Category: Welfare reform

ME and CFS in Parliament: Term dates, APPG on ME and Lightning Process pilot study, Written Question, new EDM

ME and CFS in Parliament: Term dates, APPG on ME and Lightning Process pilot study in children, Written Question, new EDM


A compilation of Parliamentary related items

House of Commons Recess dates 2010-11 (Note: All recess dates are provisional)

House of Commons

State Opening: 25 May 2010

Conference Recess: House Rises: 16 September 2010 House Returns: 11 October 2010

Christmas Recess: House Rises: 21 December 2010 House Returns: 10 January 2011

Half term to be confirmed

Easter to be confirmed


The reconvened APPG on ME had been expected to hold a planning meeting in September. I cannot confirm whether and when a planning meeting took place.

Today, I have written to David Amess MP (Acting Chair, APPG on ME), Annette Brooke MP (Vice-Chair, APPG on ME), APPG on ME ME Association Secretariat and Jane Colby (The Young ME Sufferers Trust).

I have requested that the controversial issue of the Bath/Bristol Lightning Process pilot study in children (which for which ethics approval was obtained in September and for which the study protocol and related documents were published on 16 September) is going to be tabled for discussion at the first meeting of the APPG on ME, on whatever date this takes place. If this is not being tabled for discusion I have requested that it be added to the Agenda.

The following have been advised: Invest in ME; 25% ME Group; RiME, Sue Waddle (rep for ME Research UK) and BRAME.

I took the opportunity of thanking Annette Brooke, again, for raising this issue with Rt Hon Andrew Lansley, MP, Secretary of State for Health and also for tabling the Parliamentary Question for which a response was received from Paul Burstow, MP, Minister of State (Care Services), on 11 October.

I also thanked the ME Association and The Young ME Sufferers Trust for their very strong opposition statements, their joint press release and for their representations to the Department of Health and to the Chair of South West 2 Research Ethics Committee.

I will confirm whether this issue is being tabled for discussion at the next meeting of the APPG on ME, which is expected to be held in November but for which a date has yet to be confirmed.



An EDM (Early Day Motion) has been tabled by Ian Swales MP (LibDem Redcar). It is understood that this results out of lobbying by Jan Laverick and a family member.

EDM 778


Swales, Ian

That this House notes that despite the fact that the Department of Health now accepts myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) as a genuine medical condition, diagnosis can still pose a problem because ME symptoms are similar to those present in a number of other medical conditions; recognises that one of the main obstacles to the adequate treatment of ME is the lack of knowledge and consensus about the disease; believes that funding and research must be focused on the bio-medical factors involved and not just simply managing the psychological symptoms; requests that the Government establishes an independent scientific committee to oversee ME research; and calls on the Government and the Medical Research Council to work with ME sufferers and bio-medical researchers in order to achieve a proper understanding of the condition’s challenges and unjust perceptions of the condition.

At 14 October, 18 MPs had signed up to the EDM. Follow its progres, here, where signatures of supporting MPs are listed:


Ian Swales MP maintains a Facebook page here: Ian Swales (Liberal Democrat) for Redcar on Facebook

What are Early Day Motions?

Early day motions (EDMs) are formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons. However, very few EDMs are actually debated. Instead, they are used for reasons such as publicising the views of individual MPs, drawing attention to specific events or campaigns, and demonstrating the extent of parliamentary support for a particular cause or point of view.

More information on the nature and purpose of EDMs, here, on the Parliament website


Contacting MPs

For contact details for MPs go to this page on the Parliament website:

or here on They Work for You:

Find out about your new MP/ MSPs/ MLAs

Read debates they’ve taken part in, see how they voted, sign up for an email alert, and more.

They Work for You links to:

The most recent Commons debates

The most recent Westminster Hall debates

The most recent Written Answers

The most recent Lords debates

The most recent Written Ministerial Statements


Written answers and statements, 13 October 2010 [2]

Written answers and statements
Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 13 October 2010, c347W)

Work Capability Assessment: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Margaret Curran (Labour, Glasgow West): To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether the agency contracted to provide medical examinations as part of the Work Capability Assessment has been issued with specific guidance on the assessment of persons presenting a diagnosis of myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome. [14304]

Chris Grayling (Minister of State for Employment): All health care professionals working for Atos Healthcare are required to read an evidence based protocol on chronic fatigue syndrome as part of their induction training. This was last updated in January 2010. In addition, all health care professionals are required to engage in a programme of continuing medical education which includes two modules on chronic fatigue syndrome. These were last updated in April 2009 and March 2010 respectively.

Related information

[1] “Unethical” Lightning Process pilot study in children receives ethics approval 

[2] Information on tabling Parliamentary Questions:

Benefits reform: Media coverage BBC and Times

Benefits reform: Media coverage BBC and Times


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’

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

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

Budget announces DLA reform

Budget announces DLA reform



Guardian  |  Comment is free  |  Anne Wollenberg  |  23 June 2010

Disability allowance exists for a reason

“The disability living allowance is not an unemployment benefit. Why target it to ‘reduce dependency and promote work’?”

There is a comment section, read full article here


Action for M.E.  |  22 June 2010

Budget 2010

Today’s budget announces DLA reform

Chancellor George Osborne’s first Budget has set out a five-year plan for the British economy.

Plans for spending reductions of £32 billion per year by 2014-15 include £11 billion of welfare reform savings, a two year freeze in public sector pay for those earning over £21,000 a year and an increase in the rate of Value Added Tax (VAT) to 20 per cent.

As part of the welfare reform measures, which will affect tax credits, housing benefit and disability benefits, the Treasury says: “The Government will reform the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to ensure support is targeted on those with the highest medical need. The Government will introduce the use of objective medical assessments for all DLA claimants from 2013-14 to ensure payments are only made for as long as a claimant needs them.”

Action for M.E. will be responding to the budget shortly, so tell us: how will it impact on you, as a person with M.E. or their carer?

E-mail our Policy Officer, Tristana Rodriguez at or our InterAction team at  with your views.

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

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


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:



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


Rick Osman (RO)
Janet Thomas (JT)


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.


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

BBC News: “New benefit system labelled unfit”

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


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)

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”

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

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


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.

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


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

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.

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.

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

Action for M.E. Election manifesto

Action for M.E. Election manifesto


Note: This site operates independently of any patient organisation. The publishing of material on this site does not imply endorsement or recommendation.

Action for M.E. News

Election manifesto video launch
23 February 2010

M.E. manifesto video goes live

Today Sir Peter Spencer, Chief Executive, Action for M.E., launches a video urging people with M.E. and their family and friends to use our Election Manifesto for M.E. to lobby local Parliamentary candidates.

Tristana Rodriguez, our Policy Officer, is keen to hear from anyone who forwards the manifesto to their MP, or potential MP, and receives a response.

The manifesto has been produced in partnership with the Association of Young People with M.E. (AYME) and in consultation with people who have the illness.

Initial responses to the document have already been received from the three main political parties. Action for M.E. has written back, calling for greater commitment to the issues which matter to people with M.E.


Parties respond to M.E. manifesto
19 February 2010

All three main political parties have answered calls by Action for M.E. and the Association of Young People with M.E. (AYME) to outline their election pledges for people with M.E.

Responses to our Election manifesto for M.E. have now been received from Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Labour has focused on health and welfare, increasing Access to Work and reassessing Incapacity Benefit or Income Support claimants to move them on to Employment and Support Allowance.

The Tories lead on speeding up drugs appraisal procedures, before moving on to single health and social care assessments and the introduction of a single integrated back-to-work programme for everyone on out-of-work benefits.

The Liberal Democrats, who are still working on their election manifesto, concentrate on investing in support for children, especially in terms of education.

Commenting on the responses, Action for M.E.’s CEO, Sir Peter Spencer says:

“I would like to thank the three parties for providing their responses to the manifesto for M.E. but I am very disappointed to see that they have each failed to address many of the key issues.

“We understand that certain policies may still be in development which may explain why our manifesto priorities have not been given the explicit emphasis we would expect. Perhaps these omissions will be resolved as the party policies develop.

“To this end, we will continue to lobby at a national level, and we would urge supporters of the manifesto to do the same with their local Parliamentary candidates. We want to see the next Parliament make a genuine and powerful commitment to tackle the huge problems faced by people with M.E. and their families and to remove the inequalities which have been overlooked for far too long.”

Mary-Jane Willows, CEO of AYME, comments:

“Whilst I am pleased that the responses were made they are all sadly lacking in content and substance. They still fail to acknowledge the huge shift in awareness and services required if the needs of children and young people with M.E. are going to be fully met.

“Individuals with M.E., their carers, parents and partners now need to take the manifesto to lobby all their Parliamentary candidates who then can’t fail to realise the scale of the issues this marginalised patient population is faced with in health, education, social care, benefits and employment.

“Ignoring this significant patient population must end now and be replaced with a clear and robust strategy that will increase awareness and support across the board.”

The charities are calling on local support groups, individuals with M.E., their carers, friends and others to join us in lobbying parliamentary candidates to sign up to the pledges in our election manifesto for M.E.

For free copies of the manifesto to send to your MP or local Parliamentary candidate – plus a sample campaign letter, please contact our Policy Officer, Tristana Rodriguez tel: 0117 9301325 or Katie James, from AYME, tel: 01908 379737, stating how many copies you need.


Election Manifesto
Sample Campaign Letter

Responses from three main political parties

Labour Response
Conservative Response
Liberal Democrat Response

Minutes and Verbatim Transcript: APPG on ME meeting 2 December 2009

Minutes and Verbatim Transcript of APPG on ME meeting 2 December 2009 published

Date of next meeting of APPG on ME announced as Wednesday 10 March 2010


ME Association

Thursday, 14 January 2010 15:22

The next meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on ME will be held 1.30-3pm, Wednesday 10 March 2010, Committee Room 18, House of Commons. The agenda will follow in due course.

The APPG on M.E. will be open to members of the public. Before they travel, visitors should check for announcements on the Action for M.E. and ME Association websites, as the meeting room may change at very short notice if it is required by a parliamentary committee.

Entrance to the meeting will at the St Stephen’s Door to the House of Commons, and then ask the way to Committee Room 18. Please allow sufficient time in case there are big queues waiting to go through the security gatehouse. There is separate access for people in wheelchairs.

The minutes and a full transcript of the last meeting in December are available for downloading here.

Please note: amendments to minutes should be put in writing to the Secretariat one week before the meeting.

Email Tristana Rodriguez

or write to: Tristana Rodriguez, Action for M.E., Canningford House, 38 Victoria Street, Bristol BS1 6BY.

The official minutes of the meeting of the APPG on ME held on 2 December 2009 – together with a verbatim transcript – are now available for downloading from this website.

In response to demand, they are offered in both pdf and Word formats.

Minutes APPG on ME 02.12.09 Word

Minutes APPG on ME 02.12.09 PDF

Transcript APPG on ME 02.12.09 Word  


Next meeting – 10 March, Committee Room 18, 1.30-3pm.

You can find them at the MEA website at:

APPG on ME website

Benefits cruelty of cancer patients

WordPress Shortlink:

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

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.”

Benefits and Work: November and December 09 updates

Benefits and Work: November and December 09 updates


From Benefits and Work’s Steve Donninson:

27 November 2009

New DLA form con trick

In this newsletter we warn about the possible dangers of a seductively short new DLA renewal claim form which has the potential to wipe out your entire award in a couple of ticks. Is it just a DWP con trick?

On a cheerier note, we look at how some people manage to get many thousands of pounds from the DWP as compensation for poor and insulting treatment. Persistence, it seems, does sometimes pay.

We also have the bizarre news that within days of us ending our 100 day campaign to save DLA and AA it was taken up by…the Conservative party. It’s true, of course that it was the Tories who introduced DLA in the first place, but somehow we never expected to find ourselves becoming the unofficial Conservative party think tank.

Not entirely unconnected with this news is the fact that the Daily Mail has suddenly begun writing in defence of DLA and AA claimants – so long as they’re over 65, that is.

Elsewhere, Holiday Whitehead, our resident barrister, has been answering some of your queries about employing carers following our article last month about a disabled employer’s shock £35,000 tax bill.

Finally, we have another shot of good news from happy members, including people who have successfully appealed their ESA refusals. We particularly liked the tale of one of our members who was refused help from a CAB with her DLA challenge on the grounds that – thanks to Benefits and Work – she knew more than they did!

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

Tories launch save DLA and AA campaign

 The Conservatives have launched a save DLA and AA campaign within days of the Benefits and Work campaign ending, leading to labour accusations of ‘scaremongering’ and ‘gutter politics’.

I got full mobility and personal care!

More feedback from happy members, including successful ESA claims and appeals and DLA claims.

Tabloid support for DLA and AA campaign

The Daily Mail has today published an article highlighting a ‘rebellion’ by Labour MPs ‘over plans to end benefits for needy pensioners’.

Benefits advice stopped

The Law Gazette is reporting that claimants needing benefits advice under the legal aid scheme are being turned away because legal aid funding has run out.


Not yet a member?
Find out how to join Benefits and Work and get instant access to all our downloadable claims and appeals guides, DWP materials, members news items and more.

How some claimants get thousands of £££ in DWP compensation

Many people are treated with outrageous unfairness by the DWP. Most just endure it, some complain and get nowhere, a tiny number get compensation of up to £10,000. How do they do it?.

Your queries about employing carers answered

Holiday Whitehead, our resident barrister, answers some of your queries about employing carers.

Is new DLA form a con trick?

A new short DLA renewal form appears to be being used to con claimants into not giving evidence about their condition and then refusing them an award, as a Benefits and Work member recently discovered to their cost. Astonishingly, a letter accompanying the form also advises people to fraudulently allow their current DLA claim to continue, even if they know that they are no longer entitled to any money.

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.

(c) 2009 Steve Donnison. All rights reserved


04 December 2009

Are claimants at risk from assessment rip-off?

We hadn’t intended to bring out another newsletter until next week. But then a confidential letter detailing the new, increased, pay rates for Atos doctors and nurses came sliding from our fax machine and we decided we’d better publish it immediately.

So, in a brief newsletter, we reveal just how much those doctors and nurses are making from the taxpayer for creating ESA, DLA and IB medical reports. From what we’ve learnt, it seems safe to assume that Atos assessors won’t be shopping at Iceland this Christmas.

Harrods, on the other hand, may need to get in a few extra hampers.

In a not unrelated story we look at the problems caused by the DWP carrying out assessments much later than they should be. Are taxpayers being ripped-off and claimants being put at risk?

(The answer is ‘Yes!’ , in case you’re in any doubt).

We also have news of the early day motion in support of DLA and AA put forward by a liberal democrat MP. Do check to see if your MP has signed it and, if they haven’t, please do pursue them with infuriating persistence.

Finally, we have the tale of the claimant whose ESA has been stopped largely, it seems, because of his sad inability to travel back and forth through time at will.

Who’d have thought you’d need a tardis to be a successful ESA claimant?

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

91 MPs sign motion against DLA and AA cuts – has yours?

91 MPs have so far signed an early day motion urging the government to drop proposals to cut disability living allowance and attendance allowance to fund the new National Care Service. Benefits and Work is urging members to put pressure on your own MP to sign, if they have not done so already.

ESA for Time Lords

A Benefits and Work member has had their employment and support allowance suspended, seemingly on the grounds that they are unable to travel through time.

Not yet a member?

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

Are claimants at risk from ESA assessment rip-off?
Taxpayers are unfairly paying out many thousands of pounds, and claimants health may be being put at risk, due to employment and support allowance assessments being carried out scandalously late

Can Atos doctors earn more than Gordon Brown?

Benefits and Work has obtained a copy of a confidential letter which reveals exactly how much Atos medical assessors receive in taxpayers’ cash for carrying out different types of benefits medicals. Astonishingly, some may at times be on a higher rate of pay than the prime minister.

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(c) 2009 Steve Donnison. You are welcome to reproduce this newsletter (but not the articles it links to) on your website, forum or blog.


04 December 2009

Apology and BBC Scotland

Just to say sorry, the members only links weren’t working when we sent out the newsletter this morning. We hope we have now fixed them. But if you still have problems, there’s a link to the latest articles in the Members Only news box at the bottom of the home page.

Also, we forgot to mention that BBC Scotland are very keen to talk to ESA claimants about the difficulties of claiming. More details in the forum at:

Alternatively, just in case we’re still having a bad link day, here’s what they’re asking:

Just how difficult is it to get ESA? BBC Scotland wants to know!

BBC Scotland are making a half hour radio documentary about the difficulties people face when trying to claim ESA – in particular with the health assessments carried out as part of the process. The programme aims to highlight problems with the new system and to investigate why people with genuine illnesses and disabilities are being declared fit to work.

If you’ve had a problem claiming ESA and are willing to talk about your experience, then please contact Kathy Long on 0141 422 7277 or Fiona Walker on 0141 422 7863. Or email:  /

All information will be treated in confidence and contributions to the programme may be made anonymously if preferred.

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

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.

(c) 2009 Steve Donnison. You are welcome to reproduce this newsletter (but not the articles it links to) on your website, forum or blog.