Getting a home-visit for form filling from the DWP.

It’s very easy for welfare rights advisers to forget that, despite death by a thousand cuts, there are still organisations out there who will do home-visits and will still do form filling. Amongst them of course remains DWP. We have uploaded a list of contacts for DWP visiting services across the North West and Wales as well as the referral form they ask people to complete.

Please note that the referral form is for organisations only and, for that reason, we have chosen to password protect both the referral form and the associated document which gives advisers a nice list of email, phone and fax contacts across the North West of England and Wales. Most GMWRAG members will know our password routine but if you need us to spell it out then please DM @GMWRAGtweets on that Twitter thing or email the usual suspects within GMWRAG for details.

We are strangely reassured (or something) that in the age of driverless cars and the internet of things DWP still have fax machines.

Those of you who have had your interest piqued by the strategic casework approach we describe in our new section may want to consider that outsourcing form completion back to the organisation who issue most of them so you can focus on challenging erroneous decisions via complaints, letters before action and judicial review has many advantages.

  • Download a referral form for a DWP home-visit from here.
  • Download a list of DWP contacts from here.

GMWRAG is keen to emphasise that, when completing a referral for a home-visit, there is an unprecedented opportunity to detail whether there are any “risk factors” and whether there are any “accessibility requirements”.

Whilst DWP are undoubtedly only thinking of risk and access for their visiting officers this space can be used to spell out the risk of visitors for clients e.g. people with mental health issues, learning difficulties and sensory impairments, and, the accessibility needs of the claimant e.g. a large print form and so on.

SDP awards following an award of PIP.

A number of GMWRAG members have brought it to our attention that there has been a nosedive in the number of awards of Severe Disability Premium (SDP) since the introduction of Personal Independence Payment (PIP). This has apparently been confirmed via a Freedom of Information request and appears to be related to the removal of SDP from Universal Credit (UC) and a policy intent to not check for SDP entitlement UC takes hold.

It’s worth remembering that checking for entitlement to means-tested benefits in specific scenarios remains an obligation regardless of policy intentions and future changes. See, CE277/2014 for but one example.

The above would also explain why a number of members have reported having to repeatedly send in IS 10s or their equivalent as forms mysteriously drop into some kind of abyss. If GMWRAG members can cast this drop off in any different light please let us know but we thought we’d flag it up after several members highlighted numerous issues fully explained by a policy change e.g. SDP forms going missing; SDP forms taking an age to be processed unless constantly chased; SDP being refused incorrectly or refusing to issue forms in the first place.

Greater Manchester and London handed new “disability powers!”

GMWRAG is wincing reading back the above title but that is what Gov.UK said yesterday when they released a press release. You can find the document at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/greater-manchester-and-london-handed-new-disability-powers but in case you were wondering what it’s really about then it’s about getting “thousands more disabled people into work” and we think it’s talking solely about claimants in receipt of ESA.

There are numerous issues around this starting whether the devolution of such monies does anything other than create a postcode lottery. We could easily take an “I’m alright Jack” approach to this but at present we’re still in the middle of a consultation period for the Green Paper on Work, Health and Disability which this now seems to over-ride with no real clues as to how the money is to be spent beyond procuring and delivering “localised versions” of the Work and Health programme. No reference to barriers to work like a fragmented public transport system; affordable child care; the deteriorating service being delivered by Access To Work and so on.

This talks in terms of the new Work and Health Programme when scepticism has been expressed already about how likely that is to succeed with less money; work coaches on the same grades with more responsibilities and less Jobcentres to begin with. This same climate has seen a deterioration in the work done by Access To Work and cuts to funding of those organisations who do exactly the sort of intense and long-term work needed to get a very small number of disabled people back to work. Add in the weirdness of announcing cuts to Disability Employment Advisers and now an announcement of 500 more and it would be easy to conclude that what we have here is a long way from clear.

So, GMWRAG watches with interest… and not a little confusion.

Benefit uprating 2016 to 2017

The government has announced the new benefit rates to be introduced in April 2017.

Further to the Treasury’s publication last week of the new tax credit, child benefit and guardian’s allowance rates, the government has today published the proposed DWP benefit and pension rates for 2017/2018.

The proposed benefit and pension rates 2017 to 2018 are available from gov.uk. Separate links are available as follows:

There are a small number of potentially misleading elements to this which our friends at Rightsnet are busy noting. Check out this thread for further information.

GMWRAG has noted that Carer’s UK has welcomed the increase in the earnings limit for carer’s allowance, albeit that this is pitifully small. No-one else is shouting from the roof tops? You will of course note the number of benefit rates which remain frozen although it’s good to know that, presumably with his irony meter switched off, IDS is on our side on this! For an alternative perspective on what these cuts mean (and for many people they are undoubtedly further cuts) there are plenty of real world accounts out there like this.

Consultation on supported housing.

This has, to say the least, rumbled on for a good few years, but we are now at the stage when another attempt to resolve it has been suggested. So, the Department for Communities and Local Government and Department for Work and Pensions have now published a new consultation on the detail of the future funding model for supported housing from April 2019. This will obviously be hugely significant for a number of our members.

The consultation lasts for 12 weeks from the 21st of November 2016 until the closing date of Monday the 13th of February 2017. Everything you need to know can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/funding-for-supported-housing.

At the same time the government has published the evidence review of supported accommodation in Great Britain.

Queries and responses can be sent via email to supportedhousing@communities.gsi.gov.uk or you can write to the Department for Communities and Local Government, Supported Housing Programme, Fry Building, 3rd Floor, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF

NAWRA submission re: the abolition of Attendance Allowance.

NAWRA has submitted a response to the “Self-sufficient local government: 100% business rates retention consultation” voicing their concern at the proposal that Attendance Allowance will no longer be a cash benefit in England and Wales when responsibility for it transfers from the DWP to each local authority’s social care budget.

If you didn’t realise that the abolition of AA was a real thing then please refer back to our previous items on this

One of the biggest reallocations of public resources in 25 years, and

More information on the abolition of Attendance Allowance as we know it.

Always keep in mind some people said Universal Credit would never start!!!

The submission is available on the NAWRA website. The deadline for submissions has now passed.

Thanks very much to Julie Henry (Durham County Council) for drafting it.

Heads up – another PIP consultation to respond to.

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has appointed Paul Gray CB to lead the second independent review of PIP. Paul led the first PIP review and the SoS welcomes the opportunity for him to continue to build on that work.

The review will consider how effectively further evidence is being used to assist the correct claim decision and the speed and effectiveness of information-gathering as well as building on recommendations from the first review.

The Terms of Reference for this review are to provide the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions with an independent report evaluating the progress made on the PIP claims process as a result of the longer term recommendations made in the first independent review of the PIP assessment, in particular looking at:

  • the use of IT and speed and effectiveness of the information gathering process during the assessment, looking at data sharing within the Department and across government, including the way we share information gained from the PIP assessment with other organisations to improve health and care services; and
  • how effectively further evidence is being used to assist the correct claim decision, exploring the balance between how much and the type of evidence we source and what we ask the claimant to provide;
  • build on the recommendations and lessons learnt from the first review using, where relevant, findings from the evaluation and Full PIP Rollout data.

A call for evidence will be published later, seeking evidence from individuals and organisations to inform the review, in the near future. The second review will be laid before Parliament by April 2017.

In light of recent unevidenced attempts to reform PIP for no reason other than some civil servants being somewhat surprised that, when you award points for the use of aids and appliances some people might actually qualify solely by that route, we think all GMWRAG members should be concerned about this latest development. PIP reform has not gone away and there isn’t much to salami slice so any suggested reforms may well be fairly radical. Be ready to respond when GMWRAG lets you know the call for evidence is open.

Public Accounts Committee progress review inquiries into Universal Credit and Benefits and Tax Credit Fraud and Error.

The Public Accounts Committee has announced two “progress review inquiries” with a very short-deadline for responses to both of them of Tuesday the 12th of July 2016.

The first inquiry will look at progress on the six recommendations made by the committee in February 2015 in relation to Universal Credit and

  • improving transparency around costs and progress;
  • developing contingency plans; and
  • strengthening accountability to get better value for money for taxpayers

Further information can be found on the PACs web site.

The second inquiry seeks views on how HMRC and the DWP have addressed problems of overpayments and underpayments identified in its last report

In a previous report on fraud and error in October 2015, the Committee made a number of recommendations including

  • HMRC should set regular targets for reducing fraud and error in Tax Credits during the move to Universal Credit;
  • the DWP must set out how it will target the causes of fraud and error remaining after welfare reform;
  • both departments need to improve understanding of why claimants make mistakes, and use this to develop better preventative measures; and
  • both should set targets for reducing underpayments.

Again, further information can be found on the PACs web site but please bear in mind those exceptionally tight deadlines.

If you want to watch the progress of these inquiries live then check out Parliament Live TV.

The first post European era minutes of the GMWRAG Manchester meeting are now available plus lots of supporting documentations from the speakers and, yes, we are aiming for the longest title ever…

We’ve now had a taste of the future, what with needing to take passports to get into Manchester town hall for our last meeting! The first post European GMWRAG minutes are now available for download from our minutes page. Grab them now before they get turned back at the borders. On the plus side, sanctions will presumably need to be re-named as we start to lose French words from our language! The “Universal” in Universal Credit is in trouble too although possibly in more ways than we can cover here 🙂

In addition the supporting documents below have all been added to our presentations and notes pages.

Details of the next GMWRAG meeting in Trafford in September will be posted as soon as we have them.