The divisive language that drains support for those on benefits

Further to your coverage of the sad and wasteful death of David Clapson (‘No one should die penniless and alone’, G2, 4 August), today (9 August) marks the anniversary of the discovery of the emaciated body of Mark Wood, a vulnerable sufferer from severe mental health problems, in David Cameron’s Oxfordshire constituency. Mr Wood had been erroneously and incompetently declared fit for work by Atos (on behalf of the DWP) and the consequent cutting of benefits was a clear “accelerating factor” in his death by starvation. The architects of deaths like these remain in charge of the DWP. There have of course been other well-attested deaths-by-DWP and there will be more (especially among the vulnerable disabled), as current reforms roll out their panoply of delays, despair and effective victimisation across the country. The real human costs of sick government must never be forgotten.
Stewart Eames
Cambridge

• David Clapson’s death is a sad reflection on the impact of government policies. I was fortunate enough to be able to work from the age of 15 to 70, paying all due taxes. Should we really care if a few people manipulate the system, if it means that no one is unfairly penalised and slips below the safety net necessary to provide a reasonable standard of living? I am not religious, but I do think that this heartless government should consider “there, but for the grace of God, go I”.
Wendy Collins
Batley, West Yorkshire

• The harrowing comments on benefit sanctions (G2, 6 August) didn’t discuss the political basis for these punitive measures. People mostly vote on a tribal basis, for “our sort of people”. When people become afraid of falling into poverty they take comfort in the hope that it only happens to the “other sort of people” and vote Conservative as an act of faith. This is the same mechanism that unites a country under threat of war and persuades dirt-poor Americans to oppose Obamacare rather than admit to themselves that they might one day need it.
D Sewell
Driffield, East Yorkshire

• Shame on the Guardian for describing out-of-work benefit recipients as “the idle poor” (Report, 5 August). On the basis of what evidence do you write them off as idle? Are those caring for children or infirm relatives, volunteering in the community, actively seeking work or simply working hard just to get by on a low income idle? Language matters and it is the use of othering language such as this by the media and politicians that has contributed to the “draining away of public support” for social security.
Ruth Lister
Labour, House of Lords

Via http://www.theguardian.com/


Police boss blames welfare reforms for 35% increase in shoplifting claiming cuts victims are ‘stealing to survive’

A POLICE commissioner has blamed the Government’s welfare reforms for a 35 per cent jump in shoplifting, claiming thieves are “stealing to live”.

Ron Hogg, Labour Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Durham, said usually law-abiding people were turning to crime because they were unable to feed themselves – and blamed the Coalition’s benefit changes, including the so-called bedroom tax.

Mr Hogg admitted there was no evidence of a direct link but said: “Shoplifting is up 35 per cent year on year and an awful lot of people are stealing to live.”

He added: “We predicted this tax would cause massive problems for some of the most vulnerable in our society.

“With more welfare reform yet to be implemented the situation will only get worse.”

Mr Hogg’s claims were supported by Barry Coppinger, Labour PCC for Cleveland, where there has been a 7.3 per cent rise in shoplifting.

He said: “Deep and relentless welfare reforms have a knock-on effect on other crimes, particularly shoplifting, as families turn to the black market to buy food and other items they can’t afford in the shops.”

The Conservative Party referred enquiries to the Home Office, which said it was a matter for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), where a spokesman said there was absolutely no evidence linking welfare reforms to increased crime.

He said the reforms were guaranteeing a strong welfare net and £345m had been given to councils to help the most vulnerable.

“Ending the spare room subsidy was absolutely necessary in order to get the soaring housing benefit bill under control, returning fairness to the system and making better use of social housing stock.

“These rules already applied to the housing benefit claimants in the private sector – introduced by the previous Government.”

Rebecca Coulson, the prospective Tory parliamentary candidate for Durham City, said: “It’s never sensible to make excuses for criminal behaviour, or to imply that shoplifting is acceptable.

“We all still live in straitened times, following the recession, but the Conservative long term economic plan is working.”

A recent DWP report found 522,905 households were affected by the so-called bedroom tax by last August and nearly a fifth of claimants had registered an interest in downsizing.

More than half of claimants had cut back on household essentials, a quarter had borrowed money and three per cent had taken pay day loans.

Mr Hogg and Mr Coppinger advised people to use credit unions.

In Durham, about 100 female shoplifters have avoided being charged by sitting a life issues course.

Via Welfare News Service via  http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/11393471.Police_boss_blames_welfare_reforms_for_35__increase_in_shoplifting_claiming_cuts_victims_are__stealing_to_survive_/?ref=twtrec

 

 

 

 

 


TUC Side With Bosses To Back Tory Workfare Scheme

In an astonishing and genuinely sad day for the trade uni0n movement, the TUC have teamed up with the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) to issue a statement supporting unpaid work.

The TUC have sided with the bosses to sing the praises of the Tory Traineeship programme.  This unpaid scheme can involve up to five months full-time work, sometimes for giant profit making companies like BT or Virgin.  The placements are used to ‘prepare’ young people to be Apprentices, although there is no guarantee that they will be offered even this at the end of the scheme.

Just like Margaret Thatcher’s despised YTS schemes, Traineeships represent a wealth grab by greedy employers.  Once companies recognised they had to pay young people whilst they trained – now the tax payer will  pick up the tab whilst the worker gets nothing.  And just like the YTS programme was used as political cover to strip benefits from 16/17 year olds, Traineeships will be used to undermine social security payments for those under 25.  George Osborne has already announced that under 22 year olds who refuse a Traineeship will soon face the prospect of six month’s workfare somewhere else instead. 

Despite Osborne’s announcement, the TUC say in the statement that Traineeships should be voluntary.  As claimants themselves know, very little is voluntary such is the current mass benefit sanctioning culture at the DWP.   This doesn’t seem to bother the scabs running the TUC who seem to have decided that Traineeships aren’t workfare, and even if they would rather they were voluntary they appear to back them anyway.  This is an appalling attack on not just young unemployed people, but all workers who will see their own wages and conditions undermined by an army of unpaid staff.

It is hardly surprising that the CBI are salivating at the prospect of this huge subsidy for business at the expense of the working class.  Tory Skills Minister Nick Boles has joined them saying he is ‘delighted’ that the TUC support this scheme.  They no doubt dream of a day when they don’t have to pay people under 25 at all. That day may not be far away and that the TUC are helping to bring it closer is as shocking as it is shameful.

This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid


Job Seeker Sanction Advice

A new website run by “a small network of 3 disgruntled ex- Department of Work and Pensions civil servants”, featuring advice on how to foil sanctions.

 

http://jobseekersanctionadvice.com/

Via Boycott Workfare


Benefit sanctions hit most vulnerable people the hardest, report says

Claimants not told about hardship system and sanctions imposed when they were not at fault, DWP study finds

Many jobcentre advisers identified a ‘vulnerable’ group who tended to be sanctioned more than others, the report said.

Systematic problems in the way the government administers and imposes benefit sanctions, including disproportionate burdens on the most vulnerable, are revealed in a report commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions.

The report found the way in which the DWP communicated with claimants was legalistic, unclear and confusing. The most vulnerable claimants were often left at a loss as to why benefits were stopped and frequently not informed by the DWP about hardship payments to which they were entitled, it said.

It also revealed serious flaws in how sanctions were imposed, with Work Programme providers required to send participants for sanctions when they knew they had done nothing wrong, leaving “claimants … sent from pillar to post”.

The independent report was written for the DWP by Matthew Oakley, a respected welfare expert who has worked as an economic adviser for the Treasury and for the centre-right thinktank Policy Exchange.

He is widely acknowledged as one of the leading thinkers on welfare on the centre right and as a result his criticisms, couched in careful language, are all the more damaging for a government that has consistently said the sanction regime is fair.

The DWP responded to the report by saying it would be updating the way it talked to benefit claimants, setting up a specialist team to look at all communications, including claimant letters, and working more closely with local authorities and advice centres to simplify the system.

The government will also streamline “the robust checks and and balances that are already in place that give claimants the opportunity to provide evidence why they have not complied with the rules”.

It will also clarify the guidance on how claimants can access hardship payments, as well as co-operate more closely with Work Programme providers so there is more integration about what a claimant is permitted to do without facing the threat of a benefit sanction.

Oakley’s report said: “No matter what system of social security is in place, if it is communicated poorly, if claimants do not understand the system and their responsibilities and if they are not empowered to challenge decisions they believe to be incorrect and seek redress, then it will not fulfil its purpose. It will be neither fair nor effective.”

Although Oakley said the regime was not fundamentally broken, he made 17 recommendations for reform.

His terms of reference confined him to the way in which sanctions are administered on mandatory back-to-work schemes, which cover a third of those claimants at risk of being sanctioned, but he said his proposed reforms were relevant to the entire benefits system.

The report said “letters were, on the whole, found to be complex and difficult to understand. Partly as a result of the legal requirements the department has to fulfil when it writes to claimants, regular concerns were that letters:

• Were overly long and legalistic in their tone and content;

• Lacked personalised explanations of the reason for sanction referrals;

• Were not always clear around the possibility of and process surrounding appeals or application for hardship payments; and

• Were particularly difficult for the most vulnerable claimants to understand – meaning that the people potentially most in need of the hardship system were the least likely to be able to access it.”

The report added: “Actual and sample letters that the review team saw were hard to understand (even for those working in the area), unclear as to why someone was being sanctioned and confusingly laid out.”

The review found that many people “expressed concerns that the first that claimants knew of adverse decisions was when they tried to get their benefit payment out of a cash point but could not”.

The report also said jobcentre advisers had highlighted the damage sanctions imposed on the most vulnerable. It stated: “Many advisers also highlighted the difficulties of communicating with particular groups of claimants. In particular, many advisers identified a ‘vulnerable’ group who tended to be sanctioned more than the others because they struggled to navigate the system. This concern for the vulnerable claimants was consistent throughout the visits.

“For these groups, particular difficulties were highlighted around the length of time it could take to ensure some claimants fully understood what was required of them and in conveying that a ‘sanction’ could entail the loss of benefit for a prolonged period of time.”

The report also criticised the failure of the jobcentre to highlight hardship payments. It said: “A more specific concern surrounding the hardship system was that only those claimants that asked about help in Jobcentre Plus were told about the hardship system. Advisers, decision makers and advocate groups argued that this means that groups with poorer understanding of the system are less likely to gain access.

“Since, on the whole, more vulnerable claimants are those with the poorest understanding of the system, this suggests that some of those most in need are also those least able to access hardship.”

The report also found that providers of mandatory work schemes were unable to make legal decisions regarding good reasons for missing appointments and so had to impose sanctions.

“This means that they have to refer all claimants who fail to attend a mandatory interview to a decision maker even if the claimant has provided them with what would ordinarily count as good reason in Jobcentre Plus. This situation results in confusion as the claimant does not understand why they are being referred for a sanction.

“A very high proportion of referrals for sanctions from mandatory back-to-work schemes are subsequently cancelled or judged to be non-adverse.”

A lack of coordination between the jobcentre and Work Programme can “result in a situation where claimants are passed from pillar to post, without either Jobcentre Plus or providers taking responsibility for explaining the claimant’s situation. More commonly, we heard that Jobcentre Plus advisers had to spend large amounts of time dealing with claimants’ queries about sanctions from mandatory schemes.”

Poor understanding of the good reason process mean claimants subsequently appeal a sanction and often win, at cost to the DWP and taxpayer.

A key reason the report found for the confusion was that, because different organisations use different IT systems, neither providers nor Jobcentre Plus hold all the information needed about a claimant’s current experience and potential sanctions.

Via welfare news service via http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jul/22/benefit-sanctions-vulnerable-people-hardship-dwp-report


New ESA And PIP Dirty Tricks Campaigns

In this edition we reveal that the DWP have resorted to new dirty tricks to cut ESA and PIP numbers. These include alleged mass reporting of ESA claimants for fraud and attempting to change the law by the back door to reduce PIP mobility awards.

We also report claims that the Tories are planning to make mental health treatment mandatory for ESA claimants in the work-related activity group.

Plus we have news of the DVLA look-up service that allows anyone to check online to see if their neighbours are claiming mobility benefits.

 

JOIN BENEFITS AND WORK NOW AND GET 20% OFF ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP – ENDS MIDNIGHT FRIDAY
Improve your chances of getting the benefits you’re entitled to and, at the same time, help us to carry on discovering the truth about what the DWP are up to.

Plus, if you’re not already a member, join the Benefits and Work community before midnight on Friday and you can get 20% off the cost of your annual subscription.

Just type the following code into the coupon box when you pay: 9548

Claimants and carers get an annual subscription for £15.96, down from £19.95. Professionals get an annual subscription for £77.60, down from £97.00.

 

ESA NEWS: SANCTIONS
In the last newsletter we revealed that ESA sanctions had increased fourfold in the space of a year, up to December 2013 and are particularly targeted at claimants with mental health conditions . Whilst we had no doubt that the reason for this was to cut the cost of ESA we had no evidence to support this.

Now, however, the first shred has appeared with Polly Toynbee claiming in the Guardian that she has had discussions with an anonymous jobcentre manager:

“She told me how the sick are treated and what harsh targets she is under to push them off benefits. A high proportion on employment and support allowance have mental illnesses or learning difficulties. The department denies there are targets, but she showed me a printed sheet of what are called “spinning plates”, red for missed, green for hit. They just missed their 50.5% target for “off flows”, getting people off ESA. They have been told to “disrupt and upset” them – in other words, bullying. That’s officially described, in Orwellian fashion, as “offering further support” . . . In this manager’s area 16% are “sanctioned” or cut off benefits”

Members can download a detailed guide on how to prevent and overturn ESA sanctions from the ESA section of the members area – it might be a good idea to have a quick look through it in the near future, particularly if you are in the WRAG.

The manager also claimed that:

“Tricks are played: those ending their contributory entitlement to a year on ESA need to fill in a form for income-based ESA. But jobcentres are forbidden to stock those forms. These ill people’s benefits are suddenly stopped without explanation: if they call, they’re told to collect a form from the jobcentre, which doesn’t stock them either.”

Although we have found copies of the ESA3 form online, there does not appear to be a downloadable version of the current form, suggesting that the DWP is indeed making it as hard as possible for people to make a claim.

These targets and tactics come as no surprise. What Toynbee claimed that was new to us, however, was the manager’s allegation that:

“As all ESA claimants approach the target deadline of 65 weeks on benefits – advisers are told to report them all to the fraud department for maximum pressure.”

The idea that all ESA claimants are now being reported to the fraud department when they have claimed for 65 weeks seems preposterous and almost inconceivably discriminatory. Yet the ugly lawlessness that now characterises the DWP’s attempts to cut claimant numbers means that an accusation like this has to be considered seriously.

We are now working to try to establish the truth of this claim – we’ll let you know what we discover.

Meanwhile, we’ve begun compiling a collection of ESA sanction examples taken from various online sources to illustrate how easily, and unfairly, ESA claimants can be sanctioned.

 

ESA NEWS: MANDATORY TREATMENT FOR WRAG CLAIMANTS
Even more troubling than any of the issues above, however, is the report that the DWP are now considering changing the law to oblige ESA claimants in the work-related activity group with mental health conditions to undertake treatment or have their ESA sanctioned. Reports in the Telegraph claim it will be part of the next Conservative manifesto.

The paper quotes a Tory source as saying they hope to reduce the number of claimants with a mental health condition in the WRAG by 90% with this measure.

We’ll keep you posted about any developments with this shameful idea, which would no doubt involve bargain basement group CBT sessions provided by some multinational outsourcing company.
PIP NEWS: MOBILITY GUIDANCE CHANGED
The DWP have also moved the goalposts for PIP mobility to make it much less likely that claimants with mental health conditions such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or agoraphobia will qualify for any award at all if they are able to go out, provided they have somo moved the goalposts for PIP mobility to make it much less likely that claimants with mental health conditions such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or agoraphobia will qualify for any award at all if they are able to go out, provided they have someone with them.

Guidance issued to Atos and Capita at the end of May in the PIP Assessment Guide instructs health professionals that claimants who need accompanying by another person when following the route of a journey, because of a mental health condition, are covered solely by descriptor 11 (b). ‘Needs prompting to be able to undertake any journey to avoid overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant’.

This descriptor scores just 4 points, not enough for an award of PIP mobility to be made.

The higher scoring descriptors 11(d) and 11(f) will not be awarded ‘to claimants who require someone with them for support only, as this is covered by descriptor B. The accompanying person should be actively navigating.’ for these descriptors to apply.

We are now hearing in the forum from people who are being caught out by this changed interpretation of the law.

But the guidance appears to be at odds not only with the actual wording of the regulations, but also with detailed undertakings given by the DWP when they finalised the text of the PIP descriptors.

We have published a written submission in Word format in the PIP appeals section of the members area that anyone affected by these issues can make use of at appeal stage. It sets out the grounds on which we believe the guidance given to assessors is wrong and why relying on the assessment will lead the decision maker to commit an error of law.

Clearly we can’t guarantee that the submission’s conclusions will be accepted by any given tribunal. But they are definitely worth arguing and will at least give you the possibility of appealing to the upper tribunal and getting professional support via the legal aid scheme if you are unsuccessful.

 

OTHER BENEFITS NEWS: DVLA’S ‘SNOOP ON YOUR NEIGHBOURS’ SERVICE
Just after the last newsletter went out we reported that a new vehicle check service on the DVLA website allows anyone to find out whether their neighbours are receiving the higher rate of the mobility component of disability living allowance (DLA) or either rate of the mobility component of personal independence payment (PIP).

We urged our visitors to complain to DVLA and the information commissioner if they were unhappy with this situation – and it seems that many of you did.

Whilst DVLA refuse to back down, the information commissioner’s office is investigating the issue and has received so many complaints that they are now saying that they are no longer looking at individual concerns and people should watch the DVLA website for news.

Meanwhile, a national expert in data protection has supported our argument that DVLA is breaching the rights of disabled claimants, calling our analysis ‘excellent’ and adding ‘I hope the DVLA will rethink.’

We’ll keep you posted.

 

MORE NEWS ON THE SITE
As always, there’s lots more news on the site than we have room to cover here, including:

Real Life Reform publishes fourth report

Government in court over disability benefit changes

Legal aid cuts cause benefits appeals to fail

Treasury has not signed off on Duncan Smith’s universal credit, MPs told

Assessing the Assessors

 

FACEBOOK FEEDBACK
We’ve been sent this very touching item of feedback from Stephanie, a Benefits and Work member:

“Hi, just like to say a big, big thank you for all the information and help that I used for my transfer from IB to ESA, I have just received confirmation that I will be in the support group! it has only taken fourteen months! I cried, the stress and added physical strain has taken its toll, but at last I can get on with “normal” life now. Thank you.”
JOIN BENEFITS AND WORK NOW AND GET 20% OFF ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP – ENDS MIDNIGHT FRIDAY
If you’re not already a member, join the Benefits and Work community before midnight on Friday and you can get 20% off the cost of your annual subscription.

Just type the following code into the coupon box when you pay: 9548

Claimants and carers get an annual subscription for £15.96, down from £19.95. Professionals get an annual subscription for £77.60, down from £97.00.

 

GOOD NEWS BY EMAIL
In this edition we have more of the feedback we receive by email. We’re now making an effort to publish more of this rather than only feedback from the forum. We are very grateful for your feedback, however you send it, and we know our readers appreciate it too.

IB to ESA Support Group
“I just wanted to say that I have at last received my ESA decision from migrating from Incapacity Benefit, after waiting 12 long months. I have been placed in the Support Group without a medical/interview. I am so relieved I can’t tell you. Without your help on this website and the guidance in filing out the horrendous forms or should I say, book! It would have been even more of a nightmare. So many thanks again and I’m sure I will be needing your help again, so keep up the excellent work!”
Joanne via email

DLA and ESA success
“I just wanted to thank you and your wonderful site for helping me to get DLA high rate mobility and low rate care, and I’ve now been given it indefinitely! Your forms to help fill in the claim pack were invaluable and I recommend that if your thinking of joining this amazing site do not hesitate, it will be money well spent. I have just had my 6 month review for ESA ( it’s been a year since my last one! ) and although I’m in WRAG my adviser didn’t seem to worried about me looking for work. But I am prepared and with using your site I’m sure I won’t have too many problems. This website has been a great help to me and I have renewed my subscription three times! Thank you”
Karen via email

SDA to ESA Support Group
“Thank you so much for your guides to form-filling which we used when my daughter was switched from SDA.. She is housebound and virtually bedridden with severe ME has just heard that she is in the support group – no medical. It is to be reviewed after 2 years, but we now know where to get help! Renewal of DLA (or will it be PIP by then?) next so we will be needing you again. I’d recommend you to anyone dealing with benefits application forms. Thanks once again”
Jill via email

ESA and DLA successes
“I have been a member now for over two years and through your wonderful site I have been able to get ESA ( first placed in WRAG then after MR placed in S G for 2 years) for my adult 43 year old autistic daughter, together also with DLA LRC/LRM – indefinite award, although it am aware that this is all about to change in the next couple of years. Just had to find a way to express my sincere thanks to all you wonderful people.”
Rosemary via email

ESA Support Group and PIP success
“Hi, just to let you know, I have got my sisters latest DWP decisions through and what turn around!! . Firstly her ESA, -she was originally placed in the work activity group. Now she’s been moved to support group, with your help, after appeal. During her visits to work activity sessions, her PA recommended that she apply for PIP. She did, and after a medical, today, she’s been awarded PIP at enhanced rates for care and mobility 14 points in each!!!.which took only 3 months. Without the help of myself and BENEFITS AND WORK this simply would not have happened , she’s now a subscriber like myself. Many thanks”
George via email

PIP award and ESA Support Group
“Just like to say a big thank you, for all the advice and support you’ve provided. I am now in receipt of pip and esa support after waiting and struggling for 8 months to get it. The advice on your pages was invaluable. thank you.”
Amy via email

ESA Support Group and DLA success
“I would just like to say thank you for all your advice and information on your website, I read it all and followed the advice and was told today that after my ATOS assessment that I have been put into the support group until 2016 and also advised to ask for a review of my DLA award which is at the moment the low rate. I don’t think I would have had the confidence to go to the assessment if it hadn’t been for all the encouragement and advice. Thank you once again”

And an update:

“Just to say thanks again, if it weren’t for your website I would not have felt confident in asking for my DLA to be looked at again. I have now been awarded the highest rate both in mobility and care, so thank you all for the help and information on your site, without your site I don’t think I would have asked for a reconsideration”
Angela via email

DLA renewal award
“You’re not going to believe this great news! Not only did I get my DLA renewed at the same rate (thanks to your website’s brilliant how-to booklets) but they sent me the award letter on the SAME DAY that they received my application form! I hardly dared believe it but I’ve checked my bank account and the first payment has gone in this week. Thanks for all your help and support, I wouldn’t have got this DLA without the help of B&W.”
Sarah via email

Successful DLA Appeal
“My wife and I wished to advise you with the information supplied by your wonderful site we have recently won our Tribunal with the DWP who seemed fit to bring a case against us. We went armed to the teeth with information we downloaded from your site and it is without question the judge could see we were well prepared and agreed with the case we put forward and found the award in our favour. So a huge thank you to you and your team, as my wife and I feel that without your advice and assistance maybe the outcome may have been very different.”
Henry via email

ESA Support Group without a medical
“I was familiar with form filling but the found the ESA50 form overwhelmingly bizarre. The design of the layout and questions asked was obvious in putting the customer at a disadvantage in fully explaining their condition. It was only with your guides that I was able to navigate the pitfalls, recording the details that were needed to fully assess my circumstances. After all my worrying, I have just had notification that I do not have to undergo the torture of an ATOS assessment and have been placed directly into the Support Group. I cannot thank you enough in helping me “survive” this turmoil. I hate to think what I would have had to go through without your guidance. Thanks again”
Steven via email

PIP success
“Hi All, I wanted to thank you for this wonderful site – without which I don’t know where I’d be. I read through all of your advice, even printing a lot of it off. Using this as my trusty guide I completed an application for PIP. This was in September 2013. I was finally invited to an ATOS Assessment in December 2013. I duly attended, after reading your information on this aspect of claiming. Invaluable. I’d have been lost and a lot more apprehensive without it. I am now eligible for PIP and full component awarded. I would NOT have managed to keep going without the help I found within Benefits and Work. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I am 100% positive that without your website I would not have been successful in my claim.”
Leanne via email

ESA Support Group without a medical
“Hi, I just wanted to thank you for your simple to follow guidance. We’ve just heard that our son has put into the ESA support group without a medical. I’m pretty confident that your help made this possible.”
Diane via email

IB to ESA Support Group
“Received a phone call from DWP last week saying I will be changing from IB to Support group from next month. (no mention of a medical) I have been waiting for almost 8 months for some contact, so had been dreading the daily post all that time! I can now relax and stop worrying. I found the forms daunting and without the guidance from B&W I would have struggled immensely. A massive thank you!”
Mary via email

DLA renewal success
“I cannot thank this site enough. I was given DLA at Lower rate mobility and High rate of care for 18 months and it was due for renewal in August. I received the form and carefully followed your advice. I posted the form off and within five days of sending it off, I received the great news that I would be given DLA at the same rates but the length of time had changed to indefinite. All thanks to this web site. Wonderful. Thank you so much”
Michael via email

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Steve Donnison, Sangeeta Enright and Karen Sharpe

The Office Team
Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No. 5962666


DWP awards Atos £10 million IT contract for healthcare assessments

Atos to continue providing IT for controversial work capability tests despite paying to exit contract early

Atos is due to exit its controversial DWP contract for health and disability assessments by February next year, instead of the original end date in August.

The French multinational has come under fire for the number of work capability decisions that have been overturned and the firm recorded roughly 163 incidents of abuse or assault on staff in 2013.

The firm announced its intention to walk away from the contract in February and the government confirmed that Atos would exit the agreement early in March.

However this new contract means the firm will continue to provide the IT for the assessments until at least 2016, with allowances for it to be extended until 2020.

The contract, which the DWP described as an ‘interim arrangement’, was negotiated and set up without any competition.

The department said that this was for ‘technical reasons’, some of which were set out in the award notice, which was published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) at the end of last week.

The DWP said that an alternative provider would not be able to set up the new services in time without there being “an unacceptable level of service transition and delivery risk failure”.

In the OJEU notice, the department also claimed: “Another supplier would be unable to provide the IT services using the existing hardware, software, premises, etc, because the physical assets are owned by the current provider of the assessment services rather than the Authority.”

The DWP said: “Another supplier would be unable to replicate the current IT services because there is insufficient documentation to build them.”

It also said that another supplier wouldn’t be able to replace the physical assetes on a like-for-like basis because some of the assets were out-of-date and now unavailable.

The DWP told ComputerworldUK that although a new provider is expected to take over the contract next year, the IT will be transferred separately and at a later date.

A spokesperson said: “The DWP is seeking a new provider to help increase the volume of assessments carried out and improve the claimant experience, in particular looking to reduce waiting times and modernise delivery, including looking to replace the current IT.

“To make sure claimants get a good service during transformation, we are transferring the IT separately, and at a later date, than the rest of the service [which transfers in 2015].

“We have therefore asked Atos to continue to provide the current IT services for a further year. In the meantime work has started on planning for how we replace the IT.”

In a statement to Parliament in March, disability minister Mike Penning MP said that Atos had paid the department to terminate its contract early.

He said: “I am pleased to confirm that Atos will not receive a single penny of compensation from the taxpayer for the early termination of their contract, quite the contrary, I can also confirm that Atos has made a substantial financial settlement to the Department for Work and Pensions.”

However the DWP refused to disclose the figure paid by Atos when contacted by ComputerworldUK.

The contract for healthcare assessments between the DWP and Atos was awarded in 1998. It was renewed for seven years in 2005 and then extended for a further three in 2010 through to 2015.