UA-79233833-1

50shadesofsun

News and Opinions about MS, Health & Disability

Benefits for disabled people are in chaos, government admits delays

Introductions of two flagship benefits that affect people with disabilities are both behind schedule. The government department responsible has confirmed that the nationwide roll out is going slower than anticipated.

benefits

Photo: The Independent.

The UK government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has confirmed that Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is far behind schedule. This is the benefit brought in to replace the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which the government thought unfit for purpose.

And the much-vaunted Universal Credit (UC) has just 540,000 recipients, that is 90% behind schedule. UC was designed to replace six other benefits. These are: income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and Income Support.

As far as PIP is concerned, all existing DLA claimants should have received ‘invitations’ to claim PIP by April of this year. Well, that didn’t happen, that target is now history. Now, the aim is that all working age DLA claimants will have received their invitation letters by late 2018. And final assessments and transfers are now expected to be completed around mid-2019.

Benefits massively behind schedule

According to Benefits and Work website, there has been a huge fall in the number of DLA to PIP cases being sent to DWP’s assessment companies Atos and Capita since January of this year. So, maybe the DWP will not be able to keep to that new target either.

Roll out of UC is massively behind schedule.  It is unlikely to be completed before 2022.

Call me a cynic, if you like, but I believe that target is wildly optimistic. Most UC claimants so far have made the simplest claims, what’s going to happen when they make complex ones? Can the DWP cope?

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) published a report, last month, and urged the government to pause the roll out of UC. This was because of major problems it is causing even the most straightforward claimants, including 57% having to borrow money while waiting for their first payment.

The DWP, however, has dismissed the concerns of the CAB and has confirmed that the roll out of full service UC will increase from 5 areas a month to 50 areas a month from October.

Whether that will happen, though, is matter for conjecture. I have my doubts.

* * * * *

Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

11 Comments »

Protect Disability Benefits – No More Cuts

Signing petitions and adding my name to open letters is not really my thing That’s not to say that I never do, just that it has to be a cause with which I agree totally. Now, I find that I have endorsed two – and urge you to do the same.

With the general election getting ever closer, the UK’s MS Society, along with other members of the Disability Benefits Consortium, is inviting you to sign an open letter to party leaders, urging them to protect disability benefits. The letter calls for no more cuts in the next UK Government. 

The consortium is a national coalition of more than 80 charities and organisations. It is standing up for more than 13 million disabled people in the UK, who spend an average of £550 a month on costs related to their disability. That’s #13millionlives.

When the MS Society asked what issues matter at this election, hundreds made contact, one issue that stood out above all others – no more cuts to disability benefits.

The society’s chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “Financial support is vital for people with MS to live independent lives and participate fully in society.

“We have a crucial opportunity to make our voice heard before the election. We’re urging party leaders to protect disability benefits from further cuts in the next Parliament.”

I have added my name, will you join me?

Add your name to the open letter to party leaders. Tell the next government to make no more cuts to disability benefits. 

To add your name, and call for no more cuts, click on this logo: 

 

no more cuts

 

In a similar vein, there is a petition started by Dorothy Jump that has so far gained more than 28,000 signatures – including mine.

It concerns indefinite awards of Disability Living Allowance (DLA). As part of the process of switching from DLA to Personal Independence Payment, the so-called indefinite awards are being reviewed; they are no longer regarded as indefinite.

Dorothy’s petition is to ‘stop the change to indefinite claim on Disability Living Allowance Benefit’.

This, I have also signed. You can join me, by clicking this logo: no more cuts

* * * * *

Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

* * * * *

50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Diagnosed with MS in 2002, he continued to work until mobility problems made him retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective. Besides that, he is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

No Comments »

More flock to accuse disability assessors of lying

orange

Isn’t it amazing how the number of people who choose to speak out about injustices multiply once the first reports are published

Many more disabled people have come forward to describe how the healthcare professionals who assessed them for the UK government’s disability benefits lied in the reports they compiled. The benefits are paid to people with many different disabilities including multiple sclerosis.

Their evidence further confirms the results of a two-month Disability News Service (DNS) investigation, which revealed last week how assessors working for the outsourcing companies Capita and Atos – most of them nurses – had repeatedly lied, ignored written evidence, and dishonestly reported the results of physical examinations.

disability-news-serviceHaving seen the first revelations of the DNS, more personal independence payment (PIP) claimants have come forward with their own evidence of dishonest assessors.

The second DNS report said:

One PIP claimant, who has impairments including ME, fibromyalgia and a heart condition, has described how his disability living allowance (DLA) award of the higher rates for both care and mobility was lost after his PIP assessment left him with zero points (a claimant needs eight for the PIP standard rate and 12 for the enhanced rate).

He remembers his assessor telling him when she arrived at his home and he asked if she knew anything about ME and fibromyalgia: “I’ve dealt with a couple of people with yuppy flu before.”

He said: “When I received the assessor’s report I thought it was for another person as it contained so many omissions, inaccuracies and conjecture. There were also several instances of fabrication.”

Information from his previous applications for incapacity benefit, DLA and employment and support allowance (ESA), and his successful appeal decisions for DLA and ESA at tribunal, had been omitted from her report.

David told DNS: “The report states I carried out tiptoe and ‘balancing on each foot’ tests and had no problems walking. I did not walk a step and did not carry out the tests described.

“The report states that I turned around in my chair and picked up a bottle of medicine from the surface behind me – the surface behind me was an oven hob and all my medication was on the table in front of the assessor.”

When he described how his medication had sent him to sleep in his back yard, the assessor claimed that he said instead: “I wonder [sic]round the fields outside my house,” while being able to open a ring-pull can was interpreted as “able to prepare a meal”.

He is appealing the decision, and is complaining about his assessor to the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

David said: “Since receiving the report, the consequences of dealing with the complaints procedure and making another tribunal appeal have been a noticeable deterioration in my health and have put a strain on both my wife’s and my own mental health (loss of peace of mind, anxiety, knocks to self-confidence and a feeling of being discriminated against because of the nature of my disability).”

Many other claimants came forward and told similar stories.

A DWP spokeswoman told the DNS:

“We expect the highest standards from the contractors who carry out PIP assessments.

“We do not accept it to be the case that there is dishonesty amongst them.

“As we said, we are committed to making sure the PIP assessment process works fairly and effectively, which is why we welcome independent reviews such as the ones led by Paul Gray, the second of which is expected in April 2017.

“Anyone not happy with their benefit decision can ask for it to be looked at again, and then appeal to an independent tribunal.

“There is also a comprehensive complaints procedure in place for claimants who are not happy with the service they have received from providers.”

So many tales of wrongdoing, yet the government department does not accept there is dishonesty among its contractors’ assessors. What is wrong? It is high time that government ministers and civil servants opened their eyes, ears and put whatever brains they have to good use. In fact, the evidence exists, they just need to approach it with open minds. It is time for action not complacency or denial.

strap-new

5 Comments »

People with MS receiving higher rate mobility allowance slashed by almost half

ms-header

Amazing and terrible figures about the differences in payments between two of the UK’s disability benefits have been uncovered by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire Show by using the Freedom of Information Act.

The differences relate to payments made through the Disabled Living Allowance which is being phased out in favour of the newer Personal Independence Payment. Both benefits have two sections, one for care and one for mobility. Both of those are paid at different rates, dependent of the level of the claimant’s disability.

benefits

Photo: The Independent.

And the absolutely terrible news is that the official figures, revealed by the Freedom of Information Act enquiry, reveal that number of recipients of the higher level of the mobility component has been slashed during the change from one benefit to another.

For people with multiple sclerosis, while 93% of DLA claimants got the higher rate of the mobility component, under PIP this has almost halved to 50%.

In the case of those with Parkinson’s, the situation is even worse as the numbers have fallen to less than half from82% down to just 40%.

The most shocking of all is that while 83% of people with rheumatoid arthritis who were DLA claimants got the higher rate of the mobility component, but under PIP this has plummeted by more than two thirds to a miserable 24%.

Benefits and Work website that advises people with disabilities about claiming benefits has been at the fore front of the fight against the transition from the DLA to PIP, point out that the unfairness of the system is worse than just mobility component.

On the website, this week, it says: “Some claimants, such as Wendy who has early onset Alzheimer’s, get an award of PIP and then 18 months later are found to have improved to the extent that they no longer qualify for anything.”

Now, I think that that is a pretty amazing recovery!

Benefits and Work continues: “It was clear from the outset that PIP’s main purpose was to cut costs. It is now equally clear that the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) don’t (sic) care who has to pay the price for those cuts.”

new strap

ian profile50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, who is Managing Editor (columns division) of BioNews Services. BioNews is owner of 50 disease/didorder-specific news and information websites – including MS News Today. Ian has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media. During that career he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

1 Comment »

‘Devastating’ benefit cuts could hit 10% of people with MS – and other disabilities too

One in ten people with multiple sclerosis in the UK could face cuts in government disability benefit payments, according to new figures published by the country’s MS Society.

The figures reveal the severe extent of benefits cuts for people living with MS. And, I would sms society logo new_editeday that it is highly likely that people living with other disabilities could be hit to the same degree.

The society, the UK’s largest MS charity, estimates that more than a thousand people with MS have already had their benefits downgraded since the phased introduction of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) began to replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

The society said: “Of those eligible for DLA, 93% of people with MS received the highest rate of mobility support. But of the 4,349 who have so far been moved over to PIP, only 70% have received the same rate.

“With more than 80% of people on DLA still to be moved onto PIP, we’re concerned that up to 10,000 people with MS could eventually lose access to the highest rate of mobility support.”

michelle mitchell ms societyMS Society chief executive Michelle Mitchell (pictured, left) said: “Changes to disability benefits assessments have already had a devastating impact on the lives of too many people living with MS.

“It’s absurd that those who were once deemed in need of this crucial support now face having it reduced or taken away. We’re deeply concerned by the staggering figures of how many could lose out.”

Tightening of the eligibility criteria under PIP means that more people with MS stand to lose this support. Under PIP, if someone can walk more than 20 metres, even with walking aids, they will no longer qualify for the highest rate of support.

Previously, under DLA, 50 metres was considered to be the rule of thumb for entitlement to the higher rate.

“Changes to the eligibility criteria for mobility support under PIP were introduced with no evidence to show why it was reduced. These changes must be reversed to reflect the barriers people with MS face.

“Having a condition like MS is hard enough. It shouldn’t be made harder by a benefits system that doesn’t make sense,” said Ms Mitchell.

She’s absolutely right, of course, and it is good to see the MS Society making a stand and calling for change. Not that the current government will take any notice.

 

new strap

 

No Comments »

Paralympians fear losing their cars through government benefit cuts

Some of the British athletes, including two with multiple sclerosis, heading to Rio for the Paralympics fear losing their cars supplied through the Motability Scheme after being reassessed as part of the government’s programme of benefit cuts and reforms. This has been revealed by a member of the ParalympicsGB team – according to the Disability Information Service.

The report, by John Pring, continues:

Some Paralympians have spoken previously of the importance of the support they receive from the benefits system, particularly through disability living allowance (DLA), but this is the first confirmation that any of them have lost that support as a result of the government’s austerity programme.

The concerns were raised by wheelchair-racer Ben Rowlings, one of the young track stars of the British team, who is set to compete in the T34 100 metres and 800 metres in Rio, and holds the British record at 100, 200, 400 and 800 metres.

He currently receives the higher rate mobility component of DLA, which has allowed him to use that payment to lease a vehicle through the Motability scheme.Hannah-and-Ben-702x336_edited

But like hundreds of thousands of other disabled people, he has been told he will be reassessed for the government’s new personal independence payment (PIP) – introduced in 2013 in a bid to cut working-age DLA spending by 20% – and that an assessment of his eligibility will take place next year.

The Shropshire resident does much of his training 50 miles away in Coventry, alongside fellow Paralympians Kare Adenegan and Mel Nicholls, and told Disability News Service this week that the PIP reassessment could put his career in jeopardy if it results in him losing his Motability car.

He said: “It is something that’s on my mind because without the access to having my Motability car… I wouldn’t be able to get to any of the training that I do.

“I need my car, I need the support to get me around to places, and training and work, because racing is my job, and without the support of the Motability [car]and the DLA, I wouldn’t be able to get to training.”

The 20-year-old said he knew of fellow Paralympians who have already lost their Motability cars after being reassessed for PIP.

He said: “There have been Paralympians who have been told that they are too able to claim Motability and they have had to fight to get the cars back because they have been taken off them.

“I don’t know too much about it, I haven’t spoken to them about it because that’s a personal matter for them, but it’s something I’m a little bit concerned about.”

He said he was not comfortable providing further details about colleagues, and could not say how many fellow team-members had lost their Motability vehicles, but added: “All I know is anyone with disabilities is getting assessed at the moment, so it’s a possibility for any of us.”

Last month, another ParalympicsGB star wheelchair-racer, Hannah Cockroft (pictured with Rowlings), told DNS she was “scared” that she would lose her independence when she was reassessed for PIP.

Cockroft, who won double gold at London 2012, has also yet to be assessed for PIP, but she said that she was dreading her eventual reassessment, the possibility of having her support cut, and potentially losing the car she leases through the Motability scheme.

Motability has said that it expects 35,000 vehicles will have to be returned by disabled people during 2016 as a result of the PIP reassessment programme.

Of Motability customers reassessed for PIP so far, 44% of them have lost their entitlement to the scheme and have had to hand their vehicles back.

You can read the full Disability News Service story here.

 

new strap

No Comments »

Website committed to helping those needing benefits

The 50shadesofsun website is dedicated to the provision of news, information and, quite often, my opinions about a wide variety of topics associated with multiple sclerosis, health and disability.

MS is highlighted there because it is a disease that I live with every day. I also have epilepsy and a heart condition but it is MS that I find the most debilitating – although others may have different experiences.

What this website does not do is to endorse products and services provided by others UNLESS I have personal experience that it is worthy of me expressing my opinion about it ina positive way.

Let me explain, four years after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I applied for the UK benefit called Disabled Living Allowance (DLA). This is a benefit to help people with disabilities meet higher costs, such as care and mobility; it is not means-tested and can be claimed even if you still work.

The application form, huh more like a book, arrived and I duly completed it, obtained a supporting letter from my doctor, and sent it in the mail.

Naturally, nothing happens straight away but some weeks later the usual brown envelope arrived. Nothing awarded to care and nothing for mobility. Turned down flat. I just ignored it and got on with life without appealing the decision.

benefits and workSome months later, however, I found what turned out to be the most amazing website. It specializes in helping those of us in the UK who need help. It assists us to get the help we really deserve through great guides and advice.

I joined as a claimant member and obtained its unbelievably comprehensive guide on completing the DLA application form. Following every piece of advice, the form was soon completed and in the mail- Another wait of a few weeks followed before, once again the grown envelope arrived saying I had been awarded both care and mobility elements at the highest rates.

Yes, from claim refused to being granted in full in just a few months.

Since then, this campaigning website has achieved so much more for so many people that I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending www.benefitsandwork.co.uk.

Try it, it could help change your life.

 

Disclaimer: I have NO connection with Benefits and Work, except as a more than satisfied ‘customer’. This recommendation has not been sought or requested and is given without payment of any kind.

 

 

MSNT-strapline-copy-2

 

 

 

No Comments »

Disability benefit: It seems even honesty doesn’t pay

Photo: The Independent

Photo: The Independent

A paraplegic woman who got a job for eight hours a week, which is allowed under UK welfare benefit rules, has had her Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) stopped, despite having got permission of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) – according to The Independent newspaper.

It seems to be another example of bureaucratic inefficiency from the ministry. It makes me wonder if they set out to recruit staff with no requirement for common sense. And it proves that, while dishonesty is obviously wrong, honesty doesn’t pay either when dealing with government departments.

The report, by Sadi Levy Gale, explained that the woman had been penalised by the DWP after resigning from a part-time job that she had sought herself but was unable to continue due to ill health. She had her benefits stopped after she gave up working eight hours a week for a consultancy agency.

It continued:

The DWP allows disabled people to receive sickness benefits if they are employed fewer than 16 hours a week and earn less than £115.50 for it.

Speaking to the Guardian under the pseudonym Sarah Jones, she said she received written permission from the DWP to start work.

But by March, Ms Jones told the DWP she had to resign because the job was taking a toll on her health.

A month later, the DWP fraud department accused her of working without permission.

Ms Jones was asked to fill in a “permitted work” form – a PW1 – and send the DWP her bank statements and pay slips if she wanted to keep her Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

But when Ms Jones sent the paperwork she received a letter from the department stating her benefits would be stopped because she had not “complied” by sending in all requested information. Ms Jones had lost her January payslip so had not been able to provide it.

After finding the payslip and making it available, the DWP then told Ms Jones her benefits had been discontinued because she had earned too much to qualify for ESA in January.

Ms Jones told the Guardian her boss had paid her Christmas pay in January rather than December, explaining the inflated payment.

“A quick call to my employer or myself would have clarified this,” she said. “But no: they just stopped my benefit.”

Ms Jones said she has been without ESA for four weeks while the DWP decide whether she can claim benefits.

“I’m powerless. I did everything by the book. I was totally honest and upfront… but because I’m disabled and poor, no one wants to listen,” she said in the interview.

When contacted, a DWP spokesperson said: “People claiming ESA are able to undertake some paid work without it impacting on their benefit entitlement. If further details of this case can be provided we will investigate.”

Now, I feel confident in predicting that the woman’s benefits will be reinstated by the ministry in the light of ‘further details’ or ‘new evidence’ that it receives. Will it ever admit it made a mistake? I would not suggest that you hold your breath waiting for that – or for an apology.

 

 

MSNT-strapline-copy

 

 

 

 

No Comments »

DWP documents allegedly destroyed

benefitsandwork logodwp logo a

Unbelievable. In the face of allegations that an undertaking given to a coroner in 2014 has never been followed-up with any action, the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions is unable to provide proof that it did.

The undertaking was given to the coroner in the Michael O’Sullivan inquest; one of the 49 peer-reviewed claimant deaths. In it, the DWP undertook to ‘issue a reminder to staff about the guidance related to suicidal ideation that has been described in this report.’ This was a reference to the six-point plan1.

And why can’t the DWP produce evidence that it did so? Well, according to the ministry, its policy is to destroy memos after one year. That means, it says, that no records exist of the reminder it claims it issued.

Is it me? Or does anyone else find it strange, in these days of electronic communication, that not one trace of it still exists. In the USA, former secretary of State Hillary Clinton deleted tens of thousands of emails on her personal server. Deleted but not gone forever as the FBI recovered them.

Even if the DWP memos have gone forever from the ministry itself, does not one member of staff to whom it was allegedly sent not still have a copy?

I have never known any organisation not to keep records longer than a year. To me, such a notion is just ridiculous.

As evidence that they do remind assessors about the six-point plan, the DWP has provided this extract from a memo sent out 18 months after their pledge to the coroner:

“The current filework guidelines are available in the knowledge library. Current version is 10 and it states: “Where there is evidence of a previous suicide attempt, suicidal ideation or self-harm expressed in the ESA50/ESA50A, the HCP [healthcare professional] must request FME [further medical evidence].”

Is that a good enough response? NO. Does that prove the undertaking given to the coroner was ever followed by the promised action? NO, it does not even mention the six-point plan.

steve donnison_editedBenefits and Work Publishing Ltd (www.benefitsandwork.com) has been leading the fight to get answers as Director and welfare rights campaigner Steve Donnison (pictured) explained: “We have highlighted the link between some of the 49 peer-reviewed claimant deaths and the DWP’s failure to follow its own six-point plan for claimants at risk of suicide.

“We are concerned that the DWP may not have actually carried through on that promise and that some of the 49 deaths might have been prevented if they had. We have repeatedly asked the DWP via the Freedom of Information Act for proof that they issued a reminder.

“The DWP seems to believe that when it comes to claimants losing their lives, it can get away with anything. Establishing the truth is the first step in proving that it can’t – and we aren’t giving up now,” he said.

 

1 Regrettably, I have been unsuccessful in my attempts to discover that the ‘six-point plan’ actually says. If you know, genuinely, I’d be delighted to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

No Comments »

Disability: There is no 20-metre rule, says minister

Baroness Altmann

Baroness Altmann

Most readers of my blog will know that I have a disability, namely multiple sclerosis, that causes significant mobility issues. This means that I need to use a wheelchair to move more than 15 metres; and that’s on a good day. As such I receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

For everyone who lives in the United States, or anywhere else outside the UK, I need to explain that everyone who receives the UK’s DLA mobility component at the highest rate has been able to use it to have a Motability car instead. This is their own choice of car from the list of vehicles available from the Motability organisation. The car is provided absolutely new and complete with insurance, servicing, tyres, windscreen – in fact, everything except fuel.

With DLA now being replaced by Personal Independence Payment (PIP), the same arrangements remain in place. Well, the same except that the requirements to qualify for the highest rate mobility payment have been changed. It is now more difficult to obtain the highest level.

According to the government’s own figures, this will lead to some than 428,000 people having to return their Motability cars as they are reassessed for PIP and not given the top rate of mobility component.

The key change to the eligibility to that mobility payment is that while the DLA assessment said that anyone who was unable to walk 50 metres was entitled to the highest rate, under PIP that distance is now reduced to just 20 metres.

Disability Rights UK (DRUK) and the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC), among other organisations, have criticised the new 20 metre restriction as being arbitrary and unfair, saying the 50 metre assessment was a well-established and research-based measure of significant mobility impairment.

Confusion still reigns on this contentious point, however.

Despite contrary experiences of many DLA recipients when they have been reassessed for PIP, Baroness Altmann, minister of state for the department for work and pensions, speaking in the House of Lords on May 4, said: “I would like to clarify what appears to be a widespread misconception regarding the differences between the mobility assessment in PIP and the mobility assessment in DLA.

“Many noble Lords have spoken of a ‘20-metre rule’, but there is no such rule. Some people believe that we have changed the assessment of a distance a claimant is able to walk from 50 metres to 20 metres. This is not the case. The higher rate of DLA was always intended to be for claimants who were unable, or virtually unable, to walk. This is still the case in PIP, but we have gone further.

“Under PIP, if a claimant cannot walk up to 20 metres safely, reliably, repeatedly and in a timely manner, they are guaranteed to receive the enhanced rate of the mobility component. If a claimant cannot walk up to 50 metres safely, reliably, repeatedly and in a timely manner, then they are guaranteed to receive the enhanced rate of the mobility component.”

As a result of that debate, officials from the DWP are to meet with representatives of both DRUK and DBC, It will be interesting to see the results of those discussions.

 

 

 

16 Comments »