Actions against Universal Credit:
Single mums challenge UC
Tues 27 & Wed 28 November 2018
High Court, Strand, London WC2A 2LL
Single mums are in court to challenge the government over the Universal Credit payment system which is inflexible and doesn’t reflect reality. The rigid ‘assessment period’ causes wildly fluctuating benefit and debt. Part-time dinner lady Danielle Johnson from Keighley, West Yorkshire, is paid on the last working day of the month. But her monthly UC assessment periods are rigid – running from the last day of each month, meaning that if she is paid before the last day of the month, because payment falls on a weekend or non-banking day, she is assessed as having been paid twice that month, and not at all the next month (so she could be subject to the benefit cap). Claimants are unable to change their assessment period. Ms Johnson also argues that the system is discriminatory because it disproportionately affects mainly single mothers. Child Poverty Action Group and Leigh Day solicitors have joined together. See Leigh Day’s press release. The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights recently condemned UC as ‘misogynist’.
10.30am: Court case starts in Court 1. Go into court to support the claimants. Continues Wednesday, check court listing here
Read “Universal Credit: a hostile environment for women”, by Selma James, Solveig Francis
Saturday 1 December 2018
National day of action to STOP Universal Credit
London-wide 2pm: In the shadow of Grenfell Tower, meet at Ladbroke Grove tube, London W10 6HJ
Monthly demonstration against Universal Credit outside DWP headquarters, Caxton House. Tothill Street. London. SW1H 9DA (near the Houses of Parliament)
Meet 12 PM – 1pm on the 1st Friday of each month including December and January.
Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group used to demonstrate regularly outside their local jobcentres. But they’ve closed both of the local jobcentres. It is now easier for many to get to the DWPs National Headquarters in Westminster than to get to their nearest remaining jobcentres.
KUWG cordially invite other Londoners, and allies to come and join them.
To contact KUWG please message them via their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/kilburn.unemployed
DWP facing court over claimant’s universal credit ‘fit for work injustice’
A disabled man who was unfairly found “fit for work”, and then saw his benefits slashed by almost £180 per month after he was forced onto the government’s new universal credit benefit system, is seeking justice in the high court.
It is the latest in a series of legal cases that have been taken on behalf of disabled benefit claimants against DWP, as a result of a series of welfare reforms introduced under successive Conservative and Conservative-led governments.
The man, known as IM for legal reasons, had been claiming employment and support allowance (ESA), but after undergoing a work capability assessment he was told in March last year that he was no longer eligible for ESA.
His jobcentre advised him to claim universal credit instead, which he did, but he also successfully appealed against the decision to find him fit for work.
Although the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) now accepts that he was unfairly found fit for work and that he has limited capability for work-related activity – the equivalent of being in the ESA support group – he has been treated as a new universal credit claimant.
As a new claimant, he is not entitled to the severe disability premium (SDP) he previously received as a top-up to ESA.
If draft regulations become law, he may be entitled to the partial compensation of £80 a month agreed by work and pensions secretary Esther McVey for those who lost entitlement to SDP when they were forced to move onto universal credit.*
IM’s judicial review case has been taken by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), which has described DWP’s policy as “irrational” and discriminatory.
It has secured permission for a judicial review of the failure to provide IM with transitional protection after his move to universal credit, or, alternatively, the refusal to allow him to return to ESA.
CPAG is taking a similar legal action on behalf of TD, a single mother with a disabled child, which will be heard by the high court alongside IM’s case.
TD gave up her job to become a full-time carer but had her income support terminated when her child’s disability living allowance (DLA) was about to end and before it could be renewed.
She was also told by the jobcentre to claim universal credit, which she did.
Despite DWP eventually admitting that there had been a mistake, TD is now receiving almost £140 a month less under universal credit than she did when receiving income support.
The two cases are expected to be heard together in the high court early next year.
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) welcomed the judicial review and warned that if it was not successful, many other disabled people would be affected in a similar way.
DPAC said DWP was clearly engaged in “another cost-saving exercise”.
A DPAC spokesperson said: “Financially, the incentive for DWP is to find as many claimants as possible fit for work.
“Even if the decision is overturned, DWP is saving money by transferring claimants to universal credit.
“This is clearly just more evidence that universal credit is beyond being fixed.
“People already living on poverty-level social security payments are simply and randomly being thrown even further into destitution.”
Claire Glasman, from the campaigning organisation WinVisible – which supports disabled women – said: “Families are being devastated by abolition of income support, which is some recognition of caring work.
“We are contacted by stressed out mothers at their wits’ end when their children’s DLA and their carer benefits are threatened by the brutal personal independence payment [which is replacing working-age DLA]and universal credit system.”
A DWP spokeswoman said: “We are not able to comment on an ongoing legal case.”
23 August 2018 From Disability News Service
Norwich Art Show Announced
Vince Laws & DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) have teamed up to ensure there is a Norfolk Disability Pride Art Show. The show falls under 3 headings:
1) ‘I Protest!’
Protest Art by Vince Laws & DPAC Artists
including the DEAD PEOPLE DON’T CLAIM banner
and the DWP DEATHS MAKE ME SICK shrouds.
Supported by Disabled People Against Cuts
2) A Very Queer Nazi Faust – Props, Photos, Poetry & More!
Highlighting the plight of disabled people under the current Tory government.
(Following the live art performance at Norwich Arts Centre on Weds 12 Sept at 8pm, tickets £6.66.)
Commissioned and supported by Unlimited, celebrating the work of disabled artists with funding from the Spirit of 2012. Supported by Norwich Arts Centre. Supported by Norfolk County Council.
3) Norfolk Disability Pride Art Show supported by DPAC
At St Margaret’s Church of Art,
St Benedict’s Street, Norwich, NR2 4AQ
Sunday 16 – Saturday 29 September 2018.
Accepting and hanging work Sunday 16 Sept 11am-5pm.
LAUNCH PARTY Sunday 16 Sept 5-10pm, (after the Norfolk Disability Pride event at the Forum earlier the same day, 11am-4pm.)
Performance evening Saturday 22 Sept, details TBC.
A Very Queer Nazi Faust end of show Party open to everyone on Friday 28 Sept from 5-10pm.
Take down Saturday 29 Sept. All work must be collected by 5pm.
Call to Artists
You don’t have to show protest art.
Work needs to be relevant to Norfolk Disability Pride, but you don’t have to be disabled to take part.
Work can be for sale or display only. Donate what you can afford to take part, all money goes to DPAC.
To enter work contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Help Vince hang work on Sunday 16 Sept 11am-5pm.
Help host the Launch Party on Sunday 16 Sept 5-10pm.
Help welcome visitors 17-29 Sept, open daily 10am-5pm. (Early shift 10am-1.30pm. Later shift 1.30-5pm)
Entry to the art show is FREE throughout, however donations to DPAC welcome. I hope to pay them back the venue hire & costs.
What: ‘I Protest!’ Art Show, with A Very Queer Nazi Faust props and photos, and Norfolk Disability Pride Art Show.
Where: St Margaret’s Church of Art, St Benedict’s Street, Norwich, NR2 4AQ.
When: Sunday 16 to Saturday 29 September 2018.
When: Launch Party: on Sunday 16 Sept from 5-10pm, then open daily 10am-5pm.
Why: Part of Norfolk Disability Pride 2018. Fighting for disabled peoples’ human rights.
Who: Vince Laws, DPAC, Art of Norwich, Unlimited, Spirit of 2012, Norwich Arts Centre, Norfolk County Council.
Norfolk Disability Pride contact: email@example.com
Tickets for A Very Queer Nazi Faust: https://norwichartscentre.co.uk/events/vince-laws-queer-nazi-faust/?spektrix_bounce=true
Poster shows 3 images:
Top photo by Ruski: Shows Tory MP for Norwich North, Chloe Smith, speaking on the steps of Norwich City Hall at Norwich LGBT+ Pride, while Vince Laws stands silently beside her holding a sign which reads ’Tories Guilty of grave and systematic abuse of disabled people – United Nations’.
Middle photo by Vince Laws shows part of A Very Queer Nazi Faust sign, and 2 of The Naked Abseilers.
Bottom photo by Vince Laws shows an oil painting of some sunflowers.
Sano Physiotherapy markets itself as a professional service offering sports massage and rehabilitation but has a murky side business renting out its rooms to controversial disability assessor ATOS.
ATOS has recently changed the name of its benefits assessment arm to ‘Independent Assessment Services’ with the words “delivered by ATOS” written in tiny letters underneath. You will not see ATOS branded in big letters across any of Sano Physiotherapy commercial premises despite renting spaces to the much discredited benefits assessor in Pudsey and Castleford.
You will find a picture of Tory MP, Stuart Andrew shaking hands with Matthew Taylor, clinical lead for Sano Physiotherapy LTD outside the companies new premises in Pudsey. Stuart often promotes himself as a community champion in Pudsey with photoshoots like these whilst voting for welfare cuts and benefit changes in parliament that affect his constituents.
The Independent newspaper recently put in a freedom of information request which found the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) paid Independent Assessment Services and Capita nearly £255m last year to perform Personal Independent Payment assessments. How much has Sano Physiotherapy LTD made from this windfall whilst local residents are having to use foodbanks?
Sano Physiotherapy LTD is facilitating controversial disability assessments which potential private customers need to be made aware about so they can choose a more ethical physiotherapist firm that doesn’t have a murky side-line in profiteering from the suffering of benefit claimants.
Please let us know of any other firms involved in aiding Atos or Capita with details of who and where they are. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
A minister has been asked why the benefits of hundreds of sick and disabled claimants are apparently being sanctioned, even though they should not have to meet any of the strict conditions imposed by the government’s new universal credit system.
Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures show that more than 1,100 claimants of universal credit were being sanctioned in February this year (1,108), even though they had been moved into the “working enough” or “no work-related requirement” group.
They have usually been moved into these groups because they have been found not “fit for work” or are not expected to look for jobs.
The figures also show a striking increase in the number of claimants in these two groups who were being sanctioned from January 2017 (649) to February 2017 (1,109).
The concerns have been raised by the Commons work and pensions committee, after it was sent the figures by employment minister Alok Sharma.
In a letter to Sharma, the committee’s chair, Frank Field, says: “What is the point of applying sanctions to people who cannot work and are not expected to look for jobs?
“The DWP have yet to make the case that benefit sanctions work to get people into employment and it’s difficult to see how they can have that affect for people who are ‘working enough’ or cannot work.
“Benefit sanctions are the only major welfare reform this decade to have never been evaluated, and the picture DWP paints of the policy doesn’t match the troubling stories we’ve heard.”
The committee also raised concerns with Sharma that DWP’s figures “consistently understate” the number of benefit claimants being sanctioned, particularly those on the out-of-work disability benefit employment and support allowance (ESA), where there is a high rate of successful appeals.
In Field’s letter, he says that DWP removes a sanction decision from its statistics if it is overturned at an appeal.
This had been pointed out by Dr David Webster, a leading researcher on unemployment and sanctions at the University of Glasgow, when he gave evidence in May to the committee’s inquiry into the benefit sanctions regime.
Webster had told the committee that the only reason DWP had not abandoned ESA sanctions when the National Audit Office reported in November 2016 that their use led to a fall in the time claimants spent in work was because of “embarrassment”.
Field asks Sharma in his letter to publish pre-appeal sanction figures so that “the true picture can be understood”.
In one month, in December 2016, the pre-appeal figures would have been 57 per cent higher (1,173) than the figures published by DWP (749).
By January 2018, the pre-appeal figures were still 30 per cent higher (544 rather than 420).
Asked to respond to the points raised by Field in his letter to Sharma, a DWP spokeswoman declined to explain why disabled people were apparently being sanctioned when there were no conditions attached to their universal credit.
She did not dispute the universal credit sanction figures but said that “where someone’s situation changes and they have different conditionality, we can adjust an ongoing sanction amount”.
And she claimed that “only a small proportion of sanction decisions are appealed and in the cases where they are overturned, the claimant’s payments are backdated”.
19 July 2018
McVey’s U-turn means DWP will pay at least £100 million more to disabled claimants
Disabled people will be paid more than £100 million extra in backdated benefits owed by the government, after a U-turn by work and pensions secretary Esther McVey on the eve of a court hearing.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had previously only agreed to offer a partial backpayment to an estimated 70,000 disabled people who for years did not receive the correct level of out-of-work disability benefits.
The underpayments were caused by the botched migration of former claimants of incapacity benefit and other benefits to the new employment and support allowance (ESA) from 2011 onwards.
The department failed to realise that many of the claimants were entitled to income-related ESA – and therefore to associated disability premiums – rather than just the contributory form of ESA.
Although DWP had previously agreed to pay back as much as £340 million to those affected – with average payments likely to be about £5,000 – it had said it would only backdate arrears to 21 October 2014, the point at which the upper tribunal ruled that DWP should have assessed claimants for both income-related and contribution-based ESA when deciding their entitlement.
DWP had been refusing to pay back another £100 million to £150 million in arrears that dated from before 21 October 2014.
But yesterday (Wednesday), McVey announced that claimants would receive arrears backdated to the date they moved onto ESA, with some claimants now likely to receive up to £10,000 more in arrears.
It is just one in a series of major errors by DWP senior civil servants relating to disability benefits, with the department now believed to be carrying out six separate trawls through the records of disabled people unfairly deprived of benefits.
In a written statement to MPs, McVey said that individuals contacted about their backpayments could expect to receive the “appropriate payment” within 12 weeks after the “relevant information” has been gathered.
Those who have already received arrears payments from 21 October 2014 will have their cases looked at again, with additional arrears paid dating back to the date they were moved onto ESA.
The announcement came as DWP was about to face a court hearing in a judicial review case taken by the Child Poverty Action Group on behalf of a claimant who was underpaid from 2012.
Meg Hillier, chair of the Commons public accounts committee, welcomed McVey’s announcement, which came hours after a report by her committee had attacked DWP’s “culture of indifference”, which saw it take six years to start to address its ESA error.
She said: “I was appalled by the department’s apparent indifference to correcting its mistakes.
“Today’s statement, coming so soon after publication of our report, indicates DWP finally intends to treat this problem with the seriousness it deserves.”
Hillier had said earlier, in publishing her committee’s report, that DWP “simply didn’t listen to what claimants, experts, support organisations and its own staff were saying.
“Its sluggishness in correcting underpayments, years after it accepted responsibility for the error, points to weaknesses at the highest levels of management.
“Indifference has no place in the delivery of vital public services. It must be rooted out wherever it is found.”
19 July 2018 by John Pring, Disability News Service
Four opposition parties demand DWP answers over WCA deaths ‘cover-up’
Two opposition parties are writing urgent letters to work and pensions secretary Esther McVey – while a third is demanding an investigation – about a possible cover-up over documents linking the “fitness for work” test with the deaths of benefit claimants.
Senior figures from both Labour and the Liberal Democrats said this week that they were writing urgently to McVey to ask whether the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had shown the documents to the independent expert the government commissioned to review the work capability assessment (WCA) in 2013 and 2014.
The Green party’s co-leader, Jonathan Bartley, said the failure to be clear about what happened with the documents had “all the hallmarks of a deliberate cover-up”. He has called for an independent investigation.
The SNP also said it would be seeking answers from DWP.
Dr Paul Litchfield was commissioned by DWP to carry out the fourth and fifth reviews of the WCA but has so far refused to say if he was shown letters written by two coroners and a number of secret DWP internal “peer reviews” into deaths linked to the WCA regime.
Litchfield, who was recognised by the prime minister with a CBE in last month’s birthday honours, published the two reviews in December 2013 and November 2014, but neither of them mentioned the documents, all of which link the WCA with the deaths of claimants.
A spokesman for Marsha de Cordova, Labour’s shadow minister for disabled people, said she would be writing to McVey “as a matter of urgency”.
Stephen Lloyd, the Liberal Democrat shadow work and pensions spokesman, said: “I will be writing directly to the secretary of state, Esther McVey, to seek clarification whether or not her department, the DWP, ever showed [Litchfield] the documents linking the WCA to the deaths of benefit claimants.
“The public has a right to know, particularly now he’s been awarded a gong.”
Neil Gray, the SNP’s social justice spokesman at Westminster, added: “This issue has thrown up a number of questions for the DWP and we need a clear and definitive statement on what people knew and when. We will be seeking those answers.”
Even though DWP possessed all the coroner’s letters and peer reviews, it has claimed in a freedom of information response that it holds no information in its records on whether they were shown to Litchfield while he was reviewing the WCA.
Since Disability News Service (DNS) revealed the existence of the documents in the years after Litchfield’s final report was published, concerns have grown that DWP and its ministers deliberately covered-up evidence of the fatal impact of the assessment on sick and disabled people.
The coroner’s letters followed the deaths of two men with mental health conditions in 2010 and 2013 and each warned of further such deaths if changes were not made to the WCA.
The call for evidence for Litchfield’s second review was issued on 10 June 2014, five months after coroner Mary Hassell had written to DWP following an inquest into the death of Michael O’Sullivan, who had had significant, long-term mental health problems.
Hassell had told DWP that the trigger for O’Sullivan’s suicide had been the conclusion by civil servants that he was fit for work, but she said that neither DWP nor the Atos doctor who had assessed him through the WCA process had asked his GP, psychologist or psychiatrist for information about his mental health.
Hassell told DWP that it needed to take action “to prevent further deaths” like Michael O’Sullivan’s.
But despite that urgent call, Litchfield’s second review failed to mention Hassell’s letter or a similar letter sent to DWP by another coroner in 2010 following the suicide of Stephen Carré.
Litchfield’s two reviews also failed to mention the peer reviews.
Peer reviews – now known as internal process reviews – must be carried out by civil servants into every death “where suicide is associated with DWP activity”.
One of the aims of these reviews is to “determine whether local and national standards have been followed or need to be revised/improved”, so DWP would find it hard to explain why they would not have been shown to Litchfield, whose job it was to review how the WCA was working.
DWP has admitted that at least seven peer reviews written in 2012 mentioned the WCA, and there are almost certainly more that were written by the time Litchfield wrote his final report in late 2014.
Litchfield has so far refused to comment about the documents.
But Professor Malcolm Harrington, the independent expert who carried out the first three reviews of the WCA in 2010, 2011 and 2012, has already told DNS that he believes he was shown neither the first coroner’s letter (the second letter had not yet been written by the time he completed his third review) nor any WCA-related peer reviews.
Bartley said this week: “If the Department for Work and Pensions failed to show Dr Litchfield vital documents linking the work capability assessment with the deaths of benefit claimants, DWP are clearly implicated in a cover-up.
“If he was shown them but didn’t mention them in his reports, then so was he.
“This has all the hallmarks of a deliberate cover-up over the fatal impact of the assessment on sick and disabled people.
“There is no justification for secrecy, it is clearly in the public interest for the truth to be told and there should be an independent investigation of what happened.”
A DWP spokeswoman said: “As we’ve previously said, this was an independent review, and DWP provided information alongside other stakeholders – on request.
“Any evidence used was referenced in the review.”
19 July 2018 story by John Pring Disability News Service
The vitally important High Court judgement will be handed down on Thursday. Anyone who can please join us for a vigil outside the court starting at 9.30 am.
There has been some significant changes announced by the government concerning Universal Credit. In a parliamentary statement yesterday Esther McVile says that the government intends to make the following changes-
The timetable for managed migration has been extended by 1 year. It is now due to run from July 2019 – March 2023. Yet another delay on top of the years and many, many millions of pounds it has already taken
And transitional protection and the severe disability premium- some good news ahead of the court verdict which is expected shortly.
The Government has already made a commitment that anyone who is moved to Universal Credit without a change of circumstance will not lose out in cash terms. Transitional protection will be provided to eligible claimants to safeguard their existing benefit entitlement until their circumstances change.
Today I am announcing four additions to these rules to ensure that Universal Credit supports people into work, protects vulnerable claimants and is targeted at those who need it.
“In order to support the transition for those individuals who live alone with substantial care needs and receive the Severe Disability Premium, we are changing the system so that these claimants will not be moved to Universal Credit until they qualify for transitional protection. In addition, we will provide both an on-going payment to claimants who have already lost this Premium as a consequence of moving to Universal Credit and an additional payment to cover the period since they moved.
Second, we will increase the incentives for parents to take short-term or temporary work and increase their earnings by ensuring that the award of, or increase in, support for childcare costs will not erode transitional protection.
Third, we propose to re-award claimants’ transitional protection that has ceased owing to short-term increases in earnings within an assessment period, if they make a new claim to UC within three months of when they received the additional payment.
Finally, individuals with capital in excess of £16,000 are not eligible for Universal Credit. However, for Tax Credit claimants in this situation, we will now disregard any capital in excess of £16,000 for 12 months from the point at which they are moved to Universal Credit. Normal benefit rules apply after this time in order to strike the right balance between keeping incentives for saving and asking people to support themselves.”
The above changes will be brought in by new regulations in the Autumn (Universal Credit Managed Migration and Transitional Protection Regulations).
reblogged from an email. For disabled people receiving social security payments this is an important victory. Hopefully the first of many
ACORN is four years old this month and this summer marks ten years since greedy bankers destroyed the global financial system, plunging millions of us into poverty and providing the justification for the destruction of our public services. Of course, the bankers are ok as they got £billions of our money in the bailout.
While researching bank policies that hurt tenants, ACORN member Pete discovered that TSB have a clause in their buy to let mortgage contracts banning landlords from renting to housing benefit claimants, students or asylum seekers. We have members in all those groups and ACORN branches around the country decided to hold a national day of action to demand that TSB drop the clause.
On Saturday we mobilised in Bristol, Brighton, Newcastle and Sheffield and delivered demands to TSB branches that they drop the policy. ACORN members danced, sang, played party games and occupied branches of the bank that back when they were Lloyds TSB were happy to accept the biggest welfare hand-out in history – a cool £21 billion.
We’ve always said that direct action gets the goods and we’ve proved it once again because TSB have confirmed that they’re scrapping the clause banning landlords from renting to benefit claimants.
We’re still negotiating on when the change will be put in place and will be pushing for clarity on the implications for students and asylum seekers but TSB have folded to our main demand.
Last year we forced Santander to drop their infamous ‘rent rise’ mortgage clause. And now we’ve proven once again that there’s power in a union.
Disability News Service (DNS) has been investigating claims of dishonesty in the personal independence payment (PIP) assessment process for the last 18 months.
Now a leading discrimination lawyer has said he may be able to take legal cases on behalf of PIP claimants who believe that the healthcare professionals who carried out their face-to-face assessments did not honestly report the results of those assessments.
The cases would be taken under the Equality Act, but crucially the assessment must have happened in the last six months, for legal reasons.
If there are any PIP claimants who have had an assessment in the last few months and want to consider legal action, please contact DNS – with some brief details of the dishonesty and when it took place – either by phone or email.
If you’re interested in potentially taking a legal case, contact DNS editor John Pring by phone (weekdays only, please: 01635 228907) or email: email@example.com
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.email@example.com
Telephone – 02036143166 or Amie Stone firstname.lastname@example.org telephone – 020 74304551
Stroud, Rising Up! organised an action in solidarity with Disabled People Against Cuts this week. Read the Stroud News and Journal report: “Protesters spray ‘human rights abuse’ on Stroud Job Centre” http://www.stroudnewsandjournal.co.uk/news/16090675.
“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.
Watch a live-streamed video of the Jobcentre protest on via Rising Up!’s facebook page.
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 pictures and videos see facebook
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 citizens and 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.
If you’re planning a local action around March 1st please let us know.
UC Day of Action local protests
Brighton– March 1st Clock Tower, Brighton, 10.30 am – 1pm information handout.
Facebook Event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/327263861014031/
Bristol – March 1st at Broadmead Shopping Centre 12 – 2 pm all meeting up in the middle. Please wear black if possible.
Facebook Event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/1575085919265099/
Ceredigion – March 3rd 11am – 1pm Guildhall, Cardigan, SA43 1JL
Chester- March 1st 12-2pm Job Centre Plus, City Road, Chester, CH1 3AQ
Facebook event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/177236042877566/
Derbyshire – Online Event: 1-2pm
Facebook Event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/1570832732972130/
Dundee- March 1st 12-2 pm Job Centre Plus, Wellgate, DD1 2DB
Thurs 1st March 1pm (till approx 2.30pm)
Leith Jobcentre, 199 Commercial St, Edinburgh EH6 6JF
Edinburgh action called by Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty – grass-roots anti-austerity and disability rights groups invited to participate with their banners and stalls.
Falmouth – March 1st 8-11am at Penryn Jobcentre, Penmarin House, Commercial Rd, Penryn TR10 8SB
Leamington Spa Job Centre 58 Brandon Parade, CV32 meet noon
London (central action) – 11 am until 2pm. House of Parliament, Westminster. Meet for 11 am outside visitor’s entrance to House of Commons
Facebook Event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/323792051472634/
London, Kentish Town – 1-2pm outside Kentish Town Job Centre
Manchester- March 1st at 13:00–15:00
Norwich – Norwich City Hall 12.30 – 2pm
Facebook Event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/217086858848908/
Sheffield– 12 noon until 1 pm. Sheffield City Hall, Bakers Pool, Sheffield, S1 2JA.
Facebook Event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/1756747394635182/
York – March 1st 10am -12pm Monkgate, York
Work and Pensions Committee
14 Tothill Street, London SW1H 9NB
Tel 020 7219 5831 Email
From the Chair
9 February 2018
Rt Hon Esther McVey
Secretary of State
Department for Work and Pensions
PIP appeal data
During our inquiry on PIP and ESA assessments, your Department kindly provided to us
estimated unit costs of MRs and Appeals. This indicated that different costs are attached to
PIP appeals depending on whether they relate to new or reassessed claims.
Seeking to understand the financial implications of appeals for the Department, Committee
staff inquired on 30 January:
Of the 170,000 PIP appeals since 2013, how many were for new claims and how
many were reassessments?
We were duly informed:
The information on the number of PIP appeals is from HMCTS published statistics
and this information is not available from HMCTS for new claims and reassessments
We were therefore unable to estimate the full cost of appeals to your Department, although
the Ministry of Justice informed us that in 2016/17 its appeals expenditure was £103 million.
(Cost of Social Security and Child Support appeals, of which the majority relate to PIP/ESA.)
It was with some surprise, therefore, that we today received data released in response to an
FOI request. This provided estimated costs per month spent on PIP appeals broken down
by new and reassessed claims.
You will be aware that we are shortly due to publish our report. That this data was provided
in response to an FOI request, but not for our Report, is doubly regrettable since the key
theme of our report is the need to introduce much greater trust and transparency into the PIP
and ESA systems.
Might you please explain how this occurred?
Rt Hon Frank Field MP
No one will lose what they’ve already been awarded.
No one will have to have a face to face assessment – the 1.6 million claims being reviewed.
Your money if you’re entitled to more following the court case and new rules will be backdated if you would qualify under the new rules.
full details in Hansard link
|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 email@example.com 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 Government have announced that they will now go through all affected cases and work out where backpayments/increases are due (see link from Hansard and excerpt below) http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2018-01-19/HCWS414/
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.
Solidarity Mick from all at DPAC.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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: email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Write to the DWP’s Disability and Carers Service, address is on the patient’s PIP letter. And/or email them at email@example.com
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