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IB to the Support Group without a face-to-face assessment

“I want to say a BIG THANK YOU to this wonderful website for all the
information provided during such a worrying and anxious time.”

Dear Reader,

This newsletter includes rumours that IDS is plotting to do away with the work-related activity group of ESA altogether, leaving just the support group. In addition, there’s the tragic news of yet another claimant committing suicide as a result of the current cruel ESA regime, let alone an even harsher one.

There’s also the tale of the drunken Atos nurse whose cases are not to be re-examined and the mystery of the bouncing Atos cheque. Plus the DLA decision makers relying on Google for medical advice and the bedroom tax supporting MPs who pocket £500 a week in expenses for their own spare homes.

On a brighter note we have triumphant news from the WOW petition plus the playwright who wants to turn your benefits experiences into drama.

DWP loses court of appeal attempt to prevent a judicial review of the work capability assessment on the grounds that it discriminates against people with mental health issues and learning difficulties.

Jack's Petition to force the government debate the causes of UK hunger reaches 75,000 signatures in three days as doctors and academics warn that hunger in Britain has reached the level of a “public health emergency”.

The Observer has reported that Iain Duncan Smith wants to get rid of work-related activity group so that only claimants who are eligible for the support group will receive ESA. IDS is reported to be unhappy that only half of the 550,000 claimants in WRAG are coming off benefit within three years, and that hundreds of millions of pounds are being tied up in administration of the benefit, including the work capability assessments and appeals process.

Whilst IDS tries to make it even harder for sick and disabled people to get benefits, the Bristol Post has reported that a partially-sighted woman, who suffered from crippling arthritis in her neck and back and was only able to walk with the aid of a stick, has killed herself following the finding that she was capable of work.

And there were more distressing tales of hardship and suicides amongst benefits claimants in testimony given for the United Nations. (members only)

Atos and the DWP, however, confident about the quality of their assessments, are apparently refusing to review what could be hundreds of ESA and possibly also DLA medicals, after a nurse was sacked in July for carrying out medicals while drunk.

The nurse has been suspended by the Nursing and Midwifery Council for at least 18 months because of a "high risk of repetition and a serious risk and danger to the public". Atos and the DWP, however, have declined to re-examine all of the medicals carried out by the nurse , in spite of the fact that they may have been carried out under the influence of alcohol.

Even when your Atos health professional is stone cold sober there’s a real chance you’ll find yourself having to challenge their findings via the new mandatory reconsideration before appeal system. But how many claimants will want to avoid looking for additional evidence until after their appeal has been lodged, thereby making the reconsideration process utterly pointless?

In a commons debate Esther McVey claimed that mandatory reconsiderations for ESA should take just 14 days, provided that no further information is needed. However, she also confirmed that it could take longer if further information is needed and that there are no plans to set a maximum time limit for carrying out a mandatory reconsideration.

As a result, many claimants are likely to deliberately choose not to try to provide additional evidence until their reconsideration has failed, their appeal has been successfully lodged and their ESA has been reinstated at the assessment rate.

A member has complained that the multi-billion Atos corporation bounced a travel expenses cheque on her after she attended a PIP medical, leaving her short of much needed cash. Atos deny all knowledge.

Meanwhile, now that Atos have withdrawn from providing medicals for DLA, there are claims that decision makers are being told to Google health conditions when deciding eligibility for the benefit.

Anyone hoping to find out more about what’s happening with PIP may want to tune into Parliament TV at 9.30am on Wednesday, 11th December. That’s when the Minister for Disabled People, Mike Penning MP will be trying to avoid telling the work and pensions committee why there have been so few PIP decisions and why the contracts for medicals are in such a complete shambles.

"Exceptionally good trainer and great course content" Sheila Stringer, DIAL NW Kent 

Personal independence payment has got off to the slowest start since . . . well, since universal credit, at any rate. But over the coming months we’re likely to begin seeing more and more PIP decisions coming through. Is your agency ready for PIP and all the problems it’s likely to bring? If not, do yourself and your service users a favour by signing up for a Benefits and Work PIP training course in March.

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

The Mirror reports that 169 Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs who backed the “bedroom tax” have claimed up to £25,000 a year each for their accommodation bills. This includes MP Stephen Barclay, who received £24,226.09, despite living less than two hours from Westminster.


As the government admits that claimants are being forced to pay millions in higher rate phone calls to get through to the DWP, we’ve made another Freedom of Information request and updated our list of free to mobile DWP numbers, which we first obtained back in 2010.

Iain Duncan Smith, on the other hand, will be desperately trying to avoid giving any information to the Work and Pensions Committee about his departments misuse of statistics and about universal credit delays.. Watch him squirm and bluster at 4.30pm on Monday 9th December on Parliament TV.

Finally, playwright and benefits adviser Christina Katic is looking for ESA claimants who would be willing to share the stories of their claims anonymously and in their own words for a new play. If you’re interested in finding out more, please contact Christina.

The Benefits and Work Facebook page now has well over 8,000 likes and continues to develop as a friendly and supportive community. Our Facebook volunteers wanted to say:

“Thank you to those that have responded to our request for your stories about JSA sanctions. if you have experienced being sanctioned under the JSA rules, click here for this link on the page or visit the main website to tell your story.

“Also a great response from Facebookers about Twitter. Lots of you commented that you would like to know more about the Twitter account, so over the next few weeks we will be posting a roundup of the links that have come through our Twitter account on the facebook page to spread info as widely as possible.”

Thanks as always to all of you who are following us, and talking to us on Twitter.

As many of you will know, after a dramatic final sprint, the WOW campaign reached their target of 100,000 signatures calling for a cumulative assessment of the effect of benefit cuts.

We know that many of you signed the petition and you got a lovely thank you from the WOW campaign on twitter and also some very positive feedback from seasoned campaigner hossylass – at least we think being congratulated on our longevity was a compliment rather than a suggestion that we’re getting past it!

In fact, far from being past it, we’re energetically working on two new projects we aim to unveil early in the New Year.

The first is a resource to try to help people fight back against the increasingly vicious sanctions campaign being waged against claimants.

The second relates to providing individual advice to professionals and claimants. We’ve given up trying to set up a service to help freelance welfare rights workers advertise their services, lots of claimants liked the idea but welfare rights workers didn’t sign up. So, instead, we’re setting up a service ourselves. Stay in touch for updates via this newsletter, twitter or facebook.

There’s been a great deal more news on the site over the last two weeks than we have room for in the newsletter, including:

New fears of PIP ‘chaos’ (members only)

DWP ‘cover up’ over Work Choice allegations (members only)

Training people to use universal credit could cost 'hundreds of millions'

MP Esther McVey likens jobseekers to naughty schoolchildren

Please do keep your feedback coming – it means a great deal to us and to the thousands of people who click on these links every fortnight for a small injection of optimism.

Placed in the Support Group until 2015 without a medical
“I really just wanted to say a huge thank you to people here for your encouragement and advice. Thank You.”

DLA renewed at the same rates for 2 years
“I'm absolutely astounded. I know I couldn't have done it without the help that the forms gave me.”

ESA success
“Thanks to the Benefits and Work ESA guides I have now been successful in my claim for ESA and I have been placed in the support group without a medical.”

ESA granted
“Just to say thank you for all the information contained on this website. Being able to clearly set out the facts without drifting off into unnecessary ramblings, are all the benefits of being a member of this website.”

Placed in the Support Group for 3 years
“I would like to thank everyone involved with benefit and works and all the moderators for their hard work and help with questions and queries.”

ESA Appeal Successful
"I was told I would be put into the support group with a recommendation that I not be assessed again for two years. The panel also 'suggested' (they stressed that they could not recommend this) that I consider applying for PIP. Thanks to all at Benefits and Work for your help and support."

DLA awarded for Day and Night Care
"I firmly believe the site is worth its weight in gold as are the moderators who give up their time to help us. Without all the info to download and advice read from other claimants some would give up long before now."

DLA higher rate mobility renewed for 2 years and in WRAG for 18 months
"using the B&W guides, everything has gone as it should 1st time."

WRAG to Support Group
"Had my tribunal today I got the support group 16 points. Thanks for the feedback from people from this site."

ESA and DLA won on appeal
"Thanks guy's, if not for the documentation in here I dare say I would have lost and been wrongly treat !!!"

Placed in the Support Group on the day of the hearing
"I had a telephone call two hours before to let me know that there was no need to attend as they had all the necessary information they needed for a decision. I am over the moon that I have at last been placed in the correct group! I wanted you to know that it would not have been possible without all of your support and excellent guides. You are a real lifeline for us. Long may your excellent work continue and I wanted to say a massive thank you. Members never give up hope."

IB to ESA Support Group
"I have just been transferred from Incapacity Benefit to the ESA Support Group and like many others would like to thank you for your excellent guides."

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

Good luck,

Steve Donnison
Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No. 5962666


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