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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has denied the existence of a “Catch-22” situation that could affect thousands of disabled people unfairly found “fit for work” following an assessment by its contractors Atos Healthcare.

{EMBOT SUBSCRIPTION=5,6}From next month, those found ineligible for employment and support allowance (ESA) – the new out-of-work disability and sickness benefit – will have to go through an extra stage before they can lodge an appeal with the tribunals service.

During this “mandatory reconsideration” stage – which will see a DWP officer looking again at the claim to see if the original decision was correct – the claimant will no longer be entitled to receive ESA.

Currently, claimants can continue to receive ESA while they appeal, but from next month they will instead have to claim jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), or survive without any benefits.

Campaigners say that this creates a Catch-22 situation, because by claiming JSA they will have to declare they are fit and available for work, even though they believe they are not.

They will only be able to claim ESA again – at the lower assessment rate – once mandatory reconsideration is over, if they need to lodge an appeal.

A DWP spokesman said: “This is not a Catch-22 situation. At the point a claimant claims JSA they are fit for work – that was the effect of the decision which ended the ESA entitlement.”

He insisted that any disabled person claiming JSA during the mandatory reconsideration process “would not be compromised” by that action.

He added: “If the mandatory reconsideration is unsuccessful and the claimant appeals then the law says that they can be treated as not fit for work pending the appeal being heard. At that point the claimant can choose to return to ESA under this law or remain on JSA.”

The spokesman said there was no time limit for completion of the mandatory reconsideration process, although “each application will be done without delay”.

He said: “Some will be done in days; others where the claimant wishes to provide more evidence may take longer, as the law says we must allow a month for evidence to be provided.

“We intend to closely monitor the situation for the first six months and review the process accordingly.”

But Linda Burnip, a co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, said the rules would leave many disabled people who were not currently “fit for work” without benefits, because they would not be allowed to claim JSA if they told the DWP they were unable to work.

Even if they did manage to claim JSA, they would be likely to face sanctions if they could not meet the tough conditions set down for claimants.

She said: “There is going to be this big black hole that people will disappear into, from what I can see.”

DWP also apologised this week after a mistake in a Freedom of Information Act response suggested that the introduction of mandatory reconsideration for ESA had been postponed until October 2014.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Comments  

#7 Londongirl 2013-10-04 11:40
Unless you have some cash reserves, living if you are not eligible for housing benefit and council tax benefit and any other benefits out there is going to exceptionally hard. These people have not got a clue as to what life is like as someone who has a disability. Do they think we like being disabled? People like that bloke in Costa Del Sol who has fraudulently taken 120,000 from the benefit systems. That is why we are being hounded because of people like that, totally disgusting.

Zektor I think as barbaric as it was with Hitlers activities at least the disabled didn't go through the humiliation and degrading tactics that this country is bestowing on genuine disabled people, many of whom have to live their daily lives in excruciating pains which the assessors would not probably endure for five minutes, yet we are expected to go to work with. Disgusting and disgusting that many assessors are not even in the medical profession and therefore does not have any specialist knowledge on the many conditions that they are being asked to pass judgement on. Where is the Human Rights in all this. Disgusting absolutely disgusting and for it all to be happening on the watch of a Prime Minister who had a disabled child.
#6 Darthy 2013-09-18 10:22
Married People waiting for an ESA appeal following a failed WCA can currently claim Assessment Rate ESA. So at least they have some money coming in to keep them a float. If they go and sign on (setting aside all the sanctions for not being able to look for work etc) and are married and the partner is earning over the 'applicable amount' (think this is about £112 p/c/w) then it’s my understanding that they won’t receive any JSA anyway. However it is also my understanding that they may have to drag themselves up the JC+ to still sign on as fit for work just to ensure there is no break in their NI credits.

It’s a complete bloody farce and the Government, DWP and JCP staff know it. It’s about stripping people of the pittance they live on.

I went through this hell for a little under a year and a half approx, with my ESA AR eventually being stopped after the 365 day rule. My wife only works part time but earns just over the applicable amount ergo NO ESA AR for four months. That’s a hell of a long time to struggle to survive with three kids on a very reduced income. Thankfully I won my appeal and went from 0 points to two years in the support group following a succinct 10 minute hearing by a senior judge with regard to poor mobility and pain. He ruled the HCP’s advice contained ‘significant inaccuracies’.

However ironically at the hearing I was informed by the judge that the DWP decided I had earned a place in the WRAG group as a direct result of all the stress and worry having developed a mental condition of acute suicidal depression called Adjustment Disorder.

Thankfully I am mentally on the mend now. I am very grateful for this site and the information I have gleaned from it. I went it alone with regard to my appeal and represented myself. Your downloadable guide to doing this was simply INVALUABLE advice. I followed it step by step and drew a lot of confidence from it.

Sorry for going off topic
#5 Michele 2013-09-17 06:15
I spoke to DWP press office today re catch 22 problem. They denied this and commented that this new method of reconsideration process is a positive step forward to free up waiting times for appeal tribunals! Press officer confirmed that medic consultants are not qualified to ascertain if their patients should be well enough to take on work ! That is why DWP have been working with Atos to screen people on sick benefits . I wonder if Reuters would be interested in that comment re medics not being qualified or experienced enough to ascertain if their patients are capable of returning to work !!

As for their reasoning excuse for bringing in reconsideration process this is just another delay tactic bought about by our government ... More delay for disabled people to cope with and at no point did the press office confirm one would be without benefits during the mandatory decision wait !!! This is absurd!
+1 #4 j112009 2013-09-13 18:51
I had the same thought as fedup90 what will happen re Housing and council Tax benefit during the mandatory reconsideration stage. My BF is facing reassessment now just in time for this farce.

Does anyone know?
+1 #3 angela 2013-09-13 16:49
This is going to be so confusing that nobody will know what benefit they will be able to claim we could end up with no benefits at all if we don't recive the correct information
+1 #2 zektor 2013-09-13 11:17
why do they not just do away with us altogether ?
+3 #1 fedup90 2013-09-10 15:06
Will claimants be able to claim housing benefit during this “mandatory reconsideration ” stage if they feel that they are unable to face claiming JSA?

If not a lot of mentally ill people could find themselves homeless.

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