Written evidence from Andrew Currie (HAB0017)


I am not able to spend long on this submission as I have a filing cabinet full of evidence from the past twenty years, evidencing abuse from the DWP and I do not have the time and energy to give a detailed response. My experience and that of many others gives me no confidence that the government has any real intention of improving the way claimants are dealt with. The department is still responsible for claimant deaths and suicides due to their incompetence and callous and uncaring attitude. Unless the government completely change their policy of prioritising reducing benefit payments to a policy of helping people, nothing will change. I do not trust anything government ministers say - It is their voting record that indicates their true intentions towards those unable to work due to illness and disability.

1.  Assessors and decision makers set out to refuse, limit or withdraw benefits whenever possible, even if the methods they use are effectively fraudulent.  I have proof that this repeatedly happens. On telling the DWP that I had proof that an assessment report was full of errors and outright lies, I was threatened. The corrupt relationship with private sector contractors enables this situation to prevail. The statistics regarding appeals makes it very clear that assessments are often grossly inaccurate. These inaccuracies are largely intentional.

3.  Descriptors are a poor way of accessing people. They do not allow for individuals circumstances. Instead of being honest and straightforward, claimants have to work out what answers to give in order to get the help they need. The amounts awarded at the standard and higher rates for daily living and mobility components do not necessarily reflect the extra costs involved for individuals.

7.  The quality of assessments will improve if all of them are routinely audio recorded, without claimants having to request this. The extra cost of doing this is a result of  the reputation of the DWP and Capita, Atos and Maximus for dishonesty. I have learned that even now, claimants are tricked, bullied and threatened into attending an assessment without a recording being done, even when they have previously been told it would be recorded. 

9. b.  Private contractors are in it to make profits and have been found to do whatever it takes to make money out of peoples' misfortunes. The cosy relationship between them and the DWP leads to them covering up for each other when it comes to protecting their financial interests but when necessary each blaming the other, avoiding responsibility for errors and refusing to handle complaints.

13. In twenty years of unemployment, I have had zero help towards getting back into work but suffered fifteen years of stress on top of physical illness and disability, due to the amount of paperwork I had to do and tribunals to attend, in order to get benefits (which did not even cover basic living costs). Complaints procedures are effectively non-existent because claimants are passed from person to person, none of who do anything to address the complaint , so the claimant is worn down with the time and effort and gives up. My impression is that most Jobcentre and Benefit Office staff have an attitude problem towards the unemployed; I have found them to be almost without exception unhelpful and disrespectful.  It feels as if,  although it is claimants who provide them with jobs, the priority for staff is to fill in forms and tick boxes and claimants are a nuisance.  Too often, the system and therefore the staff assume that a claimant is lazy or incompetent or that a claim of disability is not genuine. Staff have poor knowledge of the jobs market. They try to force unsuitable candidates into local jobs in order to meet targets. This is bad for the unemployed and bad for employers. Managers avoid contact with claimants and are uninterested in constructive feedback. Senior management actually lie in press releases and statistical claims. Employees who care do not stay long.  I know of someone who had worked at a Jobcentre for years since leaving school but couldn't cope with the attitudes there and treatment of claimants and so left the job and became unemployed himself.  Any aggressive behaviour by claimants towards staff is entirely due to the way they are treated. The simple fact that Jobcentres have security guards on the door points to a failure of the system to treat people decently.


October 2021