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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.

Thanks – I won my PIP Tribunal!
“My PIP assessment and mandatory reconsideration said I was not entitled to PIP. I was scared going to the tribunal today, but it was all over within a few minutes. I won enhanced daily living and standard mobility!!!! The tools on this website really helped me make this happen. Thanks folks!”
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Dear Reader,

In this newsletter we discover that the DWP is now looking to invest in robots, including chatbots, whilst Big Brother Watch is concerned about the use of private sector fraud software for universal credit.

We learn that the DWP are to continue sanctioning sick and disabled claimants into “grinding poverty” in spite of MPs asking them to stop.

A growing number of members contact us because they are having to suffer not one but two face-to-face assessments, before they get a decision about their PIP application.

And while ministers have finally admitted there is a link between universal credit and food bank use, they continue to deny, to supportive laughter and jeers, that there is any connection between the way claimants are treated and the number who commit suicide.

 

DWP ROBOTS
Who even knew that the DWP has an ‘in-house robotics centre’ called the Intelligent Automation Garage (IAG) unit?

This improbably named team are currently talking to private sector companies about “developing robotic solutions utilising robotic processing automation, virtual assistants, chatbots, [and] machine learning”.

Whether talking to a chatbot will be better than the current service is something that only time and experience will tell.

Though actually getting to talk to anyone – or anything – rather than spending hours on hold might be a vast improvement.

 

PRIVATE SECTOR FRAUD SOFTWARE
Big Brother Watch (BBW) is concerned about the growing use of private sector software to decide whether you are a fraud risk when claiming universal credit.

Many local authorities are using Risk Based Verification software to decide whether you are a low, medium or high risk.

This is in spite of the fact that the local authorities often have no idea how the software makes decisions on who should be targeted for extra scrutiny.

BBW have produced more information and a template letter to allow you to make a subject access request to find out if you were subject to risk based verification and, if so, what information the decision was based on and who the assessment of risk will be shared with.

 

ESA SANCTIONS TO CONTINUE
The genuine anger of the work and pensions committee was clear as it condemned the DWP for refusing to stop sanctioning disabled claimants into “grinding poverty and hardship”.

The government’s response to the committee’s October report on sanctions has now been published.

The DWP has rejected the committee’s recommendation that claimants already found to have limited capability for work should be exempt from sanctions.

It has also rejected the recommendation that claimants who are waiting for a Work Capability Assessment should be exempt.

Committee chair Frank Field said:

“Our report laid bare the inhumanity of the Government’s sanctions regime, which it has pursued for years without ever stopping to check whether it works or what it is doing to the people it is meant to “support”.

“In response, the Government has failed utterly to grasp the seriousness of the matter. It talks about reviews and “proof of concept”: it might want to take a look at the concept of not pushing disabled people and single parents—not to mention their children—into grinding poverty and hardship.”

 

DOUBLE PIP ASSESSMENTS
We are hearing from an increasing number of members who attend a PIP assessment and then, before a decision has been made, are told they must attend a second assessment or have their claim refused.

Most of the cases we have heard about seem to involve Capita.

It is not at all clear why it is happening so often.

Claimants have been told a second assessment is needed because Capita need more information, or because the first report was not filed, or because a more ‘robust’ assessment was needed.

Whatever the mistakes made by assessment companies, the effect on claimants is severe. One member told us:

“I am sick with worry I was already suffering with even more anxiety than usual due to going through this process.”

Another wrote:

“I am in total meltdown mode and if the first one is anything to go by I’m dreading the next one.

Whilst another explained:

“This has left me feeling very anxious. All they would say is that they needed further information as the last assessment was incomplete. I'm confused. I feel that they want to trip me up even though I was completely truthful about my conditions in the last assessment.”

We are urging claimants to complain to their MP if they are forced to attend a second assessment before a decision is made.

 

UNIVERSAL CREDIT AND FOOD BANKS
Amber Rudd, secretary of state for work and pensions, has finally admitted on behalf of the DWP that the roll-out of UC increases food bank use.

Rudd told MPs:

“It is clear that there were challenges with the initial roll-out of universal credit, and the main issue that led to an increase in food bank usage could have been the fact that people had difficulty accessing their money early enough.”

However, Rudd also claimed that changes to UC and access to early payments were helping improve the situation.

Many charities, however, have argued that the changes have not gone nearly far enough and that advance payments simply plunge claimants deeper into debt.

 

BENEFITS AND SUICIDE
The government continues to go to great lengths to deny any link between benefits policy and suicide.

Disability News Service has highlighted the fact that the DWP have not been included in a cross-government plan to reduce suicides.

This means that, bizarrely, the government considers that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Transport all have more of a role to play in preventing suicide than the DWP has.

Meanwhile, minister for disabled people Sarah Newton told MPs last week that it was ‘shameful’ to claim there was any link between benefits and suicide.

Newton called claims of a link between benefits policy and suicide “appalling and unsubstantiated”.

As Tory MPs laughed and jeered in support, she triumphantly pointed out that:

“The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity survey does not show any causal link between being on benefits and suicidal thoughts or behaviour. The survey findings indicate certain associations but they do not indicate causality.”

The lack of hard evidence of a causal link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer was an arguement that the tobacco industry used to ensure millions of people died unnecessarily from using its products.

In exactly the same shameful way, government ministers now argue that while there may is a statistical link between being on benefits and suicide, no one has categorically proved that it is the way people are treated as benefits claimants that causes them to harm themselves.

It is an ugly and dishonourable misuse of statistics to say that because you cannot absolutely prove the mechanism that links two things then you should remain silent and do nothing.

It is not one that is trotted out by the government in relation to, for example, concerns about young people’s use of social media being linked to self-harm.

But there is political capital to be made by ministers attacking Facebook, whereas there is none to be made from admitting that their own policies are killing people

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

 

 

ESA good news!
“Great news - thanks to your forum and assessment guides. Last November, i completed my health questionnaire for my ESA review. Received 1st response yesterday saying they were continuing me in the support group for another 3 years, no face-to-face, all based on the paperwork only. Such a relief!”

 

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BENEFITS NEWS
Rudd admits universal credit has led to increased food bank use
The DWP has finally admitted what everyone else has been agreed upon for years: the roll-out of universal credit increases food bank use.

DWP to continue sanctioning ESA claimants into ‘grinding poverty and hardship’
The government is still refusing to change the way sanctions are imposed on sick and disabled claimants or examine the impact of sanctions on their wellbeing, according to the commons work and pensions committee.

Growing misery of two PIP assessments for one decision
Benefits and Work has heard from a number of members in recent weeks who have been subject to a second PIP assessment before a decision is made on their claim because there was a problem with the first report.

Commercial software used to decide if you are a universal credit fraud risk
The campaigning group Big Brother Watch (BBW) is investigating the use of commercial software to decide whether you are a fraud risk when you make a claim for universal credit (UC).

Will DWP robots boost claimant satisfaction?
The DWP’s latest Claimant Service and Experience Survey, released last week, shows a fall in claimant satisfaction.

Tory MPs laugh and jeer In support of minister who says it is ‘shameful’ to link benefits and suicide
Last week saw two further examples of the DWP’s continuing policy of denial over benefit-related suicide.

 

GOOD NEWS FROM THE FORUM AND BY EMAIL

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.

PIP tribunal
“Just thought I would update you on my experience on moving from dla to pip, especially the tribunal stage. After 6 years on MRC and LRM I was asked to apply for PIP…I received no points. I applied for a MR using the guides on the site and still no points so I applied for an appeal. I found this process extremely stressful but I knew I had to appeal just to put my point across… It took 6 months for my appeal to be heard and it had to be cancelled due to one of the panel being an old work colleague. Roll on another 6 months I finally had my appeal on Tuesday… I had already sent in my reasons for each descriptor in writing (using the guides on this site) along with a letter from GP. Following advice from Gordon I didn’t rip the HP’s report apart… I put my points down saying how I thought she had misinterpreted me and how I actually met each descriptor. The tribunal was a horrible experience not because of the panel, I found most of them friendly and fair…I didn’t get my decision then I had to wait for the post. So after 4 sleepless nights the letter finally arrived today…. 10 points for care and 8 for mobility for 3 years so standard on both….. I’m in shock. It’s all thanks to the guides on this site and advice from Gordon and other users THANK YOU ALL x”

Won PIP Tribunal
“Hi all, I have just got back from my PIP tribunal hearing and I am very pleased to be able to say the Judge ruled in my favour and I have been reinstated to the enhanced rate. Many thanks B&W”

PIP Tribunal successful
“Firstly, thank you for the information on this site it is very beneficial for someone with autism who has difficulty accessing face to face support. Your site enabled me to prepare for and proceed to a tribunal for PIP which was successful. It was a horrible ordeal, but I had given the tribunal so much to go on in advance, including my written statement to them, medical reports, current letters from professionals etc that they knew a great deal already before I stumbled through the questions in a state of extreme distress. They were also very kind to me and I took your advice in terms of making sure I had an Autism advocate present, that was equally good advice as I needed supporting both during and afterwards.”

PIP success!
“Just wanted to let you know the outcome of my recent DLA to PIP application. Success!!! MRC on DLA to Standard Care on PIP. HRM on DLA to Enhanced Mobility on PIP both awards run from 6th February to 11th November 2021, and it mentions being contacted after 11th November 2020. Firstly thank you so much B&W and of course Gordon for all your help in my success with this claim. It's very, very much appreciated.”

SSCS1 finished
“At last we can say we have finished filling out the sscs1 for our appeal. Been a rocky and stressful road getting to this point but without the help and assistance from the moderators and information available here I don't think we would have got to this point!. SO just to say a big THANKYOU!!!! Without you all I don't think we would ever have got this far!”

Positive outcome for PIP
“My wife's first claim for PIP has come back with the best outcome we could hope for - standard rate living and enhanced mobility, with a three year review. I feel this is largely down to the advice and support of this website and form - so thanks.”

Thank you B&W – PIP mobility awarded
“I want to thank you all for providing amazing guides and draft letters. I'm pleased to say after reassessment I was successful in being awarded enhanced mobility so I am now able to keep my car. It's been a difficult time after being misled by my assessor and feeling all was lost. Thank you so much for all the advice in these guides with the latest legal cases. I couldn't have done it without you.”

“A big thank you to you all”
Absolutely thrilled on receiving the dreaded brown envelope last week. Enhanced rate for daily living and the same for mobility until 2028. After a no show from Capita assessor back in July who stated they had attended the property which then led to formal complaint to Capita. My file being bounced back to the DWP who I have to say agreed with my version of events. Eventually on the 5th September I had my assessment having just come out of hospital the previous day. The assessor this time was respectful, caring took time to listen not like the one who came 3 years ago. The assessment was an hour and a half.
A big thank you to you all and the help through the forum. I shall continue to renew my membership as the information you provide is invaluable.

Paul

B&W notes were incredibly useful
Having submitted numerous reports and responses and a Tribunal application too I have just opened the post on a Tribunal Hearing Result on my wife’s Pip transfer from DLA application.They had allocated an oral hearing but decided the result without us on ‘paper reports only’ and without even telling us they were going to do that, so an ex parte hearing it seems.
We had appealed the Care and Mobility components despite having been allocate 13 points in Care and 0 points on Mobility. The care allocation points were grossly under what the evidence suggested but the Tribunal did not consider this sufficient of their time to change the DWP original allocation.The big news was that they allocated 12 points for mobility where none was awarded by the DWP. Given that she was on the lower rate mobility on DLA this was even an increase from there.
We also won an extension from 12 months to 36 months on the entire allocation of PiP.
B&W notes were incredibly useful, and we thank you very much.
My own Atos assessment is next, so rinse and repeat as far as I am concerned.
Thanks once again.
Charlie

 

“Can’t thank you all enough at B&W”
DLA to PIP decision. 16 weeks from start to finish,
Just wanted to say a very, very big thank you, my wife has been awarded enhanced rate for daily living and enhanced rate for mobility. While we may not fully agree with the HP comments and assessment’s we find ourselves lucky after all the stress and hard work that my wife had to go through, with the outcome of the assessment. We couldn’t have done it without the help from the member’s guidance site and all the information on site and from the forum comments. The only comments I could make is make sure you use the members guide and that you read and fully understand the question and then give full and descriptive answer to the question otherwise the HP will give an assumption of what they think and not what they have read in your answers to the questions. The stress and upset you go through from fill out the forms and having to wait for a date for the Face to Face. Then having to go for the F2F and all the worry and stress you go through. Then your made to wait for weeks for the results, thankfully my wives were good news, but still took a lot out of her and the stress certainly didn’t help and of her medical conditions. Good luck to everyone who are still suffering and having to go through this appalling system. Don’t give up and never let the buggers get you down. Can’t thank you all enough at B&W for all your help and detailed information provided on your site.
Bruce

“thank you for all your help”
I just wanted to say thank you for all your help. Using yor ESA guide I was put back into the support group without a face to face assessment.
Sylvia

“I am over the moon”
I would like to leave feedback as a registered fee paying member of the site who received my PIP decision today after a transfer from DLA for severe mental health problems. I was awarded Enhanced Daily Living rate and Standard Mobility. I am over the moon and also considerably better off as a result. I would not have achieved this if it wasn’t for your guide to filling in the PIP form. It is the best money I ever spent. The guide is so clear and concise about the meaning of each question and the best way to structure your answer to them in a way that cuts out unnecessary waffling. I didn’t even have to go for a face to face assessment. The whole transfer process from DLA to PIP filled me with dread and anxiety, but after reading the guide I was certain that I had the tools to tackle this inconvenient situation. I thoroughly recommend the guide for anyone who is wondering how to tackle the PIP form as you will not be let down.
Sheila

“Thank you so much for all you help and advice”
I have been a member of B & W for a number of years and l would like to say a BIG THANK YOU for all your help and advice from your web site, when l recently underwent the transition from DLA to PIP. Waiting with baited breath, the day finally arrived with the arrival of the dreaded brown envelope. With your help and advice l was awarded the enhanced rate of PIP.
Thank you so much for all you help and advice.
Craig

“I doubt that I would have been successful without your help”
I wanted to thank you for the PIP guide and the example sheets - these really help break down the language the DWP use and showed how my disability relates to making a claim to which I was successful! 
I doubt that I would have been successful without your help.
Thank You!
Emma

“thank to this site”
Just a quick thank you for your guidance, it allowed me to complete the PIP application, when rejected I sought help from one of the many agencies willing to help, in my case The British Legion. I also requested a fast track tribunal as the waiting time was 55 weeks. I got my appeal today after 21 weeks and my initial assessment of 0 (zero) points was reversed to give me high mobility and standard care, I did have the cheek to ask if there was any interest to be claimed on back payment or even a judges discretionary payment. The judge said they wish they could as it would send a message to those administering assessment, unfortunately it was not within their power however they did add that my award should not be reviewed for 5 years. What i did notice today is they monitored me from the minute I arrived, i had nothing to hide so it was not a problem. Again thank to this site, as my initial application formed the majority of the tribunal.
Jack


BOOST YOUR PIP AND ESA CHANCES - 20% OFF ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP – OFFER ENDS MIDNIGHT FRIDAY.
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: 26467

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