Benefits reform: Media coverage BBC and Times

Benefits reform: Media coverage BBC and Times

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p5foE-2Vg

Note: access to much of the content of the Times and Sunday Times online now requires a subscription.  Complementary access to subscription-only content is extended to those regsistered for the prepaid voucher scheme for print editions of the Times and Sunday Times who will need to register their Customer Priority Number on the site.

Times  |  Rosemary Bennett, Alice Fishburn  |  2 July 2010

Sick-note reforms ‘are in danger of collapse’

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article2585543.ece

The academic behind a new benefits system designed to end Britain’s sick-note culture warns today of an impending crisis if radical changes are not made.

He says that ministers should postpone plans to move 2.5 million incapacity benefit claimants on to the new employment and support allowance (ESA) in October until serious errors have been rectified.

“To go ahead with these problems is not just ridiculous. It is, in fact, scary,” said Paul Gregg, Professor of Economics at the University of Bristol.

All new claimants have had to apply for ESA, which includes a tough medical test, since October 2008. But thousands of vulnerable people with terminal cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and clinical depression have had their applications rejected and told to look for work…

Full article here

Times  |  2 July 2010

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article2585558.ece

Emma Webb

Emma Webb, 36, has worked all her life but in 2008 she became ill and her job in retail became a struggle.

She initially thought it was a bad back, caused by years of standing for long periods. Then she began to slur her words and a few months later could barely walk. Her doctor diagnosed ME…

Full article here

BBC News  |  28 June 2010

‘I’m worried about benefit cuts’, says ME sufferer

Andy Micklethwaite, 58, from Derbyshire, has been on incapacity benefit for about three years, but started suffering with ME in 1984.

He had worked for about 10 years in sales support for a firms supplying computer systems before being made redundant.

After that he said he had tried various jobs as his symptoms got worse – including setting up his own business, teaching people introductory computer courses at a local college and invigilating exams before the ME meant he had to stop working…

Read full article here

BBC News  |  Politics  |  28 June 2010

Q&A: Incapacity benefits explained

Ministers looking to make savings have set their sights on the bill for incapacity benefit – but how does the system work at present?

Some 2.6m people claim incapacity benefit, or its successor, the employment and support allowance, at an annual cost of about £12.5bn.

Chancellor George Osborne says that this amount could be cut, while protecting “those with genuine needs”.

So what are the basics?

What are the benefits…

Read full article

BBC News |  Business  |  22 June 2010

Budget: Radical shake-up of benefits to cut spending

The Budget means most claimants will lose money – but some are winners A raft of benefits have been cut or curbed as part of a radical shake up of the welfare system.

These changes are designed to save £11bn per year by the end of the parliamentary term.

That adds up to a quarter of the annual target of £40bn of spending cuts and tax rises by 2014-15…

Read full article here

Summary ME Association Board of Trustees meetings 14, 15 June 2010

Summary of ME Association Board of Trustees meetings 14 and 15 June 2010

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p5foE-2Ua

ME Association  |  17 June 2010

This is a summary of key points to emerge from two meetings of The ME Association Board of Trustees.

These meetings took place at our Head Office in Buckingham on Monday afternoon, June 14th and on Tuesday morning, June 15th 2010.

This is a summary of the Board meetings – not the official minutes.

The order of subjects below is not necessarily in the order that they were discussed.

MEA website: http://www.meassociation.org.uk

PRESENT

Trustees:

Ewan Dale (ED) – Honorary Treasurer
Mark Douglas (MD)
Neil Riley (NR) – Chairman
Charles Shepherd (CS) – Honorary Medical Adviser
Barbara Stafford (BS) – Vice Chairman

MEA Officials:

Gill Briody (GB) – Company Secretary
Tony Britton (TB) – Publicity Manager

Apologies:

Rick Osman (RO)
Janet Thomas (JT)

FINANCES, ADMINISTRATION, PREMISES AND STAFF

ED updated trustees on the current financial situation. This was followed by a discussion on the monthly management accounts for the period up to the end of April 2010. There has been a drop in some areas of income during the past few months when compared to the same period in 2009 – unrestricted donations and bank interest in particular. As a result, general expenditure is currently running slightly ahead of unrestricted income.

However, income from fundraising has shown a significant and welcome increase over the same period in 2009 and in order to cope with the increased demand on fundraising support services it was decided to create a new part-time post to deal with fundraising administration with immediate effect. Details about this new post will be placed on the MEA website when trustees have agreed the job description.

There has also been a significant increase over the past twelve months in the ring fenced funding held by the Ramsay Research Fund for research purposes.

Trustees once again reviewed the current ‘best buys’ for interest-gaining options in relation to money kept in the business and Ramsay Research Fund deposit accounts.

The new computer equipment for Head Office staff is now fully installed and working in a satisfactory manner. GB reported that a few minor problems have still to be resolved.

Trustees discussed some possible changes to The MEA Memorandum and Articles of Association to take account of expected new charity legislation.

Trustees passed on best wishes to Lucy Kingham, at Head Office, who will be taking maternity leave in October.

FORWARD PLANNING

Trustees held a further discussion on the future growth of the MEA. This work includes looking at areas of priority for expansion of the services we already provide and new services that we would like to provide if/when the financial situation allows us to do so. Continue reading

Benefits and Work: Tables turned – your chance to shop the DWP

Benefits and Work: Tables turned – your chance to shop the DWP

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p5foE-2TV

From Steve Donnison Benefits and Work

15 June 2010

Dear Subscriber,

Firstly an apology for the problems you may have had opening links in the last two newsletters – and a further apology in case it happens again this time. The links do all work, but something in the depths of the server stops working when many thousands of people visit at once.

We hope we’ve found the fault, but we have no way of knowing until the newsletter actually goes out. So, if the links don’t work right now, please do accept our apologies and call back later when the server has recovered itself.

In this newsletter we’re asking you to make sure the blame for much of the increase in the harassment of disabled people is placed where it belongs – at the door of the DWP and its ministers, with their constant campaign of vilification against sick and disabled claimants.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has begun an investigation into whether public bodies are fulfilling their legal obligations to prevent disabled people from being harassed. If you think the DWP are failing in this duty – and actually making things much worse – email EHRC and tell them so, your details will not be made public. Email:

disabilityharassmentfi@equalityhumanrights.com

And please, let other people know about this enquiry – the more people who contribute the harder it will be for the EHRC to ignore the DWP’s role in hate crimes. If you do contact EHRC, please consider posting something on our free blog to encourage others. There’s also more information and links on the same blog page at Tables turned – your chance to shop DWP and BBC.

Staying with the DWP, we have a mole’s eye view of the misery that employment and support allowance (ESA) is causing inside Jobcentre Plus and a leaked email that reveals that the DWP is in a panic because of the large numbers of GPs who are wilfully or incompetently failing to complete the new fit notes correctly. There is a question mark hanging over the legality of benefits decisions as a result and it’s a story that, until now, has been kept from the press and the public: Leaked email shows DWP fit notes panic (This article is members only)

We also have the first coalition statement on when current incapacity claimants are to be transferred to ESA: Transfer from IB to ESA: coalition timetable latest (This article is members only)

Plus a growing question mark over those four page DLA renewal forms that we’ve been warning members about. Why is it in the public interest for claimants to be kept in the dark about their future use? Read more in DLA short form – what are they hiding?

We also have a full list of DWP 0800 numbers that are free to call from most mobiles. Many thanks to the member who sent us the list, which they received in response to a Freedom of Information Act request: Full list of free to mobile DWP 0800 numbers

Finally, we’ve had lots of good news posts in the forum lately, below are links to some of them:

Success with DLA first time, A Big Thank You !!

ESA Success….YESSSS!

Another heartfelt THANKS to B&W

DLA tribunal success

Good News

Decision changed – appeal cancelled

ESA appeal

I do hope you find these posts cheering – if the server lets you open the links, that is. If it doesn’t please do call again later, we really are trying to get it permanently sorted.

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

(c) 2010 Steve Donnison. Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd. Company registration No. 5962666

You are welcome to reproduce this newsletter on your website or blog, provided you do so in full.

BBC News: “New benefit system labelled unfit”

BBC News: “New benefit system labelled unfit”; Benefits and Work: Daily Mail and Carer Watch

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p5foE-2Tw

The ME Association reported on 28 May:

There was a 18-minute item about the Coalition Government’s Welfare Reforms programme on the BBC2 ‘Newsnight’ programme last night (27 May 2010) – a film package with Peter Marshall reporting from Coventry and studio discussion chaired by Gavin Esler. The government spokesman who faced three benefits claimants in the studio was Steve Webb (Lib Dem), the new Minister for Pensions.

To watch this item on BBCi Player, click on the following link and then move the cursor on the time bar to 13:58.

Newsnight programme (27 May 2010)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006mk25

BBC iPlayer

BBC Scotland Investigates – 2010 – 6. Who’s Cheating Who?

Mark Daly investigates new government plans to end the UK’s sicknote culture by getting a million people off benefits and back to work. We reveal how, in Britain’s modern welfare state, private companies are paid billions to carry out medical assessments on claimants to determine if they are fit for work, and ask if they are putting profits before welfare. The film hears claims that patients across Scotland with severe mental illness and cancer are being denied benefits and told they must find a job.

Broadcast on:

BBC One, 10:45pm Wednesday 26th May 2010

Duration: 30 minutes
Available until: 11:14pm Wednesday 2nd June 2010
Categories: News, Scotland

BBC News: “New benefit system labelled unfit”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/10159717.stm

A new benefits system promising to end the UK’s sicknote culture has been condemned as unfit for purpose.

Employment Support Allowance (ESA) was introduced 18 months ago to replace incapacity benefit.

But its new medical assessment has led to allegations by Citizens Advice Scotland that it targets the most vulnerable.

However, the Department for Work and Pensions believes ESA is the best way to ensure people get back to work.

A BBC Scotland investigation found that under ESA, more than two thirds of claimants are being found fit to work, almost 20% more than the government had planned.

Full article on BBC Scotland here

From Steve Donnison Benefits and Work

Atos medicals on TV [26 may] plus more secret recording

26 May 2010

Dear Subscriber,

In this issue we have what we regard as an absolutely brilliant letter by a member who decided that he was going to record his medical secretly, but informed Atos in writing in advance that he was going to do so. It worked for him and you may well want to give it a try yourself: Recording medicals – excellent strategy from a member (This article is members only)

Atos won’t be happy about this and they probably aren’t very pleased about featuring in a TV programme tonight, Wednesday 26th May. Who’s Cheating Who?, which questions whether employment and support allowance is fit for purpose and whether profits are being put before welfare, is on at 10.45pm on BBC1 Scotland. (Even if you don’t live in Scotland, you should be able to watch if you have freeview, Sky or cable TV). We know that many Benefits and Work members provided information to the makers of this programme and we’d be very interested to have your comments after you’ve watched. More details and your opportunity to comment: Who’s Cheating Who?

Another group of people who aren’t feeling too happy at the moment are MP’s There’s outrage at Westminster over the impression that Ipsa, the new expenses authority, is treating our honourable members as if they were – in the words of one ex-minister ‘benefits claimants’: Shed real tears as you read about the tribulations of our honourable members: Outrage as MPs treated like claimants

Sadly, there are clouds on the horizon for claimants too, as the Queen’s Speech includes a welfare reform bill intended to simplify the benefits system and, somewhat miraculously, move 5 million claimants currently ‘languishing’ on benefits into work as a result: Major changes to benefits ahead

There’s more cheering news from north of the border, though. A member of the Scottish parliament has tabled a motion asking for an urgent review of employment and support allowance on the grounds that it’s unit for purpose. Whilst the motion won’t have any practical effect, we think that supporting an elected representative anywhere in the UK who has the courage to speak out in favour of sick and disabled claimants is worthwhile. Find out more and send Hugh O’Donnell a message of support here: Scottish motion against ESA

TRIBUNAL LOVE
Finally, there’s no shortage of sad, angry and desperate tales in the forum at the moment, but we’ve managed to find a few happy ones to keep the mostly positive tone of this newsletter going right through to the end.

Appeal Success at loooooong last

DLA APPEAL WON!!!

ESA Success of sorts!

Tribunal-I Love You!

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

(c) 2010 Steve Donnison. You are welcome to reproduce this newsletter on your website or blog, provided you do so in full.

Daily Mail  |  26 May 2010

New disability benefit system is flawed and could cost taxpayer MORE, says one of its architects

One of the architects of a new benefit system for disabled people urged the Government to delay rolling it out today after evidence that medical tests are wrongly finding thousands of people fit for work…

Full article here

Carer Watch  |  30 April 2010

A campaign group for carers across the UK run by independent, unpaid carers

Silence from Leaders re Carers Benefits is deafening

We thought this may be of interest to you ( and your members). As much as social care has been given such a high profile, we feel once again family carers have been overlooked.Comments can be added to the blog post.

http://carerwatch.wordpress.com/

Benefits and Work: Huge new ESA guide plus Your future under the coalition

Benefits and Work: Huge new ESA guide plus Your future under the coalition

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p5foE-2Tq

From Steve Donnison Benefits and Work

14 May 2010

Dear Subscriber,

This is the first ever Benefits and Work newsletter written without a Labour government in power.

In our blog we take a first look at the new secretary of state for work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith: What future for claimants under coalition rule?

Unlike most of his predecessors in the job, IDS already knows a lot about benefits and has some radical ideas about how the system should be changed – unfortunately, these include the abolition of DLA. Whether he manages to persuade the coalition that his personal preferences should become government policy remains to be seen.

We’ve also taken a look at the first joint statement on benefits by the Tories and LibDems which concentrates, unsurprisingly, on getting claimants into paid employment: Coalition publishes first benefits statement

HUGE NEW ESA GUIDE
In the members area, we’ve published a major new employment and support allowance resource to add to the detailed, step-by-step guides already available on the site: Major new ESA resource to download

The 100+ page guide has been provided by Mark Perlic, freelance trainer and Senior Welfare Rights Officer at Wolverhampton City Council’s Welfare Rights Service. Members will be aware of the excellent guide to DLA caselaw which Mark provided us with back in February of this year.

The new guide is an extremely comprehensive training pack Mark has been using for ESA training days. It covers many of the areas that we don’t, such as:

national insurance contribution conditions;
calculating ESA awards;
ESA in youth;
ESA and other benefits;
case law relating to substantial risk

We’ve also updated all our own ESA guides and published the most recent copy of the ESA Handbook produced by the DWP. We’re leaving the old version on the site so that people can compare the two. If you spot any material changes please email us, preferably with page references.

DECISION MAKERS EXCHANGES
As well as the ESA Handbook, we’ve also obtained copies of the confidential monthly DLA Decision Makers Exchanges from July to December 2009: Confidential decision makers DLA documents published

The editions cover a wide range of issues, including:

whether claiming carers allowance for another person may sometimes be incompatible with a person’s claim for DLA or AA;

why it is never appropriate for decision makers to refer to a “simple” main meal when considering the lower rate of the care component of DLA.

THE FUTURE
At the moment we have many unanswered questions about what life for claimants will be like under the coalition.

Will further compulsion be aimed at ESA claimants as well as JSA claimants?

Will the harsher ESA test approved by Yvette Cooper also get the go-ahead from her successor?

Will the first steps towards scrapping the entire benefits system and starting afresh be taken, as Iain Duncan Smith hopes?

Whatever the answers, you can count on discovering the truth, rather than spin, here at Benefits and Work.

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

(c) 2010 Steve Donnison. You are welcome to reproduce this newsletter on your website or blog, provided you do so in full.

and from 17 May:

Apologies – we are now back online

17 May 2010

Dear Subscriber,

Unfortunately, when we sent the newsletter out on Friday, the site crashed beneath the weight of people all trying to download our new employment and support allowance guide at once.

We finally got the site up and running only to have it crash again for different reasons.

However, we think – hope – we’ve fixed it now. And because we received so many emails from people saying they couldn’t get any of the links to work, we decided the best solution was to reissue Friday’s newsletter, which you’ll find below.

For those of you who did, finally, manage to get the links in the last newsletter to function, we’ve got three new items for you to read.

The first is the news that a doctors union has warned GPs that they should not try to prevent patients from recording consultations, if they so wish: GPs can’t stop patients recording consultations

The second is the claim that the Youreable forum, which closed before Christmas, is set to reopen: Youreable to rise from the dead

And, finally, we have some cheery feedback from members, like this:

“I have subscribed to Benefits and work for the last 18 months and have just been awarded higher rate mobility and higher rate care. This is beyond my wildest dreams and is all down to the information you provide on your website. It is the best money that I have ever spent.”

Beyond my wildest dreams

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

MEA: Summary of APPG on ME meeting 10 March 2010

ME Association: Summary of the All Party Parliamentary Group on ME (APPG on ME) meeting on 10 March 2010

Note: This is a personal summary prepared by Dr Charles Shepherd on behalf of the ME Association and not the official Minutes which will be published later.

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p5foE-2Qr

MEA SUMMARY

This is a brief personal summary of the last meeting of the current APPG on ME before the general election takes place, almost certainly on 6th May.

The meeting was a friendly and harmonious occasion, which terminated in a vote of thanks to Dr Des Turner (who is retiring from parliament) and all the parliamentarians who have been involved with the current APPG.

After the election a new APPG on ME will have to be formed – provided there are sufficient parliamentarians willing to do so.

A more detailed account of this meeting will appear in the minutes and the transcript, which normally takes a few weeks to prepare, approve and publish.

VENUE

Committee Room 18 at the House of Commons.

The meeting lasted from approximately 1.30pm to 3pm.

ATTENDANCE

Parliamentarians

Dr Desmond Turner MP (Chair)
Countess of Mar

Parliamentary office representatives

Nick Osborne

Secretariat

Sir Peter Spencer (Action for ME)
Tristana Rodriguez (Action for ME)
Dr Charles Shepherd (MEA)

Organisations and individuals

Jane Colby – Tymes Trust
Jill Cooper – Warwickshire Network for ME
Christine Harrison – BRAME
Doris Jones – 25% Group
Bill Kent – reMember
Jill Pigott – Worcestershire ME Support Group
Mary Jane Willows – AYME

Ciaran Farrell
Michelle Goldberg
Augustine Ryan

Apologies to anyone whose name is missing from this list. I will include if you let me know.

AGENDA

There were two main items on the Agenda.

Firstly, a presentation from Vanessa Stanislas, CEO at the Disability Alliance, on issues surrounding disability poverty.

Secondly, publication of the final report which summarises the work and findings of the APPG Inquiry into NHS service provision for people with ME/CFS.

VANESSA STANISLAS: TACKLING DISABILITY POVERTY

VS started off by describing the work of the Disability Alliance. This is an organisation that brings together a wide variety of charities with whom they work collaboratively on issues relating to disability – state benefits and financial issues in particular.

A key part of their work at present is preparing for the general election and the need to highlight to all political parties the important issue of disability poverty.

To take this forward the DA has prepared a ‘Disability Manifesto’ titled Tackling Disability Poverty. Copies of this publication were circulated to all present and it is also available on the DA website at:

http://www.disabilityalliance.org/damanifesto.htm

VS went through some of the key facts and evidence about disability poverty that are referred to in the manifesto:

Disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty as other citizens
29% of disabled children live in poverty in the UK.
A third of disabled adults of working age live in poverty.
50% of disabled adults of working age are not in paid work.
29% of pensioners in households with one or more disabled adults who were not in receipt of disability benefits lived in poverty.
80% of people with mental health problems and learning difficulties are not in employment.
Half of all carers subsidise the cost of the disabled person they support because of inadequate disability benefits.
And with the UK now experiencing a recession there is a real risk that the economic downturn will lead to a reduction in action to tackle poverty in those who are sick or disabled.

VS also referred to a number of very practical issues that disabled people have to face, all of which can have a significant effect on their income levels:

Perverse and complex rules that govern eligibility to DWP benefits – people do not understand the benefit system.
The resulting low take up of benefits that people may be entitled to.
Employer discrimination.

A number of recommendations are being put forward by the DA to help reduce disability poverty with the aim of eliminating disability poverty by 2025. These include:

• Measuring disability poverty as a unique form of poverty.
Excluding disability benefits from ‘income assessments’, or including the extra costs of living that disabled people experience.
Measuring disability should be deconstructed by age group.

Following her presentation there were numerous questions and points. These included:

Fuel poverty and the need to extend the extra heating allowance to sick and disabled people under pension age.

Des Turner said that the parliamentarians were pressing hard on this in relation to the discussions on Social Tariffs in the Energy Bill that is now going through parliament.

NEA link: http://www.nea.org.uk/charity-calls-for-energy-bill-to-address-injustice-of-poor-paying-more-for-fuel

Problems relating to the differences between the medical model of disability (ie how illness disables people) and the social model of disability (ie how the world sees and deals with disabled people regarding the provision of services etc).

Problems with ATOS – the agency that carries out medical examinations and assessments for DWP benefits.

http://www.atoshealthcare.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogsection&id=14&Itemid=288&Itemid=288 

The Countess of Mar pointed out that an ESA review was taking place and this required representation from the ME/CFS charities
Tremendous differences in the knowledge and attitude that is expressed about ME/CFS when cases are brought to tribunals. Des Turner stated that this was an important part of his workload. He supported these concerns about lack of knowledge regarding both the illness and the actual regulations.
The political debate over targeting what money there is in the benefit pot at people most in need (ie means testing more benefits). Or do the problems this could cause mean that there should still be universal benefit provision – regardless of income and capital.
Sick and disabled children.
Social Fund – where grants have now been replaced by loans. This means that people are very reluctant to replace key items that break down.
Is there enough evidence of discrimination and bad practice in the way the system works to force a judicial review?
Disability poverty as it affects carers.

APPG REPORT ON THE INQUIRY INTO NHS SERVICES

The report is now finished. Copies were circulated to all present and a link to an electronic version has been placed on the MEA website.

Open APPG on ME Press Release: March 10 APPG Inquiry Press Release

Open Final Report:

APPG on ME Final Report Inquiry into NHS Service Provision for ME/CFS March 2010

Des Turner stated that the conclusions and recommendations are exactly the same as in the preliminary report that was circulated at the last meeting in December. The text of the final report expands on the justification for them.

Copies of the report, along with an appropriate accompanying letter, will now be circulated to:

Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson
DWP
Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs)
Medical Royal Colleges
Other professional bodies: Royal College of Nursing
etc

Des Turner agreed that a list of PCTs who did and did not reply to the questionnaire should be made available on the APPG website. ( http://www.appgme.org.uk/inquiry/inquiry.html )

Des Turner circulated a letter he had sent to Mike O’Brien MP, Minister of State, Dept of Health, on the need for biomedical research, along with the minister’s reply.

The meeting thanked Nick Osborne for all the work he had done over the past year or so in collecting and analysing the evidence and drafting the various versions of the report.

A short discussion followed. Key points included:

Jill Pigott said training of NHS staff was vital and information about a range of ME/CFS conferences and meetings should be made available to NHS staff via the British Association for ME and CFS (BACME) and on their website.

Christine Harrison referred to the continuing problems in Norfolk in trying to re-establish a consultant led service following the retirement of Dr Terry Mitchell. She pointed out that yet another Working Group had been set up. The local patent representatives had a number of concerns about the report they have received.

Peter Spencer referred to the need to try and get the Select Committee on Health involved with the issue of NHS service provision.

Charles Shepherd pointed out that local political initiatives could help here and referred to the situation in Gloucestershire where the NHS Foundation Trust had just been heavily criticised by the county council’s health overview and scrutiny committee over lack of consultation on a proposal to cut 200 hospital beds in Cheltenham and Gloucester. As a result this proposal is now on hold. BBC link:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/gloucestershire/8557590.stm

Jane Colby referred to children’s services and the need to take note of surveys of what children and young people want – as had been carried out in Essex.

Ciaran Farrell pointed out that is was very difficult for local people and local groups to make any impact on the decision making process at a local level because they often lacked the skills, knowledge and resources to do so.

Jill Pigott asked if there any good LMDTs that could be recommended to PCTs who may be interested in setting up an ME/CFS referral service.

Several people commented on the fact that the lack of direction from central government over local decisions on health issues was not helping people with ME/CFS get the services they need. The Dept of Health had to be more proactive, especially where local providers were not providing an NHS referral service.

The APPG has also issued a press release, which can be found on the MEA website. In it, Des Turner is quoted:

“Our report sets out clearly some long standing problems which are simply not being tackled by organisations that should be doing a much better job of supporting the 250,000 people in the UK with ME/CFS. We are particularly concerned by the failure of many Primary Care Trusts to fund any services for ME/CFS patients especially children and the most severely affected. We are also deeply concerned by the by the poor knowledge that many doctors have about this illness and by the failure of the DWP and its contractor ATOS to understand its adverse impact on many patients’ ability to undertake regular work.”

Press Release: March 10 APPG Inquiry Press Release

APPG LEGACY PAPER 

The final version of the APPG Legacy Paper 26.02.10 was presented and agreed. This is a document that will pass to the next APPG. The paper sets out actions and initiates that have been taken by the current APPG along with issues that remain to be addressed by the new APPG.

A few minor points were raised.

A copy of this document can be found on the MEA website.  (Here on ME agenda: APPG Legacy Paper 26.02.10 )

AOB:

STATEMENT FROM WEST MIDLANDS GROUP ME CONSORTIUM

With the time at just after 3pm, and ushers trying to clear the room for the next MPs meeting, there was no time for detailed discussion under AOB. Jill Piggott was allowed to present a written statement requesting that a representative from the CCRNC/BACME attends the next APPG meeting to discuss the nature of education and training for staff involved in providing NHS services. The MEA will place a copy of this statement on our website when we have one.

MEA WEBSITE:

http://www.meassociation.org.uk

Summary prepared by Dr Charles Shepherd, Hon Medical Adviser MEA

ENDS

PM’s response to AA and DLA Petition

1] PM’s response to AA and DLA Petition

2] Update from Benefit and Work’s Steve Donnison

Shortlink: http://wp.me/p5foE-2J0

This petition is now closed, as its deadline has passed.

http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/AttendanceA/

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to recognise the vital support that Attendance Allowance (AA) and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) provide to disabled people, and to ensure that these benefits are secured and are not removed as part of any future reform of the social care system in England.

Submitted by Peter Hand of Mencap – Deadline to sign up by: 07 December 2009 – Signatures: 23,707

http://www.number10.gov.uk/Page22353

Read the Government’s response

The Government understands that disability benefits provide an important means of financial support for severely disabled people who have extra costs as a result of their disabilities.

We also know that the care and support system that we have at the moment is not sustainable. By 2026, population estimates show that there will be double the number of people aged over 85 that there are now, and the number of people over 100 will have quadrupled. In 20 years’ time, we expect over 1.7 million more adults to have a need for care and support. We need to reform the care and support system radically to meet these future pressures.

In a reformed social care and support system, which offers more support to older and disabled people, we are looking to see if bringing together the new care and support system and some disability benefits into a single system may be a better way of providing support. However, we will only do this if we can better support the needs of older and disabled people, and we have ruled out bringing Disability Living Allowance for those under the age of 65 into the National Care Service.

Whatever the outcome of the consultation, we want to ensure that people receiving any of the relevant benefits at the time of reform will continue to receive the same level of cash support under our new and better care and support system.

If consultation shows that integrating some disability benefits into a simplified system is the right approach, we would want to ensure that the future care and support system retains and builds on the main advantages of the current disability benefits system. We know that disability benefits are popular because they provide a universal entitlement which does not depend on where a person lives, they provide a cash budget which can be spent on the services someone wants, and people often use them in ways that help them to stay independent and well for longer.

These three aspects – a universal system that is consistent across the country, flexible methods of payment through personal budgets and investment in prevention – will all be important components of the new system.

 

2] Update from Benefit and Work’s Steve Donnison

From Steve Donnison  |  Benefits and Work

DLA short form con update plus keeping ESA after losing appeal

04 February 2010

Dear Subscriber,

In this edition we have an update on the four page DLA renewal form – and we’re definitely advising people to treat it with enormous caution, given the feedback we’ve had from members.

Moving on to employment and support allowance (ESA), the latest statistics for both claims and appeals make very dismal reading indeed, with almost 7 out of ten claimants who have an assessment being found fit for work and fewer than 4 out of ten winning their appeals.

Not that losing your appeal necessarily means you have to stop claiming ESA. The confusing mess that is the ESA regulations, combined with the increasing delays in administration, is allowing some claimants to claim ESA again immediately after losing their appeal against being found fit for work. This is happening even though there has been no change in their condition, as we explain.

The DWP are taking advantage of the backlog in administering ESA wherever they can, however. We have a copy of guidance issued to decision makers this week to ensure that, where there has been a delay in medical assessments, the DWP pockets cash that should be being paid to claimants.

This week we also get our first look at the new ‘fit notes’ that will replace sick notes from April. We were left completely under whelmed by the idea that a few tick boxes are sufficient to ensure a gradual and safe return to work for people with serious health conditions.

Equally under whelming was the discovery that RNID are quietly proposing to axe the casework team that, over the years, has built up unique expertise in helping deaf claimants get their benefits. RNID’s reason for doing so sounds like the kind of corporate-speak that used to be the sole preserve of the private sector, but is gradually taking hold in parts of the voluntary sector.

On a cheerier note, we have the tale of the claimant so fed up with what he regards as the poor standard of medical assessments that he flatly refused to have another one if he couldn’t tape it. In the end he got his medical cancelled and his incapacity benefit renewed. Please don’t try this yourselves – you’ll almost certainly end up losing your benefit.

But isn’t it comforting to know that, at least occasionally, utterly foolhardy stubbornness can face down even Atos Healthcare and the DWP?

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

EMPLOYMENT AND SUPPORT ALLOWANCE TRAINING
Has your agency had employment and support allowance training yet? With the transfer of incapacity benefit claimants beginning in pilot form in October 2010 and starting in earnest in February 2011, even if few of your clients have been affected yet, many are likely to be in the future. Find out more about our employment and support allowance training

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/training/courses

FREE ARTICLES – BUT YOU NEED TO BE REGISTERED
These articles can be read by anyone, but you do need to register first. Find out more about the free stuff available when you register:

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/free-stuff

RNID to axe benefits casework team
http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/latest-news/1184-rnid-to-axe-benefits-casework-team

RNID is proposing to axe its highly valued casework team without seeking the views of service users, possibly within three months.

Almost 7 out of 10 refused ESA
http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/latest-news/1179-almost-7-out-of-10-refused-esa

As more statistics emerge about the work capability assessment (WCA) for ESA, the picture is becoming increasingly grim for claimants.

Fit notes are coming
http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/latest-news/1178-fit-notes-are-coming

From April 6th 2010 GPs will no longer issue sick notes to their patients. Instead, they will issue a ‘statement of fitness for work’ or ‘fit note’ as it will generally be known.

ESA return to work rip-off
http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/latest-news/1177-esa-return-to-work-rip-off

The DWP have issued instructions to decision makers to ensure that claimants lose out because of long delays in arranging employment and support allowance medicals.

SUBSCRIBING MEMBERS ONLY
Not yet a subscribing member?

Find out how to subscribe to Benefits and Work and get instant access to all our downloadable claims and appeals guides, DWP materials, members news items and more.

www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/join-us

Staying on ESA forever, even after losing an appeal
http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/members-only-news/1183-staying-on-esa-forever-even-after-losing-an-appeal

Confused regulations combined with the increasing delays in the benefits system mean that it may be possible for claimants to remain on the assessment phase rate of ESA indefinitely, even after losing one or more appeals

DLA short form con update
http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/members-only-news/1182-dla-short-form-con-update

Fears that the new DLA short form is simply a way of preventing claimants giving evidence appear to be justified, as we hear from more members who have completed it.

Claimant refuses untaped IB medical – and wins
http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/members-only-news/1181-claimant-refuses-untaped-ib-medical-and-wins

A Benefits and Work member who refused to a attend a medical for incapacity benefit unless he was allowed to record it had his medical cancelled and has been found incapable of work.

PLEASE NOTE: THE REPLY TO ADDRESS ON THIS NEWSLETTER JUST COLLECTS HUNDREDS OF AUTOREPLIES.

If you have problems accessing the site or logging in, visit the Help with the site page, where you can find possible solutions and contact details for our technical support.
http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/help-with-the-site

To unsubscribe or change your details, please use the Manage my subscription link below.

(c) 2010 Steve Donnison. You are welcome to reproduce this newsletter on your website or blog, provided you do so in full.

Benefits cruelty of cancer patients

WordPress Shortlink: http://wp.me/p5foE-2tK

Yahoo! News  |  Benefits cruelty of cancer patients  | 06 December 2009

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/21/20091206/thl-benefits-cruelty-of-cancer-patients-d831572.html

Seriously ill cancer patients are being forced to undergo “cruel” back-to-work interviews despite the fact they should be exempt, charities have warned.

Those who are terminally ill or undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy are being threatened with benefit cuts if they do not attend the meetings, according to Macmillan Cancer Support and Citizens Advice.

The “fit for work” interviews are for people seeking the employment and support allowance (ESA), which replaced incapacity benefit and income support in October 2008.

The drive behind ESA is to focus on what people can do rather than what they cannot do, as a means of getting them back to work.

However, cancer sufferers undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy or who are terminally ill are automatically exempt from the interviews.

Macmillan and Citizens Advice condemned the ESA process, saying it was “failing seriously ill and disabled people”. Macmillan’s benefits helpline has taken more than 600 calls about the issue since May.

A joint report – Failed by the System – found evidence of cancer patients with just months to live being told they had to undergo medical examinations and be questioned. Others having radiotherapy and people in hospital have also been refused ESA when they should automatically get it, the study found.

It also noted examples of people with cancer being told they are fit for work even when they are suffering from the long-term effects of the disease.

The charities said poor knowledge of ESA rules among Jobcentre Plus and Department for Work and Pensions medical staff is resulting in claims being handled badly. Poor administration systems and a lack of understanding about cancer are fuelling the problem, they said.

Mike Hobday, head of campaigns at Macmillan, said: “It’s cruel and completely unacceptable that people who are terminally ill or going through gruelling treatment are being made to jump through hoops to get money they should receive automatically. The safeguards to protect cancer patients clearly aren’t working, and the ESA system is riddled with problems.”