The DWP has been under the microscope ahead of a debate in parliament

A banner at a DWP protest and its logo
Steve Topple

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been the subject of a meeting, protest and some public shaming on social media today. But all that was before an official parliamentary debate into it even began.

The DWP: nothing to see here

Back in 2012, the WOW (War on Welfare) Campaign launched. Centred around a petition that got over 100,000 signatures, it forced a debate on DWP reforms and their effect on people. Ultimately, it aimed to get the DWP to do a “cumulative impact assessment”. This is where the effects and consequences – both positive and negative – of actions or policies are assessed.

But despite the petition and the debate, the DWP and government still haven’t done an assessment. Both have also ignored calls from the UN to carry one out. The DWP claims it cannot do a cumulative impact assessment because it “cannot be reliably modelled”.

So, WOW Campaign has returned and secured another debate in parliament on the issue. It was due to take place on Wednesday 19 December at 2pm. Timetable changes in parliament meant it was pushed back. At the time of publication, the debate should be happening at 7pm . But activity around the debate began much earlier.

Making moves

During the morning, Labour’s Debbie Abrahams, who supported WOW Campaign’s debate, chaired a meeting:

People shared their experiences of the DWP and its processes:

Then, during prime minister’s questions (PMQs) people gathered outside parliament:

Labour’s Laura Pidcock was there:

Other campaign groups and think tanks showed their support:

And people also took to Twitter to share their stories. They were using the hashtag #WOWDebate:

“Go private or die”

But campaigner Cat’s story was particularly heartbreaking. She has had numerous problems with the DWP. Cat said in a series of tweets:

My #PIP was reviewed in 2017. Stopped in Aug 2017 the week I had a suprapubic catheter fitted. Assessor ignored my medical conditions & left me with no income for 17 months. I travel to London to see specialists. Without PIP I lost my disability railcard…

I suffer from debilitating pelvic #mesh injuries including nerve damage, severe bladder dysfunction, multiple autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue, kidney damage, years of chronic infections & biofilms leading to antibiotic resistance. High risk sepsis…

By June 2018, under specialist in complex chronic lower urinary tract infections in London. Have to pay privately to see this specialist. Still no word about tribunal. Still no income. But without treatment? Kidney failure & sepsis. Go private or die…

#Austerity cuts mean access to treatment on #NHS isn’t available. #PIP withdrawn meant accessing life-saving treatment increasingly difficult due to lack of income. By August 2018, a year after PIP was stopped, I just wanted to [stop] fighting & die. This is the cost…

But her story is probably not unusual.

A hostile environment

As The Canary exclusively revealed, the DWP, despite its denials, has actually cut disabled people’s benefits in recent years. Moreover, the UN has now produced five separate reports following investigations into UK human rights violations. Yet nothing has changed. And amid all this, 10 claimants a day have been dying in recent years; people who the DWP said were ready to move towards work.

It is this ‘hostile environment’ at the DWP which people have been highlighting. But it will probably also form part of the debate. And for people like Cat, this cannot happen soon enough. So let’s hope that the DWP will be getting the serious scrutiny it deserves.

Featured image via WOW Campaign and UK government – Wikimedia 

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