Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Help For people Who Are Being Denied Benefits

This is an email I received that may help the sick and disabled and those on benefits.

Benefits and Work (campaign@benefitsandwork.co.uk)

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Dear gary,
In this edition’s ESA News we have the stirring tale of a claimant with ME who sued Atos for the distress, pain and fatigue he suffered at his ESA medical . . . and won.  We also have news of an ‘alternative’ work capability assessment to be piloted next year.
Moving on to PIP News, we have the entirely unsurprising announcement that the DWP are refusing to let Capita give claimants a recording of their PIP medical, even though Capita want to do so.  We also tell you precisely what GPs will have to do to earn their £33 a time payments for completing PIP factual report forms.
On to Bedroom Tax News, we have a cheery video of protestors visiting Iain Duncan smith’s mansion and picnicking on his lawn.  Plus we have a copy of a jaw droppingly illegal council tax letter being sent out by one local authority and a useful toolkit for claimants wanting to challenge a bedroom tax decision.
Finally, in General Benefits News, there’s increasing evidence that the DWP are trying to keep the option of short-term loans secret, preferring to force claimants to go to their local food bank instead, plus the ongoing saga of Tory ministers misusing statistics to whip up hatred against sick and disabled claimants.
"Very useful and I have learned a lot." Laura Skorupa, British Polio Fellowship.
"Very useful day." Carol Woodman, Assert (Mental Health Advocacy)
"Very helpful and well presented." Karin Gray, Scope.
"Very useful information." Alison Heavey, Huntington's Disease Association.

More about PIP training in London, Leeds, Birmingham and Bristol and universal credit training in Bristol here.
Disabled claimant David Johnson sued Atos after being forced to walk to an inaccessible medical assessment centre, even though he had told Atos about his access needs on his ESA50 form.  The ordeal left him in pain and very fatigued for weeks afterwards. .  Although Atos tried to wriggle out of liability by claiming they were not covered by the Equality Act when carrying out ESA medicals, they eventually caved in and paid Johnson £2,000 prior to any hearing taking place.  Johnson, who was assisted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission now wants others to follow his example in using the Equality Act to take action against Atos.

Members can read the full story and comment here.
In other ESA news, the DWP will be piloting an alternative work capability assessment (WCA) in the spring of next year.  Work and pensions minister Mark Hoban told MPs that the new test has been designed and approved by two groups of charities and is intended to assess mental health and fluctuating conditions more fairly than the current WCA.
You can read the minister’s statement here
We’ll keep members informed as more information emerges.
The DWP are refusing to let Capita give claimants a recording of their personal independence payment (PIP) medical, even though Capita want to do so at no cost to the taxpayer, a minister has revealed.

The DWP and Atos seem desperate to prevent widespread recording of medicals, for reasons that will be apparent to many people who have been through a work capability assessment.  
Perhaps it is time for claimants to follow the example of David Johnson above and make use of the Equality Act to argue that recording their PIP medical for personal use – in the way you might otherwise make handwritten notes – is a reasonable adjustment for claimants with memory or  concentration impairments and for those who have a physical difficulty with writing.
More details on recording PIP medicals here.  (open access)
Staying with PIP, as an increasing number of GPs around the country adopt a blanket policy of refusing to write letters in connection with benefits appeals (external site), the DWP has revealed that it is paying £33 a throw to GPs for completing a medical evidence form in connection with PIP. 
You can read all the questions on the new PIP factual report form for GPs here  (open access).
And, as the coalition continues its drive to simplify the benefits system, we now have two different appeal forms for benefits purposes. The standard GL24 appeal form is still in place for most benefits, but for PIP there is a different appeal form and a different appeal system.
Claimants wishing to appeal a PIP decision must first undergo the mandatory reconsideration process, which does not have a time limit, before putting in an appeal direct to the Tribunals Service, for which there is a very strict time limit.
You can download a copy of the SSCS1 appeal form (external link) from the Justice website.  We will be publishing a detailed guide to PIP appeals in the near future.
Finally, you can keep up with news of the challenges to PIP and the bedroom tax (below) launched by the excellent We Are Spartacus by visiting their Bedroom Tax  (external link) and PIP pages (external link).
If you want to see how ministers in the ‘we’re all in it together’ coalition really live, then there’s several excellent videos of a bedroom tax protest visit (external link) to the mansion of Iain Duncan  Smith by Disabled People against Cuts and UKUncut

And if you want to see just how incompetent or completely dishonest local authorities can be, then the letter sent out by Cornwall Council (external link)to victims of the bedroom tax should do the trick. 
The letter claims that:
‘The amount of bedrooms in the property is decided by your landlord and you will need to contact them in regards to this matter’.  
In fact, whilst the landlord tells the local authority how many bedrooms it considers the property has, the final decision has to be the local authorities, not the landlord’s.
Even more astonishingly, the letter actually tells claimants that:
“The decision made by the Council on your benefit is a non appealable decision.”
This is what is technically known as a ‘Big Fat Lie’ – bedroom tax decisions are appealable in the normal way.  
We would strongly recommend that anyone affected by the bedroom tax visit the SPeye website (external link) which exposed this letter and also get a copy of Govan Law Centre’s Bedroom Tax Appeal Toolkit (external link)
You need to register with the site to get a copy, but if you’re considering an appeal it’s definitely worth it.
There is growing evidence that the DWP are trying to prevent people from requesting a short-term benefit advance (STBA) to help them avoid damage to their health or safety – such as going without food, heating or lighting.  The STBA has replaced crisis loans for people who are, for example, waiting for a decision about their benefit claim.

However, according to the Guardian (externl link) Jobcentre Plus staff are sending people to their local food banks rather than telling them of the option of applying for an STBA.
The situation is so bad that England's eight biggest city councils  have sent a joint letter to the Department of Work and Pensions asking why jobcentres are not issuing the loans.
You can find out more about STBAs from the Turn To Us website.
The Guardian has also published an expose of the continuing dishonest misuse of official statistics by government ministers to whip up hatred against sick and disabled claimants.
Conservative party chairman, Grant Shapps, claimed that 878,000 people on ESA dropped their claims rather than face being assessed.  In fact, DWP research shows that the vast majority of these people dropped their claims because they got better or went back to work whether or not they had got better.
Meanwhile, IDS told the Daily Mail that in relation to DLA claims in the PIP pilot areas:
 "We've seen a rise [in claims] in the run-up to PIP. And you know why? They know PIP has a health check. They want to get in early, get ahead of it. It's a case of 'get your claim in early'.''
In fact, if you remove the children and pensioners, who won’t be affected by PIP, from the statistics the number of claims by working age people- who will be affected by PIP -  in the pilot area has actually gone down.
But it seems clear that Tory ministers are not going to let the truth get in the way of vilifying claimants at every possible opportunity.
Members can read more about this story and comment here.
There’s more news in the members area, including:

Judicial review bid will ‘shine a light on PIP injustice’
Remploy: Union disputes job figures
Survey ‘will help build vital picture of rights’
Atos looks second best to Capita as PIP assessments loom
We know how much feedback from other members means to people who get this newsletter, so please do keep your good luck stories coming.

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Good luck,
Steve Donnison
Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No. 5962666

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