The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) report, which was published by the Work and Pensions Committee, showcases the unmet needs of claimants on Universal Credit, PIP, Disability Living Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance. It found the benefits are not meeting the needs of claimants and information provider Benefits and Work say it proves “the benefits system is failing”.
Benefits and Work claims that the DWP was trying to keep the report “secret”.
A whistleblower told the Disability News Service that “the DWP told authors to reduce the number of references to ‘unmet needs’ and to delete some of its analysis” according to Benefits and Work.
They said the evidence in the report was to blame as it found disabled claimants are “often unable to meet essential day-to-day living needs, such as heating their house and buying food” and that mental health condition claimants “tended to report a wide variety of basic needs, health and care needs and social needs that were unmet”.
Therese Coffey reported last October that the benefits system was not fair for the opposite reasons to what the report shows.
Benefits and Work commented: “It isn’t fair because claimants are left hungry and cold and without attention to their basic health and social care needs. If Coffey is planning changes to the PIP criteria to make it harder to claim, this report is the last thing she ever wanted to see the light of day.”
They noted that even though the publicised version of the report “has been watered down”, it still showcases some shocking revelations.
The report contained large-scale findings on health and disability benefits and how they are used by recipients.
The data utilised interviews with the 120 participants from England, Scotland and Wales, showcasing their needs, how they are met and the role and use of benefits in doing this.
The study looked at a vast array of impacts on the participants, from social setting and networking to their financial circumstances.
One of the more disturbing revelations was the financial findings which noted that some claimants “were sometimes unable to afford essential day-to-day living costs such as rent, heating or food”.
Additionally, the report found that these participants were “almost always” unable to cover their health-related costs which is exactly what the disability benefits are supposed to do.
One participant in the study lives with her two daughters aged 10 and three, receiving PIP, Income Support, Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit.
The participant had suffered from anxiety and depression her whole life and began having epileptic seizures from the age of nine.
She is currently £8,000 in debt, a charge incurred when she had to fix damage in her house caused by tenants, with roughly 80 percent of her income being used to pay this down.
Another participant noted that they are forced to pool all of their money together as a household as well as from different income streams as individuals.
He said: “The thing is, we have such a limited income that at the end of the day, it’s absolutely pointless putting money into little pots and saying, ‘Oh, that’s for so-and-so and that’s for something else’.”
There are many case studies in the report showcasing how benefits such as PIP which is intended to be used to cover the costs of one’s illness or disability is often used for the bare necessities such as food.
A participant who lived alone in a Housing Association flat paid for using Housing Benefit received PIP and was in the ESA Support Group.
The participant suffered from kidney failure, arthritis in his back, arms and legs, depression and bulimia causing chronic stomach pains.
His financial circumstances were so dire he had to pay his utility bills monthly in arrears and had to use a foodbank as paying off a £5,000 bank loan sucked up all of his benefits income.
Additionally, due to his arthritis this participant medically required a walk-in shower but could not afford one and received some other support and care from his cousin.
The study also revealed that mental health conditions and disabilities struggle more than those with physical conditions.
The report stated: “A pattern also emerged in terms of the nature of health conditions and the way participants used their income and the extent to which needs were met.
“Participants with mental health conditions tended to report a wide variety of basic needs, health and care needs and social needs that were unmet. In comparison, those with profound learning disabilities and severe physical disabilities were typically in the group that identified having fewer unmet needs.”
Benefits and Work said the report provides “a good deal of evidence that the benefits system is failing to meet even the most basic needs of many claimants”.
“This will come as no surprise to most claimants. But the fact that evidence is in a report compiled for the DWP using methodology that the department cannot dismiss as biased or inaccurate is new.
“And, as the chair of the work and pensions committee says, trying to hide away this report has only further damaged the DWP’s reputation with disabled claimants.”
MP Stephen Timms, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, commented on the report saying: “While the system is working for some, we now know that others reported that they are still unable to meet essential living costs such as food and utility bills.
“By persisting in its decision to hide away evidence of the struggles people are facing, the DWP will only have further harmed its reputation with disabled people at a time when – as its own officials have acknowledged – lack of trust is a major issue. In order to rebuild its relationship with disabled people, the DWP must stop trying to bury uncomfortable truths.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “We’re providing extensive support to millions of disabled people and those with a health condition to help them live independent lives. As the research shows, health and disability benefits, alongside other income streams, helped to meet almost all identified areas of additional need.
“We are currently considering a range of policy options, drawing on wide evidence, research and analysis as part of the upcoming Health and Disability White Paper.
“Protecting a private space for policy development is important and we had committed to publish this report as soon as this policy work concluded.”