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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.

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Plan to abolish work-related ESA, DWP changes PIP guidance, payday loan scam targets claimants

Dear Reader,

Documents leaked to the BBC last week, reveal that ministers are considering reducing the payment for work-related ESA to just 50p above jobseeker’s allowance, effectively abolishing the work-related activity component.

The documents suggest that this would only apply to new claims. But many will remember that the same was said about the one year cut-off for contribution based ESA, until the coalition changed its mind and made it apply to all existing claimants retrospectively.

As part of the softening up process for more massive benefits cuts, millions of taxpayers are receiving individual statements in the post presenting an entirely misleading picture of how much of their money goes on ‘welfare’.

The other big ESA news is that Maximus have now been named as the company taking over from Atos to try to sort out the shambles that is the work capability assessment (WCA). Many people are very unhappy about the choice, given Maximus’ reputation in America.

Though possibly not Disability Rights UK, who were named in a DWP press release as the charity which will be selling disability awareness training to Maximus, as well as being paid to produce independent information and advice about the WCA. DRUK have since said nothing definite has been agreed.

Disability News Service have more about DRUK’s possible role in sanitising Maximus and the WCA and also about the fact that DRUK are trying to arrange a deal with the DWP run Pension Protection Fund to bail them out of a £3 million pensions deficit, which has brought DRUK to the brink of bankruptcy.

Moving from the shambles that is ESA to the disaster that is personal independence payment (PIP), the DWP have updated their guidance to Atos and Capita health professionals carrying out PIP assessments.

Changes include telling assessors:

  • to ignore problems with carrying things in the kitchen but take account of possible self-harm issues when preparing a meal;
  • to ignore commode use in some circumstances;
  • that in rare circumstances ‘violent behaviour’ and ‘high suicide risk’ may be relevant to scoring points for needing prompting to undertake journeys;
  • that typically claimants ‘will not have left their home for several years’ if they are to qualify as being unable to undertake any journey – ignoring the fact that the legal requirement is that you have had the same level of need for just three months and are likely to have it for at least nine more.

We’ve updated our PIP claims guide to warn of the changes and, where appropriate, how to deal with them when completing your PIP claim form.

In other benefits news, the DWP has ridden to the rescue of struggling payday lenders by increasing the waiting days for new ESA and JSA claims from 3 days to seven days before a claim can begin, ensuring, many more people are forced to borrow from dodgy lenders.

We can also reveal that payday loan comparison sites are targeting claimants for an apparently lawful scam which removes £75 from your account, passes on your bank details to hundreds of other scammers and you still don’t even get a loan.

The companies involved have been given licences to operate by the Financial Conduct Authority.

So . . . be careful out there.

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

ESA NEWS
Government plan effective abolition of work-related ESA
The BBC has obtained documents showing that ministers are considering reducing payment for new claimants in the work-related activity group (WRAG) of ESA to just 50p above the level of jobseeker’s allowance (JSA).

Maximus to take over WCA from Atos
The BBC are reporting that American firm Maximus are to take over from Atos as the provider of the work capability assessment (WCA). Maximus has been described by John Pring of the Disability News Service as a ‘company with a “chilling” record of incompetence, discrimination and alleged fraud’.

Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future'
More than a third of people with degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis are having their benefits slashed because the Department for Work and Pensions deems they will recover enough to look for work.

Commons committee to investigate benefits sanctions
The commons work and pensions committee will look into the issue of benefits sanctions next year, following a petition set up by the sister of a former soldier, David Clapson, who died after his JSA was sanctioned.

PIP NEWS
Claimant issues court challenge to PIP delay, whilst it’s still possible
A claimant who has waited over six months for a decisions on their PIP claim has launched judicial review proceedings against the DWP, but planned changes to the law mean that such challenges may soon be impossible.

OTHER BENEFITS NEWS
DWP brings new hope to payday lenders
In a move that will bring new hope to struggling payday lenders, the DWP have extended the waiting days for employment and support allowance (ESA) and jobseeker's allowance (JSA) from 3 days to 7 days from today.

Payday loan comparison sites target claimants in legalised scam
The Guardian is reporting that payday loan comparison sites are hiding £75 charges for their services in their small print and are specifically targeting benefits claimants.

New tax statements used to increase claimant hate
George Osborne has been criticised for sending millions of households annual tax statements that show the biggest chunk of their contribution going towards welfare, with trade unions describing it Your guides give step by step information & are amazing as “political propaganda masquerading as neutral information”.

House of Lords votes against Grayling’s plans to restrict judicial review access
The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has suffered a defeat in a key House of Lords vote on his plans to curtail access to judicial review, which would have made it harder to challenge government decisions in court.

Leaked universal credit memo shows jobcentre staff struggling with rollout
A leaked staff memo at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) appears to show the government is still struggling to roll out its flagship welfare programme, universal credit (UC), across the UK.

Universal credit falls even further behind schedule
The rollout of universal credit has fallen even further behind schedule, according to a report released by the DWP yesterday.

Latest foodbank figures top 900,000: life has got worse not better for poorest
Over 900,000 adults and children have received three days’ emergency food and support from Trussell Trust foodbanks in the last 12 months, a shocking 163 percent rise on numbers helped in the previous financial year.

EMAIL FEEDBACK
In this newsletter we’re sharing some of the email feedback we’ve received in recent weeks. Please do keep your good news coming via email or the forum – lots of people tell us that reading it really encourages them to carry on when they feel everything is hopeless.

PIP AWARD “you are doing a great service”
“Thanks to B&W for your guides, I applied for PIP in July this year and have had my assessment after only 12 weeks of applying and I have been awarded standard mobility and enhanced care for 4 years as my condition may change, and as I am a bit older they won't get better only worse. I know your guides helped me as I have never claimed anything before and was unsure how to go about it so thanks to all the team you are doing a great service.”

Ruth

DLA AWARD “The best return on our money ever”
“I joined your site in July of this year, wondering whether it would prove useful in asking the DWP to look at my husband's existing DLA claim, as his condition had worsened. He had been on low rate care and mobility for two years. I filled in the form using your guides. We have just heard (11 weeks to the day after completing the form) that he has been awarded back-dated high rate mobility and middle rate care for 5 years. I cannot believe that we have not had to ask them to reconsider their decision or take it to appeal - both of which we had to do when we first applied via a supposedly expert outside agency.
I would thoroughly recommend this site to anyone who is considering making a claim. The best return on our money ever - there aren't many investments of £19.95 which yield such good returns.
Thank you for your wonderful website and all your hard work.“

Claire

PIP AWARD “a big thank you”
“I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who helps with Benefits and work, I have received my letter telling me i have got top rate care and top rate mobility. It is ongoing, they have not given me an end date.
I don’t know how i would have managed without this, as it means i can get out and about.
So thank you to everyone who helps.”

Adam

SUPPORT GROUP “Thanks once again”
“Just to say a big thank u. Yesterday my husband won his appeal and was put in Support Group of ESA. After months of waiting and worry, making my husband’s condition much worse. Took all your advice. He went with two members of family to support his claim, they asked them lots of questions about their support.
Thanks once again will be using your site for PIP next have been waiting to hear for 1year when medical will be!”

Darcie

MOVED TO SUPPORT GROUP “I can’t thank you all enough”
“I can’t thank you all enough.
My daughter has just been moved from the WRAG to the Support Group after a medical. It took a week to hear back after the medical that she has been moved.
Without your guides I wouldn’t have had any idea how to begin to explain her difficulties on the forms.”

Mona

INDEFINITE DLA “you make a huge difference to people”
“Hi, I would like to thank you for your guides. I recently had to renew my husband's DLA, and as he is really struggling with both physical and mental problems, any extra anxiety was to be avoided at all costs.
I studied your two guides before filling in the form, and I also wrote down how his problems translate to his daily living. He has now been granted an indefinite award. I can now get on with concentrating on looking after things without having the worry hanging over us that the DLA might end. Without the guide, there's no way I would have been able to illustrate how debilitated his days and nights are.
Thank you again, you make a huge difference to people. We have both worked all our lives and never expected to be in a bad state like this, so having the right money gives back some dignity, without having to grovel for it.”

Avril

SUPPORT GROUP “A massive thank you”
“I just want to say that only by being prepared thru the guides that you provided and asking for my medical to be recorded I received a letter informing me that I have been awarded ESA Support Group and it was backdated to when I first claimed in January.
I didn't think that I would have been successful at all as it was mainly anxiety and stress related issues that I have got, however following all the advice from your web site, I have ended up getting more than I expected. A massive thank you for all your help!”

Tina

PIP AWARD cannot thank you and your team enough”
“I have been a member of yours for 3 years now and your guides, help and knowledge is outstanding and life-saving.
“I was advised by CAB back in Feb that due to my degenerative spinal problems and other conditions than rather keep fighting for ESA etc I should claim PIP instead. I did back at the beginning of Feb, finally had a home assessment on the 5th Sept by ATOS and was awarded both Enhanced Daily and Mobility components last week until Sept 2017. I was shaking when I got the brown envelope and just couldn't believe it, I had to keep reading it over and over again. My Husband and I cannot thank you and your team enough for all your help. I originally applied for DLA back in 2009 and scored zero points. To say it is a huge relief and now has opened other avenues of help like the Blue badge scheme etc is a complete understatement.
Thank you once again, words cannot express the work that you do.”

Charlie

SUPPORT GROUP “Just wanted to say thank you”
“Just wanted to say thank you.
After using your help guides, I was assessed for ESA & put in the support group for 18 months, without a medical assessment.
Thanks for your guides.”

Tricia

SUPPORT GROUP AND DLA “thank you for your excellent guides”
“I wanted to write and thank you for your excellent guides which have helped me navigate out of ATOS hell and which have enabled me to get indefinite middle rate care and higher rate mobility for my DLA renewal in 2013, and which supported me to successfully challenge and get overturned an ESA appeal so that I was - finally - moved from WRAG into the Support Group in 2014.”

Bob

PIP AWARD “A huge amount of the credit in my eyes goes to Benefits & Work”
“I've just been awarded standard daily care component & enhanced mobility component of PIP, after waiting 6-7 months.
If it wasn't for the guides you provide there's no way I would have stood a chance. My primary condition is Fibromyalgia and no one will acknowledge this condition.
The stress was immense but worth it in the end. I even received a letter today offering Severe Disability Premium in addition to my ESA Allowance!
A huge amount of the credit in my eyes goes to Benefits & Work and all the information you provide.”

Lena

PIP AWARD“you helped me more than I can tell you”
“I am writing to thank you so very much for the wonderful help I have received through your site. I am delighted that after 8months wait I have finally received enhanced rate PIP - both mobility and care. It is such a relief. I have also received ESA support group after 2 months wait which I am thrilled about. Thank you for the marvellous help and advice - you helped me more than I can tell you.
THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH.”

Cathy

SUPPORT GROUP Your guides give step by step information & are amazing”
“I had my ESA tribunal hearing this afternoon & have been put in the support group. Yippee!!!! Without your guides I would not have known what to do & how to do it. I knew exactly what to do & how to do it. Your guides give step by step information & are amazing. I am SOOO impressed. Thank you.”

Becca

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Good luck,

The Office Team
Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No. 5962666