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2 October Newsletter

Benefits May Stop For Claimants Who Appeal Plus New 3 Year Sanctions

In this edition we have confirmation that the DWP is actively considering axeing employment and support allowance (ESA) payments for claimants who challenge a decision that they are fit for work.  Instead, claimants will have to try to sign on for jobseeker’s allowance, where they will face a harsh new regime which, from later this month, will include potential benefit sanctions of up to three years.   

Plus, we learn how many ESA claimants who get found fit for work are left with no income at all and discover the outrage amongst disability charities at a secret deal done between Disabilty Rights UK and the DWP.

We also have leaked confirmation that Atos will be paid millions in bonuses for getting disability living allowance (DLA) to personal independence payment (PIP) transfer medicals done in a tearing hurry rather than getting them right – and how this may also affect not just DLA but also ESA claimants.

And finally, as well as the money off offer below we also have a free screensaver of stunning images from A Way of Seeing to say thank you for over 5,000 Facebook likes of our Benefits and Work page.

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 via PayPal:

20547

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

ESA MAY BE STOPPED FOR CLAIMANTS WHO TRY TO APPEAL
The DWP has now released their response to the ‘consultation’ on a mandatory revision before appeal system.  Under the new system, claimants who wish to challenge most benefits decision will be prevented from lodging an appeal with the Tribunals Service until the DWP have had another look at the decision.  There is no time limit for how long the DWP can spend on this mandatory reconsideration.  

This is particularly important for ESA claimants who are found fit for work, as they are legally prevented from continuing to receive the assessment rate of ESA until they have lodged an appeal.  

After months of refusing to answer the question, the DWP have now revealed in their response document that they are still undecided as to whether claimants will be allowed to continue to receive ESA during the reconsideration phase.  Worryingly the document does state that “other benefits may be available to claimants where ESA has been disallowed”.

Benefits and Work members can read more and comment here.

You can download the response document from the DWP website

EXTRAORDINARILY HARSH JSA SANCTIONS
ESA claimants who end up on JSA face an extraordinarily harsh new sanctions from 22 October, when decision makers will have the power to ban claimants from JSA for up to three years for repeated offences of:

leaving a job voluntarily;
losing a job through misconduct;
refusal/failure to apply for, or  accept if offered a suitable job;
refusal/failure to participate in mandatory work activity.

If you can show you had good cause for your actions, then there will, be no sanction.  But with legal aid ending for welfare benefits next year, help to show good cause will be harder to come by.

Claimants may lose out on JSA where decision makers refuse to accept that the they are too ill to undertake mandatory work, for example. Or if an unscrupulous employer unlawfully sacks them because they are disabled, but alleges that dismissal was for misconduct, then they may also face sanctions.  

Again, with the ending of legal aid for employment law and the introduction of hefty fees for taking a case to tribunal, it will be much harder for claimants to show they were not at fault.

The three year sanction will apply for a third offence within 52 weeks. The current maximum sanction is 26 weeks.  Claimants may be eligible for hardship payments during the sanction period.

Further details of the new sanctions regime can be found on the DWP website.

ESA LOSERS LEFT WITHOUT INCOME
The DWP has been forced to reveal what really becomes of ESA claimants who are found fit for work.  

The Daily Record reports that, according to a DWP survey carried out in 2009 but only recently uncovered by a Freedom of Information request, 55% of claimants found fit for work were left unemployed and without any income.   A further 30% were in receipt of benefits and only 15% had found employment.   

Given the current economic climate, today’s figures may be even more dismal.

You can read the Daily record article here and Benefits and Work members can comment here.

ANGER OVER SECRET DWP CHARITY DEAL
There is outrage amongst disability charities at the news that the DWP has set up a new quango, the Disability Action Alliance, to produce disability policies and then secretly appointed Disability Rights UK (DRUK) to run it.  

News came out only after the deal was done and some angry charities are now trying to get questions asked in the House of Commons about what went on behind closed doors.

The new organisation is supposed to help ensure that government policy gets the best possible outcome for disabled people.  But the Alliance is made up of private companies, who may be more concerned about making profits than supporting disabled people,  public sector organisations, who may be more concerned about saving money,  and by charities like DRUK which are heavily and increasingly dependent on government cash to stay afloat.

There is particular disquiet from disability charities such as RNIB and the UK Disabled People’s Council that DRUK was chosen to lead the new body without any consultation or appointment process that would have allowed others to take part.

The appointment includes a fee for DRUK, whose head Liz Sayce wrote a report recommending the closure of Remploy factories which the government is now putting into action.  

Benefits and Work members can read more and comment here and also here

PIP MEDICALS BONANZA

A botched Freedom of Information response has revealed that Atos’ contract for carrying out DLA to PIP transfer medicals includes a very hefty profit of £40 million if the company manages to put 15% more people through medicals than expected in Scotland and Northern England.  The “Atos Risk Management Plan” shows that they will make more than £28 million even if they only examine the expected number of claimants.

 There is no evidence of a penalty for getting it wrong  in tens of thousands of cases as they currently do with ESA, however.  

It is clear that at the moment there is a wide margin of uncertainty about how many current DLA claimants will take part in the PIP transfer and that the DWP and Atos have worked out what the cost and profitability of the contract is likely to be depending on the final number of people assessed.  What this may mean is that, for Atos, there will be a real financial incentive to rush through medicals as quickly as possible without worrying whether they are collecting detailed and accurate evidence.  The profits will be for volume not for accuracy.

This could have a knock on effect for ESA claimants too. It is likely that some of the same staff and same centres that are used for ESA examination will also be used for PIP.  The faster  the current incapacity benefit to ESA transfer can be completed, the sooner staff can be freed up to work on the PIP contract.  Yet more incentive to get things done fast rather than well.

Details of the contract, which the DWP had meant to keep secret, were accidentally disclosed in a   Freedom of Information response.

More details from the Daily Record.

FREE SCREENSAVER SLIDESHOW
The Benefits and Work Facebook page now has over 5,000 likes.  

To say thank you for your support , A way of Seeing - who do graphic work for us as well as running our Facebook page – are giving away a free screensaver slideshow of stunning images from their "On The Water Front" collection.  

Not only do A Way of Seeing do a fantastic job on our Facebook page, they also run free photography workshops in schools as well.  They are great supporters and friends of the Benefits and Work community, so please support their work in turn by visiting the A Way of Seeing Facebook page, and clicking on ‘Like’ before downloading the screensaver.

MORE NEWS
As always, there’s much more news in the members area than we have room for in this newsletter. Many thanks to everyone who has sent in news stories over the last fortnight, including: Beverley Hymers, John Pring, originaldave, bro58,  Jim Allison, papasmurf, Crazydiamond.

GOOD NEWS FROM THE FORUM – OPEN ACCESS LINKS
Finally, after all the gloom, a few cheery posts from the forum to end on:

ESA decision reconsidered, placed in Support Group until 2015
“thanks for all the advice on your site”

High rate mobility and high rate care DLA awarded indefinitely after third attempt
“Thanks again this will make a huge impact to my life”

ESA decision reconsidered after lodging appeal, moved from WRAG to Support Group
“I am very thankful to this site - for the guides, advice and support that I have received from members and mods alike.”

Decision revised and placed in ESA Support Group after being migrated from IB to ESA WRAG
“Many thanks for the B&W guides, they are invaluable.”

Successful ESA appeal, moved from WRAG to Support Group
“Best wishes to all.”

ESA decision reconsidered after request for appeal, moved from WRAG to Support Group

“would just like to thank this site for their help”

Placed in ESA Support Group without medical
“Many thanks to all on here & to the people who run the site for the guides.”

Transferred from IB to ESA Support Group for 3 years without having medical assessment
“I wish to thank B & W so very much.”

Placed in ESA Support Group
“thanks B&W for your very informative Guides they, in my opinion made all the difference to my claim”

Placed in ESA Support Group without medical assessment
“the info on here is very helpful and has been invaluable so thank you.”

Placed in ESA Support Group after request for review of initial decision to award 0 points

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Good luck,

Steve Donnison

Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No.  5962666