Jul 192017

Thank you to Gail Ward who put this together. You can read her blog here and follow her on twitter at @blueannoyed


In the last few days it has been widely reported by various bloggers that those disabled claimants claiming Universal Credit are subjected to finding a job within two years or face a 1 year sanction. This is utter fabrication and feeding many claimants fears which could potentially cause harm. So today I called Welfare Rights ,who called DWP while I remained on the phone, they denied that this information was correct and was downright alarmist and dangerous. That doesn’t mean I trust DWP and have submitted a FOI too given 7 years of shenanigans. So you see folks, you can take the fear project and destroy it with Facts!

Those who will be put on Universal Credit (UC) will have to sign the claimant commitment regardless, some will be subjected to full conditionality some will have their conditionality limited depending on the circumstances, and subject to sanctions if they fail to comply with the agreed commitments they agreed with work coach via the Work Plan,My 4 steps,My Values documents.  (Document links provided at bottom of the blog.)

This is the article in question. Responses by DWP staff are in italics, and comments about the response in bold

As promised last night, the SKWAWKBOX has been looking further into conflicting reports from DWP insiders concerning the WRAG (work-related activity group) category into which the government, more or less arbitrarily, places some disability benefit claimants and the possibility of sanctions after a fixed period of two years under the Universal Credit (UC) system if claimants have not found work.

Some activists insisted that this was part of the UC system and this was initially confirmed by long-term DWP employees. Others subsequently disputed it. The only thing all were agreed on was that the rules are ill-conceived and extremely confusing.

The SKWAWKBOX contacted a PCS union official who specialises in UC for clarification and received this response: 

I’ve been looking at the regulations and I can’t find anything that refers specifically to a fixed time limit in which to find employment.

That is right, because no fixed time limit exists in the regulations


The ‘disabled’ argument, as I’m sure you are aware, is notorious because ultimately the Department through the provide contractors are essentially able to define who is fit or not for work.

For example, a claimant maybe moved from ESA to UC on the back of a WCA [Work Capability Assessment]. The claimant may disagree with the decision but they are stuck.

If they are adamant they are not fit for work, they could refuse employment in an environment they believe will affect their health.

If they have been found to have no Limited Capability for Work, they cannot refuse employment. The fact that claimants think they are unfit for work has been the main issue with the flawed WCA since 2008


This is where the sanction process comes in – a 13wk, 26wk and 156wk sanction could apply (although similar regs existed prior to UC and the 2012 Welfare Reform Act if not as harsh or severe).

In this case you’re looking at failure to apply, not accepting work or leaving on one’s own accord. Their argument is they aren’t fit, the department will still look at sanctions.

The circumstances described here apply to somebody who has not been found to have Limited Capability for Work.


The sanction regime is clearly arbitrary, deeply unfair and dangerous – but there is no rule mandating a fixed time-limit for a claimant to find work.

Again no time limit


However, another PCS/DWP source warned that while the rules don’t include such a limit, the way they are applied may not be as clear cut:

I can tell you that we have received complaints from WRAG claimants about having their ESA revoked after two years. And now they are treated as JSA claimants because they are ‘fit for work but not necessarily their precious occupation(s)’.

ESA cannot be revoked. It simply cannot be claimed after a claimant has been found fit for work. Previous occupations are not a consideration. That has always been the case.


Sanctions have been applied because the claimant has not fulfilled their requirement to find work. The purpose of the WRAG was to enable people to return to work despite being disabled, but this component has now been removed as WRAG claimants are now treated as jobseekers.

WRAG claimants under UC are described as having Limited Capability for Work.. They are not required to search for, be available for and start work, and cannot be sanctioned for not doing so, but they are required to accept work preparation requirements within their commitment and attend WFIs.


Other WRAG claimants have been booted off ESA or the sickness element of UC after a period of two years because they failed their WCA – deliberate decision to bully them back to work.

Some claimants will fail their WCA after 2 years. Others after 6 months, 12 months  etc.

2 years is actually a defined prognosis period, meaning a number of people are reassessed at this stage. Unless there is any evidence of a pattern, this period of 2 years is meaningless


Thanks too to Anita Bellows who has worked with me on this 🙂


So you see folks, you can take the fear project and destroy it with Facts!


Read Frank Zola Blog below;

 Posted by at 18:31
Jul 192017

Today, DPAC went to Parliament to lobby MPs about the funding of social care and independent living as part of their Week of Action

The funding crisis in social care is having a very real and detrimental impact on Disabled people’s ability to live and take part in the community and the gap between the life chances of Disabled and non-Disabled people is widening. Read more about it here

The police was not initially allowing DPAC members into Parliament and they were held for a while in a gated area before making their way to the lobby area

While there, they decided to occupy the area, as they did a few years ago, and they received the support of MPs like Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Caroline Lucas and Bartley among others.

The event was well covered by the media, and you can see below some photos of the event


 Posted by at 18:07
Jul 182017

Social care was one of the defining issues of the general election but the vast majority of coverage concentrated on funding for elderly care as opposed to independent living for Disabled people.  However, this year for the first time, the needs of disabled young people and people with mental health support needs have been identified as placing the greatest pressures on social care budgets over and above those of older people*. With further cuts planned of £824 million in 2017/18, the cumulative “savings” made to adult social care budgets since 2010 is set to reach £6.3 billion.


The funding crisis in social is having a very real and detrimental impact on Disabled people’s ability to live and take part in the community and the gap between the life chances of Disabled and non-Disabled people is widening. The most basic choices such as when to get up go to bed or use the toilet, when and what to eat, and the choice to leave the house are no longer in the hands of Disabled people but subject to Local Authority budget allocations which are becoming ever more restricted.


Leading figures in the disability rights movement have recently warned that the concept of personal assistance has been severely damaged by years of budget savings and policies that have “degraded” the support mechanisms designed to enable independent living.**


On an individual level this is devastating for Disabled people, locked away whether in their own homes, supported living or residential care. On a societal level this is a regression of the right to independent living and a return to a segregated society where Disabled people are separated from their communities and invisible to the wider public behind closed doors.



Disabled people and our allies are calling on government to ensure that the consultation on funding for social care promised by Prime Minister Theresa May for later this year will address the urgent issues of:

– upholding disabled people’s right to independent living,

– protecting our life chances and the futures of disabled younger people

– ensuring that Disabled people are not put at risk by fragile or lacking infrastructure to support personal assistance management

– enabling Local Authorities to fulfil their obligations under the Care Act 2014 including implementation of the well- being duty according to the principles set out in Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (see paragraph 1.19 of the Care Act statutory guidance)


With assisted suicide back in the law courts this week, please join us to call on politicians to assist us to live not to die.

How to get involved:

  • Join us in Parliament on Wednesday to lobby our MPs (meet outside 11am)
  • Write to your MP
  • Watch this space for when Parliament returns from its summer recess in September


*2017 annual budget survey from ADASS (Association of Directors of Social Services)




Template letter to MP


I am writing to you as my constituent MP to ask for your support in calling for urgent action on the question of independent living for Disabled people and in ensuring that the consultation on funding for social care promised by Prime Minister Theresa May for later this year addresses the needs of Disabled adults as well as the elderly.

This year for the first time, the needs of disabled young people and people with mental health support needs have been identified as placing the greatest pressures on social care budgets over and above those of older people*. With further cuts planned of £824 million in 2017/18, the cumulative “savings” made to adult social care budgets since 2010 is set to reach £6.3 billion.

“Independent living” does not mean doing everything for ourselves without support but refers to the ability to live and be included in the community with the same choice and control over our own lives as non-Disabled people.

The funding crisis in social is having a very real and detrimental impact on Disabled people’s ability to live and take part in the community and the gap between the life chances of Disabled and non-Disabled people is widening. The most basic choices such as when to get up go to bed or use the toilet, when and what to eat, and the choice to leave the house are no longer in the hands of Disabled people but subject to Local Authority budget allocations which are becoming ever more restricted.

[Insert person situation]

On an individual level this is devastating for Disabled people, locked away whether in their own homes, supported living or residential care. On a societal level this is a regression of the right to independent living and a return to a segregated society where Disabled people are separated from their communities and invisible to the wider public behind closed doors.

We therefore urge the Government to ensure that the consultation on social care promised by Prime Minister Theresa May for later this year directly addresses the need to:

  • uphold disabled people’s right to independent living,
  • protect the life chances and futures of disabled younger people
  • ensure that Disabled people are not put at risk by fragile or lacking infrastructure to support personal assistance management
  • enable Local Authorities to fulfil their obligations under the Care Act 2014 including implementation of the well- being duty according to the principles set out in Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (see paragraph 1.19 of the Care Act statutory guidance)
 Posted by at 18:43
Jul 142017
from the Reverend Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
No citizen without an affordable home and an  adequate income in work or unemployment.
93 Campbell Road, Tottenham, London N17 0BF, 0208 3765455, 07961 177889, 
Yesterday, Highbury Corner Magistrates court, as expected, issued a liability order against me to Haringey Council adding £115 costs. 
But far more seriously the magistrate issued liability orders plus costs against 510 Haringey residents by signing a computer printout. That was a small number: sometimes it has been over 2000 at one time by signing a print out. The total number of summons issued by Haringey last year was over 27.000. Nationally there are 3.5 million a year. 
The vast majority are issued by computer against local people who can never afford to pay the tax because their benefit incomes have been shredded by central government. 
Haringey Councillors ought to be ashamed of themselves for letting such an oppressive law loose on the large number of vulnerable and impoverished residents in the borough. It creates serious hardship.  
Great efforts by council staff goes in to collecting the tax from people who cannot pay. No surprise that over £2million is left unpaid every year. 
A computer will now send the following threats to residents of the borough, vulnerable or not. It is an inhuman process.

Failure to contact the council on receiving a liability order will result in the council taking one of the following methods of recovery to collect the outstanding Council Tax: 


You can tell Haringey Councillors what you think of their treatment of the poorest people in their council by tweeting directly to them

Tweet Lorna Reith, Labour councillor

Tweet Claire Kober ‏Leader of the council

Tweet Joe Goldberg, Labour councillor

Tweet Joseph Ejiofor, Labour councillor

Tweet to Vincent Carroll, Labour councillor

Tweet to Tim Gallagher, Labour councillor

Tweet to Peray Ahmet, Labour councillor

 Posted by at 14:34
Jul 122017
Thursday 20th July – Turn Up and Go protest
Driver Only Operated trains, the removal of guards from trains and rail staff from stations threaten Disabled people’s freedom to travel. On 10th July DPAC campaigners will be joining RMT staff on their picket lines as they take industrial action to defend our right to access public transport.
On 20th July we are inviting Disabled people to travel together en masse to the Department for Transport’s headquarters in London to deliver a petition demanding out right to ride.
Assemble outside the Department for Transport at 2pm. Department for Transport 
Great Minster House ,33 Horseferry Road ,London,W1P 4DR
 Posted by at 22:07
Jul 122017
I would very much appreciate it if you could sign and share the following petition that I have created to  ask the Welsh Government to reconsider their decision to close the Welsh Independent Living Grant and transfer all responsibility for care and support to hapless local authorities.
Click here  to sign the petition
Anyone can sign the petition and they DO NOT have to be resident in Wales. This petition runs until September 1st when the Assembly return from their summer break.
We need to reach 50 signatures to force a debate in the Welsh Assembly. I am hoping to surpass that number many times to show the strength of feeling about this issue. The petition total currently stands at 90. Disabled people throughout Wales – and indeed beyond – deserve the support of an independent body to help regulate their care and support without increasing the dependency on local authorities.
Many thanks for your time and support.

I am a recipient of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) and a disability activist who intends on asking Welsh Government to reconsider their decision to close WILG as of April 2019.

The WILG was introduced to help people who previously claimed from the UK government’s Independent Living Fund (ILF), which closed in 2015. More than 1,500 people are helped by the scheme across Wales. Recipients all have high degree of care and support needs. 

It was due to run until the end of March 2017, but Social Services Minister Rebecca Evans said in November that funding would continue for another year.


The annual £27m fund will then transfer directly to local authorities during 2018-19 so they can meet the support needs of all former ILF recipients by 31 March 2019.

Why we oppose this decision:

The Welsh Government said the decision was taken on stakeholder advice. The majority of representatives on the stakeholder group were third sector or citizens. But they didn’t want WILG scrapped and the key point is that our advice was not accepted.

It should also be remembered that closure of WILG is not inevitable as is proved through the formation and success of the Scottish Independent Living Fund; which also works to support the Northern Ireland ILF.

Furthermore, the hugely popular Labour Party Manifesto outlined plans to set up a national care system to exist independently of local authorities.

This is exactly the time that the Labour Party should be united on such issues against the Tories. We must question why Welsh Labour are not playing their part in the changing political landscape?

Indeed, eventually it should be our aim to set up an Independent Living Fund for Wales so that no disabled person should have to suffer the same uncertainty and isolation as WILG recipients are now experiencing. We can only begin to believe that true social justice and equality for all is possible if Welsh Labour revisit their WILG decision.

Welsh Labour will no doubt argue that we should give the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act a chance to succeed.However, this idealistic act needs hefty investment and resources to ensure it is a success – with no sign of any of the necessary improvements to our infrastructure that the success of the Act depends on. This may indeed be the time for a revolutionary change in the way social care is delivered, but such a transformation could take a decade or more and WILG recipients do not deserve to be treated like guinea pigs when their high care and support needs require long-term stability and structure.

Thank you very much to Brian Hilton for producing the memes



 Posted by at 08:23
Jul 092017

MEDIA RELEASE Rev Paul Nicolson 0208 3765455 — 07961177889

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE in solidarity with everyone in UK suffering mental or physical ill-health due to inadequate incomes and debt.

Rents and council tax enforcement are burning up the lowest incomes needed for food, fuel, clothes and transport  

I have been summoned to appear at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court, 51 Holloway Road, London N7 8JA at 13.30 on Thursday 13th July. There will be a demonstration outside the courts from 12-1.30.

I am refusing to pay my council tax to Haringey Council , as an act of civil disobedience, in solidarity with everyone in the UK suffering mental or physical ill-health due to grossly inadequate incomes and debt in work, self employment, unemployment or zero hours contracts, which are taxed by local authorities, particularly those who have been forced by national and local government to go to a food bank.

National and local government heaping coal onto the housing fires that burn the minimum incomes needed for food, fuel, transport and other necessities and for the well-being of the poorest tenants.  
This is a cry for the prevention of ill health among the poorest people in the UK created by the damagingly low level of their lowest incomes shredded by national government since 2010 and taxed by local government since 2013. 
How many more infant deaths of the poorest mothers, and how much more diminished life expectancy, do there have to be before national and local governments can hear the overwhelming and undeniable evidence that low incomes impact on mental and physical health.  An unprecedented 52,400 more deaths were reported by the ONS to have occurred in the year to June 2015 as compared to the same period a year before.
The government has cut the lowest incomes and allowed the UK housing market to increase rents. Housing has become the cash cow for landlords, land owners and national and intentional developers. Rents have increased both with the market and also because housing benefit is cut by the benefit cap and the bedroom tax. . 
Therefore the capacity of the lowest shredded incomes needed to buy food, water, fuel, clothes and other necessities, in order to maintain good health, is further reduced by ever increasing rents in the UK’s corrupt housing market. 
For decades land owners have bent their financial viability assessments to reduce the number of  truly affordable homes for rent to be able to sell more new homes on the open market. So much so that the Financial Times was able to report on the 6th July that “Regeneration of 50 council estates led to a net loss of 8,000 rented homes for poorer residents” (page 3). And the Daily Telegraph to report on the 11th July that “One in three homes with planning permission aren’t being built”. 
UK land, with the encouragement of UK government, is treated as a commodity in an international free market by the rich and powerful for private profit – they grab the land therefore landless tenants have fewer an fewer homes to live in. 
Local Councillors’ ignorance of the workings of the UK land and housing market has led them to team up with international property predators Lend Lease. A majority of Haringey Councillors have therefore given the trend against landless tenants’ chances of a finding truly affordable  home a very substantial boost to the  detriment of their own councils’ tenants. The Council is trying to solve the national housing crisis by giving land to kind of international predator that is causing the crisis and so hurting their council tenants, disrupting their children’s education and destroying their communities.
The forgotten ethical principle reads as follows.  “Land is a gift of nature which exists to provide shelter, food, fuel and clothes for all”.  It has also been forgotten by the Church of England, a substantial land owner, for whom it is rephrased to begin “Land is a gift of a loving and generous God…”



 BDO LLP55 Baker Street

​, ​

London W1U 7EU

​ asking them

  1. to audit the £102 summons costs plus £13 for the liability order​
  2. an​d​ queried the sense in enforcing the tax against people who cannot pay so failing to collect over £2 million a year

I will be asking the Highbury Corner Magistrates when and how they checked the costs of £115 they award this year against, mostly impoverished, council tax defaulters, 27,270 times in 2016/17.

​The bailiffs were dispatched by Haringey council to the doorsteps of Haringey residents 11,492 times in 2016/17​

There is a comprehensive description of how  £73.10 single adult unemployment benefit has been reducing in value since 1979 on the TAP website.  Its increases were frozen in 201I. It cannot afford 20% of the council tax, let alone court costs (£115) ​and bailiffs fees(up to £400)​ introduced in 2013.  It also has to pay rent dues to the bedroom tax and the benefit cap..
from the Reverend Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
No citizen without an affordable home and an 
adequate income in work or unemployment.
93 Campbell Road, Tottenham, London N17 0BF, 0208 3765455, 07961 177889, 
 Posted by at 21:11
Jul 032017

Thank you to Gail Ward for this article.

Her blog:

Twitter: @blueannoyed 

Universal Credit (UC) is slowly being rolled out across the UK for some claimants , mainly single claimants and to be continued for couples. The legacy benefits that people are currently getting will eventually become Universal Credit,which runs a live programme (with gateway conditions) and a full rollout programme (no gateway conditions)alongside each other. Advisors will need to determine which is operating in their area and inform clients and explain in full their rights and eligibility. The fact that some will get hit hard  is just the scratch on surface to the vile and brutal conditions of the health & work programme which is incorporated within it. ESA Claimants in WRAG (Work Related Activity Group) will lose the £30 a week inline with JSA for new claims while others migrating will get transitional protection until they have a change circumstances,or appeal, then they will lose it. If you have a change of circumstances at present on ESA  in a UC area  you will be put on UC and stay on it you wont be able to go back to your legacy benefit. For those on ESA it you will continue be assessed via WCA (Work Capability Assessment ) as you are now, but support group will be required to engage with claimant commitment to continue to receive payment according to UC documents. The specialist employment programmes are likely to be part of this commitment if the work coach feels the claimant could move closer to labour market. This will be done via Health & Work Conversation with a Work Coach.


Framework The claimant is supported in this regime by use of their Commitment. The claimant agrees their Commitment and is required to alert Universal Credit to any upcoming unemployment and changes of circumstance. The claimant can be sign posted to relevant support depending on their circumstances.

Claimants in this regime may still need or require some support in helping them to move closer to the labour market. If this applies, flexibility exists to sign post claimants to non-funded voluntary support. Consider existing voluntary options in the local area.


Support groups claimants will also be hit by losing SDP (Severe Disability Premium) which is currently £62.45 a week for single people and £124.90 for couples unless someone gets Carers Allowance to help you then the single rate will continue,providing you get middle or high rate care needs. Carers too will be affected if they care for a disabled person


If other benefits are received, this may impact on the Universal Credit award. Some benefits are ignored whereas other benefits have a pound for pound impact on the Universal Credit award.

Other benefits Universal Credit should not be paid to claimants with enough income available from other sources to support themselves. Exceptions are where payments are received in respect of additional costs which the claimant has, for example disability benefits.

Claimants who receive other benefits in addition to Universal Credit are subject to the relevant Universal Credit Labour Market regime based on their relevant Universal Credit legal conditionality group.
Other benefits taken fully into account The following benefits are taken fully into account when calculating Universal Credit payments:  Bereavement Allowance  Carer’s Allowance  New style Employment and Support Allowance (contribution-based)  Incapacity Benefit  Severe Disablement Allowance  Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit  New style Jobseeker’s Allowance (contribution-based)  Maternity Allowance  State Pension  Widowed Mother’s Allowance  Widowed Parent’s Allowance  Widow’s Pension

This means for each £1 received from these benefits, the Universal Credit payment is reduced by £1.

Any benefit, allowance or payment from a country outside the United Kingdom could also be taken fully into account, depending on the circumstances.

Pension Credit Universal Credit offers a signposting service for State Pension Credit (SPC).Claimants can find further information about SPC on Gov.UK. A benefit unit cannot be in receipt of both Pension Credit and Universal Credit. One of the basic conditions for getting Universal Credit is that a claimant must not be over the qualifying age for SPC.

This is called the Upper Age Limit.
Joint claim The Upper Age Limit doesn’t apply if the person over State Pension age is in a joint claim and their partner has not reached that age. Both adults are eligible for Universal Credit providing all other conditions of entitlement are met. The person over the SPC qualifying age is exempt from work conditionality and will be placed in the no work related requirements regime. Example: One adult in a couple is 57 and the other is 75. Both are able to claim Universal Credit together as a joint claim in the normal way.

Once Universal Credit Full Service is live nationally for all new claims, couples with only one person over the Pension Credit qualifying age will no longer be eligible for Pension Credit. This will ensure that the younger member of the couple has access to support to find work, if appropriate.

The person over the SPC qualifying age is exempt from work conditionality and will be placed in the no work related requirements regime.

So even some pensioners will be targeted as the above example illustrates. Also targeted are single parents .


This combined with the benefit cap now  and the family cap (2 child Rule) from 2018, will also face cuts to housing benefits via LHA being reduced with those in private accommodation hit by a new Bedroom Tax and Supported Mortgage Interest being turned into a loan will hit virtually impacting on everyone especially those who are in work too and off sick. The latter will now face 4 wks fit note and then a assessment to determine eligibility to top up benefits to SSP, and subjected to claimant commitment conditions. Those in exceptional circumstances such as Domestic Violence, etc will get the opportunity to ask for alternative payments arrangements so they are not left penniless by abusive partners. Nobody will be deemed exempt it seems, from the vile clutches of this ‘monster’ created by the government and these things need to be urgently addressed and with Brexit around the corner and prices rising already the poorest will most likely be affected the most. There are even two regimes to get people into labour market depending on your given  perceived status. one is Light Touch and the other is Intensive regimes. It is impossible to upload all documents which are many, but main ones are listed below as now is the time to plan ahead to help people understand how Universal Credit can affect you and your families understand the system to make sure you can understand what is expected of them.

One the many hideous things hidden in the Health and Work Programme is IAPT (CBT therapy) which will become compulsory as well as Troubled Families roll out, and targets to enforce therapy regimes on those who are obese, drink,drugs,smokers. Refusing to  take part in this mandatory requirement you will cease to be entitled to Universal Credit.Those considered in debt  and financially vulnerable will also be put forward to personal budgeting support advice where they will be judged and no doubt blamed for buying services that the nanny state deem expensive/unnecessary given the amount they have to live on. Health and Work Blog is linked below.

This Government has excelled itself in brutality towards claimants of social security,while convincing the populace of the UK that demonising the poorest is the acceptable norm and that they are fair game to be abused and they are not worthy as they are unable to contribute in same way a fit able bodied person , leading to further division. While this is not in depth Blog I have included relevant documents for download and uploaded a powerpoint to help people understand how they will be affected.

Anyone needing further advice can use the calculator link below to find out how they will be affected or seek proper advice locally and this blogger would urge people to check how you will be affected to prevent distress and income depravation.



UPDATES : More documents have been uploaded including the powerpoint below, Please also check out my blog on Dementia Tax , Cuts that will cut Deep blog also.

 Posted by at 13:21
Jun 252017


It is your opportunity to say what you think of him as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

We have created a twittlist to help with this, but there is so much material to choose from that you can keep on going all week and beyond. DPAC created a while ago the IDS files that you can find here

Otherwise you can use the tweetlist here

We will start by using the hashtag #R2Vine, but will adjust as time goes.

 Posted by at 20:25
May 262017

This is a follow up of a previous article on the Health and Work Conversation: Claiming ESA under Universal Credit: Nobody is unfit for work anymore. Click here to read the article

During the Health and Work Conversation, claimants will be asked to fill a questionnaire[1].  It is important to know that this questionnaire can be filled at home and not straight away.

This questionnaire asked questions to help claimants to have a better conversation with their work coaches, and to help them find the best support for claimants according to DWP. What follow are the comments of a Consultant clinical psychologist Dr Jay Watts on the unsuitability of this questionnaire for people with mental health conditions:

JW: It is important to read this new demand on claimants with the wider context in mind. This context is one where the DWP is experienced as punitive, willing to sanction claimants at every turn, with little understanding of the nature of mental health problems, and professionals linking the rise of suicides and mental health epidemic with an austerity regime that belittles and scapegoats disabled people. Professionals like me lack confidence in the DWP’s capacity, or interest in, excluding a wide enough proportion of ‘vulnerable adults’ from this process, who may be made suicidal by yet another requirement. This process is to occur before claimants have their WCA and is mandatory. FOIs tell us that the DWP will presume claimants are fit to work before the WCA, though this demand will be damaging to many. It is likely to increase the time claimants are left waiting before their WCA verdict, leaving claimants in a purgatory that is damaging to mental health.

Some thoughts on the form.

This is not a ‘conversation’ because the terms of reference have been predecided.

DWP: “It’s about helping you get into work when you’re able to in the future.”

It should not be ‘when’ it should be ‘if’. To set up a ‘when’ and indeed to insist on this ‘conversation’ is deeply damaging – it sets up failure in comparison to a (newly created neoliberal) norm. There are many people with mental health problems who will never be able to work. This form is yet another method of equating worklessness with worthlessness, and undermining the other ways disabled people contribute to society.


DWP: You and your work coach will use simple tools to talk about an action that you want to do, and plan how you can do it.


JW: The ‘simple tools’ are not proveably based on positive psychology. But the language of positive psychology runs through every word of this document. One of the core principles of psychology is that intervention should only occur when recipients are able to consent freely. This process is mandatory, and It thus represents a misuse, dare I say it abuse, of power. This is even more problematic in the wider context where many disabled people have been cut off from mental health support and social care. How can it be ethical to deny someone with a history of sexual abuse desperately needed and asked for therapy via the NHS on one hand, whilst insisting they comply with a forced exercise under conditions of extreme stress to return them to work with the other.


What if there is no “action” the claimant wants to do, or is capable of. Not dying is a big enough task these days. Work coaches are to have minimal training, with FOIs suggesting courses will run for 1.5 days max. This is inadequate to understand the complex nature of mental health problems.


DWP: “There are no right or wrong answers”.

JW: Nonsense. There clearly are. What are the consequences of this? Will a copy of the ‘work conversation’ be shared at JobCentre+? If yes, even if these are explicitly not supposed to be used for sanctioning, not having the ‘right attitude’ during the work conversation will bias people to sanction.


DWP:  ‘Do you need to take part? Yes

JW: Why yes to ‘do you need to take part’. For many people work is impossible and the idea they should work can feed in to or trigger mental health deterioration. Having to do this could quite literally produce the conditions that make suicide the only option.


DWP: What kinds of things do you like doing in your life and at work?

JW:  The inability to like anything, to enjoy life, to feel pleasure or anything but emptiness, is a core symptom of many mental health problems. This is made worse by people’s material circumstances for example poor housing, and poverty. Shining a light on what people like, or the lack thereof, can therefore be dangerous especially in a context where claimants feel obliged to perform. Claimants tell mental health professionals again and again that they simply do not feel safe enough to complete DWP forms openly. These types of questions situate claimants as performing dogs, a task that can be the final straw for many. Liking anything obviously a distant country when in mental distress/poverty. It is an absurd question and most people will not be able to fill in this form as they actually feel due to being so scared of the DWP taking away means to live. Ditto ‘what are you good at?’


DWP: ‘How does your health affect your life and your ability to work?’

JW: This is a very difficult question; people do not have the answer to this easily accessible. Claimants are likely to underestimate the effects of health on life, because guilt fuelled by the ‘striver or skiver’ discourse means people emphasise the good days, leading to inappropriate work plans which will place further pressure on claimants. Work coaches will be under huge pressure to produce encouraging statistics for their supervisors and the DWP, shaping how they ask questions ad hear answers.


DWP: ‘What work have you done in the past, if any?

JW: Many mental health and physical disabilities start after a few more functional years of adult life. There has often been a period where activity was possible before breakdown. This question is potentially dangerous in that it asks people to reflect on potentially a lost time that can never be got back, forcing into relief the difference between now and then. This is likely to provoke a mourning, an increased depression, a shame, that causes a deterioration in mental health. It may make claimants feel ‘you are not what you were, you should be, and you are not wanted otherwise’ with devastating effects.


DWP: ‘What are some of the things that have made you proud in your life and at work?

JW: It is none of DWP business. Again it could be damaging if nothing comes to mind, or if something special is thought of which then gets connected with the DWP (so basically a good memory and, say, fear get tied together so the good memory gets polluted). This is not a safe conversation for this environment.


DWP: ‘Is there anything else in your life that makes it difficult for you to work?’

JW: Claimants could answer: not having treatment for my mental health issues due to NHS cutbacks, unstable housing, being continually threatened with sanctions and having my benefits cut by the DWP, but most people will feel too scared to say it as it is, or won’t have that awareness of quite how much say austerity is a causal factor because of the ongoing governmental agenda to make claimants feel it is they who are failing somehow as work is really a possibility for all.


DWP: Tell us how and what you want to do’.

JW: There is no freedom to answer this properly.


The stated aims of ‘My 4 steps’are to boost confidence and motivation to work again. This form will not help with this. It is more likely to undermine confidence and worth with potentially devastating consequences.


DWP: ‘Step 1 want’.

JW: What people want is often something like being able to leave the flat. This is something that work coaches are simply not qualified to help with. The whole four-step programme is again obviously based on ideas from CBT and Behavioual Therapy though not proveably. These should not be worked on outside a trusting therapeutic relationship, where power dynamics are considered, and when the person feels safe. All these requirements are not possible in a ‘work conversation’ DWP setting.


How are these work coaches going to be trained to work with disabled people? What are they going to do when suicidal material comes up? GPs and secondary services no longer have capacity to help when a referral cites suicide risk.


How are they going to screen for people who could be made suicidal by this task. Guilt and shame are central to so many mental health problems (and obviously the governmental discourse have made many claimants feel like this). This form will press on those emotions, making live more unbearable and increasing suicide risk. The suggestions in the form that this is not for now will not help. They set up a trajectory of moving to work which is not achievable for many, making people feel they do not have a worth otherwise. This is not only unethical but will end up increasing healthcare costs.


Some people want help to return to work. Claimants and professionals have repeatedly told the DWP that this should be made available outside the DWP setting, where informed consent is genuinely possible, and where hindrances can be explored safely. Making these ‘conversations’ mandatory is not only likely to be ineffective and damaging for those for whom work is impossible, but will place additional strain on claimants who already feel persecuted by the increasing number of hoops the DWP demand claimants jump through. Demanding claimants fit adhere with an ideal which is unrealistic for many, and which suggests other ways of living are undesirable and meaningless, will adversely affect the mental health of many claimants, increasing the number of suicides connected with an increasingly brutal governmental regime.





 Posted by at 13:11
May 252017

What you will read may be very distressing for you, but we are looking at the worst-case scenario and identifying measures to help you and other claimants.  It would be good to have some feedback on the Health and Work Conversations from people who have made an ESA claim. More we know about it, and more we can fight this.

What you should not do, is to decide not to claim ESA. That is what DWP wants you to do.


Some documents released by the DWP have shown the direction of travel in terms of claiming ESA under UC.

Under the old regime, a person wishing to claim ESA was placed in the ESA assessment phase, attracting the lowest ESA rate (JSA rate), and also no conditionality, and this until a Work Capability Assessment could decide whether the claimant was fit or unfit for work.

The Work and Health Conversation

Under Universal Credit, a person wishing to claim ESA will be first called for a Health and Work Conversation (HWC).  This conversation is basically a Work Focus Interview, and is mandatory, which means that a claimant can be sanctioned for not attending.  Attending does not only mean being physically present at the interview but also fulfilling all the requirements set by DWP for a WFI:

Regulation 57 of the Employment and Support Allowance Regulations 2008:

57.—(1) A claimant is regarded as having taken part in a work-focused interview if the claimant—

(a) attends for the interview at the place and at the date and time notified in accordance with  regulation 56;

(b) provides information, if requested by the Secretary of State, about any or all of the  matters set out in paragraph (2);

(c) participates in discussions to the extent the Secretary of State considers necessary, about  any or all of the matters set out in paragraph (3);

(d) assists the Secretary of State in the completion of an action plan.


(2) The matters referred to in paragraph (1)(b) are—

(a) the claimant’s educational qualifications and vocational training;

(b) the claimant’s work history;

(c) the claimant’s aspirations for future work;

(d) the claimant’s skills t

hat are relevant to work;

(e) the claimant’s work-related abilities;

(f) the claimant’s caring or

 childcare responsibilities; and

(g) any paid or unpaid work that the claimant is undertaking.


(3) The matters referred to in paragraph (1)(c) are—

(a) any activity the claimant is willing to undertake which may make obtaining or remaining  in work more likely;

(b) any such activity that the claimant may have previously undertaken;

(c) any progress the claimant may have made towards remaining in or obtaining work;

(d) any work-focused health-related assessment the claimant may have taken part in; and

(e) the claimant’s opinion as to the extent to which the ability to remain in or obtain work is restricted by the claimant’s physical or mental condition.


So the main difference with the previous regime is that people with a fit note from their GP saying they are not fit for work, will be (are being) called for a mandatory WFI.

They also will be asked to fill a questionnaire which is also mandatory and to undertake an optional exercise called My values.  You can read about the questionnaire here

According to the DWP, some ‘vulnerable’ people will be exempted from this conversation. [1]

The DWP defines vulnerability as “an individual who is identified as having complex needs and/or requires additional support to enable them to access DWP benefits and use our services.” but has not yet released the guidance given to Work Coaches on who will be exempted from the HWC.  As these conversations have already started, this guidance exists and should be released immediately by the DWP.

Unfortunately, based on the DWP ghastly track record, it is likely that pressure to attend will be placed on people unable to attend because of their health conditions. DPAC has already encountered a case of a person with mental capacity issues and a life threatening health condition being requested to attend a HWC.


After the Health and Work Conversation

Unlike under the previous regime, when ESA claimants with a GP fit note saying they were unfit to work were not expected to fulfil any work related requirements until a WCA said otherwise, ESA claimants under UC will be by default assumed to be fit for work and expected to fulfil all Work Related Requirements  until their  WCA . [2]

Claimants to whom the All Work Related Requirements apply:

  • claimants who have a fit note and are awaiting a WCA
  • claimants who have been found not to have limited capability for work at the WCA and are appealing against this outcome
  • claimants who have some paid work but are earning below conditionality earnings threshold
  • claimants who do not fall into any other group


What All Work Related Requirement means:


Claimants in this group must be available for full-time work of any type and look for this within 90 minute travelling time from their home. Restrictions can be applied to looking for work, the type of work and hours of work where it is appropriate due to the claimant’s capability and circumstances.

Claimants must be engaged in work search and work preparation activities for at least the number of hours they are available for work. Claimants must take all reasonable action to obtain paid work. 

Work Coaches must set work search activities for the claimant to search for work for their expected hours (This is the number of hours that the claimant is available for work or 35 hours, whichever is the lower figure) less deductions from this for the allowable time spent undertaking agreed work-preparation activities , voluntary work and paid work. 


Only one restriction for people with health conditions is mentioned in the document: claimants who have a fit note will not be required to take up work that they are not capable of doing until their fit note ends


Any other derogation to the All Work Related Requirements will be at the discretion of work coaches.  For most claimants, work coaches will not have more medical information than the fit note (the diagnosis) or in some cases, the WCA outcome when they have not be found to have Limited Capability for Work and Work-Related Activity, and they should not be able to ask claimants for this kind of information without breaching the Data Protection Act.  These work coaches are also not medically trained. Any Work Related Requirement will be based on the diagnosis, and on what the claimant would have told them during the HWC conversation and in the questionnaire.  Also based on that, claimants would have to complete an action plan and sign a claimant commitment.  Failure to do so could result in a sanction.

This is deeply worrying because:

1) an extra step is introduced before the WCA which is already stressful enough

2) all claimants assessed by their GP as unfit for work, will be considered by default fit for work by the DWP.

3) work coaches are medically untrained and unable to comprehend whether a work related requirement can have a detrimental effect on the health of a claimant

4) GPs medical judgement is undermined by medically untrained staff.

5) DWP definition of ‘vulnerable’ may be so restrictive that some claimants with very serious health conditions could be requested to attend a  HWC and sanctioned for failing to do so




 Posted by at 20:54
Apr 182017

The ESA cut is part of a drive to close the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people, although the target to achieve this in 2020 has been scrapped. Almost everybody assumes that  most people placed in the Work related activity group will eventually get better and move into work. Nobody could have been more convinced of this that all the Tory MPs who voted for the ESA cut.

However, a 2014 Upper Tribunal judgment throws a different light on this. The 3 judge panels did not make a judgement on the suitability of placing some disabled people in the WRAG, but interpreted the law. This is what they said:

Although Mrs L had not put her case in quite this way, it would be fair to state it like this. The tribunal has accepted that I am not able to sustain sufficient activity to be capable of work and my condition is not going to improve, so what is the point of making me undertake activity to prepare me for work of which I will never be capable? The answer is that the law is not structured in that way. There are claimants who are not capable of work and never will be capable of work but whose condition and disabilities are not such that they can satisfy the conditions for the support group. To put it another way, the support group is not for those who will never be capable of work. It is for a narrower category. That may explain why, by Mrs L’s report, her Jobcentre Plus adviser has not asked her to undertake any work-related activity.

You can read the entire judgment here:”[i]

In other terms, claimants are placed in the WRAG not because they may be able to work again at some stage, but because they do not tick the right boxes to be assigned to the Support Group. These people who may have a progressive illness or have a prognosis of 2 years or over, which DWP recognised means unlikely to work again[ii] will suffer from April 2017 a cut of 1/3 of their income in exchange for employment support they do not need or cannot use. We know from a FOI request that 5,000 claimants have been in the WRAG since 2008[iii]. And DWP own figures show that 388,700 claimants (37%) have been placed in the WRAG since 2008 with a prognosis of 2 years or more[iv]. (click on the picture)

As the inherent flaws in the WCA have not been addressed, from April 2017 claimants who  the DWP recognises are unlikely to work again will be still placed in the WRAG. To add insult to injury, non only they would have to survive on very little money, be subjected to sanctions, and have uncovered extra needs due to their disability (only ½ claimants in the WRAG are claiming DLA or PIP), but it is very likely they would have to attend unnecessary Work Related Interviews by the sheer fact of being assigned to the WRAG

It makes a mockery of the Work Capability Assessment, which has nothing to do with assessing work readiness and capability in spite of its name, but whose whole purpose is to arbitrary assigns claimants to some groups, based on criteria that the government can change at will, according to how much money they are willing to spend on disabled people.

If your MP is a conservative who voted for the ESA cut, you should ask their thoughts about what should or will happen to these claimants in the WRAG who from April 2007 have been assessed by DWP as ‘unlikely to ever work again’.









 Posted by at 17:29
Mar 282017

The Department for Work and Pensions released some figures about the percentage of PIP claimants with mental health conditions entitled to the enhanced mobility rate.

During the PIP debate yesterday  in the House of Lords,  Baroness Thomas of Winchester stated: The department said that of those with mental health conditions receiving the mobility component of DLA, only 9% had been entitled to the higher rate, whereas 27% of PIP claimants receive the enhanced mobility rate—or 28%, according to the Minister’s letter this morning

Using DWP Stat-Explore tool, it is easy to see how this percentage was reached.  DWP took the total number of PIP claimants with mental health conditions, (377,398), and the total number of PIP claimants entitled to the enhanced mobility rate (100,159) and calculated the percentage of claimants entitled to the enhanced mobility rate out of the total number of PIP claimants with mental health conditions. While it can be seen that the average percentage of claimants with psychiatric disorders entitled to the enhanced PIP mobility award is almost 27%, these percentages are not weighted. The following table is not very clear, but the figures can be found here:

Sxreen shot of spreadsheet figures

For example, there are 46.67% of claimants with enuresis entitled to the enhanced mobility award, but only 15 claimants with this condition in total. This 46.67% is given as much weight in the calculations as the 12.01% of claimants with psychosis entitled to the enhanced mobility award, although the number of claimants with this condition is 43,129.  Once the percentages are appropriately weighted, the percentage of claimants with psychiatric conditions entitled to the enhanced mobility award is just under 12%.

It will be difficult for DWP to argue that there is parity between physical and mental conditions for PIP.

 Posted by at 21:41
Mar 012017

Protest against the PIP Changes 7th March 1-3pm Old Palace Yard Westminster and signup to the Thunderclap

Responding to a question from Jeremy Corbyn about the changes to PIP regulations which will deny PIP entitlement to over 160,000 people,  the Prime Minister Theresa May responded that what they are doing is ensuring that ‘the agreement of this parliament is put into practice’.   What this practically means as per DWP press release is that ‘people who cannot carry out a journey because of a visual or cognitive impairment are likely to need more support than someone who experiences psychological distress when they undertake a journey, for example as a result of social phobia or anxiety’.

This is in total contradiction with what Baroness Altman (the then Minister of State for DWP ) written statement on the 2nd of June 2016. [i]

No walking distance was set when Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was introduced. The higher rate mobility component of DLA was always intended to be for those disabled people who were unable to walk or virtually unable to walk. The DLA regulations refer to the ability to walk out of doors being limited by reference to four factors; distance, speed, length of time or manner in which progress can be made without severe discomfort.

The lower rate mobility component was intended for people who are able to walk but need guidance or supervision because of severe mental or physical disability.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for working age claimants, was developed to provide a more equal recognition of both daily living and mobility needs of those with all disability and impairment types, including physical, mental health, cognitive and sensory.

Click on picture to enlarge or see link:

Baroness Altmann (The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions ), in 2016 stating "Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for working age claimants, was developed to provide a more equal recognition of both daily living and mobility needs of those with all disability and impairment types, including physical, mental health, cognitive and sensory."

 As highlighted in DPAC briefing for MPs[ii], it is not the Upper Tribunal who have broadened the PIP criteria, but DWP who has tried unsuccessfully to limit them. Baroness Altman’s response shows what was the real intent of Parliament when PIP was introduced.




 Posted by at 13:35
Feb 272017

DPAC Press Release on changes to PIP regulations

March 7th 1-3 pm Old Palace Yard Protest Against PIP changes

Facebook event

Signup to the Thunderclap


DWP once more shows their contempt for Our Judiciary.

Disability campaigners across the country have reacted angrily to the latest underhand cuts to Personal Independence Payment regulations announced by Penny Mordaunt, the Minister of Disability, Work and Health which will lead to the ineligibility of a further 160,000 disabled claimants, mainly with mental health conditions[i].

The recent change in the PIP regulations is only the last one of a long series of attacks against Disabled People over the years by the DWP.  It has become increasingly obvious that disability benefit entitlement is no longer based on need, but on how much the government is prepared to pay. Disability tests, whether for ESA or PIP, are fine tuned to give the results the government expect in terms of expenditure, which determines the number of people entitled to disability benefits.

Emma a DPAC supporter who is likely to be affected by the changes said “This would really effect me greatly because I have type 2 diabetes I am insulin and tablet dependent, I have fibromyalgia and depression and anxiety, just going to those assessments is pure stress and duress.”

While the government claims to support disabled people who they deem to be disabled has become more and more restrictive over the years leaving thousands in growing poverty and without financial support.

Their contempt for disabled people, the rule of law, parliament, SSAC and even the UN is demonstrated by the most recent actions of DWP ministers.ii].

She plans now to railroad these changes through by circumventing Social Security Advisory Committee scrutiny by invoking an urgency provision.

The legality of changing the law in such a way needs to be addressed as it is a key pillar of our constitution that Parliament makes the law and the Courts interpret it. Under normal circumstances a government would challenge the legality of the Upper Tribunal decisions through the Appeal and Supreme Courts and the fact that they have chosen not to make any further legal challenge indicates that they know they have no valid legal arguments for these vicious changes.


Notes to Editors

Personal Independence Payment is a non means tested benefit for people with a long-term health condition or impairment, whether physical, sensory, mental, cognitive, or intellectual. It is put in place to provide financial support towards the extra costs disabled people face


Who we are:

DPAC is a grass roots campaign body. It was formed by a group of disabled people after the first mass protest against the austerity cuts and their impact on disabled people held on the 3rd October in Birmingham 2010, England. It was led by disabled people under the name of The Disabled Peoples’ Protest. DPAC has over 12,000 members and supporters and works with many anti-cuts groups, Universities, Disabled Peoples’ Organizations, and Unions    twitter: @Dis_PPL_Protest




[ii]  as agreed by the government in its response to the consultation on the Personal Independence Payment assessment criteria and regulations, on the 13 December 2012 particularly 6.6, 6.10, 6.13, and 6.14


 Posted by at 21:51
Feb 272017

 DPAC Briefing on changes in the PIP regulations denying disability benefits to over 160,000 claimants 

 The narrative that Penny Mordaunt has put forward is misleading and does not withstand scrutiny. Since the end of 2014, the DWP has tried to restrict the application of PIP and exclude a certain category of claimants with mental health conditions.

Her statement that “Recent judgments have broadened the way the PIP  criteria should be interpreted, going beyond the original intention.” is extremely similar to the attempted justification that was put forward in March 2016 to justify the controversial cuts to the points for aids and appliances[1].

The timeline below shows the repeated attempts by the government to limit the application of the Following a Journey descriptor to claimants with mental health issues, by the use of a more restricted interpretation of the law in their guidance, which has been definitely put to rest by the MH[2] case. This explains why the government has now changed the law.

Situation with DLA and PIP

 The changes from DLA to PIP which show that the PIP standard (lower) mobility award was always intended for claimants with mental health conditions who could not follow the route of an unfamiliar journey alone, as confirmed by the Upper Tribunal


Lower mobility – was available to someone who needed guidance or supervision to follow an unfamiliar route. This included blindness, some mental health problems such as anxiety, autism, learning difficulty etc.[3] Standard (lower) mobility – 8 points needed. Due to the weighting of the descriptors, these can only be scored by someone who cannot undertake any journey due to distress, or to someone who cannot ‘follow the route of an unfamiliar journey’ alone. Some people who are unable to walk 50 metres who would have received H DLA now also qualify only for standard mobility.
Higher mobility – was available to people unable to walk physically, and some serious cases where people could not go out alone e.g. unsafe behaviour, people who were blind and deaf, and from 2011, people who were blind.[4] Higher mobility – 12 points needed. These are scored from being unable to ‘follow the route of a familiar journey’ alone or being unable to walk 20 metres.


The Government’s response to the consultation on the Personal Independence Payment assessment criteria and regulations, 13 December 2012

The December 2012 consultation[5] on the PIP descriptors made it clear that the ‘following’ descriptors applied to a person who needed someone with them for reasons other than not being able to navigate. There was nothing to suggest that the lower mobility component was being removed from people with mental health problems: if there had been, there certainly would have been significant pushback at the time.

For example, from the 2012 Consultation (but see also points 6.6, 6.10, 6.13): Concern was raised that the activity takes insufficient account of the impact of mental health conditions on mobility. We do not consider this the case. Individuals could potentially score in a number of descriptors in the activity if they cannot go outside to commence journeys because of their condition or need prompting or another person to accompany them to make a journey.


The government tightened the PIP guidance in order to restrict eligibility

In its guidance released in October 2014[6], the DWP starting asserting its new position that the ‘following’ descriptors were not what they had assured people in that consultation and that the standard rate of mobility was effectively only available to mental health claimants if unable to go out at all. This meant that claimants with mental health conditions were scoring 0 point for the ‘following an unfamiliar route’ descriptor, but these decisions, if appealed, were very often overturned.

There were two years of inconsistent tribunal decisions until the MH[7] case, in front of a three-judge Upper Tribunal clarified the position. They held that, essentially, the ‘following an unfamiliar route’ descriptor applied in similar situations to the DLA Lower Rate, which had been understood by everybody to be the case until 2014. Interestingly however, the Upper Tribunal also held that the ‘familiar route’ descriptor did not apply to people unless they could not navigate. This was something of a compromise between the previously understood position and the DWP’s attempt to limit the application


Judicial review of the mobility criteria, October 2015

The physical (walking) aspects of the PIP mobility criteria were challenged in Sumpter[8]. The case was about the selection of 20 metres as the threshold for the higher rate mobility component.

As part of the decision, the High Court and Court of Appeal both reasoned that it was inevitable that the criteria for the walking aspect would be made less generous. This was because part of the reason for the changes in PIP was to ‘re-allocate resources from those with physical impairments to those with non-physical impairments[9]. This argument had been put by the DWP’s counsel.

This cannot have meant to blind claimants, as by 2011 they were already entitled to the higher rate of DLA mobility, as were claimants with severe behavioural difficulties.

This definitively shows that the original intention of the DWP was not to remove PIP mobility from people with anxiety and similar conditions.


2016 planned cuts

To get its £30 per week ESA cut through, it appears the government had to drop its PIP cuts in 2016 and guarantee there would not be more. After losing the MH case for their favoured, but disingenuous, interpretation of the mobility criteria they started trying to use in 2014, they could not easily just announce it would be dealt with in a new cut directly.

This is why Ms Mordaunt is keen to give the impression that she wants to ‘restore’ the original intention, when it would be better to say she is trying to restore the DWP’s plans to limit PIP mobility extra-legally that were devised in 2014 without consultation or a proper process. As the Upper Tribunal did not allow this, they now need to pass law, but cannot afford scrutiny. They are pretending that it is the Upper Tribunal who broadened the criteria, when it was actually the DWP who tried unsuccessfully to limit them.


Bypassing the Advisory Committee

Ms Mordaunt has invoked an exemption so as to bypass the Social Security Advisory Committee, but this exemption can only be used if the matter be believed urgent[10], which is not the case. They have known since 2014 that they wanted to limit these descriptors beyond what had, in effect, been agreed in the consultations and enactment process.


Are the changes in regulations legal?

The power for the Secretary of State to produce PIP regulations can only come from primary legislations such as the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and they must be compatible with what the Act states.  This power is delegated by Parliament.

The Act does not suggest that mental health conditions and physical conditions should be treated differently or that a physical condition is inherently more limiting than a mental health condition in respect of mobility. In addition, any regulations produced must be consistent with both the letter and intent of primary legislation.

What the Upper Tribunals have done is to determine what Parliament original intent in relation to PIP was and their decisions are binding.

As determined by the case Secretary of State for the Home Department v Pakina [2010] EWCA Civ 719 [2010] WLR 1526 at [19] in the judgment by Sedly L.J, the executive “is constitutionally forbidden to make law except with the express authority of Parliament”.  Nevertheless, it is what the Secretary of State has just done with the PIP regulations by changing what the courts have lawfully decided was the intent of Parliament, and in doing so, he is acting outside of his delegated powers.

Only Parliament can make the proposed changes lawfully and the new regulations should be withdrawn.

Even Iain Duncan Smith recognised this as a result of the now famous Poundland case brought by Caitlin Reilly and Daniel Hewstone. He tried to get an emergency bill (Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013) rushed through Parliament that would retrospectively change the law.


Briefing prepared with the assistance of Tom Evans @TomEvans80 and John Slater @AmateurFOI


Who we are:

DPAC is a grass roots campaign body. It was formed by a group of disabled people after the first mass protest against the austerity cuts and their impact on disabled people held on the 3rd October in Birmingham 2010, England. It was led by disabled people under the name of The Disabled Peoples’ Protest. DPAC has over 12,000 members and supporters and works with many anti-cuts groups, Universities, Disabled Peoples’ Organizations, and Unions    twitter: @Dis_PPL_Protest

[1] (para 11-12)

[2]        CPIP/1347/2015, also cited as MH v Secretary of State

[3]        Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 s. 73

[4]        As above

[5], particularly 6.6, 6.10, 6.13, and 6.14


[7]        CPIP/1347/2015, also cited as MH v Secretary of State

[8]        [2015] EWCA Civ 1033

[9]        Para 62 of above

[10]      Section 173(1)(a) Social Security Administration Act 1992


 Posted by at 21:50
Jan 172017

Message in a bottle.

Today is apparently Blue Monday. A named coined by Dr’s at Cardiff University to predict the day of the year where things are at their bleakest and most depressing.

Currently that is everyday for me. I’m sure that’s true of millions of disabled people and carers at the moment.

Last year was spent fighting for Emily. If I’m honest every year has been spent fighting for Emily since she was diagnosed at 3 with autism. The sad truth is that the fight for her was much easier when she was a disabled child than when she became a disabled adult. Our empathy, funding, services and protocols surrounding vulnerable children is clear. They may be limited but they are clear.

As a society however the rules change when these vulnerable children become vulnerable adults. The spotlight shone brightly on Winterbourne View. We were told things would change for the better. I believe that the intention is there for this to be true but as we know, intention and application are two very different things.

Responsibility and an interpretation of responsibility, are two very different things as well. It doesn’t matter how many people are reminded of their duty of care under the Care Act, it seems there is always a way to stipulate adherence to it, yet a departmental distance from it.

The threat we have lived under everyday for a year now is that Emily may be admitted to an assessment and treatment unit.  This is a psychiatric hospital. I strongly believe and have had this this verified by professionals, that if Emily is placed there, she will never leave.

There is no clinical need for this to happen, but one based on a possibility that Emily’s current care package may break down, due to her behaviours which challenge. I’m told that if that were to happen, there is no other provider able to pick up Emily’s care.

Yesterday I learnt that the lead psychologist in Emily’s care has gone on long term sick leave. This is not their fault, but the system should be robust enough to continue seamlessly for Emily. I don’t have confidence that this will be the case. This person is co-ordinating everything. Problems are still ongoing but now, with no idea of who will pick this up or what will happen to all the outstanding issues, which I’m battling to resolve already, I now feel hopeless.

I’m at breaking point. The fight which consumes my days and torments my mind at night, is an ongoing one because I feel there remains a collective societal lack of knowledge and true understanding of what it means to be an adult with a learning disability.

Emily is tearful and anxious much of the time.

I’m including a portion of an email that I’ve just sent to everyone working with Emily. It’s a reflection of where I am and where Emily might end up through no fault of her own. I feel broken, hopeless and utterly desperate for my daughter. I don’t intend to make things any worse than they are but I have no idea what else to do. If you can circulate this, if you can help or know someone to send this to then please do.

It’s my message in a bottle that I’m throwing into the sea of the internet, in the hope that we can be rescued.

 Posted by at 22:20
Dec 142016

The last WCA figures have been released by DWP,

These figures show clearly that the number of people placed in the Support Group has dramatically dropped (from 61 % in November 2014 to 32% in June 2016 ), while the number of people found fit for work keeps increasing (from 23% in November 2014 to 48% in June 2016). The number of people placed in the Work Related Activity Group is also increasing, albeit not as dramatically. (Table 2a )

A figure which is also worth looking at is the percentage of overturned ESA decisions through Mandatory Reconsiderations (MR).  The first recorded figures in March 2014 show that almost 70% of ESA decisions were overturned through MR. In October 2016, this figure has dropped to just over 12%. (Table 14)

At the same time, the number of appeals has increased and the success rate for claimants is 58%.

Another concerning figure is the drop in the number of claimants placed in the Support Group on the grounds of physical or mental risk (from 11.4% in January 2015 to 2.0% in March 2016). These are the people who could use Regulations 29 and 35, on the grounds there would be a substantial risk to their health or someone else’s health if they were found to be capable of work-related activities.  But DWP changed the guidance, which accounts for less people qualifying for the Support Group, although DWP did not change the regulations. For an explanation of how the guidance was changed by DWP, see this excellent article:

To conclude, it can be said confidently that MRs are not an independent process like an appeal in a tribunal can be. Like sanctions, they are under the influence of the Secretary of State, and will respond to pressures to reduce the claimant count. It is clear that MRs are an additional step in the process of challenging an ESA decision, specifically introduced to discourage claimants from appealing.

Claimants have no other choice than asking for MR, as they cannot appeal until they receive a MR notice. But they should be aware that their chances of success are slim, and should be prepared to go to appeal. It is harsh as people are already struggling with their health condition(s) and the financial implications of having to live on social security, but people should not take a negative MR result as the end to the claim and they have a much higher chance of success at appeal

But claimants need to be well prepared and have all the documents they need to be ready for their appeals. It seems that getting an assessor’s report or other helpful documents depends very much on DWP staff’s willingness, and some claimants never get to see these reports, or too late after the MR was conducted.

What you can do:

Ask for a MR and ask for the assessor’s report at the same time.

You can access an example of form here to request a MR here:

At the same time, you should make a Subject Access Request (SAR) to DWP.

What follows has been prepared by John Slater. (@AmateurFOI on Twitter).  John’s contributions are always been very technical, but it is often on technicalities that DWP win their case

His document ESA Work Capability Assessment Information Held by the DWP explains what a SAR is, and what are the 3 very useful documents for an appeal which can be obtained from DWP. You can see what ESA85a, ESA58 and LT54 (DMACR) forms look like by clicking on the inserted links.

There is also a link to a form to make a Subject Access Request for these 3 documents How to request the information from the DWP

The idea is to help you prepare for an appeal at an early stage, ideally at the same time as the request for a MR. While you are unlikely to get these documents in time for the MR (DWP must provide you with the information you requested (as long as they hold it) within a maximum of 40 calendar days), you should get them in time to prepare your appeal.



ESA Work Capability Assessment Information Held by the DWP



When you have been through a Work Capability Assessment (“WCA”) it isn’t always as straight forward as it should be to get information about the outcome from the DWP as it should be.


Whether you need the information for a Mandatory Reconsideration (“MR”), a Tribunal Appeal or just for your own records you are legally entitled to it. There have been stories of DWP staff telling people that they “don’t need the information” or it’s “not usual for them to have it”. This is irrelevant and frankly none of their business. If the DWP holds information about you, you are legally entitled to have a copy (with few very specific exceptions).


What Information Am I Allowed to Have?

Section 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (“DPA”) means that are all entitled to:


  • to be told whether any personal data is being processed;
  • be given a description of the personal data, the reasons it is being processed, and whether it will be given to any other organisations or people;
  • be given a copy of the information comprising the data; and given details of the source of the data (where this is available).


This means that when requested the DWP must provide you with a copy of all the information it holds about you and what it does with it. It also needs your consent to have obtained and processed that information in the first place. This is usually obtained when you sign an application form from any welfare benefits such as the ESA.


The technical term used to describe the method of obtaining any personal information held by an organisation is called making a “Subject Access Request” or SAR. The Information Commissioner’s (“ICO”) website provides helpful guidance about this aimed at members of the public and organisations such as the DWP. Links to both types of guidance are provided below.


Guidance for the Public


Guidance for Organisations



The DPA means that any organisation, including the DWP, must provide you with the information you requested (as long as they hold it) within a maximum of 40 calendar days. The ICO is clear that the DWP “must respond to a subject access request promptly and in any event within 40 calendar days of receiving it.”


The DWP provides a form (see link below) that it would like people to use when make a SAR. You are not obliged to complete and use this form in order to submit a SAR to the DWP.


I have reservations about this form as it is easy to limit the scope of your SAR without realising when completing it.


The ICO provides a very helpful template and explanation at the link ‘Guidance for the Public’ above.



What information about my WCA should I ask for?

You could simply ask the DWP for all the information that it holds about you but that could slow down your request and give you a lot of paper to sort through. In respect of a WCA I think there are 3 key documents:

  1. ESA85 – Medical Report (produced by the person that carried out your WCA)
  2. ESA56 – Worksheet for the WCA (used by the DWP when making the decision based on the ESA85)
  3. LT54 (DMACR) – A record of the decision made and the relevant law (e.g. ESA regulations)


ESA85 – Medical Report

People who have gone through a WCA may already be familiar with this report. It is produced by the healthcare professional that carried out your WCA. It is the evidence used by DWP decision makers (“DM”) to decide if you are entitled to ESA and if so if you should be placed in the Work-Related Activity Group (“WRAG”) or the Support Group (“SG”).

If it is decided that a WCA is not required, then the report produced will be an ESA85a.

You can see a copy of a blank ESA85a here V2_ESA85a – ESA Medical Report No WCA



ESA56 – Worksheet for the WCA

This is a form that people who know about the ESA85/ESA85a probably won’t be familiar with. It appears to document the decision taken by the DM. Page 2 is particularly interesting as it provides a table where the scores for the descriptors (the tests used to determine eligibility) of the HCP and DM are compared against your own. This might be useful if you are requesting a MR or appealing a decision.


You can see a copy of a blank ESA56 here [].



Just like the ESA56 people probably won’t be familiar with this form. It appears to be a summary of the DM decision and lists the relevant law (e.g. which ESA regulations apply to this particular case). It states on the form that the DM must:


Include details of any award, disallowance, disqualification, offsets or overpayment. Give the reasons for the decision, including law and supporting evidence as appropriate.”


This could be particularly useful if you are requesting a MR or appealing a decision as you will know how the DM make their decision and how they interpreted the evidence before them.


You can see a copy of a blank LT54 (DMACR) here [].



If you want to request copies of the 3 documents discussed above I’ve produced a template request forms [How to request the information from the DWP ] that you can use. As explained earlier you don’t have to use the DWP request form but it does make sense to follow their process of submitting your request to your nearest JCP office.


You don’t need to send your request by the expensive Royal Mail “Signed For Service”. However, to make sure you have proof that you sent your request I suggest you do the following:


  • Keep a copy of your request document.
  • Scan or take a photograph of the envelope you used and make sure the address and correct amount of postage is shown (i.e. the correct stamp is attached).
  • Obtain proof of postage from the post office (this is free).


If you have this information it makes it much harder for the DWP to claim that your request didn’t arrive.








 Posted by at 14:41
Sep 152016


Many thanks to George Berger  @Georgeberger


Debbie Jolly, Jonathan Rutherford, and Mo Stewart have discussed the influence of UNUM on the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) [1]. Here I study relations of UNUM to DWP and ATOS that implicate Professor Sir Mansel Aylward and a UNUM employee in apparent irregularities [2].


I begin with some history. Sir Mansel and others worked on the All Work Test (AWT) for a new Incapacity Benefit (IB) from 1993 to 1995. It was the first ‘functional capacity evaluation’ tool to use descriptors to assess ‘capacity for work,’ what one can do. The Social Security (Incapacity For Work) Act of 1994 placed them in a new regime intended to make access to disability benefits more difficult. The Act came into force in 1995 [3].


The AWT was rolled out in 1997, the year New Labour took power. As it did not adequately reduce inflow to IB, Aylward tightened it up, with others, e.g. UNUM’s John Locascio. The result was the Personal Capability Assessment (PCA) [4]. The PCA did not decide on benefits. Decision Makers (with medical advice if necessary) did that. Entitlement to benefits as a perceived right gave way to granting them conditionally, upon compliance with the regime and the results of (re)assessments. This agrees with Tony Blair’s Third Way communitarian notions of social rights and obligations [5]. We see a similarity of New Labour and Tory ideology: both are coercive and punitive, both use conditionality to instill fear of losing or not getting benefits.



The Sema Group, an IT firm with no medical experience [6], got the PCA contract in 1998. In that year ATOS ORIGIN (AO) contracted with the Department for Social Security (DSS, a predecessor of DWP) for IT work (renewed 2005). PCAs began in 2000. Schlumberger acquired the Sema Group in 2001 and AO acquired Sema on 29 January 2004. It began running the PCA for Blair’s DSS [7].


(Gordon Waddell, Pilowsky, and Bond modified the conservative American sociologist Talcott Parsons’ controversial sick role analysis of rights and obligations during sick leave [8], in a 1989 article on low back pain. Following Gill Thorburn’s discussion of the sick role in my note 2, reference b, I will show elsewhere that this paper is crucial to our understanding of benefit conditionality in the WCA).





The PCA was a paper – based assessment, which by 2001 had a large clinical database developed by AO and DWP [9]. The decision was taken then to computerise the PCA. The resulting software was LIMA, Logic Integrated Medical Assessment. Trials began in 2002. LIMA was rolled out nationally in 2003, 2004 [10],

and was operational by July 2004 at the latest, with AO in charge [11].


LIMA documentation included ‘LiMA v2 Technical Manual’, dated 12 October 2004, and ‘LiMA V3 Technical Manual’, dated 10 November 2005. A Schlumberger document of 11 August 2003 is ‘EBM Cardiorespiratory and Mental Health’ [12]. According to a Black Triangle post, the first document is or was used in WCA assessments [13]. Call this claim (*).




Angela Rhodes  has been working for UNUM since 1999 [14]. Documents ‘LiMA V3 Technical Manual’, and ‘EBM Cardiorespiratory and Mental Health’, both already mentioned, have her at ‘Training and Development Unit’ (an AO name) 3300 Solihull Parkway Birmingham Business Park Birmingham B37 7YQ’, today an ATOS address [15]. As late as 2014 AO (ATOS since 2011) handled courses in ‘disability assessment medicine’ for the Faculty Of Occupational Medicine, with Ms Rhodes as a contact person in Birmingham. (The FOM website placed her at ‘Atos Origin’, with a Birmingham phone number and an AO email address [16]). We have then, an American insurer in direct contact with a French company that worked then on health matters for DWP, quite possibly influencing Government policy decisions, e.g. as follows:


Mansel Aylward joined the Civil Service in 1985. In 1996 he became Chief Medical Advisor, DSS and in 2000 Medical Director and Chief Scientist, DWP. He was appointed Professor at Cardiff University in October 2004, and headed its UnumProvident Centre For Psychosocial And Disability Research, starting June 2004 [17]. Aylward left DWP in April 2005 [18]. This conflict of interest is well – known (see my note 1, esp. Mo Stuart’s papers).


Now consider the document ‘LiMA v2 Technical Manual’, mentioned above. It states that in 2004 ‘The Medical Director for DWP’ was its ‘Owner and approver’. By B, this was Aylward. Thus we have,


(**)  if (*) is true, then in 2004 Mansel Aylward owned

the document ‘LiMA v2 Technical Manual’ already

mentioned, which would later be used in the WCA.


One cannot conclude from all this that he knew in 2004 that

‘LiMA v2 Technical Manual’ mentioned above would be so used, or that he had ever worked on the WCA. But one can say by this document alone, that in 2004 Aylward owned and approved a LIMA document already mentioned, namely ‘LiMA v2 Technical Manual’, prepared by DWP and AO, and that this together with documents ‘LiMA V3 Technical Manual’ and ‘EBM Cardiorespiratory and Mental Health’ already mentioned, connect UNUM with AO and DWP via Ms Rhodes [19]. This shows us an apparent irregularity involving Mansel Aylward:

his being in a position open to indirect influence by UNUM. Opinions can differ as to the propriety of this position. To some it is a temptation to corruption, to others an unacceptable irregularity. Moral political conduct by three governments – Brown, Blair, Cameron –  would not have allowed Aylward’s position to exist [20].






  1. Debbie Jolly ‘A Tale of Two Models,’ , Jonathan Rutherford ‘New Labour, the Market State, and the End of Welfare, ’ Soundings Summer 2007, , Mo Stuart, Cash not Care, forthcoming, and her January 2015 paper at Research Gate,‘The influence  of  the  private  insurance  industry  on  the  UK welfare  reforms’.
  2. I could not have written this without the constant inspiration and almost daily assistance of Gill Thorburn. See her well – argued and insightful articles at (a)

and (b) .

  1. Gordon Waddell & Mansel Aylward, The Scientific and Conceptual Basis of Incapacity Benefits,TSO 2005. A key text.
  2. Rutherford, see my note 1, p. 42. E.g, the Howker Decision accessed 5 September 2016.
  3. See Tony Blair, ‘New community, new individualism’ 1993 & ‘The rights we enjoy, the duties we owe’ 1995. Both in his New Britain: My Vision of a Young Country. Fourth Estate, London,1996. It is worrying that such poorly argued talks helped determine New Labour’s policies.
  4. Beastrabban\’s Weblog, accessed 30 August 2016.
  5. Schlumberger website; AO & both accessed 31 August 2016.
  6. Talcott Parsons, The Social System, New York, Free Press 1951, Chapter X, also London, Routledge 2005.
  7. DWP was formed on 8 June 2001.
  8. ‘The Computer Says No’ Disability News Service 189, December 2005.
  9. ‘LIMA’ and that date occur in the Atos Origin Medical Services ‘Rapport Conference Special’, available at Maxwell Head’s issuu space .
  10. Dropbox links: (1) (2) (3)
  11. accessed 5 September 2016.
  12. accessed 6 September 2016.
  13. accessed 6 September 2016.
  14. accessed 1 September 2014.This link is still active (6 September 2016), but its page differs totally from the older content. One suspects possibly long – term influences of UNUM on FOM’s disability analyst training, via Ms Rhodes.
  15. Rutherford, see my note 1, p. 43. Also my note 11.
  16. accessed 9 September 2014.
  17. I do not know if ownership of the document ‘LiMA v2 Technical Manual’ already mentioned, was bound to the job or to the person (Aylward, in 2004).
  18. For a study of the social climate that enabled the WCA, see Shakespeare et al, ‘Blaming the Victim All Over Again’ Critical Social Policy, 2016 Vol. 36(4): 1 – 20.


Thanks go to Anita Bellows of DPAC for much support, for telling me about the Howker Decision, and for critical comments on the penultimate draft. To Alice Besch of Amsterdam for forming some of my positions by example, and to some members of the international ME community for inspiration and education.

 Posted by at 14:39
Aug 272016

The story of David Clapson is well known, but for those who do not, David was a man who died after being sanctioned for missing a DWP appointment. David was claiming JobSeeker Allowance after leaving his army career for looking after her mother. Left without money, David could not pay for the electricity which powered the fridge in which he kept the insulin. Because David was diabetic.  The reason for death was diabetic ketoacidosis, caused by a severe lack of insulin[i].  David died on the 20th of July 2013.

On the 29th of September 2015, (over 2 years after David’s death) a FOI request was sent to DWP asking whether the Department “if any new or updated guidance has been issued to Jobcentres by the DWP on sanctioning people with the medial condition diabetes”. To which DWP responded: “There is no guidance in existence which specifically covers sanctioning people with diabetes”. [ii]

Yesterday in the Salford online, an article was published about another diabetic JSA claimant, David , who was “illegally” and repeatedly sanctioned. By illegally, it has to be understood that there was no grounds to sanction David, but it was still sanctioned and left without money for 4 weeks. During this period, he was unable to control his diabetes, because he had no money for food.  This caused diabetic ulcers which became infected and he had to have a leg amputated. All his sanctions were eventually overturned, but it was too late[iii].

We know that DWP has issued guidance for staff to deal with ‘vulnerable’ people.  It is obvious this guidance is ineffective or that DWP staff don’t follow it. In any case, DWP is guilty. Guilty of David Clapson’s death, guilty of David being amputated, guilty of the misery inflicted on numerous other claimants whose names don’t make the headlines by their senseless, baseless, inhuman sanctions.

If you want to help David and others and bring a case against DWP, you can sign the petition here:

If you have a bit of money to spare to fund the case, you can help with the crowdfunding here:

If you want to follow Salford Unemployed & Community Resource Centre, who are supporting David and other sanctioned claimants, on Twitter, they are here: @SalfordUCRC







 Posted by at 17:29
Aug 222016

Many thanks to David Morgan @AJobTracker for this article 

The areas of the UK with the highest deprivation and poorest quality housing such as Hartlepool pay over twice as much in council tax as their own MP in Westminster for a property of similar value.

For example Band D — in Hartlepool — council tax costs £1695.32 whereas in Westminster council tax for this band is £672.74 for a property with value in 1991 of up to £88,000. That would be the equivalent of a property worth about £330,000 in 2016 according to Nationwide.

So a council tax Band D property occupier in Hartlepool pays 2.5 times more in council tax than their own MP for a flat in Westminster. The MP would also get a 25% discount if they lived alone.

You have to ask yourself what does a person in Hartlepool get for spending over twice as much as their MP in Westminster on council tax? Council tax is often listed as paying for key services such as schools, rubbish collection, roads, street lighting, policing and the fire service.

Schools — the best school in Westminster typically has 100% of children getting 5 Good GCSEs (mostly As) — whereas in Hartlepool the very best school has only 68% of children getting good GCSEs. So schools are generally better in Westminster.

Policing — Westminster typically has four times the amount of crime as Hartlepool. Is the cost of policing more expensive in Hartlepool with less crime?

Fire service — Westminster has 2 fire stations — Hartlepool has 2 fire stations. Is the cost of the fire service more expensive in Hartlepool?

Refuse collection — there are around 40,000 households in Hartlepool. There are over 105,000 in Westminster. Is the cost of refuse collection more expensive in Hartlepool with fewer properties?

Westminster has a higher number of households, more crime, far better schools and a similar fire service — yet Hartlepool one of the most deprived areas in Britain has to pay more for its council services.

Also if you look at council tax increases for 2016/17 the most deprived areas like Hartlepool have council tax increases of over 3.5% — whereas in Westminster council tax is decreasing.

A fairer system of local taxation is needed. So the most deprived areas get more money from central governmentand so council tax is either the same or less in deprived areas for each council tax property band.

If you want to do your own analysis:

A table of Westminster spending over £500:

The Hartlepool budget book:


 Posted by at 16:27
May 192016

Thanks to David Morgan, who wrote this article to explain the financial implications of being sanctioned under Universal Credit, and how hardship payments which are supposed to help claimants to avoid total destitution, because they are now recoverable, extend the duration of a sanction.

To follow David on Twitter @AjobTracker

On Google:


If you are low paid or unemployed, you are probably aware that Universal Credit will replace both Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and tax credits. Part of your deal to get that benefit payment will be a claimant commitment — a signed promise. That claimant commitment will be to actively job seek — for example for 35 hours each week if you are unemployed or to work and job seek for 35 hours in total. It may also be part of your claimant commitment to get a payrise, work more hours or get a second job. The purpose of the claimant commitment is to decrease your reliance on the government for income and become self-reliant.

The Jobcentre will appoint a work coach to you. That person will track your efforts — either checking what you search for on the DWP web site — Universal Jobmatch or invite you in for meetings to discuss your job seeking efforts. The frequency will depend on whether you are unemployed or employed. It could be 2 weekly, monthly or 3 monthly.

At some point they may decide you have failed in your commitment — for example you didn’t get a second job or a payrise that you said you would or didn’t search for enough jobs. At this point they may decide to sanction your benefit. This will mean losing all of your benefit for a period of time — typically 4 weeks. A benefit that may be paying your rent or enable you to pay for your busfare to work or the jobcentre — or to buy food.

The DWP or CAB may tell you to apply for a hardship payment. The rules to get this payment will mean that you have to be refused help by your relatives first and that you need it for essential things like food or electricity, not for example to pay for your Sky TV box. It will not be easy to get a hardship payment. Before they even process your hardship claim, they will check that you are still following your claimant commitment. So that may require another meeting at the Jobcentre one or two weeks later.

Assuming the Universal Credit basic allowance is £251.77 per month for a single person and assuming the DWP have agreed to pay you a hardship payment that will only be 60% of your normal Universal Credit payment. The single worker might get £151 as a hardship payment and would be £100 short that month. A female lone parent with a severely disabled child might get as much as £2167 normally under Universal Credit — which includes rent and other allowances. If she is sanctioned but gets hardship, she could lose over £876 — that could be equivalent to a month’s rent. And as those payments are loans, they will have to be paid back from future Universal Credit payments. So they will both continue to be short of money on Universal Credit for months.

The month after a sanction, the DWP would automatically deduct 40% from a Universal Credit payment to repay a hardship loan. For the lone parent who was normally getting £2167 to help with a severely disabled child she will have another £867 deducted from her income — again potentially another month’s rent. The single worker would have another £100 deducted to repay the loan. Again perhaps no busfare for work and no money for lunch.

The following month both will still owe 20% of their DWP hardship loans. So another £50 deducted for the single worker and another £433 from the lone parent with the disabled child.

A one month punishment will have been extended to three months for both these people already deemed to be on low incomes and needing the safety net of the DWP.

But it will not end there. Each month the DWP will check their status: “are you job seeking, did you get a payrise or did you get another job”. So they could both have another sanction and then another. It will never end as long as they continue to claim Universal Credit.

In a recent survey by York University, they found cases of people having 5 benefit sanctions one after another. Increasing in length from 4 weeks to 3 years. If you are unlucky enough to have repeated benefit sanctions, this will seriously affect your physical wellbeing and mental health — and that of your children if you have any.

The aim of the government is to make you self-reliant — but Universal Credit sanctions may mean you have to rely on relatives or friends and the goodwill of service providers to not end up in court, homeless or worse.

For more information about benefits and sanctions:



 Posted by at 20:38
Apr 162016

Reblogged from Charlotte’s blog Twitter: @charlotteh71

Follow the great work Charlotte is doing on The Poor Side of Life


You might have noticed these adverts on telephone boxes and bus stops in your local area. Infact the DWP have made sure that they are placed in as many places as possible. They strategically place them in areas where people on low paid work and unemployed people might be using. It’s no mistake. It’s their unofficial announcement that most people will be changed over to universal credit in the near future.
I’ve wrote before about the evils of universal credit, and if you scroll down you will see my previous posts.
In these adverts they state that whilst on universal credit going back to work “pays”. That is a blatant lie.
On the 1st of April this year the in work credit element of universal credit was taken away, therefore leaving people who are on universal credit in a terrible situation. They just won’t be able to survive without struggling a great deal.
So armed with evidence from the department of fiscal studies, child poverty action and the like, who all have proven that being on universal credit, working or not working does make you worse off, we intend to take a stand against these adverts. This is on the basis that the information given “universal credit… Making work pay” is indeed misleading and untrue.
We intend to try and get these adverts taken down by complaining to the advertising standards commission.
Here is the link, please can I ask as many people to fill the form in because they need as many signatures as possible to enable them to look at it and take notice.
Also tweet this blog #misleadinguniversalcreditads

Here is one of the offending adverts.
Interesting to note. Creative agency Mullen Lowe got paid £250k to produce these posters. There is an endless trickle of money to lie to and to humiliate the poor.


Universal credit does not help you when you are in work.
It’s a fact that your appointed work coach will hound you to the point of exhaustion. They will say that you are under employed, and therefore will still have to undergo a 20-38 hour job search as well as having to work your long hours.

Under universal credit work does not pay!

 Posted by at 13:52
Apr 162016

Thanks to Maggie Zolobajluk for allowing us to reblog her article:   Twitter: @22magoo

It took me a while to get my head around the new policy of Repayable Hardship Payments and how it extends  a four week sanction to seven weeks due to these payments being repayable!

Under the current JSA sanction policy Hardship payments do not have to be repaid, so as soon as the sanction period ends claimants go back to receiving their full benefit.

Under Universal Credit hardship payments MUST BE REPAID once the sanction period has been completed. In effect, the sanction period is extended until the hardship loan has been repaid.

I have calculated the figures below as weekly amounts, as it is easier to explain, although Universal Credit is paid monthly.

  • Jobseeker’s Allowance is paid at a rate of £71.30 for adults over 25.
  • Hardship Payments are paid @ 60% or £42.78
  • Hardship Repayments are repaid at a rate of 40% or £28.52
  • Hardship can be claimed on the 15th day of a sanction if the claimant is not in a vulnerable group
  • The most common benefit sanction is 4 weeks


Number of Sanction weeks Hardship payment per week (£) Hardship debt accrued each week (£)
1 0 0
2 0 0
Hardship Payments can be awarded from week 3
3 42.78 42.78
4 42.78 85.56


  • At the end of a 4 week sanction the Repayable Hardship Payment debt is£85.56
  • As stated above Hardship Repayments are repaid at a rate of 40% or £28.52 pw.


Number sanction weeks Jobseeker’s Allowance minus hardship repayment (£) Repayment Hardship at £28.52 each week Balance Outstanding
5 42.78 £28.52 57.04
6 42.78 £28.52 28.52
7 42.78 0


The debt of £85.56 takes an extra three weeks to repay

so effectively the sanction has been




The longer the sanction the longer it takes to repay the debt!


Case study: One in-work UC claimant reported being sanctioned for long periods after missing multiple Jobcentre Plus appointments because of unpredictable working hours and variable care demands…

I’m on my court order for the eviction plus because of my arrears… I kept thinking, ‘Why is this happening? Why is this?’… I really was struggling. I fell behind on a lot especially because with the sanctions and then when I got poorly and I wouldn’t work and, because of the sanctions, I still wasn’t getting my main allowance. I was still getting only hardship of £100 odd and I still had to pay the £100, so I was very, very struggling with that… I just asked them, ‘Can you please explain what my money is because I really don’t know? I’ve never had a proper payment and just explain like am I still sanctioned?’ They said, ‘No, your sanctions have now come up’ but now every month I’ve had the hardship, I now have to pay all them back. So, I think it was like £2000 something that they’d actually given me over the year in hardship payments, so I’m still currently paying them off now… You’re in a rut like I’ve been with the bailiffs… I’ve never really been in a debt like that and for it to still carry on now to this day escalating, it’s not nice for people. It doesn’t give you much confidence. It doesn’t really make you want to go into work all happy and carrying on, do you know? It knocks you down and down and it wears you out.

 Read more at Welfare Conditionality


It will take 70 weeks to pay back this loan back!


How Repayable Hardship Payments effect The Under 25’s

 “If, for example, an individual was in receipt of universal credit at a rate of £249.48 per month (the standard allowance of under 25s), she might receive hardship payments of approximately £149.57 per month during the 13 week sanction period. If s/he then had to repay this at a rate of 40% of the standard allowance rate per month, the period during which her income was reduced by 40% would thus be extended from 13 weeks (the sanction period) to 32 weeks (the sanction period plus the period during which the hardship payment”

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) briefing in advance of the second reading of the Benefit Sanctions Regime (Entitlement to Automatic Hardship Payments) Bill 2015-16


I do not think that the consequences of this policy was fully understood when this legislation was passed into law but is an unforeseen consequence, never the less this situation needs to be remedied immediately:

I will be asking my MP to write to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Stephen Crabb MP to ask him to halt the trial of Repayable Hardship Payments that is taking place in Scotland immediately, and to ask him to look at the unintended consequence of this policy and change legislation as necessary.

If you feel as strongly as I do please email and or tweet Your MP

and Stephen Crabb:

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

Tel:      020 7219 6518

Email:                 Twitter: @scrabbmp

 Posted by at 13:38
Apr 122016

There is at this stage no accusation of impropriety or deliberate intent to deceive, but it is obvious that the majority of Tory MPs who voted in favour of the ESA cut and who expressed an opinion about the reasons for doing so were generally uninformed and did not understand what they were voting for. It can’t be expected from MPs to be experts in every single field, but they should be properly briefed, and if they have to rely on template letters to reply to their constituents, or to brief the press, these templates should be accurate and objective, and they should not resort to using selective statistics.  It was a too important vote to play games with people’s lives.

MPs did not know that people in the WRAG have been found unfit for work

What has attracted the most attention is the belief of the new SoS, Stephen Crabb, that people placed in the WRAG are able to work:

There has been a lot of miscommunication about this vote which I want to put right. A decisions was taken by MPs to change the benefit awarded to a specific group of people who receive Employment and Support Allowance.

These people are in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) and they do have a disability or illness but are able to work

He was not the only one. Another 10-15 MPs made a similar statement, including Andrew Griffith who went as far as saying that ‘”It is only those in the Work Related Activity Group of Employment and Support Allowance who will be paid at the new rate, which is the same level as Jobseeker’s Allowance.  The people in this group are fit to do some form of work, and are actively looking for suitable work”[1] and Mike Fabricant who responded to his Twitter critics that people in the WRAG were people  who ‘failed the medical test’.

Tweet by Tory MP Michael Fabricant which reads ".@MrMalky Only ones to be affected will be those who fail medical test. But I do NOT agree with PIP changes"

Others were sneering on Twitter against people who opposed the cut, like Guto Bebb dismissing critics and saying that existing claimants in the WRAG will be protected, until it was pointed out to him that this protection is not written in the legislation [2]

Twitter conversation between Guto Bebb MP and Tom Evans, Bebb: "Another one who fails to read the legislation. No ESA Claimant loses a penny. Small but important fact", reply by Evans "It doesn't say so in the legislation,Purely at the SoS's discretion to make provision"

It is unlikely that the SoS would renegade on his commitment to protect existing claimants, but nothing prevents him from adding a time limit, or any other restrictions. Ultimately, this protection was not provided for by the legislation and it seems that few MPs understood this, when they claim that existing claimants will be protected.  How many more like Guto Bebb did not understand what they were voting for?

Use of templates by MPs

But the majority of Tory MPs who did make a contribution to the debate, or responded to their constituents concerns used template letters.  The fact that MPs used templates is demonstrated by the following document, which shows that one MP forgot to fill one of the options in brackets when responding to one of his constituents’ concerns: ‘I hope this has also gone some way to explaining the ways the Government is ensuring the system protects those with the most serious conditions, such as [insert relevant condition], including exempting the Support Group component in ESA and its UC equivalent from the benefits freeze and the Benefit Cap’.[3]

But there are real issues with the information provided in these templates.

Issues around the 1 in 100 of ESA WRAG claimants moving the benefit each month compared to 1 in 5 JSA claimants

Around 20 MPs used the figure of 1 in 100 of ESA WRAG claimants moving off WRAG each month compared to 1 in 5 JSA claimants. This figure or the 1% which was used before by Priti Patel, Justin Tomlinson[4], David Freud [5]and Iain Duncan Smith (The Dear colleagues letter), is wrong.

DWP figures show that the cumulative number of claimants placed in the WRAG is 1,061,600 since 2008, and that in May 2015, the WRAG caseload is 476,500 claimants. Which means that 585,100 claimants moved out of the WRAG during this period, or in other terms, 55% of claimants placed in the WRAG left the ESA benefit.

Let’s also not forget that some people in the WRAG were given a prognosis of “two years or more” and that DWP explained that “a prognosis of two years or more is defined as unlikely in the longer term”[6].  Therefore to make a direct comparison between the number of people leaving the WRAG and the people leaving JSA is highly mendacious. Only the people the most ready to move into work should have been considered for this comparison, not the people that even DWP accepts are unlikely to work again, but have been placed in the WRAG because they did not meet the Support Group criteria.

Issues about automatic entitlement to the SG for people with cancer undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy

More importantly, over 20 MPs (different from the ones mentioned above) wrote to their constituents or on their website that ‘In January 2013, for example, the ESA rules were changed so those receiving chemotherapy or radiotherapy will always be placed in the Support Group and the majority of cases will be assessed on medical evidence rather than a Work Capability Assessment’. That is wrong, and very misleading. The Employment and Support Allowance regulations are very clear.  This applies only if ‘the SoS is satisfied that the claimant should be treated as having limited capability for work related activity’.  By SoS, read DWP Decision Maker[7].  There is no automatic entitlement to be placed in the WRAG or the Support Group for people with cancer undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy.  This is implicitly confirmed by IDS, in the letter he sent to all MPs on the 11th of February 2016, to convince them to vote in favour of the £30 ESA cut, saying that ‘It is essential people suffering with cancer get the right support. Indeed, those who are undergoing or recovering from intravenous, intraperitoneal or intrathecal chemotherapy will be automatically put in the Support Group on paper based evidence and will receive the highest rate of benefit’.

Question: What about people with cancer?

  • It’s essential people suffering with cancer get the right support. Indeed, those who are undergoing or recovering from intravenous. intraperitoneal or intrathecal chemotherapy will be automatically put in the Support Group on paper based evidence and will receive the highest rate of benefit.
  • A healthcare professional will determine the right support for other people with cancer. This will depend on a claimant’s individual circumstances.
  • Macmillan recognises this, stating in a report that: “Many people who are working when they are diagnosed with cancer would prefer to remain in work, or return to their job, during or after treatment.”
  • Existing claimants will not be affected.

In any case, his intention of protecting some categories of claimants has not been communicated beyond the Tory MPs he wrote to.

Issues about statistics of claimants with progressive illnesses placed in the WRAG

There also seems to have been some confusion about the number of people with progressive illnesses placed in the WRAG. Priti Patel led the charge with this, by responding that the claim that 1/3 of people with Parkinson’s were placed in the WRAG was wrong[8]. And she gave the link to prove it[9] which showed that 2,400 people with Parkinson’s were placed in the Support Group and 200 placed in the WRAG as of February 2015, and this information has been relayed again by a number of MPs responding to concerns of their constituents or on their website, stating that 95% of claimants with progressive illnesses have been placed in the Support Group. Unfortunately, Priti Patel had to answer an MP question on the 24th of March 2016, which shows very clearly that around 1/3 of claimants with progressive illnesses have been placed in the WRAG[10]  since 2008.  Let’s remember that in February 2015, Atos was still in charge of the WCA and trying desperately to clear a 700,000 backlog by prioritising paper based assessments (quicker to do than face to face assessments), which means that the most severely disabled people would have been prioritised, and that would have distorted the figures and inflated the number of claimants placed in the Support Group.  It is never good practice to look at statistics at one point in time, unless there is a reason for doing it

What it also means is even  if 95% of people with progressive illnesses had been  placed in the Support Group (and they were not)  that still  leaves  5% of them being  subjected to sanctions or the threats of sanctions if they cannot do what is expected from them by being in the WRAG.

Issue about 61% of claimants in the WRAG want to work

Another point which keeps coming  back in over 20 statements made by MP to justify voting for the ESA cuts is that 61% of people in the WRAG say they want to work.  This figure is taken from the Impact Assessment[11], which takes this figure from a DWP 2013 survey: A survey of disabled working age benefit claimants, July 2013, DWP[12].

The statement which 61% of people in the WRAG agree with was the following:

I currently want to work

But when the same survey asked whether Having a job would be beneficial for my health, only 25% agree or strongly agree with this statement.

And when asked whether I am currently able to work only 14% of people in the WRAG agree or strongly agree with this statement.

So the use of 61% was highly selective and even deceitful, by equating wanted to work with able to work

Issues about the £50bn spent on disabled people

This argument has been used by all MPs and is used on regular basis by the DWP and DWP’s Ministers. It is therefore very strange that in two separate letters, one by Iain Duncan Smith[13], the ex Secretary of State and one by Priti Patel[14], the Minister for Employment, both Ministers refer to only £21bn spent on disabled people.  The 2 letters are almost identical, and a template has obviously been used, but how to explain the use of £21bn rather than £50bn expenditure on disabled people?  Is it because the £21bn figure is closer to the truth, once adult care and expenditure on people over 65 have been removed? [15]


















 Posted by at 15:12