From the admirable Benefits and Work website
The coalition have stooped to new levels of viciousness this month.
They now propose to end exemption from employment and support allowance (ESA) medicals for people enduring the debilitating misery of chemotherapy. They also want to claw back mortgage interest payments from the estates of dead claimants.
In addition, credit checking agency Experian are to be used as ‘bounty hunters’ to go through claimants confidential financial records for evidence of fraud.
And the DWP have also teamed up with national charity Crimestoppers in a campaign which shows people with faces contorted with rage and fury – and even raising a fist – as they think about claimants they believe are committing fraud.
£15 GIFT MEMBERSHIP FOR XMAS
We can’t do anything about these increasingly ugly attacks on claimants, but we can give you the opportunity to give a Benefits and Work annual subscription to a friend or relative this Christmas for just £15, reduced from 19.45.
At a time of increasing difficulty in claiming and keeping benefits, it could be the most valuable gift you ever give. Alternatively, if you’re not a member yourself but would like to be, is there anyone out there who may be wondering what to get you for Christmas?
So, if you want to give a little Christmas cheer to a loved one – or receive some yourself – find out more about this time-limited offer.
EMPLOYMENT AND SUPPORT ALLOWANCE (ESA) NEWS
National charity Macmillan Cancer Support has been left shocked by new government proposals to end the exemption (Members only) from the work capability assessment (WCA) for claimants undergoing intravenous chemotherapy. They have now started an urgent petition against the move.
The change came about after Macmillan pointed out to the government that oral chemotherapy is often as distressing and debilitating as intravenous and yet does not exempt claimants from the WCA. Macmillan had hoped that the DWP would extend the exemption to claimants undergoing oral chemotherapy, rather than stripping it from all chemotherapy patients. A government consultation on this barbaric proposal will start soon.
Meanwhile, the DWP is already consulting on plans to claw back mortgage interest payments from the estates of dead claimants (Members only) and those who sell their houses. The proposed changes appear to be aimed at both new and existing claimants who have received support for mortgage interest. The DWP is also proposing that claimants who move onto JSA from income support or ESA should have their mortgage interest payments limited to two years.
In other ESA news, a recent government report reveals that many more people are being awarded ESA (Members only) than the coalition had expected and more are being placed in the support programme. Most of the increase is thought to be due to a higher than expected success rate for incapacity benefit claimants being assessed for ESA.
However, a parliamentary answer by a government minister (Members only) has revealed that the number of new claimants who get an award of ESA following a medical assessment is just 41%. The number of new DLA claimants who get an award is only slightly higher at 43%.
DISABILITY LIVING ALLOWANCE (DLA) NEWS
There’s less to report in relation to DLA at the moment. One excellent bit of news, however, is that the government has decided not to remove the mobility component (Members only) of disability living allowance (DLA), or personal independence payment, as it will be from 2013 from state-funded care home residents.
We’ve also published the latest two editions of Decision Maker Exchange (DME), the confidential monthly bulletin sent out to all DLA decision makers, generally to tell them what they are getting wrong.
In the September Exchange the DWP reveal that in two tribunal regions registrars rather than judges are now issuing directions and decisions in relation to case management. It’s more evidence of the failure of the tribunals service to cope with the tidal wave of ESA appeals.
In the same edition, there’s news of a successful DWP appeal to the upper tribunal in which a claimant had his award of lower rate DLA mobility taken away because he “was able to enter a post code into a sat nav and follow directions. On occasions when he was given the wrong post code, he was able to use his mobile phone to ask for directions.” The DWP, it seems are keen to take advantage of technological advances to reduce the benefits bill.
DMEs can be downloaded from DWP resources in the DLA section of the members area.
GENERAL BENEFITS NEWS
There are two bits of good news in relation to benefits generally.
In the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement he confirmed benefits would rise by the full 5.2% of the September inflation figure, quashing rumours that the government was going to impose a much lower increase.
In addition, the coalition has announced that the axing of legal aid for benefits, debt and other areas of social welfare law is to be postponed for six months (Members only) , to April 2013. It’s a small breathing space for advice agencies and campaigners and may indicate the government is beginning to lose its nerve in the face of sustained opposition in the house of Lords.
The Guardian has now begun a Cuts Watch section which lists all the cuts and closures in the advice sector as they happen.
There’s no shortage of other grim news too.
Credit checking staff at Experian are to be used as what Whitehall officials refer to as ‘bounty hunters’ (Members only) . They will to go through claimants financial records searching for evidence of failure to declare income or failure to declare the presence of another person in the household.
The DWP is also consulting on proposals to claw back mortgage interest payments from the estates of dead claimants (Members only) and those who sell their houses. The proposed changes appear to be aimed at both new and existing claimants of Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related ESA and Pension Credit who receive support for mortgage interest.
In another move, the DWP have joined forces with Crimestoppers in a campaign against benefits fraud whose imagery will leave many claimants shocked and outraged.
The campaign advert being used by Crimestoppers features a number of pictures showing people with hate-filled, contorted faces (Members only) and one with a raised fist as they contemplate the alleged dishonesty of claimants. The advert does not actually condone violence against claimants, but it certainly portrays extreme anger as a normal response to the suspicion, which will usually be entirely unfounded, that someone is committing benefit fraud.
There’s more news in the members area than we can fit into this newsletter.
Many thanks to everyone who has sent in news stories over the last fortnight, including: Beverley Hymers, Jima1, mike1983, Crazydiamond, pete17971 and papasmurf.
If you’d like to contribute, there’s information on how you can submit a news story here.
GOOD NEWS FROM THE FORUM
Finally, as always, a selection of good news from the forum:
Higher rate care and mobility with no medical after 2 refusals – “the award is a direct result of the advice, resources and forum of B&W”
ESA support group without medical – “thank you so much for all your info”
Appeal tribunal found work would endanger health – “Well Done B&W, Well Done CAB”
Indefinite DLA high rate mobility and high rate care on renewal – “Thank you B&W for the comprehensive guides”
Support Group after complaint about medical – “Thank you for your support and advice on this site”
ESA Support Group without medical – “Thank you so much to all of those very important people who run Benefits and Work”
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