The Public Law Project (PLP) is an independent, national legal charity which aims to improve access to justice for those whose access is restricted by poverty, discrimination or other similar barriers. It represented RF in the recent High Court case where the DWP’s changes to the PIP regulations were found to unlawfully discriminate against people with mental health conditions. PLP is representing another individual client, who is bringing a case concerning the DWP’s “workaround” communications system for people with disabilities who receive DLA/ESA/IB/PIP.
The DWP has a policy that it communicates with (non-UC) benefits recipients by post. However, its policy allows them to agree to email as a reasonable adjustment (the “workaround”), for example where a recipient has a disability.
The case is that the workaround is not satisfactory because it puts people using it at a disadvantage, including because there is a risk of letters being lost and there is no provision for two-way communication.
PLP needs to gather evidence of examples of problems caused by the workaround to support its client’s case. If you have had difficulties with the DWP’s communications system because of your disability, in particular if you have had difficulties getting the DWP to agree to email you as a reasonable adjustment, or have had information lost, and are willing to discuss this further then please email Ollie Persey (email@example.com).
A report coming out tomorrow shows that since 2011, the Department for Work & Pensions has underpaid an estimated 70,000 people who transferred to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) from other benefits.
The ‘error’ related to people who may have been entitled to income-related ESA but were instead only awarded contribution-based ESA, and therefore may have missed out on premium payments.
The average underpayment is likely to be around £5,000 but some people will be owed significantly more. A review of a sample of 1,000 cases suggests that 45,000 claimants entitled to the enhanced disability premium only may be owed around £2,500 and that around 20,000 claimants who are entitled to the severe disability premium may be owed around £11,500 each. A small number could be owed around £20,000.
If you think you might be affected by this complete botch up by DWP then BBC and ITN news would like to speak to you. Please contact Camilla Horrox – Camilla.firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone – 02036143166 or Amie Stone email@example.com telephone – 020 74304551
“Campaigners said that this afternoon’s action was intended to show the disgust at what the group sees as the latest attack on the social security of people living in the UK.”
“Simon Bramwell who took part in this afternoon’s protest said “We spoke to people on the streets and there was much support for our action, including from claimants who are deeply affected by Universal Credit.
“One woman told us she was about to get evicted as a result of the policy and another man said delays in his payments and left him struggling to make ends meet.
A group of members and supporters of Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) Ceredigion were on the streets again today, talking to passers by, leafleting, collecting petition signatures and bearing witness to the cruel injustices being imposed on the vulnerable people in our communities by the cruel Westminster Tory Government in the name of ‘austerity’.
The slogan was STOP The Rollout of Universal Credit. The Rollout of Universal Credit is due in Ceredigion later this year.
Organised by DPAC Ceredigion with the support of the Ceredigion Peoples’ Assembly.
More actions are planned.
For anyone who would like to email more than their own MPs all MPs email addresses are here. If as many people as possible email as many MPs as possible fromThursday March 1st then our message has more chance of being heard.
for anyone who can’t get to a protest please email your MP fromThursday March 1st onwards. A template letter is below. Even if you can get to a protest you may also want to email your MP.
Dear MP name,
Universal Credit is the punishing regime due to be more widely imposed on people with low incomes both those in and out of work.
UC has too many flaws to be simply paused and fixed – it must be stopped and scrapped.
Universal Credit is an economic and political disaster bringing further distress and impoverishment to those forced to endure it. To date at least £15.8 billion has been wasted on its implementation although only £1 billion is likely to be saved by 2020.
Seven million households will be affected, including over one million low paid part-time workers. For the first time ever people in work could face being sanctioned (having their benefits stopped) if they don’t prove to the job centre that they’re searching for better paid work or more hours. Pensioner couples will also be affected if one of them is under pension age.
No civilized Government should impose this on its citizensand no opposition party should want to simply pause and fix it.
Areas already subjected to UC have reported serious hardship with visits to food banks soaring along with rates of people sanctioned and left without any income for 3 months or more.
Just some of the many problems with UC are listed below.
UC is based entirely on conditionality for those both in and out of work. Failure to meet these conditions can lead to the imposition of cumulative sanctions which could last 3 years.
Everyone will have to accept the Claimant Commitment and log in daily to Universal Job match account and complete your to do list and journal. There is harsh conditionality within Universal Credit such as 35 hour per week job searches.
Even with the changes brought in at the end of last year claimants face a 5 week wait which in many cases seems to be 3 months or longer for their first payment.
Loss of Mortgage interest payments which will now mean people have to take out a second loan if they are buying a home.
Hardship Loans are repayable meaning the full amount of money someone is entitled to isn’t paid for months as 40% of their entitlement can be taken away to repay a loan.
With UC, housing benefit isn’t paid straight to the landlord but to the claimant who may be in need of money to use in an emergency. In pilot areas this has resulted in up to 60% of claimants going into rent arrears.
Letting agents are already refusing to rent to anyone claiming UC.
For Disabled People
UC is claimed and managed entirely digitally which is difficult or impossible for many disabled people. Any mistakes on the form will likely lead to loss of benefit or a claim being disallowed.
Health and Work conversations are mandatory and any failure to attend will lead to your claim being closed.
People in part time work could be forced to give up work that suits their Disability or family life in order to take up worse paid full time work or risk sanctions,.
UC brings in the loss of Severe and Enhanced Disability Premiums which mean single disabled people lose around £2,000 per annum and a disabled couple over £4,000 per annum.
Coercion of Mental Health claimants.
As part of the Health and Work Programme we are seeing the use of the DWP nudge unit and psycho compulsion. This effectively means the introduction of forced treatment through the use of IAPT therapists based in job centres. If claimants don’t take the treatment prescribed they face being sanctioned.
Loss of Womens’ Rights
Changes to benefit payments will make women financially dependent on men trapping many in endless domestic violence.
The appalling Tax Credit ‘rape clause’ means that women can only get Child Tax Credit payments for their first two children unless they can prove they were raped. This involves filling out a detailed 45 page form about being raped..
For those in work, self-employed or on zero hours contracts
Even those in work will be expected to look for more hours up to 48 hours a week so you are not reliant on state support or face Sanctions for failing to comply. Warning- if your earnings exceed qualifying levels in a month they can close your claim and your online history will be erased when they close your claim down without warning. Make copies of all your actions to copy into your Journal or To Do List so you have evidenced back up files. To get this reinstated can take 8 months without money.
Going on Holiday? Think Again- If you fail to do your job match account even over Christmas and other bank holidays you will have your money stopped and you must always be available for interviews.
For every £1 earned Universal Credit takes away 63p meaning people are working for 37p for every pound earned per hour.
Self employed people will have to submit their monthly, instead of annual, income before any UC payment, including for housing costs, will be made for that month causing untold chaos and hardship. If they earn too much in any month their claim will be closed and they’ll have to start all over again.
As your constituent I am asking you to support scrapping Universal Credit.
Our very committed steering group member Ellen Clifford stayed up until 1am to speak to canadian radio about our concerns on UBI. Also speaking about concerns about UBI was John Clarke from Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. You can hear the discussion here
A much more detailed and authoratitive study will be published shortly but as others support the concept we wanted to flag up just some of the reasons we’d suggest great caution is needed in relation to a Universal Basic Income.
Concerns with UBI
The UK has in place a complex and targeted social security system. UBI trials in countries without the same levels of support infrastructure produce positive results, for example the pilots in Madhya Pradesh showed significant benefits for disabled people such as being able to afford food and medical assistance, as well as providing independent income for disabled people so they are not entirely reliant on families and enabling autonomy. Introducing a UBI in the UK would require that all or some of our present benefits and support systems are replaced which would be a far more complex undertaking. The distribution of gains and losses would depend upon the detail of the UBI scheme.
The cost of UBI in the UK at Guaranteed Minimum Income levels would significantly exceed current spending on cash benefits and tax-free allowances. A budget-neutral UBI would therefore require either a UBI below GMI levels, or additional tax increases.
Full UBI schemes that are in any way financially feasible result in big losses for disabled people. As a result, supporters of UBI such as the Citizen’s Income Trust now recommend a partial UBI where disability benefits (and housing) are retained as a separate parallel system. In Annie Miller’s 297 page Basic Income Handbook she includes just one page on “The needs of disabled people” (of which half a page is about carers) where she says “Disability benefits are based on need and are therefore a different system from BIs… Both housing and disability benefits are very much in need of revision but are beyond the scope of this book. The interaction between BI and support for these costs (and between them) would need to be considered in developing policy in each area.”
Supporters of a partial scheme where disability benefits are retained assure us that no disabled person will be worse off under UBI. We were told the same thing about Universal Credit and that has proved not to be true. The social security system is extremely complex and without detailed modelling setting out exactly how UBI would sit alongside a system of disability benefits sufficient to meet need it is difficult to be confident that it could work in this way without losses. A briefing to Nicola Sturgeon states: “Significant modelling effort would be required to establish levels which did not impact negatively on vulnerable groups.” One key benefit that UBI would most likely replace is ESA yet the rate of ESA for those in the support group is significantly higher than what is considered a feasible UBI level. This brings the prospect of “rough justice” for those who face the most disadvantages. The University of Bath paper presents an idea for a UBI with additional disability and severe disability premiums which when micro-simulated produces strong reductions in inequality and poverty but would be very expensive and require significant increases in income tax. The report authors conclude: “The unavoidable reality is that such schemes either have unacceptable distributional consequences or they simply cost too much.” DPAC members have concerns that the process for proving eligibility for disability premiums could be as problematic as the current system for applying for existing benefits.
Not only would running a UBI in parallel to disability benefit systems be complex, there is also the potential danger of increased stigma against those for whom the UBI is insufficient to meet their needs and less public will to fund them.
The disability benefits system is not fit for purpose. While proponents of partial UBI schemes propose retaining current disability benefits, disabled people are calling for an urgent overhaul. We are concerned about how the long and complex task of introducing a UBI would impact on the considerable task of reforming social security for disabled people. Attempting to manage both at the same time risks mistakes and as we have seen under welfare reform, where admittedly the many ‘mistakes’ are the result of deliberate ideological policy, mistakes cost lives.
Alongside an adequate standard of income, disabled people require other support services in order to enjoy full and equal participation in society. The current crisis in social care is one example of the urgency of the question of how to fund these. If independent living support remains under the administration of local authorities, then in order to end the situation whereby disabled people’s rights are being breached on a daily basis by lack of provision, one obvious solution would be to remove the cap and increase council tax. Increasing council tax alongside an increase in income tax to afford UBI could by very unpopular. Disabled people are calling for independent living support (i.e., social care) to be removed from local authorities and instead administered by a national independent living support system to be paid for out of general taxation. We are concerned that the introduction of UBI funded by increases in income tax will reduce the amount available to fund an independent living support system capable of meeting disabled people’s needs. While many disabled people would be in favour of tax rises to fund welfare provision – particularly corporation tax and a progressive rise in the higher rate of income tax – the use of this for a UBI rather than more traditional forms of disability and unemployment support would mean much of the benefit flowing back to employers rather than those in most need. In functioning as a wage subsidy UBI would act to significantly reduce employers NI contributions. It would be hard to make a case that this is a more progressive solution than simply reversing much of the damage that the Tories have done to current systems.
There is also a more general concern about pressures on public spending and negative impacts on social programmes as a result of introducing a UBI. In Hirsch’s paper for the JRF he warns about the need to take account of the fact that income tax is used for public expenditure other than income transfers and the dangers of underestimating the rate of income tax increase required without making cuts in public services.
The distributional impacts of a UBI mean that there are winners and there are losers– whereas under the current system the biggest losers tend to be those who face the biggest barriers, eg disabled people and the poorest members of society, some UBI models will benefit low income deciles while increasing inequality for the poorest. This is at odds with what the public generally understand as the aims of a social security system. It also has the potential to divide against each other groups of people who are currently united in our opposition to the rich elite who we see as responsible for growing inequality and poverty.
UBI provides a useful contribution to the debate on the future of social security where it adds support and evidence for the need to end conditionality and the impacts of inadequate income and punitive approaches in moving people further from the labour market. However DPAC’s view is that this is the extent of its usefulness.
UBI in the wrong hands could be extremely dangerous. Libertarians want to use it to sweep away the welfare state including the NHS while neoliberal governments see it as a way of forcing unemployed workers into insecure low paid jobs. The version of UBI being trialled by Finland’s right-wing government has been described as a “UBI-as-workhouse nightmare”. Ontario Coalition Against Poverty issued a statement supported by Canada’s largest public services trade union saying “The emerging model of basic income reflected in pilot projects and initiatives in a number of countries and jurisdictions is one that would intensify the neoliberal agenda”. John Clarke from OCAP has written ““The neoliberal attack is taking up Basic Income as a weapon. We need to fight it instead of laying down a welcome mat.”
UBI compensates for while leaving unchallenged the structures that cause inequality. This is no doubt why Silicon Valley is so much in favour of UBI as a way to tackle the problem of job losses through automation, because it ignores the question of the ownership of the technology. Instead, UBI accepts the status quo. By subsidising low wages there is a danger that UBI could encourage employers to further drive down wages and job security. This is a concern to disabled people who are statistically much more likely to be in low paid work than non-disabled people. A large proportion of politicised disabled people know that capitalism has no reason to accommodate us, in fact the very opposite, and that full disability equality cannot be achieved under the current system. Instead we need a socialist society operating on the principle of from each according to their abilities to each according to their needs.
The emancipatory impacts of UBI can only be realised by a level of payment sufficiently high to free us from wage labour. If the conditions were such that we could introduce that, it can be argued that we would then be in a situation where we had arrived at socialism and didn’t need UBI. Introducing a below poverty-line UBI will do little to improve the material circumstances of those who are most in need but would require a big upheaval – bearing in mind that millions are already suffering following the enormous shake up of the social security system introduced since 2010 – while creating a new pattern of winners and losers.
Britain is home to the biggest socialist movement in Europe where demands for a living wage, for health and social care support services free at the point of need and a social security system that provides an adequate standard of living free from conditionality are all popular. These are what we need to fight for.
Mike works for the Chronicle, Newcastle, and is looking for someone who has suffered through PIP assessments. he needs a case study from the North East – Tyne and Wear, Northumberland, County Durham – who is prepared to be photographed and named in the story.
If you are willing to help with this please email him firstname.lastname@example.org or his direct line is 0191 201 6406
Disability Rights Supreme Court bedroom tax winners taken back to court again
WHEN Jayson and Charlotte Carmichael received the unanimous Supreme Court ruling that the bedroom tax, in their case, contravened their human rights, they thought this was an end to their mammoth four-year battle.
It was a fight the Carmichaels felt they had to undertake, as the two bedrooms they have are both in use.
Charlotte’s disability and the equipment she requires for sleeping means it’s impossible for Jayson to share a bedroom with her.
The bedroom tax is a direct charge against her disability. There is no “spare room” but the blunt tool that is the bedroom tax disregards their individual needs and as a result the Supreme Court found it was contravening their human rights.
However, the vindictive Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is now taking a ruling in the Carmichaels’ favour from the First Tier Tribunal in 2014 to the Court of Appeal on February 20 and 21, arguing that the tribunal shouldn’t have used the Human Rights Act in its judgement.
This tribunal in 2014 said: “There was no objective and reasonable justification for such discrimination in dealing with such a seriously disabled person regarding their housing benefit.
“Accordingly the appealed decision is set aside and Section 4 (1) Human Rights Legislation 13 (b) (5) so as to avoid discrimination in the matter of housing benefit to this discrete group of disabled persons.”
The local council obeyed the ruling and the Carmichaels were not charged the bedroom tax.
This is what the DWP argument is about: bizarrely Jayson and Charlotte are being taken to court because the council obeyed the ruling of the First Tier Tribunal, which used the Human Rights Act in its ruling.
It feels like the bloody nose the DWP received as a result of the Supreme Court rulings has meant it is now trawling through the Carmichaels’ case, desperately searching for something it can try to use against them.
Is this really the best use of the court’s time and public money when Jayson and Charlotte’s case is so clear-cut?
It will make it five years that they have been fighting the government, which adds an enormous amount of stress on to a couple who are already dealing with a progressive disability with all the cost and additional pressure this entails.
However, this doesn’t mean the Carmichaels are ready to give up and roll over, as they firmly believe that their fight against this discriminatory tax is not just for them, but for the many others who find themselves in a similar situation.
Jayson says: “We’re stressed by the fact they are still continuing to use the bedroom tax to take us to court, despite the historic win in the Supreme Court when we made legal history.
“We have an excellent legal team, but it still is disappointing that the government and their top lawyers have been able to take us to court on something that no longer has much to do with our personal circumstances.
“It’s as if we are trapped in a legal technicality. The outcome means so much for others, that’s the one thing that keeps us going. The Human Rights Act is there and people should be able to access it whenever it is applicable — something this government is now trying to stop.”
Of course, ideally the bedroom tax would be abolished — something Labour has already pledged to do when elected. This is because the bedroom tax is discriminatory at its core.
What has also become clear from Jayson and Charlotte Carmichael, and that of the Rutherford family as well as other high-profile cases, is that this tax hits those with the most serious disabilities particularly hard, despite what the government might try to claim.
Theresa May’s recent reshuffle has put Esther McVey in charge of the DWP. She was a minister in the DWP with Iain Duncan Smith from 2013 to 2015, implementing some of the cruellest and most draconian “reforms,” including the bedroom tax.
By putting her in charge of the DWP it sends a message that there is more pain ahead for the increasingly large section of the population hit by the changes made to welfare benefits.
It makes it imperative for those wanting a fair society for all to take the lead from campaigners like Jayson and Charlotte, and do all we can to fight against these attacks on disabled people.
Ruth F Hunt is author of The Single Feather (Pilrig Press).
At quarter to four this afternoon the Government sent PLP a letter confirming that they will not be appealing RF’s win at the High Court. This means that as of tomorrow – Regulation 2(4) from the 2017 Regulations is quashed and the original 2012 Regulation on planning and following a journey stands. The MH judgement also still stands (see further below), so those with psychological distress can be considered for all descriptors in planning and following journeys (Activity 11).
The key difficulty May be that they have said during litigation that they don’t have records of who is affected, so how they will begin that process is unknown. Mind estimate around 160,000 people will be affected.
If you might have been affected by this illegal change sneaked in last March then please get in touch with DWP and/or your MP to ask for your money to be reinstated and backdated.
The decision not to appeal was apparently made by lovely Esther who said “I hope that by making this statement it is clear that the Government is committed to improving the lives of people with a Mental Health condition.”
I am sure all of you who have a MH condition will be very pleased to know this although you might also be rolling around laughing at her empty words.
Whatever happened to free speech and freedom of opinion? It seems that this is something Tory MPs don’t believe in especially when it is a disabled person exercising those rights.
Mick Hardy, a veteran disability rights campaigner from Norfolk, is being taken to court for shouting at Chloe Smith MP at the Norwich Pride Parade 2017 where she gave a speech. What exactly could Mick have said that would lead him to be charged with allegedly inciting public disorder and threatening behaviour ? What could he possibly have shouted at the Tory scumbag that would lead her to take him to court?
You might have guessed but if not Mick shouted “Chloe Smith you’re a fucking little Nazi.” Surely for any MP being heckled like this is just part of the job- and for a Tory MP being called a Nazi must be par for the course. And of course Chloe Smith is little about the same height as me so it can’t be that word she took offence at.
Mick is not online. Mick has both physical and mental health conditions. Chloe Smith knows who Mick is because he stood against her as the Disabled And Not Dead Yet Party candidate at the 2015 general election.
Mick says ‘this is a very stressful time and he wants to thank everyone from the bottom of his heart for all their support. He refuses to be intimidated because he is only highlighting what is happening to those most vulnerable to Tory cuts in society! Solidarity.’
120,000 people have died because of ‘economic murder’ inflicted by Chloe Smith and her party as reported in The British Medical Journal. If we leave the system unchanged until 2020 then 200,000 people will have died because of Tory policies. Mick says “When are we allowed to mention the Nazis? How do we make them stop if we don’t protest?”
The treatment of disabled people under this government has been described as a ‘Human Catastrophe’ by the United Nations.
If people living nearby want to come to court to support Mick come at 9am on the 9th February to Norwich courts. BBC will be there.
It gave Mick a great lift to know people are talking about his case and offering support.
Depending on the outcome of this totally vacuous case we may need to help crowdfund for Mick’s court costs all because he exercised his right to free speech.
The outcome of the PIP legal challenge against the changes to who qualifies for Mobility component which will affect people with a MH condition is due to be handed down this week – either tomorrow or Thursday and there are a number of press people interested in reporting on it. However they want to speak to someone who will also be affected therefore I wondered whether any of you feel able to speak to them if needed about your own situation.
If you would be willing to please could you email us at email@example.com with your contact phone number.
This guide has been produced by Winvisible with support from others. If your GP or support worker etc don’t know what to do this information should be passed onto them.
Benefit assessments – exemption to protect ‘vulnerable’ patients
There is a great deal of evidence about the profound distress which face-to-face assessments for disability benefits can cause, especially for women and men with mental health conditions. The prospect of interview can induce overwhelming anxiety, panic and dissociative states, levels of stress and distress that can precipitate serious relapses, leading to psychiatric admissions and even suicides. Consultant psychiatrist Dr Jed Boardman said: “You see people relapsing as a consequence of getting distressed about being assessed.” (Fit-for-work tests linked to relapses in those with mental health problems Guardian 24 November 2015.)
Therefore it is vital that professionals know about the benefit system regulations on exemption from the face-to-face interview and for assessment on paper evidence.
They can quote these to protect vulnerable patients from harmful distress and deterioration, and/or enable them to stay out of hospital. Professionals who can state their opinion include: GP, care co-ordinator, psychologist, psychiatrist, key worker, support worker, therapist, counsellor, Independent Domestic Violence Advocate… Opinions from non-medical staff are relevant to describe people’s problems functioning.
It is important to recommend exemption from the face-to-face interview very clearly. Don’t recommend a home visit: this can be worse than an assessment centre interview, as for women rape survivors or others, their home is their safe space which would be violated by an official visit. You may be rung by the assessor as a follow-up, so make sure you are up-to-date with your patient’s situation.
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) are different benefits with different reasons for exemption:
ESA is an out-of-work benefit based on limited capability for work where complete exemption from back-to-work conditions is possible. In places where ESA is replaced by Universal Credit (UC), this exemption is in UC regulations 2013 Schedule 8 and also applies to the compulsory “Health and Work Conversation”. Widespread opposition to the brutal UC regime has delayed national rollout.
PIP is widely claimed by both unwaged and waged people for daily living/care and mobility needs, and is not part of UC.
Companies hold DWP contracts to open mail, scan and distribute it and to carry out assessments, but confidentiality is used to exclude evidence. If a support letter marked “Confidential” goes to the assessor company, the DWP says under confidentiality, it won’t then be disclosed to a DWP Case Manager (PIP Assessment Guide Part One, 1.4.13). As proper consideration often depends on DWP review, don’t mark your report confidential.
Under “Exceptional Circumstances”, you can say that there would be substantial risk to the patient’s health if they were put under work conditions for benefit, so they should be exempted from these and the exam. This regulation means the person is already accepted as satisfying the test for ESA (limited capability for work) so doesn’t have to be seen. Substantial risk to health can be mental health, or physical health e.g. risk of heart
attack from stress. Risk to mental health covers not only suicide risk, but also sudden deterioration in mental state: PTSD flashbacks, panic attacks, hearing voices, or similar.
Substantial risk regulations: https://wcainfo.net/issues/substantial-risk-lcw 1. A claimant who does not have limited capability for work as determined in accordance with the limited capability for work assessment is to be treated as having limited capability for work if paragraph (2) applies to the claimant. 2. Subject to paragraph (3) this paragraph applies if … (b) the claimant suffers from some specific disease or bodily or mental disablement and, by reasons of such disease or disablement, there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if the claimant were found not to have limited capability for work. 3. Paragraph (2)(b) does not apply where the risk could be reduced by a significant amount by – (a) reasonable adjustments being made in the claimant’s workplace; or (b) the claimant taking medication to manage the claimant’s condition where such medication has been prescribed for the claimant by a registered medical practitioner treating the claimant.
Regulation 25 (2013) (4)
(4) In this regulation ―medical evidence‖ means—
(a) evidence from a health care professional approved by the Secretary of State; and
(b) evidence (if any) from any health care professional or a hospital or similar institution, or such part of such evidence as constitutes the most reliable evidence available in the circumstances.
PIP DWP guidance states that assessors should determine if they can assess the claim from the paper evidence they already have, or if they should get further evidence from professionals, before proceeding to arrange a face-to-face exam — they call it consultation. (PIP Assessment Guide, Part One – The Assessment Process, 1.2.2/1.3.6, 2 November 2017) https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/655611/pip-assessment-guide-part-1-assessment-process.pdf The assessor can make a decision from paper evidence where “there is strong evidence on which to advise on the case and a face-to-face consultation is likely to be stressful for the claimant…” (1.5.4) Assessors “should also consider the needs of vulnerable claimants”, that is “someone who has difficulty dealing with procedural demands” including “a previous suicide attempt, domestic violence, abuse or bereavement.” (1.3.11)
1.5.4 “Cases that should not require a face-to-face consultation” ―Although each case should be determined individually, the following types of case should not normally require a face-to-face consultation: […] • There is strong evidence on which to advise on the case and a face-to-face consultation is likely to be stressful for the claimant (for example, claimants with autism, cognitive impairment or learning disability) • The claimant questionnaire indicates a high level of disability, the information is consistent, medically reasonable and there is nothing to suggest over-reporting – (examples may include claimants with severe neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, severely disabling stroke) • There is sufficient detailed, consistent and medically reasonable information on function.
The medical evidence sent on paper has to be “robust” to enable the test for benefit to be met, and should include comments about how functioning is affected. WinVisible won exemption from the PIP exam for a rape survivor who felt suicidal and was at risk of flashbacks, based on “consultation may be stressful to the claimant”. The assessor rang the woman’s GP for his opinion after his letter was sent in. She was granted full rates for both daily living and mobility.
Where should support letters be directed?
Assessments are carried out by multinational company Maximus (under the name Health Assessment Advisory Service) on behalf of the DWP.
• If your patient is filling in the ESA50 form, attach your support letter to the form and make sure it is listed on the form.
• If your patient can’t cope with the form, or if an interview date has already been sent out, fax it headed FME (Further Medical Evidence) to HAAS London central fax: 0208 795 8647. This is the procedure recommended by HAAS call centre staff. It should have the claimant’s name and NI No. at the top of each numbered page.
• If your patient has an appointment date and HAAS are refusing to postpone this, or are still requiring her to attend despite your request for exemption, email the same correspondence with a cover note raising your complaint to the Centre for Health and Disability Assessments (Maximus head office). Ask them to put the appointment on hold pending the decision on exemption: email: firstname.lastname@example.org They usually reply within two days. Always cc the MP and ask them to follow it up on behalf of the claimant.
Assessments are carried out by Atos (or in some geographical areas by Capita). To send in your medical evidence requesting exemption, you can:
Email Atos email@example.com
Write to the DWP’s Disability and Carers Service, address is on the patient’s PIP letter. And/or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are not sure where to send it, call the PIP helpline on 03458 503 322.
Getting support from MPs’ caseworkers
Ask if your patient is ready to contact their MP and ask for support for their exemption and paper-based assessment. Google “Find my MP” or search the Parliament website, choosing the constituency contacts. MPs’ caseworkers have direct lines to benefit officials and can often quickly resolve distressing situations. Involving the MP gets your concerns taken more seriously. Assessor companies have staff specifically for MPs’ enquiries. Ms A wrote to us: “I just wanted to let you know, it is with a happy heart I read the opened letter from the DWP this afternoon with my PIP results. I am most grateful for the advice that it is OK to ask my psychiatrist specifically for a paper based assessment. I know not everyone is like this and that particularly with the disabled people’s movement, a lot of work and effort goes into asserting good self-image. In mental health, addictions, abuse/domestic violence situations, I think there is something very unseen and unaddressed going on that makes women like me and others, more likely to be unable to meet the demands of the benefits system. More likely to fall between the cracks.”
Compiled by WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities)
with warm thanks to: Diane Frazer, psychotherapist; Dr Jay Watts, clinical psychologist;
Marcin Brajta, Hackney Community Law Centre
Crossroads Women’s Centre
25 Wolsey Mews, London NW5 2DX
Tel: 020 7482 2496
#SackTheTories – BUDGET DAY PROTEST
Stop the Universal Credit Crisis – Stop Tax Avoidance – Fund Our NHS
Day of action the night before the Budget
November 21st 6pm – 7:30pm, Opposite Downing Street, Whitehall, London
The Government’s plans to overhaul the welfare system by forcing people onto Universal Credit have been widely criticised by MPs, charities, and campaigners all warning that this is likely to cause a rise in homelessness, poverty, and unnecessary debt. It will leave thousands without an income for weeks as they wait to be transferred, many will be left thousands of pounds worse off, and there is reduced support for claimants. The Trussell Trust have said that they expect a 30% increase in foodbank use this winter in areas where Universal Credit is rolled out. Child Poverty Action Group have found that Government welfare reform will push 1 million children below the poverty line.
Disabled People face losing £40.10 per week with the scrapping of Disability Premiums from Universal Credit.
Vicious Conditionality which could force people to seek extra work for up to 48 hours per week will affect everyone regardless of whether they are in or out of work, disabled or non-disabled.
The cost of moving to Universal Credit was originally estimated at £2.2bn, however it is now at a staggering £15.8bn and still rising.
Revelations in the Paradise Papers show how companies, politicians and individuals are avoiding paying billions of pounds in tax using offshore tax havens rather than paying their fair share here. Theresa May said she would clamp down on tax avoidance but loopholes are still in operation.
More people than ever are having to rely on foodbanks to feed their families, our NHS is in a funding crisis, public sector workers are still facing a pay cap below inflation, millions can’t access affordable housing while the richest individuals and biggest companies take money that should be spent on dealing with these problems and squirrel it away for themselves. The Government is doing nothing to stop it.
Last winter our NHS was driven into the worst crisis in it’s history. We witnessed patients dying in hospital corridors, staff stretched to breaking point and the Red Cross declaring a ‘humanitarian crisis’ in our NHS. This winter looks set to be worse. Head of NHS England Simon Stephens warned the Government last week that unless billions of pounds is found in the budget for the NHS it won’t be able to cope.
The People’s Assembly is calling a nationwide day of action the night before the Chancellors Budget is announced. We’re organising ‘Stop the Universal Credit Crisis – Stop Tax Avoidance’ protests in towns and cities across the country. As part of the protests we’re collecting food which will be donated to local foodbanks so their shelves are stocked to deal with the fallout from Universal Credit and the continuation of austerity policies in the budget.
We want to urge the Government to use the Budget to scrap their plans for Universal Credit, to close tax loopholes and force the tax avoiders to pay their fair share, to end the public sector pay cap with an increase above inflation, and to make sure our public services are properly funded.
We will also be using the thousands of pounds that was raised through sales of Captain Ska’s track ‘Liar Liar’ to buy tonnes of food and deliver it to foodbanks across the country. But before it’s delivered, we’ll be displaying all of it right on the doorstep of Downing Street to show Theresa May and Phillip Hammond the effect their damaging policies are having on ordinary people – this will take place as part of the London wide protest on Tuesday 21 November. Join us at Downing Street or at one of the many protests that will be taking place across the country and don’t forget to bring along food for the foodbank collection.
Dear Mr. Stevens (Tory Councillor for Horley, West Sussex),
I watched your performance on BBC QT with shock and disgust. Your cognitive dissonance, delivered with such religious fervour, is as repulsive now as it was when the German people pretended the Holocaust wasn’t happening in order to assuage their collective guilt. You metaphorically covered your nose and averted your eyes to the dark, greasy pall of death that hangs over this country, and instead decided that attack was the best form of defense of the indefensible. I make no apologies for comparing the current genocide of the disabled with that of Hitler – he began with a cull of the mentally ill and disabled, after all.
My question is, what on earth makes you think you know better than a reporter who has actually researched the subject in minute detail and spoken to victims and relatives of those who have been murdered by or are suffering under the government you voted for? Or, indeed, what makes you think you know better than the sick and disabled, themselves?
Disabled people may not be living in fear of the sound of Jackboots on the ground outside their door, but they are living in fear of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) regime – so much so that there is actually now a medically recognised condition called “Brown Envelope Syndrome” just for the illnesses brought on by state-sponsored oppression and harassment. Did you know that, Mr. Stevens? Or did you miss it because you were you too busy straining to look the other way (as I imagine you do regarding the exponential increase in child poverty, homelessness, and the systematic dismantling of the NHS for privatisation, since 2010)?
The millions of sick and disabled people suffering from government oppression in the UK can disabuse you of your ignorance – if you can face them. They can confirm that the genocide of the most vulnerable is most certainly real and has been going on since 2010. I know this because I am one of the sick people the government has been trying to cull – and almost succeeded on three separate occasions. Where it failed to succeed in killing me off, however, it did succeeded in making my existing health issues far, far worse, and I have actually developed multiple new and very serious conditions related specifically to DWP oppression. It has been so bad, in fact, that I have a case for DWP Maladministration currently with the Ombudsman, a stage reached only after more than three long years at the hands of the DWP’s internal complaints system (any idea why it should take so long Mr. Stevens? Almost like it was designed to put you off, make you give up, or give you the chance to die before it’s heard…).
I also use my experience to help other disabled people being harassed into an early grave by the DWP – hundreds of them. I have talked people down from the edge. Coaxed them away from the painkillers, sleeping pills, and alcohol they were about to use to end it all because they couldn’t take any more DWP oppression, lies, and mindless bureaucracy; they simply had no more fight left in them. I helped save their lives and snatch them from the grip of the vile, murderous hands of the Tory government. So, unlike you, I do not speak purely from my own narrow and convenient perspective; I speak for the experience of many, many others in addition to myself.
If you do not wish to be accused of having the blood of sick and disabled people on your hands, which, as a Tory voter, you most certainly do, then I respectfully request you actually look carefully at what you’re voting for, in future. The information regarding MP’s voting records is in the public domain, for example, as are the DWP death figures, the figures for the number of terminally ill cancer patients refused PIP each year, the UN reports describing the plight of the UK’s disabled under the Tories as a “human catastrophe”, the coroners’ reports regarding the suicides linked to the Work Capability Assessment that were served to the government several years ago and then buried and denied, the huge numbers of cases overturned at tribunals, the reports from disability organisations into the devastating effects of the welfare cuts – cuts aimed overwhelmingly at the sick and disabled – and so on.
And if anyone at BBC QT behaved in a Trumpesque manner, Mr. Stevens, it was you. Your bluff and bluster and use of ‘alternative facts’ to go on the attack without even letting Mr. Chakrabortty finish his sentence or give explanation (facilitated, as ever, by Mr. Dimbleby) is reminiscent of Trump’s late night Twitter rants.
Unfortunately for people like you, it’s getting more and more difficult for this government and the right-wing media to hide the genocide of the sick and disabled in this country – and it will be exposed in the very near future. The cracks have been appearing for some time. For Aditya Chakrabortty to actually get those words out on live TV, before your crass attempts to cut him off, is a first. It’s been seven torturous years too long in coming, but it finally happened. And when the floodgates open and the truth of the sheer scale of this government cull of the nation’s vulnerable is finally revealed in all its vileness, Tory voters will have only two choices: either continue to deny the facts, or wring their hands at the horror of it all and wail about how they wish they’d known the truth.
But you, Mr. Stevens, have but one choice. You have been told. You can no longer claim you didn’t know. So, will you continue to just deny and attack, as you did on BBC QT?
Or, perhaps my character assessment of you is incorrect. Perhaps you have simply been misinformed and misled for the last seven years. Perhaps you’d like to learn the truth for yourself so you can make an informed decision and help effect change? Is that the real you, Mr. Stevens? Are you simply a hapless victim of propaganda and misinformation?
Well, if you’d like a window into the misery and suffering of just a tiny percentage of sick and disabled under the government you voted for, why not go onto the government’s OWN website (not advertised – I found it by accident, and it was only open for comments for a very limited time) and read up on the experiences of real people being oppressed right now by the Tory Boot Boys at the DWP (and do bear in mind that many sick and disabled people don’t have access to the internet or can’t use it, or are simply too sick and beaten down to complain – yet still thousands responded in a very short time):
Obviously, those writing on this forum are still living, so if that isn’t enough for you, then please go to: http://calumslist.org for a list of people killed by this government and find out how they suffered and died.
And if, after all that, you still feel inclined to defend this governmental abuse and genocide, why don’t you try and prove how wrong I am, and how I’ve imagined the pain, misery, and oppression I’ve suffered unnecessarily since 2012 (when they came for me)? I’d like to see you try and wash that blood off your hands, Mr. Stevens, as I have enough evidence to bury you in paperwork for a decade.
And do you know that life for all disabled people (except those cushioned by wealth) is lived under a black cloud of fear? And that the fear is never absent for even one second of any day since this vile regime was instigated? The sick and disabled of this country live the most difficult of lives already – they now have to cope with pain and illness without a moment’s peace. Is it any wonder they are sicker than ever? Please stop for a moment to consider this, Mr. Stevens: this government has repeatedly and deliberately targeted the sick and disabled for harassment and cuts to their income, as they are the demographic least physically able to fight back and have the least resources available to do so. How morally bankrupt does a person have to be to think this is acceptable?
It is so bad, in fact, that in September 2016 I served the DWP with a Death Letter that prevents it covering up the details of my death if it does succeed in killing me, so it can’t hide behind the Data Protection Act (DPA) as it does now in refusing to discuss particular cases. I have a copy on file with my GP and a solicitor, and I give permission for full disclosure of the coroner’s report and all aspects of my appalling treatment at the hands of this government since 2012. I understand many others have started doing this, too.
The sick and the disabled are also tired of government, media, and people like you conflating the two labels to justify government abuse. You can have a perfectly health disabled person that, with a few adjustments made available by an employer, is willing and able to work, and sick people who are just ill for a while and intend to go back to work… and then there are the seriously ill and severely disabled who will never be able to work no matter what the disgraced assessors at disability denial companies like Atos, Capita, and Maximus tell you. The former examples are used to justify the treatment of the latter, and allow the type of cognitive dissonance you displayed on BBC QT to flourish among the close-minded. It allows people like you to focus on a relatively able subgroup of disabled, like Paralympians, for example, to make erroneous assumptions that the others, the very vulnerable, can’t really be all that disabled, after all – meaning they certainly can’t be having rather a bad time of things and being killed off by the Tories. Newsflash! Very sick people are disabled by the limitations of their conditions (like being in a coma), BUT disabled people are not necessarily sick (like most Paralympians).
And if you’re trying to tell yourself all this simply can’t be true in the UK in 2017, or that surely the courts would be full of cases against the government for actual bodily harm and unlawful killing, as well as institutionalised and systematic abuse of sick and disabled peoples’ Human Rights… you’re in good company – we’re all wondering why it hasn’t happened, too.
I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on the issues I raised, Mr. Stevens – although I’d prefer you use facts, this time, rather than rely on a tirade of abuse and indignation, as you did on BBC QT.
PS. Since you’re crowing about your disgusting performance on BBC QT on social media, I have copied this letter to various news outlets and other interested parties to also be made public in the interests of fairness and truth.
David Gauke the latest in a long line of ministers of state for DWP this week refused to halt the roll out of Universal Credit despite warnings from many credible sources including his own backbenchers that it was a disaster in waiting.
As the roll out of Universal Credit proceeds more and more disabled people are likely to find that they miss out on any transitional protections and in the worst case scenario that their claim is treated as a new one they face the loss of £78.35 a week from their social security payments.
This is because in Universal credit there are no Severe Disability Premiums or Enhanced Disability Premium paid. They simply vanish into thin air.
Research has shown that the additional cost of being disabled is £550 per month extra but the nasty party are stripping claimants of most of the money they need to meet those additional costs.
We’re planning something for International Day of Disabled People with more details about this to follow but in the meantime we’re asking people to contact their MPs and ask them to justify taking £78.35 pw away from those who have the highest support needs/ are most severely disabled.
Maybe they’ll say how they manage to sleep at nights.
Please then send us a copy of your letter and their response to you. email@example.com
The Mirror are calling for people to share their experiences of Universal Credit. The government intends to increase the amount of job centres administering the benefit despite the numerous problems; an inbuilt delay of 42 days for the first payment, rising rent arrears and soaring food bank usage. No fewer than 15 conservative MPs have called for the benefit to be paused, but their pleas were ignored.
If you (or anyone you know) has been affected by this benefit, please consider sharing your experiences (you can request anonymity) For more information click here: (you need to scroll to the bottom of the screen).
Please send details of your experiences to Work & Pensions Committee by November 10th. You don’t need to address all of the questions just any that are relevant. Please note we do not want you to send this information to us but directly to the Committee.
Committee launches new inquiry into PIP and ESA assessments
In the last Parliament the Committee held an urgent one-off evidence session in the wake of the announcement of Government plans to restrict the number of people who qualify for PIP, a move which would limit the cost of PIP by £3.7 billion. Evidence taken then revealed worrying disparities between the applicants’ recall of the assessment process and the final report produced to enable DWP to make a decision. The Committee also heard concerns about the contractor assessors’ ability to understand and properly assess a wide range of physical and mental health conditions, and about the dignity and conduct of the assessment process. The latest data shows that claimants are successful in appealing against their decision in 65% of cases, for both PIP and ESA, and that there has been an 29% increase in such appeals being registered since this time last year.
Given high ratesof overturn at appeal, the Committee invites evidence on the effectiveness of assessment processes used to determine eligibility for these benefits, and the experience of applicants going through it. The Committee is interested in receiving recommendations for change both on the assessment process for each benefit individually, and on common lessons that can be learned from the two processes.
Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “The truly amazing rate of overturned ESA and PIP decisions seems to point to something being fundamentally wrong with the initial assessment and Mandatory Reconsideration stages. Quite apart from the human cost this represents – the distress and difficulty for applicants trying to get help with daily living or getting into work – it looks to be wasteful, inefficient, and a huge cost to taxpayers.
“We would like to hear from claimants – and assessors – about whether and where the system works, or is failing, and how it might be fixed.”
In particular, the Committee would welcome evidence on the following points, by 10 November 2017:
Assessors and assessments:
Do contractor assessors possess sufficient expertise to carry out assessments for people with a wide range of health conditions?
Is DWP quality control for contractors sufficient and effective?
Should the options for reforming the Work Capability Assessment mooted in the Government’s Improving Lives green paper be taken forward?
What examples of best practice in assessing eligibility for benefits are available internationally, and how transferrable are they to ESA and/or PIP?
Mandatory Reconsideration and appeal:
Why do claimants seek to overturn initial assessment outcomes for ESA and/or PIP?
Why are levels of disputed decisions higher for PIP than for ESA?
Is the MR process working well for claimants of ESA and/or PIP?
What accounts for the rate of overturned decisions at appeal for PIP and/or ESA?
Are there lessons that could be learned from the ESA MR and appeal process for PIP and vice-versa?
What changes could be made earlier in the process to ensure fewer claimants feel they need to appeal?
Do prospective claimants currently understand the purpose of the assessment?
How could claimants be helped to better understand the assessment process?
Are some groups of claimants particularly likely to encounter problems with their assessments – and if so, how can this be addressed?
Should the assessment processes for PIP and ESA be more closely integrated? How else might the processes be streamlined for claimants?
An easy read version of these terms of reference is available on our website, and we encourage people to join the discussion on our web forum, whether you would like to submit evidence to the inquiry or not.
Committee Membership is as follows:
Frank Field – Chair (Labour), Heidi Allen (Conservative), Andrew Bowie (Conservative), Jack Brereton (Conservative), Alex Burghart (Conservative), Neil Coyle (Labour), Marsha De Cordova (Labour), Ruth George (Labour), Chris Green (Conservative), Steve McCabe (Labour), Chris Stephens (Scottish National Party)
Many claimants will be aware that with Universal Credit there are 7 waiting days when claiming , well some good news is that there are some exceptions. While this is going to be quite daunting for many, there are small things which will help existing IR ESA ,JSA,IS claimants.
5 A person will not have to serve 7 waiting days where
1. a new award of UC is made2
1.1 to a single claimant where a previous award has ended when the
claimant ceased to be a member of a couple or
1.2 to joint claimants where two previous awards ended as the result of the
claimants becoming a couple or
1.3 in any other circumstances where the assessment periods for the new
award begin on the same day of each month as the assessment periods for a previous award or
2. on the relevant date, the claimant or either of the joint claimants
2.1 is terminally ill or
2.2 has recently become a victim of domestic violence or
2.3 is a care leaver or
2.4 is aged 16 or 17 and has no parental support or
2.5 has been a prisoner within the month ending on the relevant date or
2.6 has been entitled to new-style JSA or new-style ESA within the 3 months
ending on the relevant date or
2.7 was entitled to old-style JSA, old-style ESA or IS at any time during the
period of 3 months ending on the relevant date and ceased to be entitled
to that benefit on starting paid work or
2.8 does not fall within paragraph 5 2.7 and was entitled to one of the
following benefits at any time during the period of one month ending on
the relevant date
2.7 was entitled to old-style JSA, old-style ESA or IS at any time during the
period of 3 months ending on the relevant date and ceased to be entitled
to that benefit on starting paid work or
2.8 does not fall within paragraph 5 2.7 above and was entitled to one of the
following benefits at any time during the period of one month ending on
the relevant date
2.8.a old-style JSA or
2.8.b old-style ESA or
2.8.c IS or
2.8.d HB or
2.8.e child tax credit or
2.8.f working tax credit7 .
Louise is a journalist at BuzzFeed UK and they are doing a series of pieces boosting our focus on disability in July.
She says “I’m wondering if you could help me with a possible story I’ve comes across.
I spoke to a lady who uses a wheelchair, who told me that she feels unable to move in with her partner (who is not disabled) because if she does, she will lose her ESA benefits.
She says that if she moved in to live with her partner, her ESA would be removed, because her partner works more than 24 hours a week at minimum wage, meaning she would be completely dependent on her partner to support both of them. She says this is barely possible, so it means she can never live with a partner without seriously depleting both of their quality of life.”
If you are in a similar situation or affected by the earnings rule for income based ESA Louise would like to speak to people for an article to raise awareness of this.
Do you live in or near Pembroskeshire and have been affected by Tory cuts?
If so, we want to hear your story.
We’re putting a newspaper piece together for Pembrokeshire newspapers and desperately need your stories. Our aim to publish a collection of people’s stories to maximize the impact of the piece.
Please write to us if;
You know someone, or have yourself been affected by Tory benefit cuts? You know someone, or have yourself had to use food banks? You know someone, or have yourself been made to go on a workfare program? You know someone, or have yourself had your disability benefits cut even though you (or they) are unfit for work? You know someone, or have yourself been made homeless as a result of Tory policies. You know someone, or have yourself fallen into debt due to working family (or working) tax credits cuts? You know someone, or have yourself fallen into debt due to bedroom tax or other cuts. You know someone, or have yourself been forced to use payday loans due to benefit cuts. Have you been sanctioned unfairly? Do you know anyone who has? Do you have any other stories you would be willing to share with us? You can remain anonymous if you prefer to do so. Anything you tell us will be treated in the strictest of confidence. PLEASE tell us your story, the local press in Pembrokeshire are waiting to hear. We need your stories to tell the wider public what is really going on! And we have already been told that we will be published so PLEASE send them in to us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yours, Pembrokeshire People’s Assembly Against Austerity.