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: 4452

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.

You can read this newsletter online.

Support Group success
“Had a call this morning I am Support Group for 2 yrs. Such a relief. Thank you for all the information on this site. It's a god send.”

Dear Reader,

In perhaps the most famous Morecambe and Wise sketch ever, as Morecambe mangles Greig’s piano concerto, Andre Previn protests: “You’re playing all the wrong notes.”

But Morecambe grabs him by the lapels and snaps back: “I’m playing all the right notes . . . but not necessarily in the right order.”

It’s a forty year old sketch. But Benefits and Work can reveal that it was dusted off for use at a televised meeting of the Public Accounts Committee about Personal Independence Payment (PIP) last week.  {jcomments on}

First Lisa Coleman, senior vice president at Atos, looking opulent in pearls, repeatedly denied accusations that Atos had lied in their PIP tender document about how many assessment centres their partner organisations had made available. References in their bid document to contractual commitments couldn’t possibly be understood to mean that there were any sort of . . . well, contracts, she argued.

Then it was the turn of DWP permanent secretary Robert Devereux, looking dismissive in shirt sleeves, to try to justify the 6-7 month waiting times for medicals.

Devereux was adamant that the neither the DWP nor Atos had got it wrong.

Atos, he insisted, had all the right assessment centres and all the right assessors . . . but not necessarily for the right medicals.

As MPs gaped in astonishment, Devereux explained that “The right number of people have been deployed . . . to do a test which is half as long.”

So, you see, officially it’s nobody’s fault that waiting times for PIP medicals are so enormous.

It’s because no-one could possibly have realised that PIP medicals would take two hours to carry out and write up, instead of the one hour that had been allowed for.

This is the sort of thing that could only be discovered once PIP had been rolled out nationally, not from running a proper pilot, Devereux appeared to argue.

Indeed, he seemed to expect gratitude from the committee because, when he realised that roll-out of PIP wasn’t going quite as smoothly as intended, he had scaled it back to only include every single new PIP claimant in the UK and a lot of others besides.

Like a well-practised double act, Devereux and Coleman were both steadfast in their refusal to admit fault, arguing that it’s early days yet and these utterly unforeseeable medical backlogs will soon be dealt with.

Coleman did reluctantly confess that 40% of Atos’ clients have to travel for more than an hour each way to a medical, rather than no-one at all having to do so, as they had guaranteed in their tender document. But this wasn’t because Atos had failed to provide most of the 740 promised assessment centres. Oh no, it was yet another of those completely unforeseeable things.

Because until PIP was up and running nobody could accurately predict where claimants would be travelling from. Such things are just not possible, apparently.

It was as if Coleman imagined PIP claimants to be some strange hobbity type of creatures, living in underground warrens that are only now being discovered, rather than people on every street in every town.

But there’s no denying that this twenty first century Morecambe and Wise put on a polished performance.

Certainly, anyone hoping for an admission of corporate guilt or a display of appropriate remorse for the misery being heaped on sick and dying people – something the committee heard about from other witnesses - will have been disappointed.

But then one thing we should all have foreseen: for the DWP and for Atos, the disastrous roll-out of PIP doesn’t even qualify as a comedy of errors, let alone a tragedy.

You can download the minutes of the meeting or you can watch the whole Committee meeting on Parliament TV. There’s no sound for the first minute until everyone is sitting comfortably. Atos are on at 10.30am and Devereux at 10.59am.

Or you can do yourself a favour and watch Morecambe and Wise’s original performance instead.

IB - ESA success, THANK'S B&W !
“Good news this week, got letter confirming I will be transferred from Incapacity Benefit to ESA Support Group after medical. Can't thank you enough B&W !, couldn't have done it without this site, the incredible people on here and the brilliant guides to filling in the forms and the assessment process. THANK'S !”

The latest official tribunal service figures show that there has been a dramatic drop of 61% in the number of ESA appeals lodged following the introduction of mandatory reconsiderations,

Appeal numbers may climb again as unsuccessful mandatory reconsiderations feed through into the tribunal system. But the likelihood is that many people will drop out at various points along the now greatly extended appeal process, leaving the DWP free to claim they have improved the system whilst actually having made it even more unfair.

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: 4452

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.

PIP awarded
“At last I have been awarded PIP after all this time waiting…Thank to B & W for all your help”

For members only, we’ve now published a collection of sample written submissions to help you create your own if you are involved in a PIP mandatory reconsideration or appeal. As only 37% of PIP claims are successful – excluding terminal illness cases – the probability is that we will be seeing many thousands of PIP appeals in the future. If you are involved in one, as a claimant or support worker, our appeals guide and sample written submissions will give you the confidence to fight unfair decisions all the way to tribunal.

The extraordinarily long waits for PIP medical assessments have prompted Disability News Service to begin a series of stories entitled ‘Life in the PIP queue’ which reveal the human misery behind the failure of Atos, Capita and the DWP to do their jobs at all competently.

Case studies include a family losing their motability car because of PIP delays, a man waiting for a liver transplant who cannot afford the food he needs and a claimant with learning difficulties who has been waiting since August to hear from Atos.


It’s been revealed that you are five times more likely to have your benefits cut than you are to find long-term employment if you are forced onto the work programme.

A shockingly small 48,000 work programme participants have been placed in jobs that lasted two years or more – just 3.2% of the total participants In the three years since the scheme started.

But figures already released by the DWP show that in the 12 months up to October 2013, no fewer than 242,973 sanctions were handed down for alleged failure to participate in the work programme

And to make it even harder for claimants to meet their commitments – and even easier to sanction them - the DWP is removing all the free telephones from Jobcentres. It’s a viciously cynical move which has aroused deep anger, but it’s going ahead anyway.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that Universal Jobmatch, the jobs site that claimants are forced to use, is so riddled with fake and fraudulent opportunities that the DWP is not planning to renew the contract with Monster to maintain it. Monster are currently demanding a fee of almost a million pounds to remove all the fraudulent ads.

The site is just one example of failures in the DWPs partnership with the private sector which has led MPs on the public accounts committee to warn that the entire department is on the verge of meltdown.


The benefits cap has been in the news constantly following the Budget and continues to cause difficulties for the Labour party . Emsyblog has an interesting take on it. She explains in “The Tories: Making Children Pay” that the policy will push more children into poverty and it will punish children for the acts of their parents whilst punishing parents for not being able to access resources they need.

Following last month’s news that Atos wanted to end their contract delivering the Work Capability Assessments needed to receive ESA, it was revealed the day after the Budget that they were set to co-deliver the new childcare scheme.

The £2000 scheme which will replace childcare vouchers will be run partly by Atos, who will not be responsible for assessing eligibility. Jayne Linney and Mike Sivier have written blogs on the story.

Still on the subject of outsourcing, this blogger is ‘keeping an eye on a company whose business is government contracts’ and discusses the problems with procurement in Work Programme stats, and the PAC

If you live in the Chesterfield area you might want to get down to the Market Hall, Assembly Rooms in Chesterfield on Saturday 29th March between 11am-4pm for a meeting organised by the Unite Community membership. They ask: How can we restore dignity to disabled Welfare Benefits? Speakers include Kate Green MP and Debbie Jolly from Disabled People against Cuts.

Back to Atos again. It seems that the tarnished company is also associated with the Commonwealth Games to be held in Glasgow this summer, by becoming an official sponsor, perhaps in a bid to salvage any reputation they have left.

The working class man blog explains why so many are against this and how you can add your name to the "Petition Demanding ATOS to be Dropped as Commonwealth Games Sponsors".

Following the ‘life in the PIP queue’ series of articles by John Pring featured on our site, we were sent a tweet by Liam with his own #lifeinthepipqueue post. He claimed PIP in May 2013 and was finally awarded it in November 2013, but had to appeal anyway as there was no award for Mobility.

Finally, to spread a little hope, Sue Marsh, disability campaigner and writer, is performing a bit of magic every Monday. She says; “Magic Mondays is a way of trying to convince others - people who may not be familiar with the many social security myths - that things are not as they seem. If we could all just persuade one person a week, we would have made a very significant impact by the 2015 election.” Read the full post here and perhaps think of one person who could be convinced by telling them the real stories behind welfare reform.

Our Facebook page, run by volunteers, is thriving with lots of regular discussion on our news stories. Tweets are also regularly shared there and you may find it a place to discuss news and to seek support from others dealing with similar benefits hurdles.

It's also a place where people can share their thoughts about Benefits and Work.  As one recent entrant in our Facebook subscription competition told us:

"I like benefits and work because their advice is so well presented and I can find my way around their website etc easily. it has really helped me to find out my entitlements and rights and it also cheers me up to see the testimonials from people that have got through the battle of the benefits system and won. its great that they are on fb - I share posts all the time with friends I know are struggling and will find what they need to know there.

So please consider joining us there too.

As always, there's more news on the site than we can squeeze into the newsletter, including:

MSPs suggest five changes to Iain Duncan Smith on improving the Work Capability Assessments

Urgent action needed on PIP, say MPs

Changes to benefits announced in the Chancellor’s Budget statement

MPs criticise DWP for 'spin' on official statistics and benefit claimants

Credit check plan to crack down on benefit cheats


Thanks to everyone who has sent us their good news.  It cheers us up enormously  in the office and we know it means a great deal to our members.  So please keep it coming.

Support Group renewal
“Thank you and everyone who has given their support to me over the last year. Without you giving your time to help when you are also ill yourselves is remarkable. I have been put in the Support Group again…Thank you all so much for your help.”

Support Group
“Just to give some hope to all those waiting months to hear from DWP with reassessments.
After 8 months I finally heard that they have kept me in the support group - and no medical either.
Many thanks to B&W for the excellent guides.”

ESA appeal success
“Thanks for all the info / support that your site offers! Got the letter today, I won my appeal.”

IB to Support Group success
“I would never have been able to fill the forms in without your help and Wonderful Guides and Knowledge ,I know I only posted a couple of questions for help but the answers I got helped me a great deal but I come on here every day to read up and keep up to date and read other peoples queries and this is the best money I have ever spent and I will continue to be a member of B&W for many years to come … once again thank you all very much and good luck to every body else who is going through this”

Son won appeal after two year wait
“..(my son) had appeal heard for previous claim and was put into support group, this is mainly due to your guides and help once again a big thank you. just have to wait and see what atos say about new claim he put in in jan. Thank you again”

ESA appeal won!
“… just won my appeal from wrag to support group of esa and its all your advice and support over the past few months that helped me through this nerve racking … b and w is a must for all people on benefits and i will be renewing my subscription thats for sure thanks again for being there when i needed some support”

ESA success
“Well, if I had a hat I would take it off to you guys.... thanks a million, couldnt have done it without you, and I will remain a member for life, thats how important this site is, in my opinion. Fantastic job you guys are doing, next stop PIP for me so I will be keeping an eye on things here every day that I am able to. Thanks again all, you are superb!”

IB to ESA transfer
“I was transferred from Ib to esa support group, which took seven months in total. Many thanks to B&W for your help, you gave me confidence to both fill in the form and attend my medical knowing I had a fair chance of success.”

Thank you
“a big thank you to the mods on this site…after a mandatory review using the info off this site I have been moved up into the Support group (2 years)…thank you”

DLA appeal success
“HI I have just had my DLA appeal today and I have been granted high rate mobility and low rate care which is being backdated to 6/3/2013 It helped enormously reading your papers so thank you so much”

Advice re PIP
“Again, many many thanks to you guys for all ur info and insite, this website is awesome!..”

ESA Tribunal success
“I attended my ESA Tribunal yesterday and won!..Thank you to those of you at the B&W website for all this wonderful information.”

ESA50 completion
“I would never have been able to make detailed replies to the descriptors by myself, so I want to thank B+W for their fantastic guides.”

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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