Tens of thousands of fitness for work benefit cl

first_imgTens of thousands of “fitness for work” benefit claims could have been decided by civil servants on evidence from assessment reports that should have been rejected because their quality was “unacceptable”, government figures suggest.The concerns about the way Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decision-makers have decided employment and support allowance (ESA) claims follow last week’s revelations about similar concerns with personal independence payment (PIP) claims.They are based on figures provided by the minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton (pictured), to Labour MP Grahame Morris.The figures* show that the proportion of work capability assessment (WCA) reports sent back to DWP contractor Maximus** because they were found to be of “unacceptable” quality – following audits of small samples of the reports – was as much as 100 times greater than the proportion sent back by DWP decision-makers when making day-to-day decisions on ESA claims.This suggests that DWP decision-makers are frequently deciding ESA claims based on “unacceptable” reports instead of sending them back to Maximus assessors to “rework”.With Newton’s figures also showing that Maximus carried out more than one million WCAs and other assessments in 2016-17, and more than 1.1 million in 2017-18 – when only 625 reports were sent back by DWP to Maximus to be reworked because they were “unacceptable” – this suggests that tens of thousands of claims could have been affected every year.DWP and Maximus yesterday (Wednesday) both denied that this was what the figures showed, with Maximus insisting that it was “inaccurate and misleading” to draw such a conclusion.But disabled activists and researchers are deeply concerned by the figures and believe they are further evidence of the unfairness of the disability benefit assessment system, and of how tens of thousands of disabled people have been wrongly denied support through the social security system.Maximus took over the WCA contract from Atos in March 2015.The figures provided by Newton show that, in 2015-16, just 0.06 per cent of assessment reports were returned by DWP to Maximus for reworking because they were of “unacceptable” quality.In 2016-17 this was 0.066 per cent (still far fewer than one in a thousand) and in 2017-18 it was just 0.056 per cent.But when senior Maximus executives appeared before the Commons work and pensions committee in December, they told MPs that the audit process showed that the proportion of “C-grade” reports – those deemed “unacceptable” by auditors – was currently 7.3 per cent, more than 100 times higher.In subsequent written evidence to the committee, Maximus told the MPs that C-grade reports were those “considered not to have met expected standards for a variety of reasons”, whereas A and B grade reports were those that were “fit for purpose” and where “a decision could be made on the case” by DWP.Last week, DNS heard from a DWP civil servant who works on the PIP “frontline”, who said that DWP case managers have strict targets for the number of PIP claims they need to process every day, are quizzed by their superiors if they miss their weekly targets and are “instructed to act on the assessor’s report, given that they are the medical experts”.This week, DNS has heard from a former DWP civil servant who worked on ESA and said she and her colleagues were also “strongly discouraged from sending back reports we felt needed to be reworked”.She said: “I was told to leave it, continue with the decision.“I was told there is probably something we don’t know about that the assessor did… so to leave it, no need to return it.”Anita Bellows, a Disabled People Against Cuts researcher, said DWP again needed to explain the discrepancies in its statistics.She said: “While the figures for reports deemed unacceptable and therefore needing ‘rework’ provided by disability assessors are low, the reports audited paint a different picture, one of disability assessors producing a huge number of unacceptable reports.“But the discrepancies show something else. Statistics on the number of unacceptable reports are being manipulated and kept artificially low.“It is unthinkable that the DWP did not notice these discrepancies. And this begs the question: how many claimants had their claim decided based on unacceptable reports?”A DWP spokeswoman denied yesterday that the figures produced by the minister showed that civil servants had for years been making ESA claim decisions on the basis of reports of an “unacceptable” quality.She said: “In order to provide the best possible service to our customers, rather than resending reports for re-work our decision-makers tend to call the health provider’s customer service desk to discuss and resolve problems they identify.“Returning assessment reports for re-work extends the length of time taken to make a decision and delays payment to our customers of the benefit rate to which they are entitled.“By discussing the case directly and immediately, issues can be solved quickly. However, in a minority of cases, this is not possible and the report needs to be returned for re-work as per our procedures.”But campaigner John Slater, whose freedom of information work has previously produced crucial data about the DWP’s disability benefit assessment contracts, said: “It’s deeply worrying that the DWP admitted decisions are sometimes made on the basis of poor medical reports plus telephone calls with the health provider’s customer service desk.“The flawed reports are not re-worked and there is every chance that no record of what is said during these telephone calls will be added to the claimant’s file.”He said this could also mean that if the claimant requested a copy of their assessment report it might not be an accurate record of the information upon which the decision was based, which he said had “clear implications for the appeals process”.A Maximus spokesman said that the latest figures from the audit process – through which DWP checks on more than 700 assessment reports a month – showed it was now meeting its target of less than five per cent of these being given a C-grade.Maximus has also met its target of more than 70 per cent of assessment reports securing an A-grade in every month since the start of the contract, he said.The Maximus spokesman said: “Since we took over the contract in March 2015, we have delivered year-on-year improvements across the service.“We have met or exceeded all of our quality targets since January 2018.“Separately, we have always exceeded the DWP’s target that over 99.5 per cent of reports comply with the department’s standards, enabling them to make a decision on ESA eligibility.“These two measures are distinct and it is inaccurate and misleading to conflate them.”*The vast majority of these assessments were WCAs but Maximus also carries out assessments for other disability benefits, including disability living allowance for under-16s and industrial injuries disablement benefit **Referred to in Newton’s answer as CHDA (the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments), which is part of Maximuslast_img read more

Staff working for a discredited benefit assessment

first_imgStaff working for a discredited benefit assessments contractor threatened to call the police after a claimant asked about the mental health qualifications of the nurse who was assessing his eligibility for personal independence payment (PIP).Atos has now launched an investigation into what happened at the assessment centre in Leeds, which saw the nurse abandon Kris Weston’s assessment after just a couple of minutes.She did not realise that Weston, a composer and trained sound engineer, had been recording the assessment.Weston began the assessment last month by telling the nurse that he had stayed up all night because of the extreme anxiety he experiences when he has to deal with institutions.He had spent three days putting together a 10-page description of his complex mental health problems – and what he says is the “continual failure to even listen to his problems by multiple institutions” – in the hope that the assessor would help him secure the financial and health support he needed.He explained that he had been unfairly described in the past as “violent” by the NHS after a telephone argument, although she told him that Atos had no record of this.She appears to have wrongly blamed the decision to refuse him a home assessment on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), when such decisions are taken by the assessment companies, Atos and Capita.The assessor can then be heard leaving the room after Weston began asking about her experience and qualifications in mental health.She told Weston that she was “not happy to sit in this room with you” because she said he had questioned her qualifications and was “being difficult for no reason”.Weston, who did not raise his voice or threaten the assessor at any point in the conversation, told her: “You seem to have had a bit of an attitude from the start, a bit of a blasé attitude.“You didn’t look at me, you didn’t say hello to me, you didn’t treat me like a human.”Despite the lack of any aggression or threats from Weston, a colleague of the assessor then told him he needed to leave the building “or we’ll call the police”, before repeating: “We’ll call the police if you don’t leave.”Weston tried to explain to Atos staff that he had “wanted to make sure that somebody understands my illness” and added: “When ill people come in you need to have compassion, not treat them with an attitude.”A third member of staff then denied that they had threatened to call the police, before a colleague said: “He’s just wanting an argument… just shut the door.”Weston told Disability News Service (DNS) this week: “It seems like an outrageous scandal that someone in the pits of despair, when they are asking for help, gets treated like this.“I am quite a complex person. I just wanted to make sure the person in front of me was able to deal with it properly and had the correct qualifications.“I was actually trying to get help. I really do want help. Mental illness help should not just be for the polite who stay quiet.”He said he had felt severely distressed and “isolated” after the assessment, but after posting the recording online he has been flooded with supportive comments on social media.He said: “The recording represents not just me, but the hundreds of stories I have heard in only a few days since I put this on the internet, all the people that have told me their awful stories that they didn’t record.“I thought my recording would stand out as abuse but it’s actually just a blip in a sea of negligence that no private company will ever fix because corporations cannot have inherent morals and no amount of legislation is going to stop them from cutting corners for profit.“The staggering scale of the problem is more than I anticipated, to say the least. This is in fact a nationwide scandal affecting our people now.“I’m not that far off being an economic and cultural asset to my country if I could just get a clear run and be understood without being beaten down over and over again and driven to despair.“This applies to a lot of people. We are holding ourselves back by keeping people in complete stress about their food, living space and other basic human needs.“Given the resources they need, people who are suffering from the system itself could actually become an asset.“After all, injecting our resources into a failing private banking system seemed to get them back on their feet.“To think the people charged with running our country could miss this economic no-brainer is breathtaking.”Asked for an explanation for what happened and whether Atos would apologise, a spokesman for the company said: “We are aware of the recording and an investigation is underway.”Weston’s experience has added to years of evidence collected by DNS and other journalists, campaigners and politicians of dishonesty, unprofessional behaviour and harsh treatment delivered to benefit claimants by Atos assessors.In one case, reported in January by DNS, an Atos nurse carrying out a PIP assessment fired questions at a disabled man’s wife while her husband was in the middle of a severe and prolonged series of epileptic seizures just a few feet away.In February, DNS reported how more than 160 Atos assessors had had at least four complaints about their behaviour, competence and honesty made against them in three-month periods in 2016.And in June, DNS reported how a doctor working for Atos told a gay disabled man she was assessing that his sexuality meant he was “defective” and that God needed to fix him like a “broken” car. A note from the editor:Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations. Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009. Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…last_img read more

KEIRON Cunningham hopes Saints will learn a lesson

first_imgKEIRON Cunningham hopes Saints will learn a lesson from their World Club Challenge defeat with South Sydney Rabbitohs.The NRL Premiers ran in seven tries in a comprehensive win.“I’m really disappointed,” Keiron said. “We got schooled by the best side in the world. If we have to learn a good lesson from today’s game it is sometimes you have to lose in a big fashion to learn some lessons.“We did early season – when we lost in the friendly – and we came back stronger. This will be a good education for my players, especially the younger players.“At the start of the game, I wasn’t sure what set of rules we were playing to – we were playing to international rules but they certainly weren’t the ones I read – but the first 20 hurt us pretty bad. When you are playing against the best sides in the world you cannot afford to get off to starts like that.“We knew what they were going to do and didn’t counteract it. They completed at the high percentage and we didn’t.“Our middle played great all night; they worked hard, hung on in there, but our edges were horrible.”last_img read more

SAINTS enjoyed a double success at last nights So

first_imgSAINTS enjoyed a double success at last night’s Solarking Commercial Pride of St Helens 2016 ceremony at Langtree Park.Academy 19s Head Coach Derek Traynor won the Carmel College Leadership Award whilst fullback Jonny Lomax scooped Saints Sportsperson of the Year.“This is great news for the club and recognises the hard work of both Derek and Jonny,” Saints Chief Executive Mike Rush said. “They have had superb years and we are proud that their achievements have been recognised in this way.“The club would also like to congratulate all the other winners and nominees. They show that this town has a lot to be proud of.”Derek led Saints 19s to the Academy Championship following an unbeaten season.His side won 20 from 20 in the regular season and beat Wigan Warriors 22-20 in sudden death overtime in a famous game at Langtree Park.“Derek would the first to admit this was a team effort and shies away from the plaudits,” Mike added, “but his work deserves to be recognised.“The club’s ethos is to progress players through to the first team and anything other than that is a bonus. The 19s, led by Derek and his team achieved this remarkable season with a young squad, many of whom are eligible for next season’s 19s competition.”Jonny Lomax beat out Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and darts star Dave Chisnall for his award.The full-back has shown great determination to come back from serious injury and this was rewarded with not only a stellar season with the Saints, but recognition in being selected by Wayne Bennett in the England 4 Nations squad.Lomax is also one of Saints Community Development Foundations ambassadors, playing a vital role in highlighting its work in the local community.last_img read more


first_imgFoundation Chaplain Derek Hardman will be located near the Youth Zone of the Totally wicked Stadium in a saints branded van.Look out for it during home games this season! your donations can make a massive difference within our community.last_img

St Helens Women

first_imgSaints captain Jodie Cunningham is joined by derby hero Faye Gaskin, as well as Chantelle Crowl, Tara Jones, Emily Rudge, Victoria Whitfield and Naomi Williamsm whilst winger Leah Burke is called up for the first time.Wigan Warriors’ Grand Final winning centre, Rachel Thompson is one of five new faces in Head Coach Craig Richards’ 32-player England Women’s National Performance Squad.Rachel Thompson is another new face, who was part of the England Women’s Rugby League World Cup Squad in 2017 and who scored a hat-trick in the Warriors Grand Final victory against Leeds Rhinos in October last year.Thompson, who was part of the England Women’s Rugby League World Cup Squad in 2017, scored a hat-trick in the Warriors Grand Final victory against Leeds Rhinos in October last year and joins four of her Wigan team-mates in the Performance Squad.Leeds Rhinos stand-off Hanna Butcher is also included for the first time. Butcher played a vital part in the Rhinos League Leader’s campaign in 2018 and played in their Women’s Challenge Cup Final victory and also their Women’s Super League Grand Final loss to Wigan Warriors. She is one of four Rhinos players selected in the Performance Squad.One of four Bradford names in the squad is newcomer Leah Jones, who scored a try in the Bulls’ 44-16 demolition of Stanningley in the 2018 Women’s Shield Final.Following their first year in Women’s Super League last season, York City Knights have two representatives as Ashleigh Hyde joins Daisy Sanderson in the National Squad.All 20 players that travelled to face France in October 2018 are also included.Further details of England Women’s International Fixtures will be announced at a later date.2019 England Women’s National Performance Squad in full: Savannah Andrade (Bradford Bulls) Amy Hardcastle (Bradford Bulls, Siddal)Leah Jones (Bradford Bulls, West Leeds Eagles)Grace Field (Castleford Tigers, Oulton Raiders)Kelsey Gentles (Castleford Tigers)Shona Hoyle (Castleford Tigers, Ovenden)Rhiannion Marshall (Castleford Tigers, Stanningley)Sinead Peach (Castleford Tigers, Castleford RUFC)Tamzin Renouf (Castleford Tigers, Castleford RUFC)Georgia Roche (Castleford Tigers, Dewsbury Moor)Tara-Jane Stanley (Castleford Tigers, Chorley Panthers)Andrea Dobson (Featherstone Rovers, Oldham St Annes)Katie Hepworth (Featherstone Rovers, Stanningley)Dannielle Anderson (Leeds Rhinos, Oulton Raiders)Caitlin Beevers (Leeds Rhinos, Birstall Victoria ARLFC)Hanna Butcher (Leeds Rhinos, Thornhill Trojabns)Amy Johnson (Leeds Rhinos, Stanningley)Leah Burke (St Helens, Thatto Heath Crusaders)Chantelle Crowl (St Helens, Crosfields)Jodie Cunningham (St Helens, Thatto Heath Crusaders)Faye Gaskin (St Helens, Chorley Panthers)Tara Jones (St Helens, Thatto Heath Crusaders)Emily Rudge (St Helens, Thatto Heath Crusaders)Victoria Whitfield (St Helens, Crosfields)Naomi Williams (St Helens, Thatto Heath Crusaders)Michelle Davis (Wigan Warriors, Firwood Waterloo RUFC)Rebecca Greenfield (Wigan Warriors, Wigan St Patricks)Vanessa Temple (Wigan Warriors) Rachel Thompson (Wigan Warriors, Thatto Heath Crusaders))Georgia Wilson (Wigan Warriors, Preston Grasshoppers RUFC & UCLan)Ashleigh Hyde (York City Knights, New Farwick All Blacks)Daisy Sanderson (York City Knights)last_img read more