Tag: Benefits and Work

Disabled people claiming PIP are being forced to go through two assessments

PIP pic

Benefits and Work have reported that a number of their members in recent weeks have been been made to go through a second Personal Independent Payment (PIP) assessment before a decision is made on their award, because there was a problem with the first assessment report.

One member faced a two hour assessment on Christmas Eve. In January they were contacted by Capita and told that the assessment was “incomplete” and that someone was to be “sent round to finish it.”

Capita have refused to say what information was missing and would not provide a copy of the report until it was complete.

One member told Benefits and Work:

“This has left me feeling very anxious. All they would say is that they needed further information as the last assessment was incomplete. I’m confused. I feel that they want to trip me up even though I was completely truthful about my conditions in the last assessment.”

I co-run an online group to support people going through PIP and Employment and Support Allowance claims, assessments, mandatory review and appeals. Our members are also reporting that this is happening to them, too.

One person told me: “After suffering two heart attacks and a quadruple bypass plus a brain tumour and a previous devastating head injury , which will never be “cured” he was told to apply for PIP.

“Three months later and the lady sent from a brain injury charity, to help him , phoned up the Department for Work and Pensions regarding his assessment and they denied having any knowledge of said assessment and said it will have to be done again.

“The stress is unbearable for my partner.

“Horrendous.”

Another person said: “I had my assessment in November. I rang to see why I wasn’t told a decision just before Christmas and was told I would need another assessment as the one I’d had didn’t give enough evidence to make the decision.

“I collapsed at the assessment in the examination because I was told to stand up from my wheel chair and I can’t. What more evidence do they need? I have rheumatoid arthritis and a severe spine injury, they have medical evidence from my doctor? I can’t face it all again. The stress is making me very poorly.”

Another member had almost completed their assessment when it was suddenly stopped and they were told they would have to return for a new, full assessment. The only reason they were given was that the assessment should have been done by a physiotherapist instead of a nurse.

One Benefits and Work member took her son for a PIP assessment which lasted 2 hours and 15 minutes. However, this person was then told that the assessor had not filed the report so they would have to return for a new assessment.

The new assessor took 1 hour and 30 minutes. The assessor claimed that she had the original report on screen and would take information from that, but she did not actually do so. As a result our member did not give some of the information that had been covered in the first report.

The member said:

“I was too worried at the time to complain but I did contact my MP.”

Another member was contacted after their assessment in December and told that she would have to attend a second assessment in February before a decision on her claim could be made. When they asked why:

“I was told it was to do a more robust assessment and that if I didn’t attend they would refuse my claim.”

The person concerned is understandably very anxious about the repeat assessment:

“I am in total meltdown mode and if the first one is anything to go by I’m dreading the next one. I was so stressed and anxious I could barely control myself but did manage to answer all the questions they asked.”

One member’s 16 year old child is about to be moved from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to PIP. They had an assessment in December but have now been asked to attend a second one before a decision is made.

The member commented:

“So I guess we just go to the 2nd assessment and do it all again then? Just what a overly anxious child wants eh!!”

Another member had their PIP assessment in December as part of the process of moving from an indefinite DLA award. However, in January they were contacted by Capita who said that the DWP had requested further information and they would have to have a further assessment. Capita have not said what further information is needed or why it can’t be collected by phone.

The member said:

“I am sick with worry I was already suffering with even more anxiety than usual due to going through this process.”

The PIP assessment process is enormously stressful for many people. To have to go through it twice with no adequate explanation as to why seems unfair and unreasonable. At the very least, people should receive a letter of apology and an explanation of why a telephone conversation would not be sufficient to put matters right.

Please consider complaining to your MP if this happens to you.

Benefits and Work are interested in hearing from anyone else who has been forced to attend two assessments.  Please click on the link and leave your comment here.

You can also leave a comment on this article, as I will be sending this information to government and shadow ministers.

 


I don’t make any money from my work. But you can contribute by making a donation and help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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Heartless PIP Cuts Latest, ESA WRAG Cut Regulations Published – Benefits and Work

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I got the following email from Benefits and Work:

Dear Sue,

Even by this government’s standards it’s a shockingly cruel move.

Last month a tribunal of judges ruled that claimants with mental health conditions such as severe anxiety have a right to claim even the higher rate of PIP for help with going outdoors.

It was a decision that put an end to years of the DWP deliberately misinterpreting the law. It meant that many thousands of people with serious mental health conditions finally had a chance to gain a little bit more independence.

So the government acted with remarkable speed.

Bypassing the social security advisory committee, who are supposed to get the chance to comment on all changes to social security law, they published a statutory instrument that will reverse the judges’ decision.

In an effort to justify overturning the judges’ ruling, Tory policy supremo George Freeman mocked as “bizarre” the idea that claimants with mental health conditions should be eligible for PIP. Instead, he said, PIP should only be for “the really disabled people who need it.”

The changes will apply to all claims made from 16 March, 2017.

Just a few days ago we had the following feedback by email.

“Just wanted to say thank you so much for your amazing site! I have used your advice over the years for my son’s DLA applications with great success, have now had his PIP awarded for enhanced care, and after mandatory reconsideration, got the award for mobility as well (thanks to your advice about the tribunal rulings on this for people with a mental health issue).”

Unless attempts by the Lib Dems and Labour to overturn the statutory instrument are successful, and that seems a very long shot, we won’t be seeing many more emails like that.

ESA CUTS REGULATIONS FINALLY PUBLISHED
The DWP have finally published regulations removing the work-related activity component of employment and support allowance (ESA) for new claims.

New ESA claimants in the work-related activity group who are aged 25 or over will receive only £73.10 a week. They will not receive the additional £29.05 component that current claimants receive.

Similar regulations apply to universal credit claimants who have limited capability for work.

Claimants who made a claim for ESA before 3 April, or who are deemed to have made a claim before that date, as well as claimants who are still waiting to be transferred from incapacity benefits to ESA, will not be affected.

Claimants who qualify for the support group are not affected by the changes.

TRIBUNAL CHANGES
Sir Ernest Ryder, the Senior President of Tribunals, has confirmed that benefits claimants will be the Guinea pigs for changes to appeal tribunals due to begin in September 2017. From that date social security tribunals will move more and more online.

You can look forward to attempting to upload your personal data to the cloud, getting emails from tribunal clerks or judges which hopefully won’t disappear into your spam folder and to having a hearing – if you get one at all – via Skype or telephone.

We’ll keep you informed, and our appeals guides updated, as we learn more.

HAVE YOU BEEN ASKED TO JOIN THE DWP’S CLAIMANT PANEL?
DWP minister Penny Mordaunt told the Commons last week, in relation to PIP and ESA, that:

“One thing I have done to ensure that we get more timely information about where things are going wrong and where standards are not being maintained is to establish a claimant user rep panel, which will go live in the next few weeks. It will be rolled out on a very large scale across the country.”

We’re very keen to hear from anyone who has been invited to join this, until now, completely unknown body. Please contact us if you have.

HOME MEDICALS SURVEY
Many thanks to everyone who took part in our survey on PIP and ESA home medicals. We had almost 2,000 responses. There were a lot more additional comments than we had expected, so we’re making sure we go through them all before we publish our findings, which we plan to do in a fortnight.

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

Related

Two EDMs have been tabled to stop Tory cuts to disability support, with cross-party endorsement

Tory MP says PIP should only go to ‘really disabled’ people, not those with anxiety ‘taking pills at home’

Government subverts judicial process and abandons promise on mental health ‘parity of esteem’ to strip people of PIP entitlement

Lords table motion to kill new Tory restrictions on PIP

 


 

I don’t make any money from my work. I am disabled because of illness and have a very limited income. But you can help by making a donation to help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you. 

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Department for Work and Pensions Recruits Staff To Reduce ESA And PIP Appeal Success Rates

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Legal Aid funding became unavailable for welfare cases at First Tier tribunal in April 2013, because of the Conservative-led Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). This included Legal Aid for appealing all benefit decisions. Legal Aid at Second Tier tribunal may be available if the case is about a point of law. Political lip service was paid to the legal human rights implications regarding the violation to the right to a fair trial (Article 6 of the ECHR), equal access to justice , and the Act provided that funding may be granted on a case-by-case basis where the failure to provide legal aid would be a breach of the individual’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) or the rights of the individual to the provision of legal services that are enforceable European Union rights.

The Lord Chancellor’s Exceptional Funding Guidance (Non-Inquests) clarified that in determining whether Article 6 ECHR would be breached, it has to be shown that the failure to grant funding would mean that bringing the case would be “practically impossible or lead to an obvious unfairness in proceedings” (para 63). But Ministry of Justice figures showed that from 1 April 2013 to 31 December 2013, of the 1,083 applications determined, funding was granted in only 35 cases (3% of cases). This indicates that the criteria are being applied in an intentionally “overly restrictive manner” and, in the case of welfare benefits, all 11 applications were refused: Exceptional Case Funding Statistics – April 2013 to March 2014

Considering this in a context that includes the introduction of the Mandatory Review, in 2013, and in light of more recent events, I think it’s fair to say that the Conservatives have shown they are determined to take away money that provides essential support from disabled people in particular, one way or another, no matter how much it costs to do so.

Many thanks to Benefits and Work for the following information:

The Department for Work and Pensions has been given £22 million to recruit presenting officers in an effort to reduce the number of claimants winning their personal independence payment (PIP) and employment and support allowance (ESA) appeals.

The Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) “Economic and Fiscal Outlook” document lists the following amount:

“£22 million to DWP to recruit presenting officers across 2016-17 to 2017-18 to support the department in personal independent payments and employment and support allowance tribunals.”

Buzzfeed is reporting that the money will pay for 180 new presenting officers.

The number of PIP appeals is expected to skyrocket over the coming two years as the forced move from DLA to PIP takes place.

In addition, the proportion of successful PIP appeals has increased with every quarter since the benefit was introduced. PIP claimants won in 60% of cases from July to September 2015, up from 56% in the previous quarter.

58% of ESA cases are also won by the claimant.

The DWP is also concerned by the way that tribunal judges have been interpreting the very badly drafted PIP legislation in favour of claimants. In particular, the widening of what counts as aids and appliances for PIP activities by judges is what led to the disastrous attempt to change the point scores for PIP.

In theory, presenting officers should act a s a ‘friend of the court’, helping judges to reach a fair decision. In reality, they will be sent by the DWP to try to discredit claimants and argue as forcibly as possible for the DWP’s interpretation of the law to be accepted.

Attending an appeal tribunal is likely to be an even more gruelling process for claimants over the next few years.

Update

Recovery In The Bin is a mental health social justice group, who are fundraising to help train 16 volunteers to support people with mental health difficulties before and up to ESA/ PIP tribunals. They say:

“Here’s what we’re doing about it

We have asked Welfare trainer Tom Messere, author of the Big Book of Benefits, if he would train 20 volunteers in the basics that they will support people up to these tribunals to give them a bit more of a fighting chance. And whilst we have Tom at our disposal we are also we will be training the volunteers to help fill out the often complex and confusing forms, so that less have to go to tribunal in the first place. The training will be on ESA and PIP, form filling, getting any available medical and informal evidence correctly pitched (what the person needs to ask for), possible calls, key pointers for accompanying, and up to tribunals.

You can join us

We are hoping you can donate to help pay for the training, the venue, transport and accommodation for Tom, and as we are recruiting volunteers, many on low incomes themselves, and as we will need to have representatives in as many places as we can (sorry, we wish we could provide for everywhere) then we are trying to raise as much help for their travel as well.

As such we are looking to raise £2250.”

 

You can support Recovery In The Bin in their aim to provide support for people who need to fight at tribunal for their ESA and PIP award, and donate here

PIP refused for allegedly spending too much time on Facebook

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Thanks to Benefits and Work for this post.

A shocked welfare rights worker, posting on Rightsnet, has revealed how his client had their personal independence payment (PIP) appeal refused because of the amount of time the claimant allegedly spent on Facebook.

Accused of lying
The claimant had appealed to a first-tier tribunal about the decision on their PIP claim and attended an oral hearing with a representative.

Whilst considering their mental health, the claimant was asked by the panel whether they ever used Facebook. The claimant replied that they did so ‘now and again’.

After all the evidence had been taken, the claimant and their representative returned to the waiting room while the tribunal made their deliberations.

However, when they were called back before the panel to hear the decision, the claimant was accused of lying to the tribunal. The medical panel member had the claimant’s Facebook page open on their smartphone and was reading from it, clearly taking the view that the number of posts was too frequent to be regarded as ‘now and again’.

Because the evidence gathering phase of the appeal had ended, the claimant was not allowed to respond, they could only listen to the decision of the tribunal in shocked silence.

Thus they were given no opportunity to challenge the accusation that they were lying or to explain that their partner also used their Facebook page.

Instead, they must now go through the lengthy process of asking for a statement of reasons from the tribunal judge – which can take many weeks or months to be provided – before asking for the decision to be set aside or appealing to the upper tribunal.

Breach of natural justice
There is a very strong probability that the decision will be overturned because it is such a flagrant breach of natural justice: the decision was based on evidence acquired by the panel itself from elsewhere and the claimant was given no opportunity to comment on it.

But, as well as leaving a big question mark over the quality of training for tribunal members, this episode also raises the possibility that claimants’ use of social media may in the future be used as evidence when making decisions on benefits entitlement.

If all the facts are collected and the claimant is given the opportunity to comment on them, this may just be another indignity that claimants are expected to learn to live with. Either that or claimants will need to make sure that their online life is kept as private as possible.

But if decisions are made based on partial evidence and wrong assumptions, as in this case, it will simply lead to more unfairness and injustice for sick and disabled people.

View the topic on Rightsnet