With the start of the forced removal of claimants from incapacity benefit just weeks away, the DWP are still maintaining a fog of secrecy and  conflicting information about the process.

For example, details of the revised ESA50 forms are being kept secret, along with information about whether the new, even harsher medical test will have been introduced in time for the beginning of the migration process. (Members only)

What we do know for sure, however, is that exempt claimants and those who have not been assessed for years will be near the front of the queue when the transfer from IB does begin.  (Members only)

And we also know that, in another broken promise to sick and disabled claimants, incapacity benefit linking rules will be scrapped at the end of January.  After that date, IB claimants brave enough to have attempted – or to be about to attempt - a return to work will not have their former benefits protected in any way.

Not surprisingly, along with the IB migration, benefits cuts continue to make the news. The latest victim of the cuts, Birmingham Tribunal Unit, is very likely to close at the end of March, just as its excellent services will be most needed. Many other advice agencies are facing a bleak or much foreshortened future.

Not that the coalition are having it all their own way.  Protests against the cuts are beginning to gather pace.  A number of demonstrations are happening on 24 January around the UK - we gave details of these in our special protests newsletter last week.

There’s also a national demonstration against the cuts on 26 March in London.

Meanwhile, the BBC have been covering a story that cuts to benefits may breach claimant’s human rights.  But at this stage it’s unclear who might be willing – and able - to take such a case forward and whether it would provide any relief to claimants in the next few years.

In addition, the Disability Benefits Consortium have produced a report challenging the coalition’s justification for cutting DLA mobility component for people in residential care.  Mencap are organising a lobby of parliament on 9 February and asking supporters to arrange to meet their MP at Westminster on that date.

Mencap, along with Mind and the National Autistic Society, are also one of the organisations behind proposals to change the mental health test of the work capability assessment.  These have been prepared at the request of Professor Harrington.  But would the proposals actually mean claimants would be worse off?  (Members only)

Sadlly, Mencap and Mind are also part of the consortium bidding to become sub-contractors to whoever gets the multi-million pound contracts to push sick and disabled claimants into work. We asked Mind if they would be prepared to work with companies like Atos, A4E and G4S security guards and whether they would assist in imposing sanctions on claimants, including those with mental health problems.  Find out how they replied. (Members only)

Finally, we haven’t had time to go through the forum looking for good news before getting this newsletter out.  But we have managed to compile a quick collection of some of the feedback emails we’ve received from members.

Good luck,

Steve Donnison


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