A doctor shared his experience of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) on Twitter. But he may not have expected the response he got. Because it led to other professionals telling their horror stories of the UK’s social security system.
Second class citizens
Dr Adrian Heald is a specialist doctor and a vocal campaigner on the NHS and social issues. And he recently turned his attention to the DWP, which has hit the headlines throughout the pandemic. Not least because of the issue of the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift.
The Canary recently reported on chancellor Rishi Sunak’s comments about this. Sunak said that the uplift was designed for “workers”. So you could read his comment as meaning that him and the DWP think sick and disabled people are second class citizens. And judging by the story Heald shared, Sunak’s thinking is par for the course.
Heald tweeted that:
I remember calling the DWP as a patient had to come in due to an emergency, somebody without a medical degree told me "If he is well enough to go to the hospital and see a Dr, he is well enough to to come in" – my jaw dropped, I was outraged
— Dr Adrian Heald (@DrAdrianHeald) March 5, 2021
Heald’s tweet seemed to hit home with a lot of people. Because others were sharing their stories. Some people had supported claimants. Belinda Walker said:
I had the misfortune of contacting DWP for a man who lost the ability to write following a stroke. They did not believe it possible and flatly contradicted me. I am Neuro Specialist Speech and Language Therapist with 26 years experience. She still insisted she knew more than me
Another person said:
I have had DWP “assessors” question a patients diagnosis with absolutely no medical background at all. This was face to face with me supporting the patient because their PTSD was so bad.
Claimants and their friends also shared their experiences.
JEA Bell said:
I felt hounded back to work after a brain tumour. After my SSP [Statutory Sick Pay] finished, I had to deal with DWP, they were calling me at home, asking about my illness, it was awful. I’d never ever claimed benefits before, it was a horrible experience.
Andrea Jane said:
People without medical degrees have told me that my many invisible illnesses don’t affect my life on a daily basis, I get fed up of applying for PIP and it getting rejected
I know someone who had their benefits stopped as they had to wear a portable heart monitor for 48 hours, they cancelled their DWP appt as doc told him he must rest during these 48 hours – DWP was 2 long bus rides away, sanctioned as doc’s advise was too vague.
But, sadly, these stories are nothing new.
The Canary wrote in 2017 about DWP sanctions. As it noted, examples of bad DWP decisions include:
- Sanctioning a man, living with learning difficulties, for not completing his job search on the computer. He hand-wrote it instead, because he did not have the IT skills to use the DWP system.
- Sanctioning a woman with mental health issues for missing a Jobcentre appointment. This was because her mental health prevented her from leaving the house on that day.
Then there was the scandal of DWP staff asking people ‘why they hadn’t killed themselves’. And there was the story of a benefit assessor asking someone when it was that they had ‘caught’ Down’s syndrome. Also, the DWP previously had to tell assessors not to ask claimants to show self-harm scars.
DWP negligence and cruelty is nothing new. But it seems that after years of disastrous conduct, things have not got any better.
We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support
The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.
The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.
So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.