A great-grandmother’s grieving family have blamed her death on the pressure of having to dispense with a benefits bungle. Thomasina McIver, of Port Glasgow, Inverclyde, died from a blood clot following weeks attempting to sort out payments for her disabled husband Herbert, 70.
The couple couldn’t access the £1000 he was due, and their children maintained Thomasina, 69, who had asthma and used a Zimmer frame to get around, fought to breathe after one highly stressful telephone call to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Her efforts to sort out housebound Herbert’s Disability Living Allowance (DLA) took its toll on the mum of five’s well-being, and she was on the telephone to the DWP continually.
Thomasina McIver died on August 27 and this has added to that with all the pressure. The family said the difficulties started after Herbert was sent a new payment card, which enabled him to withdraw his cash at a PayPoint at a local store.
It worked two or three times, and that was it. The DWP was unwilling to grant another one. They said it was probably the workers in the store scanning it wrong. Yet it was tried in other stores and it still didn’t work, so finally the DWP sent out another card and that lasted one payment and then stopped again.
Thomasina was told the £145-a-week payments were going through but the couple couldn’t obtain the cash.
Wheelchair user Herbert had a stroke 12 years ago which left him paralysed on his left side. He further suffers from memory loss and angina, and Thomasina managed everything for Herbert. She was on the telephone for hours with the DWP. People were putting the telephone down on her. She was getting upset and worried, and they were struggling for money.
It all added to her stress levels, and on the day of Thomasina’s death, Terry raced to his parents’ house after his dad said she was ill. Paramedics found her gasping for breath and thought it was an asthma attack.
Thomasina died at home, with a blood clot recorded as the cause on her death certificate, and her husband is devastated, they were married for 51 years, and following her death, her husband has spent hours on the telephone with the DWP but still hasn’t resolved the problem.
A DWP spokeswoman said: “Our thoughts are with Mrs McIver’s family.
“We’re committed to ensuring that people get the support they’re entitled to. If someone is having issues with their payment card, we aim to replace it within two weeks and we can issue vouchers for any immediate payments due.”
Obviously, the DWP aren’t concerned about ensuring that people are supported, particularly to something they’re entitled to, and if two of their payment cards didn’t work, the DWP should have found another way of giving them their money.
No wonder there is so much resentment towards the DWP by people that are on benefits because the DWP have no empathy whatsoever. After all, they’re merely people that work there, dishing out instructions and penalties to claimants.
Although it’s difficult not to see a perverted ironic wickedness in this because it’s pure evil that the DWP didn’t find another way for Herbert McIver to access his money, money that he was entitled to.
Disabled people should not have to go through this sort of pressure, particularly when they’re so sick. The entire system is a shambles, and the DWP abuses people on benefits to save money, and it makes my blood boil because claimants are not supported and if this family had been supported Thomasina McIver might have still been alive today.
It’s nothing short of picking on the vulnerable, and most of the people that work at the DWP are devoid of any compassion, and of course, blunders are made but it actually looks like the DWP simply laughed it off and carried on regardless.
The DWP could have sent a Fast Payment to the McIver’s, but this is getting dangerously ludicrous because the DWP either send through late payments, no payments and give no reason why, and phoning the DWP is a nightmare because usually one hand doesn’t know what the other hand is doing, and every time you telephone you get a different outcome each time.
DWP call handlers have no time to care about your disability, and if a person phones up and is sobbing down the telephone, the person on the other end might have some kind of compassion, but if they talk to you for longer than 23 minutes and go off-script they risk losing their job.
Twenty-three minutes is how long it should take to help someone, even though some of these people are at their weakest point. These are people who require help to navigate the complicated system so that they can get their payments.
These people are usually vulnerable and desperate by the time they reach the call handler. The headset beeps and the call handler launches into a scripted greeting, and the caller wants to tell the handler what they’re phoning up for, but the handler doesn’t have time, all the handler wants to hear is yes and no responses.
All the caller wants is a friendly listener to reassure them that they will get their money, when they will get their money and how they will get their money, but for the call handler, the only thing that’s actually relevant is how long each call takes.
They’re measured on an average handling time, known as AHT, and if this slips beyond 23 minutes per call they face performance management, which is a cypher for “you’ll get in trouble”. This involves anything from severe words and increased micro-management from the line manager right up to written warnings and dismissal.
They have a script they read from, over and over again, it’s the DWP’s modern-day version of a sweatshop, and workers are singularly ill-equipped to actually give any advice or assistance.
Quality checking is done but it’s about whether the call handler is reading every word of the text, and there’s no measure of how good a service they provide. If the call is listened to by the line manager, it will be flagged up on an area where the call handler is missing time targets because three minutes beforehand in the call where the call handler let the claimant sob quietly down the telephone because the claimants life was imploding and afraid of what the future will bring and this is all too much for them, but a more motivated call handler would have got her back on track.
A call handler might feel like crying after this call because they know they’ve failed the claimant in so many ways, but there’s no time for the call handler to cry, there’s no pause between calls, the headset beeps again quickly, and now it’s another woman with kidney failure.
The call handler will fail this woman too, and this will continue probably until the government eventually finds a way to do away with benefits completely, at which our sick and disabled people will be left with nothing.
There’s no moralistic and humane vacuum within the system, and that makes it materialistic, unworkable and barf provoking, and then we have the temerity to call ourselves a cultured society, and this country is really messed up, we’re just a bunch of petty criminals selling to one and all, then the roller coaster stops and we swap over.
Sadly, financialisation is everything in society, even in life and death and support. It’s the consistent mantra that barters everything financial to live exclusively according to what can be measured and can have a price tag attached to it.
They even charge you to call them because it’s all about making money. To make calls to the DWP, struggling families spend up to 45p a minute to claim necessary payments by telephone, which is extortionate.
When the government introduced Universal Credit, families were forced to phone a 0345 number, incurring charges of up to 45p a minute to claim their benefits. It’s hard enough as it is living on disability benefits without being charged 45p a minute to phone the DWP.
And more often than not it’s not the claimant’s fault they’re rectifying the oversights of the DWP when the claimant calls, so why should they be imposed such extortionate fee’s to just make a telephone call?
Anybody directly employed by the DWP has to sign the Official Secrets Act but one of the most disturbing things about Civil Service jobs is that from day one it’s made quite apparent you’re employed by the state, not the public and consequently their allegiance is to their employer and government, therefore they have to satisfy the wishes of the government, not the people, hence the 23 minute targets.
They also removed all the telephones from the Job Centre where you used to be able to call and the DWP footed the bill, which is an utter disgrace, and you can wait up to 45 minutes phoning the DWP with a treat to Vivaldi for the duration, and sometimes after some waiting you get cut off, and get charged for the privilege, and it costs even more if the claimant is using a mobile, using the last of their credit while they’re attempting to get a small advance, or find out why their benefits haven’t been paid into their account, or even worse, Universal Credit tell you that they can’t access your information because the bloody computer has frozen, or worse still, they’re all down for the day.
Ministers who run the benefits system should experience it first hand by attending DWP offices, and they should remain there and listen to calls and claimants, perhaps that way they can dispense with the matter at hand after understanding it, rather than reading about it in a memo, or what the media is spinning.
Ministers should be glued to a chair and pick up every phone call to the DWP personally until they can’t take any more. Sadly, Ministers only get off their arse to support their constituents when they stand to personally or politically gain something.
Music from Vivaldi always sounds when you’re hanging on the phone, waiting to be connected to someone for an emergency payment because the DWP have messed up yet again. Then after about twenty-five minutes of “Your call is important to us” over continuous loops of The Four Seasons, you’ll end up hating Vivaldi for life, wanting to spew with anger every time you hear it.
But this music will not sort you out when you’re desperate to feed your children and put money on your electricity metre, it will do the absolute opposite, it’s awful, and they removed all the telephones from the DWP offices so people without money couldn’t afford to make welfare claims, and when you ask the DWP why they were taken out, they simply say that they don’t know with a somewhat troubled look.
Clearly, something is unquestionably rotten in the United Kingdom and the decay will eventually destroy it and the fissures are now visible, and this is a deliberate long-term policy and the government know that if they make benefits too difficult and expensive to claim that fewer people will claim for benefits, therefore economic policies must be working.
These are terrible conditions with a growing disregard for life, and the government doesn’t inherently want any good for its people when privatisation is clearly immoral.
Both this government and the former two governments have failed disabled and sick people. In fact, they have done worse than that, they have actively persecuted them, and this is a country which doesn’t protect all its citizens, a country which doesn’t support those in need, this is what Britain has been allowed to become.
Disabled and sick people and the lack of public awareness is sickening to the stomach, and we’re not part of a society anymore, we’re part of a regime.
I guess we should be thankful that there are some human beings with some morals that are still in the loop, rather than people being managed by a computer with voice recognition spewing out pre-recorded messages, or would an automated system be more caring?
The unfortunate thing is that most of us are not far away from being plagued with sickness, bereavement or losing a job, and at some time or another the preponderance of the population will be in a situation like this. However, people still vote for parties who are set to make the life for the poor and disabled as tough as possible.
Our government is full of broken promises, and the prospect of job loss, sickness, bereavement or retirement faces all of us at some time, yet this is a Tory attempt to undermine the fundamental case for support and security for people through the joint pooling of risk.
This is the government’s naked attempt to turn people against one another, in order to undermine any idea of a safety net, young against old, disabled people against non-disabled people, those in work against those looking for work.
The opposition will tell you that they won’t play that game, that they’re not invested in those divisive Tory tactics. That they want to bring down the Welfare Bill by making work pay, getting the homes they need to be built, bringing down unemployment and increasing our economy, supporting our foundation industries, such as steel manufacturing, which is being waived by the government.
The Tories faced embarrassing and justified defeat in the House of Lords, in part due to their incompetence to outline where cuts will fall and being less clear about their plans.
Just like their cuts to tax credits, this breaks the Conservatives manifesto promise, promises to protect pensioners, to help the young, to encourage the disabled to work and to support working families, and it’s a brutal Tory manifesto that’s not deserving the paper it was printed on.
It punishes children, takes money from low and middle-income workers, drives families from their homes, punishes disabled people and will drive hundreds of thousands of children into poverty.
Being in government should not equate to a dictatorship, but that’s the way that it is and it’s a really disheartening insight into Great Britain today, and how those in charge think it’s acceptable to treat people like trash, and 23 minutes to deal with a claimant is set up so the claimant will break and the call handler will get their gratuities.
But these call handlers are dealing with claimants, dealing with the vulnerable and 23 minutes is no time at all in which to deal with the complexities of individual claimants, and most people need some sort of guidance when phoning because some of these claimants simply wouldn’t understand some of the questions.
Obviously, these call handlers don’t want to lose their jobs, some of them have families, and have outgoing costs to pay for, so they simply follow the script so that they don’t get the sack because it’s better to obey orders because they need the money.
The Tory government is wicked and guilty, and it’s a shameful policy with loads of deception, and this wicked policy is so weighted against the most vulnerable people who need it, and the government should be ashamed of themselves and the people who put them there.
And yet we British consistently vote in government’s who pledge not to increase taxes, but we should feel very sad for the people who are unfortunate enough to be left in a position where they have to claim benefit due to ill health, but we should likewise feel sad for the call handler which I’m imagining would make them really depressed but in contrast, not as depressed as the claimant might feel.
The government are merely a pack of superior bureaucratic tormentors where their DWP staff are told to act like twats, but either way, this is totally unacceptable when the stance of the government departments act like they’re never wrong.
Even if the call handler tried to bend the rules, management would pound them, so the best they can do is attempt to give guidance and then that’s not helpful as not all staff are trained across all benefits.
It’s usually the claimant who tends to know more than the DWP, particularly now that it’s gone over to Universal Credit and nobody actually appears to know what they’re doing, but the claimant has been through every imaginable platform by leaping through hoops to arrive at a correct verdict and more so because they’ve had to complete an extensive application pack, and have to find out what all the questions mean, quite similar to much of the content of the letters they get from the DWP.
Of course, this was Iain Duncan Smith’s legacy but now he’s not around to pick up the pieces and some other nincompoop has to do it instead who has no idea what they’re doing, but then Duncan Smith wasn’t much better as he strolled about with his head up his anus for most of the time.
But none of this should come as a shock because this government want stumbling blocks put in the way of anyone who needs to claim a benefit, and it’s obvious from the onset, that call handlers read from a script, filling in a box-ticking form and have barely any or no training.
It’s not their fault, the government simply don’t want them to really help the people that need help because that would result in successful claims, and that wouldn’t accommodate their unemployment figures, and any help is left to massively overstretched Citizen Advice Bureau (CAB) volunteers, but the odds are you won’t be able to get an appointment with them in time – their funding has been cut!
A decade has witnessed how much the DWP, the Job Centre and associated offices have changed. Ten years ago they were accommodating, even nice and I dare say, caring about peoples situations and circumstances and would accommodate as much as possible.
But, since then and not down to all of them personally, it’s as if they’re actually handing out their own money from their own pockets, and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau are at breaking point and essentially crushed with people coming in for help.
There are other professionals out there who can assist such as the Welfare Rights Officers, Age UK and other charities dealing in chosen regions but even they’re at breaking point with the government slashing money from those funds as well.
There are even less well-known places that a person can go. If you’re a tenant of a Housing Association or local authority resident, these normally have in-house benefit advisors, as this is no doubt their chief source of income, and if tenants don’t have benefits, they, in turn, don’t get housing benefits et cetera.
Another place where help can be obtained is specific specialised hospitals such as MacMillan who can assist, and in some areas, there are volunteer groups who can assist in completing and submitting forms, and there are countless vulnerable people out there who, due to their illness or disabilities are even unable and don’t know about the help, or are really unable to approach those who can support them.
The situation got worse in 2002 when the Employment Service took over the Benefits Agency and they didn’t realise how complex benefits were, it must have been quite a culture shock, but the DWP like all government agencies are striving to do more with less and struggling because of George Osborne’s autocratic slash to their budget which has pushed the DWP to move towards telephone and online services that is more affordable and simple to manage rather than friendly handlers getting the people the services that they require.
But this doesn’t work so well for people who are sick, stressed by their circumstances and simply don’t have the ability to cope with complex problems, and job seeking, claiming benefits and maintaining entitlement is usually much more difficult and demands more energy than most people realise.
Therefore, some people suffer and their benefits are lost or delayed or their frustrations prevent some people from claiming. For these people there is the fear of hardworking people that have suddenly become reliant on a system they’ve dodged all their lives, and now they’re hit with illnesses or disabilities that now make them lose their independence and income.
The government are tough on these people, and they don’t get much guidance on their entitlements. Of course, there are people out there that shun the sick and disabled community because they consider that anybody on benefits, whether they’re disabled or not are scroungers on benefits with their fancy mobile phones and too many children.
It’s these people that bolster the idea that all people claiming benefits fall into this classification even if that’s not what they meant. Nobody is insinuating that there are people who do exploit the system, but the danger comes when that tiny number of cases is amplified into “They all do it!” and echoing this kind of generalised claims serves to immortalise that hypothesis, and then it becomes difficult to see what is the truth and what’s not.
And some people are so broken that they’d like to see people on benefits covered in burlap, wandering around barefooted because some people are so insecure and judgemental, assuming that everybody on benefit is bleeding the system dry.
There’s a bunch of disabled people that go to charities to help with their forms to claim sickness associated benefits like PIP, ESA and Attendance Allowance. Usually, they get a minimum of an hour and half of that is face to face to chat with voluntary advisors.
Claimants are usually urged to bring with them someone that’s familiar to them, as frequently claimants misunderstand the deliberately rigged questions or unintentionally play down their disabilities and illnesses, and having another person with them could actually correct things that the claimant has missed out.
You don’t get a lot of time with the advisor and most of that is routine ID verifying and fact-finding about their name and address and date of birth, National Insurance (NI) number et cetera, all of which they have to go through before they can get to the important part of the questionnaire, the illness, disability and its outcomes.
Sad to say, these people have no chance, and the knowledge on what’s happening to the vulnerable in our community is out there for all to see, with disability charities and support groups continually circulating press releases and appeals.
There’s no justification for stupidity, and our electoral society is essentially supporting this, and there’s no possibility of diversity at the polling box, and the United Kingdom is changing into a country where more and more people are becoming prejudiced and uncaring, and some even relish the suffering of others.
These are the people that are very ignorant because most of us are only one illness or a piece of rotten luck away from requiring state support, and some are even proud of how dumb they are, coupled with unclothed prejudice and economic stupidity of the decision to leave the EU, and we should question as we stroll down the street which of these people fall into the category of “The world would be a better place without disabled and sick people.”
It’s probably approximately a third of the population, and the rest of them are too pig lazy to even vote, so in effect, they’re just as bad, and there’s a bunch of people who are convinced that somehow the economic crash was because of people on benefits, but what about those tax-dodging millionaires?
MAYBE I’M IN THE WRONG JOB!
For call handlers at the DWP their job can be very demeaning, as well as the claimant on the other end of the telephone, but before you get through to the call handler you end up speaking to a robot, press 1 for Cancer and press 2 for any other illness, because the benefits system is cruel and far too rigid.
And ultimately, with speech recognition, DWP pawns will no longer be needed because employees are there solely to manage calls and to reach as many targets as possible, but for decades there’s been this recognition of these systemic failures, however, the public sector appears to be immune from wanting to fix anything.
There’s no fairness in the system in the United Kingdom and this malicious and corrupt legislation which is legislated every day in this sewer of a country, and the well-connected aristocracies and the 98 per cent of the gentry conspiracy, control everything behind the scenes in there, not so clandestine fellowships.
And our muppet government bend over backwards for this crap so that they can shaft the rest of the population, and politicians of both stripes enjoy talking about modernising and finding 21st-century solutions to 21st-century problems.
But when it comes to welfare they can’t seem to get out of the 18th century way of thinking when it comes to the worthy and undeserving poor, and neoliberal democracy is making life uncertain for more and more people and disciplinary welfare is part of that.
We need to adopt new strategies and progress past this harsh stigmatising policy of support we now suffer, and we need a more civilised policy which could make life better for people in need, but for senior civil servants and bureaucrats the concept of modernising has become synonymous with privatising, lack of funding, outsourcing, and not giving a shit.
If something feels cold and callous it normally suggests that it is, and claimants shouldn’t have to go into their medical circumstances on a form if they’ve had a diagnosis from their doctor of longer than 7 years, and their doctor has enough training to know when a person is malingering or not.
And doctors are being countermanded by civil servants using a vile government system to make people work who are obviously incapable of working, and this is clearly really draconian, and this is another stark reminder of the total anarchy David Cameron and George Osborne have built in their demonising of the sick, disabled and the poor.
It’s shocking how this country now violates the disabled in every way imaginable, and now this is the United Kingdom, the supposed country of humanity, revealing how prejudiced it actually is when it comes to the disabled minority who are unable to fight back, and it’s utterly shameful!
Westminster took their ten grand increase and pounded the sick and disabled into poverty, and for the true blues who believe that’s incorrect, remember that for the last six years the disabled have only had a 1 per cent rise in their benefits, or approximately £1 a week.
Whilst MPs have had a rise two hundred times and that’s for one year, so now the disabled are being socially excluded and the benefit claimants will once again have a decision to heat or eat throughout the winter months, and 1 million at food banks is a public scandal.
The land of freedom and humanity, I don’t think so, and the persecution of the disabled in this country brings a resemblance to the persecution we fought so courageously against and gave so many lives for 70 years ago. Shame on every MP in Westminster that they don’t see, and the exploitation they exercise on their people on an everyday basis.