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“I got a letter last Wednesday to confirm I have been awarded enhanced support for both components for 3 years. It came out of the blue as I did think I would need to appeal it, the news hasn’t sunk in yet and it’s very overwhelming. I honestly couldn’t have done the application so successfully without the help and support of the forum. I cannot thank you enough for everything. Thank you all so much”

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Dear Reader,

In this edition we learn that many readers are receiving letters telling them their PIP has been extended by nine months.

We question how confidential your data will be when 80% of DWP staff are working from home.

We discover that Northern Ireland is planning to join Scotland in dumping private sector PIP assessors.

We look at the incompetence and institutional callousness that led to the death of Philippa Day

And we join the coroner in wondering why so many crucial telephone recordings cannot be provided to the inquest.

 

NINE MONTH PIP EXTENSION LETTERS FLOOD OUT
We’re hearing from lots of members who have received a letter from the DWP telling them that their PIP award has been extended, usually by nine months.

The letter reads:

‘We suspended Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Award Reviews because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

We have now begun reviewing PIP awards again and we may look at some awards later than we originally planned. To make sure that you still receive your payments we have extended your award until . . .”

The letter then gives a new end date for the award, typically 9 months after it was originally due to end.

Claimants whose award was due to end as far off as 2029 have told us it has now been extended into 2030.

850,000 PIP claimants should be receiving similar letters in the next few moths..

It’s a rare bit of good news in a brown envelope.

 

HOW CONFIDENTIAL WILL YOUR DATA BE?
The DWP has agreed with the PCS union to have 80% of all staff working from home because of concerns about Covid, but what will this mean for claimant confidentiality?

Benefits and Work readers are already familiar with incidents in which their claimant confidentiality has clearly been breached by PIP assessors working from home with other people in the room.

Claimants have heard laughter, whispered conversations, mobile phones being answered and children talking whilst they were discussing deeply personal issues relating to their health.

The PCS agrees that some staff may not be able to work from home because of such issue as children being off school.

But if the DWP have set a target of 80% of all staff working from home, including all work coaches, it does not sound as if serious consideration has been given to how impractical this will be for many people in accommodation shared with family or housemates.

Benefits and Work would like to hear from anyone who experiences possible breaches of confidentiality as a result if these changes.

 

NORTHERN IRELAND LOOKS TO DUMP CAPITA
Northern Ireland is looking at the possibility of bringing PIP assessments in-house, instead of outsourcing them to Capita, as is currently the case.

However, Capita still looks likely to get a two year extension on its current contract, which is due to end in July.

Deirdre Hargey Minister for Communities, said that the changes could not be made in a matter of months.

She did confirm, though, that the department was looking at what it needed to do in order to create an in-house system.

Scotland has already announced that it is to do away with the use of private sector companies to carry out PIP assessments.

If Northern Ireland follows suit, the pressure on the Westminster government to do the same may become too great to resist.

The end of the reign of Capita and Atos may be coming closer.

 

DWP INCOMPETENCE AND INSTITUTIONAL CALLOUSNESS CAUSED CLAIMANT’S DEATH
DWP incompetence and institutional callousness caused the death of claimant Philippa Day, evidence given to a coroner’s inquest seems to suggest.

Philippa Day, who had type 1 diabetes and had been diagnosed as having emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), anxiety, depression and agoraphobia, took her own life after she was given no choice but to attend a PIP assessment or lose her benefits.

Philippa, 27, had been receiving DLA since she was 16 but made a claim for PIP in November 2018. However, the DWP lost her PIP application form and then stopped her DLA in January 2019.

The inquest heard from a DWP call handler who spoke to Philippa in June 2019 when she was trying to find out why her benefits were still suspended.

A sobbing Philippa told the DWP worker that she was “literally starving and cold”, “genuinely can’t survive like this for much longer”, was “in so much debt”, “literally cannot leave the house”, and needed “a reason to live”.

However, the call handler failed to raise the issue with a case manager and said that she couldn’t recall why she had hadn’t done so in spite of the claimant’s obvious distress, adding that it was “quite usual” for claimants to cry during calls.

In fact, a case manager had examined Philippa’s case in March 2019 and confirmed the decision to stop her benefits, in spite of a note on her file which said Philippa was “quite unwell with mental health”.

The case manager also admitted that she had not been given information about Philippa’s mental distress which had been passed on by a community psychiatric nurse (CPN) the week before the decision to stop her benefits.

In an additional error, the DWP had recorded the evidence as having come from Philippa herself rather than a CPN.

Philippa’s unconscious body was found by her sister and father on 8 August 2019, just days after she had been told she would need to attend a PIP assessment centre.

On the pillow next to her was the appointment letter from Capita.

 

DWP AND CAPITA BOTH FAIL TO PROVIDE CRUCIAL RECORDINGS
In a further twist, Disability News Service has revealed that both the DWP and Capita failed to record, or destroyed, vital evidence relating to the death of Philippa Day.

A Capita representative was asked why recordings of calls made to Capita by Philippa’s CPN on 7 August – the day before Philippa was found unconscious at her home – and 9 August were not available.

According to the representative, the telephone extension of the agent who took the call on 7 August was not “correctly configured to record calls”, while there had been a “congestion issue” two days later, which meant eight calls to another agent’s extension had not been recorded.

The representative admitted that someone at supervisory level would have been able to delete recordings from the system, although there was no evidence that they had.

Asked if the system showed if recordings had been deleted, he said: “I would not be able to answer that.”

Meanwhile, the DWP told the coroner that they were unable to provide a recording of a key conversation between the DWP and a CPN because they had deleted it.

The DWP claimed they had done this because data protection rules meant they had to delete recordings that were “no longer relevant” after 14 months.

They said that they had not been aware of the inquest until July 2020 – nine months after Philippa died – and by then the call had been deleted.

However, where a claimant has died in circumstances that may implicate the DWP, and where the DWP have carried out their own investigation into the matter, it is absolutely clear that all the data relating to the case should be kept.

It might be needed not just for an inquest, but also because the next-of-kin might wish to bring a claim against the DWP, given that a young child lost her mother in this instance.

Which perhaps explains the alacrity with which vital evidence was destroyed.

Our thoughts are with Philippa’s family and, once again, we are grateful to John Pring of the Disability News Service who never gives up in his battle to uncover the truth behind the tragic and unnecessary deaths of so many claimants like Philippa.

Good Luck,

Steve Donnison

 

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Give yourself the best possible chance of getting the right PIP, UC or ESA 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.

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BENEFITS NEWS
Nine month PIP extension letters flood out

How confidential will your data be with DWP staff working from home?

DWP and Capita both fail to provide crucial recordings in claimant death case

Northern Ireland looks to dump Capita

Disability News Service victory in secret DWP report battle

DWP incompetence and institutional callousness caused claimant’s death

 

FEEDBACK FROM THE FORUM AND BY EMAIL
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. For some people, it’s the only thing that keeps them going through a difficult claim or appeal.

Thank you B&W
“…Can I just start by saying a massive thank you for the guidances notes that helped me getting PIP…
Thank you again, I have found this site to be excellent and appreciate all the effort that has been put in to keep this site going.”


Award of PIP
“First application for PIP was turned down, Mandatory Recconsideration turned down. Appeal applied for to be heard with a tribunal, opted to have paper hearing. Within 10 days of this application a PIP representative rang, asked some questions , these were already on paperwork. She awarded Enhanced on personal care, standard on mobility, all over the telephone. No need then for Tribunal Appeal. So don't take the first answer from PIP. Thanks to information on benefit and works, couldn't have done it without you.”

PIP Tribunal success
“Hello to you all. I just wanted to give an update on my claim. I Applied for pip back in February last year , no face to face due to COVID , I thought my telephone assessment went well , but it didn’t, I only scored 2 points. After asking for a mandatory reconsideration I was awarded 4 points but my original 2 points were taken away. So with nothing to loose , i opted for a tribunal, which took place on the 22nd of December via a phone call with the judge , a doctor and a disability rights person. I was extremely nervous and couldn’t explain myself properly, I came away after nearly an hour on the phone feeling like a failure and convinced I had lost any hope of being awarded anything.
To my astonishment I received a phone call after Christmas saying I had been awarded standard rate for care and mobility scoring 8 points on each. I’m over the moon with this result. So to anyone in my position please don’t give up , I had one letter with a diagnosis on and no other paperwork or input , but I knew what the HP and decision maker had written was not correct and this is what made me stick with it. Thank you to everyone on this amazing site .”

PIP Review success
“I received 2 extensions to my original pip award during last year . Then I received a review form 1043 which was due to be completed and returned by the end Nov. I rang the DWP and asked if I had to complete the form ? Yes, I completed the form with a week to spare. In Dec I received my new award for just over 3 years which was longer than my previous award. I completed the form in depth and with plenty of my medical history evidence. This award result was a paper assessment with no phone assessment . It cheered me up so much after this disaster out year and made me smile over Christmas.”

I am recommending you to everyone I speak to
“I am writing to say a big thank you for all you do. I found your website via a recommendation on Mumsnet when my child was approaching their 16th birthday, having successfully claimed for DLA previously. I used your quick check tool which estimated that enhanced living and standard mobility was what we should be aiming for. I then registered and used your guidance to become appointee and subsequently make the claim, undergoing telephone assessment. I am very pleased to tell you that an award for enhanced living and standard mobility for 4 years has been granted without any need for mandatory reconsideration. I am recommending you to everyone I speak to who is claiming for PIP.”
Bernie

Your help has been invaluable
“I have been a member of your site for a number of years and I just want to say thank you for all the hard work that goes into running the site to help people like me. I have used the site to successfully claim Incapacity Benefit and now ESA and PIP following on from DLA. as you have given me the confidence in completing my claims and renewals and every time I’ve been successful. I couldn’t of done it without the help of you guys and I just want to say thank you.”
Karen

BOOST YOUR PIP, UC AND ESA CHANCES - 20% OFF ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP – OFFER ENDS MIDNIGHT FRIDAY.
Give yourself the best possible chance of getting the right PIP, UC or ESA 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: 23877

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