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Dear Reader,

In this edition we warn you that Channel 5 are on the hunt for fresh victims  to parade before the public in a new benefits show.

The show’s casting director’s previous roles include keeping “difficult contributors onboard” on Jeremy Kyle and on People Like Us, the infamous fly-on-the wall documentary which trashed a Manchester community.

He also claims to have “gained access to schools, colleges and charities, for both filming and casting purposes”  for a show about young people at risk of getting STDs.   Classy stuff, which claimants might want to be aware of before signing up.

Not all claimants are taking cover in the face of the continuing media and political hate-campaign, however.  We have news of a national day of action against Atos next month which is gathering momentum rapidly.  See Atos National Demonstrations below for more about events in a town near you.

And Iain Duncan Smith isn’t getting things all his own way where the work capability assessment is concerned either.  The latest results show that a higher percentage of claimants than ever are being awarded employment and support allowance and a bigger  proportion are being put into the support group.

Plus, in this edition we introduce members to a name that may become all too familiar over the coming years:  PIPAT.  It’s the computer software now being used to assess claimants for personal independence payment. Benefits and Work has obtained copies of training documents that reveal details of how the software is used.

And we’re also asking you if you’ll let us have a copy of your medical report, so that we can begin to dissect the inner workings of PIPAT and discover what generalisations and unfair assumptions may lurk within.

Finally, for organisations, we're offering the chance to receive four months of professional support in relation to PIP, ESA and DLA absolutely free as we pilot a new service.

You are welcome to reproduce all or part of this newsletter on your website or forum or in your blog or newsletter, as long as you give us a credit.

There has been plenty of buzzing on social media about planned demonstrations sparked by the deaths of ESA claimants and the government's refusal to release updated mortality statistics. You can read more about the issues here as well as in this blog by Dr Éoin Clarke which is backed up by statistical data.

Protests are taking place on 19 February. To find out more about what's going on visit the main Facebook page for the ATOS National demo Wherever your local assessment centre is, from Aberystwyth to York and from Oban to Barnstaple, the chances are a protest is being planned.

You can also follow preparations on twitter.

The news by you website which claims to report on ‘a beautiful mish-mash of information outside of mainstream reality’ says it ‘looks like it's going to be a meaningful day for a lot of people’.

Sarah, one of the organisers, says:

'We're hoping that Benefits and Work members will support this because urgent action is required as we will no longer sit back and watch this Government openly target thousands of sick, disabled and vulnerable people. We have to fight together for what is their absolute right to welfare support.”

If you feel able to join in to show support you can find all the details of the local demos on the Facebook site.

MPs are also now seriously concerned about Atos and Hilary Benn has said:

“As the Labour opposition we have called ATOS a disgrace and said they should be sacked. I have only this morning been dealing with yet another constituency case in which ATOS got the assessment wrong- it has now been overturned following my representations - but the system needs to change.”

One person who won’t be able to attend the demonstration in February is Sheila Holt, whose mental health deteriorated as a result of the pressures placed on her following her assessment. She was sectioned in December and subsequently suffered a heart attack, which has left her in a coma. Despite her condition, she continued to receive letters asking why she wasn’t working.

We also have the sad news of the death of another claimant  which his son feels is a direct result of the pressures placed on him through loss of benefit.

However, despite the many methods the government has used to try reducing entitlement to ESA, the DWP's quarterly report shows that an increasing proportion of people have been successful with their claims.

And just as importantly, the percentage of those placed in the support group has increased every quarter since March 2010.

Concerns are being raised about the numbers of people who may not qualify for the Motability Scheme (members only) under the rules for PIP.

Some suspect that only a third of those who are currently eligible under DLA mobility will be eligible under PIP mobility.

This will impact significantly on those who can walk more than 20 metres, reducing their independence and ability to remain mobile. It is also likely to have an impact on those who are able to work because of the support that Motability provides in accessing their workplace.

MP Dame Anne Begg, the Chair of the work and pensions select committee has told MPs that she is hearing from many people about their experiences of waiting more than 6 months for a decision under the new scheme (members only).

Meanwhile, Atos have published a Youtube video showing how they claim a PIP medical assessment will be carried out . . . when you eventually get to have one.

We would be very interested to know of your experiences and will be conducting a long-term survey of PIP medicals that you can respond to - see the next newsletter for details.

Finally, The DWP is separating Attendance Allowance (AA) telephone numbers from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) numbers.

From 29 January 2014 a new number for AA will be introduced. Claimants can contact the AA Service Centre on 0345 or 0845 605 6055. The new text phone number for Attendance Allowance will be 0845 604 5312. The DLA/AA Helpline number (0845 712 34 56) will become a dedicated line for DLA only. DLA Text phone will also remain on the same number (08457 224433).

Find out more about our PIP training or

Download a personal independence payment training booking form Birmingham 27 March 2014 

Download a personal independence payment training booking form London 26 March 2014

In a case about Local Housing Allowance, CH/140/2013, the Upper Tribunal has attempted to define a bedroom by giving it a plain dictionary meaning:  a room for sleeping/a room with a bed in it. Gareth Morgan says in his blog that this ‘may mean that only the practical use of the room matters and not any specification of the property by the landlord – or others.’ The decision will have to be followed by the First Tier Tribunals.

However, the Nearly Legal blog by Giles Peaker suggests it may not be so straightforward.

We've had three requests for support for petitions by unfunded groups.

The first request is from a group of parents who are concerned because their disabled (adult) children’s funding comes entirely from benefits and social services. They believed that this secured their future and they were safe in the hands of UK government and local authorities. In response to the package of cuts to benefits and services, they state:

“These cuts are a false economy and will seriously reduce the quality of life of disabled, vulnerable adults.“

They are asking readers to sign their petition  to ring-fence funding

We have also been contacted by a mother with a similar request. She has an adult son with learning difficulties. She tells us he ‘cannot fill out forms for himself, nor stand up for himself, nor understand what all these cuts might mean for his future. He is part of a large group of people like this.’

"This group of people are unable to fill out the requisite forms themselves or advocate or fight for their rights on their own behalf. Others have to do this for them and this help (though lovingly given) creates high levels of stress for those in this position. When elderly parents/carers die those with learning difficulties may be left without the level of support they need."

Please read what the petition is about and support this cause if you can.

The third request is to publicise a petition calling for the abolition of the service charge - which the petitioners say is "the contribution towards social care for disabled people required by Social Services, who often want to have a financial assessment to set the service charge before even looking at what that care will actually be and then dictate what care will be provided."

Finally, we have had a message from Michelle Maher of the WOW petition.

“Your help and your members help in the past have been invaluable, and we are asking for your help again. John McDonnell has asked for the debate to be towards the end of February, but to date no time has been set as yet, but time is of the essence. We have had no support from any Tory MPs, so pressure is needed. Your help in the promotion of the debate and the need to contact their MPs is imperative.”

Here is a link to an automated letter to your MP.

Or you can write your own letter, but using the Wow links will help the campaign keep track of numbers.

You can follow Michelle on twitter where you can read more updates.

We continually trawl the web for benefits-based news and research. Here's some of what we've across since the last newsletter:

Are we being deceived and stigmatised? Read Dr Simon Duffy’s views in his blog called The Welfare Reform Scam

In his recent blog post, Dr Greg Wood (work test whistleblower) explains 'the bogus rules of thumb' which are the misleading thumbnail descriptions of some of the criteria used in the WCA. Believe him or not, he reports of his own experiences.

The Benefits and Work twitter account continues to gain lots of new followers and at the time of writing there are 5542 of you with whom we can interact immediately.

Many followers share interesting snippets with us and point us in the direction of the latest, relevant news and blogs, so thank you for that and for sharing our news. Also, welcome to our latest high profile follower: Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.

Our page techie person tells us, two stories have been read by thousands of you recently, with many of you sharing them, which is great! The article from our main website regarding Benefits payments being termed "Welfare Handouts" by the DWP itself really grabbed people's attention.

Also our post regarding the compulsory collection of our health data, what involvement ATOS have in this process, the serious questions being asked about anonymity and the selling of this data to commercial companies, was picked up by many of you.

The Facebook page is developing as a place where you can have your say and while we do ask that members are civil to one another and view the posts as discussion points, we also understand that subjects our posts highlight can be emotive for members. Our page moderator wanted to thank everyone who keeps it clean while putting their point across, adding how they feel it is important we have a place we do just that.

As always, there's lots of news on the site that there isn't room for in the newsletter, including:

Report by Work and Pensions Committee on role of Jobcentre Plus

Council challenged over DLA in latest 'bedroom tax' court case (members only)

Cameron quizzed over 'suppressed' food bank report

Benefits Street reveals 'ghetto' reality, says Iain Duncan Smith

Food bank issues parcels for those too poor to heat dinner

Benefit claimants losing record amounts of money due to mistakes

Just before Christmas, we ran a competition for free subscriptions. We asked 'What do you like about "Benefits and Work?" We were inundated with responses, thank you. Here we show you a selection of some of the replies. We have changed the names to protect our members' identities.

“… you and all your friends work very hard to help us understand how we can get help to get what we have… SO WELL DONE TO ALL Of YOU I look forward to getting your emails so a big thank you.”
William via email

“I would like to thank Benefits and Work for giving the confidence to fight my Appeal moving from ICB to ESA. I did win my appeal thanks to your guides… thank you once again for your help. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK”
Steve via email

“Just want to say thank you so much for guidance , advice, help and support you provided me with with my claim for my disability. Couldn't have done it without you.

You are a guardian angel for all those in need.”
Harry via email

“…your website not only helps people but also lets the average people know they are not alone and you can help them from start to finish… it helped put my mind at rest not only knowing my rights but things that happens next so all I would like say now is thank you to you and all your staff”
Dawn via email

“What I like is the clarity of the information, everything is easy to understand which is very important when you are not at your best, ie possibly feeling stressed and under the weather. The site is brilliant and addresses the questions that need to be asked-----without asking them. Thank you.”
Carly via email

“Most times you've been my only support,
When I've felt lost, it’s to you I've turned.
When you're cut off, this is the only contact that I’ve been able to have.
I trust you, you've been there for me”
Steven via email

“What I like about Benefits and Work:
Your forthrightness- information is given in a straight, no nonsense manner, without it being embroidered or affected by any political correctness.”
Donna via email

“I joined some time ago in order to help me through the minefield known as the dreaded DLA form.
Your information was more than helpful in guiding me through the tricky and somewhat dubious question, and for that I am very grateful. Your information informs and educates and is worth every penny of the subscription. Thank you again and please keep up the great work.”
Leanne via email

“Benefits and work gives honest no nonsense information and facts for the benefit of those who need it. Having been a support worker who fought appeals to get benefit back for mentally ill clients fighting the system and gaining the truth is extremely difficult, knowledge is power or rather empowerment and without this type of site the vulnerable do not stand a chance.”
Katy, Support Worker, via email

“I love the Benefit and work website as it is the only site to tell the truth, and is very very helpful. thank you"
Paula, Nurse, via email

“What I like most about B+W is the information is clear, precise and straight to the point. also some info appears here long before anywhere else.”
Rick via email

Read more Christmas feedback here.

Join the Benefits and Work community now and discover what a difference we can make.

And do remember:  you're welcome to republish part or all of this newsletter, provided you credit Benefits and Work

Good luck,

Steve Donnison, Sangeeta Enright and Karen Sharpe

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


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