IDS Armed Police Point Guns At Disabled Claimants

Dear Reader

In this edition we have the most revealing insight yet of the fear and hatred DWP ministers appear to feel for claimants. A sullen and angry Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud turned up to the Work and Pensions Select Committee last week surrounded by bodyguards and armed police, who proceeded to point their machine guns directly at the small group of  disabled claimants waiting to go into the public gallery.  

Sadly, at the committee meeting itself, IDS seems to have entirely wriggled off the hook in relation to fake statistics, unfair sanctions and the universal credit fiasco.

Elsewhere, there is a report by Kaliya Franklin that suggests that the imposition of ‘norms’ in the work capability assessment ensures unfair outcomes and  the People’s Review of the same test illustrates the real human suffering it causes.

Moving on to Personal Independence Payment, there’s the dispiriting news that terminally ill cancer patients will have to rely on a ministers assurances that he can use his boots to kick the DWP into paying  PIP within 7 days, whilst whistleblowers and claimants reveal the true extent of PIP medical assessment chaos.

Looking on the bright side, we’re giving away 10 free subscriptions to the site this week in a fit of Christmas generosity. 

And although it didn’t require armed police to remove me, it did take quite a bit of persuading to get me to step aside and let my colleagues Karen and Sangeeta write the rest of this newsletter.

So . . . I’ll be off then.

Happy Christmas,

Steve Donnison

To spread a little seasonal goodwill, this Christmas, we want to thank our subscribers, followers and 'likers'. We bring you the latest news and guides to help you fight the system and we know how hard it can be to juggle the bills. We are going to give away 10 free subscriptions. There are 4 available for our newsletter subscribers, 3 for our twitter followers and 3 for our Facebook community members. To enter please tell us what you like most about 'Benefits and Work'.

Existing members are welcome to take part too and get an additional year’s subscription when their current one ends.

Perhaps you can enter through all 3 routes!

1 Follow us on twitter  and send us a tweet saying what you like most about 'Benefits and Work'

2 Visit our Facebook page
and let us know there instead!

3 E-mail us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and let us know directly. Please put 'Christmas offer' in the subject line to help us deal quickly with your responses.

We will pick winners on Friday afternoon just before we take a break for the holidays and will contact you directly. Please note, we would like to publish your comments from time to time, but will change the name if you have e-mailed us, so you cannot be identified if you prefer not to be.

IDS turned up to be questioned by MPs surrounded by armed police and bodyguards, perhaps in the hope of intimidating both politicians and members of the public.

However, IDS has come under fire himself - metaphorically at least - following his appearance in front of the work and pensions select committee. Backtracking on previous comments he has made regarding those on long term ESA, he indicated that he now wishes to protect the most vulnerable claimants from being transferred onto Universal Credit during the biggest roll out phase. This was an interesting statement, given his previous one hinting at plans for scrapping the WRAG after the elections in 2015.

During the session, he denied he has made up and misused statistical information, citing “only 2 occasions” of criticism from the UK Statistics Authority and deflected allegations of further misuse by the Conservative party chairman, as he said he cannot be held accountable for the comments that others make regarding statistics. He also denied that the rollout of the flagship Universal Credit was in any financial jeopardy, although he did appear to admit that previous statements he had made regarding planned timescales had been misinformed and, learning from the practical issues associated with the rollout, those timescales have since been adjusted.

When questioned by Debbie Abrahams MP, he denied that there are any targets for getting as many claimants off benefits as possible, as alleged by a former jobcentre worker. He maintained that this was merely one critic of the system. However, in a letter to the Guardian, a former senior manager of jobcentre services appears to confirm that sanctioning occurs for trivial reasons, causing hardship, despair and demoralisation for the claimant. He supports the call for an independent enquiry into the impact of benefit sanctions.

The fourth annual review of the Work Capability Assessment, carried out by Dr Paul Litchfield, was published last week. In it, he makes some stark comments about the complexity of the system, which he believes is “impenetrable” for the most vulnerable claimants.

Many will suspect the minister’s motives for continuing to support the current system of work capability assessments, which are ‘fundamentally flawed’ according to an analysis by Kaliya Franklin who has concluded that this rigs the assessment (members only) against the claimant .
In other ESA news, The People’s Review was published, detailing the devastating impact of the work capability assessment.  Within the report, harrowing tales of hardship and despair are told by those most deeply affected. This didn’t seem to be something on IDS’ mind at all throughout the select committee session – here is a man who has no doubts that his reforms are thoroughly on-track and justifiable.

There's one bit of good news amongst the gloom, however. Any money owing to ESA claimants who have been through a mandatory reconsideration and lodged an appeal will be paid to them at that point, rather than waiting until the appeal has taken place.

When faced with the evidence that terminally ill cancer patients were facing severe delays, as long as 8-10 weeks, in receiving their benefits: Mike Penning told the Select Committee for Work and pensions that he is going to use his ‘size 10 boots’ to ensure that terminally ill people receive PIP within 7 days of claiming. MacMillan Cancer Support, on the other hand, would prefer to see enforceable targets set rather than expecting terminally ill claimants to feel assured by politicians' promises. Penning also let on to Glenda Jackson that one of the providers of the PIP contract has been punished for failing to meet sevice level expectations (members only).

However, delays are affecting all PIP claims according to reports collected by the Disability News Service. (members only) and a Whistleblower, working for Capita has also shared her concerns (members only) stating that assessments she completed in September on behalf of Capita have still not been submitted to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for a decision on PIP eligibility.

"Trainer clear, knowledgeable, relaxed, humorous. It's rare for me to find a day's course such a hit and meeting my expectations". Annie Lewis. People in Partnership.

Personal independence payment might have started slowly, but claimants still need the best help possible to make a successful claim. As the assessments begin to catch up, we’re likely to begin seeing more and more PIP decisions coming through. Is your agency ready for PIP and all the problems it’s likely to bring? If not, prepare yourself to help your client group by signing up for a Benefits and Work PIP training course in March 2014.

Find out more about our PIP training or:

Download a personal independence payment training booking form Birmingham 27 March 2014 

Download a personal independence payment training booking form London 26 March 2014 

During the Select Committee's 'grilling' of Ian Duncan Smith;  @benefitsandwork tweeted Debbie Abrahams, Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, as soon as she highlighted the People's review. This was in response to Ian Duncan Smith stating that Work Capability Assessments had improved.

 She responded with:
Debbie Abrahams (@Debbie_abrahams)
If you follow Debbie Abrahams on twitter why not send her your WCA experience? An MP who is looking out for ESA claimants deserves to know! Alternatively; e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Thank you everyone for joining in our click and share celebration for hitting 8000 likes on the Facebook page, we will be contacting three page members who will receive a free subscription to the Benefits & Work main website.

In a year that has seen police reporting the highest ever numbers of incidents of abuse and attacks on people with disabilities and their carers, we wanted to express our sincerest sympathy to the family and friends of Brian Holmes, who was attacked in a supermarket car park, dying the next day. We asked our page followers what they thought of this latest incident and received a huge response from people on the page and in messages, expressing many views on this. The Family has asked to be left alone to grieve for their loss.

Finally, Christmas is just around the corner and the holiday season may leave some of our page followers feeling vulnerable and unsupported; please take the time to make supportive comments where you can on the page for others to see. Replies are also always appreciated by us at the Facebook team but, more importantly, by our other page members too.

There are many more news articles on the site than we have room for here, including:

43% of ESA appeals are decided in favour of the claimant at Tribunal hearings

Harrington accuses minister over ‘fitness for work’ test (members only)

Penning fixes on fraud for first encounter with all-party group (members only)

'Social' Supermarket Opens To Benefit Claimants 

Appeal court delivers second setback to coalition’s welfare reforms (members only)

Coalition meets just 0.2% of Universal Credit target

The forum will close after the evening session on Friday 20th December at 10.00 pm and not reopen again until Monday January 6th at 2.00 pm in order to give our marvelous moderators a proper break.  As always, we are vey grateful for the time and expertise that our small band of moderators give entirely for free.
Thanks to all of our members who send us their stories on the forum or by e-mail. It gives encouragement to others who are struggling to meet all of the demands of illness and distress when battling the complex and difficult benefits system. Here are some more good news stories:

DLA renewed until March 2016
“Thanks to using the invaluable detailed guides, I've been re awarded HRM and MRC until March 2016, with no medical this time.”

From IB to ESA, placed in the support group, prognosis 3 years
“The site has been invaluable and helped me to both understand the horribly complicated benefit structure (kind of) and to organise information so that I could accurately convey how my life is affected by my condition.”

Straight into the Support Group with no medical on reassessment
“This time I had read a lot of the information on this site and know without a doubt that is what made the difference because my health is not any different from before.”

Higher rate care and Lower rate mobility until 02/12/2018
“Thank you B&W so much and I will definitely continuing membership as I'm sure when the time comes to sort out ESA and the change to PIP in a few years your guides will be just as valuable then.”

ESA Support Group for 3 years
“Can't thank the people on this site enough, with the help of the guides and a letter from my GP I have now been awarded ESA in the support group till Oct 2016”

Won appeal thanks to your guides
“Thanks to the guides I successfully represented my daughter at her tribunal and she won her appeal for ESA work related”

IB to ESA for three years
“Just wanted to say a massive thank you, IB to ESA for three years, filled in all the forms back in June and have worried ever since, could not have done it without all your information.
I am sure many people would qualify if only they knew how to approach the ridiculous questions that the forms ask” 

Support Group without medical
“I am in the support group without having to have another medical!! thank you benefits & work for the help in filling out the dreaded form!. I cannot hold a pen long enough to complete said form and filled it in on line using your guide lines this time”

DLA decision overturned
“I purchased this membership and followed it to the letter and today she has been reinstated at a higher level for 4 years to higher care and lower mobility, after being told she wasn't entitled to anything!!!!!”

Placed in the Support Group following a medical
“Thank you All for your help!”

Placed in the Support Group
“I received a letter on Saturday to say I had been put in the support group after sending the form for my transfer from ib. I found out this morning it is for 3 years. It took 21 weeks from the first letter to the decision. I want to thank you all as I have been reading the forum and guides for a long time in readiness for the form and know that it helped me present the evidence in a better way than I would have done.”

“I just wanted to thank you for your wonderful guides, which helped me to fully understand the whole ESA assessment process, how to fill in the form properly and what was behind so many misleading questions.”
Sandra via email

“My assessment process lasted exactly 7 months, including a medical where I broke down in tears, from the incredible stress that I have been under. After years of anxiety, I have been placed in the Support Group and I feel that I can finally start living my life again.
Thank you for all the wonderful help that your website provides, it provides crucial help for the many sick and disabled people subjected to this cruel process.”
Paul via email

“In the last few days I received a letter (dreaded brown envelope)...just one day after my 48th Birthday. I have been placed in the support group without a medical. In March 2012 I was on the sick and claiming E.S.A, by December of that year I was claiming J.S.A until March 2013. Just 3 weeks later the Atos questionnaire arrived and cannot thank Benefits and Work enough. Previously be denied E.S.A and D.L.A appealed, and lost both claims even though I am affected daily by the fibromyalgia . Had £1000 deposited in my bank that very day. Speechless, but did feel a little deflated, because it has been a difficult and long journey.
I can now have my heating on a little longer and pay the bedroom tax.I feel I have won the Lottery !
It is now over 18 months that I had been dismissed from employment because of my absence level.
Thank you Benefits and Work!”
Robbie via email

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Good luck, happy Christmas and all the very best for the New Year,

Karen Sharpe and Sangeeta Enright

Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No. 5962666



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