Employment Support Allowance: Over 100,000 Claims Closed Following Death of Claimants by Alex Dunedin
Employment and Support Allowance is a financial premium for people who have limited capability for work because of their sickness or disability given to make sure that individuals can live a sufficient standard of life. It is an income-replacement benefit paid in place of wages or an income which would allow them to do the most fundamental day to day things.
Over the past number of years there have been a series of calamities foisted on the general public in regards to management of finance of all kinds. The mismanagement of the country has seen unworkable policies such as the infamous ‘Bedroom Tax’ which the United Nation’s special investigator on housing, Raquel Rolnik stated that it negatively “impacts on the right to adequate housing and general wellbeing of many vulnerable individuals and households”.
We have seen media generating so called ‘poverty porn’ with the likes of Benefits Street which misrepresents and demonises a constantly changing demographic of people who turn to getting financial support to help them through a stage in life or ensure that they can take part in life through provision such as transport costs.
We are living through a time when public services are being systematically stripped as assets for private interests which float on the stock market. Infrastructure which previously was run more clearly under legislative overwatch such as the prison services, emergency housing, and various aspects of administration and the National Health Service, has been farmed out to profit making companies such as G4S. Its prison and detention contracts are highly profitable and where a prison is run via a private company various parts of legislated law do not apply such as Freedom of Information.
According to Corporate Watch, G4S “Total revenue in 2017 was £7.4 billion. Profit after tax was a reasonable £236 million. G4S paid out £290m to its shareholders in dividends in the last two years”. Whilst getting massive government contracts, various multinational companies sit in ‘secrescy jurisdictions’ (aka tax havens) allowing them to avoid paying the tax due on the profits which they have made from the contracts they have been awarded.
We dont have to spend much time to figure out the way that large companies are avoiding paying tax which the everyday person has no choice to (besides the fact that it is the single most re-distributive means of wealth we have available to us in society to resource fundamental infrastructure and support living standards). For example The Telegraph reported in 2013 how ‘Atos, G4S paid no corporation tax last year despite carrying out £2billion of taxpayer-funded work‘.
If we look at what HMRC says, we find in their ‘Measuring tax gaps 2018 edition; Tax gap estimates for 2016-17’ document they quote that “The tax gap is estimated to be £33 billion, which is 5.7% of tax liabilities” – the ‘tax gap’ is the difference between the amount of tax that should be paid to HMRC, and what is actually paid.
Online Source: assets.publishing.service.gov.uk
In 2016 I audio recorded Richard Murphy of the Tax Justice Network, a Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City University London and he said “It has been estimated that legal tax avoidance keeps £20 billion out of the UK Treasury every year. That’s exactly the same amount being cut by government departments delivering services to us in the next four years.“
Why then are subsidies for living being cut for the disabled ?
I Daniel Blake: A Story of Our Time
Out of the mess that the privileging of private interests over responsibility to the public has come another iconic film from Ken Loach. I Daniel Blake is a fictional account pieced together by the writers from real life stories from both people applying for benefits and from those administrating at benefits offices.
Paul Laverty, one of the writers of I Daniel Blake said how “…in the film a lot of the people who are working in the Job Centre are actually DWP workers who had just retired. And many of them had been working in the civil service for thirty years, and they were just amazed at the way the culture had changed, and they said we are so stressed”.
The culture of the civil service is being changed by the aggressive managerial tactics of targets and measurements. This backed onto a culture where the holders of finance are privileged beyond all other aspects of existence results in life becoming unworkable for those with the least. Various nefarious images are cultivated around the poor and needy like we see in tabloid press and television; it is a kind of dog whistle reportage which taps into long reinforced prejudices that bear little resemblance to the reality of peoples lives.
Recently Welfare Weekly reported on how Gail Ward put in a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to find out how many people on Employment Support Allowance had died between 2014 and 2017. As a result the DWP were forced to admit more than 111,000 benefit deaths had occurred during this period; this translates to roughly 101 people a day died while on Employment Support Allowance for the period queried.
Another news service, The Canary, reported on this matter analysing the figures to see what insights could be drawn from the Freedom of Information Request. The DWP made a statement that “no causal effect between the benefit and the number of people who died should be assumed from these figures”…
Below you can read the letter which Gail Ward got in response to her Freedom of Information request and see the exact wording of her enquiry:
In The Canary’s analysis…
This is the kind of injustice and ethical malady which the likes of Inclusion Scotland have been involved in challenging. The UK Government signed up to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2009 and has already been accused by the Committee of violating the Convention.
Following an inquiry into the impact of welfare reforms on disabled people’s rights, a damning report published in October last year by the UN committee found that reforms had led to ‘grave and systemic violations’ of disabled people’s rights. The UK Government responded by dismissing the findings and refusing to implement the committee’s recommendations.
In their report on the status of disabled people’s human rights in Scotland, Inclusion Scotland and its partners in Scotland urge the Scottish Government to:
- Protect disabled people from the impact of austerity in social security and social care.
- Bring Scotland’s mental health legislation in line with the Convention, particularly in relation to people with learning disabilities.
- Transform public attitudes towards disability and reduce hate crime.
The Guardian reported on 21st March 2018 how the Department of Work and Pensions underpaid disability claimants and how an estimated 70,000 Britons did not receive full entitlement after errors were made worth £340m by staff. There is something deeply concerning regarding the way that the most vulnerable are being undermined whilst large profit making entities are being privileged. Did we leave the time of Charles Dickens ??
For up-to-date information on what is being done to champion the rights of the Disabled in Scotland, and also partner organisations in England get in touch with Inclusion Scotland: