How far does the DWP's inhumanity go?
Two articles in a row on Disability Rights UK: one about the thousands of disabled people denied the right to compensation following a catastrophic DWP blunder; the other about a severely ill patient who was instructed to leave hospital to attend a Job Centre, despite the fact he was being treated for a condition that later killed him.
The first article focuses on mistakes made when disabled people were moved from incapacity benefit (IB) to employment and support allowance (ESA). Thousands of those claimants were underpaid because the DWP failed to consider whether they qualified for income-related ESA rather than just for contributory ESA.
CPAG took legal action on behalf of one claimant to secure backdated payments for those affected, from the date of the original error (challenging the DWP's original decision to limit the backdating of payments to 2014). As CPAG's solicitor, Carla Clarke, commented:
"...It shouldn’t be necessary to take a government department to court to achieve justice for people who have been failed by officials making avoidable errors."
While the backdating of payments is positive, the article explains that over 118,000 disabled people 'are facing injustice' after being denied the right to compensation. Despite the Ombudsman calling on the DWP to allow those affected to claim for compensation - and despite its own policy stating that people should be offered compensation if they suffer injustice and hardship because of administrative errors - the department is refusing to do so.
The second article is, sadly, all too familiar. Most people have heard stories of benefits claimants being asked to jump through hoops in order to receive support, even when it is excessive or - in this case - a risk to do so.
This is an unacceptable norm. As Frances Ryan notes in her book 'Crippled: Austerity and the Demonization of Disabled People', "An unemployment system based on the premise of pulling social security from people who don't show 'correct behaviour' is damaging enough for a standard jobseeker. But for disabled claimants, it's little more than a punishment for being disabled: their disability means they physically or mentally often have no way to comply with the conditions they have to meet to avoid being sanctioned."
Ryan's book explains how the disabled and chronically ill have, over the course of several years, have been forced into the pigeonhole of the 'work-shy scrounger' - through inflammatory statements made by politicians and character assassinations of entire groups of people, carried out by certain tabloids. If you're seeking to understand how the DWP - and the Government in general - are able to treat disabled people with such inhumanity, this book will give you that understanding.
However, until we all have this understanding and until we all reject this kind of callous institutional behaviour, disabled people will continue to have their lives and livelihoods put at risk; given as little as possible in support - a reflection, perhaps, of the value they are perceived as adding to society. This is, as Ryan puts it: "government of the grotesque".