61% to lose higher rate mobility as court rejects DLA to PIP appeal

The Court of Appeal has decided that the DWP’s consultation on personal independence payment (PIP), which initially hid the fact that the qualifying mobility distance was to be reduced from 50 metres to 20 metres, was fair.

The decision brings to an end any hopes of avoiding an estimated 548,000 working age disability living allowance (DLA) claimants losing their higher rate mobility award on being forced to apply for PIP.

Second consultation
The original consultation into PIP failed to disclose the reduction in the qualifying distance which will lead to many thousands of current higher rate DLA mobility claimants having their award cut or stopped altogether.

The legality of the consultation process was then challenged by a disabled claimant who launched a judicial review.

As a result, before the case could be heard, the DWP hastily arranged a second consultation just on this issue. In spite of overwhelming opposition to the reduction, the DWP went ahead with the planned cut.

In the Court of Appeal, the claimant’s representatives argued that the consultation was not fair because by the time it took place legislation had already been enacted and systems put in place for the 20 metre rule to be used. They claimed that because of this there was no genuine possibility of the second consultation making any difference.


548,000 to lose out
The judges accepted that, because of the changes , by 2018 there were expected to be 602,000 PIP enhanced mobility component claimants as opposed to 1,030,00 claimants who would have got disability living allowance (DLA) higher rate mobility.


Law students had to help a man in debilitating pain fight being declared “fit to work”

Disabled claimants are increasingly vulnerable, with justice more difficult to access, and the need to be reassessed after being declared “fit to work”,

The first Paul Crane knew of having his benefits cut off was when his landlord called up to ask where the rent was.

It was the start of a harrowing time. After ten years of receiving support for debilitating pains – caused when gamma knife radiosurgery to repair a haemorrhage on his brain stem caused radiation damage to surrounding tissue – he had suddenly been declared “fit to work”.

Paul’s life has never been the same since the operation, which repaired the haemorrhage but left parts of his brain and spinal cord permanently damaged. Every day he is haunted by stimuli – light, noise, crowded places – anything that sets off his “excitable nerves” will leave him in agony with migraines, cause numbness and dizziness, or leave part of his face sagging. Even sneezing or tiredness can cause a traumatic flare up.

He says: “Tiredness causes pain and pain causes tiredness. I don’t socialise much, I’ve let people down too many times. I go fishing, which is my only relaxation but even that sometimes is too much”.

Over a decade of suffering and being prescribed a cornucopia of drugs – none of which have fully worked – Paul has learnt to live with the pain. But a new regime at the Department for Work and Pensions, which he says was “like the difference between black and white”, has been hard on him. This was when the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) replaced the Incapacity Benefit, and new work capability assessments (WCA) were brought in to test whether or not claimants were “fit to work”.

“It was as if they were trying to fail me,” he says, “like the system was designed to make me fail. I realised how lucky I had been before. The ESA people looked at me as if to say, ‘Oh God another scumbag’”.

When the news that he had been refused ESA hit him, Paul says he found himself in “a very dark pit”, confused and afraid of what would happen next.

“How could they come to this conclusion? I answered as truthfully as I could and they failed me. I’d just spent two weeks either in bed or on the sofa.”

It’s a painfully common story. Disability rights campaign groups such as the WOWPetition and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) have been pressing the DWP to take notice of the plight of people like Paul, and are fighting for a comprehensive impact assessment of how changes to the benefits system and wider government spending cuts affect people with disabilities.

In August, after months of pressure, the DWP released the official figures for mortalities following “fit to work” verdicts between December 2011 and February 2014, revealing that 2,380 died in that period.

And even more damning, the Avon & Bristol Law Centre (ABLC) revealed that, of a hundred WCA appeal cases taken on by volunteer law students, 95 had been successful.

read more here: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/welfare/2015/09/law-students-had-help-man-debilitating-pain-fight-being-declared-fit-work

Volunteer law project wins 95% of ‘fit for work’ test appeal cases

A ‘big society’ scheme born out of legal aid cuts has won back £1m in benefits for sick and disabled clients wrongly assesssed as able to work

Almost all of the 200 “fit for work“ test appeals undertaken by a student volunteer project have been won, providing more evidence of the unreliability of the government’s controversial work capability assessment (WCA).

The programme was created by Avon and Bristol Law centre, two years ago using a handpicked team of law students to fill the gap created by legal aid cuts in 2013. Legal aid has all but disappeared for welfare benefits work.

The centre revealed this week that the students have won 95% of the appeals they took to Bristol’s Social security and Child Support tribunal, successfully reinstating £1m of benefits for ill and disabled clients wrongly assessed by the WCA as able to work.

Most of those clients who turned to the Avon and Bristol project after being found fit for work had mental health problems or severe physical illness.

 According to the law centre, the national average success rate for WCA appeals is 59%. Around 44% of those who appeal receive no professional or legal represention. But the Avon case provides more evidence that where they do, the chances of overturning the original decision increase hugely.

Bedroom Tax: Disabled football coach who could lose his home says Britain is being taken back to 1960s

Wheelchair-bound John Smith, 40, said he would return an award from David Cameron for his community work rather than pay the tax

A furious disabled football coach who could lose his home because of the bedroom tax says Britain is being taken back to the 1960s.

Wheelchair-bound John Smith, 40, said he would return an award from David Cameron for his community work rather than pay the tax. The Liverpool FC fan was described as “inspirational” by the Prime Minister. But at the same time the Government is fighting to slash the cerebral palsy sufferer’s housing benefits.

Wheelchair-bound Mr Smith, from Croxteth, told the ECHO: “I would return my award rather than pay for the bedroom tax, the Liverpool Echo reports.

“It’s 2015 but it feels like 1960 with the way things are. There are people having to use food banks because of the bedroom tax. There are people like me in Liverpool who do lots of charity work but they are trying to take our benefits off us.”

Mr Smith was given one of the Government’s Point of Light awards for his work as a wheelchair football coach – and was handed the gong at Anfield last week by David Cameron’s speechwriter, Tim Kiddell. Meanwhile, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) was preparing to appeal against an earlier decision to spare Mr Smith from having to pay the bedroom tax.

His specially adapted bungalow has two bedrooms – one where he sleeps and another where he stores disability equipment and keeps himself fit. The DWP says this second room is unnecessary and Mr Smith should suffer a housing benefit cut worth an estimated £48 a month.

Ruth Knox, from money advice charity Raise, who is helping Mr Smith with his battle, said yesterday: “People with disabilities are particularly harshly treated by the bedroom tax. For people in John’s position, being threatened with a cut to their housing benefit is very distressing and it damages their quality of life.”

The DWP said in a statement: “We’ve provided councils with £500m because we know there are situations like these where people may need extra support and local councils are in the best position to make that decision. This case is being appealed to ensure the consistency of the policy overall because, fundamentally, the taxpayer cannot afford to pay for unoccupied rooms.”

Nearly Half Of Benefit Sanctions Overturned On Appeal, Official Figures Show

Nearly half of benefit sanctions imposed against Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants are overturned on appeal, official figures show.

Statistics show that since the new sanctions regime was introduced in October 2012 (December 3, 2012 for ESA), there has been 1,824,877 adverse sanctions imposed against JSA and ESA claimants up to March 31 2015.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has highlighted how 575,901 of these sanctions were challenged with 285,327 being overturned – a staggering 49.5%.

Commenting on the findings, SNP Welfare Spokesperson Eilidh Whiteford MP said:

“The sanctions regime instituted by the UK Government is causing heartache and misery to hundreds of thousands of people across the UK – and the fact that half of all those challenged are overturned is deeply concerning.

“We have already heard the heartbreaking stories of claimants being sanctioned whilst in hospital recovering from a heart attack or other medical emergency, but these figures lay bare the ‘sanction now, ask questions later’ nature of the UK Government’s indefensible regime.

“With very nearly 50 per cent of reviewed cases being reversed, it is clear to see that these cruel and punitive sanctions are being slapped on people before proper consideration and understanding of individual circumstances have been established.


Read more here: http://www.welfareweekly.com/nearly-half-of-benefit-sanctions-overturned-on-appeal-official-figures-show/

Many people whose benefits have been stopped have serious health conditions, so of course more are dying, admits DWP

Yet again Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has blocked the publication of statistics showing how many people have died within six weeks of having their benefits stopped.

These figures were routinely published until 2012, when this government’s Welfare Reform Act  started to bite. Since then the DWP has steadfastly refused to publish new statistics, saying:  a.They were too expensive to gather and: b.That so many people requested the figures that the requests themselves were ‘vexatious’ and could therefore be ignored. Direct requests to the DWP from several MPs have had no more luck.

Now the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), an independent authority set up to uphold public information rights, has agreed that there is no reason not to publish the figures. And yet again the DWP is trying to wriggle out.

What struck me most in this article from the Huffington Post was this warning from the DWP:

“The DWP  warned it was irresponsible to suggest a causal link between the death of an individual and their benefit claim, and that mortality rates among people with serious health conditions are likely to be higher than those among the general population.”

Well, The system of disability assessments was supposed to sort out who needs disability benefits. The DWP’s warning demonstrates that they don’t see people with serious health conditions who are more likely to die as being in need of benefits. And if they are being kicked off their benefits and then dying, that’s just fine as long as the Tories can dodge publishing the figures..

The DWP takes its orders from the Conservative government. And David Cameron and his ministers appear to be completely at ease with the idea of stripping seriously ill people of their benefits and them subsequently dying. If those people die, well, they were more likely to die anyway.

I read over and over again in comments here and elsewhere on the net of people who have been thrown off disability benefits as ‘fit to work’, but cannot then get unemployment benefits because the Job Centre deems them ‘Unfit to work’. I’m personally trying to help 2 people in this exact situation right now. As a result of losing their sickness benefits and having no income, both have been hit by a spiral of depression which made it impossible to appeal against the decision in the one month time slot allowed by the DWP.

More than 18,000 people have signed a Change.org petition in under a week after the DWP appealed a decision to release the sensitive figures

I can’t leave this topic without mentioning the tireless campaigning to get these figures published.over several years by John Pring of the Disability News Service . If the government is pushed into a corner it can’t wriggle out of and forced to release these figures, it will largely be thanks to John.











Just got kicked off ESA

Someone posted this comment today on the facebook page “The People vs the Government, DWP and Atos”


“I just got kicked off ESA (sickness benefit). My medication has more than doubled since my last assessment and I had letters from my doctor, mental health worker, doctor of psychology, counselor and an in depth assessment from the national association of assessment centres. I know, after going through the mandatory reconsideration and appeals process, I will probably win. I have won on 2 previous occasions when I was not as ill as I am now. But in the meantime, probably 18 months to 2 years, I will suffer extreme hardship trying to meet my rent and other bills as I cannot sign on for JSA (unemployment benefit) as I am not well enough to work. This is what I was told the last 2 times they booted me off. Surely going through this process for the 3rd time in 4 years is out of order??? God I hate this government!