The report on unmet needs of disabled claimants that the DWP has been trying so hard to keep secret has finally been published after the commons work and pensions committee obtained a copy from the authors and placed it on its own website.

Even though this copy of the report ‘The uses of health and disability benefits’ has been watered down compared to the original work provided to the DWP, it still makes several things very clear.

Firstly that many people are using disability benefits such as PIP, which should be used to meet the additional costs of disability, for very basic needs such as food and rent and paying debts.

“The participant had kidney failure, arthritis in his back, legs and arms, depression and bulimia which caused chronic stomach pains. He lived alone in a flat rented from a Housing Association, using Housing Benefit. He was in the ESA Support Group and received PIP. He made monthly repayments for utility bill arrears and had a £5,000 bank loan which he could not afford to repay. His debt repayments meant he could not afford essential day-to-day living needs and used a foodbank. He found it difficult to wash independently due to his arthritis and needed a walk-in shower but could not afford one and seemed unaware that he may be eligible for support through the local authority. He also needed support with cooking and cleaning and received help from a cousin. His cousin would like to claim Carer’s Allowance but neither of them knew how to make an application. He had no other support networks close by.”

Secondly, that claimants with invisible disabilities such as mental health conditions often struggle even more than those with physical conditions to get their basic needs met.

“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. While the latter group experienced a high level of need across a range of areas, these were usually being met through a combination of local authority support and informal support networks, usually parents who provided a high level of care.”

Thirdly, that the wellbeing of disabled claimants often depends primarily on being in a household in which another member has a well-paid job.

“The participant has recently moved in with her mother and sister, she had previously lived alone in a council-rented flat but had begun to feel isolated and found paying the rent and bills difficult so decided to move in with her mother. She has a range of health conditions and disabilities including Asperger syndrome, anxiety, ADHD, joint stiffness and IBS. She works 28 hours a week and receives PIP. Before moving to live with her mother she was concerned about how her income would cover essential day-to-day living costs. She also struggled with maintaining her personal hygiene and found it difficult to leave the house as she did not like going out alone. Moving in with her mother has helped her to meet all of her health-related needs.”

Even in this watered down report, there is 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 methodolgy 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:

“The report gives a valuable insight into the experiences of people claiming health and disability benefits. 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.”

Why keep it secret?

Why have the DWP gone to such lengths to keep this document secret?  The revelation in the report that some disabled claimants are "often unable to meet essential day-to-day living needs, such as heating their house and buying food" will come as no surprise whatsoever to Benefits and Work readers. 

Nor will the fact that claimants with mental health conditions "tended to report a wide variety of basic needs, health and care needs and social needs that were unmet." 

But just last October, long after she had read this report,Therese Coffey was telling the Conservative party conference that:

“PIP has certainly grown in a way that was not anticipated when it was introduced.

“To give you an example, three out of four young people who claim PIP have their primary reason being mental ill health.

“That in itself is 189,000 young people who currently receive benefit focused on that. There may be other benefits they receive as well.

". . . how is it that people can think the benefit system is fair.

“And I think by being able to target that even more so to people who really need that support, may improve that prospect of public perception.”

What this report does is demonstrate that the benefit system isn't fair, but for exactly the opposite reasons to the ones Coffey would have us believe.

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.

You can download a copy of the report from this page.

And, rest assured, we will carry on trying to obtain a copy of the original, unaltered report.


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  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Bj · 2 years ago
    WhT a shame how the DWP try to claim were all stupid☹
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Alice · 2 years ago
    I stopped working March 2015 was on sick pay i though it was just exhausted but the pain was so bad i was crying i felt i was draging concrete blocks was referred to pain management and that was in 2017 when i was diagnosed with fibromyalgia until the 22nd of October 2015 when I was asked to return to work I knew I wasn't able as I was always going back because we were short staffed .I knew this time no I am finished I couldn't even go into my work to do my weekly shop my anixety just grew it got so bad I couldn't leave the house . Answer the phone or the door the depression set in .I was trying to claim benefits from end of October 2015 kept being refused so no to job seekers 2015
    No to esa 2016
    No to pip 2017
    So by 2018 I was at my wits end . My partner was in his early sixties still working he was told to keep me . With no income from me is bills kept piling up. Full rent council tax .gas electric those were our priorities. Living of nothing eating and heating well you can imagine there was nothing left .if it wasn't for the food bank I don't know what we would have done .
    2017 I got the diagnosed fibromyalgia but I also found out I had osteoarthritis I was being tested for copd because my breathing was difficult I was told I had asthma and sleep apnea. So I had a list .I was falling apart .and so was our relationship. Cos I was refused I thought let's try again. So I put the same forms in again. To pip this was Feb 2018 I was refused again i thought how come ive went to every medical and been told im unfit for work been for the pip same medicals but didn't qualify for pip.i gave up. they say they put everything in my file so how can one say unfit for work and the other say i dont qualify!! By the May we were both called to come to an appointment to take a joint claim for universal credit. I explained to the work coach I hadn't had any money since I stopped working he couldn't believe it. He said you will get something now I asked why now he said because we are joint claim now . We had been joint claimants since I started this 3 yrs previously. He couldn't answer me.claim again I tried to appeal but was told its to late so I reapply .anyway a hour and a half later we were given an advance into my account £700 omg I thought I had wonthe lottery this was to keep us for 6 weeks . Stuart said don't spend it because we had arrears in rent and council taxes so it was paid to them and put both our meters for gas and electricity out of emergency credit it was the 1st time in 3yrs we hadn't worried. Anyway a week later we got £1000 monthly payment then it started dropping rent, Stuart's wages, debts came off. We still had to go to food banks .August 2018 I got pip 3rd time lucky. We still struggle start has gradually stopped working he had to care for me his health has got worse to this day he still cares for me 24/7 he is still classed as working he has received his state pension universal credit take that off too. I received £610 per month pip we can't afford to take out a car. Stuart is to old to work now he is my carer but because he is my partner he will not receive anything maybe a pat on the back for his efforts. Our universal credit is £140 a week we are greatful they pay our rent because we couldn't afford it with .I think I better give this up because there is nothing I can say . We worked all our lives brought up our family with good work ethics as we were. For what to be brought down to the lowest level. They have to live in our shoes for a month no access to their great lives 😢 and see what it's like having to go begging for food and loans .ripping me apart 💔 strip by strip I have tried to end my life many times in the last five years. Unfortunately it didn't work. Maybe next time. Then Stuart will be all alone and probably better off because they might take him into consideration that he is a pensioner and he has had to be a carer for his loved one. One suggested we leave each other because we would be better off. No win situation.
    Sorry for the life story like the system want to destroy you.
    Being destitute is not a thing anyone should be. 😪
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Chris .S · 2 years ago
    The fact that the DWP only released the 'watered down version' of this report seems to defy all logic. We ALL know that the benefits system isn't fair. As claimants we've known about the failings of the DWP and the benefit system for years and by that I do mean... YEARS! I've been claiming myself now since early 2000 and the DWP have made my condition worse on so many levels. Since 2014 I've had cancer twice and I strongly believe this was as a direct result of the stress the DWP have caused me. The DWP are nothing more than a killing machine!
    • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
      A Hayes · 2 years ago
      @Chris .S The clue is unfortunately in the name " work and pension"
      If we had department for sick and vulnerable we would have a better deal as we could see true figures of people who are in need instead of the mixed up numbers they like to massage
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Anntoinette · 2 years ago
    This was not a surprise, but I really wanted to say thank you for all that you and the team do. And that you never give up and in turn you encourage us to never give up
  • Thank you for your comment. Comments are moderated before being published.
    Irene · 2 years ago
    I'd just like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the care you put into your amazing work. We would not have survived without you. We just wouldn't. THANK YOU!!
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