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Benefits and Work Newsletter


Atos replacement Maximus say they will carry out one million work capability assessments (WCAs) in a single year – starting on Monday.

Meanwhile, a new scoring system has been created to decide if claimants with mental health issues can get into the support group because of a risk of harm to themselves or someone else. The system has been deliberately designed to make it more difficult for women to qualify than men.

There have also been important changes to the way health professionals estimate how far claimants can walk or ‘mobilise’.

The substantial risk regulations are now one of the most important ways of getting into the support group.

According to the independent reviewer of the WCA, Dr Paul Litchfield, 38% of all new support group entries are on substantial risk grounds . Two thirds of these are decided on the papers alone, without the need for a medical assessment.

The regulations apply where a claimant has not qualified for the support group, but where it is then decided that there would be a substantial risk to the claimant or to someone else unless they are found to be incapable of work-related activity.

Until now there has been no difference in how men and women are assessed.ESA mental health guide

However, Benefits and Work can reveal that a new scoring system deliberately makes it harder for women to qualify for the support group than for men.

For example, a man with a diagnosis of depression and a history of deliberate self-harm who is unemployed – generally the case for ESA claimants – will be eligible for the support group, according to the guidance.

But a woman in the same situation will not be eligible for the support group. Instead, she will have to also show that an additional factor – such as being homeless or divorced –applies to her.

The gender difference is likely to be based on the fact that more males than females commit suicide.

Indeed, figures released by the Office for National Statistics just last week showed that suicide rates are now at their highest in over a decade and most of the increase is amongst men. Organisations such as Mind are linking the rise to benefits cuts.

However, many people would question whether a difference in suicide rates is sufficient to justify different treatment for men and women in relation to claiming benefits. This is particularly the case because substantial risk is not just about deliberate self-harm or suicide, but also about issues such as unintentional self-neglect.

But, as the guidance is already in use, we’ve created a step-by-step method for scoring yourself or your clients in relation to substantial risk.

Understanding how the system works may make it very much easier to present targeted evidence showing that you meet the substantial risk criteria. Conversely, if the guidance doesn’t cover your circumstances you have more information about how the decision was reached in ordeESA physical health guider to challenge it.

You can find the step-by-step method in the updated ESA mental health guide in the members area of the Benefits and Work website.

There is better news for ESA claimants with mobility issues, however.

The new guidance has dramatically reduced the estimates of how far claimants can ‘mobilise’ based on their everyday activities. For example, claimants who can only move around at home have had their estimated mobility reduced from less than 200 metres to less than 50 metres.

This is the difference between getting into the support group or only scoring 6 points for mobility.

You can read further details in the ESA physical health guide in the members area, which also has details of improvements in assessing continence issues for people who also have mobility problems.

In just a few days it will no longer be Atos who will be carrying out WCAs – Maximus take over at the beginning of March.

Maximus claim that they are taking on hundreds of extra staff and aim to carry out a million assessments in their first year.

However, they have made it clear that they do not intend to take on any additional doctors. Instead they are hiring extra administrators as well as health professionals such as physiotherapists.

Last week saw the beginning of the dirty war against sick and disabled claimants, something which is likely to feature heavily in this election.Composite news images of obese claimants

David Cameron shifted attention away from tax avoidance by announcing a review of whether it would be possible to stop the benefits of obese claimants as well as those who are dependent on alcohol and drugs, if they refuse treatment.

It was an ugly and cynical, but effective, headline grabbing move. The number of claimants getting benefits on the grounds of obesity is in the low hundreds. But linking claimants with overeating and drug and alcohol abuse not only delights the media, it also paves the way for the even more vicious benefits cuts that the Tories plan to introduce if they regain power

And there’s no doubt who will be the target of those cuts – it will be working age claimants..

At the weekend IDS bluntly refused to tell Andrew Marr who will be hardest hit by the cuts, but he stressed that people should be in no doubt that billions will be cut from the benefits bill if the Conservatives win the election.

And with David Cameron’s announcement this week that pensioners benefits, such as cold weather payments, will be protected and not means tested, there is pretty much no-one else who could be hit.

Meanwhile, working age claimants are already being hit harder, with sanctions against ESA claimants hitting a new record high according to the latest figures.

And long overdue poverty statistics, which would help to show how much low paid workers and sick and disabled claimants have already lost, are being deliberately blocked by IDS. They will not now be released until after the election.

Happily, we can finish with some excellent news that neither Cameron nor IDS will welcome.

Plus a huge thank you to everyone who responded to our request to support Full Fact’s bid to fact check the election.

With your help Full Fact have now got the £25,000 they need to launch their six week election fact checking project – but it’s not over yet.

Over 120 donations flooded in to the Crowdfunder page during the 24 hours after the appeal in our last newsletter, totalling around £2,500.Full Fact Team

The donations included £100 from Cathie Wood, whose brother Mark Wood tragically starved to death after being found fit for work. Cathie left a comment saying:

“You are doing vital work – good luck with it. This donation is in memory of my brother Mark Wood who died due to current govt. policies and lies.”

But Full Fact have until Friday afternoon to carry on fundraising. Additional donations will help them extend their fact checking to more newspaper articles, TV programmes and election broadcasts.

Cameron’s ‘obese claimants’ propaganda was just a foretaste of the misleading smears that will be unleashed in the last weeks of the election. Every extra pound Full Fact get will help them challenge such attacks.

So, if you possibly can, please donate a few pounds or publicise the project on Twitter, Facebook , forums and elsewhere.

It truly will make a difference.

Good luck,

Steve Donnison

Categories: Uncategorized
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