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Culture of Contempt?

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Dan Manville
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Mental health & welfare rights service - Wolverhampton City Council

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Just regarding the possibility of managing this case so the offending comment ends up before the Tribunal.

Several times Judges have commented on my contributions on here. Even before the piece in the Grauniad I’d suggest that it’s likely the Judiciary are aware of this culture; why drag out the complaint? Swift resolution is surely in the client’s best interests.

Edit. It must be said that one of those Judges was once a contributor here…

shawn mach
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In Westminster Hall yesterday -

Maria Eagle: ... I have also come across many reports of compassion fatigue among bureaucratic and indifferent contractors who are paid to assess vulnerable and desperate people. Compassion fatigue is not a new phenomenon, but it seems to be rife these days. It was reported in the newspapers recently that a DWP official had submitted papers to an appeal tribunal in which they referred to the appellant, a disabled person, as a “lying bitch”. How revealing of their attitude is that?

https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2019-03-26/debates/51746E98-E082-461D-A1B5-000933B9A63B/PersonalIndependencePaymentsMerseyside#contribution-5621CB4F-D5C1-4968-8811-7FFC86F0FEC2

Stainsby
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Welfare rights adviser - Plumstead Community Law Centre

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I can only applaud the Guardian for raising the profile of my client’s case

This forum is public so I do not see an issue with journalists “spying” on us.  (the link in the Guardian article takes you straight to the forum on any device -  without a password), and it is obvious that any journalist looking to write a social affairs feature might look here for material

I have taken on board a number of comments about how to “manage” this case , but I can confirm that the DWP are now well aware of my client’s identity and will be investigating . 

We are considering the merits of bringing a civil case under the Equalities Act, but I have in the meantime sent a 14 page submission to HMCTS for the appeal.

The submission puts the arguments for the substantive appeal, but (with all respect to the Guardian and no respect at all to the Sun)  page 3 raises the “lying bitch” matter

I have uploaded an anonymous version of ” page 3” here

I have never seen it happen, but there is a first time for everything and even if the appeal is eventually lapsed, one issue could arguably remain outstanding and under the jurisdiction of the Upper Tribunal given that the UT has the same powers as the high court and can find a party to be in contempt

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Stainsby
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Welfare rights adviser - Plumstead Community Law Centre

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Client has just received this

[ Edited: 10 Apr 2019 at 04:04 pm by Stainsby ]

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Mike Hughes
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Senior welfare rights officer - Salford City Council Welfare Rights Service

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Going to accept?

neilbateman
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I would treat them the same way they treat claimants - with threats of punishment if they don’t comply.  In other words, if client wishes to, take action for damages for sex discrimination. There may also be a disability discrimination case lurking in there somewhere.

Stainsby
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We now have a response to the lying bitches (sic) complaint

[ Edited: 12 Apr 2019 at 04:58 pm by Stainsby ]

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shawn mach
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Great stuff Stainsby ....

The Guardian have also just published an update:

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has offered to restore the full benefits of a claimant whom it called a “lying bitch” in legal papers after she appealed against a decision to strip her of some of her disability entitlements.

The DWP has apologised to the woman and, following outrage when it emerged the insult had been inserted into appeal tribunal papers, has said it no longer plans to cut her Personal Independence Payment (PIP) entitlement.

It also said she would be considered for a “consolatory payment”, issued in exceptional cases where departmental action had resulted in claimants suffering “gross embarrassment, humiliation, unnecessary personal intrusion and … severe distress”.

The incident, which was revealed with the claimant’s permission last month by her welfare advice worker, was condemned at the time as exposing “a canteen culture of contempt among many decision makers at the DWP”.

The DWP’s offer to the claimant to drop its previously vigorous defence of the original PIP decision is likely to be seen as a damage-limitation exercise, amid continuing scepticism over the accuracy and reliability of disability benefit assessments.

More: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/apr/12/dwp-to-restore-benefits-of-disabled-woman-it-called-lying-bitch

Mr Finch
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If you compare with the line taken here https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/forums/viewthread/14367/ about a PIP claimant getting carer’s allowance, and the generalised misleading submissions made by the DWP about driving, this is a either the product of some kind of training drive, or a lot of different DMs have all thought of it at once. They might not have wanted quite this language used, but the DWP have drawn the dots for them and this unfortunate staff member has connected them too publicly.

Jon (CHDCA)
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The relevant cut-and-paste should presumably have been adapted by the DM from one of lines 423-425 of the (latest version of?) the spreadsheet provided here:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/origins_of_and_list_of_stock_phr

Other Benefits Carers Although [Title] [Surname] has identified a high level of personal restriction, [he she] is entitled to Carer’s Allowance (see Page [Page No]). To be entitled to Carer’s Allowance a person must provide at least 35 hours of care to another disabled person each week. The Tribunal may wish to explore this further.

Other Benefits Carers - no print out Although [Title] [Surname] has identified a high level of personal restriction, [he she] is entitled to Carer’s Allowance. To be entitled to Carer’s Allowance a person must provide at least 35 hours of care to another disabled person each week. The Tribunal may wish to explore this further.

Other Benefits Carers - benefit and rate details Although [Title] [Surname] has identified a high level of personal restriction, [he she] is entitled to Carer’s Allowance (see Page [Page No]) and cares for somebody who is entitled to the [Select Carers Allowance related rate] of [Select Carers Allowance related benefit]. To be entitled to Carer’s Allowance a person must provide at least 35 hours of care to another disabled person each week. The Tribunal may wish to explore this further.

 

[ Edited: 15 Apr 2019 at 11:52 am by Jon (CHDCA) ]
Stainsby
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As you can see from their letter, the Consolatory Payment is a derisory £250. 

They concede that this does not reflect the value of the damage they have caused, but needless to say this won’t be the end of the matter.

This case raises all sorts of issues, not least because their original submission to the Tribunal is riddled with stock phrases that are obviously copied and pasted from the spreadsheet featured in the link posted by Jon

This is the third time my client has needed to appeal one of their decisions.  (Her DLA award stopped after she was “invited” to claim PIP).  The decisions were all confirmed on MR

It appears that the DWP may see the ESA re-assessment and PIP planned review processes as a means to overturn tribunal decisions without having to apply for leave to appeal to the UT, but by lapsing the appeal this time they will be admitting to getting it wrong from the start

The £250 payment can be put into perspective when you consider that In December 2013,  former Minister Esther McVey was formally reprimanded for using House of Commons notepaper and postage to electioneer for the Conservative Party; she apologised and repaid the £300 costs

According to MP’s Expenses.info https://www.mpsexpenses.info/#!/mp/943  McVey claimed £300 expenses on 3 September 2018. for a 12 Months subscription to Wilmslow High School Business Club - “to link education to business to create the right training opportunities and creation of jobs”

There is a pattern of behaviour here from the DWP that does not look very pretty. It all appears to be more evidence of a canteen culture of contempt that goes to the very top of the Department

 

[ Edited: 20 Apr 2019 at 09:44 am by Stainsby ]

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Stainsby
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The DWP have now lapsed the appeal.  The DM writes:

” After careful consideration of all the information, I’ve changed the original decision, your award will change and your appeal will not continue”

“I’ve considered all the evidence about your conditions, and how they affect you as identified in

the “How [ your] disability affects you” form, and
the extra information you gave us
the information provided by the health professional consultation report”

My client did not provide any extra information before her appeal so the “extra information ” bit does not make much sense

I now feel free to publish another document from HMCTS, because the DWP apparently made an “informal application to remove and replace the Respondent’s Response submission to the appeal”

The Tribunal’s Direction Notice speaks for itself, but the application just provides more evidence of the DWP mindset.  Not only do they have contempt for claimants, they look on appeals as just an inconvenient part of the administrative process and not as legal proceedings.

My client is of course free to appeal the new decision .  She is also free to take her case to another legal forum.

In short, we are keeping our options open

 

 

 

[ Edited: 29 Apr 2019 at 02:14 pm by Stainsby ]

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neilbateman
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The DWP’s “informal” attempt to amend their submission is not just viewing the appeals process as an inconvenience. 

Surely, it is evidence of attempting to hide evidence which is damning and to cover their tracks?  It is an outrageous attempt to mislead a Tribunal.

That is far more serious and HMCTS was absolutely right not to collude with such behaviour.  It is also a clear breach of the Civil Service Code and its requirements for honesty and transparency by civil servants.

Our learned friends may have a view about the seriousness of this.