Coming off benefits is like Ground Hog Day!!!

As many of my blog/tweet/website friends know I have been in receipt of ESA. I have had to endure the system imposed on me. I have always done everything as openly & honestly as is humanly possible.

Since we (Me & Hubs) were elected by the votes cast by people on 22nd May I have been phoning, writing, e-mailing, sending smoke signals, semaphore & morse code to all the various DWP/HMRC agencies to update them!

I rang a number of them on 23rd of May (the same day as results were counted & verified) explained the situation. Frustratingly I was unable to get past their tick boxes. So I thought I know I will send them a letter. After all there is only a number of times per day that you can keep going through the Spanish Inquisition to get to speak to a human being.

It is now 4weeks since the election, I have 2 Tax Credit Award notices, one is correct as far as I can see and states we are now over the limit & are no longer eligible. The second and most recent one is contrary, it states we are entitled & will be give £x.xx every 4 weeks!

I have tried calling the Tax Credits people every day, I have endured the inquisition only to be told at the end of a 5 minute call to a computerised voice that “there are no Customer Service Operatives free to take my call, to call back at a different time of day, goodbye” There is then a dial tone.

This is ridiculous & unfair on any claimants who must pay for a wasted call to an 0345 number. Is it any wonder so much money is “lost” in the Benefits Budget?

I want to stop receiving money, I want them to take me off their system. I have written, phoned & filled in official forms all to stop being given money to which I very much doubt I am entitled to!

I am at a loss as to what more I can do. It seems that no matter what I do the system isn’t geared for people who actually want to get off benefits. They tell you to contact them if there are any changes in circumstances , how on earth can you do that if you can’t get through on the phone, they won’t accept your letters?

I don’t want a hand up any more, Thank you for the support during a very difficult time BUT we have come through that and no longer require any assistance.

Any ideas on how to get to a human to sort this are very welcome.

Now to try again and again in my stop paying me benefits Groundhog Day!










ESA & PIP – Info via Benefits And Work : Systemic Failures!!!


—– Forwarded Message —–
From: Benefits and Work
Sent: Wednesday, 4 June 2014, 13:48
Subject: More PIP Medicals By Phone Plus Huge ESA
Dear martin,
PIP is in a mess. We all know it and only the DWP try to deny it.
But the surest signs that panic is beginning to set in is the fact that Capita have now more than doubled the pay they are offering to assessors in their attempt to get on top of the backlog. Capita health professionals now have a ‘new incentive scheme’ which means they can earn up to £900 a day. Not bad for physiotherapists more accustomed to earning £40 an hour.
In addition, the DWP have rewritten their guidance to assessors in the hope of persuading them to carry out fewer face-to-face medicals and assess more people just on paper evidence, backed up by a telephone call to the claimant to get additional information where necessary. Currently 98% of PIP assessments are face-to-face, but the DWP is aiming for this figure to drop to around 75%. This means a big increase in the number of PIP claimants who will be getting a call out of the blue from an Atos or Capita health professional.
We’ll be updating our guide to claiming PIP with more information about how decisions will be made about who gets a face-to-face medical and also with suggestions about how to deal with a phone call from a PIP health professional, by the end of the week.
In some cases the changes will mean claimants with substantial impairments getting an award of PIP without having to attend a medical, which can only be a good thing.
But in other cases the guidance makes it clear that assessors can refuse to make any award of PIP based simply on the claim pack completed by the claimant, with telephone clarification of specific issues if required.
It makes it even more vital that PIP ‘How your disability affects you’ forms are completed in as much detail as possible and that you get medical evidence if you can.
Unfortunately, Citizens Advice have discovered that half of all GP surgeries are now charging for evidence for ESA appeals and there’s no reason to suppose that things are any different when it comes to PIP.
In this edition we also have news of more truth-bending by the DWP, unsubstantiated rumours of changes to the PIP criteria, a dramatic rise in ESA sanctions, plans to cut the income of new ESA and JSA claimants and the truth about what Professor Harrington thought about Atos and the DWP.
Plus we have news of new DWP ESA documents available in the members area.
Oh, and we reveal how many of our readers would recommend us to others.
If you’re not already a member, join the Benefits and Work community before midnight on Friday and you can get 20% off the cost of your annual subscription
Just type the following code into the coupon box when you pay: 9742
Claimants and carers get an annual subscription for £15.96, down from £19.95. Professionals get an annual subscription for £77.60, down from £97.00.

For some years now we’ve published a collection of around 20 documents which allegedly contain the information loaded onto LiMA about different conditions – LiMA being the software that Atos uses to carry out work capability assessments.
However, as a result of a recent freedom of information request we have now obtained another 26 documents allegedly used in LiMA, covering conditions such as epilepsy, hypertension, low back pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke and lupus. These have all been published in the ESA members area of the site, in the ESA DWP guides section (you’ll need to be a logged in member to access this page). They can help to give you some idea of how Atos believe your condition should affect you.
From the same page you can also download a 15 page document relating to how the DWP works with claimants with drug or alcohol dependency. It covers both ESA and JSA claimants, particularly in relation to treatment programmes and to the work programme. If you work with this client group, it’s definitely worth downloading.

Many thanks to the more than 6,000 people who completed our survey which went out instead of a newsletter at the end of last week. We really appreciate your feedback and we are working our way through all of your many thousands of comments.
We were delighted that when asked ‘Would you recommend our site to other claimants or professionals’, no fewer than 95.3% of you said ’Yes’ you would. Fewer than 1% said ‘No’, with the rest being undecided.
We were also very interested to learn that, when asked which benefits you are receiving or trying to get, 58% said ESA but 7% said you are still getting incapacity benefit. If those figures are representative of the country as a whole, then by our calculations over 10% of IB claimants have still not been transferred to ESA. Considering that migration was supposed to be completed by April of this year, that’s another impressive failure by IDS.

There’s been a dramatic rise in ESA sanctions – up by over 300% in a year. They rose from 1,102 in December 2012 to 4,789 in December 2013. The vast majority of ESA sanctions are for alleged failure to participate in work-related activities.
ESA sanctions are still dwarfed by JSA sanctions, but with more and more ESA claimants being forced onto the work programme – where staff appear to have little interest in claimants health issues – the number is likely to go on climbing.
Please make sure you read our tips for avoiding and fighting sanctions, which includes advice on suing the DWP and work programme providers.
Our sanctions advice has provoked some discussion on Rightsnet, where one welfare rights worker is attempting to take similar cases to an employment tribunal, for which legal help is more readily available.
Still on the subject of ESA, it’s not just claimants who have problems with Atos. Professor Malcolm Harrington, who carried out the first three independent reviews of the work capability assessment, told the work and pensions committee last month that he ‘did not trust Atos’, that the DWP team set up to implement his recommendations was ‘disbanded’ and that the system was ‘wrong at every stage’.
Harrington called for a “more humane and more individual-focused” assessment system.
It’s just a shame he didn’t say all of this whilst he was actually in the job and in a position to make a difference.
Trying to get evidence from a health professional not employed by Atos is becoming increasingly expensive, however. Citizens Advice have published the results of a survey that shows that half of GPs surgeries that provide evidence for ESA appeals charge for doing so. We’d be very interested to hear about your experiences of trying to get medical evidence in the comments section of this article.
Finally, ESA claimants will lose on average £50 and JSA claimants £40 if the government goes ahead with plans to increase the number of waiting days from 3 to 7 before individuals can make a claim.
The Social Security Advisory Committee has launched a consultation on the proposals as experts warn that they will push more people into the clutches of payday lenders.

Last week, Benefits and Work heard from a number of people who were very distressed at a claim circulating on the internet that the PIP assessment criteria have been made much more severe and that some people who have had an award may have to repay it. The information allegedly came from a source within Atos.
If you haven’t already seen it, we published our response to this story, which we don’t believe was accurate and which has not since been substantiated in any way.
The DWP meanwhile, has yet again been caught out twisting the facts to justify the introduction of PIP. The official statistics watchdog has found that the DWP repeatedly made false claims about the numbers of people living on disability benefits.
In addition, ministers at the DWP repeatedly and misleadingly claimed that the majority of people on disability living allowance (DLA) were given benefits for life without any supporting medical evidence.

The grandparents and carers of a very severely disabled boy of 14 who needs round-the-clock care have lost their bedroom tax appeal. They have to pay the bedroom tax because they have a ‘spare’ bedroom which is used by overnight carers twice a week, in order to give the Rutherfords a little respite.
The case was brought by CPAG and we understand that they intend to fight on.
Finally, universal credit, has had to be reorganised so fundamentally that the Major Projects Authority has judged that it is now an entirely new project. Given that the DWP have so far signed up fewer than 1% of the more than one million claimants that should have been on UC by April 2014, it’s surprising it counts as a major project at all.

Both our social media accounts have reached major milestones since the last newsletter.
We’ve now passed the 10,000 mark for Facebook ‘likes’ and our Facebook page is really taking on a character of its own, with a community of individuals supporting each other and discussing issues reported on the main site and elsewhere. Many thanks, as always, to Studio Pookini for running the page for us as volunteers.
Meanwhile we have now got over 6,000 followers on twitter, which continues to be an excellent source of breaking news for us. Many thanks to Sangeeta, the only socially savvy member of the office team, for being the only one who knows how to tweet.

The real cost-of-living-crisis: Five million British children ‘sentenced to life of poverty thanks to welfare reforms’

The DWP must explain how it will adjust Atos WCAs for mental health claimants
MPs meet their match at St James’ Park

Ministers urged to publish more accurate figures on benefit fraud that show it is 0.7% of claims

If you’re not already a member, join the Benefits and Work community before midnight on Friday and you can get 20% off the cost of your annual subscription
Just type the following code into the coupon box when you pay: 9742
Claimants and carers get an annual subscription for £15.96, down from £19.95. Professionals get an annual subscription for £77.60, down from £97.00.

As always,we’re very grateful to everyone who posts their good news in the forum.
PIP success
“I’ve had a decision letter and it’s great news. Standard rate for daily care and enhanced rate for mobility. Both ongoing and to be reviewed in 2025…I’m happy with the outcome and the Capita assessment…I hope this result gives some encouragement to those still going through the process.”
ESA Support Group
“…well decision letter finally came today – DWP did go with ATOS recommendation for the support group – thanks so much for everyone’s support here and all the info provided! Couldn’t have managed without it.”
PIP award
“Thank you so very much for all the help and advice I received from your guides. I applied for PIP. My assessment was in March . I finally had a result on Tuesday this week. More surprisingly all the back dated money was in my account yesterday. Enhanced care and standard mobility. Thanks so much”

DLA awarded on renewal
“…a massive thank you to this website for all the help and support given to help complete these complex and often misleading forms…I filled the form out and gathered all my necessary supporting documents and sent it off… within a few weeks I had a letter to say I had the same DLA award but for an indefinite period.”

PIP success
“Just to let you all know that today I’ve received a letter saying I have been awarded enhanced daily living and mobility! I cannot thank enough Benefits and Work because you all have been such a great support for me. I am so lucky to found you and cannot imagine what would I do without your great information and guidance. Thank you so much! I wish everyone who is applying PIP good luck! Its a very hard and stressful process but Benefits and Work moderators are absolutely brilliant!”

Support Group success
“Have just been told via the phone, that I’ve been placed in the support group for three years. Cannot thank benefits and work enough for all their support and invaluable guides, you all do a sterling job, and I would like to thank you so much. Hope this gives encouragement to others who are playing ‘the waiting game’ that there can be light at the end of the tunnel.”

ESA support group
“Good news! As a result of being put into the ESA Support Group, my local Council informed me that Housing Benefit would now pay all my rent and Council Tax Support would pay all my Council Tax”

Support Group without medical
“Having used your site I was placed in support group without medical, although it took 42 weeks to get a response!”

DLA renewal award
“My DLA was due to expire in July 2014 – I was invited to renew. Imagine my absolute surprise to receive a new award of Higher rate care & Higher rate mobility for 5 years!! No medical or other enquiries. Thank you so much Benefits and Work, I’m sure the success was due to following your guide to the letter.”

IB to ESA support group
“After receiving a form to change from IB to ESA…I have at last received a letter putting me in the support group of ESA without a medical. Without help from Benefits and Work I do not think this would have happened…I couldn’t be happier, it is such a weight off my mind.”

Join the Benefits and Work community now and discover what a difference we can make.
And do remember: you’re welcome to republish part or all of this newsletter, provided you credit Benefits and Work
Good luck,
Steve Donnison, Sangeeta Enright and Karen Sharpe
The Office Team
Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No. 5962666

This message was sent to from:
Steve Donnison | PO Box 4352 | Warminster, Wilts BA12 2AF, United Kingdom

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Letter To DWP Ministers

Dear Sir/Madam

Please would you clarify a point for me and countless others regarding successful appeals.

Many people make their appeal as per the rules and time limits. Many of these claims are made by people who are initially assessed as being in the Work Related Activity Group.

The appeals can take a very long time. In my personal situation I had the assessment in March 2012, I was put into the WRAG on Contribution Based ESA as I have worked until I became to sick to continue with my career in Law. My first appeal to the decision maker was unsuccessful so I did as advised by my Personal Adviser and made an appeal to the HMCS Tribunal. The appeal was lodged and I waited for a response.

During the time between the the tribunal service receiving my appeal I kept them updated as to my continuing deterioration. I waited over 6 months and still no date. My contribution based benefit was coming close to 260 days. My ESA contribution based was due to end in March 2013, still no appeal date received. Unfortunately my husband was made redundant and I was advised to claim for my husband and he claimed Carers Allowance. I was then on means tested benefit as my 365 days were up on my contribution based ESA.

This was at the end of March 2013, still no date for the tribunal.

I then received my appeal date in May stating I would have my hearing on 13th July 2013. I was successful in my appeal and was put into the Support Group with a recommendation that I was not assessed again for at least 18 months.

The day I received the confirmation of my successful appeal I also received an ESA 50 form to complete. I telephoned my local JCP and was told I must complete it and to mention the appeal result in the section where any further information can be written.

My query and that of many others is this; as the appeal tribunal assess and decide the appeal based on how you where on the day of the initial assessment and if the appeal is granted there will be a back payment of any benefits you should have had. Does this also in turn put you back into the Contribution based benefit as though you had been put in the support group originally and thus had not been through the means testing?

If ones partner then whilst you are in the support group obtains new employment will the claimant thus retain their ESA on a Contribution based calculation?

I look forward to hearing from you with clarification of the above.

Kind Regards

I will post their reply when & if I receive one





Don’t let the loan sharks bite this Christmas

It’s barely 12 days to the big day in the festive calendar. Christmas is about showing & giving love to your friends & family.

We all feel the pressure to buy our loved ones the best we can afford and for many of us we will feel the pull of the Legal & Illegal Loan Sharks. They are called sharks for a reason so steer clear of them.

Here are a few ideas to give you some help or inspiration. Please forgive me if I’m a little bit too late for this year but these are tips to use all year round. My family live on a very tight budget so I’m preaching what I practice.

1) your kid needs a laptop/computer to do their school work. Don’t buy a brand new one. Visit sites like Amazon, Currys, PC World etc, don’t just look at the clearance lines but check the refurbished items.
For example I was looking on Amazon, typed in Refurbished Laptop – a great list came up. I looked at a good number but the best ones to actually buy have a 3 to 6 month guarantee with them. There maybe a few scratches here & there but the same item maybe over £400 new but only £130 refurbished. Your kid won’t mind as long as they’ve got what they need. This principle can be used for almost every electrical appliance.

2) Money is usually tight all year round but if you can from February onwards check the discounts from the likes of Studio 24. In February you can pick up sale items for a wide range of items but at such a low price you can manage to again get high quality gifts with upto 90% off!
I usually buy pyjamas for my younger family members just buy them for a year or two older than they are at the time. Same for any other clothing.
I don’t recommend it for shoes unless you need them there and then because kids have a habit of not growing according to charts.

3) It’s not easy but if you can do it either;
a) put all your lose change into a savings jar & then every month buy a gift with it or
b) put it in the bank, PostOffice or even a Christmas club so that you save up for Christmas and/or other event. If you try doing the saving in this way it never seems quite so painful.
c) join a Credit Union & pay in what you can & if you need to borrow etc then you can do so without any fear or worry.

As my Nana used to say “take care of the pennies & the pounds will take care of themselves.

4) Use EBay and search for specific things or general by using the search term unwanted gift. Use your common sense on this & don’t buy expensive items. (Chap didn’t read the description properly, thought he had bought his kid a new Playstation or Xbox it was only a photo of the gaming device not the actual machine).

5) Set a limit on what you will spend on each person. By looking all year round you can get some lovely things rather in-expensively.
(EBay job lots are cracking for this but as ever always read the description carefully as you may think you are bidding on half a dozen bath bombs but it’s only going to be 1 actually sent not the 6 shown in the photo)
You can get a number of these and make your own little gift set.

6) Make the gift from the scratch, papier-mâché models, knitted clothing, Christmas door wreaths (these can be made so cheaply, buy the ring but then forage for the holly, pine cones, chest nuts, acorns & check what you’ve got in your Christmas decoration boxes).

7) Do Not Feel Pressured Into Debt to give your family everything on their wish list.
Being a good parent is about giving them what they need & not always what they want. My kids have asked for Lego (buy it on EBay 2nd hand job lot – wash in Bleach to ensure germ free) to a Pony (again a rocking horse that you can clean over & give them)

Little kids aren’t bothered if it comes on a cornflake box or just simply wrapped with a few black bin liners. Kids don’t care for the packaging, unless it’s big boxes then the toys you’ve bought are redundant as we all know kids love the boxes more!

Older kids can be given the blunt truth that you will only buy them what you can afford. Always get 2nd hand bikes it saves a fortune.

I’ve always tended to try to give my lot the best gifts they want for birthdays. That way Christmas is not so daunting because you only have one child to buy for.

Maybe this is a bit late to share this year but if you get into the habit from January onwards you can have loads of expensive gifts that actually didn’t cost you anywhere near the normal price.

Finally get yourself signed up for Groupon, they have some amazing things at massively reduced prices. You usually get an e-mail every day or two (depending on what they have) the discounts can be son fab it’s worth a good look. Read all the details before buying as there are sometimes conditions etc.

So there you go, that’s my way of coping & I manage to stay out of debt (occasionally a little overdrawn) especially with these TV Quick Loans or Loan Sharks steer clear because the interest is crippling when borrowing in this way. Find out if you have a credit union in your area. If so then all the saved pennies from your purse//wallet is safely put away month after month & should you need a loan then use the Credit Union because their interest rates will a a few percent NOT a few thousand percent.

I hope this helps but always remember that your family would rather a) have nothing (older relatives), b) will wait for their birthday, c) not in debt.

A homemade gift is often lovely & means more that something you’ve bought.

Merry Christmas & use your imagination you’ll be surprised at how much people love what you’ve made because to make things shows you’ve put love & care as the special unique ingredients.









Sheila is still being hounded

Department for Work and Pensions ‘put girl in coma’ – now they won’t leave her family alone


The Work Capability Assessment is a complete farce! I had to go to a tribunal to be put into the support group. I’m a solicitor & I felt I was on trial, this must affect others in many ways. Sheila should never have been put into this position. Her mental health issues meant that her personal situation needed to be handled on a gentle and caring manner.

I have received so many e-mails from people who are scared & feel like they aren’t being assessed on their individual physical & mental issues. Those with ‘invisible’ symptoms are treated worst of all in my opinion. I have been there at the end of the phone after reading some of the extremely harrowing cases.

I have a friend who has had cancer twice, chemotherapy, on high doses of various pain relieving, anti epileptic, anti depressants etc who has been put in the Work Related Activity Group. His cancer treatment has left him with spinal problems, his hip & spine have fused due to crumbled discs. He’d do anything to be well enough to work but me, him & thousands like us are treated as though we are pretending to be so ill. If we are then we should get an Oscar!

The fact is only around 1% of claims for ESA & DLA are fraudulent. Our GP’s, psychologists, psychiatrists aren’t contacted, despite being asked to name them on the ESA50 form.

Demonising the sick & disabled is callous, inhuman & is abhorrent. So when there is a job for every person that complies with the questions on the form I will eat my wheelchair!

The form asks; can you put a pen in your top pocket with either hand, can you lift or move an empty box, can you raise either arm above your head, can you walk 50mts, can you lift a carton of milk?

How questions like this can help assess ones physical & mental state I do not know. A person may be able to do one or more of those things BUT likely not everyday, likely not reliably & likely not safely!

The WCA needs changing there isn’t a tick box that could ever cover a persons individual circumstances. Too many people are being bullied & not assisted. Too many people are dying after being found fit for work & many are stressed & scared when told they must attend courses, interviews etc. Well a person is either sick or not sick. There is no middle ground.

I hope Sheila will get well very soon and return to her loving, caring & supportive family.

















Irresponsible Personal Borrowing

I read the above with much consternation. Why on earth has she borrowed all this money?

She has 2 kids, aged 8 & 3. The 3 year old would be happy with a few 2nd hand toys & loads of cardboard boxes. The older boy only needed 1 big present which to be honest could have had a 2nd hand bike!

It’s people like this who put their kids into poverty and for what? Those kids will go without for the whole of next year.

Great presents aren’t any use if kids are starving or she can’t afford to pay electricity bill. What on earth does a 3 year old need a TV/DVD player for? It’s crazy & unnecessary. It’s all been bought on expensive credit which to me is even more stupid!

The kids will remember, eventually, and then they too will follow suit! It’s the wrong kind of example and she isn’t giving the children the correct life lessons to aid them in the future.

I know we all want our kids to have the things we didn’t but there are limits. I have 3 children there are around 4 years between each one. Christmas has always been expensive but I’d buy stuff in sales & hide it away. I still do that even though my eldest kids have left home. No body got a big expensive present at Christmas what I did was to make a bigger fuss at birthdays because it meant there was respite between each birthday to save again.

My youngest lad decided he wanted a new TV. I refused to buy one because there were decent enough ones he could access. So he saved his Christmas & Birthday money (his birthday is 10th January) and bought his own TV.

I’ve never bought “named/labelled” items of clothing. They had what I felt was appropriate & would be very smart but on a budget.

Even when there is little money you can shop around and find bargains to stow away.

This woman borrowed £1,700 knowing her whole income for the next year (or indeed more) would suffer for it! She has no idea of budgeting, no comprehension of the concept of living within within her means.

If she’d have put away a few pounds every week she could have got the bikes on e-bay or Amazon – refurbished & at half the price.

It really doesn’t make any logical sense to do what she’s done and when she’s no money for food in the coming months will she then travel to a foodbank because she has got a voucher from her social worker, GP or whomever?

I honestly understand wanting to give your kids the best BUT you give them the best you can afford not what you can borrow!

Even this year my youngest has had refurbished items which I have bought for less than half the price of new. I have to do that because he’d never get these things otherwise. I hasten to add that the items he’s got are going to be helpful to his education as he’s doing GCSE’s now.

My hubby & I don’t have money to burn and neither does this woman. £3,000 debt for one Christmas is totally irresponsible.

I’m not sure how these sorts of lenders work but from the info I have gleaned from various sources would indicate that you needn’t be in work to get a PayDay Loan. An oxymoron if ever there was one. How do you get a payday loan if your payday is based on out of work benefits?

Why are there no checks to see what level of debt you’re in already? Suppose that is easily bypassed if you apply for each of these pay day loans on the same day & thus the records wouldn’t be updated until the next day there would be no records to check.

Just as I was writing this blog I received a text: We dont look at past credit history, as long as it is affordable for you now. Come and build a new history with us. 2 opt out reply END

I have not given my number to any of these companies so why are they contacting me unsolicited?

I’m not going to reply to the text, I have deleted it. However, with companies sending such texts & bombarding people with the offer of credit then at weaker moments some may just give in.

I thought this sort of lending was illegal as is people coming to your door offering you a loan? Maybe the Consumer Credit Act has changed?

Anyway what do you think of this lady & hundreds of thousands of others like her who have borrowed heavily & irresponsibly just to buy things their kids don’t need!