 12 months. This change will affect people in what is known as the Work Related Activity Group.

The change will mean that from 30 April if someone has received ESA (C) for more than 365 days their benefit will stop. The Department has contacted all of the claimants who will be affected by this ahead of the implementation.

Claimants who have no access to money or support will be able to claim Income Related ESA. People who already been assesed for Income Related ESA will automatically have their benefit adjusted and for those who have not been assessed for Income Related ESA will be asked if they want to make a claim.

People in the Support Group and those receiving income related ESA are unaffected by this measure.

A Department for work and Pensions spokesperson said:

“The Welfare Reform Bill set out that ESA for people who could work was never intended to be a long term benefit. A time-limit of one year recognised that some people need extra help to enter the workplace and for those with no other financial support in the household there will be Income Related ESA which can be claimed after the one year limit.”