SAVE ON MEMBERSHIP – AND AN APOLOGY
We had a very good response to our offer to save £1.95 on membership of the site last week. But we had a number of complaints that the deadline of just 24 hours was too tight. We also confused people by giving the end date as 30th September - rather than October - at the end of the newsletter, for which we apologise. So, we’re running the offer one more time, but you now have until midnight on Tuesday 15th November to save £1.95 on your annual subscription.
Just type NEWS24A in the coupon box when you join Benefits and Work and you’ll get instant, cut-price, access to all our highly effective, step-by-step guides to disability living allowance and employment and support allowance claims and appeals, Members Only News items and much more.
And, with our 7 day, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee, there’s no risk to you at all.
On the website this week we have news of the roll out of Benefits Integrity Centres (members only)and spot checks on a million benefits claims a year, plus the phone call from a decision maker (members only) that means they probably don't intend to award you ESA.
We also reveal that ministers have not ruled out the possibility of stopping ESA for anyone who appeals (members only)the decision that they are capable of work. In addition, there are rumblings that the coalition is planning to cut next year’s index linked rise in benefits (members only).
Below, we have more news, as well as the overwhelming result of your opinions on freelance welfare rights workers. And, if you read this newsletter in connection with your work, we would be very grateful for your own views on freelance work.
Pat Onions needs a big boost
But first we want to tell you about a petition.
Pat Onions started one this week, supported by the Carer Watch website.
Pat is registered blind. She’s a carer for her husband David, who broke his back serving in the Royal Navy and now suffers chronic pain, reactive depression and severely limited mobility.
Pat has fought and argued for the needs of carers and claimants for many years. Her petition, on the government’s ‘epetition’ website, calls on the Coalition to “Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families.” It is intended to give a voice, in particular, to all those unable to take part in marches and rallies.
It has the support of RNIB, RADAR, Inclusion Scotland, Disability Alliance, Carers UK, Benefits and Work and more. If it gets 100,000 signatures the government will – probably – have to debate it. If it doesn’t, it may be seen as evidence that sick and disabled claimants are now so demoralised that they have no fight left in them.
It’s early days yet, but so far it has just 1,387 signatures.
So, we’re asking Benefits and Work readers give Pat’s petition a big boost over the next 24 hours.
Please take just one minute to sign Pat’s petition and another minute to ask someone else to do so. Together we can show Cameron, Clegg, Freud and their co-conspirators in the media that they haven’t yet succeeded in silencing claimants.
Freud’s crocodile tears
On the subject of Lord Freud, the ex-banker and current minister for welfare reform told the House of Lords last week that he was unhappy at the way media reporting of benefits issues caused fear amongst claimants. He claimed that he and his colleagues in the DWP found the press coverage ‘deeply disturbing’ (members only).
Given that it is briefings by Freud and his DWP colleagues, and their continued failure to correct press lies, that are turning claimants into hate figures, the claim was as outrageous as it was laughable.
But it may be that Freud and his colleagues have finally realised that if you want to persuade employers to take on sick and disabled claimants via the currently failing Work Programme, then portraying them as overwhelmingly workshy frauds isn’t really a very bright idea.
In fact, the real workshy frauds are the private sector Work Programme providers who have been caught red-handed taking cash for helping claimants and then packing them off to the nearest volunteering centre. In one case they even tried to get a volunteering centre to provide volunteers to work with claimants for free.
We’ve updated our guides to the work capability assessment to take account of recent changes. These include: the shortening of the time allowed to complete and return the ESA50 questionnaire; the newly declared independence of decision makers, who should no longer simply rubber stamp Atos reports; and the telephone call from a decision maker that claimants who are about to be found fit for work should now receive.
We’ve also update our DLA guides following minor changes to the consent form in the DLA claim pack.
Next week we’ll be publishing an updated guide to ESA appeals which will reflect the fact that so many IB to ESA claimants are being placed in the work-related activity group without having a medical examination.
All the updated guides can be downloaded from the members area.
Shock survey result
A huge thank you to everyone who took part in our survey in the last newsletter about the possibility of setting up a website for freelance welfare rights workers. We got the hoped-for 1,000 responses in an astonishing 15 hours. In relation to the first question:
“Do you think a website where freelance welfare rights workers can advertise their professional services is:
A good idea.
A bad idea
An overwhelming 81% thought it was a good idea, a much higher proportion than we had expected. Just 3.2% thought it was a bad idea and 15.8% were not sure. So clearly there is a strong interest in such a service. Frequently voiced concerns about cost and the reliability of individual advisors are issues that need to be carefully considered, however.
Are you reading this newsletter in connection with work?
Following the survey in the last newsletter, we now want to discover what level of interest there is amongst professional workers in providing individual advice, training or consultancy in their area of expertise.
So, if you’re a debt, housing, employment or immigration advisor, welfare rights worker or anyone else who reads this newsletter in connection with their job – or former job - we’d love to have your views.
Has your job already come to an end? Or are you working on a Plan B in case your current job does end? Could working as a freelance form part of that plan? Let us know what you think in our brief and entirely confidential survey.
More news (Members only)
There are more stories than we have room for here in the Members Only News section, including:
600,000 to be forced off incapacity benefit
Full Fact questions Freud statement on WCA
DWP chronic fatigue syndrome guidance published
BBC Panorama on "Benefits Cheats"
Warning over legal aid cuts for disabled people
A very big thank you to everyone who has submitted items, including: Melrose, michealg, papasmurf, Crazydiamond, pete17971, Ian Birch, Jima1, pompeyfaith.
There’s information on how you can submit a news story here.
Good news from the forum
Finally, as ever, some good news from the forum in these gloomy times.
Higher rate mobility and higher rate care without medical
From income support to ESA support group on mental health grounds
From 0 to 24 points on ESA appeal
DLA high rate mobility and middle rate care on initial claim
From 0-21 points on ESA appeal
DLA high rate mobility and high rate care on renewal
High rate mobility and higher rate care DLA awarded without medical
Support group following medical
DLA for another two years
Support group following tribunal
Won second appeal, back into support group
From low rate care to middle rate care and higher rate mobility on renewal
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