Author Archives: Neil Carpenter

Since retirement Neil Carpenter has been volunteering with adults with learning difficulties and writing about disability issues.

The Independent View: ‘Benefits on Trial’: DWP Injustice Exposed

‘Benefits on Trial’ is based on my work in Cornwall since 2012 as a volunteer advocate with adults who have a learning disability. In recent years, that work has increasingly concerned benefits cases: helping people with their PIP and ESA applications; accompanying them to assessments; requesting reconsideration of decisions; and taking cases to the tribunal stage. That experience – particularly of tribunals – triggered the writing of ‘Benefits on Trial’.

The book describes how six people – for all of whom names have been changed to protect their identities – have to battle with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) whose system, with built-in hurdles, is loaded against them. Two of them – Danny who has ABI and Thomas who has Down’s syndrome – figured prominently in my previous book, ‘Austerity’s Victims’. The others are Ben, Jon, Tony and Denise: Ben has fibromyalgia and ME as well as being on the autism spectrum; Jon has Global Developmental Delay; and Tony and Denise both have an unspecified learning disability.

‘Benefits on Trial’ builds up a detailed picture of each of the six people, their current lives and events in their past which have helped to shape them. The experience of Denise described below – her early years and her application for benefits – serves as an example of the inhumane treatment suffered by all six at the hands of the DWP.

When she was eight, she had the first of what turned out to be many epileptic seizures. Because of the way in which they have affected her memory, she cannot remember either much of the detail of her life after the seizures started or what her life was like previously. A member of staff at her day centre, however, who went to the same secondary school recalls both appalling bullying there and later when she was nearly twenty a sexual assault that was taken to court.

Not the start in life that most of us enjoyed and one that cries out for compassion. Instead, from the state, the reverse was inflicted upon her. She, like all the others in this book turned down for PIP, was left with an income which no-one should be asked to survive on. Her £107.50 in 2018 was only 26.86% of the UK median per week, 28.27% of the equivalent median for the South West and 39.99% of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s UK Minimum Income Standard.

Posted in The Independent View | Tagged and | 5 Comments
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