Archive for the ‘ benefits ’ Category

PIP Application Advice

I know a lot of folks that are either apply for, reapplying for and being transferred on to PIP. Heck, I’m soon going to be in the latter category. A question that often comes up is “How best can I apply?”, or “What should I write?”. Here’s my advice and I hope you find at least some of it useful.

Once you have you PIP form the best way is obviously to contact your local CAB and see if they can help you. They’ve done millions of these and know it inside and out.

Unfortunately the CAB isn’t always an option for many of us. Then we need to find ways to do it alone. In these situations I think it’s important to try to put yourself in the position of a DWP decision maker;

  • they are under pressure not to find too many eligible
  • they have to read a lot of these in a day
  • they are probably tired, stressed, and a bit numb to these applications
  • they’ve probably seen it all before

It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. If you can make it easy for them to give you points then hopefully they will

There is a simple formula I use to do these and it is as follows;

Firstly…

Look at the tables that show you what the criteria is for each section. You can find them in a handy table in this PDF from the Citizens Advice Bureau by clicking here. Or I will provide a list of the current points at the bottom of this post for those that would prefer it.

Once you have read those, look again at the wording and consider the following:

Does it apply to you?

Continue reading

DWP announces reconsideration of eligibility criteria for PIP

The We Are Spartacus network have released a press release about the announcement that the government will re-consult on the mobility criteria. If you’d like to share it or simply read it then it’s here:

Disability campaigners welcome today’s announcement that the Government will re-consult on the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment, which replaces Disability Living Allowance for working age disabled adults. Organisations and individuals have been campaigning vigorously on this issue since we were shocked to hear, in December last year, that the walking distance criteria for the mobility component, and therefore for assistance from the Motability scheme, had been tightened from 50 metres to 20 metres.

A disabled man, Steven Sumpter, issued  legal proceedings in March arguing that the consultation process on the new benefit was flawed because the Secretary of State did not consult on the proposal to introduce the new benchmark distance of 20 metres. This was only introduced after all the consultation stages had passed. Consultees were therefore denied the opportunity to comment on the proposal or to explain to the Secretary of State how such a restriction to the benefit will affect them and their independence.

For many years the distance of 50 metres has been accepted as an appropriate distance criteria to determine limited walking ability – including for eligibility for the blue badge, for guidance to achieve an accessible built environment, in relation to other benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance and, through legal precedent and practice, for determining whether a claimant is ‘virtually unable to walk’ for the purposes of Disability Living Allowance.

Jane Young, an independent campaigner working with the We are Spartacus network, says:

“We are relieved that the DWP is to reconsider. Our concern in relation to the 20-metre distance is that disabled people with limited walking ability, who are dependent on their Motability car or other independent mobility solution funded by their allowance, would lose their eligibility and be unable to make essential journeys – to work, to visit their GP, to hospital appointments or to social activities. We fear many would effectively become isolated in their own homes, with all the implications of that for their mental and physical health.”

Whilst the Government’s announcement is extremely positive, we remain cautious. We need to make sure that the views of disabled people and their organisations are taken seriously and that the ultimate decision focuses on meeting the needs of disabled people rather than being narrowly focused on cutting the cost of the benefit. The ability of disabled people to participate in society depends on support for independent mobility; this should be the focus of this fresh consultation.

Draft PIP Regulations Pass Through The Legislation Committee

Today the draft PIP regulations had a final reading which needed to be voted through by the “Eleventh Delegated Legislation Committee”. They were voted through by a fairly close margin of 10 for, 7 against.

I’ve made a storify of my live tweets for those who are interested, sorry if some are a bit harsh or don’t make too much sense I was having to type fast to keep up with the speed they were speaking at and I’m a) not a fan of PIP and b) dyslexic.
[View the story “PIP Regulations – My Live Tweets” on Storify]

Updated PIP Assessment Guide

The government have provided another update to the PIP Assessment Guide. It’s still not the final version, but it’s the best we have to work with so far.

Before I go any further, this guide isn’t legislation. It’s not the law but it is the guidance ATOS/Captia (depending on where you live), the DWP and Tribunal Judges should be working from when making decisions.
The two area’s of particular concern many of us campaigners raised in response to Decembers release of PIP criteria were; the loss of reliably, repeatedly  safely and in a timely manner from the legislation and the reduction of the distance people need to be able to physically mobilise to automatically get the enhanced level of PIP from 50m to a puny 20m. Naturally I would like to see the former put into legislation for added protection and the latter decision reversed. As that hasn’t happened (yet) I think it’s important to look at how the guidelines will/won’t protect us if we are unfortunate and do not manage to get those changes made.
These two areas are covered in section 3.3.Reliability.
The document says;

“3.2.7. For a descriptor to be able to apply to a claimant, the claimant must be able to reliably complete the activity as described in the descriptor. More information on this can be found in section 3.3.”

Then goes on to say;

“3.3.1.Central to the application of all the activities within the PIP assessment is a consideration of the manner in which they are undertaken. If an individual cannot reliably complete an activity in the way described then they should be considered unable to complete it.
3.3.2. Considering reliability involves looking at whether the claimant can complete the activity as described:
• Safely – being able to complete the activity in a fashion that is unlikely to cause harm to themselves or to another person.
• To an acceptable standard, given the nature of the activity.
• Repeatedly – being able to repeat the activity as often as is reasonably required.
• In a timely manner – being able to complete the activity in a reasonable time period.”

Which is fairly reassuring, it means that the assessors shouldn’t apply a descriptor unless it meets the reliably, repeatedly, safely & in a timely manner conditions. You can read up on example of those in the guide (Section 3.3, page 72). Of course those with fluctuating conditions have been pretty confused about how these four descriptors should be them. That is covered by the guidance too, it says;

“3.2.9. A scoring descriptor can apply to claimants in an activity where their impairment(s) affects their ability to complete an activity, at some stage of the day, on more than 50 per cent of days in the 12 month period. The following rules apply:
• If one descriptor in an activity is likely to apply on more than 50 per cent of the days in the 12 month period – i.e. the activity can be completed in the way described on more than 50 per cent of days – then that descriptor should be chosen.
• If two or more descriptors in an activity is likely to apply on more than 50 per cent of the days in the period, then the descriptor chosen should be the one which is the highest scoring.
• Where one single descriptor in an activity is likely to not be satisfied on more than 50 per cent of days, but a number of different scoring descriptors in that activity cumulatively are likely to be satisfied on more than 50 per cent of days, the descriptor likely to be satisfied for the highest proportion of the time should be selected. For example, if descriptor ‘B’ is likely to be satisfied on 40 per cent of days and descriptor ‘C’ on 30 per cent of days, descriptor ‘B’ should be chosen. Where two or more descriptors are satisfied for the same proportion of days, the descriptor which is the highest scoring should be chosen. ”  

Taking this as it stands it means that theoretically the DWP, Atos & Captia should have a hard time excluding people who should be covered by this umbrella. Of course they’d have a harder time if those words were in the actual legislation.

It’s not a win, but I feel it’s quite positive. The guidance isn’t overly vague which will make it harder for them to find loop holes. I do think it’s quite harsh in some areas, take this example;

“Mr X is able to stand and move unaided. He can comfortably walk up to 150 metres at a normal pace. After 150 metres he starts to become breathless and to experience some mild pain. He can continue to walk but his pace slows. The pain and breathlessness gradually increases and after 250 metres he needs to stop and rest for about 5 minutes before starting to walk again. Mr X can repeatedly walk 250 metres, with short 5-minute rests in between for around an hour. After an hour of this, he needs a longer rest of about an hour before walking again. It takes Mr X around four minutes to walk 200 metres.”

It then explains that Mr X would be judged as being able to mobilise safley, reliably, repeatedly and in a timely manner. I think that underestimates how short that kind of distance is and how hard it can be to find somewhere to rest. It also doesn’t look at the psychological implications of having to walk until you are in agony then stop, rest and do it all again. Though I suppose that would be covered by activity 11, planning & following journeys.

“The second area of concern is activity 12, moving around. The guidance has the following notes added to it; 

This activity should be judged in relation to a type of surface normally expected out of doors such as pavements on the flat and includes the consideration of kerbs. 

20 metres is considered to be the distance that a claimant is required to be able to repeatedly walk in order to achieve a basic level of independence in the home.
50 metres is considered to be the distance that a claimant is required to be able to repeatedly walk in order to achieve a basic level of independence outdoors.
50 to 200 metres is considered to be the distance that a claimant is required to be able to repeatedly walk in order to achieve a higher level of independence outdoors. 

Standing means to stand upright with at least one biological foot on the ground with or without suitable aids and appliances (note – a prosthesis is considered an appliance so a claimant with a unilateral prosthetic leg may be able to stand whereas a bilateral lower limb amputee would be unable to stand under this definition). 

“Stand and then move” requires an individual to stand and then move independently while remaining standing. It does not include a claimant who stands and then transfers into a wheelchair or similar device. Individuals who require a wheelchair or similar device to move a distance should not be considered able to stand and move that distance.  

Aids or appliances that a person uses to support their physical mobility may include walking sticks, crutches and prostheses.

When assessing whether the activity can be carried out reliably, consideration should be given to the manner in which they do so. This includes but is not limited to, their gait, their speed, the risk of falls and symptoms or side effects that could affect their ability to complete the activity, such as pain, breathlessness and fatigue.  

However, for this activity this only refers to the physical act of moving. For example, danger awareness is considered as part of activity 11.”

The descriptors have been altered as well, they now read;

A. Can stand and then move more than 200 metres, either aided or unaided. 0pts
B. Can stand and then move more than 50 metres but no more than 200 metres, either aided or unaided. 4pts
C. Can stand and then move unaided more than 20 metres but no more than 50 metres. 8pts
D. Can stand and then move using an aid or appliance more than 20 metres but no more than 50 metres. 10pts
For example, this would include people who can stand and move more than 20 metres but no further than 50 metres, but need to use an aid or appliance such as a stick or crutch to do so. [Not including wheelchairs]E. Can stand and then move more than 1 metre but no more than 20 metres, either aided or unaided. 12pts
F. Cannot, either aided or unaided, i. stand; or ii. move more than 1 metre. 12pts

This is a slight improvement, in that we now know that wheelchair users who need a chair to mobilise 20m or more are protected. Still, it’s far less than ideal. It would be far better if the distance was raised from 20m to 50m.

There has been a huge tide of negative news around the PIP changes recently, which whilst fully deserved, is also very upsetting when it’s all you hear & read day in and day out. I think we should take what positives we can from this. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t keep campaigning to get the changes made that we want to see, but that we should all take a few seconds to pat ourselves on the back before plugging onwards. These changes would not have been made without the tireless campaigning and awareness raising work hundreds of disabled people across the country.

If you want to keep fighting these changes you can have a look at the We Are Spartacus campaign group website for ideas and to keep up-to-date with developments.

Imaginary Wheelchairs & Other ESA Changes

As you may or may not know on the 28th January they are making some more changes to ESA assessments. Both of the proposed changes are dangerous and counter productive (unless you want to produce a super-flawed, biased and unfair system). They go a little something like this;

Imaginary Aids, Adaptations & Treatments

In a nutshell, they will be changing the system so that if a person could do something with appropriate aids/adaptations or has a condition that sometimes benefits from a specific treatment (even if they don’t have access to them) they can be judged as if they do. They also do not have to ask your opinion about it.

An example would be; a person who attends a meeting and explains that because of a condition, let’s choose chronic pain, they cannot walk 50m. The assessor decides that they think that with a wheelchair they could do it. The assessor then says nothing to the claimant and notes it on the assessment form. The person is then found fit for work or placed in the WRAG rather than the support group on the basis of an imaginary wheelchair. Of course, they don’t then give the person access to a wheelchair. They just seem to expect them to magic one out of thin air. Bitter experience has taught me that the NHS doesn’t give wheelchairs to a lot of people who would benefit from them. It’s also taught me that getting a NHS wheelchair doesn’t mean you can use it. If your home is at the bottom of a hill, has steps in and out, doesn’t have wide enough halls or door ways or any other number of issues are at play the chair is just a (often) ugly reminder that you can’t get out. Getting your home adapted for a wheelchair is very difficult at the best of times, heaven forbid you privately rent and your landlord doesn’t want you to ramp the front garden. All this doesn’t take into account our imaginary claimants ability to propel a wheelchair either. It would be laughable if it wasn’t a real threat.

The same goes for treatments. Did you turn down CBT for Fibromyalgia? If they think it would have made it better then they can “imagine” how you may have been if you’d had it and assess you accordingly.

Ignoring the Intersections Between Physical & Mental Health

The ESA50 (the pink form claimants get sent asking them to detail their conditions) is split into two sections; Part 1 (‘Physical Disabilities’) and Part 2 (‘Mental, cognitive and intellectual function assessment’). At the moment people who experience problems such as poor bladder control because of a mental or cognitive disability will explain that in part 1. Now they are proposing to make it so that only the effects of “a specific bodily disease or disablement” will be considered in part 1, whilst Part 2 will only consider the effects of “a specific mental illness or disablement”.

This is a massive issue as many conditions have both mental/cognitive and physical components. It’s also problematic because many physical health problems exacerbate mental health conditions and vice-a-versa. 

How to help


Sue Marsh over at Diary of a Benefit Scrounger has issued a rallying cry and offers some great advice about what you can do to help fight these changes (link to her post). 

You can email your MP by going to this webpage and searching for them by your constituency and send them a link to this report. If you don’t want to email them then you can tweet them with a link to the report saying something like “Dear [MP name] please read this report about damaging changes to ESA http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/ESAbriefing  #esaSOS”.

You can try to spread the word by tweeting, emailing & facebooking others (friends, family, reporters, councillors , and asking them to spread the report too.

WOW Petition Launch

Today at 8pm the fabulous comedienne, writer and vocal supporter of the disability rights movement Francesca Martinez launched the crowd sourced WOW Petition designed to help resist the ‘War On Welfare’. It is a UK government e-petition which ideally needs to get over 100,000 signatures. It’s going to need publicising and shouting about but I’m sure as a community we can do it. Heck, it’s been live for two and a half hours and it’s already been trending on twitter and received over 1,400 signatures!

It calls for: 

A Cumulative Impact Assessment of all cuts and changes affecting sick & disabled people, their families and carers, and a free vote on repeal of the Welfare Reform Act.
An immediate end to the Work Capability Assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association.
 

Consultation between the Depts of Health & Education to improve support into work for sick & disabled people, and an end to forced work under threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits.

An Independent, Committee-Based Inquiry into Welfare Reform, covering but not limited to: (1) Care home admission rises, daycare centres, access to education for people with learning difficulties, universal mental health treatments, Remploy closures; (2) DWP media links, the ATOS contract, IT implementation of Universal Credit; (3) Human rights abuses against disabled people, excess claimant deaths & the disregard of medical evidence in decision making by ATOS, DWP & the Tribunal Service.

If you want to sign it click here. Once you have signed it then you will need to remember to check your inbox and click the confirmation email to make it count.

New Report Highlights Failures of Work Capability Assessment

The Spartacus Campaign group has today released the Peoples Review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

The press release sums it all up pretty nice nicley;

New report highlights failures of Work Capability Assessment as Spartacus campaign awaits Harrington’s final review

A new report from the Spartacus campaign today (Monday 12 November) analyses the failures of the Government’s Work Capability Assessment and the Employment & Support Allowance system, which is supposed to support people who are too sick or disabled to work.

It also warns that disabled people are at risk because of the government’s refusal to consider a ‘real world’ test – where part of the test would take into account the real barriers to employment.

The report, ‘The People’s Review of the Work Capability Assessment’, includes examples of people who have been told they are fit for work, including:

Someone with no short term memory mechanism
A man with a terminal brain tumour
An incontinent disabled man who is both blind and deaf

Other examples of claimants’ experiences include a man whose benefits were stopped for failing to return the necessary forms, despite his wife informing the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that he was in a coma; and a man who died 48 hours after filling in his questionnaire – after informing everyone of his death his wife received a call 3 months later asking him to come in for his assessment.

Overall the report highlights stories of more than 70 people who have been inappropriately  assessed, forced to go to tribunal, felt humiliated or treated inappropriately. It comes prior to the publication of the final review of the Work Capability Assessment by Professor Harrington, who steps down as advisor to the DWP this month, and whose resignation was announced in July, just days after the broadcast of two TV documentaries exposing the reality of claimants’ experience of the assessment process.

The report also highlights serious concerns about the number of people who have died after being told by the DWP they were ‘fit for work’ or have taken their own lives in circumstances where applying for ESA and going through the WCA appear to be factors in their deaths.

Professor Peter Beresford OBE, professor of social policy at Brunel University and chair of Shaping Our Lives, said:

“The work capability assessment is unreliable and unhelpful, as well as being arbitrary and cruel… No-one – not the doctors who make the assessment decisions, nor Atos which has responsibility for providing assessments, nor the Department of Work and Pensions which commissioned them – takes responsibility for the problems and failures in the system. It’s a perfect storm of irresponsibility and unaccountability.”

The report includes an analysis of the position of a number of professional and regulatory organisations on the WCA, including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing, the General Medical Council, the National Audit Office and the Citizens Advice Bureau, as well as Government statements and background information on Atos, the company  employed to carry out the assessments.

The report’s author added:

These issues are a matter of survival for people living with illness and disability.  It is unacceptable that in 21st century Britain vulnerable people are being treated so appallingly. We hope The People’s Review will spur the Government into prompt and concrete action on the failures of the WCA. Radical change is needed – and it is needed now. Whilst there has been some acknowledgement of the problems following Professor Harrington‘s previous Reviews, our evidence from those at the sharp end of the process, including of the high rate of successful appeals and the huge backlog of unheard appeals, shows the whole system is still failing badly. The cost to the taxpayer is enormous and the cost to those going through it goes way beyond money.  In the meantime, sick and disabled people continue to be severely affected by what they’ve experienced, and terrified of what the future holds.  

The new report is available from:    http://wearespartacus.org.uk  

For more information contact:         Jane Young  jane@janeyoung.me.uk

The full report lists 14 pages of (often) single paragraph case studies of people who have been failed by the WCA, yet it is just the tip of a gargantuan iceberg. Like all the people here and the thousands of others who’s stories are not in the report I was given 0 points by ATOS and declared fit for work. The DWP then used my poor score on the WCA as it’s key reason to refuse to give me DLA. I spent the first two terrifying years of becoming disabled desperately appealing and going through tribunals with no financial support in the mean time. Here are four statements taken from a page at random in the new report which illustrate how this system has failed and upset other sick and/or disabled people who are clearly not fit to work (quotes come directly from the report & are written in their own words);

  • Detached labrum of the right shoulder(2 ops done so far), degenerative vertabrae in my neck with stenosis (shrinking of the outlet which the nerves to my left arm go thru) reducing sensation and strength, nerve damage to the right shoulder affecting the interior of my right arm, severe depression onset due to injuries and personal circumstances, and 3 types of drugs to keep things in order….their opinion…Nil Points and fit for work.
  • I went to one of these tests and had my benefits stopped plus they sent a letter to my doctors telling him to stop signing me off, i could’ve appealed but would’ve had to travel for 4 hours to get to the court! I felt so bad and had to get some work to survive but this then led to me having a heart attack! I have had to have a pacemaker fitted. They said is was deemed fit to work because in the test i sat on a table and all i did was swing my legs forward and back!!!!! Plus asked to bend over!
  • I suffer with borderline personality dissorder anxiety and depression plus i faint sometimes or have black outs. I am being forced back into work and to go to work meetings. I have been threatend with loosing my home, so i ended up self harming and now being threatend with loosing my benefits. If I don’t get my benifits nothing will get paid, and i’ll either end up topping myself or dying of starvation. I am now terrified, i am not ready to go back to work, and if they force me into work i have no idea how i will react. 1 mintue i can be fine next i feel like the anticrist. I can’t control my personality dissorder, mental illness does not have days off.
  • I have multiple health problems – some of which have taken years to diagnose eg, PTSD, diabetes, chronic fatigue, severe allergies causing angioedema and anaphylactic shock, asthma, gastritis, muscle weakness. I’ve just undergone TWO hysteroscopies and the biopsy has revealed a problem. We’ve discussed hysterectomy so I’m guessing the diagnosis won’t be a good one. I can’t climb stairs and I haven’t been out socially for two decades. My last job was as a temp for the NHS and I was dismissed from my job because I became ill at work and had to be hospitalised with pneumonia. They have now deemed me fir for work despite GP and Consultant’s notes which state the opposite.

If you get a chance have a look at the report, it really is worth a read. You can find a copy at the We are Spartacus webpage or this link should take you to a pdf file.

If you can please try and share this report with local MPs, councillors, journalists and groups that wish to ally themselves with the disabled peoples rights movement.

If you want to write to your MP you can find them on this website; http://www.writetothem.com/

I used this letter, you’d be welcome to do the same and edit it to make it more personal.

Dear [insert MPs name],

Today see’s the release of a report put together by disabled people and their allies to try and show the harsh realities of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) preformed by ATOS healthcare on behalf of the DWP to judge whether those claiming ESA are in actuality fit to work. It is so riddled with errors that all independent reviews say it isn’t fit for purpose (unless that purpose is finding severely sick & disabled people incorrectly fit for work of course).

You can find the report here; http://wearespartacus.org.uk/wca-peoples-review/ and I will paste the press release at the bottom of this email to give you a quick synopsis.

[Insert personal experience/story here if you feel comfortable doing so]

Warm Regards,

[Your name here]

—–

Press Release

[Copy & Paste Press Release here]

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