0 points to Support Group at tribunal with ME/CFS

“Thank you to everyone who contributes on here. Just had ESA tribunal today and gone from 0 pts to support group for 2 years. What a stressful experience but advice and guides on here were invaluable. Thank you.”


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ESA Claimants To Be Treated Like Troubled Families Plus Appeals Changes This Month

Dear [fname],

In this edition we have news that the coalition plans to treat employment and support allowance claimants like troubled families and that IDS is trying to find ways of stopping the ESA of some claimants who refuse to take up offers of work.

There’s also the truly revolting news that the DWP only abandoned ‘Conditionality Week’, a week-long celebration of the massive rise in benefits sanctions, after they were caught out by the Guardian.

Plus, there’s the long-expected news that mandatory reconsideration before appeal for ESA claimants will definitely be imposed from October 28th. This will force claimants found fit for work to choose between trying to claim JSA or doing without an income replacement benefit until the reconsideration, which has no legal time-limit, is completed.

There’s also, however, the rather more welcome news that the awarding of the PIP contract to Atos is to be investigated by the National Audit Office.

And then there’s also the story that the DWP are keeping very quiet about – one of their fraud investigators has just been found guilty of a massive tax fraud and is now awaiting a prison sentence. Plus no fewer than nine A4E employees are being charged with forgery and fraud in connection with bogus claims to have found people jobs.

And the number of challenges to the bedroom tax, all the way from first tier tribunal to the Court of Appeal, is mushrooming as the policy seems more and more likely to turn into a disaster for the coalition as well as the claimants involved.

Plus we’d like you to contact us if you’re running a benefits related campaign. And we’re finally getting back to tweeting.


Today George Osborne announced not only plans to force long-term JSA claimants into work or training, but also a pilot scheme to get ESA claimants in the work-related activity group into work after the Work Programme has failed them. The new scheme will be based on methods used with troubled families rather than, for example, obliging employers to take on sick and disabled candidates.

In reality, the scheme seems designed to provide new opportunities to sanction ESA claimants, something which a leaked memo proves Iain Duncan Smith is increasingly keen on.

The Guardian has reported that IDS has been warned by civil servants that he can’t impose new ranges of sanctions on ESA claimants without new legislation, something which he doesn’t think there is time for before the election. IDS wants to see additional tasks being forced on ESA claimants in the work-related activity group and even hopes to force some claimants with serious, but allegedly time-limited conditions, to take a job or lose their ESA.

Meanwhile, the DWP has had to cancel a week-long celebration of sanctions that have caused misery and hardship to millions and targeted some of society’s most vulnerable people.

“Conditionality week” was due to begin today, but was discovered by the Guardian in documents obtained using the Freedom of Information act and hastily cancelled by the DWP.

According to a memo obtained by the Guardian, the event was about “ celebrating how far we have come since new tougher sanction levels were introduced last year ...”

In other ESA news, the introduction of mandatory reconsideration before appeal for ESA and other benefits on 28th October is now a certainty. Earlier this month the secretary of state finally introduced the statutory instrument to make the new system law.

The degree to which this will cause chaos and hardship for sick and disabled claimants depends largely on how long it takes for decision makers to carry out a mandatory reconsideration. But as there is no statutory time limit for doing so, many people are deeply concerned. The possibility of being forced to claim JSA and then facing sanctions if a jobseekers agreement or claimant commitment is not kept, whilst waiting for the reconsideration to take place, will add hugely to the strain of challenging a decision that you are capable of work.

Trying desperately to appear slightly less anti-claimant than the coalition, Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne has called on the government to sack Atos because of the number of incorrect work capability assessments (WCAs). However, he offered no change to the system itself, an issue which many disabled claimants think is much more important than who actually administers the flawed assessment process.

The Liberal Democrats appear to be marginally more in favour of changes to the WCA, with pensions minister Steve Webb telling the Disability News Service that the government should look at any “alternative models” to the WCA. (members only)

Finally, Homeless Link released a report last week which shows that homeless claimants are seven times more likely to receive an ESA sanction and ten times more likely to receive a jobseekers allowance (JSA) sanction than other claimants. Perhaps the sanction-based attack on homeless people would have had it’s own special celebration day during ‘Conditionality Week’, if only it had gone ahead.


The decision to award the largest slice of the PIP assessment contract to Atos is to be investigated by the National Audit Office (members only) as part of a wider investigation into whether PIP represents value for money.

When it submitted its bid, Atos stated that it had a network of 740 assessment sites across London and the south of England, but it has only managed to provide 96 in reality.

Meanwhile, there’s still no news about whether and how the DWP may change the mobility criteria for PIP, following the delay of the roll-out of PIP to existing time-limited DLA claims from 7 October to 28 October. We’ll keep you posted.

And don’t forget, if you’re a professional who need to know about PIP, we have PIP training days running in London and Birmingham at the beginning of December.


"Exceptionally good trainer and great course content" Sheila Stringer, DIAL NW Kent
"Very useful and I have learned a lot." Laura Skorupa, British Polio Fellowship.
"Overall a really interesting, educative day - facilitator a brilliant communicator" Ryan Lodge, West Leicestershire MIND
"Very helpful and well presented." Karin Gray, Scope.

Find out more about our PIP training or:

Download a PIP training booking form for Birmingham 3 December 2013

Download a PIP training booking form for London 4 December 2013


The Labour Party have given a headline grabbing undertaking to scrap the bedroom tax if they are elected in 2015.

The Liberal Democrat’s conference also voted in favour of overturning the tax (members only)- against the wishes of leader, Nick Clegg.

However, the bedroom tax is already causing huge amounts of distress to sick and disabled claimants, many of whom will be threatened with homelessness long before the next election.

A report by campaigning group False Economy shows that over 50,000 council house tenants have already fallen into rent arrears because of the bedroom tax.

The National Housing Federation has also reported that 30,000 of their tenants - more than half of the social housing tenants affected by the bedroom tax - have also built up rent arrears as a result.

One glimmer of hope for some affected tenants has been the first successful appeals against the tax.

In our last newsletter we reported that a first-tier tribunal judge had found that if a room was too small to legally be treated as a bedroom for an adult under the Housing Act 1985, then it could not lawfully be treated as a bedroom for benefits purposes.

In a bulletin issued to all local authorities, the DWP have now said that they intend to appeal against this decision and that, in the meantime, when deciding whether to apply the bedroom tax “the only consideration should be the composition of the household and the number of bedrooms as designated by the landlord, but not by measuring rooms.”

There’s an interesting assessment of the bulletin in the excellent SPeye blog.

The guidance does not in any way prevent claimants from using the Housing Act argument in their own appeals.

CPAG have also announced today that they are launching a judicial review of a bedroom tax decision involving a disabled child who requires overnight care. More details from the CPAG website.


The DWP are keeping very quiet about it, as are the Daily Mail, but a DWP fraud investigator has just been convicted of involvement in a massive tax fraud involving a dormant charity. She and her husband are now awaiting jail sentences.

Meanwhile, over at Emma Harrison’s A4E, nine members of staff who were involved with the work programme have been charged with no fewer than 60 offences of fraud and forgery. The A4E employees are charged with having falsely claimed to have got people into work in order to receive payments from the DWP.


The political parties are already gearing up for the general election, due to be held in May 2015, and we know that the amount of campaigning by charities and activists around benefits issues is likely to increase in the run up to the election.

So, in the next few weeks, we’ll be launching a Campaigns section of the site, where readers can keep up-to-date with everything that’s happening and decide what you want to get involved with. It will feature details of everything from petitions to street protests to evidence gathering requests, with regular updates on the most popular and effective campaigns.

So, if you’re running a campaign that you’d like to bring to the attention of the 140,000 plus people that this newsletter goes out to, please contact us with the details and send us regular updates. Please send your initial email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and include the word ‘’Campaigns’ in the subject line.


Whilst we have a thriving Facebook community, thanks to the efforts of the fantastic A Way of Seeing,we’d be the first to admit that our efforts on Twitter have been less than impressive.

However, all that is about to change as we relaunch our Twitter activities today. We’re going to be making much more use of Twitter to keep followers informed of the latest benefits stories in-between newsletters. So please do follow us on Twitter and we’ll make it worth your while.


As always, there’ more news in the members are than we have room for here, including:

Labour conference: Party hears of plans to copy Aussie single assessment

Labour conference: Alarm as industry plots to top up welfare ‘safety net’

Lib Dem conference: Lloyd’s anger over disabled people failed by Work Programme

Lib Dem conference: Peer and MP suggest DLA reform fears are exaggerated

Lib Dem conference: Party launches first review of social security since the 1940s


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.

ESA Support Group on appeal
“I am pleased to tell you all that I am in the Support Group till March 14… I am so grateful to you all.Thank you for your quick and positive approach to my questions over the last few months so glad for a break from the worry and stress.I think I would have just given up did'nt have any fight in me untill I joined this site.”

Support Group without medical
“hi just wanted to let you know support group without medical, thank you all at b&w for your help and guidance, many thanks again”

Support Group
“Thank you so much for the very useful guides. I am positive that using the guides to fully explain my partner’s mental health issues together with the supporting letter from his GP has got us through this enormously stressful time. To receive a decision into Support Group with no medical is such a relief. Thank you again for a great website”

Help with ESA appeal process
“Once again thanks for your help, I have really appreciated all the help from everyone and would be at a total loss without it, it makes everything less stressful having people to help along the way and I probably actually wouldn't have even made it into WRAG if it hadn't been for this site.”

IB to ESA support group without medical
“Many thanks to the B&W guides for getting me though the transfer from IB to ESA support group.”

ESA & DLA success
“We are over the moon that both ESA and DLA were awarded from the forms we completed using your guides and medical evidence we sent, with no need for FTF assessment or a medical. Once again thank you so much for this great site and the help and commitment that you all give.”

Support Group
“Today I received a brown envelope and on opening it I found that the DWP have looked at my facts and evidence again and as a result i am to be placed in the support group. Gosh I am in complete shock !! So thank you moderators for your wonderful work”

ESA success
“Thank you for all the help I found on this site and especially the forums. My son with my help sent in the ATOS forms 16 weeks ago and just had a notice… that he has been granted ESA. Amazing! Thank you again as this could not have been achieved without your help”

Placed in Support Group on Appeal
“with your advice I appealed and today I got my decision Ive now been placed without any further medical into the support group...I would just like to say thank you for help and advice gained from this website its been invaluable”

Successful DLA renewal
“I have been awared HRM together with HRC and its indefinite.. if it wasnt through this site and your invaluable guides I dont doubt for one minute that the result would have been the same. I wont hesitate to visit you all again for your advice and knowledge when I am called for evaluation under PIP”

Successful ESA appeal to Support Group on reconsideration
“11 months after I appealed to be put in support group from wrag, I finally got a reconsideration and thankfully am now in the support group…Thankyou for all your help”

2 years in Support Group
“Just another thank you as today I got my SAR paperwork back with the recomendation I be in the support group for 2 years til the very end of July 2015. This site/forum is so precious to all of us with varying health conditions…”

ESA appeal to be placed in Support Group
“I have today heard that I have been placed in the Support Group! Thank you so very much for all your help and advice. Keep up the good work and thanks again.”

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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