There won’t be another newsletter until September, although we’ll continue to publish news stories on the site.  So this is your last chance to get 20% off the cost of annual membership.

So, if you’re not already a member, join the Benefits and Work community (open access) 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:  58294

Claimants and carers get an annual subscription for £15.56, down from £19.45.

Professionals get an annual subscription for £77.60, down from £97.00.  Professionals can pay online or email a completed licence agreement within the deadline, quoting the coupon code in their email.


Support group following medical plus higher rate care and mobility DLA
“All due to this site and your great advice, what a wonderful organisation you are. Thank you all once again I couldn't have done it without you!!!!”

You can also read this newsletter online.

Atos Suffers Two Major Body Blows

Atos have been left reeling after two severe blows to their survival as providers of medical assessments in the course of a week.  First, a government audit has found that their work capability assessments are so poor that not only must all their current health professionals undergo retraining but also new providers are to be brought in to break up the Atos monopoly by next summer.

Second, an upper tribunal judge has ruled that the opinion of a physiotherapist – on whom Atos are heavily reliant both for carrying out WCAs and even more so for PIP medicals -  is of no value if the claimant has a mental health condition.  The ramifications of this decision could be huge.

Meanwhile, GPs in South Wales have been told by their local governing body to always refuse to provide letters for claimants in connection with benefits claims as it is ‘an abuse of the national health service’.  Only requests by the DWP will be met in future.

Elsewhere, rumours that the software for universal credit has had to be scrapped and started afresh continue to grow. It is looking more and more likely that there will be no genuine rollout of universal credit before the next general election.

Atos healthcare is to lose its long-held monopoly stranglehold on work capability assessments (open access) from next summer.  The news comes as the DWP revealed that  41% of sampled Atos reports had achieved only a ‘c’ grade in a recent audit.

Atos has been the only provider of work capability assessment medicals for employment and support allowance and of its forerunner, the all work test for incapacity benefit, since DWP medical services were outsourced.  Campaigners have long argued that the assessments carried out by Atos were not of an acceptable standard but, up until now, the DWP have always defended Atos as if they were  part of the same department.

Now, however, the government has decided that Atos is not up to standard and that an improvement plan has to be put into place.  Measures include retraining and re-evaluating all Atos health professionals, bringing in a third party to assess Atos’ own audits of its work and engaging Price Waterhouse Coopers to provide advice on improving quality assurance.

Atos could be in even more difficulties following an upper tribunal decision that the opinion of an Atos health professional who is a physiotherapist was of “no probative value whatsoever” where it concerned a claimant who had a mental, rather than physical, health condition.

The case involved a claimant who had been placed in the WRAG but had appealed to be placed in the support group.  The claimant’s mental health conditions included depression and bouts of uncontrollable rage. The judge stated that:
“I can only express my surprise that in a case where the only issue was the mental health of the claimant and its effect in relation to the mental health descriptors, the report was prepared by a physiotherapist following a 15 minute interview.  It is plainly important that questions of mental health should be assessed by a disability analyst with appropriate mental health qualifications if their opinion is to be of any evidential value.  Even then tribunals should beware of placing too much weight on such reports, based as they are on a very short interview with a claimant and without access to medical records.“

Although the decision, which was highlighted on the Rightsnet discussion forum for welfare rights workers,  relates to ESA there is no logical reason why similar arguments cannot be employed in relation to PIP, where a very similar points based system is in place. This could pose a massive problem for Atos whose successful bid for the PIP medical assessment contract  stated that they would be using the following health professionals:

933 physiotherapists
373 nurses
75 occupational therapists
19 doctors.

There seems little doubt that the DWP will appeal the decision.  Meanwhile, however, we’ll be updating our ESA appeals guide in the near future to take account of this decision – and to look at the potential advantages and risks of using it in your own appeal.  

Members can read more  here

From IB to ESA support group without medical
“Sorry if this goes on, just wanted everyone to know how wonderful this site is and the best investment I have ever made, a fantastic forum really helps others like me.”

Finally for ESA, GPs in south east Wales have been told by their local medical council (LMC) to stop writing letters for patients who need support with a benefits claim or appeal.  The LMC have even issued a standard letter for GPs to send to patients which claims that “making such requests to GPs represents an abuse of NHS resources.”

Whilst patients will still be able to request copies of their medical records for a fee of up to £50, it means that Atos/DWP will be the only ones who will be able to get specific GP evidence and they will also be able to choose not to do so, if it suits them .

However, if GPs have a blanket ban on providing such evidence even if offered payment by claimants but do not have a similar blanket ban for say, life insurance companies paying for evidence, then this may be a relatively straightforward case of disability discrimination. We look forward to hearing from members who are prepared to take legal action against GPs in south east Wales or against the Bro Taf LMC.

More details on this story are available from the BBC website and from the Pulse website.

It seems increasingly likely that the software needed for the introduction of universal credit (UC) has had to be scrapped and is now being designed again almost from scratch.

Tweets based on an anonymous source allegedly working within UC claim that the original software has been ditched at a cost of £300 million and that new claims for UC will not now start nationally until 2015.

This fits with claims in the Register that almost all UC information is having to be entered by hand because the software is not fit for purpose.

It also makes sense of the decision this month to roll out UC to just six more Jobcentre Plus offices in October, a mere 1.5% of the total number, and even then to only include the simplest possible types of claim.

The possibility that UC could be abandoned or dramatically scaled down, depending on who wins the next general election,  continues to increase.

One Benefits and Work member has posted (open access) that they had their Capita medical assessment for PIP over a month ago but that the DWP have still not received a copy of the medical report, which was supposed to have been sent on the day of the medical.  According to our member, the DWP say that many people are experiencing the same problem.  We’d be very interested to hear from you if you are experiencing long delays in your PIP medical arriving with the DWP.

DLA appeal won in just 24 days
“Thank you so much for this amazing site. My subscription was the best money I've spent in a long time!”

There’s more news in the members area, including:

Maynard retreats from ‘extremists’ comments

Equality watchdog to scrap vital disability committee

DWP press chief faces grilling by MPs over disability stats

Benefits pilot is steering a ‘dangerous’ course

Anxiety from service-users as Atos appears in mental health units

We know how much feedback from other members means to people who get this newsletter, so please do keep your good luck stories coming.  Below is a small selection from the forum.

Support group without a medical
“Firstly, a big thank you. The membership fee was worth every penny”

WRAG without a medical
“Using the guides gave me the best chance of stating my situation clearly and with support of my medical evidence.”

Support group without a medical
“Thanks to Benefits and Work for all your information.”

DLA renewal at same rates
“Thank you B&W for your invaluable guides and support in answering any queries i brought up.”

IB to support group without medical
“a huge thank you for the second to none excellent advice that you present on your Site.”

IB to support group without medical
“I cannot thank the members and people that run this site enough for the information they provide”

From IB to WRAG to support group on appeal
“Like many others I could not have done it w/out the guides on this site.”

3 more years in support group without medical
“Thank you all much to the selfless mods who do so much to help us despite going through the same nightmare themselves. There are no words to really express my gratitude.”

IB to ESA support group after medical
“Thank you for the excellent guides which were invaluable, made the worst forms by miles i have EVER had to tackle possible.”

IB to ESA support group without medical
“Thank you again! Well worth the money joining you!”

Support group after paper hearing
“Thanks everybody at B&W and special thanks to Bro, Gordy, Mrs H, and Jim for your patience and advice.”

IB to ESA without medical
“I feel I may sleep a little easier tonight thanks to the brilliant people on this site!”

From WRAG to support group on second assessment
“your guide was the key to success as my condition hadn't changed from the first time Thank you thank you if you’re not sure whether to subscribe just do it advice is invaluable!!”

IB to ESA support group without medical
“I want to thank you all for your clear guidance which kept me focussed as I plodded through the ESA50.”

IB to ESA support group without medical
“I would not have had a clue if it were not for this site and the moderators dedication to helping people who are trying to get to grips with the ever so complicated benefits system.”

IB to ESA support group without medical
“This would not have happened without your help, I now advise people to sign up. I can't thank you enough.”

DLA appeal success and ESA support group
“Big thanks everybody at B&W and all the advice on how to appeal a DLA claim.”

IB to ESA support group without medical
“Hi just to say a huge thank you for the wonderful guides and support.”

Join the Benefits and Work community now (open access) 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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