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ESA Medical Test Chaos Has Begun - newsletter

“We always make use of Benefits and Work guides”
We work for Shelter Cymru's Valleys Inclusion Project in South East Wales and we always make use of the Benefits and Work guides when we're assisting a client to appeal a decision regarding ESA or DLA.


PIP TRAINING
With 3 months FREE professional membership for non-members and price discounts for current members, our personal independence payment training for professionals and support workers is proving very popular. ALL February and March dates are now sold out apart from 2 places in Bristol. So, if you want to get your preferred date and location, don’t leave booking too long.

Wednesday 24 April, BIRMINGHAM;  Thursday, 14th March BRISTOL;  Tuesday, 23 April, LEEDS; Thursday, 25 April, LONDON.

More training details here

In this edition we alert you to the hugely confusing changes to the work capability assessment (WCA), the medical test for employment and support allowance (ESA). The changes will affect everyone still waiting for a decision on their claim as well as all future claims and renewals.  But how you’re affected depends on when you get your decision and which form you were sent.  There’s more about this and about our new ESA guides below.

We have another new guide too.  In the last newsletter we released, to professional members only, an early copy of our guide to claiming personal independence payment (PIP).  We got so many requests for copies from claimant members that we’ve now published the guide for all members to access.

In other news, we learn about the private sector Work Programme provider’s staff who label disabled claimants LTBs: ‘lying, thieving bas**rds’ and we alert you to a number of media organisations and others who want to hear from you.

In members only news, there’s more on the government’s attempts to cover up their dishonesty over the PIP mobility changes, DWP statistics show most ESA claimants are now being found eligible for the benefit and Disability Rights UK makes staff redundant after making a loss of over £300,000 - and their auditor admits their survival is now uncertain.

MONEY OFF ANNUAL SUBSCRIPTION - ENDS MIDNIGHT THURSDAY
If you’re not already a member, join the Benefits and Work community (open access) before midnight on Thursday and you can get £3.50 off the cost of your annual subscription. Just type the following code into the coupon box when you pay:

15378

to get an annual subscription for £15.95, down from £19.45.

ESA CHANGES CHAOS
Changes to the work capability assessment (WCA) which came into force yesterday are set to cause massive confusion for claimants and lead to even more wrong decisions being made.  Many claimants will be left not even knowing which version of the new test applies to them.

The problems arise because some of the changes apply immediately, whilst others will only apply to people who are sent a  new version of the ESA50 questionnaire to complete – or to people who fill in the old form but are left waiting until after 28 July for a decision in their case.

Changes that affect all claims decided on or after 28th January 2013 include changes relating to:

the rules about claimants receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment for cancer – it will now be easier for these claimants to get into the support group;

the substantial risk rules – any reasonable adjustments that could be made by employers to reduce the risk and the potentially helpful effects of any prescribed medication the claimant fails to take can now be considered;

the rules relating to aids and appliances – those that the claimant could reasonably be expected to use will be taken into account, not just ones that the claimant normally uses;

there is now a stipulation that only a claimant with a physical condition can satisfy the physical descriptors and only a claimant with a mental health condition can satisfy the mental descriptors, this also applies to the effects of medication. (Please note:  we’ve now added a few paragraphs about possible challenges to these rules in both the new guides since they were first published on Monday.  You’ll find them under ‘Physical health only’ and ‘mental health only’).

There are then additional changes which affect claimants who get the new ESA50 questionnaire and also apply to all decisions made on or after July 28th 2013 onwards, regardless of which form was completed. These involve alterations to the wording of the seven physical activities and one mental health activity and are mirrored in changes to the support group descriptors.

To add to the confusion it appears that DWP offices may continue sending out old ESA50 forms until stocks run out, meaning that which test you are assessed under may depend on how big the cupboards are in your local office.

Benefits and Work have now produced guides to the new test as it applies to people who completed the old form but have an initial decision on their claim made between 28 January and 27 July.  We’ll have a guide to the new ESA50 form available on the site by the end of next week.

Members can download the new and the old ESA guides from the ESA resources page.

The new ESA50 form is available to download from the Gov.uk website, but beware – it isn’t working properly:  tick boxes are missing and there are problems with saving it.  It’s likely to be taken offline again until a working version is available.  It does make you wonder though – if they can’t even get a simple online form to work, what hope for the massively complicated universal credit software system?

PIP GUIDE
When we published our 40+ guide to claiming PIP a fortnight ago, we made it available to professional members only because it’s far from complete – we haven’t seen the PIP claim form yet and there was no DWP or other guidance available at the time.  However, such has been the interest from claimants and carers that we’ve now made the guide available to all members, on the understanding that it definitely isn’t suitable for using to make a claim.  There will be several updates to the guide before PIP is introduced and more after the pilots begin.

Members can download the draft PIP guide from its temporary home at the very top of the DLA Resources page.

There’s also a 125 page guide to PIP assessments, produced by the DWP for Atos and Capita,  available online from this link.  We haven’t even had time to skim it yet, but we’ll be incorporating any useful information into the next edition of our own guide.
http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/pip-assessment-guide.pdf

LYING, THIEVING, B’S
The Independent newspaper is reporting that a Panorama documentary, ‘The Great Disability Scam?’ on BBC One, last night, revealed shocking claims by employees of Triage – one of the private sector work programme providers.

Amongst the allegations is one that jobless and disabled clients are referred to using the code ‘LTB’, standing for ‘lying, thieving, bas***ds’.  Ex-employees also claimed that disabled clients were taken on to get the initial fee and then simply ‘parked’, with as little time as possible spent on trying to get them into work.

The full Independent report is available here.

You can watch the Panorama programme on BBC iplayer

38 DEGREES
Campaigning website 38 Degrees wants your stories of problems with Atos to pass on to Michael Meacher, MP.  They’ve sent out an email to supporters, part of which we’ve reproduced here:

“Personal stories can often be the most powerful tool in persuading politicians to do the right thing. Michael Meacher, MP, is arranging a meeting with Iain Duncan Smith, Minister for Work and Pensions who has the power to sort out these problems. So he needs stories of ATOS getting it wrong to help convince him to act.

“Can you help? Have you or someone you know been tested by ATOS? Would you be happy to share your experience? The more people who share their stories, the more powerful the message to the minister.

“Help Michael Meacher convince Iain Duncan Smith to stand up to ATOS. Send in your story:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

FIVE LIVE
5 Live Investigates will be talking about the Work Programme and self-employment this Sunday.

If you have any experience of going self-employed or being encouraged to do so, you can contact the programme live at 11am by text on 85058 or email at any time at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

THE GUARDIAN
The Guardian wants personal stories of the effects of benefits cuts, more details here.

MEMBERS ONLY NEWS
Government stats show most new ESA claimants are not ‘fit for work’ (members only)

Report reveals auditors’ uncertainty over DR UK’s future (members only)

McVey invites ridicule as she dismisses her own PIP figures (members only)

Redundancies at Disability Rights UK, but boss says survival not at risk (members only)

New ‘fitness for work’ test changes ‘could breach Human Rights Act’ (members only)

DWP made ‘cynical attempt’ to hide true intentions over PIP eligibility (members only)

Government has ‘blood on its hands’ over ‘fitness for work’ test (members only)

GOOD NEWS FROM THE FORUM – OPEN ACCESS LINKS
We know how much feedback from other members means to people who get this newsletter, so please do keep your good luck stories coming.

IB to support group without medical
"The relief is incredible & I have to thank the good folks at B&W for the guides & advice"

IB to support group on appeal
"a very big thank-you . . . I would highly recommend you without hesitation"

Support group without a medical
"Thanks to all at B and W"

Higher rate mobility and lower rate care DLA on appeal
"I would just like to say thanks."

IB to ESA support group after medical
"Just wanted to say thank you very much for all the help I had from your guide"

WRAG to support group on revision
"I am pleased to say that I have been moved to the support group"

Lower rate care and mobility DLA
"Thank-you, Thank-you and Thank-you"

Son got ESA support group renewed
"I can't thank you enough for this place and for the grace of finding it 5 years ago"

High rate mobility, low rate care DLA after failed tribunal
"Thanks B&W site great info"

Support group without medical
"Just like to say thank you so much for the helpful guides"

Join the Benefits and Work community now (open access) and discover what a difference we can make.

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You can also read this newsletter online. (open access).

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No. 5962666