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Benefit Safeguards - policy issues

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Owen_Stevens
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Written evidence to the WPSC safeguarding inquiry: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/7866/safeguarding-vulnerable-claimants/publications/written-evidence

Further evidence has been published, including DWP’s written evidence: https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/125480/pdf/
(I’ve attached a PDF version, as I don’t seem to be able to archive the webpage on the Wayback Machine - the aim is to avoid losing access over time, changes to websites can mean that this information can become quite difficult to track down)

Rightsnet story on DWP’s written evidence: https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/welfare-rights/news/item/dwp-sets-out-measures-it-has-in-place-to-support-vulnerable-claimants

[ Edited: 16 Nov 2023 at 03:29 pm by Owen_Stevens ]

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Owen_Stevens
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Transcript from the WPSC oral evidence session on 15/11/23 for its safeguarding vulnerable claimants inquiry: https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/13827/html/

Andyp5 Citizens Advice Bridport & District
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Q8 Selaine Saxby’s response in the light of 6.2m claimants - https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/constituency-data-universal-credit-roll-out/ and albeit Feb 2023 https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/what_is_the_current_ratio_of_wor_5#incoming-2362953 and a not dissimilar rural constituency West Dorset https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/996827/response/2362945/attach/3/Response%20FOI%2050538.pdf?cookie_passthrough=1 doesn’t stack up in terms of caseloads and staffing levels alone.

Owen_Stevens
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DWP Advanced Customer Support Standards: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/enhanced_quality_assurance_frame_4?nocache=incoming-2475534#incoming-2475534

Appear to be a way of evaluating DWP interactions with claimants.

Owen_Stevens
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https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/welfare-rights/news/item/dwp-confirms-that-its-conversational-platform-telephony-system-will-go-live-in-universal-credit-from-30-november-2023

DWP told stakeholders that the conversational platform will struggle to recognise speech if callers are distressed (e.g. crying).  It is anticipated that if callers are struggling to make progress they will be routed to an outsourced agent (who has received training, including on safeguarding matters) capable of handing off to DWP

Owen_Stevens
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Transcript from the recent oral evidence session with the SSWP is now available: https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/13961/html/

Debbie Abrahams asks, at Q349, whether safeguarding is relevant to policy design.

This is an issue touched on by CPAG’s submission to the WPSC inquiry into safeguarding vulnerable benefit claimants: “CPAG’s view, repeated throughout this submission, is that ‘safeguarding’ in the benefit system must go further than process. Safeguarding considerations must inform substantive government policy about social security, including entitlement rules.”

Owen_Stevens
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Transcript of the 2nd WPSC oral evidence session on safeguarding vulnerable claimants: https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/14002/html/

Lots of excellent contributions from both panels, but I thought that the following was particularly good at framing the issues being discussed. (it’s worth pointing out that Joshua had intended to refer to LCW/LCWRA assessments, rather than to PIP assessments - but this doesn’t detract from the usefulness of the contribution)

Joshua Reddaway, NAO -

Sometimes we are at risk of not being clear about vulnerability to what and in exactly what way DWP relates to it. The reason I say that is because I think it depends on how DWP is operating and what it is trying to achieve. Can I tentatively suggest three different definitions that we see in our work? I am not sure if it is complete but it might be helpful.

The first is the one that Ashley talked about, which is vulnerability to harm. DWP relies on there being a functioning system in place to support people through care and the criminal justice system in the way that Ashley talked about. DWP does not see that as its core role and, therefore, has ways that interface with that rather than wanting to be a core player in it. You see, for example, work coaches who are often one of the first bits of the state that vulnerable people come into contact with because, unlike other bits of the state, DWP requires people to come to it to claim benefits. That means that work coaches and the 10-minute conversation that they have with somebody on the intensive work search might be the interaction that a person has with the state. During that time, the coach’s process is really around, “Do I need to refer this someone to somebody else?”, not, “Can I help them myself?” I think you see that very much with things such as the six-point plan and so on.

[...]

The second kind of relationship to vulnerability is with those who are specifically vulnerable if their benefits are stopped. They are vulnerable to decisions made by the DWP. The DWP has a role but it is one as set out in the regulations. If I may say so, I think that Mr Mills asked the question quite well at the last session about the tension between what rules are set and how you consider harm but the rules do have things such as the safeguards in PIP assessments for assessing whether or not people are at risk of harm and that acts as an override to the points system. That is something that Parliament needs to be interested in—what rules are being set and what safeguards are in place.

The third way that DWP thinks about vulnerability is the one that we have mostly focused on in our work on DWP and that DWP has set out in its written evidence to you. That is some sort of vulnerability, however defined, that prevents people from accessing DWP’s services. Of those things, the common ones that we saw were digital literacy, language skills, being socially isolated or the habitual residency test and, therefore, where people are marginal in society.

Owen_Stevens
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Correspondence stating that there will be a process, still under development, for identifying vulnerable claimants to avoid awards being ended under the new plans announced in the autumn statement: https://data.parliament.uk/DepositedPapers/Files/DEP2024-0051/QSD.pdf

Annopuncement of the new plans: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/employment-support-launched-for-over-a-million-people

Lords debate: https://hansard.parliament.uk/lords/2023-11-30/debates/B193FBCA-1CF1-43AD-B6ED-EC0B8D9F0C8E/BenefitClaimantsFreePrescriptions

Rightsnet story https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/welfare-rights/news/item/dwp-confirms-that-claimants-with-a-vulnerability-will-not-have-their-claim-closed-for-disengaging-from-the-jobcentre

[ Edited: 18 Jan 2024 at 12:43 pm by Owen_Stevens ]
Andyp5 Citizens Advice Bridport & District
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Subject: Work search requirements for clients (Hospital inpatients) detained under the Mental Health Act (equally applies to patients under voluntary admissions).

On the subject of safeguarding and identifying vulnerable claimants. Lots of challenges ahead. For example see below. Outside our catchment area but affects West Dorset.

So we as a bureau have piled in for self-evident reasons e.g. horror and disbelief.

But I am posting this for wider social policy issues. May be of interest to HOL committees, W&P committee, and the Public Accounts Committee. For reasons that are painfully obvious. Similarly, Caxton House too.

Weymouth Job Centre mandating inpatients in mental health units (Psychiatric hospitals) in Dorchester and Poole to attend Weymouth Job centre for work related requirements.

See emails shared with us by the ACSSL and the bureau concerned (with redactions by me Bridport & District CA).

Between Dorset District JCP Partnership manager and a Citizens Advice Central Dorset worker.
Subject: Work search requirements for clients detained under the Mental Health Act

Citizens Advice Central Dorset worker email extracts - Subject: Work search requirements for clients detained under the Mental Health Act

‘Dear ********* (Partnership manager), happy new year!

We have had 3 recent cases raised by our adviser who works in the Forston Clinic/Waterstone Unit (psychiatric unit) about in-patients being required to attend interviews at the Jobcentre. He says: 

‘The problem is that even when the Jobcentre know clients are in a mental health in-patient unit, even if they are detained under a section and even if they are under a fit note, they ask them to come to routine appointments (expect them to make their way to Poole from Dorchester in these examples, but we had a number of cases at Weymouth JC a few years ago) about job searches etc. and are unwilling to try to do something on the phone or online, or via the hospital until pushed’.

‘What we’re looking for is a fairly simple undertaking from Dorset Jobcentres that says if someone is in Waterston or St. Anns (Poole), all routine work-related requirements will be suspended until eg. a month after they are discharged, and where there is other evidence that needs providing they’ll make an effort to do it via phone calls / email’.

He also pointed out in emails about a specific patient: *************

And he commented that attendance at JCP interviews takes staff off the wards for several hours in order to accompany the patient to the appointment’.

Our adviser raised these concerns in emails to various DWP staff,  between August and October 2023,  including ***** *******, ******** **********, ****** ******** and *********. In one response ******* said: “When someone has a fit note would still try to engage with them in their journey towards work and support their journey. If a customer is in hospital we would try a phone/video appointment if it was appropriate for their health condition”.

However, still seeking a more definite agreement for these claimants, he tried to call ******** but with no luck, so sent this email on 26 October:

‘I am waiting for a reply from ******* ********* (Dorset “*****”) about the general practice surrounding patients in the Waterston Unit. I have been hoping to obtain some sort of agreement about not asking patients to come to face-to-face appointments (especially when they are a 2-hour round trip away), and operating a general policy of zero or minimum engagement with people who are in units such as Waterston, and a suspension of all work-related obligations. If we can’t get an agreement, I proposed to use the complaints procedure on the grounds of failure to make reasonable adjustments, and to get a resolution that way’.

Obviously it would be much easier if a simple statement was drafted which agreed the above. Bear in mind that there are only 56 (I think) adult acute mental health beds in Dorset and BCP. This is therefore a tiny number of people, and surely isn’t too much to ask. I would be grateful if someone could reply to me on this issue as soon as possible, as it has been two months since I last heard from anyone’.

.......but nothing further has been heard. We would appreciate knowing if there is a national policy on claimants in these circumstances, and/or whether a local agreement / protocol could be made? ..... so any investigation and escalation you can do would be much appreciated!

Best wishes, ************

Dorset District JCP Partnership manager full email response below

‘Hi **********,

That’s a very interesting question. There is no one size fits all solution, as we have to tailor our support to the specific impact on the customer. Sometimes we find individuals have been impacted for one day/night and then others on a much longer term basis. As you can imagine we also have similar issues, and a higher volume, impacted due to physical health and a broad swathe of other circumstance. As such we wouldn’t be looking at a local agreement or protocol purely for mental health facilities.

We, of course, wish to ensure we are fully supportive and would never wish to disadvantage any of our customers. Where it’s identified an individual requires support, when they are within a mental health facility, then please complete the ‘Partner Referral Form’, as attached, and send it to *************, for us to consider a Visiting Offer visit. Where you don’t feel that’s appropriate or necessary then we ask for you to follow our Escalation Route, as also attached.

As always, I’m happy to discuss.

Many thanks

************’ 

 

 

 

UB40
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Hi Andy, it looks like the staff at Weymouth JCP are doing their best to get into the newspapers again ! I have dug out this extract from a complaint regarding a DM decision on a MR with claimant under section.
” I consider I must be very mindful of the nature of your health condition
and the fact it could impact your ability to make rational statements” ( DWP management )
So the inaccurate information supplied by the claimant was disregarded in our favour. When an AMHP sections a person it is done for a very good reason!

Andyp5 Citizens Advice Bridport & District
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UB40 - 18 January 2024 05:39 PM

Hi Andy, it looks like the staff at Weymouth JCP are doing their best to get into the newspapers again ! I have dug out this extract from a complaint regarding a DM decision on a MR with claimant under section.
” I consider I must be very mindful of the nature of your health condition
and the fact it could impact your ability to make rational statements” ( DWP management )
So the inaccurate information supplied by the claimant was disregarded in our favour. When an AMHP sections a person it is done for a very good reason!

I’ll keep this brief because I don’t want to hijack Owen’s stuff. Its actually worse than any impression that could be made from what I posted which is the tip of the iceberg e.g. tacit admission its policy and no undertaking that they will stop. But as the post office and infected blood products Hep C and HIV horrors and Windrush horrors demonstrate there are always people who will….............................

Edited to include Windrush horrors .

[ Edited: 23 Jan 2024 at 05:46 pm by Andyp5 Citizens Advice Bridport & District ]
Owen_Stevens
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Owen_Stevens
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Andyp5 Citizens Advice Bridport & District - 18 January 2024 01:23 PM

Subject: Work search requirements for clients (Hospital inpatients) detained under the Mental Health Act (equally applies to patients under voluntary admissions).

Just published by WPSC: https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/128134/pdf/