Lie Detectors, Weird Phone Calls And Shoving Claimants To The Back Of NHS Queues

Dear Reader,

According to freedom of information requests made by the Guardian, Capita are still making millions from persuading councils up and down the country to use their discredited lie detector software on benefit claimants.

This is despite the fact that the system was originally developed by Israeli intelligence for use on terrorists, not people needing help with paying the rent.  

And it’s also despite the fact that even the DWP say the telephone-based voice risk analysis software isn’t reliable.  Independent experts have even compared it to astrology.

What it does do very reliably, however, is increase the impression that claimants should be treated like criminals . . . and make a mint for Capita, of course.

Disturbing phone calls of a different kind have been reported by blogger and support group claimant Lisa Egan.  She was called by her local Jobcentre to ask what her ‘aims’ were and quizzed about her former employment as a stand-up comedian.  We’d like to know if other support group members have been contacted by their Jobcentre and asked about their employment prospects.

Though employment, or the lack of it, may soon affect more than just your income and social standing.  If Dame Carol Black has her way it will also affect your chances of getting treated in a reasonable timescale by your local hospital.

Dame Black, inventor of the ‘fit note’ wants to start a national debate about whether the NHS should prioritise treatment for sick workers over those who don’t have a job.  

In other words, if you’re unemployed there’s less point in giving you prompt medical treatment if there are economically active people also waiting for help.  Astonishingly, the chief medical officer at the DWP appears to agree that this is an issue that needs to be discussed.

There’s lots more benefits news below, plus details of our new ESA appeals resource.

If you’re not already a member, join the Benefits and Work community before midnight on Saturday and you can get 20% off the cost of your annual subscription.

Just type the following code into the coupon box when you pay: 6642

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.

In the last newsletter we revealed that the DWP have temporarily stopped referring ESA claimants to Atos for repeat medical assessments.  At the time nobody was prepared to officially confirm that this was true.  Now, however, after Benefits and Work and our exclusive news was raised in the House of Commons, both a government minister and Atos have admitted that it is true.

In other ESA news, the government has announced that Dr Paul Litchfield is to carry out the fifth independent review of the work capability assessment (WCA).  Though so little change has come about as a result of previous reviews that it’s unlikely to attract much enthusiasm from claimants this time around.

And the minister for disabled people, Mike Penning, has apologised "unreservedly" to the family of Sheila Holt after she was sent letters demanding she make an effort to find work even though she was in a coma.


If you’re challenging an ESA decision then, as well as our guide to ESA appeals, members can now download our newly created set of sample submissions.  There are sample mandatory reconsideration requests, a sample SSCS1 form and sample written submissions.  In addition, our 7 step system allows you to create your own submissions from scratch, whatever the grounds of your appeal. 

So, if you want to give yourself the best possible chance of a successful ESA appeal, download our latest resource from the members area right now.

The pressure on the DWP to improve Personal Independence Payment (PIP) delivery has increased following the publication of the National Audit Office’s report on the implementation of PIP.

The report was critical of the backlogs and delays in assessments, and most especially of Atos, as well as delays in the process of decision making. Not only are claims taking an average of 74 days to be decided, compared to 37 days for DLA, but each claim is costing an average of £182 to administer, more than three times the cost of DLA at £49.


Members only can download an excellent round-up of bedroom tax case law created by barrister Tom Royston of Garden Court Chambers for a presentation at the most recent meeting of the National Association of Welfare Rights Workers.

We don't currently have a bedroom tax section, so we've put the file on the ESA page.

On the first anniversary of the bedroom tax, Unite Community and several other London groups concerned with poverty and injustice, are calling people together to protest against this disastrous policy and other welfare cuts. 

The 'Bedroom Tax Demonstration - One Year On'  is taking place on 5th April at 1pm at One Hyde Park, Knightsbridge

The campaign's Facebook page urges “End it now! Stop attacking social security, stop demonizing those who receive it”

Iain Duncan Smith's department has been caught misusing official figures for the fourth time in a year. This time they tried to defend the Work Programme in front of the Work and Pensions Committee by using unpublished data which the MPs had not had a chance to study, in breach of government rules.

Though, if Universal Jobmatch is anything to go by, it's hardly surprising that the Work Programme isn't working.  Frank Field MP has revealed that around half the vacancies on the government website are either bogus, falsely promoted or against the rules.

Meanwhile, Atos are showing their usual flair for public relations by trying to get Facebook pages critical of their new company, OH Assist, taken down  - on the breath-taking grounds that they incite hatred against their staff.

We have been asked to share a petition by Jim Allison, one of our Forum Moderators and retired Welfare Rights Worker. The petition calls for PIP to be scrapped and points out that  according to National Audit Office figures:

“Each new PIP claim - worth between £21 and £134 a week to disabled claimants - costs an average £182 to administer, compared to £49 under DLA”

Jim also wishes to assure you that your names will not appear on the petition, just the total number of signatories and thanks you for your support.

Following the success of the War on Welfare campaign, despite a poor turn-out by MPs, the Commons debated the issues raised and voted in favour of a full impact assessment of the effects of welfare reform on the most vulnerable people in society. The vote has been supported widely amongst Labour MPs, as they feel that sick and disabled people are experiencing disproportionate effects of the many cuts and changes being made to the welfare system, increasing the levels of anxiety and financial hardship amongst claimants.

We come across a variety of blogs that we think might be of interest to you. For example, this mental health blog is written by Charlotte, a service user with bipolar disorder.

And in this blog post by Disabled People Against Cuts, the writer refers to a report by The Policy Exchange on sanctions, and reveals that the “DWP, which is using a new statistical tool, Stat-Xplore, to allow extraction of different combination of statistics, had to remove all the data related to appeal outcomes because of ‘issues’.

Our Facebook Team have contacted us to say:

"What a huge response to our Free Membership Subscription Offer, with so many positive comments and moving stories from our Facebookers. Thank You All for supporting our work with Benefits and Work at Studio Pookini, it was a great competition week and we were kept busy posting, commenting and pointing people in the right direction. I think we managed to get everyone's message in the right place with a few tips and pictures. We have now informed all 5 Winners."

"We are receiving comments on the Facebook Page regarding GP's charging for medical evidence. Reports in the medical arena point to huge increases in these requests clogging up the typical surgery work load."

"We will be posting articles about this on the page this week and would really appreciate comments that could help inform others of your experiences, how you may have worked around problems asking your GP for supporting evidence and where you sort advice etc. Make your comments Here, have your say, add helpful links, Thank you Jeanette at Facebook!"


DWP cuts put government's welfare reforms at risk, says leaked document

MPs' excuses for missing 'historic' debate lack the WOW factor

Penning in tangle after secret order is revealed

PIP reforms could affect 100 different services, councils warned

Anger over 'libellous' Atos 'death threat' claims

As well as feedback in the members forum, we also get lots of feedback from members via email.  So, in this newsletter, by way of a change, we're publishing a few extracts from some of the emails we've received recently.  Please keep them coming - we really do appreciate them.

"Just to let you know that I have been successful in being placed in the Support Group after my assessment in December 2012. I found your manuals excellent and easy to use. I had my Tribunal hearing on 7 January 2014 but they deferred it so that the DWP could see the extra evidence I had provided most of which they had had to opportunity to see. This caused the DWP to change their decision from Fit for Work to Support Group…. even though my case took 14 months of stress and anxiety.”
Barbara via email

“I cannot thank you enough. Your wonderful website has helped me to ensure that my son who has significant mental health problems has been placed straight into the ESA support group- with no interview. The stress he was under worrying and waiting for the decision has been dreadful. Now we can relax at least. Thanks again - and again and again! Life saver (literally)”
Amanda via email

“I just thought I would like to send a quick email to let you know some very good news, this relates to a recent story posted on the B/W website regarding the ‘bedroom tax’ and the loophole that means thousands of claimants have overpaid rent, indeed this was the case for me, so after reading the story on your site I contacted my council… I am happy to say today I received a letter saying I will get a full refund of money I have overpaid…many thanks for posting the story, without B/W I would not have known about the issue, thanks again”
Mike via email

“Great news, just been advised my friend has been awarded mobility high and care middle indefinite.. Thanks so much for your guides, they're priceless”
Mark via email

“I used your members only DLA guide books to help me complete the renewal forms. Within a few days of sending it, I was sent a text message to say it had been received and it could take up to 8 weeks until I received a response. In fact, I heard on Monday! Not only was it renewed without a medical - but the care element was increased from Medium rate to higher rate! This was definitely attributable to the guides showing me how to answer the questions more comprehensibly than I had done previously. Thank you so very much! It will make such a difference to my family.”
Fiona via email

“I really want to thank you for the excellent service you provide. It has helped me complete forms (which I would not be able to do otherwise) and it gave me some piece of mind whilst I was awaiting the response from the DWP…I have been put in the Support Group, for 2 years and my payments will increase slightly. This means that I will be able to access a recovery programme… that I wouldn't be able to if I had to look for work. I will be able to continue to have free prescriptions, which I otherwise would not be able to afford. Not having to worry about my benefits stopping or being made to look for work means that I can concentrate on recovery and on my other mental and physical health needs. Thank you again, to everyone. This means so very much to me.”

Andrea via email

“I have used your site for some time and it has provided me with invaluable information. I am now 'officially' retired and seem to have fallen between the planks in a positive for me manner, with my indefinite award of DLA. So thanks for all your help there.”
Gina via email

“I had an Appeal date in December of 2013 which was cancelled that morning due to Floods. I subsequently had another date given for this morning ... I am absolutely thrilled that the decision made by the decision maker in October 2012 , has been over turned, and my Appeal is successful!!! THIS is the correct decision, THAT should have been made way back in 2012. I feel that those who "do" the Assessments, are NOT adequately qualified to carry out this task, when it comes to Mental Health. A qualified Medical Expert should do these, and then, maybe, the right decision would be made at the beginning, and NOT cause clients the worry, stress, anxiety, that the Appeal process puts them through. I would encourage EVERYONE to do what I did, and Appeal!!”
Sharon via email

“I studied your guides extensively, as well as specific guides for people with ME. It was a bit like preparing to write a thesis. It was an enormous struggle which I had to do over many days, but worth it. I was put into the "WRAG" (I hate using their language) without a medical, and appealed the decision. Couldn't believe when, without having to go to tribunal, I heard I'd been put into the "Support Group" . It is a crumb of comfort to know that people are working to challenge and expose the system, and to help people entangled in it. Thanks a lot.”
Emma via email

“My partner has extremely complex mental & physical problems The dreaded ESA50 form arrived last April & we duly competed it by May 2013. We finally received notification from DWP this week that his benefit has been converted 9 months later! He has been automatically placed in the Support Group for the maximum of 3 years. This whole new evaluation of genuinely sick people is just awful but your guides gave us confidence and sound advice re how to fully express his condition on the forms. I just wanted to say a big thank you for your help & to express our relief that his contributory ESA is now in place. When it comes time for his DLA to be converted to PIP, your site will be the first place that we turn to for help & advice. You do a brilliant service. Thanks so much.”
Patricia via email

“I have been a member for a number of years after finding your site out of pure desperation and panic. I know you cant guarantee a favourable outcome regarding these stupid forms but I've used your guides and advice and kept the benefits i need. More importantly I feel that when that horrible envelope arrives I know I can face what feels like an A level exam calmly. I don't think the powers that be realise the stress and anxiety we go through year after year or that we don't choose to be disabled and sick. Thanks again for all your support. My dla is due to go over to pip in 2015…Rest assured come 2015 i shall be taking your advice and using your guides to help me through the process…thanks again…I want to add that I urge everyone I know in the same situation to join as a member and that you're genuine folks needing the subscriptions to keep up the great work you do”
Jeannie via email

“Hi I have been a member for a couple of years and would like to commend your site for helping me through two appeals for esa and dla, i am now getting esa support group and an increase in my dla from high rate mob to high rate mob + low rate care, so I would like to say a big thank you it made the appeals so easy and stress took all the uncertainty out of the whole thing and would recommend the site for everyone on any benefits”
Adam via email

“I just wanted to say a big thank you. My son just had his DLA review, I more or less copied the form from last year…I felt it was an experiment on my part if I put down all the same points as last year, the award should bethe same as last year. Well it turned out better than that – he was awarded same as last year. Low rate mobility and high rate care but this time for 5 years. Yipeee!
I have also just been migrated from incapacity benefit to ESA and put into the support group – but it didn’t say how long for. Thanks again for your guidance.”

Anne via email

“Just to say a big Thank you for your fantastic guides to filling out the DLA forms. My husband has had his claim renewed indefinitely - this will help us enormously and although the form filling took hours, your guides proved invaluable. The fee was well worth the help. …my husband has also been awarded the care component lower rate..something that previously he didnt even realise he was entitled to until reading your again ..Many thanks”
Angela via email

“Just wanted to say thank you so much for your help.When I first saw the form to be filled out for my wifes change from ib to esa I was pretty scared…With your guides invaluable help …we followed all your advice and guidance and missed nothing out.We sent the form back in May and have just heard this week that she has been put into the support group without the need for medical which is such a massive massive weight of our minds I cant thank you enough.”

Andrew via email

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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