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Dear Reader

In this edition we reveal that Citizens Advice is to be paid £51 million by the DWP to provide Universal Support to universal credit (UC) claimants – almost certainly the death knell for any hopes of a delay in the rollout of UC.

We also learn that Maximus are making “jaw dropping” profits from employment and support (ESA) assessments, but Atos and Capita are to be sacked in Scotland.

Finally we learn that whilst Scottish claimants are to be guaranteed audio recording of their PIP assessments, plans to do full video recording of assessments in the rest of the UK are moving ahead.

Just one year ago, Citizens Advice (CA) Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, warned the DWP that:

“The roll-out of Universal Credit is a disaster waiting to happen.”

If that remains true, it is now a disaster that CA has accepted £51 million from the DWP to help bring about.

Many others certainly still believe that a disaster looms. They include Mind, the Mayor of London, the Archbishop of Canterbury and a range of trades unions and political parties. In this very newsletter there is a link to an appeal by Unite the Union for claimants to help them in their fight against UC.

But, perhaps CA take the view that their involvement will be a game-changer.

That because they will be supporting people with making a claim, learning to use technology and budgeting, UC will now be a success story for all concerned.

Unfortunately, many of the criticisms of UC are about the cuts in income, the harsh sanctions regime and the utterly inadequate technology and staffing levels being used to deliver the benefit.

None of these will be affected by help from a CAB.

There’s no doubt that CA will have to deal with millions of UC queries over the coming years, whatever happens. And £51 million will certainly help them to do that much more effectively.

But they have given the DWP an enormous shield with which to defend itself against demands to delay, or completely abandon, the roll out of UC.

As a result, mass migration from ESA to UC is now virtually certain to go ahead, starting next year.

So CA’s decision to take over the contract for Universal Support from local authorities is not a neutral act.

It is a politically charged one, for which there may be a price to pay in terms of public support – and a supply of willing volunteers - in the future.

Though you may be wondering whether anyone really cares where CA get their funding from.

In that regard, we can offer a small straw in the wind.

At the same time as we published an article on CA’s DWP funding, we also published articles on Atos and Capita being sacked in Scotland and on Maximus’ “jaw-dropping” profits from ESA assessments.

The CA page has had many thousands of visitors over the last two days, well over 10 times as many as either of the other two articles.

It seems people really do care.

The Times, from behind its paywall, is reporting that Maximus made a profit of £26 million in the year to September 2017, double the profits it made in the preceding year.

This represents a rise from 8.4% to 16.1% in its profit margin.

Maximus says the cash has been earned because it has been hitting volume performance targets.

Clearly it is not being heavily penalised for its failure to meet its quality performance targets. It has not hit targets for the proportion of ESA reports that are of acceptable quality even once since taking over the contract.

Quantity over quality is clearly what the DWP is looking for.

As Frank Field remarked: “With contractors raking in jaw-dropping profits for sub-standard work, the government will surely want to look at whether assessments would be better delivered in-house.”

And delivering assessments in-house is exactly what the Social Security Scotland (SSS) have undertaken to do.

SSS will be taking over the administration of PIP and DLA in Scotland and have said that they will end the use of private sector contractors for disability benefits assessments.

In addition, they have announced that:

People will be invited at a time that suits them and to a location that suits them.

“For those with difficulty travelling, the assessor will come to them.

“In addition we will introduce audio recordings of assessments as standard to ensure accuracy and transparency.

“And we will also allow the social security appeals tribunal to access the audio recording to help inform their decision.”

But whilst claimants in Scotland are to be guaranteed the chance to have their PIP assessment audio recorded, things will be very different in the rest of the UK.

In our last newsletter we reported on the Work and Pensions Committee’s concern that no progress at all had been made on the issue of video recording PIP medicals.

After the article went out we heard from a welfare rights worker who told us:

“Just to let you know that DWP have been working on this issue over the summer – they have been consulting with a very wide range of charities and volorgs [voluntary organisations] to get their views, and the views of service users, about the issues.”

Worryingly, there was no mention of the DWP consulting on whether claimants would prefer audio rather than video recording.

In fact, there has never been any strong demand for video recording from claimants. Indeed, many regard the idea with horror.

Perhaps if the DWP were to consult openly with claimants rather than covertly with charities and voluntary organisations, they would get a clearer idea of what claimants want.

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

Benefits and Work guides covers
PIP award
“Hi I have just won my pips full care & mobility ( thanks to the fantastic information from this Thankyou)”

Give yourself the best possible chance of getting the right ESA, PIP or DLA decision, whether you’re making a claim, renewing an existing award or asking for a reconsideration or appeal.

Subscribe now and get instant access to all our guides.

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: 88623

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.
Offer ends midnight Friday

Atos and Capita to be sacked in Scotland
Atos and Capita will lose their contracts for carrying out PIP and DLA assessments in Scotland when Social Security Scotland (SSS) takes over the administration of these benefits.

Maximus make ‘jaw-dropping’ profits from ESA assessments
The Times is reporting that the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments, better known as Maximus, has doubled its profits from carrying out ESA assessments.

DWP to pay Citizens Advice £51 million to help with universal credit
From April 2019 Citizens Advice (CA) and Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) will receive a total of £51 million to help claimants with universal credit claims, the DWP has announced today.

Help Unite fight universal credit
Unite the Union is running a campaign to stop the rollout of universal credit (UC) and would like to hear from you if you are a UC claimant.

Secret DWP death reviews have doubled in two years and now include UC
John Pring’s Disability News Service (DNS) has revealed that the numbers of secret reviews into benefits deaths appears to have doubled in the last two years. The investigations now include deaths related to universal credit (UC).

PIP video recording preparations have begun
Contrary to the belief of the Work and Pensions Committee, it appears that preparations are being made for the introduction of video recording of PIP assessments, though with no clear evidence that this is what claimants want.

As always, many thanks to everyone who takes the trouble to post in the forum or email us with news of your success. We know it’s many readers favourite, and most encouraging, bit of the newsletter.

Benefits and Work guides coversThank you B&W and of course Gordon
“I would like to give a big thank you to our Gordon and others here for all your support in keeping my head as I just couldent do this without you. I now have my decision over my ESA and been kept in the Support Group and all done in 3 months without a need for an assessment and was all done Paper Based, thank god because I knew I couldent have coped with having or going to one. I know now I will be able to try and relax now DLA to PIP is out the way also and No more brown envelopes for a while again. I will be phoning soon and asking for how long, and for my ESA85A report as my decision letter dosent state how long for, also no mention of the exemption criteria on my decision letter which I know I fit and should be in. So looks like I might have to go through it again at some point again in the future. But for now I'm just gonna try and be free of all brown envelopes till the next time. Thank you Gordon and all so much, and I wish each and everyone of you good luck”

ESA without medical
“Thanks for all the advise you give everybody and thank god for your help pages. After I got awarded PIP high rate on both back in December 17 the dreaded ESA came through the door dated 25th January 18, I had been lucky and had not been reassessed since 2012... Well today I got a letter from DWP saying I have been put in the support group, no medical needed. I am so happy, after nearly 10 months of waiting and worrying I can relax for 3 years before it all starts again. All I would say is make sure you put in enough evidence as you can”

ESA Support Group success
“…I would like to thank you for all your help and support. I have been a member of this site for a few yrs now and couldn't of got through it without all the help and advise that this site provides.”

PIP success
“PIP ..... I got to tribunal submission stage several weeks ago ......this morning letter arrived from DWP they’ve looked my claim again my appeal will not continue as they’ve now awarded from 12 points care to 15 & my mobility went from 10 points to 24 points for an ongoing period(10 yrs) thank you,thank you for all the help received”

PIP success
“Following the introduction of PIP 5 years ago I have lived in fear ever since about what would happen to the essential support I relied upon from my DLA when required to undertake the transfer. Finally the inevitable was my turn. Truthfully, I found the whole experience horrendous. It made me ill and caused considerable anxiety but after much valuable assistance from the excellent PIP Guide and the kind folks on this forum not to mention some 119 days of trepidation I have finally received my award notification! The DWP have determined that my entitlement extends to the enhanced rate for both Daily Living and Mobility. This is an amazing relief for which I cannot begin to thank you all enough!!”

Brown envelope arrived
“Sent my Esa50 back in Feb for march deadline.I used the online guides provided by this forum.Heard nothing until yesterday..brown envelope..twitcher..I have been allowed to stay in support group without a f2f.I would like to say a word of thanks..without the guide I'm sure we would not have provided a concise account of my daily struggle .”

PIP increased
“…I finally got the PIP review result. Previously it was daily living enhanced rate and mobility standard. Amazed that (thanks to your wonderful site) not only have I kept the enhanced rate for care component but they decided to award me enhanced rate mobility as well!!!”

ESA result
“I recived LCWRA in my decision letter this week so many thanks to the site and to you for answering all my questions over the last few months.”

“I can’t tell you what a relief it is”
“I have been dreading the letter for some time but when it arrived I used your really helpful guide, my daughter has paranoid schizophrenia and she struggles to put in writing how hard life is. With your help we applied got letters of support and I asked for a decision to be made on the paper evidence so she wouldn’t have to go through the trauma of an interview, we heard last week she has been awarded PIP for 4 years! I can’t tell you what a relief it is. Thank you so much.”

“Thanks for all you do.”
“Many thanks for the advice and member guides particularly the anticipated questions and the ones they don’t ask but should , so helpful. Like many, I was on the DLA for some years, the old Mobility Allowance. I was ‘invited’ to apply for PIP. Having read some of the distressing accounts of this process I was not confident of any awards once I applied. Between applying for and the PIP assessment date I suffered a heart attack. I was determined to go ahead with the assessment. My stress levels were high and the thought of a postponement would only increase my stress levels.
I went for the assessment. Five weeks after the assessment I received the letter indicating I was awarded the Standard Rate for Daily Living and the Enhanced Rate for my mobility needs. Both for three years.
So if you are not a member, join now.

Thanks for all you do.”

“Thank you Thank you Thank you.”
“If I win trillions on the lottery tomorrow, and never have to claim another benefit ever, i will still pay my yearly subscription to Benefits and Work.
I was 'invited' to apply for PIP, even though, like so many others, i had a lifetime award of DLA, both increments at the higher rate.
I completed the PIP form, as per the advice in the B& W guide to the letter......and waited.
Got my appointment for a Face to Face assessment. Young girl assessing me was either a nurse or a physiotherapist (N.Ireland) and looked about 27/28.
Really nice girl, very laid back, very smiley. I was in for 10 minutes only. Relaxed atmosphere, no feeling of pressure, even though inside i was screaming!! 2 weeks later, got the dreaded letter.
PIP awarded for 2 years at enhanced rate for both parts!!!! So i get to keep my independence and more importantly, my car!
Whole episode from claiming over the phone, filling in form, attending assessment and getting the decision through the post, 13 weeks.
The very, very reasonable B&W subscription, is the best money anyone anywhere claiming any benefit, will EVER spend. No question.
Thank you Thank you Thank you.
Since 2012 and onwards!”

“You are so fantastic!”
“You are so fantastic!
Using your guides I appealed over my PIP decision and I have just been awarded the highest rates possible, and it's "ongoing", and I don't have to go to tribunal!
Thank you so much for caring about people like me, I do so appreciate what you are doing.
Keep fighting the good fight!”

Give yourself the best possible chance of getting the right ESA, PIP or DLA decision, whether you’re making a claim, renewing an existing award or asking for a reconsideration or appeal.

Subscribe now and get instant access to all our guides.

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: 88623

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.
Offer ends midnight Friday

Good luck,

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


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