More and more disabled individuals are now living in fear of receiving the "brown envelope" that could signal that their benefits eligibility is under investigation, according to the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP).
Additionally, members have reported receiving phone calls inquiring about their status, but with no explanation as to why they were being investigated.
For up to a year, people who have been flagged by a controversial algorithm are subjected to an aggressive and humiliating process in which they are forced to defend why they are receiving benefits.
Many members of the GMCDP have been targeted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), according to the GMCDP (DWP).
In some cases, members said they had to endure long and stressful phone conversations to call centres, where they had to figure out confusing phone menus and deal with unhelpful operators who had the required expertise to assist disabled and vulnerable individuals.
In other cases, people complained that they were had to fill out forms that were more than 80 pages long and asked the same questions over and over again.
An organisation called Foxglove has endorsed the legal letter to the government, which seeks an explanation of how the DWP's algorithm works and whether or not the government has done anything to eliminate discrimination.
"We've had enough" of being pushed to justify our illnesses or disabilities and how they influence our daily lives, says Rick Burgess of the GMCDP.
This system has flagged me before, Burgess believes. Disabled folks have been through it as well."
As a result, we've been subjected to an intrusive and stressful investigation, and frankly, this is the last straw.
"We're sick of living in terror of the brown envelope and having DWP employees press us to prove our identity time and time again," one resident said.
In order to understand why so many disabled people are being marked for investigation, the DWP needs to be honest and explain how this algorithm works.
"Disabled people need support – not to be beaten down by a cruel system that assumes we're fraudulent unless proven innocent," says one advocate for the disabled.
"The DWP's algorithm tends to direct poor and disabled people to the call centre from hell," a Foxglove spokeswoman claimed. If the DWP doesn't explain how its algorithm works and what it has done to reduce bias, it will face legal action.
There is an automated system in Whitehall that generates your name. In the process, it accuses you of lying about your disability and puts you on a bureaucratic hamster wheel of delays, doom loop phone menus, and endless forms only to make things difficult for you. In addition, there is no explanation as to why this is happening to you at this point.
With no input from those it affects, the government has constructed an algorithm that exerts a disturbing amount of power over our lives….
"Vulnerable people are embarrassed and injured as a result." To us, it's a great honour to be collaborating with GMCDP on this."
In response to a letter from the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, a DWP official responded, "The DWP will be replying in due time."