ESA Appeals – Where You Live Can Slash your Chances. PIP Claims Mystery. Money off membership.
“After weeks of worry and uncertainty I received my letter from DWP today stating I am in the support group. It has brought to an end of constant worry over this and now means I can get on with my life with my limited mobility and not have this constant worry on my shoulders.
The forums and advice here has helped so much and I am sure by following your guides I have managed to avoid unnecessary hurdles.”
20% OFF ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP FOR CLAIMANTS AND FOR PROFESSIONALS - 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 20% off the cost of your annual subscription. Just type the following code into the coupon box when you pay: 57342
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. Professionals can pay online or email a completed licence agreement within the deadline, quoting the coupon code in their email.
You can also read this newsletter online.
This is the first newsletter since we took a break throughout August, so we do apologise for it’s length – there’s been a bit of catching up to do.
In this edition we look at the extraordinary difference where you live can make to your chances of winning your employment and support allowance appeal.
We also have the welcome news that the United Nations is investigating the work capability assessment for ESA and other welfare reform issues – and they want to hear from you.
Meanwhile, in Parliament Square a service is to be held for the 10,000 people who activists claim have died soon after an Atos work capability assessment. The service will be led by the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral.
We’re also highlighting the mystery surrounding what has happened to all the PIP decisions.
Apart from decisions relating to people who are terminally ill, almost none seem to have been made. In addition, we ask what has happened to all the PIP assessment centres Atos said they were going to create? Plus, the timetable for rolling out PIP has been delayed by three weeks whilst the DWP tries to decide how to handle the crisis over the mobility component.
The bedroom tax also continues to give the DWP a headache, with four of the first five decisions in first-tier tribunals finding in favour of claimants. Plus, a UN envoy has called for the bedroom tax to be scrapped, sending former dodgy internet entrepreneur and Tory Party chair Grant Schapps into an incandescent, though factually inaccurate, rage.
Universal credit , meanwhile, is falling apart before our very eyes as IDS is accused of misleading parliament and, in turn, heaps blame on his civil servants.
Finally, as the government tries to keep the spotlight on benefits claimants and off tax avoiders by announcing stiffer penalties for benefits fraud, we take a moment to remember the punishment handed down to the Right Honourable David Laws, the government minister who dishonestly claimed £40,000 in housing payments .
The latest quarterly tribunal statistics for April to June 2013 reveal an astonishing 86% increase in ESA appeals, compared to the same period last year. The 93,000 ESA appeals in the last quarter make up 70% of all social security appeals, whereas DLA appeals make up just 11%. An average of 41% of DLA appeals and 42% of ESA appeals were won by the claimant.
However, there are huge regional variations in the success rate for ESA appeals, as revealed by another government document.
The highest success rates are in the south east of England and in London, where a massive 47% and 45% of appeals, respectively, are successful. In the West Midlands and North West England, this drops to just 31%. This means that claimants in London and the South East are 50% more likely to win their appeal than claimants in the West midlands and North West.
No attempt is made to explain these huge variations, though the quality of decision making and differing attitudes towards claimants in different regions may play an important role.
The success rate for appeals relating to different conditions also varies dramatically, from just 25% for pregnancy and childbirth related conditions to 48% for diseases of the nervous system.
A full list of ESA appeal success rates by region and condition (open access) is available on the Benefits and work website.
Elsewhere, Disability Rights UK is reporting that Raquel Rolnik the United Nations special investigator who so outraged the Tories by her investigation into the bedroom tax (see below) now:
“ . . . wants to examine all of the recent welfare changes and welcomes personal stories about the WCA and how it is affecting people. This is because concerns have been raised about the number of WCA related deaths due to deteriorating health or suicide.
“Once these accounts are collated the evidence will be presented to the United Nations General Council in March.
If you would rather remain anonymous, disability rights campaigner Sue Marsh is offering to incorporate your story into the report she is compiling for the UN.
In related news, David Ison, Dean of St Paul's Cathedral will lead “a ceremony of remembrance and solidarity for those who have had their lives devastated by the austerity programme”, including more than 10,000 people who campaigners say died shortly after undergoing the Work Capability Assessment.
The ceremony will take place at 12 noon in Parliament Square and will be supported by Michael Meacher MP.
More details from the 10,000 Cuts website.
Mystery surrounds what has happened to all the PIP claims that should by now have had decisions made. PIP was introduced in pilot areas of the North of England in April 2013. It then went national for all working age claimants from 10 June 2013. By now, we should be seeing thousands of PIP decisions and getting a clear idea of who the likely winners and losers are.
Yet, on the Benefits and Work forums we have only heard of one decision. Happily it was successful:
“Can I just say what a brilliant service I have received from this site. I am pleased to say I was awarded PIP, however, I dare say that wouldn't be the case if I hadn't taken the time to read the guides and familiarise myself with the minefield of questions asked.
Thank you very much benefitsandwork, your stars”
Similarly, on Rightsnet – the forum for welfare rights workers - virtually the only decisions anyone has seen have been for terminally ill claimants.
Whether it is because of Atos and Capita failing to get their act together or because of doubts about how the mobility component should be treated, it seems that most PIP decisions are being unreasonably delayed.
Both explanations are possible. It was revealed recently that Atos have failed to provide a single assessment centre within the area covering hundreds of thousands of disabled people living in north London. In fact, of the 740 sites the company claimed in its successful PIP bid that it would provide, Atos has come up with just 96 (members only).
In addition, the government have put back the introduction of PIP claims for existing DLA claimants (members only) from 7 October to 28 October, following a consultation on the highly controversial reduction of the qualifying distance for getting the enhanced rate of the PIP mobility component.
The government say the delay should not be seen as evidence they are planning to do a u-turn on the harsh new mobility criteria, but it does now seem possible that some changes are underway.
BEDROOM TAX NEWS
As the first appeals against the bedroom tax go to tribunal, the news could scarcely be worse for the DWP. Not only did they lose four out of five appeals in Fife, but the reasons for the decisions are legally well–constructed and likely to be argued in other cases too.
For instance, in one appeal, the judge held that if under-occupation was to be prevented, then overcrowding must also be avoided. So, if a room was too small to legally be treated as a bedroom for an adult under the Housing Act 1985, then it could not lawfully be treated as a bedroom for benefits purposes, no matter what the local council or the DWP might think.
There is an excellent explanation of the decision on the SPeye website
First-tier tribunal decisions are not binding on other tribunals, but if the DWP appeal those decisions to the upper tribunal and lose again, then they will become binding. In the meantime, the same arguments can be used by any other claimants to whom they apply.
Back in Westminster, attempts by Tory party chairman Grant Shaps – aka extremely dodgy internet marketing guru Michael Green - to bully a UN special rapporteur into withdrawing her call to end the bedroom tax appear to have backfired spectacularly.
Raquel Rolnik visited the UK to look into housing policy and recommended that both the benefit cap and the bedroom tax be abolished. An enraged Shapps claimed that she had not been invited here and had not spoken to government ministers – both claims have since been proved to be untrue.
Shapps called for an investigation into Rolnik’s conduct and demanded she issue an apology.
Far from backing off, however, as reported above, Rolnik has now asked for British claimants to contact her with evidence about the effects of other welfare reforms, including the WCA, on their lives.
UNIVERSAL CREDIT NEWS
Universal credit is rapidly becoming a disaster, rather than the splendid flagship of benefit reform that the coalition originally envisaged. Iain Duncan Smith is now being accused of misleading parliament as it emerges that the DWP may have to write off up to £161 million it has spent on software to try to make UC work.
IDS, meanwhile, is trying to heap all the blame for his failure on his civil servants, in the best tradition of honourable ministers.
OTHER BENEFITS NEWS
Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, in a move welcomed by the prime minister, has announced that benefits fraudsters will face longer sentences of up to 10 years. Starmer is due to retire from his current post later this year and may well be in line for a token of appreciation from the government.
Starmer wants to see more claimants tried under the Fraud Act, rather than social security law, because penalties are higher. He has also done away with the financial threshold which meant that offences involving less than £20,000 automatically went to Magistrates Court, which do not have the power to pass such long sentences.
We feel this is an appropriate moment to recall the punishment handed out by our prime minister to millionaire, ex-investment banker, David Laws MP, who dishonestly claimed £40,000 in housing expenses – allegedly to avoid revealing that he is gay.
Under the new guidance, if Laws had been a housing benefit claimant he would have faced up to 10 years in prison. Instead, in 2011, he received a 7 day suspension from the House of Commons and many expressions of sympathy from fellow MPs.
In 2012 he was warmly welcomed back into the cabinet by the prime minister and given the post of schools minister.
No mention is made on Laws’ website – where he refers to himself as the Right Honourable David Laws without a hint of irony - of the reason he had to resign his previous cabinet post.
If we were only a bit more technically proficient here at Benefits and Work, we would now insert an audio file of a gang of drunken bankers and MPs gleefully baying: , “It's the same the whole world over, It's the poor what gets the blame, It's the rich what gets the pleasure, Isn't it a blooming shame?”
Sadly, we just have to sing it quietly to ourselves
As always, there’ more news in the members are than we have room for here, including:
GOOD NEWS FROM THE FORUMS
We know how much feedback from other members means to people who get this newsletter, so please do keep your good luck stories coming. Below is a small selection from the forum.
“Received a 'breakdown' of my ESA and which shows that I am now in the Support Group, so thank you for such a great forum with such helpful advice without which I am sure that I would still be in WRAG.
Thank you Benefits and Work for such GREAT advice
“Just a quick post to say that I completed my DLA Renewal form and posted it last Thursday…I have today received notification from them that, based on my form and additional information supplied, my DLA award will stay the same for a further two years. Thank you to all for all your hard work that is put in to this site to assist us with this dreaded process!”
“Thank You for all the brilliant advise on the website, I had my Tribunal this afternoon, I had 6 points and money stopped because I had been on EESA for 365 days contribution based, I now have 15 points [also support group descriptor]and no reassessment for 2 years, very happy and feel as if a great weight has been lifted”
“Well the brown envelope came today, hubby opened it for me, and its not bad news…been put in the wrag group. I thought I would fail, so its not too bad, its for 2 years…
May I also say that I would have failed altogether had I not been a member of this site, your helpful guides for people in this situation is fantastic and long may it continue. Can only recommend people join, it’s worth every penny.”
“I just wanted to say Thank You for the help you've given me. I have fiinally finished filling in my form… I'll let you know what happens. Cheers!”
Update: “(the DWP)…told me that I had been awarded Contributory ESA and that I was in the Support Group for 36 months. .. Thank You again for all the support which you give both to me and to countless other people.”
“would just like to let you know I had my appeal today was only in the room for 15 mins in total was not even asked to leave whilst they made there decision asked 2 questions by the doctor and then told I had a very strong case and that they agreed I should be in support group and not wrag on the mobilising descriptor huge thanks for all your guides I think each and every one of you do a fab job huge thanks”
“Just got a phone call from my benefits office and my stomach did a complete flip but they were ringing to tell me I was remaining in the support group and would be assessed in three years time :)
Thank you all for your support , I am so relieved !”
“Haven't written for a while, but i think I should point out the latest, as it involved me once again thanking the good people at Benefits and Work for their advice and insightful guides
I have been placed in the WRAG for another 18 months, with no need for an ATOS assessment, huzzah!
So thank you to all the people who give up there time to make this website what it is, your work, as I'm sure you are aware, is much appreciated :) “
“I am so grateful to you all at Benefits and Work and thank you most sincerely. I would have exhausted my 365 days this Dec and would not have been able to claim IR ESA as I have a works pension and I live with my husband who is on benefits too.”
“Today my wife received notification from the DWP that her DLA mobility & care allowances are to be extended by a further 2 years from November. I believe your information packs were a key factor in helping get what she deserves.
Once again a massive thank you”
“Just wanted to say thankyou for the help i had using your guides in completing the unexpected dla reassesment I have just gone through. my original award was indefinite for med rate care & high mobility… I now recieved letter today saying my award is staying the same for the same period of time untill pip comes into place.”
“Have been transferred to ESA support group from ICB without any medical, or interview. All thanks to the detailed info provided by Benefits and Work site. Many thanks for all the help.”
“…today i got a letter saying that my appeal was successful ,i have gone from the WRAG group into the SUPPORT group( with no medical ) until 2015, so i must say to all the moderators thank you so much for all the information that you have made available to us , without you i do not think i would have been able to achieve my goal.”
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