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Free, fortnightly PIP, ESA and UC Updates

Our fortnightly bulletin, with over 80,000 subscribers, is the UK's leading source of benefits news. Find out what's changing, how it affects you and how to prepare. Our mailing list is securely managed by icontact in the US.

PIP TRAINING
There are places available on our April PIP training dates in Bristol, Birmingham and Leeds but London is now fully booked.  However,  we’re taking bookings for another London PIP course on  27 June.

More about PIP training here.

UNIVERSAL CREDIT TRAINING
Although we don’t cover universal credit on the site, we’ve had a number of request for universal credit training, so we’re running our first course in Bristol on 20 June, to be followed by more in the Autumn.

More about universal credit training here.


Sanction A Claimant and Win An Easter Egg –DWP Hits Sick New Low

Dear [fname],

In this edition, as the scandal of targets – and even Easter egg prizes - for sanctioning JSA claimants  unfolds, we warn that the same tactics will soon be aimed at ESA claimants challenging a decision they are fit for work.  

Staying with appeals, we have news of 145 vacancies for disabled members on DLA and PIP tribunals at a rate of £145 a day.  Plus, we look at one website that is urging victims to use the appeals system to fight back against the bedroom tax, due to begin next month.

We also have the truly pathetic reason why ministers are refusing to meet disabled campaigners, links to the new PIP and universal credit decision makers guidance plus much more news in the members area.

MONEY OFF ANNUAL SUBSCRIPTION - 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 £3.50 off the cost of your annual subscription. Just type the following code into the coupon box when you pay:

65638

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

CHOCOLATE EGG PRIZES FOR STOPPING CLAIMANTS BENEFITS
The news about benefit sanctions is increasingly grim.  First, we learn that Labour joined with the coalition in approving fast-track, retrospective legislation (external link) that prevents people on workfare who were illegally sanctioned getting their illegally sanctioned benefits repaid.

Now, whilst ministers continue to deny it, there is incontrovertible proof that Jobcentre Plus staff are being told they must sanction 5% of JSA claimants or face disciplinary action.  One office has allegedly even offered Easter egg prizes (external link) to the team which sanctions the most claimants.

A leaked letter from Walthamstow Jobcentre (external link) warns staff they will be disciplined if they don’t  move their Jobcentre up the sanctions league table by sanctioning 5% of JSA claimants.  The letter gives handy hints and tips on how to catch claimants out,  including targeting claimants who have shared child custody  arrangements.  It also explains how to get ‘an easy win’:

‘An easy win is a JSD [jobseekers direction].  Set one, if the customer doesn’t comply then action the direction!’

It’s hard not to wonder whether the DWP, as an institution, even sees claimants as entirely human anymore.  Stopping people’s benefits for between 13 weeks and three years has a devastating effect on claimants’ lives and potentially on the wellbeing of small children and disabled dependents as well.  For some people, unfair benefits decisions are the last straw that moves them to take their own lives.

To turn sanctions into a game with chocolate for prizes or to threaten staff with disciplinary action if they don’t meet targets – as if they were selling double glazing rather than destroying lives – is astonishingly cruel and has nothing to do with helping people find work.

When compulsory reconsideration before appeals begins, pretty much every ESA claimant who is found capable of work and wants to appeal will be forced to claim JSA or starve.  We know that around 40% of those who appeal will win, and that a large proportion will be so severely sick or disabled that they will be placed straight into the support group.  But before that they may prove very easy targets for the JSA sanctions regime and some of may not survive the experience.

Labour claim that they supported the retrospective legislation for workfare victims in return for getting an inquiry into sanctions, including targets.  As it turns out, there will be an inquiry into sanctions (external link) but it will not look at the use of targets and it will take a year to report back.   

Meanwhile, the head of Jobcentre Plus has already said, before the inquiry even begins, that he believes that the Walthamstow letter was an isolated one, despite the increasing evidence that this is not the case – including a Jobcentre Plus newsletter from Malvern (external link) also threatening disciplinary action if staff don’t meet 5% sanctions targets.

How many claimants believe for a moment that an inquiry will get to the truth or make the tiniest scrap of difference?  And how many claimants will continue to suffer hardship and even death as a result of this vicious regime?

You can read the leaked letter that began the scandal on the Labour list website (external link)

TRIBUNAL APPOINTMENTS
The Tribunals Service has finally begun recruiting 145 Disability members for first-tier DLA and PIP tribunals in preparation for the expected surge in appeals once PIP starts to bite.  The posts pay £145 a day and appointments last for 5 years.  You will need to be prepared to work a minimum of 30 days a year, but there will be the opportunity for ‘significantly more work’.

According to the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC):

“You do not need to be legally qualified. You will need to be experienced in dealing with the physical or mental needs of people with disabilities through working with them in a professional or voluntary capacity, as a carer or because you have disabilities.”

The closing date for applications is 15 April.

Full details and a downloadable application form are available from the JAC website.

UNSPEAKABLE SPARTACUS
Coalition ministers are being ridiculed for refusing to speak to the unfunded but highly effective disability rights campaigning group, Spartacus.

Ministers claim they will not meet with the campaigners because – essentially – they’ve been mean about DWP policies.  Ministers have taken particular exception to the following quote from the foreword of a Spartacus report in which  the work capability assessment was compared to:

“the medical tribunals that returned shell shocked and badly wounded soldiers to duty in the first world war or the ‘KV-machine’, the medical commission the Nazis used in the second world war to play down wounds so that soldiers could be reclassified ‘fit for the Eastern front’”

After the revolting revelation that DWP staff get Easter eggs for forcing claimants into poverty and potentially suicide, why would anyone find this comparison at all surprising, let alone objectionable?

Members can read more and comment here.

You can read the reaction from We Are Spartacus here. (external link)

BEDROOM TAX
If you are going to be subject to the bedroom tax, then a site well worth visiting is SPeye, run by Joe Halewood, Director of Consultancy Services at Housing Support Management  who say they have advised over 200 supported housing providers across England and Scotland since 2000.

Joe has written a great deal about the bedroom tax and how to challenge it on his blog.  In this post ‘Bedroom Tax – How to get rid of it quickly and simply', he explains what chaos would be caused if everyone affected used his sample letter to challenge the bedroom tax decision in their case.

ADVICE FOR DECISION MAKING
The DWP have published the guidance to be used by decision makers for PIP and universal credit, as well as ‘new-style’ contribution-based JSA and ESA.

The new guides are called ‘Advice for Decision Making’ to distinguish them from the ‘Decision Makers Guide’ which will continue to be used for other benefits.

You can download ADM from this link.

MORE NEWS IN MEMBERS AREA
There’s lots more news in the members area, including:

Motability’s new driver rules ‘could breach Equality Act’

Disability hate crime has been ‘left behind’ by the criminal justice system

Chancellor eyes up welfare for fresh cuts

Wheelchair-user to join Jarrow marchers on 300-mile trek to Westminster

Christiansen adds her voice to DLA transport fears

McVey refuses to apologise after ‘misleading’ MPs on ‘bedroom tax’

IDS drops housing benefit appeal but claims: ‘This is no climb-down’

Number 10 denies Cameron misled MPs on DLA spending

GOOD NEWS FROM THE FORUM – OPEN ACCESS LINKS
We know how much feedback from other members means to people who get this newsletter, so please do keep your good luck stories coming.

DLA Middle rate care and low rate mobility
“Many thanks for all the excellent advice and guidance.”

Support group before appeal
“without the B&W site life would be so much harder.”

Support group without medical
“Thank you very much for your help.”

Support group after going to appeal
“I have just returned from the appeal court and been put into the support group.”

From WRAG to support group on appeal
“well worth the small subscription fee which I am always happy to pay”

Support group
“Thank you for all the help and advice”

WRAG to support group on appeal
“I couldn't have done it without all the fantastic advice and guides on this website.”

DLA higher rate
“I recently won my appeal! Absolutely no chance without your guide.”

ESA support group without medical
“Thank you to everyone that gave me advice”

IB to ESA support group
“So thank you again.”

DLA high rate mobility and middle rate care IB to ESA without a medical
“follow the guides on this web site and you will get the right result.”

Placed in support group
“thank you very much”

WRAG to support group on appeal
“Thanks to all the help from Benefits and work.”

Join the Benefits and Work community now (open access) and discover what a difference we can make.

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

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No. 5962666