So…which political party will stop this state harassment of people who can’t work?

April 5: Update on the election leaflets (well, there’s been one so far) that I’ve received – I got a Labour campaign leaflet from Lewisham Deptford’s Vicky Foxcroft that doesn’t mention this government’s astounding attacks on sick and disabled people as far as I can see. There’s no mention of Atos, Maximus and the work capability assessment, the months-long queues for Personal Independence Payment asessments, or the elimination of the Independent Living Fund. I can’t even see a reference to the bedroom tax. It’s almost as though people who need some sort of income support because of sickness or disability don’t exist or something. No mention of JSA sanctions, either. How about that. “The next election is a straight choice between a recovery that puts working people and the NHS first with Labour, or continuing with a government that is not listening to hardworking people,” Vicky tells us. Great. We can assume that people who can’t work aren’t entitled to representation from this party – ie, that nobody will be listening to them.

The really amazing thing about all of this is the extent to which the people who have taken the worst of the coalition government’s violent social security “reforms” are airbrushed from these mainstream political manifestos. People have died as a result of this government’s smashing of welfare benefits and unfathomable, utterly illogical eligibility testing. Iain Duncan Smith should be doing jail time because of that and Labour should be pushing for a prosecution. Instead, we get more of this utterly meaningless “hardworking” guff. Is anyone even buying the “hardworking” line anymore? What Vicky is really saying here is “work hard now. You’ll get fuck all if the day comes when you can’t.”

I love elections.

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Original post:

Wonder which mainstream political parties plan to stand up for sick and disabled people who the DWP routinely harasses in the way described on this page (answers on a very very small postit thanks):

Here is ANOTHER letter from the DWP calling a person who is in the Employment and Allowance Support Group to a jobcentre interview:

dwp-02

This is the fourth letter that this person has received in three months calling him to one assessment or another to keep his ESA. I personally think that this non-stop correspondence from the DWP and its fitness-for-work assessors is harassment – particularly in the case of this man, who simply can’t deal with a barrage of official letters and contact. He is in the ESA Support Group because he has serious mental health problems. He finds pressure from the DWP very difficult to deal with and certainly sees these endless official letters as potential threats to his meagre income. People who are in the ESA Support Group are judged to have the most severe health problems. They are meant to be excused from all work and work-related activities. Unfortunately, they’re not excused from non-stop badgering by the DWP and its various private-company fit-for-work assessors. Plenty of people are getting these letters – Disabled People Against Cuts has even set up response-letter templates so that people who are harassed by the DWP in this way can write and tell the DWP to back off. There are days when I think that the DWP and the likes of Atos and Maximus are working in a pincer movement, closing in on people in the Support Group from all sides.

Take the guy who received the letters you see on this page. He got one letter telling him to attend at Atos assessment in about January (that appointment was ultimately postponed, presumably while the work capability assessment baton was passed to Maximus). Then in February, he got a letter which called him to a work-focused interview at the jobcentre. (even though people in the Support Group are excused from all work-related interviews and activities). In the last week of March, he received the letter posted at the top of this page which told him to attend a 40-minute jobcentre meeting with a work coach to assess the amount of ESA he receives. Then last week, he got a letter from Maximus – a letter which calls him to a rescheduled work capability assessment at the end of April. On and on it goes.

Each letter has caused this guy an awful lot of panic and required phone calls and further contact with the letter-sender – to confirm appointment times, to ask if assessments could be recorded, or changed, or to cancel appointments where they were not actually compulsory. People in the Support Group, as I say, don’t actually have to attend work-focused interviews. They’re just harassed and hounded into thinking they should. This guy’s wife says that she was told off when she rang the DWP to say that he would never attend a work-focused interview at the jobcentre (his mental health problems are so bad that he can hardly leave the house). She said the DWP told her not to say Never, because the jobcentre might get vindictive. Brilliant.

Anyway. You get my point. ESA Support Group claimants get an awful lot of official correspondence these days, considering that they are people who the DWP is supposed to leave alone. Sure, one of the letters this guy received was about a rescheduled WCA appointment, but that hardly excuses or explain the extra letters from the jobcentre and the calls to meetings in between. And this guy’s story makes me wonder how exactly these things are co-ordinated. If I was the suspicious type, I’d wonder if the DWP actually fires these letters out regularly on purpose, just so that nobody who claims a disability benefit ever feels relaxed about it. I know that the DWP keeps up-to-date records of people’s ESA assessment histories. I’ve attended work-focused interviews at jobcentres where advisers have read very recent ESA assessment decisions from their computers, so there’s no doubt they have that information to hand. That being the case, I wonder why the DWP sprays letters about work-focused interviews and benefit-level assessments at someone who the department a) knows is also being called to work capability assessments by Atos and Maximus and b) knows is very likely to struggle with the pressure of assessment and should otherwise be left alone.

I suppose there are two possibilities here. The first is that the DWP and its medical assessors are very bad at co-ordinating their letter-sendings and just guff out letters calling people to meetings and assessments at random. The second is that the DWP and its medical assessors are actually very good at co-ordinating their letter-sending, and pile the letters and pressure on in an intentional way. Either way, I get the feeling that fending off the DWP is becoming a very time-consuming task for people who are in the ESA Support Group. As I say, Disabled People Against Cuts has already produced template letters for the many people who are on the receiving end of these mailouts.

So.

Can’t wait for the mainstream MP hopefuls who are so desperately scrabbling for office right now to come to rescue of this group of people who can’t work. Am SURE that’s going to happen.

14 thoughts on “So…which political party will stop this state harassment of people who can’t work?

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  2. It’s all based on the Tory Rule Of Disability that no-one is too sick or disabled to have some work forced out of them, unless they are actually dead.

  3. Hi Kate – Note the final paragraph (“” mine) from @neilvaughan1st

    Worth sharing maybe – Thanks for all your excellent work xx

    DWP Training & Development Revised WCA Handbook MED-ESAAR2011/2012HB~001 Version: 7 Final 09 February 2015

    1.5 Sanctioning , the claimant must be considered to be carrying out “reasonable steps” to manage their condition and help move them towards the workplace. If the DM considers that the claimant has failed to participate in work-related activity, then the claimant may be sanctioned and their rate of benefit reduced.

    “Those in the Support Group will not be required to participate in work-related activity and will therefore not be subject to sanctioning procedures. However a claimant in the Support Group may opt to participate voluntarily in work-related activity and engage with a PA.”

  4. Back to your title question, Kate — So … which political party will stop this harassment of people who can’t work — there is a call for a ‘cease fire’ ahead of the next ‘leaders debate’:
     
    “Pat’s Petition and CarerWatch ask you to please support Ceasefire with Thunderclap
     
    “Please sign here –
     
    https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/24346-welfareceasefire?locale=en
     
    “Ceasefire already has a lot of support from the SNP, Greens and Plaid Cymru.

    “Thunderclap is timed to raise awareness of welfare issues before the next Leaders Debate. We need welfare to go right up the political agenda during this election campaign. Please support Thunderclap and ask all your friends to support and pass on the message.” — further info at Disability News Service.
     
    Maybe pro-‘cease fire’ members and supporters of the parties other than those named above could pressure their own political parties to support Thunderclap? How about pro-Thunderclap folk threatening electoral sanctions against the harassment-as-usual bunch?

    • Thanks all. Have been reading through the Labour leaflet dropped through the door by one Vicky Foxcoft in Lewisham – a lot of chat about hardworking people and making work pay… and not very much at all (let’s say none) about restoring social security. Local Labour has obviously taken on board Reeves’ instructions re: who Labour does and doesn’t represent… it continues to me amazing to me that the people who really have taken the brunt of austerity via “welfare reform” have very little mainstream representation…hopefully the SNP, Greens and Plaid Cymru will make more noise about it. It should be THE issue of this election, not an afterthought. Running out of time though…

  5. I certainly wouldn’t take any of the documentation they want, besides I don’t have a driving license or passport, I don’t know where my council tenancy agreement is and on the off chance I took bank statements everything would be crossed out except DWP payments and total amounts. I don’t want them poking around in my affairs even if they threatened a sanction it would mean me grabbing them over the desk and asking them how they wanted to die quick or slow

  6. There’s something wrong here, isn’t there? I mean in addition to the vindictiveness of the system in general in relation to ESA. Surely letters like these, calling someone in for re-assessment, should only accompany an ESA form, which you fill in at the start, and periodically fill in after say six, twelve months, etc. Did the letter arrive on its own? I have only ever received a call for assessment as part of applying or reapplying for ESA i.e. with the long form.

    Slightly confused by this, as a letter on its own is not even part of their own procedures and rules for ESA is it?

    • yes dave even my wife had one but then informed my mp to which they did phone up asking alot of questions even in sg jeff3

  7. hum i havent much hope with the little tory party either but pray they change this system back but hold my breath rtu ids and the lot of em should be held to account at the hague but have asked this od ltparty no reply on this whilst the unemployed sick disabled mentaly die daily through this percecution by them is a crime agaist their own peoples but sadly you bet justice for those who hounded to their graves well we now there be none but i wonder if the true death figure comes out has it be alot higher than those nazi figures in the summer of forty one 70,000 just over died by their hands you bet this figure been surpassed by rtu ids jeff3

  8. I remember a regular commenter on the Guardian who used to be married to a long term employee of the DWP who said that certain people are indeed targeted (even before this government’s term): people who were vulnerable due to mental health issues; people with learning difficulties; those not with LD but who couldn’t read and write; those who could read and write but who weren’t very well educated etc. Particularly then people who would find it the hardest to fight back.

    I suspect in this case that it was probably noted that the wife said that this person could ‘never’ attend a work focused interview and this is why he’s been bombarded with appointments.

    They did this to a dear friend of mine. At one point he was left 18 months with no income; if he hadn’t been living with his mum goodness knows what would have happened. As it was, the persecution was so severe that when the case finally went to the highest tribunal, the judge said he would write a letter for him so that he never had to go through the experience again. Oh they did try again 2 years ago, but his support worker handed the letter in and insisted on a paper assessment since my friend could not do a ‘face to face’ even at home. They continued his benefit claim.

    It’s almost as if it’s a personal affront when you stand up for yourself in any way. I thought I’d ‘get it’ when I was the first person to have their assessment recorded (I was able to do it myself as I was qualified and had my own equipment). It took 2 1/2 hours to get any of the assessors to agree to assess me, and when one finally did, she asked for a chaperone!

    No doubt my time will also come, no one is left for too long without a certain amount of pressure, although every year since claiming benefits I’ve been subjected to ‘performance measurement’ visits of one kind or another. I also think that I was watched over a period of time on a number of occasions.

    You just want to be left alone to be ill! I don’t think any party truly supports us, although there are individual M.P.s who do; we’re not the ‘hard working’ public you see, so we have no say.

  9. As a Conservative I wonder if people like you never come across people like Billy who is in the pub most day’s, (can’t work because of stress”). All the Tories want to do is weed out the Billy’s of this world so we can help the genuine disabled.

  10. Pingback: More jobcentre recordings: Another lost fight to accompany someone to their JSA signon… | Kate Belgrave

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