The recent by-elections gave cover for the latest government announcement of emergency legislation inflicting further cuts on disabled people – ‘a good day to bury bad news’.
Two tribunals had ruled that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) should expand the reach of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – which helps disabled people fund their living costs.
- One ruling found that someone who needed support at home to take medication or monitor a health condition like diabetes would score the same on the benefits criteria as people who needed help with a demanding procedure such as kidney dialysis.
- A second ruling said people who struggled to travel independently because of conditions such as anxiety scored the same as someone who was, for example, blind.
Ministers then swiftly revised the law to deny the increased benefit payments to more than 150,000 people.
A Lib Dem work and pensions spokeswoman said it was outrageous that the government was using the ruling to make matters worse for disabled people: “What makes things even worse is that they have sneaked this announcement out under the cover of [Thursday’s] by-elections.”
From April, it is reported that new claimants will see a reduction of £29.05 in their entitlement, which will fall to £73.10 a week. This follows on from the cuts that the DWP tried to implement last year, which resulted in Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation.
Liz Sayce from Disability Rights UK said: “We’re not aware of one single disability employment or benefits expert who thinks this particular cut will be an incentive for disabled people to get a job.”
Unfortunately this logic, and a host of scathing comments seen in the Metro won’t pierce the thick skins of affluent legislators and further deprivation will hit the least fortunate in many sectors.
As directors and other officers of the Department of Work and Pensions receive new year’s honours for services to ‘welfare reform’, a reader draws attention to an article in the Dorset Eye, by Douglas James, listing 82 people who have died or committed suicide soon after dealings with agencies such as ATOS and the government’s Department of Work and Pensions.
A search was made for news of the first five on the Dorset Eye list and the links to fuller accounts added. Most of the people were aged 30-40.
Terry McGarvey, 48. Dangerously ill from Polycythemia, Terry asked for an ambulance to be called during his ATOS Work Capability Assessment (WCA). He knew that he wasn’t well enough to attend but feared that his benefits would be stopped if he did not. He died the following day. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/terry-mcgarvey-man-ill-attend-3178486
Elaine Lowe, 53. Suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and fearful of losing her benefits. In desperation, Elaine chose to commit suicide. http://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/suicide-bid-of-woman-who-feared-losing-her-incapacity-benefit-8761182.html
Mark Wood, 44. Found fit for work by Atos, against his doctor’s advice and assertions that he had complex mental health problems. Starved to death after benefits stopped, weighing only 5st 8lb when he died. http://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/11043378.Man_starved_after_benefits_were_cut/
Paul Reekie, 48, the Leith based poet and author. Paul suffered from severe depression and committed suicide after the DWP stopped his benefits due to an Atos ‘fit for work’ decision. http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/claim-welfare-reforms-drove-writer-paul-reekie-to-suicide-1-2269052
Leanne Chambers, 30 from County Durham. Leanne suffered depression for many years which took a turn for the worse when she was called in for a WCA. Leanne committed suicide soon after. http://www.thejournal.co.uk/news/north-east-news/boyfriend-missing-leanne-chambers-speaks-4465236
Karen Sherlock, 44, from Portsmouth. Karen suffered from multiple health issues but was found fit for work by Atos and denied her lifeline benefits. She fought a long battle to get placed into the Employment and Support Group (ESA) and died the following month of a heart attack. http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/327050/My-ill-wife-had-to-fight-for-benefits-up-until-she-died
A year ago the BBC said that over 2000 people died after being found fit for work and losing benefits, according to Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures. Between December 2011 and February 2014 the equivalent of about 90 people a month died after their Employment and Support Allowance claim was ended. The DWP said no link could be assumed between the deaths and claimants being deemed fit for work.
After a Freedom of Information request suggested the information about deaths linked to Work Capability Assessment is being ‘covered up’, three political parties have called for an independent enquiry into deaths linked to government reforms.