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Blind Woman Told To Look For Work ‘Because She Can Cross Road With Guide Dog’

September 19, 2014

A blind woman said she will fight to have her benefits reinstated after being told to get a job.

Natasha Pogson was called up to a controversial ‘fit-to-work’ assessment – part of the government’s overhaul of the welfare system.

The 28-year-old was born blind as a result of being premature – arriving at 26 weeks and weighing just 1lb 11oz.

But an assessor ruled she was not eligible for help and told her she must actively look for work through Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).

Natasha’s previous benefits amounted to £162 a week under the disability allowance scheme but this will fall to £72.40 under JSA.

Natasha is in the process of appealing against the decision and slammed the system for making her feel like a benefits cheat.

“They make you feel so small, almost suggesting I am making my disability up,” she said.

“The reason for me not qualifying is apparently because I can cross a road with a blind dog in a place I am familiar with, but that isn’t always the case.

“There has been times I have fallen over in the street and not been able to get my bearings until someone comes, even with my dog there.”

Natasha, of Malvern Road, Billingham, is among thousands of people who have had to take part in the assessments.

Those who claimed incapacity benefit, income support for illness or disability or severe disablement allowance, are transferred to a new payment called employment and support allowance (ESA).

The tests, carried out on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), decide whether claimants are still eligible to receive support.

Participants must score 15 to be deemed unable to work. Natasha scored nine and was told she was “no longer assessed as having limited capability for work”.

“The assessors ask questions such as how many fingers are they holding up, or they would lift their arms and ask if I could do the same without telling me what they were doing. I felt stupid.”

Dad Karl, 47, is Natasha’s main carer. He said he was disgusted by the answers his daughter received.

He said: “Natasha has enough problems without people questioning her ability and intention.

“I understand the Government is trying to get people off benefits, but you have to live in the life of a blind person to know what they go through.

“For Natasha to qualify for JSA she has to be able to travel for up to 90 minutes on her own, which is completely unrealistic.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The assessment is designed to look at what work someone can do with the right support – rather than just writing people off on sickness benefits as happened in the past.

“The decision on entitlement is made after considering all the evidence, including evidence from a claimant’s GP, and people have the right to submit extra evidence or appeal as part of the process.”

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Nigel Evans Obituary From Today’s Guardian

September 19, 2014

From today’s Guardian:

 

My friend and former colleague Nigel Evans, who has died aged 71, made more than 40 documentaries championing the rights of disabled and marginalised people. We made our first films together in the late 60s, following a small group of heroin addicts struggling to overcome their addiction. Two years later, we made an Omnibus film for the BBC, Seeds of a New Life, about a drama teacher, Dorothy Heathcote, who worked with disabled people.

In 1973, Nigel was awarded a Churchill scholarship to explore new approaches to working with marginalised communities. He founded the charity One Plus One, which supported volunteers in working with patients in psychiatric hospitals. This began in four hospitals, but by 1978 the number had grown to 21. His film Silent Minority (1981) exposed the neglect and abuse of psychiatric patients.

In 1980, Nigel became a member of the steering committee that launched Channel 4, and in 1982 he worked with Stephen Frears on Walter, the feature film chosen for the channel’s opening night. This was followed by Skin Horse, a film essay exploring the emotional and sexual needs of disabled people, which won a Royal Television Society award. Pictures in the Mind (1987) was the first drama-documentary in sign language. In the 1990s, Nigel decided to train as a psychogeriatric social worker.

Born in Guilford, Surrey, to Air Chief Marshall Sir Donald Randell Evans and his wife Pauline (nee Breach), Nigel was educated at Wellington college, Berkshire, and enrolled at the Sorbonne in Paris during the birth of French new wave cinema. Enthused by what was happening in Paris, he returned to England and became part of a group of independent film-makers and producers who were recording real-life stories.

Later in life, he turned to writing, first with The White Headhunter (2003), published under the name Nigel Randell, the story of a 19th-century sailor. This led him to research his next book, Boy From the Sky (2013), in Tonga, where he met his second wife, Cindy. They lived there for 10 years until his illness last year, and married in June this year. She survives him, as do three children, Andrew, Katie and Gaby, from a previous marriage to Donna, which ended in divorce, and a stepson, Dominic.

DWP Say They Will Publish ESA Death Stats- But Won’t Say When

September 18, 2014

Many thanks to Benefits And Work.

The DWP is continuing to use delaying tactics to block publication of ESA death statistics, whilst claiming that they intend to release them at an undisclosed future date, we can reveal. This is the same claim that the DWP have been making for well over a year and the refusal to publish the figures is now the subject of a further challenge by Benefits and Work.

In July 2012 the DWP released a set of statistics which campaigners argued showed that around 73 people were dying every week after being found fit for work or placed in the work-related activity group.

The figures covered the period up to November 2011. Blogger and activist Mike Sivier then made a Freedom of Information Act request for updated figures for 2012. This request was refused and Sivier finally managed to get the case before an information tribunal in May 2014.

However, the tribunal ruled against Sivier on the grounds that he had urged readers of his blog to submit similar requests for the information, saying that ‘There is strength in numbers’. This action, in the view of the tribunal, made the request a vexatious one which could properly refused.

Nonetheless, the tribunal also found that had Sivier not tried to get others involved, his request would have been reasonable and even adding that “We have considerable sympathy for the Appellant”.

Based on this decision, Benefits and Work made an application to the DWP for exactly the same information contained in the original request and drawing the DWP’s attention to the tribunal’s findings.

That request was made on 15 May 2014 and should have received a response by 23 June. In fact, we received absolutely no reply to the request or to a subsequent reminder to the DWP. We then asked for a review of the DWP’s apparent decision to refuse to respond to our request.

On 10 September we finally received two responses from the DWP, one to our review request and one to the original enquiry.

The DWP apologised for the delay in replying but offered absolutely no explanation for their repeated failure to do so.

In relation to the request for the information about ESA deaths the DWP pointed out that they published the total number of deaths in July of this year.

However, those figures do not give a breakdown of how many of the claimants were found fit for work or how many had been placed in the work-related activity group. The response went on to say that:

“We can confirm that we do intend to publish further statistics on this topic and these will answer a majority of your questions. As the statistics are intended for future publication this information is exempt from disclosure under the terms of Section 22 (Information intended for future publication) of the FOIA. “

However, the DWP added that “We do not have a definite publication date at this stage but we will pre-announce the agreed date here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/announcements

We have now requested a review of this decision and made it clear that if we do not receive a response within the statutory period we will immediately forward the correspondence to the Information Commissioner without further notice. We’ll keep readers posted.

WAITING FOR A PIP ASSESSMENT FROM CAPITA – BEWARE

September 18, 2014

Originally posted on jaynelinney:

On Wednesday at around 1.pm,  I received a phone call from a woman informing me she was coming to assess me at home that day at 2.30.pm – It turned out she was from Capita.

I refused, explaining I’d had no notice of the appointment and I wasn’t prepared, after her attempts to persuade me to go along with the visit failed, I immediately phoned Capita. The woman I spoke with there stated a letter about this appointment had been sent on September 6 – I’m still waiting.

The assessment has been rearranged for October and a letter is on its way, but…as the only mail I’ve received from Capita took 2 weeks+ to arrive – I’m not holding my breathe.

I immediately posted this up in Facebook and have received several comments saying others had had similar experiences, below is one example

“i had nurse just turn up at my door wanting to do…

View original 183 more words

Mark Harper Admits PIP Delays Are Unacceptable

September 18, 2014

The delays facing some claimants of a flagship government welfare scheme are “unacceptable”, a minister admitted as the latest update was published.

Data released by the Department for Work and Pensions showed that of the 529,400 cases registered for the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) between April 2013 and the end of July this year, just over 206,000 had been cleared – either awarded, declined or withdrawn.

The figures do not reveal how long individuals had been waiting within that 16-month period, but Mark Harper, minister for disabled people, accepted that for some it had been too long.

He said: “Unlike the old system, PIP includes a face-to-face assessment and regular reviews to ensure support goes to those who need it most.

“Today’s figures show just that, with nearly 23% of people getting the highest level of support, compared with 16% under Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

“We accept that the delays faced by some people are unacceptable, and we are committed to putting that right.

Between May and July we have doubled the number of claims processed and we are working hard to continue to make further improvements.

“By the end of the year we expect that no-one will be waiting for an assessment for longer than 16 weeks.”

According to the statistics, PIP has been awarded to 51% of new claimants since April 2013.

Since October 2013, it has been granted in 72% of reassessment cases, namely people previously on DLA.

They also showed 106,000 people had a PIP claim in payment as of 31 July, an increase of 20,000 on the previous month.

Reacting to the figures, chief executive of disability charity Scope Richard Hawkes called on the government to do “everything in its power” to address the delays, which he said were causing financial uncertainty, distress and anxiety.

He added: “Scope’s helpline has been inundated with disabled people phoning for advice on their PIP claims. Many are facing extreme delays of well over six months.

“Life costs more if you are disabled. Buying a wheelchair, higher energy bills – Scope research shows all this adds up to an extra £550 per month.

“Some costs can’t be avoided, but too often disabled people continue to pay over the odds for everyday items and services.

“PIP is the financial lifeline that disabled people rely on to help meet these costs.

“It was reassuring to hear the minister for disabled people state last week that resolving the ongoing issues with PIP is his top priority.”

PIP was introduced in April 2013 to replace DLA for 16- to 64-year-olds.

Payments are worth between £21 and £138 a week and support people with long-term ill health or disability.

In June, the Commons Public Accounts Committee said the implementation of PIP had been “rushed” and described the impact as “shocking”.

Chairwoman Margaret Hodge called it “nothing short of a fiasco”.

PIP Backlogs Continue To Grow Despite Promises To Fix Problem

September 17, 2014

Many thanks to Benefits And Work.

The waiting list for personal independence payment (PIP) assessments is continuing to grow, according to statistics released by the DWP today, in spite of claims by ministers that the problem would be fixed by the Autumn.

The latest figures from the DWP show that the number of PIP assessments being carried out each month increased dramatically from just under 20,000 a month in April and May this year to just under 40,000 a month in June and July.

However, the same statistics also show that a total of 41,600 new claims and transfer claims from disability living allowance (DLA) to PIP were lodged in June 2014and 43,800 in July. This means that PIP claims are still coming in faster than they are being processed and the backlog of claims is still growing, though more slowly than before.

Up to the end of July this year 529,000 claims for PIP had been lodged and 206,000 had been cleared, suggesting that there was still a backlog of 323,000 claims. At current clearance rates this means an average wait of around 35 weeks.

In February of this year, when the National Audit Office condemned the delays, the backlog stood at just 92,000 claims.

In August of this year Mark Harper, the minister for disabled people told the Mirror:

“The delays faced by some people are unacceptable, and we are committed to putting that right. By the Autumn, we anticipate that no one to be waiting for an assessment for longer than 26 weeks and by the end of the year no one to be waiting longer than 16 weeks”.

It now seems extremely unlikely that these targets will be hit unless there has been another doubling of the monthly rate of assessments since July.

The full PIP statistics can be downloaded from this link.

Number of People Claiming Sickness Benefits Hits Two Year High

September 17, 2014

Originally posted on the void:

ESA-claims1The number of people claiming out of work sickness or disability benefits has hit a two year high provisional statistics from the DWP show.

2,510,000 people are estimated to have been claiming either Employment Support Allowance, or the benefit it is replacing Incapacity Benefit, in July 2014.  This is around 70,000 higher than a year earlier and the higest number since Summer 2012.

With Atos assessments finding people with cancer and other serious health conditions ‘fit for work’, there can be no doubt that these claims are genuine.  Yet despite hundreds of thousands of people having benefits slashed due to the bungled health tests, it seems that people are still getting sick.

This is hardly suprising.  Despite the endless propaganda from the DWP, the UK did not have significantly more people on out of work sickness or disability benefits than comparable economies even before the current callous regime was introduced. …

View original 334 more words

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