WEBSITE SUPPORT CONTRACT
Because of our ever increasing workload, an opportunity has now arisen for an advice agency or similar to provide professional support to the Benefits and Work website. We’re looking for both administrative support and support with writing and updating news and welfare benefits materials. The proven ability to write easily understood and engaging texts and to work to tight deadlines is essential. Expressions of interest are particularly welcomed from existing professional members of Benefits and Work. Please email from your agency’s email address for additional information.
My apologies for this very early newsletter. It’s coming out now to allow us to do work on the site later this week. From the next edition onwards the newsletter will come out every second Tuesday rather than every second Thursday.
£3.50 OFF AN 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 via PayPal:
Find out how to subscribe now. (Open access)
Successful migration from IB to ESA Support Group, no medical assessment
“cannot thank you enough for the invaluable support you give with your guides and advice long may you continue”
DWP CORRUPTION AND OFFICIAL SECRETS
An eagle eyed campaigner has discovered that staff at Quarry House have been buying up domain names featuring the words ‘DWP’ and ‘corruption’ (Members only) since 2007, including www.dwpcorruption.com , www.dwpcorruption.org.uk and www.dwpcorruption.net. They were much too late to get the .co.uk version however. This has belonged to one John Richard Jones since February 2006.
We’d be fascinated to hear from anyone who has registered other domain likely to cause panic domain name buying at the DWP.
Meanwhile, the Guardian has revealed that Atos health professionals are obliged to sign the official secrets act (External link) before beginning work for the company, Atos claims that it is following best practice in obliging all staff to sign the same set of documents if they handle confidential information. One doctor working for Atos, however, says that the use of the act may discourage health professionals from raising matters of public concern because of the "threat of sinister, treason-like charges".
FINAL DASH FOR SUPPORT GROUP
The next seven days are likely to be extraordinarily busy ones for DWP decision makers, with the time-limiting of contribution–based employment and support allowance (ESA) coming into force after 30 April. An unprecedented number of supersession requests are likely to be made as contribution-based ESA claimants who have spent a year or more in the work-related activity apply to have their claims looked at again in an effort to be moved into the support group, where time-limiting does not apply.
The result of so many requests to have awards looked at again is also likely to lead to a spike in the number of ESA appeals lodged. According to figures released by the DWP (Members only) ESA appeals are already running at a rate of over 170,000 a year, at a cost to the taxpayer of over £42 million.
LEGAL AID TO END
It is looking increasingly likely that legal aid for most welfare benefits issues is to end.
As was widely predicted, the coalition have overturned a House of Lords amendment (Members only) to the Legal Aid bill which would have reinstated legal aid for welfare benefits. Equally unsurprisingly, they have used the ‘financial privilege’ convention in an effort to try to prevent the Lords reinstating the amendment.
There will be a few small exceptions where legal aid will still be available for benefits, but the effect will be to make it very much harder to get free advice from advice agencies and law centres once the changes are introduced in April 2013.
RECORDING DLA MEDICALS
Chris Grayling, minister for employment, has confirmed in a letter to a member’s MP (Members only) that claimants having DLA medicals at a medical examination centre can ask to have them recorded for free in the same way that ESA claimants can. We’ve published a copy of the letter, minus the House of Commons emblem, in the members area in case you wish to download it and include it with your request.
In response to a separate freedom of information request the DWP have also finally admitted that secretly recording your medical is not against the law (External link). In the past they have always darkly hinted that such recordings may lead to legal repercussions. However, there is still the danger that the medical may be ended if the health professional discovers they are being recorded.
TRAFFIC HALTED AGAIN
Disabled claimants protesting about welfare reforms have once again brought traffic in central London to a halt (Members only) by chaining their wheelchairs across main roads, this time around Trafalgar Square. The protest was led by Disabled People Against Cuts and UK Uncut and lasted for several hours. More actions are planned.
ESA APPEAL VICTORY
There’s an interesting thread in Rightsnet started by NORCAS, an addiction charity in Norwich. They successfully argued at a tribunal that their client was entitled to the work-related activity component (WRAC) from the 13th week of their ESA claim simply because ATOS had not yet carried out a medical assessment. (External link) The tribunal agreed that the claimant should continue to receive the WRAC until the decision maker makes a decision on the claim. The DWP have confirmed that they are not intending to appeal against the decision. Given the number of claimants who are having to wait far beyond 13 weeks for a medical, the principle could be an important one, though it is not without its detractors on Rightsnet.
There’s more news in the members area (members only) than we can fit into this newsletter.
Many thanks to everyone who has sent in news stories over the last fortnight, including: Beverley Hymers, John Pring, Jim Allison, papasmurf, Crazydiamond.
GOOD NEWS FROM THE FORUM – OPEN ACCESS LINKS
Finally, as always, a selection of good news from the forum:
0 to 28 points at ESA appeal
“Thanks to your succinct guides and quick helpful answers from Gordon”
DLA success, high rate mobility and low rate care awarded
“Just thought i would say a big thank you to this site”
Successful claims for DLA and ESA, high rates of both mobility and care awarded for DLA and placed in ESA Support Group
“Thank you to all here for helping me understand the questions on ESA and DLA.”
ESA Support Group without medical assessment, and DLA high rate mobility and middle rate care awarded indefinitely
Placed in ESA Support Group
"Thanks so much to Benefits and Work and the moderators on this forum"
IB to ESA Work-related Activity Group without medical
“Thank you for much for your great and very helpful website - £20 very well spent.”
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