Latest newsletter from the people at Benefits and Work: secret changes to ESA etc

In this edition we have news that the DWP have failed to disclose changes to Atos health professionals’ guidance which may mean many people with visual impairments and hearing impairments have missed out on being placed in the support group.

We also look at what is likely to happen to current DLA awards if PIP goes through as it stands and give you the chance to assess yourself and have your say – hundreds of people already have.

Plus news of ‘a daring and disruptive act of civil disobedience’ due to happen in central London this Saturday in protest at the cuts to benefits.

But first, we’re trying out a new way of offering our DLA and ESA guides that may appeal to you.

BUY GUIDES FOR UNDER £10
We still recommend taking out an annual subscription to get the most out of the Benefits and Work website.  That way you get to download all our guides as often as you need – and whenever they are updated – as well as getting access to DWP materials, members only news and the forum.

But we want to make the guides available to as many people as possible.

So, for a limited period, you can get instant access to a set of our 4 most  downloaded DLA guides or ESA guides for just £9.95.

This is just a pilot.  We’re definitely running it until Monday night, but then we’ll be making a decision about whether to continue or not.

However, for newsletter readers, we’re also offering you the opportunity to upgrade.

If you buy a set of guides and decide within a week that you’d prefer to subscribe to the whole site,  just email us a copy of your PayPal receipt and we’ll send you details of how to deduct the cost of the guides from the price of your subscription.

And, as always, there’s a 7 day, no quibble, money-back guarantee if you’re not happy with your purchase.

You can buy sets of the guides from here  (Open access)  – or take out an annual subscription from here.  (Open access)

SECRET CHANGES TO ESA

The DWP have kept secret changes to Atos health professionals guidance which may mean many people with visual impairments and hearing impairments have missed out on being placed in the support group.

The guidance relates to the understanding communication activity.  Previously health professionals  had been told that claimants must have problems both with seeing and with hearing before they could be awarded points.  But new guidance issued in November 2011 and uncovered by RNIB  tells staff that a claimant who has severe problems with either activity may be eligible for the support group.

However , there is no evidence that the DWP are revisiting decisions where claimants were assessed using the ‘wrong’ guidance. There is also uncertainty about whether the LIMA software used by Atos  has been updated to take the changes into account. RNIB are pursuing the matter.

Members can get more details (Members only) and download a copy of the guidance.  Our ESA on physical health grounds guide has been updated to reflect the new guidance.

DLA TO PIP – WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
By now you undoubtedly know that an amendment in the House of Lords to delay the introduction of PIP was unsuccessful.  However, campaigners say that the main reason for this was that the government gave in (Open access)  to virtually all their demands in order to avoid losing the vote.

So a big thank you to everyone who responded to our request to do 3 things in the last newsletter. One of those three things was to sign Pat’s petition asking for a pause to welfare reform.  The petition had a huge surge, with over 2,000 signatures being added in less than a day after the newsletter went out. But  75,000 more signatures are still needed, so if you haven’t signed yet – here’s the link to Pat’s Petition.

There’s now little room for doubt that PIP will be introduced next year.  The only real question is whether anything can be done to make it less unfair than it is at present.

To that end we’ve got some resources that we hope you will make use of.

We’ve produced a PIP self-test (Open access) that allows you to score yourself for the daily living and mobility components of PIP with a few clicks of your mouse.  It will do the maths for you, tell you what components you assess yourself as qualifying for and even email you a copy of your results if you want it to.

We’ve also published details of the points system (Open access), how many you need to score to get awards of PIP and definitions of some of the main terms that are used in the PIP test.

Finally, we’ve put a survey online (Open access) that allows you to compare your current DLA award with the award you assess yourself as qualifying for under PIP.  It also lets you say whether you think PIP is an improvement over DLA and what difference you think PIP will make to your life.

The survey is completely anonymous, but the results and comments are being published online as they arrive.

Hundreds of people have already completed the survey and there are some very clear trends emerging, especially in relation to how many people are expecting to lose their higher rate mobility – and how few people think PIP is an improvement over DLA.

You can read the survey results here (Open access). We would warn you, however, not to read the comments at the end of the survey about how PIP will change people’s lives if you are feeling at all low or vulnerable – some are quite distressing.

We’re hoping that 5,000 DLA claimants will complete the survey.  This is the same number of individuals who contributed to the DWP’s last consultation on PIP, the one that was the subject of the Spartacus report.  On that occasion the DWP span and distorted claimants’ responses.  Our survey, on the other hand,  is completely transparent – the results can be read by everyone in real time. We hope that campaigners will be able to use the results to give a more honest picture of how PIP is viewed by disabled claimants.

The survey takes literally no more than sixty seconds to complete, so long as you know what scores you assess yourself as getting for PIP.  Please consider taking part and please pass the word on to others who may be interested.

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE
Just as we were preparing this newsletter we received a press release stating that “Disabled People Against Cuts, Disabled People’s Direct Action Network and UK Uncut will occupy an area of central London in a ‘daring and disruptive’ act of civil disobedience in opposition to the government’s Welfare Reform Bill which is currently being debated in the Lords.”

Activists are meeting at 11am on Saturday 28 January at Holborn tube station and taxis will be available to take people to an undisclosed location.  More details here (External link).

OTHER NEWS
There’s much more news in the members area (Members only) than we can fit into this newsletter.

Many thanks to everyone who has sent in news stories over the last fortnight, including: Beverley Hymers, John Pring, papasmurf, Gordon, papasmurf, Jim Otram, Crazydiamond and lannan.

GOOD NEWS FROM THE FORUM – OPEN ACCESS LINKS

Finally, as always,  a selection of good news from the forum:

Placed in ESA Support Group without need for medical assessment

ESA WRAG decision changed to Support Group after request for reconsideration

Placed in ESA Support Group without need for medical assessment

DLA successfully renewed, high rate mobility awarded for 2 years

Transferred from IB to ESA and placed in Support Group

ESA appeal successful, placed in WRAG

ESA decision reconsidered after request for appeal, placed in WRAG

DLA reviewed and awarded at same rate, high rate care and high rate mobility

Placed in ESA Support Group after request for appeal, originally placed in WRAG

Moved from ESA WRAG to Support Group without need to attend medical assessment

DLA successfully renewed, middle rate care and low rate mobility awarded for 5 years

Decision on ESA reconsidered after request for appeal, placed in WRAG

ESA success

ESA appeal allowed

You are welcome to reproduce this newsletter on your blog, website, forum or newsletter provide it is properly attributed to www.benefitsandwork.co.uk

You can also read this newsletter online (Open access).

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

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