Dear Reader,

In this edition we warn you that, in an effort to cut benefits costs, employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants are being subjected to a massively increased sanctions regime that deliberately targets the most vulnerable.{jcomments on}

Sanctions, primarily aimed at claimants in the work-related activity group (WRAG) who are on the work programme, have quadrupled in the course of a year. They have increased from 1,102 a month in December 2012 to 4,789 a month in December 2013, the most recent date figures are available for.

Yet over the same period the number of ESA claimants being moved onto the work programme dropped by 43% a month and the number of claimants in the WRAG rose by just 21% in total.

62% of those sanctioned have mental health conditions or learning difficulties, although only 50% of claimants in the WRAG have these conditions.

It is hard to imagine a more cynical and discriminatory project, which appears to be intended to cut ESA costs whatever the human suffering involved might be.

You can read more about the DWP’s latest attack on claimants on the Benefits and Work website.


Since getting the statistics on the huge rise in ESA sanctions we have spent the last few days, creating a detailed guide to ‘The best possible ways to prevent and overturn ESA sanctions.’ – which is why this newsletter is a little on the short side, at least by our standards.

Our 30 page guide takes you through:

  • Quick tips to reduce the chances of a sanction
  • What to do if you are threatened with a sanction or actually sanctioned
  • How to explain the ways your condition affects you
  • Explaining your ‘good cause’ for not carrying out a mandatory activity
  • Making a written complaint to JCP and work programme providers
  • Complaining to your MP
  • Using the mandatory reconsideration and appeal process
  • Suing the DWP and work programme providers
  • Applying for a hardship payment
  • Applying to be placed in the support group

The guide, based in part on JSA sanctions information we have already published, includes sample letters and forms specific to ESA as well as lots of hints and tips to prevent you being seen as an easy target by work programme providers and Jobcentre Plus staff.

It will help you to avoid getting sanctioned in the first place. But if you do get threatened with a sanction, or actually sanctioned, it will take you through a range of responses from a formal complaint, to an appeal and even suing the organisations who are targeting you.

Recent statistics show that almost 90% of appeals against sanctions are successful, whilst legal insiders tell us that the DWP almost always settles discrimination claims before they get anywhere near a court. So fighting back is definitely worthwhile.

Yet a Citizens Advice Scotland report on sanctions released yesterday reveals that “many people who are hit by a sanction are not told the reason for it, or how to appeal against it” and that “many people are forced into poverty and ill health, often having to rely on foodbanks as their benefit payments are stopped.”

Members can download a copy of the guide from the ESA section of the members only area of the site.


Improve your chances of getting the benefits you’re entitled to and, at the same time, help us to carry on discovering the truth about what the DWP are up to.

Plus, 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: 5732

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.


Still on the subject of sanctions, this summer, CABs across Scotland are raising the issue of benefit sanctions. The 'Challenge It' campaign aims to raise awareness of the right to appeal against sanctions. All CABs in Scotland have been issued with 'Challenge It' postcards and mini-cards, offering tips both on how to avoid being sanctioned and what to do if you are.

Meanwhile, the BBC has obtained DWP internal memos which says that ESA is worse than incapacity benefit at helping people back into work and now poses one of the biggest financial risks faced by the government. The memos also imply that the jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) sanctions regime is partly to blame for the rising number of ESA claimants.

The public accounts committee has issued a damning report on the introduction of personal independence payment. Margaret Hodge, chair of the committee, has called PIP a ‘fiasco’ which has ‘let down some of the most vulnerable people in our society’.

In its report, the committee states that the Department’s failure to pilot the scheme has caused unnecessary distress for claimants who have been unable to access the support they need to live, and in some cases work, independently and describes the personal stories they heard as ‘shocking’.

So, you probably won’t envy the task of Paul Gray CB, who the government has commissioned to undertake an independent review of how the PIP assessment system is working.

Mr Gray has issued a call for evidence aimed at organisations and individuals who have information that is relevant to how the PIP assessment is operating, both for new claims and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) reassessment claims.



Iain Duncan Smith's latest effort to prevent the publication of documents warning of the dangers of universal credit has been dismissed by a judge.

The judge has ordered the release of documents about the progress of universal credit, an assessment of independent reviews and a record of problems with it.

The DWP insisted publication would have a "chilling effect" on the working of the department, though in reality the chilling effect on IDS’s reputation is probably the main reason for the refusal to publish the documents. Unfortunately IDS can probably drag the legal process out for years yet or simply use his ministerial veto to stop publication.


An estimated 50,000 people marched from the BBC's New Broadcasting House in central London to Westminster in protest at austerity measures introduced by the coalition government. The demonstrators gathered before the Houses of Parliament, where they were addressed by speakers, including comedians Russell Brand and Mark Steel. The event received remarkably little press coverage, however.

On Saturday, more demonstrators set up a camp in the grounds of Westminster Abbey to protest against cuts to financial support for disabled people.

Members of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) pitched tents and said they intended to occupy the green outside the doors of one of Westminster's most recognisable landmarks until 22 July. A huge police presence and heavy-handed tactics ensured that the protest was brought to an end, however.

Again, the protest received remarkably little media attention.

Which makes it rather ironic that the BBC has announced that it hopes to increase awareness of disability issues with a number of on-air and digital projects after hiring its first disability correspondent, Nikki Fox.

“We want to look into how the cuts to benefits are affecting people with disabilities and how the changes to the education system may impact children with disabilities,” said Fox, who will work alongside three broadcast journalists in Salford dedicated to disability issues.

Which sounds like a very good idea. As there is more than one Nikki Fox journalist we’ve published Nikki’s twitter account details to make sure you can help keep her informed about what is actually going on.


We have had some lovely feedback from our Facebook page:

“Thank you Benefits & Work! I've never heard from DWP since sending in ESA50 in March. They phoned today about something else so I asked when would hear - apparently I was assessed in April & put in Support Group until April 2016.

“Devastatingly (!) that means I'll never get to meet ATOS as, with the help of your guides, that makes 4 years in support group without ever being called for a medical. (Plus a 5yr high care/low mob DLA award in 2011 til 2016, again without a medical).

“I keep recommending you to other people - your guides are so helpful - particularly, I think, as I have fluctuating/non-visible mental health issues, for which the medicals have been a farce, so understanding how to explain on form has been a godsend.

“Thank you. Tamsin”


There’s lots more news on the site than we have room for in this newsletter, including:

The PIP chaos reveals the government's contempt for disabled people

DWP leads the way on statistical complaints

Thousands left in limbo in benefit appeals system grinding to a halt

Labour pledges to 'pause' universal credit if elected in 2015

Deprivation Britain: Poverty is getting worse - even among working families, according to major new study

Government 'could breach its own welfare spending cap'

Please keep your good news coming – it’s needed now more than ever.

PIP been awarded at last!
“…got my letter on Saturday from the DWP…I have been given enhanced daily living component…my husband and I would like to thank you for your excellent guides that helped us at the medical and gain the money. The best subs I have ever spent Thank from the bottom of my heart.”

ESA mandatory reconsideration success
“Have had the phone call, after a Mandatory Reconsideration I have successfully been moved from wrag to Support group..Many thanks to B & W. I could not have achieved this without you knowledge and guidance.”

Support Group success
“My husband has once again been placed in the Support, only this time it's for 3 years. Could we both take this opportunity to thank everyone who has offered help and pointing us in the right direction because without it, we would certainly have not been able to construct our answers properly. Good luck to you all, and once again thank you B&W”

Mandatory Recon overturned their decision
“The dwp rang me this morning and have over turned their WRAG decision and have agreed to put me in the support group! Thank you so much to everyone on benefits and work for your help! It has been invaluable and I couldn't have done it without you all. You have been a rock to my wife and I!”

ESA result after 12 months
“Hi, I've eventually got the dreaded brown envelope through letterbox after waiting 12 months for my ESA decision from migration from Incapacity benefit. I couldn't believe it when I read that I've been placed in the Support group and WITHOUT having to attend a medical! The relief is immense after a year of worry and stress so thank you for all the help and advice on here.”

Thank you! This site is a lifeline!
“I hope this helps other users... After 18 months.... I finally won my DLA claim for HRM, and LRC at appeal after previously being turned down… I was in utter despair. This is where B&W came in... I found your site while confined to bed, feeling utterly miserable and having bad thoughts but from that day I never looked back. Thank you so much for the work you do. You have no idea how much you help people if we don't let you know. I was at my wits end and you were like Angels that lifted a weight off my shoulders. You really must read the guidelines on this site; I knew instantly where I'd gone wrong. Good Luck all with your claims, and use this site it truly is a life saver! Thank you B&W for giving me my life back.”

ESA support group success
“just had a call from DWP saying that my daughter has just been awarded ESA and is in the support group, and that its being backdated to last february 2013, we didnt even need to go for a medical assessment”

ESA support group after medical
I am very relieved after waiting 39 weeks , thank you

Placed in the Support Group
thank you for all the information I got from reading the forums from the Benefit and Work

In the Support group without medical
Without help from Benefits and Work I do not think this would have happened.

IB to ESA Support Group without a medical
I would like to thank you for the guides and for the help that they gave me.


Improve your chances of getting the benefits you’re entitled to and, at the same time, help us to carry on discovering the truth about what the DWP are up to.

Plus, 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: 5732

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.

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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