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Benefit Safeguards - policy issues

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BC Welfare Rights
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Can anyone explain what the Coroner means by:

“The change of assessment process did not allow for a decision, which was incorrect, to be rectified
without evidence of a subsequent change of circumstances. In addition, when a change of review
process was appropriate, there was no means by which upcoming appointments could be cancelled
without causing prejudice to Philippa Day. “?

Owen_Stevens
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I think this is about Capita changing the mode of assessment?

A Leigh Day blog says this about the Coroner’s findings:
The change of assessment process. This is the process by which someone can seek to change the mode of a disability assessment to be carried out by Capita (on DWP’s behalf), for example from a clinic assessment to a home assessment. This process was one of the core issues at Philippa’s Inquest as a letter confirming that she would be required to attend a clinic assessment (despite repeated requests made by Pip’s community psychiatric nurses to change this to a home assessment) was found on Pip’s bed after she had taken the action which proved fatal on 8 August 2019. The Coroner found that the evidence of Philippa’s case showed that Capita’s system was “unable to correct even obvious errors” and was not persuaded that there was sufficient “commitment on the part of Capita to improve this area”. https://www.leighday.co.uk/latest-updates/blog/2021-blogs/following-the-conclusion-of-philippa-days-inquest-what-could-be-next-for-vulnerable-benefits-claimants/

BC Welfare Rights
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Thanks Owen, that makes sense. I was thinking in terms of DWP decision making and forgetting about its contractor’s processes.

Owen_Stevens
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No worries - I don’t think the coroner means ‘decision’ in the way that a welf would use it

Edit (17/2/21):
...although, having said that, maybe the coroner was talking about changing an earlier decision (i.e. to end the DLA) and, in addition, commented on the processes for changing the mode of review.  Obviously - I don’t know what the coroner intended, did not not attend the inquest, and can only go on the PFD and the public reporting on the inquest.

Further information about the events leading up to Philippa’s death here (which have been added to this thread before but I’m reposting as it’s relevant to this discussion): https://www.leighday.co.uk/latest-updates/news/2021-news/conclusion-of-inquest-into-death-of-philippa-day/

Edit (10/05/21):
DWP’s take on this is as follows - We are also making sure that assessments can be paused when an appointment has already been scheduled to allow for the review of the type or location of the assessment, whether or not new evidence has been submitted.  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xm4jbi5bB1ONy0LHLCmAV4xVNJCM47a38ued_wtLyuY/edit

[ Edited: 10 May 2021 at 10:30 am by Owen_Stevens ]
Owen_Stevens
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The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Health in All Policies has called, among other things, for:
- For the Department for Work and Pensions to change their culture from one that is perceived to ‘dehumanise’ claimants to one that trusts, supports and enables claimants;
- For the Department for Work and Pensions to develop systems and practices across the Department for Work and Pensions which identify and support vulnerable claimants at all stages of their application and claim;
- For the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that any future social security policy measures are subject to comprehensive and cumulative impact assessments (IAs) which are published prior to their scrutiny in Parliament, and for such IAs to include an assessment on the potential health effects of such measures;

https://debbieabrahams.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/210221_HIAP-A4-Report-Debbie-Abrahams.pdf
https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/welfare-rights/news/item/cross-party-group-of-mps-concludes-that-welfare-reform-and-work-act-2016-has-had-a-devastating-effect-on-the-health-and-wellbeing-of-people-on-low-incomes

Owen_Stevens
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Q: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what estimate her Department has made of the proportion of people whose (a) personal independence payment and (b) employment support allowance claims were (i) unsuccessful and (ii) closed due to (A) failure to attend and (B) failure to participate who were identified as vulnerable by her Department in the latest period for which figures are available.

A: The information requested for both Employment and Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payment is not readily available and to provide it would incur disproportionate cost.

https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2021-02-11/153401

What DWP choose to measure is quite a good indicator of the importance it attaches to an issue…

Owen_Stevens
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The judgment in Turner, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2021] EWHC 465 (Admin) has been issued.  The High Court dismisses the claim.

Quotes from the coroner’s report are at 48.  At 91 - 94 the Judge notes the difference in the policies applied to people that fail to attend a WCA and those that are at risk of sanction.

https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2021/465.html

Tom Royston has tweeted about this here: https://twitter.com/tdroyston/status/1367404748492660737

[ Edited: 4 Mar 2021 at 10:52 am by Owen_Stevens ]
Mr Finch
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BC Welfare Rights - 17 February 2021 10:52 AM

Can anyone explain what the Coroner means by:

“The change of assessment process did not allow for a decision, which was incorrect, to be rectified
without evidence of a subsequent change of circumstances. In addition, when a change of review
process was appropriate, there was no means by which upcoming appointments could be cancelled
without causing prejudice to Philippa Day. “?

I wonder if this is referring to them saying something like ‘well she attended an ESA appointment in 2015, so she must be able to attend this one’.

Owen_Stevens
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This is included here for interest.  Implementation update issued on 20/07/20 to make DWP staff aware of the update to benefit safeguarding guidance.

This follows on from the responses here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/new_safeguarding_process_before

The ESA guidance was issued on 20/07/20 - two days before Peter Schofield, DWP Perm Sec, announced it to the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

The High Court, in Turner seems to have been under the impression that the new guidance was issued on 01/10/20 (para.51)

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Owen_Stevens
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Today’s briefing by David Webster (which will soon be available here: https://cpag.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/briefing/david-webster-university-glasgow-briefings-benefit-sanctions ) includes a very useful appendix. Case conferencing checks by DWP managers have been introduced at both work coach and decision maker level before sanctions can be imposed.

Owen_Stevens
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It seems there’s no guidance for either SSLs or DMs covering the situation when a vulnerable claimant’s case has been referred for case conferencing, the issue has not been resolved and DWP believe a safeguarding concern remains, and a decision still needs to be made on whether or not to end or reduce the claimant’s benefit.

I think it’s fair to say that the department’s position is that they would go on to stop benefit, case-conferencing is simply another hoop to jump through before getting to that stage - this is essentially just confirming what Peter Schofield said in his evidence (Q29) to the WPSC on 22/07/20: https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/759/default/

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Owen_Stevens
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Spotlight on recording complex needs on the UC claimant profile.  The introduction states that the Spotlight remains in place until the Universal Credit design and supporting products are developed further.

The response letter also confirms (again) that ‘watermarks’ are not a feature of UC.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/guidance_on_how_to_add_pinned_no?nocache=incoming-1744302#incoming-1744302

Owen_Stevens
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Some interesting, and long overdue, stuff in the recent joint session between the HoL Economic Affairs Committee and the HoC Work and Pensions Select Committee. 

WQ [...] What the system does not have is something that we have with the legacy benefit system, which is a deficit in the universal credit system, which is a marker so that we are able to track individuals separately and as one of the vulnerable and disadvantaged groups through the universal credit system. I am pleased to say that we are progressing at pace with modelling and piloting a first phase. I cannot give you an exact time for when it is likely to be ready to go live, but I am pretty confident in saying that it will be this year and, I hope, in the first half of this year. We are certainly going great guns now and making good progress.
It is important not just for tracking and supporting those individuals, but for me putting in particular bids for Treasury support. It is important that I and the department can demonstrate clear outcomes of particular interventions, and you can only do that when you have markers and can look at groups of people across the benefit system and not just at individuals. We can do that to some extent with pinned notes, but it is difficult, because we have to do a bit of a data-mining exercise. Having those markers in place will make our jobs a lot easier. We have put a lot of effort in over the past few months and I am confident that we will have something to show you in the coming weeks or short months.

NC: The Minister is right about the essence of the markers, but we do not have to call them markers; they are claimant profiles.
The other thing we have done is tighten up on the definitions so that the work coaches know which claimant characteristic to record. Long-standing members of the Work and Pensions Select Committee at least will know that a couple of years ago I was very hopeful that a data-mining exercise would produce that national data that the Minister is talking about and wants to have. We went mining, but we did not find any gold because the freedom we had given people to describe things in the system meant that we could not mine effectively to a level that the statisticians were happy with.
We have tightened up that ruling now. We have built this new claimant profile bit of the system that adds on to pinned notes, which are incredibly useful because they open up immediately when you look at somebody’s claim. I think that gives us the basis on which to start drawing information out of the system more effectively to meet that national need to know how many care leavers there are. Locally it is working fine. Nationally, I cannot tell the Minister how many of this type of case or that type of case we are currently supporting. That is what we would like to be able to do, because it would obviously inform policy discussions around Whitehall.

Transcript: https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/1859/pdf/

Rightsnet write up: https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/welfare-rights/news/item/dwp-building-new-system-of-claimant-profiles-to-record-information-about-claimant-vulnerabilities

Edit: I think that the first mention of the unsuccessful data-mining exercise mentioned by NC was in the June 2018report by the NAO - https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/forums/viewthread/9149/P15/#60342

[ Edited: 15 Mar 2021 at 05:53 pm by Owen_Stevens ]
Owen_Stevens
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This ICO response includes information about the original DWP investigation into benefit safeguards (it’s been reported that the Coroner investigating Errol Graham’s death did not write a Prevention of Future Deaths report because this DWP investigation was taking place).  The ICO does not accept that the further work undertaken to develop DWP’s policy and approach forms part of the original review.

The FOI internal review can be found here: https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/forums/viewthread/9149/P60/#74667

The story which prompted the FOI can be found here: https://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/the-death-of-errol-graham-man-starved-to-death-after-dwp-wrongly-stopped-his-benefits/

The ICO decision notice can be found here: https://ico.org.uk/media/action-weve-taken/decision-notices/2021/2619540/ic-48363-c8q5.pdf

[ Edited: 1 Apr 2021 at 09:29 am by Owen_Stevens ]

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Owen_Stevens
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Will Quince has written a blog: https://www.crisis.org.uk/about-us/the-crisis-blog/dwp-toolkit-helps-take-another-step-towards-ending-homelessness-for-good/

Working collaboratively with Crisis and Shelter the DWP has launched a Homeless and Housing Toolkit for DWP staff to make sure that advice, support and help for those with a housing need is readily available when visiting the Jobcentre.

The Toolkit builds the capability of Work Coaches to deliver the right support at the right time.

The Toolkit features:

  - practical support for those with a housing need;
  - information about help available through support organisations;
  - thought-provoking blogs and podcasts from practitioners;
  - the latest news in housing;
  - videos from those who have experienced homelessness; and
  - safeguarding resources to support our most vulnerable customers.

It also includes an interactive ‘Ask the Expert’ feature for Work Coaches to seek assistance with their most complex cases, where the combined expertise within DWP, Crisis and Shelter will provide a response that lets the Work Coach provide the optimum support to a customer.

See also: https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/news/news/dwp-launches-housing-advice-toolkit-for-job-centre-staff-70266