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Wednesday 24 April, BIRMINGHAM; Thursday, 23rd April BRISTOL; Tuesday, 23 April, LEEDS; Thursday, 25 April, LONDON.
It may be one of the shortest lived legal victories by claimants on record.
The Court of Appeal today ruled that most of the DWP’s forced labour schemes were unlawful and that anyone who had been sanctioned under them should have their lost benefits repaid. Within hours the government had set about trying to enact new regulations with immediate effect to reinstate the work for your benefits schemes. They have also vowed not to repay any sanctioned benefits, despite the judges’ ruling.
In keeping with this government’s attitude to the law, it is increasingly clear that the consultation on personal independence payment was a massive con trick. Not only was the qualifying distance for enhanced rate mobility reduced from 50 metres to 20 metres after the consultation ended, but it now seems likely that the DWP’s intention is that it is primarily people who have problems moving around indoors who will be deemed to qualify.
The positive news is that a group of claimants are trying, with a real possibility of success, to get the PIP mobility rules quashed by the courts – but they won’t succeed without your help.
Unfortunately, while claimants, supported in some cases by lawyers, fight the government’s anti-claimant campaign with enormous courage and imagination, we have news that the national charity which claims to represent sick and disabled claimants is mired in yet more controversy.
And, for members only, we have now updated our employment and support allowance (ESA) guides to cover the new form and new regulations.
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FORCED LABOUR WAS, AT LEAST BRIEFLY, ILLEGAL
The DWP suffered a crushing defeat this morning after a university graduate and a mechanic took them to court over being forced to do unpaid labour in return for their benefits. Having lost in the High Court, the duo, supported by the public law project, won their case at the Court of Appeal (open access)
Most of the government's back to work schemes were declared illegal by the court and any sanctions against claimants who failed to participate in forced labour will now have to be repaid by the DWP.
However, by this afternoon employment minister Mark Hoban announced that the government is already exploring a number of options to avoid repaying sanctioned benefits to claimants and that new regulations are being enacted – possibly today - to try to ensure that forced labour can carry on as before (open access)
The court ruling is a huge embarrassment to the DWP and it may find it difficult, in practice, to refuse to repay sanctioned benefits, although it can certainly drag the process out for a very long time even if its proposed appeal to the Supreme Court fails.
PIP ENHANCED MOBILITY ONLY FOR PEOPLE WITH INDOOR MOBILITY PROBLEMS
The DWP appear to be planning to only pay the enhanced rate of the mobility component of PIP on physical grounds to claimants whose mobility is so restricted that they have difficulties moving between rooms indoors. Those who can manage indoors but have difficulty outdoors may only be awarded the lower rate of the mobility component.
Atos and Capita, the companies carrying out PIP assessments, have been told that:
“20 metres is considered to be the distance that a claimant is required to be able to walk in order to achieve a basic level of independence in the home such as the ability to move between rooms.
“50 metres is considered to be the distance that a claimant is required to be able to walk in order to achieve a basic level of independence such as the ability to get from a car park to the supermarket.”
To score the required 12 points to get enhanced rate mobility for physical health problems alone, a claimant must prove that they can’t stand and move more than 20 metres even using aids and/or with assistance. This means that in the majority of cases the private sector health professionals are likely to be looking for evidence that the claimant has problems with indoor mobility, rather than outdoor, if they are to be awarded the enhanced rate.
You can read more on this here (open access)
PIP MOBILITY CHANGES MAY BE ILLEGAL – YOUR HELP IS URGENTLY NEEDED
Meanwhile another group of claimants has secured legal support to challenge the last-minute change to the PIP regulations which deny enhanced rate mobility to anyone who can stand and move more than 20 metres.
They will be arguing that the failure to consult about the reduction of the limit from 50 metres to 20 metres means that the change is unlawful and should thus be quashed. If successful it would be a bigger blow to the government than today’s forced labour ruling. The result would be that the DWP would be obliged to consult all over again on the changes before they can be introduced. In the end they can still ignore the results of a new consultation, but they will face a very determined battle and will have no opportunity to claim that disability organisations supported the changes.
At the very least it would set the introduction of PIP back months. At best it could even result in a fairer set of rules for the mobility component.
But the campaigners desperately need claimants who fit very tightly defined criteria to come forward to be the ones who actually challenge the DWP. In order to bring the case, assisted by Leigh Day solicitors and barristers from Doughty Street Chambers, they need claimants:
Who are eligible for legal aid – check your eligibility here (external site)
Who currently have a DLA award including Higher Rate Mobility component
Whose DLA award is NOT due to expire until after October 2013
Who, on re-assessment under PIP, whenever that occurs, are at risk of losing out on the enhanced mobility component of PIP because they can walk over 20 metres or so but cannot walk up to 50 metres.
Who do NOT have any difficulty planning or following a journey (eg due to mental health, cognitive or sensory impairment).
There are other criteria which are desirable rather than essential, which you can read about on the blog (external site) of highly respected and experienced ‘We Are Spartacus’ campaigner Jane Young.
If you think you fit the criteria and are willing to take part, please contact Jane via her contact form.
MORE NEGATIVE PUBLICITY FOR DRUK
Whilst unfunded claimants launch legal battles like the ones above, the rather better funded charity which says it is the voice of sick and disabled claimants is caught up in yet more controversy.
Disability Rights UK (DRUK), formed little over a year ago from three financially struggling charities, has already come in for criticism (members only) for its role in helping Capita win a contract to assess PIP claimants and for convening the new Disability Action Alliance (DAA).
Its chief executive, Liz Sayce, also wrote a report recommending ending government support for Remploy factories - something which has now happened and has led to many disabled workers losing their jobs.
In addition, earlier this year the charity’s accounts for 2011 – 2012 revealed it had made loss of over £300,000 from an income of over £2.6 million
Now, new concern surrounds the revelation by the Disability News Service that one of DRUK’s directors works for a company that carries out secret surveillance on claimants of disability insurance (members only).
Directors of the company include Professor Sir Mansel Aylward, a former DWP medical director and now director of the Centre for Psychosocial and Disability Research at Cardiff University, which was previously sponsored by Unum. Another director is Al Hemond, who spent 23 years with Unum, and is a “recognised expert and world leader in disability claims management”.
Unum is an American company reviled by many UK disabled claimants because Unum’s staff played an important role in the introduction of the much harsher fitness for work regime in this country, from which they stand to profit by selling private health insurance.
In yet more controversy, the Disability News Service reports that DRUK has angered other disabled people’s organisations because it was given the role of helping the Department for Culture, Media and Sport decide which disability organisations would be given free pairs of tickets worth £1,500 to the Olympic opening ceremony (members only). DRUK were one of the lucky recipients of a pair of tickets.
UPDATED ESA GUIDES
We’ve updated the guides to the work capability assessment. They now cover the ‘old’ forms and the new forms that started coming out on 28 January, as well as the new regulations.
The ESA appeals guide is still current, but we’ll be updating it to take into account the changes that happen in April of this year, when you’ll be forced to have a review of the decision before you can go on to appeal.
We still have to update the ‘introduction to ESA’ guides, but you don’t need those in order to claim or appeal and we should have those completed by the end of the week.
You can download the new guides from the ESA section of the Members Only area.
MORE NEWS IN MEMBERS AREA
There’s more news in the Members area, including news of a welcome climb down by the DWP over putting the concept of ‘reliability’ into the PIP regulations. We also have a decision on who will be eligible for Blue Badges under PIP, plus there’s serious criticism of the DWP by MPs over its relationship with Atos and over the standard of work capability assessments.
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.
From 0 points to Support Group after 14 month appeal
“hi would just like to say thanks to this site"
IB to ESA without medical
“Wonderful news and all thanks to this website and my well spent membership!”
WRAG to Support Group at tribunal
“cannot thank you enough for the first class information you provide.“
Moved from WRAG to Support Group after revision
“The subscription was the best £20 I've ever spent”
IB to Support Group
“i would like to thank everyone on this forum for the help and support i got during the transfer”
From WRAG to Support Group on reconsideration
“I just wanted to thank everyone at Benefits and Work for everything you do.”
From IB to WRAG to Support Group
“Thanks for all the help here - online help is so vital when its hard to talk to people.”
Support Group success
“Many thanks to the good advice given on this site”
IB to ESA WRAG without medical
“Last October I was sent the ESA50 form and I completed it using the wonderful 'benefits and work' guide.”
ESA Support Group without medical
“support group , no medical , thanks to your help”
From WRAG to support group on appeal
“would like to say a big thanks to this site for all the help and advice....its kept me going when things looked grey.”
Support group without medical
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0 Points to support group at ESA tribunal
“Reading others success gave me so much more reassurance going into my appeal.”
ESA WRAG to Support Group
“Thank you to those of you who were kind enough to give advice when l was very low.”
IB to ESA Support Group
“I would just like to say thank you to all on the website for gathering and collating all the information”
IB to Support Group no medical thanks
“I was transfer to support group with no medical thanks to your guides”
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