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28 September 2016 Update

Virtual Abolition of PIP, DLA and ESA Appeal Tribunals As We Know Them

PIP envelope: "too scared to open it for the past 10 days"
“Hi I received the dreaded brown envelope, shoved it in a drawer and was too scared to open it for the past 10 days for fear of what it may say. Today I finally managed to work up the courage to open it, had a massive panic attack, dropped it, went back to reading it and discovered I’ve been awarded Enhanced rate for both Daily Living and Mobility. I still can’t believe it and am in absolute shock. Once I stop shaking it will sink in. Thank you for all of the helpful guides and support on the forum I would have been lost without it.”


Dear Reader,

It’s been a thorn in the side of the DWP for many years.

Whenever they try to argue that disability and incapacity benefit assessments are fair, someone will always ask why, in that case, are so many decisions overturned at appeal?

The introduction of the mandatory reconsideration before appeal system was intended to bring tribunal success rates for claimants crashing down.

It didn’t.

In fact, only this month the Scottish government pointed out that:

“It is absolutely staggering that 65% of people who dispute their PIP award are successful in their appeal of that decision.”

But now, the government have a plan that may well succeed.

A new online system for appeals is to be introduced, along with more decisions being made “on the papers” and the ditching of medical and disability members from most panels. The result is likely to be a significant and sustained fall in both the volume of appeals and the success rate for claimants.

Case officer says ‘No’
Under the new system, some matters that are currently decided by judges will be dealt with by ‘case officers’ instead. This could mean clerks deciding whether your appeal is in time, for example, or whether your appeal will be held online, in person or “on the papers”.

More decisions “on the papers”
The government’s intention is that:

“Where a case is relatively straightforward or routine, representations will be made online in writing for a judge to consider outside of a traditional court room, without the need for a physical hearing, meaning a more convenient experience for everyone involved.”

What is really “convenient” for the DWP about this is that the success rates for paper hearings are drastically lower than for appeals where you appear in person.

At the moment claimants get to choose whether they want to appear before a panel or just submit written evidence. In the future it will be a clerk or a judge who makes that choice for you.

More virtual hearings
Even if you manage to avoid a paper hearing, the chances of having your appeal in the same room as the tribunal judge are very slim indeed.

“Where a judge needs to listen to the parties make their arguments, it will be possible in many cases to hold the hearings over telephone or video conference, without the need for the parties to travel to a court building. There will still be an important place for physical court hearings for criminal trials and other serious or complex cases, but where they are appropriate, virtual hearings offer an easy and convenient alternative for everybody.”

For some claimants, removing the stress and pain involved in travelling to a hearing will be an enormous advantage. But for others, the sheer strangeness of an online exchange – and all the technical problems it may involve – will make it very hard for them to give detailed and persuasive evidence.

More haggling
Many claimants may not even get as far as a hearing, whether online or on the papers, even after lodging an appeal. The government says:

“In appropriate cases, we will encourage parties to settle their disputes themselves, without the intervention of the courts.”

The real fear here is that the DWP will effectively be able to bully claimants into accepting a lower award than they believe they are entitled to, in order to avoid the risk and emotional trauma of an appeal.

Fewer panel members
The government also plans to “streamline” the appeals system by making much less use of additional panel members.

“In the First-tier Tribunal (Social Security and Child Support), for example, many cases must be heard by a judge, a medical member and a member with experience of providing or receiving care for disability, regardless of the circumstances of the case in question.”

What this means in practice is that most appeals will be heard by retired solicitors sitting alone, with no-one with specialist medical knowledge, or specialist knowledge of disability issues more generally to assist them.

We’ll leave it to you to decide whether this is likely to lead to a rise in the success rates for claimants at benefits appeals.

The government are consulting on the changes until 27 October, though few will expect them to take any notice of the responses they receive.

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

 Benefits and Work guides covers

PIP Mandatory Reconsideration success
“Just wanted to let you know my sister was awarded standard care for ongoing period. Asked for a mandatory reconsideration and has come back enhanced care and standard mobility. Just wanted to thank this site for all the guides and support they give. Good luck to everyone else going through this process hope you all get the outcome you deserve.”

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: 84764

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


Labour would scrap the WCA
Debbie Abrahams, the shadow work and pensions secretary, has said today that Labour would scrap the work capability assessment (WCA). In a speech to the Labour Party Conference Abrahams said they would replace the WCA with “a system based on personalised, holistic support”.

Virtual abolition of PIP, DLA and ESA appeal tribunals as we know them
The government is poised to bring an end to the shaming success rates at benefits appeals, but they will do so by nobbling the appeals system rather than by improving decision making.

Cash Not Care: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state
A new book by former healthcare professional, disabled veteran and relentless campaigner Mo Stewart sets out to expose the truth behind the work capability assessment and the accelerating destruction of the benefits system.

New PIP case law resource
London Advice Services alliance have launched a new personal independence payment case law website at www.pipinfo.net The site is free to use.


Benefits and Work guides coversGOOD NEWS FROM THE FORUM
As always, many thanks to everyone who takes the trouble to post in the forum or email us with news of your success. We know it’s many readers favourite, and most encouraging, bit of the newsletter.

PIP award
“I've finally had good news, I've been awarded pip standard living rate after my tribunal. Thanks to words of support and guidance mostly from this site.”

ESA renewal success
“Still in the support group thanks to all the people who run this fabulous site. Most of the time I can convince myself (mentally) that I have no medical problems at all and I'm able to work around my problems, but it's obvious to everyone else that I struggle. Having to fill in these forms brings me down to reality with a mighty bump and I couldn't possibly have coped without the guidance and expertise provided by the specialists on here. There's a helluva lot of work involved in completing a form that thoroughly describes the process of living your life in an honest way. It's an impossible task without the right help. Thank you again Benefits and Work, I couldn't have done it without you. Worth every penny”

PIP success!
“Hi to everyone at Benefits and Work, Just wanted to say a HUGE thanks to you all for the excellent guides and advice on here. I used your guide when applying for PIP, and read up your advice before I attended the medical consultation, and 10 weeks after sending the form, I received the dreaded brown envelope...enhanced daily living and enhanced mobility for an ongoing period! Not quite sure what "ongoing" specifically means, but apparently they will not be looking at me again for 10 years. I have never been so relieved, after weeks of not sleeping due to worrying I can now relax a little. I know this would not have been possible without the invaluable help found on here, so once again, thanks so much, this site is excellent!”

Brown letter arrived – it’s great news
“Good News Guys thanks to Benefits to work excellent guides and support I have had news today.... I was on DLA indefinite care and mobility.. But now been moved to PIP enhanced care, PIP enhanced mobility - And its for an Ongoing period”

ESA Appeal success!
“Dear Benefits and Work, I would like to thank you for the guides on your site, which I read over to support my appeal against the DWP's decision to move me from the support group of ESA to the work related activity group. I was able to use the information in the guides to successfully overturn the decision of the work capacity assessment and the DWP's mandatory reconsideration at a tribunal into my ESA claim. The tribunal returned me to the support group at the end of the hearing and I obtained confirmation of the decision in writing within 15 minutes after the hearing.”

“I've been with you guys for about eight years now, and i would like to send to all at B&W my heart felt thanks for all your help over those years. You have provided invaluable help through two ESA claim forms and two DLA forms, and the latest dreaded DLA to PIP. All of which have gone through without problem with your guidance to show the way. The latest DLA to PIP after an agonizing three month wait resulted in enhanced/enhanced award with review in ten years, also with no interview, I don't believe it gets better than that. I couldn't have done it without help from your members guides
I will continue to sing your praises and direct all deserving claimants to your wonderful web site.
Once more many thanks from myself and my grateful family and carers. Keep up the good work”

A big thank you
“Can i say a big thank you for your help both with esa and pip i could not have had better results”

PIP reassessment
“My daughter…had her reassessment approximately a month ago…she does qualify for a higher amount and [the DWP] has made the award for four years… Without this site I would not been able to support my daughter through it and importantly have the answers or what to do if this claim was unsuccessful. Thanks to everyone who run the site and the moderators for offering invaluable information on benefits for the disabled and the processes you need to follow in order to claim them. Thank you”

DLA to PIP after medical
“Thank you for the PIP guide to form filling; it was invaluable in the trial of form filling and medical. I think a GP's letter to support your claim is essential especially if you discuss it with him first with suggestions on paper to which he can refer…After a long wait, I received a letter from DWP apologising for the delay in making their decision. Some weeks later I was very pleased, and surprised, to be told I would be receiving enhanced rate for both mobility and daily care. I was fairly sure I would get the highest mobility award but thought I might miss out on daily care. Thank you Benefits and Work.”

ESA WRAG success
“Thanks to your information and guides, I have successfully re applied to stay in this group till 2018. My assessment went like a dream, the person who assessed me was lovely, and totally understood my situation…Thank you again.!!”

Got my brown envelope today
“The long awaited brown envelope dropped through my letterbox today and I have been put in the support group for ESA! To say I am relieved is a vast understatement. It has taken over 7 months but at last I have the result I hoped for, but didn't expect, given all the difficulties most people have with this system. I am grateful for the advice and guides on this site that helped me explain my conditions and how they affect me.”

WRAG to Support Group first time of asking
“Due to your guides I had a medical assessment which I thought went well considering the reports I've read that were not so good. Waited 2 weeks for results and got support group at first time of asking. There wasn't a time limit on my letter so not sure how long I've got it for. I'm so pleased I subscribed to work and benefits it's a life line. I'm still subscribing even though I'm not needing help at the moment but I think you need to keep on top of what the dwp are up to. Thank you so much for all the help I couldn't have done it without you.”

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: 84764

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