A selection of news around benefits and disability

DWP cover-up around suicides

Officials at the DWP destroyed up to 50 reports into people who killed themselves after their benefits were stopped, prior to 2015, using ‘data protection’ as a justification.  The data watchdog says that there is no regulation that would have required such destruction, and a ‘public interest’ exemption could have been used, while others have been calling it a ‘cover-up’ and part of a general culture of secrecy in the department.

You can read more in the Independent.


Universal Credit

The roll-out of full Universal Credit to all claimants has been delayed again, to September 2024 (from December 2023). At present, claimants are moved to UC when they report a change of circumstances, such as moving house, or having another child, but there is anecdotal evidence that people are so scared of UC that they are failing to report changes, to avoid being moved on to the new system. The Government has announced the delay to try and sort out the problems, especially with payment advances.   See the BBC article for more.

In addition, Universal Credit and other welfare changes have been linked to thousands of cases of depression in people who are unemployed. A study has looked at unemployed people with psychological distress, and found the numbers has risen by 6.6% between 2013 and 2018. This represents an extra 63,674 people in England, Wales and Scotland – 21,760 of whom became clinically depressed over the period. See more in the BBC article.


Disabled passengers and air travel

A new report by Which says that many disabled passengers are ‘humiliated’, robbed of their dignity, and even physically hurt, when travelling through UK airports.

Of the respondents who had used special assistance at an airport, 25% said that they were dissatisfied with the service. Heathrow Airport was the worst, according to those questioned.

You can read an article in the Independent, and a press release about the survey on the Which website, and lots of helpful information about travelling with disabilities on the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers website.


Driving theory test changes

The Driving Theory test is being overhauled and will be made more accessible for people with disabilities, from 14 April 2020.

The exam involves 50 multiple-choice questions, and a hazard perception test.  From April, instead of the multiple choice questions being based on written scenarios, they will be based on short film clips with three questions per clip.

This is being welcomed by disability groups, as being more inclusive for those with dyslexia, developmental conditions such as autism, and those with a learning disability.

Existing support for learners with reading difficulties, disabilities or health conditions includes extra time to take the test and having someone to read and re-word questions for them if required.

You can read the article in the Independent, and find out more about the test, including examples, on the Gov.uk website.


Lostwithiel station to receive funding for accessibility

Lostwithiel station is one of 10 in the South West that will benefit from a £20m government funding boost to help improve accessibility for passengers with disabilities. At Lostwithiel, this will mean better seating, clearer signage, ramps and tactile paving.

You can read more about this on the Cornwall Live website.


Bereavement Support Payments – unwed couples missing out

Unmarried parents currently do not receive Bereavement Support Payments when one of the couple dies, with around 2,000 families missing out each year.  This was found to be in breach of human rights law, and the government is working to close this gap, so that people’s marital status does not affect the financial support they receive when a partner dies.

You can read more about this on the BBC.