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

Join the Benefits and Work community now and discover what a difference we can make.

And do remember: you’re welcome to republish part or all of this newsletter, provided you credit Benefits and Work.

Good luck,

Steve Donnison, Sangeeta Enright and Karen Sharpe

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


Huge Increase In ESA Sanctions

Please see below contents of this week’s news from a subscription site: Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd. Details of how to subscribe are within the body of what follows.

In this edition we warn you that, in an effort to cut benefits costs, employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants are being subjected to a massively increased sanctions regime that deliberately targets the most vulnerable.

Sanctions, primarily aimed at claimants in the work-related activity group (WRAG) who are on the work programme, have quadrupled in the course of a year. They have increased from 1,102 a month in December 2012 to 4,789 a month in December 2013, the most recent date figures are available for.

Yet over the same period the number of ESA claimants being moved onto the work programme dropped by 43% a month and the number of claimants in the WRAG rose by just 21% in total.

62% of those sanctioned have mental health conditions or learning difficulties, although only 50% of claimants in the WRAG have these conditions.

It is hard to imagine a more cynical and discriminatory project, which appears to be intended to cut ESA costs whatever the human suffering involved might be.

You can read more about the DWP’s latest attack on claimants on the Benefits and Work website.

‘THE BEST POSSIBLE WAYS TO PREVENT AND OVERTURN ESA SANCTIONS.’

Since getting the statistics on the huge rise in ESA sanctions we have spent the last few days, creating a detailed guide to ‘The best possible ways to prevent and overturn ESA sanctions.’ – which is why this newsletter is a little on the short side, at least by our standards.

Our 30 page guide takes you through:

  • Quick tips to reduce the chances of a sanction
  • What to do if you are threatened with a sanction or actually sanctioned
  • How to explain the ways your condition affects you
  • Explaining your ‘good cause’ for not carrying out a mandatory activity
  • Making a written complaint to JCP and work programme providers
  • Complaining to your MP
  • Using the mandatory reconsideration and appeal process
  • Suing the DWP and work programme providers
  • Applying for a hardship payment
  • Applying to be placed in the support group

The guide, based in part on JSA sanctions information we have already published, includes sample letters and forms specific to ESA as well as lots of hints and tips to prevent you being seen as an easy target by work programme providers and Jobcentre Plus staff.

It will help you to avoid getting sanctioned in the first place. But if you do get threatened with a sanction, or actually sanctioned, it will take you through a range of responses from a formal complaint, to an appeal and even suing the organisations who are targeting you.

Recent statistics show that almost 90% of appeals against sanctions are successful, whilst legal insiders tell us that the DWP almost always settles discrimination claims before they get anywhere near a court. So fighting back is definitely worthwhile.

Yet a Citizens Advice Scotland report on sanctions released yesterday reveals that “many people who are hit by a sanction are not told the reason for it, or how to appeal against it” and that “many people are forced into poverty and ill health, often having to rely on foodbanks as their benefit payments are stopped.”

Members can download a copy of the guide from the ESA section of the members only area of the site.

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: 5732

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
Still on the subject of sanctions, this summer, CABs across Scotland are raising the issue of benefit sanctions. The ‘Challenge It’ campaign aims to raise awareness of the right to appeal against sanctions. All CABs in Scotland have been issued with ‘Challenge It’ postcards and mini-cards, offering tips both on how to avoid being sanctioned and what to do if you are.

Meanwhile, the BBC has obtained DWP internal memos which says that ESA is worse than incapacity benefit at helping people back into work and now poses one of the biggest financial risks faced by the government. The memos also imply that the jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) sanctions regime is partly to blame for the rising number of ESA claimants.

PIP AND DLA NEWS
The public accounts committee has issued a damning report on the introduction of personal independence payment. Margaret Hodge, chair of the committee, has called PIP a ‘fiasco’ which has ‘let down some of the most vulnerable people in our society’.

In its report, the committee states that the Department’s failure to pilot the scheme has caused unnecessary distress for claimants who have been unable to access the support they need to live, and in some cases work, independently and describes the personal stories they heard as ‘shocking’.

So, you probably won’t envy the task of Paul Gray CB, who the government has commissioned to undertake an independent review of how the PIP assessment system is working.

Mr Gray has issued a call for evidence aimed at organisations and individuals who have information that is relevant to how the PIP assessment is operating, both for new claims and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) reassessment claims.

OTHER BENEFITS NEWS

Iain Duncan Smith’s latest effort to prevent the publication of documents warning of the dangers of universal credit has been dismissed by a judge.

The judge has ordered the release of documents about the progress of universal credit, an assessment of independent reviews and a record of problems with it.

The DWP insisted publication would have a “chilling effect” on the working of the department, though in reality the chilling effect on IDS’s reputation is probably the main reason for the refusal to publish the documents. Unfortunately IDS can probably drag the legal process out for years yet or simply use his ministerial veto to stop publication.

CAMPAIGN NEWS

An estimated 50,000 people marched from the BBC’s New Broadcasting House in central London to Westminster in protest at austerity measures introduced by the coalition government. The demonstrators gathered before the Houses of Parliament, where they were addressed by speakers, including comedians Russell Brand and Mark Steel. The event received remarkably little press coverage, however.

On Saturday, more demonstrators set up a camp in the grounds of Westminster Abbey to protest against cuts to financial support for disabled people.

Members of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) pitched tents and said they intended to occupy the green outside the doors of one of Westminster’s most recognisable landmarks until 22 July. A huge police presence and heavy-handed tactics ensured that the protest was brought to an end, however.

Again, the protest received remarkably little media attention.

Which makes it rather ironic that the BBC has announced that it hopes to increase awareness of disability issues with a number of on-air and digital projects after hiring its first disability correspondent, Nikki Fox.

“We want to look into how the cuts to benefits are affecting people with disabilities and how the changes to the education system may impact children with disabilities,” said Fox, who will work alongside three broadcast journalists in Salford dedicated to disability issues.

Which sounds like a very good idea. As there is more than one Nikki Fox journalist we’ve published Nikki’s twitter account details to make sure you can help keep her informed about what is actually going on.

FACEBOOK FEEDBACK

We have had some lovely feedback from our Facebook page:

“Thank you Benefits & Work! I’ve never heard from DWP since sending in ESA50 in March. They phoned today about something else so I asked when would hear – apparently I was assessed in April & put in Support Group until April 2016.

“Devastatingly (!) that means I’ll never get to meet ATOS as, with the help of your guides, that makes 4 years in support group without ever being called for a medical. (Plus a 5yr high care/low mob DLA award in 2011 til 2016, again without a medical).

“I keep recommending you to other people – your guides are so helpful – particularly, I think, as I have fluctuating/non-visible mental health issues, for which the medicals have been a farce, so understanding how to explain on form has been a godsend.

“Thank you. Tamsin”

MORE NEWS ON THE SITE

There’s lots more news on the site than we have room for in this newsletter, including:

The PIP chaos reveals the government’s contempt for disabled people

DWP leads the way on statistical complaints

Thousands left in limbo in benefit appeals system grinding to a halt

Labour pledges to ‘pause’ universal credit if elected in 2015

Deprivation Britain: Poverty is getting worse – even among working families, according to major new study

Government ‘could breach its own welfare spending cap’

GOOD NEWS FROM THE FORUM

Please keep your good news coming – it’s needed now more than ever.

PIP been awarded at last!
“…got my letter on Saturday from the DWP…I have been given enhanced daily living component…my husband and I would like to thank you for your excellent guides that helped us at the medical and gain the money. The best subs I have ever spent Thank from the bottom of my heart.”

ESA mandatory reconsideration success
“Have had the phone call, after a Mandatory Reconsideration I have successfully been moved from wrag to Support group..Many thanks to B & W. I could not have achieved this without you knowledge and guidance.”

Support Group success
“My husband has once again been placed in the Support, only this time it’s for 3 years. Could we both take this opportunity to thank everyone who has offered help and pointing us in the right direction because without it, we would certainly have not been able to construct our answers properly. Good luck to you all, and once again thank you B&W”

Mandatory Recon overturned their decision
“The dwp rang me this morning and have over turned their WRAG decision and have agreed to put me in the support group! Thank you so much to everyone on benefits and work for your help! It has been invaluable and I couldn’t have done it without you all. You have been a rock to my wife and I!”

ESA result after 12 months
“Hi, I’ve eventually got the dreaded brown envelope through letterbox after waiting 12 months for my ESA decision from migration from Incapacity benefit. I couldn’t believe it when I read that I’ve been placed in the Support group and WITHOUT having to attend a medical! The relief is immense after a year of worry and stress so thank you for all the help and advice on here.”

Thank you! This site is a lifeline!
“I hope this helps other users… After 18 months…. I finally won my DLA claim for HRM, and LRC at appeal after previously being turned down… I was in utter despair. This is where B&W came in… I found your site while confined to bed, feeling utterly miserable and having bad thoughts but from that day I never looked back. Thank you so much for the work you do. You have no idea how much you help people if we don’t let you know. I was at my wits end and you were like Angels that lifted a weight off my shoulders. You really must read the guidelines on this site; I knew instantly where I’d gone wrong. Good Luck all with your claims, and use this site it truly is a life saver! Thank you B&W for giving me my life back.”

ESA support group success
“just had a call from DWP saying that my daughter has just been awarded ESA and is in the support group, and that its being backdated to last february 2013, we didnt even need to go for a medical assessment”

ESA support group after medical
I am very relieved after waiting 39 weeks , thank you

Placed in the Support Group
thank you for all the information I got from reading the forums from the Benefit and Work

In the Support group without medical
Without help from Benefits and Work I do not think this would have happened.

IB to ESA Support Group without a medical
I would like to thank you for the guides and for the help that they gave me.

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: 5732

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.

And do remember: you’re welcome to republish part or all of this newsletter, provided you credit Benefits and Work

Good luck,

Steve Donnison, Sangeeta Enright and Karen Sharpe

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

 


ESA, DLA and PIP chaos – DWP overturning more than half of it’s own decisions

“The DWP is overturning more than half of its own decisions in relation to some benefits.

This has been revealed by Judge Robert Martin the outgoing president of the social entitlement chamber which deals with benefits tribunals.
The DWP itself has yet to publish any statistics about the ‘mandatory reconsideration before appeal’ system introduced last year.

‘Mandatory reconsideration before appeal’ was introduced for personal independence payment (PIP) and universal credit (UC) from April 2013 and, for other benefits, for decisions made on or after 28 October 2013. It means that before a claimant can appeal a decision they have to ask for it to be looked at again by the DWP. Only once they receive written notification of the result of the reconsideration can they lodge an appeal, if they are unhappy with the revised decision.

The figures for reconsideration success were given by Judge Martin in the April edition of the Judicial Information Bulletin, which goes out to all tribunal members.
According to the judge, by 21st February 2014 the DWP had received 82,798 mandatory reconsideration requests and made a decision in 70% of cases, with decisions taking on average 13 days from the date they were received.
DLA decisions overturned 55.9%
ESA decisions overturned 23.0%
JSA decisions overturned 30.1
PIP decisions overturned 13.9%
UC decisions overturned 71.1%

It is extraordinary that the DWP is overturning a massive 71% of its own decisions in relation to UC, but at least they have the excuse that it’s a new benefit. But to be getting it wrong in more than half of all DLA decisions is even more astonishing.
Atos pulled out of the contract for carrying out DLA medicals, other than terminal illness cases, last year. Since then decision makers have been left to look up the effects of conditions in guidance issued by the DWP – and available in the members’ area of Benefits and Work site – or on the internet.

This may go some way to explaining what is such a shameful level of error in DLA decision making. But it does not in any way excuse it.

For the moment then, it seems that even for ESA challenges – with a success rate of 23% – there is a reasonable chance of getting the decision overturned prior to a tribunal hearing.
Judge Martin’s article, ‘Dark matter’ can be downloaded from the Rightsnet discussion forum.

There also appears to be further chaos with DLA and PIP:

“Judge Robert Martin, the outgoing president of the social entitlement chamber which deals with benefits tribunals, has claimed that the work capability assessment (WCA) process has virtually collapsed and that DLA claimants are having their awards extended, rather than looked at again, as the DWP goes into a welfare reform induced meltdown.

The judge was writing his final article before retiring, in the April edition of the Judicial Information Bulletin which goes out to all tribunal members . As a result, he has taken the opportunity to make a number of allegations and disclosures about the DWP that might be regarded as astonishingly forthright in a serving tribunal president.

In the article, Judge Martin tries to get to the bottom of why the tribunal service went from its highest ever number of cases heard in a month – over 50,000 – in July 2013, to a record low of just 8,775 in March 2014.

He makes it clear that he blames the DWP for the difficulties caused by this wild fluctuation in workload. The judge appears particularly angry because the tribunals service had taken on a large number of new staff after the DWP predicted a prolonged period of extra appeals.
Judge Martin is in no doubt that the biggest single cause of the drop in appeal numbers is a huge reduction in the number of WCAs being carried out.

He explains that in July 2013 Lord Freud announced that, due to a reduction in the quality of written reports, all Atos health professionals were to be retrained.
Initially, the DWP warned the tribunals service that there was likely to be an increase in the number of appeals as previous assessments were reworked and then challenged by unsuccessful claimants.

However, at the same time the number of assessments carried out by Atos dropped from 200,000 to 100,000 per month.

As a result the DWP changed its advice, saying that there would be a drop of 9,500 appeals from September to December 2013 whilst remedial measures were put in place. Following this there would be a big surge of appeals as Atos regained its former rate of assessments and worked on the backlog caused by the slowdown.

In fact, the recovery in the number of appeals has still not happened and, as Benefits and Work exclusively revealed, the DWP stopped referring most existing ESA claimants to Atos for reassessment from late January 2013. In addition, Judge Martin claims that:
‘Anecdotally, it appeared that an increasing proportion of ESA claimants both on new claims and IB-ESA reassessments were simply being assigned to the support group without a face to face assessment.’

Judge Martin concludes that:
‘The virtual collapse of the WCA process is the biggest single factor in the decline of the appeals intake.’
However, the judge lists many other important factors, including the extremely small number of universal credit awards and the botched and halting introduction of personal independence payment (PIP).

The judge reveals that:
‘As late as June 2013, the DWP was forecasting that HMCTS would receive over 40,000 PIP appeals by the end of March 2014. The actual PIP receipts by the end of March were just over 1,000.’
Judge Martin also has deep suspicions about what is happening in relation to disability living allowance ( DLA). He explains that the number of DLA appeals in March 2014 dropped by 80% compared to March 2013, from 5,568 down to 1,202.

He argues that this drop cannot be explained simply by the introduction of PIP, especially given that reassessment of DLA awards under the PIP rules has only been introduced in 30% of the country and that DLA claims do not require a medical assessment from Atos or Capita.

‘It becomes even more curious’, he suggests, when you realise that the DWP has recently ‘revised the level of DLA appeals expected in 2014-15 – upwards from 29,200 to 33,150.’
Judge Martin points to a possible explanation. The PIP regulations introduced a power for the DWP to extend DLA awards that were about to run out, even if the claimant is not about to be transferred to PIP. The judge claims that:

‘There is anecdotal evidence from welfare rights advisers that claimants whose DLA award is running out have simply received an extension. DWP has not disclosed the extent to which this may be happening’

Whatever the reason for the fall in the number of appeals, there seems little doubt that the DWP have made an enemy out of a man who knows – or suspects – where many of its skeletons are buried. They must be hoping very much that nobody goes and digs them up.

Judge Martin’s article, ‘Dark matter’ can be downloaded from the Rightsnet discussion forum.

Meanwhile, ATOS have spoken out about flaws in government policy, regarding WCA’s:
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2…-claims-system

All still going well then for Duncan Smith….

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/new…eration-system

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/new…of-wca-process

Lin 

 

 

Via http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=4991220

 


UNCONFIRMED BREAKING NEWS re ESA

Following the collapse of Atos’s contract with the DWP to process work capability assessments, we are hearing reports that all such assessments have been suspended until another company can be found to process them.

Some reports indicate that there will be a two year moratorium on ESA claimants being looked at again e.g. http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/2645-all-repeat-wca-medicals-to-be-stopped.

We will post more as we get it. If you come across any reports or more information on this, please send us links to share.


Please read if you have had an ATOS assessment

From the wonderful website ‘benefits and work’

www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/

You don’t have to be a member to see this

Professor Harrington who has been doing the review into ATOS wants to hear from anyone who has been through the ATOS assessment as to whether the changes he has recommended are making a difference. It’s basically whether we (service users) are being dealt with fairly and effectively since the changes were made.

Benefits and Work have put together a questionnaire and so it’s important that all of us who have suffered at the hands of ATOS  fill this in and it will then be forwarded to Prof Harrington. Not much time – it has to be back by the 7th September.
The questionaire can be found at:

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/harrington2/

To see the full Harrington report:

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/policy/welfare-reform/employment-and-support/wca-independent-review/year-one/