Boris Johnson’s further descent into chaos has dominated the news. So, you may have missed the fact that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been up to its usual, nasty tricks. Here’s some of the news you may have missed while the PM wreaked havoc.
DWP: failure one
First up, and as the Mirror reported, the DWP finally released a report into social security. It took MPs getting involved for the department to release it, and even then it still took a year. And it’s of little wonder the DWP wanted to bury it. Because the report is damning. It found that the DWP is failing some of the poorest chronically ill and disabled social security claimants. The report said these people:
experienced difficulty meeting their health related needs and some also struggled to afford essential day-to-day living costs, such as heating and food.
The report gave an example of one person’s experience. It noted that the claimant lived alone in a housing association flat. He lived with:
kidney failure, arthritis in his back, legs and arms, depression and bulimia which caused chronic stomach pains… He was in the ESA Support Group and received PIP… His debt repayments meant he could not afford essential day-to-day living needs and used a foodbank.
Crucially, the claimant and his family seemed unsure or unaware of what support was available or how to claim it. This poor communication from the DWP isn’t new. As The Canary previously reported, hundreds of thousands of people entitled to Universal Credit during the pandemic didn’t claim it. Many of these people thought they weren’t entitled to it. So, this new report shows what we already knew: the DWP is failing countless people.
DWP: failure two
Next, and a court recently ruled that the government’s National Disability Strategy was unlawful. Disability News Service (DNS) reported that the strategy, released last year, was “botched”. One disabled people’s organisation (DPO) said it was “a cynical re-packaging of current polices and current budgets”.
Chronically ill and disabled people and their organisations were supposed to be able to give input into the strategy. But as DNS reported, four disabled people took the DWP to court because they felt this wasn’t the case. And the court agreed, saying the DWP and government:
had made it “impossible” for disabled people to “shape” the content of the strategy.
The court ruled that the consultation was unlawful because the thousands of disabled people who took part were not given enough information about the government’s proposed strategy to allow them “intelligent consideration and response”.
Now, DNS has learned that the court has also refused to let the DWP appeal the decision. But the department can go to the Court of Appeal. So, the future of the strategy hangs in the balance. Because if it loses an appeal to a higher court, the whole strategy will be unlawful. And, as DNS reported, this may mean the DWP has to scrap the strategy and start again.
Tory ministers: sticking fingers in their ears
Meanwhile, two DWP ministers dismissed calls for things to change at the department. DNS reported that minister for disabled people Chloe Smith ignored Labour’s call for an inquiry into deaths on the DWP’s watch. As The Canary previously reported, in the last decade nearly 35,000 people died either waiting for the DWP to sort their claims or after it said they were well enough to work or start moving towards work. But Smith, during a parliamentary debate where Labour’s Marsha De Cordova raised the issue, failed to even acknowledge it.
Additionally, in the House of Lords, several peers tabled an amendment to the Health and Care Bill. Again, as DNS reported:
The proposed amendment… would mean that no-one in England who entered the social system at or under the age of 40 would ever have to pay for their support.
In effect, it would place a lifetime zero cap on social care charges for many disabled people
But as expected, the Tory peer from the DWP dismissed the idea. Peers may try and add the amendment back in when the bill reaches the report stage.
DWP: business as usual
Johnson’s behaviour in recent times is hardly surprising. But while the media focussed on this, the DWP carried on making people’s lives worse. Its contempt for claimants knows no bounds – even in the face of the most damning evidence. So, while we focus on Johnson’s wrongdoings, it’s vital we continue scrutinising the state of our social security system.
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