Next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group.

We’re really going to have to find a more original way of saying this but the next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group will be on Thursday the 26th of July 2018 at 9.30am for a 10am start.

The venue is Room 226 at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The address is:

Geoffrey Manton Building, Manchester Metropolitan University, 4 Rosamond Street West, Manchester M15 6LL.

There is an entrance on Oxford Road, directly opposite the Aquatics centre, or a wheelchair accessible entrance just off Rosamund St. West. The best place for car parking is the NCP at the Aquatics centre.   There is a café on site where you can buy tea/coffee etc.

IHelen Rogers is going to do a talk on claiming the mobility the mobility component of PIP for claimants with mental health conditions.

Volunteers for chairing and taking the minutes are required.

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Seeking claimants to take legal cases over PIP dishonesty

Disability News Service has been investigating claims of dishonesty in the PIP assessment process for 18 months.

A leading discrimination lawyer has now said he may be able to take legal cases on behalf of PIP claimants who believe that the HCPs who carried out their assessments did not honestly report the results.

Cases would be taken under the Equality Act, but crucially the assessment must have happened in the last 6 months, for legal reasons.

If GMWRAG members know of any PIP claimants who have had an assessment in the last few months and want to consider legal action, please contact DNS – with some brief details of the dishonesty and when it took place – either by phone or email*.

Here’s some background to the DNS investigation…

In November 2016, DNS began an investigation into claims that healthcare professionals who carry out face-to-face assessments of benefit claimants had lied, ignored written evidence and dishonestly reported the results of physical examinations.

The claims involved HCPs working for both Capita and Atos.

The alleged dishonesty included HCPs: refusing to accept further written evidence from medical experts; wrongly claiming that physical examinations had been carried out; refusing to list all medications; ignoring or misreporting key information detailed during the assessment; and reporting a refusal to co-operate with a physical examination, when they were unable to complete it because of their impairment.

The first story was published in January 2017 and since then, DNS has compiled claims of dishonesty made by about 300 PIP claimants.

Over 18 months, evidence of institutional dishonesty has continued to build, and many of the stories published by DNS have been shocking.

DNS also reported how secret recordings revealed how a nurse failed to mention a disabled woman’s near-fatal asthma attacks, accidental overdoses and repeated blackouts in yet another dishonest benefits assessment report.

The DWP, Capita and Atos continued to insist that there is no dishonesty in the process as the evidence continued to mount.

Since the investigation began, many claimants have expressed a wish to take legal action against assessment companies because of harm caused to them and the discrimination they believe they faced.

There was some hope when a court ruled last year that a disabled woman should be awarded £5,000 compensation by Atos, after a dishonest report by one of its assessors led to her being awarded the wrong level of benefits, but Atos had failed to offer a defence to her claim for damages and is now challenging the court’s ruling.

And there was hope when solicitor Daniel Donaldson announced earlier this month that he was taking a case against DWP in the Scottish courts for allegedly discriminating against him in the way it dealt with his PIP claim.

DNS has now been in touch with a leading London-based lawyer, who has offered to consider cases of PIP claimants who allege dishonesty by their assessors, to see if there is a way to take legal action against Atos or Capita under the Equality Act.

*If you’re interested in potentially taking a legal case, contact DNS editor John Pring by phone (weekdays only, please: 01635 228907) or email: john@disabilitynewsservice.com

Fifty blogs for fifty years from the Social Policy Association.

Our friends at Rightsnet have drawn our attention to the web site of the Social Policy Association, which we have now of course added as a link on this site.

2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the SPA. To celebrate the milestone they commissioned 50 blogs from leading experts in the field. and have been releasing them on a weekly basis.

“Social policy matters. Rigorous, independent, robust study of it matters, as does teaching the next generation to be more policy-literate. At 50 the SPA is as important to all of these as ever, helping to develop, integrate and safeguard the subject and its members and contribute to better social policies.” (50 words to mark 50 years, Adrian Sinfield)

Commissioned from experts in the field to celebrate 50 years of the Association’s work, here are a few of particular relevance to benefits policy. We have added as many as we could as the navigation on the site leaves something to be desired (“ducks”). There’s 24 more to go as (only) 26 have been published so far.

No.3: Why the two-child policy is the worst social security policy ever. (by Jonathan Bradshaw)

No 5: Where do we go from here? Fifty years on from the ‘War on Poverty’ (by Stephen Crossley)

No 8: Universal Credit: A benefits system to increase debt. (by Steve Iafrati)

No 10: Where next for foodbank use? (by Kayleigh Garthwaite)

No 15: Universal Credit, means-testing and social security. (by Jane Millar)

No 21: 50 years of poverty studies: how our ideas of poverty have changed. (by Paul Spicker)

No 24: Social insecurity: a new consensus is needed to return security to the system. (by Sarah Batty)

No 26: Personal Independence Payment – a fair deal for people with mental health problems? (by Richard Machin)

The next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group is upon us.

The next meeting of the North West Mental Health Welfare Rights Advisers Group will be on Friday the 23rd March at 9.30am for a 10am start at Manchester Town Hall.

Details of the room and how to access it are to follow but can we please have volunteers to chair and to take minutes?

The minutes of the last meeting can be found in the usual places.

We will be discussing the group’s “Mission Statement.”,  which you can view by clicking on the foregoing link. This is the blurb that we have used in the past on letters and responses to consultations but, as you can see, it needs updating!

We will also have a discussion about PIP decisions post the RF judgement and the Government’s announcement that it will trawl cases for incorrect decisions. Members may also want to read the minutes of the last GMWRAG meeting which provide significant detail on the live-streamed talk re: RF and what should happen next.

Please bring any (anonymised) cases that you want to discuss.

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.

New PIP tool for advisers from LASA.

Lasa has just launched a new web tool designed to help advisers find details of regulations and case law relating to Personal Independence Payment.

The new web tool is available at http://pipinfo.net

Any help you can provide in sharing a link to pipinfo would be very much appreciated. Like what we have done here 🙂

There’s also have a widget if you’d like to add pipinfo search to your site for your visitors to use. You can find this at http://pipinfo.net/about/widget. GMWRAG likes widgets and we use lots of them. Sadly our web site platform doesn’t accept this kind of tool else we’d be widegting away with the rest of you. .

Information on Lasa’s range of web tools is available @ http://www.lasa.org.uk/webtools

Now, if someone could just explain what’s wrong with a capital letter at the start of a web site name!

Post Brexit PIP consultation reminder. No webinars involved!

Whilst we’re on a roll, or possibly (an entirely natural and legal) high we may as well remind all GMWRAG members that the deadline for the second PIP consultation approaches immin, imminen, imminen… next week.

We’ve written extensively about it previously (see, we have been plugged back in and rebooted now) and you can find that here. Mostly this is because it’s Friday and we can’t be bothered copying and pasting the whole thing into here. You, however, need to be bothered. This is an important consultation and GMWRAG members need to be represented in responding across the North West.

So, er, there!

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.