UNIVERSAL CREDIT TRAINING
Although we don’t cover universal credit on the site, we’ve had a number of request for universal credit training, so we’re running our first course in Bristol on 20 June, to be followed by more in the Autumn.
Our Step By Step PIP Guide Is Here, Big Discount For New Members
This month sees the introduction of many of the reforms that have caused so much anxiety to disabled claimants and carers. Or, it does up to a point.
In fact, some changes began some time ago and some will not affect most claimants for some considerable time yet.
And some may never happen at all, as we explain below.
PIP STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE AVAILABLE NOW
In the meantime, however, Benefits and Work has published its first step-by-step guide to claiming personal independence payment (PIP), which began pilots in the north of England yesterday and goes national in June for new claims. The 70 page guide takes you through the whole complex process of making a claim, from the initial telephone call, through completing the ‘How your disability affects you’ form and on to your face-to-face assessment.
Clearly there’s still a lot we don’t know about PIP procedures, especially when it comes to face-to-face medical assessments. These will be carried out by two different companies, Atos and Capita, with very different views on issues like recording medicals and carrying out home visits. Rest assured we’ll be updating the guide regularly as we learn more.
But if you’re looking for a painstakingly researched, step-by-step guide to help you or your clients through the complex, three-stage PIP claims process, you won’t find anything comparable either online or offline.
We explain the law which stands behind the questions in the claim form. And we demonstrate, with examples, how to give highly detailed, accurate and legally relevant evidence, box-by-box through the whole ‘How your disability affects you’ claim form.
So, if you’re an individual claimant, charity or advice agency needing detailed information about PIP, take advantage of our special, time- limited 20% discount offer below.
If you’re a member already, you can download the PIP guide from the top of the members DLA page (members only)
20% OFF ANNUAL SUBSCRIPTION FOR CLAIMANTS AND FOR PROFESSIONALS
- ENDS MIDNIGHT THURSDAY
If you’re not already a member, join the Benefits and Work community (open access) before midnight on Thursday and you can get 20% off the cost of your annual subscription. Just type the following code into the coupon box when you pay:
Claimants and carers get an annual subscription for £15.56, down from £19.45.
Professionals get an annual subscription for £77.60, down from £97.00. Professionals can pay online or email a completed licence agreement within the deadline, quoting the coupon code in their email.
In spite of all the hype, the reality is that universal credit (UC) has not really begun at all. There is a pilot in a single jobcentre in Tameside with such a restricted group of potential claimants – no-one receiving any other benefits including housing benefit or tax credits, no-one earning more than £330 a month, no-one who is unfit for work, for example - that a couple of people with laptops and spreadsheet software will probably be able to run the entire pilot.
Which is just as well because the multi-million pound UC software is nowhere near ready and abuilding contractor with zero knowledge of benefits (external link) has now been drafted in to run the entire project.
So, universal credit has not really begun at all. And, at the moment, no-one can say with certainty if the grandiose vision of IDS will ever become a reality. Or whether we’ll just be left with a sad and stunted little benefit, left in place solely to save political face.
LEGAL AID CUTS
Legal aid cuts, which see welfare benefits funding virtually entirely removed, have most definitely begun this month.
But the reality is that agencies with staff funded under legal aid are likely to have stopped taking on new cases some months ago. So, to some extent, the legal aid cuts to welfare benefits advice began back in December or January. Where the staff who are being made redundant will now be missed, however, is in the specialist support they gave to volunteers in citizens advice bureaux and similar agencies.
As a result of the cuts, there are already warnings of advice deserts (external link) opening up in the north of England, where PIP and UC are being piloted, as well as the south-west, Wales and the Midlands.
PERSONAL INDEPENDENCE PAYMENT
Pip began yesterday, it’s true.
But again it’s a small pilot which will affect only claimants in parts of the north east and north west of England. Not that this makes it any less significant to those in the pilot areas, but the rest of the country will be spared until June, when PIP is rolled out for new claims and October before it affects claimants renewing a fixed-term award due to end from the end of February 2014.
For claimants with indefinite awards, it will be 2015 at the earliest before PIP begins to affect them - there’s a full PIP roll-out timetable here (open access).
And, predictably, PIP has not got off to a flying start. Some callers to the PIP claims line have been asked to call back later because the computers are down. When we spoke to the call centre today they would only confirm that “We have had some technical issues yesterday and today, but we are still taking claims.”
Meanwhile a legal challenge to PIP has been launched, not by a well-funded campaigning group or charity, but by a small and completely unfunded band of claimants. Their challenge is based on the fact that the DWP failed entirely to consult about changing the walking distance for enhanced PIP mobility to just 20 metres.
You can read more about this brave challenge on the website of Leigh Day solicitors (external link)
The bedroom tax has most definitely begun and it will hit disabled people especially hard. The National Housing Federation estimate that 230,000 DLA claimants will lose an average of £728 per year in housing benefit as a result of the new tax.
Many disabled people will also face being forced to pay council tax, plus the possibility of their DLA being reduced or lost altogether when they are transferred to PIP. In fact, according to research by Scope and Demos, some disabled claimants will be subject to at least six different cuts (members only) and will have lost up to £23,000 in income by 2018.
However, once again it is courageous claimants, this time with the support of the entirely unfunded We Are Spartacus (external link) group of disabled campaigners, who are taking the DWP to court. In spite of government attempts to have their case thrown out, the campaigners have been granted an urgent judicial review of the bedroom tax, which they say breaches the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act.
Members can read more and comment here.
Or you can visit the website of Leigh Day solicitors (external link) who are representing the bedroom tax campaigners as well as the PIP campaigners.
CHARITIES BECOME ‘PART OF THE PROBLEM’
Some charities, far from organising legal challenges to benefits cuts, have been joining up to a DWP organised group – the Disability Action Alliance (DAA) – headed by Disability Rights UK. The DAA claims that it is “committed to making a difference to the lives of disabled people by designing and delivering innovative changes”.
There’s no doubt that the DWP’s slashing of benefits and its vicious anti-claimant propaganda campaigns are making a huge difference to the lives of disabled people, but it’s surprising that any charity would want to be associated with the people behind them.
So far, only the TUC ‘s Disabled People’s Committee has openly refused to join DAA (members only) saying that it will not be “conned into becoming part of the problem rather than part of the solution”.
Meanwhile, DAA claims on its website to now have more than 100 member organisations - but refuses to reveal who any of them are.
The forum has, understandably, been quiet over Easter. But we still have a small collection of good news posts to share with you.
From WRAG to support group on reconsideration
“can’t thank you enough”
“I can’t thank you enough, I had my letter today to say I’ve been placed in the support group.”
Support group without medical
“I can’t thank B&W enough - so relieved I can’t express”
Support group on renewal for 3 years
“I just wanted to say a big thank you to B&W for all your help and guides.”
WRAG to support group on appeal
“Your site kept me sane and hopeful through all this”
Back on higher rate mobility, lower rate care DLA
“Thanks to everyone and this site”
IB to WRAG without a medical
“Thanks to everyone for all the valuable guides and advice on this site.”
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