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Coalition Silent on Bedroom Tax Tragedy Plus ESA and PIP Claims and Appeals News

Readers of this newsletter will have been deeply saddened, but few will have been surprised, to learn that earlier this month a claimant committed suicide and left a note specifically blaming the poverty forced on them by ‘welfare reform’.  Predictably, ministers who were quick to allege a link between being on benefits and the recent killing of six children by another claimant, are refusing to comment on the link between benefits and this death.

Meanwhile, two court cases challenging the governments welfare reforms are moving forward, with the bedroom tax case beginning today and the personal independence payment (PIP) case having won permission to go to a full hearing.

Here at Benefits and Work, we’ve now produced our first guide to PIP mandatory reconsiderations and appeals for members who are currently going through the PIP claims process and we’re continuing to provide training courses on PIP around the country.

In other news, we have some encouraging statistics on ESA claims; we learn that precisely no-one turned up to claim universal credit at Tameside Town Hall on its first day; that only people with ‘stone-age’ computers can claim DLA online and that IDS has been fiddling the facts again to try to cover up the increasingly obvious failure of his welfare reform programme.

Finally, as our Facebook ‘likes’ reach 6,000 we’ve got a giveaway for all our Facebook fans.

"Very useful and I have learned a lot." Laura Skorupa, British Polio Fellowship.
"Very useful day." Carol Woodman, Assert (Mental Health Advocacy)
"Very helpful and well presented." Karin Gray, Scope.
"Very useful information." Alison Heavey, Huntington's Disease Association.

More about PIP training in London, Leeds and Birmingham and universal credit training in Bristol here.

53 year old grandmother Stephanie Bottrill, who was unable to work due to Myasthenia gravis, committed suicide earlier this month after leaving her son a note saying:

“Don’t blame yourself for me ending my life. The only people to blame are the Government.”

Already struggling financially, Stephanie had been told that she had to pay an extra £20 a week in rent because she had two empty bedrooms after both her children left home.  

Stephanie had lived in her home for 18 years but had asked to be moved to a smaller house, she had even packed up many of her belongings ready to move.  However, the only smaller accommodation she had been offered was many miles from her family and friends.

Stephanie’s son told the Mirror that:

“She was fine before this Bedroom Tax. It was dreamt up in London, by people in offices and big houses.

“They have no idea the effect it has on people like my mum.”

You can read the full story in the Mirror (external link)

Predictably Tory ministers like Lord Freud and IDS have refused to comment (external link) on the link between benefit cuts and the death of Stephanie Bottrill, with the treasury saying it does not comment on individual cases.

This contrasts strongly with the readiness of Tory ministers, including chancellor George Osborne and even prime minister David Cameron, to draw a link between Michael Philpott being a benefit claimant and the killing of his six children.

As recently as yesterday, coalition minister Steve Webb (external link) was perfectly happy to reassure MPs that:

“There are no indications that evictions will result from the removal of the spare room subsidy.”

and also that:

“At present there are no plans to adjust the rules relating to the removal of the spare room subsidy.   Concerns relating to disabled tenants, including those whose accommodation has been adapted for their needs has been taken into account.”

We do understand that many of our readers will find this story distressing.  Please call  the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90, visit www.samaritans.org or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you need support.

In one small glimmer of hope, the Spartacus bedroom tax court case (external link) began today, with 10 individuals who have been affected by the tax going to the High Court to argue that the legislation is discriminatory.  

At the last moment the Equality and Human Rights Commission have intervened in the case (external link) as experts witnesses, to argue that the bedroom tax may be in breach of the Human Rights Act. 

However, given the readiness of the government to change the law retrospectively when they suffer a court defeat, as they did in relation to forced labour programmes, even a legal  victory may be short-lived.

Members can read more and comment here.

Potential victims of the change from DLA to PIP will have to wait until July to see whether an appeal in relation to the flawed consultation on mobility brings them any relief.  But at least the campaigners have got past the first obstacle by ensuring that a hearing will go ahead, in spite of DWP objections.

There’s more details on the We Are Spartacus website, whilst Benefits and Work members can read more and comment here.

Meanwhile, here at Benefits and Work we have now finished our first, quick guide to PIP mandatory reconsiderations and appeals.  

Perhaps the biggest issue to stress is that if you make your reconsideration request late and the DWP are not happy with the reason it’s late, they can simply refuse to reconsider.  As there’s no way of challenging this refusal via a tribunal, it means your claim will be over.  So, getting your challenge in within the time limit has never been so important.

Members can download a copy of the reconsideration and appeals guide from the members area.

According to the latest figures produced by the DWP, covering June to August 2012, 52% of ESA claimants who get an initial decision are now being found eligible for the benefit, with 23% going into the WRAG and 29% going into the support group.  This is before appeals are taken into account and is the first time that a majority of those making initial claims have been awarded ESA.

Members can read more and comment here.

The exceedingly small pilot of universal credit may prove to be even smaller than expected, if the results from first day at Tameside Town Hall are anything to go by:  not a single person turned up to claim, according to the Guardian.

Concerns were also raised that  people trying to claim online rather than in person would have difficulties due to the complete absence of a ‘Save’ button on the online form.  If you get logged off, for example because it takes you too long to hunt down information you need to complete the form, then all your work will be lost and you will have to start all over again.

Though the UC form’s problems are as nothing compared to those faced by people trying to use the DWP’s online claim forms for DLA and AA, it seems.

According to the DWP itself, the forms don’t work with any version of Internet Explorer more recent than version 6 or with new-fangled browsers such as . . . Firefox, Safari or Chrome.  They also don’t work with the screen reading software used by many visually impaired claimants.  And with the multi-million pound spend on  universal credit software still not producing any results, it’s unlikely cash will be found for improving AA and DLA claims software any time soon.

Finally, the increasingly desperate Iain Duncan smith has been heavily criticised by the UK Statistics Authority for misusing DWP figures to try to claim that the benefits cap is persuading claimants back into work.
https://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/may/09/iain-duncan-smith-benefits-cap-statistics   (external link) 

IDS used DWP statistics to support his claim that:

“Already we have seen 8,000 people who would have been affected by the cap move into jobs. This clearly demonstrates that the cap is having the desired impact". "

In truth, however, the statistics actually came with a warning that they could NOT be used to show a direct link between people being warned about  the benefit cap and subsequently moving into work

The more obvious it becomes that ‘welfare reform’ is creating fear and desperation, rather than independence, the more the unspeakable IDS resorts to distortion and demonization to hide his failure.

On a cheerier note, why not help us celebrate hitting over 6000 "Likes" on our Facebook page?

As a thank you for  supporting the page, we are giving away 3 free Benefits and Work membership subscriptions (can be used as subscription renewals).

Phil & Jeanette from "A Way of Seeing", who run the Facebook page for us would like to say :

"Thank you so much to all the members who have joined us and B&W on Facebook. We wanted to create a space for members to share your hopes & fears dump your anger if needs be and, of course, to share your experience of the benefits system with one another. Thank you for helping us push the page numbers up with your shares and likes.

“As this newsletter is released we will be posting an image on https://facebook.com/awayofseeing

“Click like and share on the image to be entered into the draw for one of the membership subscriptions.  and as a thank you from us everyone gets a free download of our latest book or screen saver collection.  

“The offers will be open until midnight, Saturday 18th May....We are trying to raise awareness of our free art photography workshops for children, so your likes and shares will do that too! good luck everyone. “

Please keep your good news posts coming, they really cheer our readers up!

IB to ESA support group without medical
“I would like to say a big THANK YOU for the help of benefitsandwork“

IB to ESA support group without medical
“Once again a big heartfelt thank you to all at Benefitsandwork for your help!!”

IB to ESA support group without medical
“Many thanks B&W once again, I couldn't have done it without your help.”

Support group on reconsideration
“I would just like to thank B & W for all your assistance and information which was invaluable in getting the result I so much wanted”

Support group without medical
“Many thanks for your clear and concise guidelines a highly recommended aid.”

Support group without medical
“I cannot thank this Benefit and Work website enough.”

Support group without medical
“big thank you to B&W for all the helpfull advice on here.”

IB to ESA support group without medical
“Thanks to all moderators and helpers and those that write the information.”

Support group following medical
“this site has been a great help as i couldn't get any help from anywhere else well worth the subscription”

Support group without medical
“i want to thank the members and admins of this site for providing the best help on the internet for the most confusing form ive had to fill in”

Higher rate mobility and middle rate care DLA
“Thanks to the invaluable resources on this site I recently made a claim for DLA after putting it off for the last 4 years”

Support group after ESA stopped
“I cannot thank you all enough, Keep up the good work.”

Support group without medical
“Thank you so so much. You are wonderful.!!”

Support group
“Firstly a massive thank you to all involved with this site, god only knows how people like myself would manage without you all”

Join the Benefits and Work community now (open access) and discover what a difference we can make.

You can also read this newsletter online (open access).

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No. 5962666


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