In this newsletter we reveal that although many thousands of adults will make a renewal claim for DLA over the coming months, not one of them will have to fear a visit from an Atos health professional – nor will most children. We also learn that the much despised multinational managed to avoid paying a single penny in UK corporation tax last year, in spite of taking billions of pounds of taxpayers money.

Plus we have the news that the DWP have been fiddling the figures about how many ESA decisions they – with a little help from Atos – get wrong.

We also say thank you for all your tips on taping DWP telephone calls and ask you for your experiences of benefits sanctions, as we begin work on a guide to claiming JSA during your mandatory reconsideration.

Plus, we get a friendly warning on Twitter about the risks involved in upsetting the DWP.

And, finally, we have offers of 20% off membership and a huge 33% off PIP training -if you’re quick.

If you’re not already a member, join the Benefits and Work community before midnight on Friday and you can get 20% off the cost of your annual subscription. Just type the following code into the coupon box when you pay: 4247

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.

In the last newsletter we revealed that Atos are not carrying out any DLA to PIP assessments this year, only Capita’s contract is going ahead. The result is that whilst adult DLA claimants in Wales and central England will soon have to make a claim for PIP when their fixed term award ends, in the rest of England and Scotland DLA renewals will take place as usual. (See our PIP timetable for full details).

Or rather, not quite as usual. Because Atos have now stopped doing almost all DLA medicals for adults. Only terminally ill claimants and a small number of children’s claims will be covered by Atos.

The DWP insist that the withdrawal of the Atos doctors will not damage the quality of DLA decisions because decision-makers can use information "from a variety of sources" including the claim form and GP reports. This prompted one Benefits and Work member to comment, not unreasonably:

“ In that case what the ???? have they being paying Atos for all these years?”

Meanwhile, the Disability Benefits Consortium has warned that more than 50,000 disabled people could lose their jobs as a result of the transfer from DLA to PIP . Their estimate is based on the number of people who say they rely on their DLA to allow them to stay in work and the number who the government estimate are likely to lose some, or all of their DLA when they are forced to claim PIP.

"Exceptionally good trainer and great course content" Sheila Stringer, DIAL NW Kent
"Very useful and I have learned a lot." Laura Skorupa, British Polio Fellowship.
"Overall a really interesting, educative day - facilitator a brilliant communicator" Ryan Lodge, West Leicestershire MIND
"Very helpful and well presented." Karin Gray, Scope.

Find out more about our PIP training or:

Download a PIP training booking form for Birmingham 3 December 2013

Download a PIP training booking form for London 4 December 2013

Sheila Gilmore MP has revealed that the number of sick and disabled people wrongly declared capable of work could be far higher than previously thought. This follows a letter from Tory Work and Pensions Minister Esther McVey in which she admitted figures are ‘not clear’ and promised to ‘ensure greater clarity in future’.

It seems the DWP have been claiming that around 10% of decisions were wrong. But they had only been including decisions overturned once a claimant went to appeal whilst ignoring all those decisions overturned at the reconsideration stage. So, the true number of wrong decisions may be very much higher.

In our last newsletter we asked for your experiences of recording DWP phone calls as we continue to update our guide to ESA mandatory reconsiderations, a process which includes a phone call from the decision maker.

Many thanks to all of you who left comments. We learnt about a wide range of techniques from putting the phone on speakerphone and recording with an old Dictaphone to using Audacity software, cheap USB digital recorders, Watsonlinc, Call Recorder Android app and more.

We’ll be incorporating some of the information into the next update of our guide to EA mandatory reconsiderations.

Meanwhile, we’d be very interested to hear from members who have been threatened with, or suffered, sanctions whilst claiming JSA or ESA. The regime is now so harsh that even the Daily Express is protesting.

We’ve already had some submissions via our Facebook page, including one from someone caring for their son who has Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD. The son did not fully understand the instructions for setting up and using a Universal Jobmatch online account, although he and his carer did their best to muddle through. When he returned to the Jobcentre and tried to explain his difficulties he was given a 4 week sanction, although it was actually 8 weeks before he received another payment.

We don’t want our members to be caught unprepared for the vicious sanctions regime if they are forced to claim JSA. We’re determined to give you the best possible information and advice about:

how to avoid sanctions;
how to challenge a sanction if you’re threatened with or receive one;
how to use discrimination legislation and legal aid to fight back against unjust sanctions.

Any sanctions experiences you can share with us will be greatly valued.

We confess that we were a little shocked to discover that Atos got £2 billion from the taxpayer last year but managed to avoid paying even a penny in tax because, it claims, of ‘significant investment in the UK to maintain our business here as well as pension contributions.’

Well, the significant investment certainly wasn’t in ensuring that all medical examination centres are accessible for people in wheelchairs, or in in providing audio recorders for WCA medicals in every centre, or in employing a large number of health professionals with expert knowledge of mental health or . . . well the list is a long one.

We can only assume that the pension scheme must be eye-wateringly wonderful.

Mind has collaborated with the Centre for Welfare Reform and sick and disabled people to produce a survey of your experiences of the back-to-work support you receive as a condition of getting ESA, either via the Work Programme or Jobcentre Plus.

The survey asks about the quality of help you’re offered and how you feel about the “work-related activity” you are told to do. It asks about what things help or get in the way when you are on one of these government programmes.

Please complete the survey if this affects you. Your evidence will help build a case to make ESA fairer and more effective for people with illnesses and disabilities.

Meanwhile, a UN human rights expert is to visit London later this month to hear first-hand testimony from disabled people about the impact of government cuts and reforms on their lives.

Shuaib Chalklen, the UN's special rapporteur on disability - whose job is to monitor progress around the world towards equal opportunities - will hear the evidence at an event in north London on 25 November.

Disabled people will be able to tell him their personal stories of how they have been affected by the government's austerity measures, including cuts and reforms to social care and social security.

We’re continuing to keep people who follow us on Twitter informed about benefits, often tweeting information and links that don’t make it onto the news pages of the site.

We also receive some fascinating tweets, such as the tweet from @JessicaPage9 warning us to be

‘careful what you say about the #bedroomtax... the DWP might come and get you!!!!’

There’s a link to a post by Mike Sivier in which he reveals that a campaigner for Disabled People Against Cuts was visited by the police because she has been highlighting the deaths of sick and disabled people following assessment for ESA. And she’s not alone in getting a tap on the shoulder for upsetting the DWP, it seems.

Creative Seed, who voluntarily run our Facebook page for us want you to know that:

Our page membership reached 7700 this week. At 8000 we will be posting details of a chance to win a free Benefits and Work subscription. In addition, Creative Seed Studio will be giving some of their exhibition fine art prints, signed by the artists.

So watch our Facebook page for details as we approach the 8000 "Likes" .

We also wanted to thank and celebrate with one of our page "Likers", Brigitte.

Brigitte has commented regularly on the page from day one and recently posted that she had finally been offered housing to suit her considerable needs. We, and many others who use the page, know this has been a very difficult and hard fought battle for Brigitte, who has now moved into a bungalow in her village where she can live more independently. Here's to you Brigitte, you have been an inspiration to many. Thank you again for all the helpful and supportive comments you make on the page.

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

Paralympics champion Sophie Christiansen facing disability benefit cuts

McVey resists resignation calls after ILF court defeat (members only)

DWP ignores whistle-blowers' claims on criminal records (members only)

Couple's despair at welfare payment delays

Labour MP Slams The ‘Harsh’ Use Of Benefit Sanctions As ‘Brutalising’ The Poor.

Independent Review of Jobseekers Allowance sanctions

High-rate 0845 phone tariffs for government services 'inappropriate'

This week we have feedback from the forum and email feedback to share with you. Please do keep your feedback coming – it means a great deal to us and to the thousands of people who click on these links every fortnight for a small injection of optimism.

Support Group On Appeal and PIP Awarded
“ Having read on here and prepared for tribunal with all the info gathered I won I have no doubt this would have not been as well managed if I hadn't prepared with all your information and guidance.
I won my appeal placed in support group went from 0 points to 15.. even better had PIP forms come and sent them off last week ..less than one week later had a response to say PIP will be paid for a further 2 years”

Support Group On Appeal
“I wanted to let you know that your advice has worked - I won my appeal!
Thank you for everything, I couldn't have done it without your reply and I'm very grateful to you.”

Appeal won
“husbands appeal was today…the best thing about it is he WON and they have placed him into the Support Group not to be reassessed for 2 years.
So many thanks for all the info and help on this site as I would have not been able to help him without you”

IB to ESA Support Group
“I have just been transferred from Incapacity Benefit to the ESA Support Group and like many others would like to thank you for your excellent guides.”

Success WRAG to Support Group
“DO DO keep going if you feel from the information on the forum you have a case. it can be done and a MASSIVE thank you for all the support the team have given me it has been fantastic.”

Tribunal moved me from Work related activity group to the support group
“Thank you to all at B&W for the work put in to compiling all the information on your site. This has proved to be of immense value to me, as I’m sure it has been to many other people.”

Awarded low care and low mobility by the Tribunal
“Thank you so much because if it were not for you guys, I would not have been as prepared as I was for the tribunal, for the questioning or for the guidance on answers.”

Transfer from IB to ESA Support Group
“Just received the above transfer. Would never have gone so smoothly without your guides and explanations. A very worthwhile membership fee, thank you.”

Put in the Support Group by Tribunal and Awarded PIP
“it took 3 years and an appeal and another tribunal to go through before I was given my ESA and put in the support group . It took me since June this year to be awarded PIP. You have to carry on and challenge these people. All thanks to this site and the help of my local CAB without the advice on here I would have given up so a big big thank you to you and I really do hope many people join up.”

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

Good luck,

Steve Donnison
Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No. 5962666


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