ESA Support Group without medical and high rate care and high rate mobility DLA
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Who is opening your confidential mail plus claimants mocked

In this edition of the Benefits and Work newsletter we have news of Royal Mail staff opening your confidential claim forms and medical evidence, we reveal that an advertising agency brochure apparently mocking sick and disabled claimants is being nominated for an award, plus we highlight the postcode lottery for appeals success and how Atos can make mistakes for free whilst claimants will soon be charged £50 for innocent errors.

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:


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

The Independent newspaper is reporting that Royal Mail staff are opening confidential  letters under contract to the DWP without the knowledge of claimants, many of whom are now outraged at what appears to be a blatant breach of confidentiality.  

The mail includes ESA50 claim forms which may contain details of ongoing  health problems, previous abuse which has led to mental health issues, current medication regimes and many other  extremely personal details.

You can read more in the Independent (external link) and Benefits and Work members can comment here.

There’s increasing evidence of the witch hunt against claimants by the media and the effect it is having.  

Disability Rights UK have released the results of a survey (external link) in which over three quarters of participants could cite negative press articles about disabled people but only a third a positive story. 91% of participants said there was a link between negative press portrayal of disabled people and rising hostility/hate crime.

It’s not just national newspapers either.  The Disability News Service (members only) is carrying a story about a Cornish local paper, the Helston News and Advertiser, which has mounted successive attacks on disabled claimants.  The most recent told users of Motability vehicles that they should “​hang their heads in shame”​ in comparison with medal-winning Paralympians.  

But perhaps most disturbing of all is the advertising agency Iris, which received millions of pounds of taxpayers money to launch employment and support allowance and for designing the mascot for the Paralympics but has now published a company benefits brochure which appears to mock sick and disabled claimants.  

The brochure, ‘Iris on Benefits’ advertises the benefits provided to company employees, including: yoga and massage, a fitness instructor, private healthcare and 50% pay for up to five years if you are off sick.  

Extremely well paid Iris employees dressed up as tabloid stereotypes of benefits claimants to do a photo-shoot for the brochure.  

The maternity cover page depicts a pregnant woman smoking.  The sickness cover page shows two men in football shirts and a woman drinking pints at a bar. The pensions page is an image of two youths racing motability scooters. The childcare page shows a toddler – the art director’s own child – in a dingy pub drinking from a can whilst her father stands at the bar reading the paper and drinking a pint.  This particular image has been shortlisted for an award and will be exhibited in London.

Accompanying text includes the following:

“We’re iris, and we’re family. We’re a tight-knit bunch, holding our own on the mean streets of Southwark. We look out for each other, ‘cause what’s more important than family? Benefits, that’s what. Free stuff. Cheap stuff. Serious stuff. Fun stuff. As one of us, you’re entitled to it. Have you earned it? Probably not. But listen, if there’s free stuff going begging, then you’d be a fool not to grab it, right? We’re just saying."

The full set of images can be viewed on the art director’s own website (external link).

Iris themselves are on Facebook (external link) where they have apparently been busy deleting large numbers of comments.

It’s hardly surprising then, with such negative stereotyping of claimants, that reported hate crimes against disabled people (external link) were up one third in 2011 compared to the year before.


It seems that where you live can have a dramatic effect on whether your ESA or DLA appeal succeeds.

In 2011-2012, success at DLA appeals ranged from 43% in Coventry to just  24% in Kidderminster. For ESA appeals, whilst only 32% of claimants succeeded at appeals in Birmingham, at Worcester 43% of appeals were decided in claimants’​ favour.

There’s more details for members here.  


Staying with appeals, the DWP’s own statistics reveal that  20% of all Atos decisions between 2008 and 2011 that someone was capable of work were overturned, either by DWP decision makers or by tribunals.  

That’s one in five decisions that are wrong (members only) and a significant proportion of those were claimants who were eventually found to be eligible for the support group.  

 But whilst Atos take hundreds of millions of pounds from the taxpayer and suffer no penalty whatsoever for making errors, from 1 October claimants on poverty incomes who make entirely innocent mistakes in a benefits claim will be subject to a £50 fine on top of having to repay any overpayment.

Members can read more about the civil penalties here.

Astonishingly, even Professor Sir Mansel Aylward, one of the founders of the ‘biopsychosocial model’ on which the work capability assessment and the personal independence payment assessment are supposedly based, is now having doubts.  

The professor told protestors who ambushed him outside a conference that he now found the model “​unsatisf​actory”​ and believed it “​no longer addresses the real needs of disabled people and the exclusion of disabled people from society”​.  He’s even promised to look into the WCA and speak out if he considers it unsatisfactory.

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,.

Finally, after all the gloom, a few cheery posts from the forum to end on:

Placed in ESA Support Group without medical assessment
“I would like to thank this site for being so informative.”

Moved from IB to ESA WRAG without medical

“Many thanks to B & W”

Moved from ESA WRAG to Support Group after request for reconsideration
“would not think of even doing this without the help and advice your site gave me x
thank you and lots of hugs”

DLA high rate mobility and low rate care awarded at appeal tribunal
“i can't explain the difference this will make to my life and without help from all you lovely lot i absolutely would not have achieved this”

Successful ESA appeal, moved from WRAG to Support Group, DLA also successfully renewed
“without the guides from this website I wouldn't know how to complete the form. So thank you very much!”

Placed in ESA Support Group without need for medical assessment

“Many thanks and profound gratitude to the Moderators, Guides writers and compilers at B&W for all their wonderful help.”

Placed in ESA Support Group
“thank you so much to everyone for your help and advice.”

From 0 points at medical to Support Group at tribunal
“It has helped to read others successes and to find all the help and guidance on this site”

Placed in ESA Support Group after appealing decision to place in WRAG
“Thanks to the forum for your help and support.”

Placed in ESA WRAG without medical
“I came running straight to benefits and work for the brilliant guides and supports”

Success at ESA appeal, moved from WRAG to Support Group
“I sincerely would like to thank B&W site and mods for helping me get through my appeal.”

Moved from ESA WRAG to Support Group after requesting reconsideration and appeal
“This website is invaluable”

Migrated from IB to ESA Support Group two weeks after requesting appeal
“Many thanks to all of you at Benefits and Work. Your guides were essential.”

Successful ESA appeal, placed in Support Group
“Thank you for all your help its a great website”

Placed in ESA WRAG for 12 months
“Thank you, B&W - the site has saved me from overwhelming levels of stress and aggravation.”

Join the Benefits and Work community now and discover what a difference it can make.

You are welcome to reproduce this newsletter on your blog, website, forum or newsletter provided it is properly attributed to

You can also read this newsletter online (open access).

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No.  5962666

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