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A local council in London has called the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) “grotesque and unbelievable” after they discovered claimants are being visited whilst in hospital. One claimant who missed an appointment because on an operation was shocked when a jobcentre adviser arrived at their bedside.
It’s no secret that if you’re on Universal Credit you run the risk of a sanction at every turn. However, the one place you’d expect to be safe is in hospital.
Islington Council’s Policy and Performance Scrutiny Committee have reported that not to be the case. Furthermore the DWP have defended it.
Everyone get’s ill, it’s a fact of life. For those in a job, it would involve a quick call to your employer. If you had been admitted to hospital there’d certainly be no problem.
It appears however that if you’re a Universal Credit claimant admitted to hospital, your word is worthless.
Since June 2018, Islington Council has been tracking the roll-out of the under fire benefit so as to understand how it can ease pressure on residents on it.
They found that claimants who’d already told their work coach they were in hospital, ended up with a jobcentre staff member at their bedside.
A DWP spokesperson defended the practice saying
“Jobcentre staff occasionally conduct hospital visits to confirm people’s bank account or rent details. This ensures we can pay their full benefits on time.”
Nowhere is safe
The government claim that Universal Credit is designed to reflect working life in the UK. Last time I checked, an employer had no right to question how ill you are, especially if you are a hospital inpatient.
The only time they’d visit would be to check on their employee’s welfare and see how they are doing.
Not the DWP. Instead they are turning up and scrutinising claimants for missing appointments because they were having an operation.
“The fact that the DWP send people out to the hospital to interview and pursue people sends the wrong message.
“When people are in hospital they are not there to be chased and it’s not for the DWP to guess or validate if they are well or unwell. I think it’s callous.
“It’s an issue they need to amend quickly because it’s highly stressful and deeply upsetting.
“It’s grotesque and unbelievable.
“If someone says they’re unwell, whatever the reason is, you should always accept that.”
This news comes after it emerged that the DWP are in the process of designing an automated system to trawl claimants NHS health records. Doctors have raised concerns about patient confidentiality but, the DWP have ploughed on regardless.
Universal Credit and its strict rules don’t reflect being in work at all. It is designed to push people into making a mistake so they can be punished by a punitive sanctions regime.
This latest news isn’t surprising given the governments head in the sand policy. It just shows that the welfare state is slowly being eroded away at the expense of claimants health and well being.
We must be more vocal in opposing policies like these as, if we aren’t, they’ll keep pushing the boundaries to see what they can get away with.