Work and Pensions Committee launches inquiry into effectiveness of PIP and ESA assessments.

The Work and Pensions Committee has launched an inquiry into the effectiveness of personal independence payment (PIP) and employment and support allowance (ESA) assessments. They are seeking recommendations for change on the assessment process for each benefit individually, and to hear about common lessons that can be learned from the two processes, the Committee invites submissions over three main areas:

Assessors and assessments –

  • whether contractor assessors possess sufficient expertise to carry out assessments for people with a wide range of health conditions;
    • whether the DWP’s quality control for contractors is sufficient and effective;
    • whether the options for reforming the work capability assessment mooted in the government’s Improving Lives green paper should be taken forward; and
    • what examples of best practice in assessing eligibility for benefits are available internationally, and whether they are transferable to ESA and/or PIP.
  • Mandatory reconsideration and appeal –
    • the reasons why claimants seek to overturn initial assessment outcomes for ESA and/or PIP;
    • the reasons why levels of disputed decisions are higher for PIP than for ESA;
    • whether the mandatory reconsideration process is working well for claimants of ESA and/or PIP;
    • the reasons for the rate of overturned decisions at appeal for PIP and/or ESA;
    • whether there are lessons that could be learned from the ESA mandatory reconsideration and appeal process for PIP and vice-versa; and
    • whether there are changes that could be made earlier in the process to ensure fewer claimants feel they need to appeal.
  • Claimant experiences –
    • whether prospective claimants currently understand the purpose of the assessment;
    • in what way could claimants be helped to better understand the assessment process;
    • whether there are some groups of claimants particularly likely to encounter problems with their assessments – and if so, how can this be addressed; and
    • whether the assessment processes for PIP and ESA should be more closely integrated, and other ways the processes might be streamlined for claimants.

The Committee is seeking written submissions by the 10th of November 2017 and also invites claimants who have had an assessment, or are waiting for an assessment, to submit a comment on its web forum.

For more information see Are PIP and ESA Assessments working well? from parliament.uk

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Research participants needed – Sanctions, Support and Service Leavers: Welfare Conditionality and Transitions from Military to Civilian Life.

Dr. Lisa Scullion is recruiting for research subjects.

We have attached a flyer for any veterans who might be interested in taking part – and also attached a participant information sheet, which provides further info for anyone who may be willing to speak to us.

Funding has been received for a new research project relating to military veterans. The project is called Sanctions, Support and Service Leavers: Welfare Conditionality and Transitions from Military to Civilian Life. It is funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) and is being undertaken jointly by researchers at the University of Salford and the University of York. It is a two-year project (2017-2019) representing the first substantive research focusing specifically on how Armed Forces Service leavers experience the mainstream conditional social security benefits system.

Central to the work is a desire to establish an original evidence base to inform future policy and practice in relation to Service leavers and their families. This will be achieved through two rounds of interviews with Armed Forces Service leavers and their families, along with consultation with key national, regional and local stakeholders.

The research is also supported by an advisory group, including representatives from the College for Military Veterans and Emergency Services (CMVES), The Royal British Legion (RBL) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The following web link also provides details about the research: http://www.welfareconditionality.ac.uk/about-our-research/service-leavers/.

The North West is the key fieldwork site for the project, and they are keen to ensure they are able to capture the voices of people who are living in the Greater Manchester area. They are looking for people who are claiming the following benefits: Employment and Support Allowance (WRAG), Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) or Universal Credit (UC), as they would really like to hear people’s experiences of meeting the conditions attached to these benefits and whether or not they feel they have been appropriately supported by the Job Centre. The interviews are carried out by trained researchers, and take place wherever the participant is most comfortable – whether that is at a trusted organisation or another suitable location. A £20 shopping voucher is being offered as a thank you for people’s time.

This is the first research project to focus on this issue from the perspective of veterans, so we are keen to ensure that their voices are heard.

If you need any more information please contact

Dr Lisa Scullion

Reader in Social Policy

School of Nursing, Midwifery, Social Work & Social Sciences, the University of Salford, Salford, M6 6UP.

t: +44 (0) 161 295 5078 | e: l.scullion@salford.ac.uk

Skype: lisa.c.scullion | www.salford.ac.uk | www.shusu.salford.ac.uk/ | www.welfareconditionality.ac.uk/

PLP’s project on benefit sanctioning would like your input.

Shivani Misra is a research fellow at the Public Law Project and is conducting research on the impact of benefit sanctioning on disabled people. This is a part of PLP’s three-year project to develop and instigate a strategic legal response to the national issue of benefit sanctioning.

She will be particularly focusing on the following:

  1. Delays at the mandatory reconsideration and appeal stages, particularly for ESA claimants who have been put into the WRAG or refused ESA altogether and/or where hardship payments are unavailable.
  2. Problems caused by failures to share relevant information about a claimant’s medical condition or disability between the Work Capability assessor, the JCP Decision Maker, and the Work Programme Provider
  3. Failures by Work Programme Providers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled claimants in the WRAG or claiming JSA
  4. Lack of/inadequate reasons for sanctioning decisions undermining appeal rights.

As a part of the research she is interested in gathering evidence and hearing individual cases studies as well as talking to advisers about their experience.

Would your organization be interested in participating in the research? Your experience and inputs would certainly enrich the project.

She would also be willing to meet and discuss the issues at greater length and looks forward to hearing from you.

You can contact Shivani at The Public Law Project on 020 7843 1260  or email: s.misra@publiclawproject.org.uk

You can follow PLP on Twitter @publiclawprojct.

GMWRAG members will already be getting themselves familiar with the idea that all 4 of the above areas are ripe for public law, EA 10 or Article 6 challenges. If not, please have a look at our strategic casework pages at https://gmwrag.wordpress.com/gmscg.

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.

The Budget 2017 – all you can eat.

For the first time in many years the Budget did not significantly change the landscape of welfare reform. That isn’t to say that significant changes aren’t already on the horizon and April 2017 will see the end of payment for being in the work-related activity group put large numbers of people into significant debt and at high risk of homelessness.

If, by any chance, you missed the key budget announcements then the links below should soon put you right.

The live TV feed was at http://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/8a000060-1bde-4491-bffe-4359e85832ea

Summaries and analysis can also be found at The Guardian and if that doesn’t float your boat then there’s also the BBC summaries.

CPAG Welfare Rights Conferences 2016 – Universal Credit: Next Steps.

CPAGs 2016 Welfare Rights Conference focuses on the challenges facing families as the roll out of Universal Credit accelerates.

The next few years will bear witness to a huge change in the welfare rights environment, with the full Universal Credit service set to be rolled out to over one hundred local authority areas during 2016-17, and across all 381 local authorities by June 2018.

Increasingly, families and the advisers working with families will need to understand how Universal Credit is supposed to work, who wins and who loses, and the lessons to learn from the early implementation of the new system.

With expert speakers, a range of focused workshops and the opportunity to network and share ideas with welfare rights workers, policy workers and other advisers from across the country, the conference is not to be missed. With both conferences expected to sell out, please book early to avoid disappointment.

For more details on the planned workshops and programme, together with instructions on how to book your place, please see below.

Programme

09.15 – 10.00   Arrival, registration, coffee and exhibition stand viewing

10:00 – 11.15    Host welcome and keynote speakers (tbc)

11.15 – 11.30    Refreshment break and viewing of exhibition stands

11.30 – 12.45   Workshops – morning session

12.45 – 13.30   Lunch and viewing of exhibition stands

13.30 – 14.45   Workshops – afternoon session

14.45 – 15.00   Refreshment break and viewing of exhibition stands

15.00 – 16.00   Panel discussion and Q&A

Workshops

You can attend two workshops from the list below.

Universal Credit Housing Costs
David Simmons, Welfare Rights Worker at CPAG

Universal Credit Digital Roll-Out
Simon Osborne, Welfare Rights Worker at CPAG

ESA ‘Substantial Risk’
Dan Norris and Nizam Ahmed, Welfare Rights Workers at CPAG

Human Rights Challenges
Sophie Earnshaw, CPAG Trainee Solicitor and Martin Williams, Welfare Rights Worker at CPAG

Venue

Our Manchester venue is the University of Manchester Innovation Centre, Core Technology Facility, 46 Grafton Street, Manchester, M13 9NT.

Our London venue is Resource for London, 356 Holloway Road, London, N7 6PA.

Exhibition Space

We will have an exhibition space at both conferences hosting exhibitors showcasing their work, products and services. If you are interested in exhibiting at our conference, please email Sebastien at sclark@cpag.org.uk.

Booking a place

Delegate tickets, which include a choice of four expert workshops, teas, coffees, buffet lunch and conference materials, are

  • £130 for a voluntary organisation and
  • £175 for statutory and lawyers.

The Early Bird booking price – valid before the 11th of July 2016 – is

  • £115 for a voluntary organisation and
  • £150 for statutory and lawyers.

To book place(s) please complete our online booking form here.

Please note that bookings cannot be processed until you have selected your workshops, and workshops will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.

  • North (Manchester) Thursday the 8th of September 2016.
  • South (London) Friday the 16th of September 2016.

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Benefits, safe-guarding and vulnerability. Bedtime reading for the Trafford GMWRAG meeting.

GMWRAG doesn’t often set members background reading but if you’re coming to our Trafford meeting in September then you’ll need to be up to speed on where we’re up to with benefits, safeguarding and vulnerability. The discussion is part of a necessary move towards maintaining a rights based approach to benefits advice by increasingly bringing to bear legislation from outside the social security sphere. The finest examples of this would of course be the increasing use of EU legislation; directives and so on and, more recently, the use of the Equality Act 2010 to challenge DWP practice and policy.

Our first September speaker, Louise Tanner, has put together some background reading to give people a feel for the range of the topic. You can download and read this from our site but before you do we suggest you have a look at the discussion forums hosted by our mates over at Rightsnet.

We recommend a read of

If these don’t give you a feel for the breadth and reach of the subject, as well as the potential for challenging the DWP and local authorities then, er, you probably haven’t read them! See you in Trafford.

Bit of campaigning anyone? ESA and students?

Our friends at NAWRA have asked us to circulate the following to see if anyone is interested.

Ellie Martin is the Advice and Campaigns Coordinator at Christ Church Students’ Union. She had been contacted by a 2nd year student in receipt of Employment & Support Allowance and also in receipt of SFE student finance. DWP reduced ESA entitlement because of SFE (Student Finance England) funding. DWP informed him that the reason his payments were reduced was because SFE is classed as an income and not a loan.

ESA went down from approx. £170 a week to 75p a week when he became a student. After a tribunal he managed to secure £75 a week.

He went to the Canterbury Citizens Advice Bureau and spoke to the manager. During discussions she mentioned that she feels SFE funding should be classed as a loan and not an income; as students pay interest just like anyone would with a bank loan. She advised that he should start a national campaign to encourage the Government and DWP to change their views and agree that this is a loan and not a source of income.

Do you have any experience with anything like this? Any current campaign or research undertaken that could help please?

Really looking for some other cases that could build up a national picture of the issue.

If you are able to help then please contact Ellie directly.

41 St Georges Place, Canterbury, Kent CT1 1UT

01227 782272

ellie.martin@ccsu.co.uk 

www.ccsu.co.uk

Work and Pensions Committee launches inquiry into halving the disability employment gap.

The Work and Pensions Committee has launched an inquiry into halving the disability employment gap – the difference in employment rates between disabled and non-disabled people.

The inquiry invites submissions addressing the following:

  • steps required to halve the disability employment gap – are the current measures likely to achieve the government’s target and are interim targets required;
  • support for employers – how effective is the Disability Confident campaign and what more could be done;
  • effective employment support for disabled people – what should support in the proposed Work and Health programme look like and how should providers be incentivised; and
  • likely effects of proposed ESA reform – what are the likely impacts of the abolition of the work-related activity component, what evidence is there that it will promote positive behavioural change and what could be the unintended consequences.

More details can be found at http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/news-parliament-2015/disability-employment-gap-launch-15-16 and the page for making submissions can be found at http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/inquiries/parliament-2015/disability-employment-gap-15-16.

A number of organisations have already made observations on this very issue. For example,

Disability Rights UK.

Pluss

The Centre For Social Justice

Even the newly discovered compassion of IDS has weighed in recently.

The final date for submissions is Monday the 9th of May 2016.