I've had major problems myself over the years with both claiming and keeping my benefits - for example, I had to go to appeal and then tribunal to get my Disability Living Allowance award, because the doctor the DWP sent out to see me didn't 'believe in ME' and lied about me, and was completely prejudiced against me on the medical form. (He went so far as to call my ME consultant the 'so called Professor'!!) Thankfully when I, at great pain to myself, appealed the decision and took my case to tribunal, it was overturned - and the DLA agency & the doctor in question came out looking a little silly! I've had a constant battle since then, though, just to keep the benefit, but I've been lucky enough to have found an advocate from a welfare rights department in our local government. How long I'll have that, I don't know, as their funding is under review (yet another knock to those who are genuinely sick!) - but it's been invaluable up until now!!
With the changes going on in the system, I like many others, are feeling the strain. I'm so afraid that my benefits will be reviewed and taken away - particularly because of how my illness is viewed by so many in the UK - and that I'll have yet another fight on my hands that I'm not well enough to fight. I think it's absolutely wrong what the government are doing ... and so many people and families are going to be so terribly affected by these decisions. I find it appalling that so few politicians stood up for the rights of disabled people in their constituencies while the debate was ongoing!!
It makes me so angry, too, that the people who falsely claim benefits are causing so many problems for people who are genuinely sick and disabled!
I wanted to highlight a service I've found which helps people in the UK with claiming disability benefits, and who fight for the rights of disabled people in this country, and write resources and news updates on what's going on in the UK benefits system : Benefits & Work.
There are two things I'd advise anyone applying for benefits or having problems getting the benefits they are entitled to, to do & that is to join Benefits & Work, and to find out if there is a welfare rights advocate service in your area. Finding an advocate is particularly important for people who are too sick to fill out their own forms. My advocate comes to my house and fills out the forms with me - and is able to accompany me to court hearings, etc, if needed. It's made a massive difference to my life having someone fighting my corner in this area!! If there is no specific welfare rights service near you, you can also go to the citizens advice bureau for help - but fair warning, they can sometimes be difficult to get an appointment with, as they're so busy and understaffed. Most CAB's aren't able to do home visits, either, which can be difficult for those of us who are severely ill.
What has your experience of the UK benefits system been like?
You can find help with applying for UK disability benefits at Benefits & Work!
You can follow Benefits & Work on Twitter to be notified when they release new articles & web content.
You can now find Benefits & Work on facebook - click like to follow them and to promote the cause to your friends & family. :)
You can also visit the Benefits & Work Forums to get help & information, & to discuss current issues with disability benefits with other members.
Below is a sample of the Benefits & Work newsletter, which keeps us up to date with things going on in the UK. You can sign up for it for free on their site.
A Sample of the May Edition of the Benefits & Work Newsletter
Forced labour scheme begins
As what is beginning to look more and more like a war on claimants hots up, last month saw the introduction of a forced labour scheme. (Members only article).
Many thousands of claimants will be obliged to work for up to 30 hours a week for a month for no wage whatsoever. There is no limit to the number of times claimants can be forced onto the scheme. Those who fail to comply will lose their benefits for 13 weeks for a first offence and 26 weeks for a second offence.
The scheme is aimed at JSA claimants, but with so many people likely to fail the new work capability assessment, that may well include thousands of sick and disabled claimants who are deemed not to be trying hard enough to move into work.
The propaganda war is also becoming more vicious and ill-informed as the DWP feeds easy to misinterpret figures to the press and then looks the other way as hate-provoking misinformation fills the tabloids.
For the claimants on the front-line, there's also the shocking news of the lack of disabled access at many Atos medical centres, which most claimants are obliged to attend for their work capability assessment. An astonishing one in five centres don’t have disabled access and Atos lists just one dedicated disabled parking space for the use of around a million claimants a year.
The government aren’t having it all their own way, however. Below is a quick round-up of anti-cuts actions over the coming month that you may want to support.
A national week of action against Atos is scheduled to begin on 9 May with a picnic and party in Triton Square, home of their head office, at 2pm.
On May 11 thousands of disabled people, their friends and families will be holding a march and lobbying parliament to protest at cuts to benefits and services.
The Justice for All campaign, which is fighting to save free legal advice, is holding a day of action on 3 June, which they are hoping members of the public will take part in.
Radio 4’s You and Yours programme is working on a report about the work capability assessment which may at least present a more honest picture of what is really happening to sick and disabled claimants. As part of the feature they are hoping to talk an Atos health professional – anonymity assured. If you are one of the Atos staff who read this newsletter, why not contact You and Yours in confidence?
You and Yours are also hoping to hear from people who have received a reassessment letter and are awaiting a medical or who are appealing an ESA decision. More details here.
Elsewhere, a freelance journalist writing a piece on the forced migration from incapacity benefit to ESA for One in Four, a mental health service users magazine, is keen to hear from anyone who went through the Aberdeen or Burnley pilots or who is going through the reassessment process now.
New Resource for Professionals
Welfare rights expert Mark Perlic – who has provided free resources for this site in the past - is publishing an updated ninth edition of the invaluable DLA and AA caselaw pack in June of this year and is currently taking advance orders. More details from this flyer.
Mark is also running DLA and AA case law training days in Birmingham and London in September and October of this year. More details from Mark’s website.
Good News From the Forums
Finally, in spite of the all those bank holidays over the last few weeks, we’ve still heard from a number of members with good news about their claims and appeals.
Double tribunal triumph as Atos medical report “wholly discredited”
“I came out of the Tribunal with 15 points for the ESA and an award of DLA Higher Rate Mobility and Middle Rate Care and I have to admit an immense feeling of euphoria!”
“Thanks to the information and help guides available on this fantastic site . . . the ATOS medical report was . . . wholly discredited.”
Support group and highest care DLA on initial claim
IB and ESA appeals won
From WRAG to support group on appeal without attending hearing
Award increased to higher rate mobility and middle rate care on renewal.< From lower to higher rate care and lower rate mobility on appeal for 10 year old
Support group on initial claim
Successful DLA appeal
Successful IB appeal
WRAG on appeal
ESA from 6 to 21 points
Pass It On
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I'd love to hear your reply and I know it'll be valued by other readers too! I always try to respond, please just be aware that it can take me some time to find the energy to do so as I've been particularly ill recently and struggling to get online. Thanks for reading! :)