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6 May 2015 newsletter

DWP Plan Harsher ESA Test, PIP Safety Net Pulled, Claimant Death Statistics To Be Published

PIP result!Benefits and Work guides covers
“Hi received pip decision today… Entitled to high care and low mobility great result…I also work part time and should have put in years ago but didn't know I could until I came across this site so a big thank you from me”

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Dear Reader

Plans to make the medical test for employment and support allowance (ESA) harder to pass and to increase the amount of bedroom tax some claimants have to pay have been leaked to the Guardian.

Meanwhile, with polling day almost upon us, the DWP have been ordered by the Information Commissioner to publish highly controversial claimant death statistics – but not until well after the election is over.

And we have news of an important protection for PIP claimants at risk of suicide or self-harm that has been removed.

Harsher test and more cuts
The cuts documents drawn up by civil servants and seen by the Guardian relate to ways that the benefits bill could be reduced if the government goes over the national spending cap for welfare benefits.

However, sources in the DWP told the Guardian that these are the same options that will be presented to Conservative ministers wanting to cut £12 billion from the benefit bill if they win the election.

The cuts include:

  • Stricter fit for work tests or ‘tighter limits on eligibility’
  • Increasing the bedroom tax on certain categories of renters
  • Stopping under-25s from claiming ESA or housing benefit
  • Freezing all benefits payments

The DWP documents also reveal that IDS has failed to meet his targets for cutting the cost of IB/ESA, DLA/PIP and housing benefit and that ‘welfare reform’ is not saving money. The only way to cut costs now, according to the papers is to make cuts, some of which have been rejected in the past by ministers, which are “very/highly/extremely controversial”.

Little wonder then, that the Conservatives don’t want to reveal them before an election.

Death statistics
ESA ‘death statistics’ cover the number of ESA claimants who have died soon after being found fit for work, as well as those who died after being placed in the work-related activity group.Stamp reading 'Refused'

The decision by the Information Commissioner to order publication was made in February of this year. But it was withheld for months , before finally being sent last week to the DWP and to Mike Sivier, the campaigning blogger who has been pursuing the figures for years.

The time limit of 35 days to publish now runs from 30 April, meaning the Coalition will not have to answer to the public for any rise in claimant death numbers until after the election is over.

The unpublished statistics join a long list of suppressed and delayed reports, as well as refusals to hold enquiries, that would have revealed just how painful life for many sick and disabled claimants has become.

For example, the Coalition have refused to hold an inquiry into the reasons for the rise in food bank use, refused to hold an enquiry into the use of sanctions, refused to carry out a cumulative impact assessment examining how the combined effect of all the ‘welfare reforms’ have affected claimants and have refused to publish details of 49 reviews into benefits related deaths.

Along with IDS fleeing from the sister of a dead claimant, the catalogue of refusals suggests some very guilty minds at the heart of the DWP.

PIP safety net pulled
Just how much regard the DWP has for claimants’ lives can be judged by the fact that an important safety net for claimants at risk of suicide has been removed.

The Personal Independence Payment Handbook, used by health professionals assessing claimants for PIP, advises that where a claimant has a history of suicide attempts or self-harm assessors should ‘strongly consider’ getting additional medical evidence. The aim is to try to carry out a paper-based assessment ‘to avoid distress to the claimant’.

At least, that’s what the PIP Handbook used to say.

This advice has been completely removed from the latest editions of the Handbook, with no explanation as to why vulnerable claimants no longer require protection.

We’ll be quizzing the DWP on the reasons for this change and updating our PIP guide to take account of it over the next few days.

We’ll keep readers posted.

ESA evidence ‘never’ refused
Moving on to ESA, Maximus have said they would ‘never refuse’ to allow claimants to submit up-to-date evidence when being assessed or reassessed for ESA, in spite of claimants telling us that’s exactly what happened to them.

We have been hearing from members whose ESA50 form, in which you have the chance to explain how your condition affects you, was up to two years old when they were finally called for a medical. Yet members claim they were told they could not submit a new form and would instead have to just tell the health professional about any changes to their condition.

Maximus, however, say that you always have the right to download and submit a new ESA50 form. We’ve provided readers with links to download a form and to complain to Maximus if they are told not to send it in.

ESA, DLA, PIP and HB still under threat
Finally, we hope this is our last word on voting for quite some time – unless a hung parliament results in another general election in the near future.

Ours survey last week showed that the vast majority of those who took part are willing to use tactical voting and vote-swapping as ways of trying to prevent the Conservatives running the next government.

And it’s probably just as well, given that the latest survey for the Guardian shows that Conservative voters are themselves more than willing to vote tactically. The polls say they are doing so in ‘breathtaking’ numbers in Sheffield Hallam to ensure that Nick Clegg remains as an MP and can help to create another Tory/Lib Dem government. And most of the tabloids are now advising their readers on how to vote tactically to keep the Conservatives in.

The Tories, meanwhile, still refuse to reveal where £12 billion cuts in benefits will fall if they take office, with IDS claiming yesterday that the Conservatives ‘haven’t done the work on it’ yet. Though having (probably) ruled out cuts to child benefit, this leaves only disability and incapacity benefits - such as PIP, DLA and ESA - plus housing benefit and tax credits left to slash. And, as seen above, making ESA even harder to claim and increasing the bedroom tax are now real possibilities.

But as we write this, only one thing is absolutely certain - this election is still much too close to call.

So, whether and how you vote could make a dramatic difference not just to your own life, but to the lives of everyone at risk of becoming just another DWP death statistic.

Please vote,

Steve Donnison

 

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ELECTION SPECIALS
For more on voting, see our 'Election Special' newsletters:

Who can you vote for to prevent “life-changing” benefits cuts?

Should you swap votes with a stranger or support the enemy?

 

BENEFITS NEWS
PIP safety net pulled

Information Commissioner orders publication of ESA death statistics

Benefits cuts plans leaked to Guardian

Voting survey results

IDS flees from sister of dead claimant

Maximus deny refusing to allow up-to-date ESA evidence

Vote swapping and tactical voting - take the survey

 

FEEDBACK FROM THE FORUM
Thank you, as always, for all the feedback we receive in the forum and by email. It’s a great source of encouragement to us and to our membersBenefits and Work guides covers image

Placed in Support Group
“Hi, I had my medical assessment last week and I have been feeling very anxious waiting for the outcome. I phoned the DWP today and a nice gentleman told me I had been placed in the SG and that I should receive a confirmation letter shortly. I was so relieved to hear this. I was expecting to have failed the medical. I don't think I could have got this result without your helpful guides and the wealth of people providing supporting documents with my claim. Once again, thank you B&W for your wonderful help.”

ESA Support Group success!
“hey Esa renewal from filling in form to getting result just over 2 weeks, I stay in the Support group, has to be a record for northern ireland! I'm full of praise for this site, i make people aware that you guys exists as without the guides which were rigorously followed these forms would be a nightmare, so to all the mods a massive thank you, no medical to attend this time…thank you again”

DLA Reassessment Success!
“I have just about recovered from the (happy) shock of receiving yesterday a brown envelope from DWP… confirming I have been awarded DLA HR Mobility & HR Care for an indefinite period. I…was bowled over by this result…I cannot thank B&W enough for its wonderful guides & advice; I would not have been anything like as successful without you…With grateful thanks to Steve & Holliday & all the Mods. B&W is a lifeline offering hope in very stormy seas.”

PIP award
“Thank you yet again! I helped hubby apply for pip due to his going out problems caused by aspergers and fibromyalgia. He was turned down for DLA a few years ago and never wanted to try again but with all your guides and advice on here I managed to encourage him. Standard mobility for 5years !!!!!

I can't explain how the guides breaking each section into little achievable bits has helped us both to explain our daily problems caused by differing conditions. Until joining it all seemed overwhelming so thank you all.”

DLA to PIP success
“Got my claim form for the change from DLA to PIP 1st March and had a home assessment on the 17 March 2015. Today I received the brown envelope and thank god I have good news. I received enhanced rate for both care and mobility…it was very hard to do but I had written my claim form with help from your web site and ATOS said that the more information the better with the proviso that it is all true. Thanks again to you for the web site I could not have done it without you. What a relief.”

ESA award
“Hi all, A big thank you to this site and to all moderators. I finally got my ESA award. I am placed in the support group for three years with no medical. Phew! I did send 20 extra pages of how my life is affected and did not rely on the tick boxes…Just the pressure of the forms made me ill and I ended up having to have another scan so I am relieved I have had a 3 year award. Thank you.”

Change to ESA ran smoothly
“I have been Disabled for the last 15 years & have been on Incapacity & DLA middle & high mobility.
My changeover including an interview with a charming ATOS Doctor has gone smoothly (apart from a 4 month wait for the decision) THANK-YOU for your very valuable guidance...”


ESA Support Group success
“I received letter now transferred from income support to support group thank you”

Successful PIP – increased award
“I've just had the brown envelope with my award letter. Over the moon that I had my award increased to the maximum for both mobility and care. I've been terribly worried waiting for the result, but I know I have to thank your brilliant guides for showing me how to explain my problems within the parameters required by the DWP. So many people don't understand that it's not just about being ill - it's about explaining how the illness affects us. And I just sat down and worked my way through your guides. Couldn't have done it without you B & W! Many many thanks.”

PIP appeal success
“Hi all, my sons change from DLA to PIP was refused but after a long stressful battle and lots of help from Benefits and Work we finally won his appeal - Enhanced rate mobility and standard rate care instead of High care and low mobility on DLA.”

SDA to ESA Support Group success
“First of all I want to say a massive THANKYOU to Benefits & Work for their guides to ESA forms, I'm sure it's down to them that I've gone from SDA (Severe Disablement Allowance) to ESA: Support Group in one form…Thank you so much again”

ESA success
“…many thanks for a wonderful site …which helped me receive ESA .”

 

BOOST YOUR ESA, PIP OR DLA CHANCES - 20% OFF ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP – OFFER ENDS MIDNIGHT FRIDAY
Give yourself the best possible chance of getting the right ESA, PIP or DLA decision, whether you’re making a claim, renewing an existing award or asking for a reconsideration or appeal. Subscribe now and get instant access to all our guides.

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: 8262

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.

Offer ends midnight Friday

 

Good luck,

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

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