Sep 172013
 

On the 14th October, five ILF users will appeal against the previous court decision that the ILF consultation was carried out fairly at the Royal Courts of Justice. DPAC will be there again and, again have a vigil outside the courts to show support-we will update with further details as they become available.

The initial court case showed that the funds for ILF when transferred to local authorities will cover just one year, something that local authorities did not appear to be made aware of by this Government. A write up from those documents can be found here: https://dpac.uk.net/2013/03/summary-of-secret-correspondence-from-the-dwp-to-mcvey-on-the-ilf-closure/

In the meantime you might like to see some of the stories from those at risk of losing the support to independent living at https://dpac.uk.net/independent-living-fund/

 As many of you know the Mental Health Resistance Network are appealing against the DWP that the WCA is detrimental to those with mental health issues. DPAC wants to be there to support them.  The appeal will be heard on Monday 21st October to Tuesday 22nd October 2013. The vigil will happen outside the royal courts of justice on Monday 21st October at 12 noon until 2 pm.

The WCA is detrimental to everyone, but the obvious added stress, anxiety and lack of Atos professionalism in gaining supporting evidence is particularly severe for those with mental health issues. This system is breaking and we must keep up the pressure for the inhumane WCA to be scrapped completely, as DPAC has always argued.

 Keep checking the DPAC web or twitter for updates

Nov 182012
 

ESA appeals are up by 40% and 425,000 are awaiting ‘assessments’. This coupled with the news that 76% of people going through this horrendus ‘assessment’ are entitled to ESA after appeal figures are computed shows yet again , that the system must be scrapped-its a black hole for tax payers money and something much, much worse for disabled people going through this system. see also the DPAC, Black Triangle, SWU report on survey responses on the WCA.

The appeals figures were provided by Nick at Mylegal who has been doing some fantastic work on the DWP figures to develop the numbers that they dont feed to the newspapers. Once again DPAC is grateful to Nick for letting us repost.

 

           Are we about to burst the DWP’s

 
hidden bubble?
 
[image]
424,170 claimants in the
‘assessment phase’
Don’t take my word for it, check it with the DWP using the following link:
DWP statistics February 2012The DWP & Ministry of Justice throughout the pre-enactment stages of both the welfare reform and legal aid, sentencing & punishment of offender’s bill (LASBO) consistently reported that the number of appeals for Employment & Support Allowance was falling; I have to confess I never believed a word of it. Yes it’s true that the numbers of appeals received at the HMCTS Tribunals had fallen from a record high of 197,400 in 2010/2011 to 181,100 but these are only receipts of those which the DWP has dispatched to the Tribunal.They’re not so keen to tell you that now the dust has settled on the welfare and legal aid reforms, the floodgates are once again open with appeals on the rise; this time by a massive 40% according to HMCTS for the first quarters of 2012/2013.

You can refer to an article on Mylegal where I reported on the appeal statistical ‘spin’ by the MOJ at the time. From which you may note no less than 194,200 cases were ‘outstanding’ in 2010/2011 which had reduced to 145,200 by 2011/2012. HMCTS has increased the number of judicial sitting days from 47,900 in 2008/2009 to 88,700 in 2011/2012 to cope with the escalating number of appeals. The accent at HMCTS was on disposing of the cases which had built up rather than dealing with even more new ‘receipts’.

Employment & Support Allowance is the first benefit of its kind to have an ‘assessment phase’. The numbers ‘awaiting assessment’ have been consistently under – quoted by ministers who continually refer to limited data sets relating to far from the overall number of claimants who have been subject to DWP and Atos assessment. On Mylegal a full report into incapacity benefits & Employment & Support Allowance has been prepared which deals with all the complexities of the DWP assessing 1.5 million claimants a year with 740,000 Atos assessments per year. You can refer to the evidence given to Parliament by Permanent Secretary Robert Devereux which backs up these figures.

With thousands upon thousands of assessments being conducted by both the DWP and Atos it’s plainly obvious that there is a danger of the numbers of claimants awaiting assessments getting out of control and that is what I contend has clearly happened here. What’s more we could be looking at more than the 424,170 assessment phase claimants recorded in February 2012. A Parliamentary note which you can access using the link here shows the figure was 401,100 in November 2011 so we know it’s not falling.

The figure could be over half a million; here’s how..

In the course of preparing a batch of appeal cases which I’m working on I picked out six of the six Employment & Support Allowance cases which are coming up for hearing in the near future. Take a look at the time they’ve taken to come up for appeal but also note the important differences between the IB to ESA conversion cases and the new ESA claim cases, note in particular how the commencement of the ‘assessment phase’ is very different in the 4 conversion cases than it is to the 2 new claim cases:

6 real life appeal cases

4 IB to ESA Conversion cases

(1) Mrs O

Sent conversion notice -19/10/2011
Examined by ATOS – 06/03/2012
DWP make conversion decision – 15/03/2012 – placed in to ‘Assessment phase’
HMCTS Tribunal hearing listed for hearing – 21/11/2012
Total waiting time – 13 months +

(2) Mr J

Sent conversion notice – 22/11/2011
Examined by ATOS – 28/03/2012
DWP make conversion decision – 17/04/2012 – placed in to ‘Assessment phase’
HMCTS Tribunal hearing listed for hearing – 26/11/2012
Total waiting time – 12 months +

(3) Mr H

Sent conversion notice – 22/11/2011
Examined by ATOS – 23/03/2012
DWP make conversion decision – 23/04/2012 – placed in to ‘Assessment phase’
HMCTS Tribunal hearing listed for hearing – 28/11/2012
Total waiting time – 12 months +

(4) Mr D

Sent conversion notice – 10/11/2011
Examined by ATOS – 23/02/2012
DWP make conversion decision – 08/03/2012 – placed in to ‘Assessment phase’
HMCTS Tribunal hearing listed for hearing – 26/11/2012
Total waiting time – 12 months +

2 ESA New claim cases

(5) Mrs N

First applied – 11/01/2012 – placed in to ‘Assessment phase’
Examined by ATOS – 11/05/2012
DWP make decision – 26/05/2012
HMCTS Tribunal hearing listed for hearing – 07/12/2012
Total waiting time – 11 months +

(6) Mr W

First applied – 01/09/2011 – placed in to ‘Assessment phase’
Examined by ATOS – 27/04/2012
DWP make decision – 10/05/2012
HMCTS Tribunal hearing listed for hearing – 07/12/2011
Total waiting time – 15 months +

From the above six cases you will see how five cases have been waiting for a whole year before coming up for an appeal hearing – one case taking longer than 15 months! In the conversion cases you will see how in say Mr O’s case he first entered the conversion phase on the 19/10/2011, was then examined by Atos on the 06/03/2012 before a ‘conversion decision’ was eventually made on the 15/03/2012. Thus in his case he has spent almost five months in the conversion phase and only enters his ‘assessment phase’ on the 15th March 2012 with a further wait of over 8 months before his appeal comes up – it’s an absolute outrage that people are being kept waiting so long.

Let’s take a look at how these conversion cases go missing from the mainstream publication of reassessment statistics:

Missing data
 
[image]

Which you won’t find using this
DWP link
.
Which is surprising because this is the statistical data set which relates to claimants undergoing reassessment from their incapacity benefits over to Employment and Support Allowance. By clicking the link you will see the figure of 424,170 relating to the overall number of assessments live as of February 2012; you will also see how it is broken down:


  • 370,470 claimants who are ‘non incapacity benefit reassessment’And
  • 53,700 ‘incapacity benefit reassessment’ cases.


This completely backs up my point over how thousands of incapacity benefit reassessments are not being tracked in the figures available on the DWP data sets. The 53,700 figure for ‘incapacity benefit reassessments’ only refers to those who have appealed. It will not for instance include any of the 4 conversion cases which I have cited from when the four claimants were sent their conversion notice.

The four claimants which I have cited will not appear as an ‘assessment phase’ statistic until such times as they they get their conversion decision and appeal against it. Thus in Mr O’s case all the time he spends in the conversion phase from the 19/10/2011 to the 15/03/2012 is not counted as assessment despite him being assessed by Atos during what is quite obviously part of the overall assessment process.

The statistical guidance confirms this:

“IB reassessed claims shown on ESA in the Assessment phase are those found fit for work and are under appeal.”

With the DWP proudly proclaiming how it’s assessing incapacity benefit claimants at an incredible rate of 11,000 per week (about 47,000 per calendar month) since March 2011; a figure of 53,700 in the assessment phase just doesn’t stack up especially when you compare it against the 370,470 in the ‘non – incapacity’ groups. There must be literally thousands who are in the conversion phase who are not appearing in the Employment & Support Allowance reassessment statistics. They are not identifiable within the following claimant count but they form part of the incapacity benefits & Severe Disablement Allowance (February 2012) statistics (just click to view):

Thousands of IB to ESA conversions
won’t be found here.
Which is shocking because they should be readily identifiable; they are within the statistics but none of the thousands of incapacity benefits claimants going through the DWP’s conversion phase will be recognisable within the above statistics despite them being subject to the rigours of form ESA filling and thousands of Atos assessments which fill them with absolute fear. They appear merely because the DWP has to track the claimants they pay; they seemingly don’t keep tabs on the true status of their claim within the reassessment programme.

But it gets worse, much worse.

Read more: http://mylegal.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=frontline&thread=805&page=1#2352#ixzz2Cbmm8Dw6

Oct 072012
 

If you have been refused ESA or DLA , have exhausted the appeals process or are trying to survive on no income-Please contact Merry Cross at  merry4u@talktalk.net

This is for a potential legal challenge and to publicise these issues more widely

You can also call Merry on her radio show or be an interviewee.

Merry’s show is : Make Yourself Heard on Tuesdays 2-4p.m. The link is  www.Reading4u.co.uk

Sep 182012
 

Section 102 and Schedule 11 Welfare Reform Act 2012 – Power to require consideration of revision before appeal

 Section 102 and Schedule 11 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 legislate for the following changes to the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) appeals process:

 Ÿ  Under the new rules, due to be implemented from April 2013, claimants who wish to challenge a benefits decision will no longer be allowed to choose to lodge an appeal immediately.

Ÿ  Instead, there will be a new requirement for claimants to request a revision of the original decision from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and have that request determined before launching the right to appeal to an independent tribunal.

Ÿ  Only once the decision maker has either issued a revised decision, or decided that they cannot revise the decision, will the claimant be able to lodge their appeal.

Ÿ  There will be no time limit on how long this process can take.

 DPAC is very concerned at the harmful impact these changes will have on many claimants:

 Ÿ  The new bureaucratic tier in the appeal system has the potential to cause confusion for many claimants and lead them to make the wrong appeal to the wrong people at the wrong time, leading to inevitable problems with the payment of their benefits. Some disabled people may even withdraw from the appeals process altogether. The current appeal system is already a highly stressful, time-consuming process, resulting in considerable instability in many people’s lives and finances. The addition of a mandatory review stage, with all the attendant uncertainties, can only exacerbate these problems. DPAC is not convinced that the addition of a mandatory revision stage will in any way increase the efficiency of the system.

Ÿ  This problem will be heightened by the fact that there is no statutory time limit for the revision stage. This could lead to indefinite delays to the process while the DWP revises the decision. There is already no time limit in the current system, so adding another stage can also maximise delays, with, once again, a corresponding adverse impact on the health and well-being of the claimant. This could be alleviated if there was a maximum set period for the review process. This would at least provide the claimant with some level of certainty.

Ÿ  Around 40% of all WCA appeals are currently successful with 70% sucessful with representation which is a damning indictment of the quality of ATOS Healthcare’s initial assessment. Tragically and scandalously, many people who have initially been found fit for work have actually died before the appeals process was completed. With the extension of the time frame for appeals that this change will introduce, and no perceivable improvement in the WCA itself, this number can only rise even further.  

Ÿ  It is also unclear how the new process will deal with the payment of ESA during the new mandatory revision stage. Currently, a claimant appealing against a decision that they do not have a limited capability of work is able to continue to receive ESA at the assessment phase rate pending the outcome of their appeal. However, if the ESA Regulations are not amended, the position would be that claimants would have to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), and therefore comply with all the conditions associated with receipt of that benefit,  or face receiving no benefit at all. Many claimants with severe conditions would simply be unable to fulfill the JSA conditions and therefore face a very real prospect of destitution. This would be inhumane and lead to a catastrophic increase in the amount of distress, poverty and debt many disabled people already suffer from. The Government should therefore, as a matter of urgency, provide clarification on whether it intends to allow ESA claimants to continue to receive ESA at the assessment rate while they undergo the mandatory revision stage.

Ÿ  The fundamental problem is that the WCA process is itself fundamentally flawed and it this broken system that needs to be completely overhauled. The standard of the initial medical examination, and the information provided to the claimant on their WCA decision, need to be drastically improved before any needless tinkering with the appeals system is introduced.

 The Government consulted on the implementation and operation on the appeals reform provisions from February to May this year. The consultation, though, did not ask for responses on whether the mandatory reconsiderations should be introduced. The Government revealed, in its interim response published in June, that it had received 154 responses to the consultation but indicated that it “does not propose to make any significant changes to the draft regulations included in the consultation document as a result of the comments received“. DPAC calls on the Government to publish a full response to this consultation as soon as possible so we can ascertain the evidential basis for this change and just how much support the proposed change has received from respondents.  

 With Thanks to Richard Woodward

Sep 062012
 

We have put together a list of resources- please contact us if you know of others that would be useful to add

DPAC receive a large number of requests for advice and information on cuts and the WCA . We cannot give advice, but direct to web resources that we know.

We also have a DPAC Facebook page which includes many people struggling with issues of ESA, Atos assessments and DWP failures –it acts as an advice forum from those that may have been through the issues you might be experiencing it’s at https://www.facebook.com/groups/DPAC2011/418279398228320/?notif_t=group_activity

Useful web sites

www.benefitsandwork.co.uk

http://edinburghagainstpoverty.org.uk/

http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/

http://www.citizensadvice.co.uk/en/  Northern Ireland

http://www.cas.org.uk/cta/find-your-local-cab Scotland

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Diol1/DoItOnline/DoItOnlineByCategory/DG_067277 Find your local CAB

WCA: how to prepare

http://www.socialworkfuture.org/articles-and-analysis/articles/242-survival-tips-for-the-work-capability-assessment

http://antp.org.uk/wcarules.htm

WCA Appeals: what you need to do

http://www.solfed.org.uk/?q=unwaged-workers/know-your-rights-failing-a-work-capability-assessment

Free legal assistance list with thanks to Inclusion London

Bar Pro Bono Unit

Who are they?

A charity that helps to find pro bono legal assistance from volunteer barristers for individuals and organisations who cannot afford to pay and who cannot obtain public funding (legal aid).

What do they do?

The Unit matches barristers prepared to undertake pro bono work with those who need their help. The office itself does not give advice.

The volunteer barristers can provide advice, representation and help at mediation; representation in any court/tribunal; give legal advice on any subject; and draft documents such as skeleton arguments.

How do you access the service?

  • They cannot accept applications unless they come via a referrer (generally, an advice agency such as the CAB or a Law Centre, or a local MP)
  • Visit the website www.barprobono.org.uk
  • For more information if you are an individual needing help Click Here
  • Submit a query via contact form Click Here

Community Legal Advice

Who are they?

A free and confidential advice service in England and Wales paid for by legal aid.

What do they do?

Provide free help or legal advice over the phone. They can help with family, debt, housing, employment, education, welfare benefits and tax credits problems.

They will check to see if you are eligible for legal aid and put you in touch with a specialist legal adviser, or refer you to other agencies of you do not qualify for their services.
Has a free translation service available in 170 languages.

How do you access the service?

  • Telephone 0845 345 4 345 (Open Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 8.00 pm. Saturday 9.00 am to 12.30 pm. Calls cost 4p per minute from a BT landline; cost from mobiles will be more)
  • Request a call back 

               -Via online form Click Here

               -Text ‘legalaid’ then your name to 80010 (Call back within 24 hours)

Disability Law Service

Who are they?

A national charity run by disabled people, which specialises in free legal advice and information for disabled people, their families and carers.

What do they do?

They provide free legal advice and representation (e.g. in complaints, using the Ombudsman, tribunals and courts), specialising in Welfare Benefits; Community Care; Disability Discrimination in Employment, Access to Goods and Services; and using the Equality Duty to challenge public authorities.
They run a free legal advice line, open Mon-Friday, 10am–5pm, with an answering machine service for out of hours calls.
They run an Employment Law drop in at their office in Tower Hamlets, where a member of their legal team will assess whether you are financially eligible for legal aid under the Legal Services Commissions (LSC) Legal Help scheme.
They also have factsheets available to download on key areas of the law, such as Community Care; education; employment; goods and services; and welfare benefits. The factsheets are available for download in different formats – regular, large print, text only and audio file.
They commit to responding to telephone enquiries within 24 hours, and written enquiries within 7-10 days.

How do you access the service?

Free Representation Unit (FRU)

Who are they?

A charity that provides free legal representation for the public 
and advocacy experience for junior lawyers.

What do they do?

Provide legal advice, case preparation and advocacy in employment tribunals (and appeals from decisions of the employment tribunals); social security appeals in the first-tier tribunal (and appeals from such decisions); and criminal injury compensation cases.

How do you access the service?

  • *Do not accept cases directly from members of the public – all cases must come through a referral agency. For a list of referral agencies, Click Here
  • Visit the website www.thefru.org.uk

LawWorks

Who are they?

A charity that works with law firms and legal professionals to involve them in delivering pro bono work.

What do they do?

Aim to provide free legal help to those who cannot afford to pay for it and who are unable to access legal aid.

Services to individuals include free Legal Advice Clinics, free mediation to settle disputes out of court, and free casework assistance if you need more than one-off advice.

Who are they for?

Individuals

How do you access the service?

ProBonoUK.net

Who are they?

A charity that run a website for the promotion of pro bono legal work.

What do they do?

Act as a resource for news andinformation about pro bono work for individuals, advice workers and lawyers wishing to offer help.

How do you access the service?

RAD Legal Services:   BSL

Who are they?

A dedicated legal advice service for Deaf BSL users provided by the Royal Association of Deaf People (RAD).

What do they do?

RAD Legal Services currently has three projects: a Discrimination Advice project, a Webcam Advice Project and a Money Advice Service project.
Discrimination Advice gives free specialist legal advice on discrimination issues in the areas of employment, housing, education and goods, facilities and services.  This is provided by a Deaf solicitor, and can be delivered face to face, via webcam, email, telephone or instant messaging software.
Webcam Advice is the BSL version of the Community Legal Advice Helpline, and is available free of charge to people eligible for legal aid in the areas of welfare benefits, debt, housing and employment.  As well as webcam, they can also provide advice via instant messaging software such as Windows Live Messenger, ooVoo, etc.
Money Advice Service has a qualified Money Adviser giving free, clear and ‘jargon-free’ Money Advice money advice to D/deaf and hard of hearing people who live in the South East. The Service covers the savings and investments; borrowings (credit cards, loans and mortgages); retirement planning and pensions; redundancy; tax and tax credits; insurance; debt; starting a family; and budgeting.

How do you access the service?

Other links

Advice Guide

Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) online advice resource.
www.adviceguide.org.uk

Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB)

The website of the national advice agency, including Search for your nearest CAB.
www.citizensadvice.org.uk

Law Centres Federation

The umbrella organisation that supports and promotes UK Law Centres. For a list of London’s Law Centres, visit
www.lawcentres.org.uk/directory/location/London

Legal Adviser Finder

Find legal advisers or solicitors near you
http://legaladviserfinder.justice.gov.uk/AdviserSearch.do

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Download the list of Legal firms: Public Law Specialists

Download list of Legal Firms: Community Care specialists