PIP / ESA Assessments ? Sanctions / Guardian / Private Eye & Other Articles

All about money
Chris From The Gulag wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 9:13 am
Your welcome.

Send me a post card ?

^ Wishing you were here instead of me " ... very popular if Great Yarmouth is the chosen destination ?
We are going to Spain Chris and hoping the weather is a lot better than here! its truly vile here today.
Anywhere near Cadiz ?

If so , I have some seeds for my sister ... triffid seeds.
Epilepsy patients left high and dry following PIP benefit reform.

More than half of existing epilepsy patients and two-thirds of new claimants are being denied disability benefits.

Helen Purdon’s life was turned upside down in September 2017 when her application for personal independence payment (PIP) benefit was rejected. Purdon, 47, had been on disability living allowance (DLA) for 10 years, following a diagnosis of epilepsy, which means she has seizures every 10 to 15 days.

She is unable to work and assumed her transfer to PIP would be seamless. But she was wrong. “It was unreal. My DLA stopped, which was around £400 a month. I didn’t get any money at all for months,” she says. “We couldn’t afford to put petrol in the car, we were living off pasta and beans.” Purdon, who is from Irvine in North Ayrshire, decided to appeal against the PIP decision.

It took more than a year, but in October 2018 a tribunal found that Purdon was entitled to PIP, awarding her £119.90 a week and backdated payments of £5,700.

Purdon’s case is all too common. According to the latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions, more than half of existing epilepsy patients and two-thirds of new claimants are being denied disability benefits.

PIP was introduced in England, Scotland and Wales in 2013, replacing DLA. The benefit is supposed to cover some of the additional costs of having a long-term health condition, and is available to people in or out of work. It is worth up to £87.65 a week to meet daily living needs, plus up to £61.20 a week for the mobility element, depending on assessment.

But since PIP was introduced, 65% of claims from people with epilepsy who did not have DLA were rejected, while 54% of those in receipt of DLA were turned down for PIP, the second-highest refusal rate of all health conditions and double the national average. Of those who challenged the decision 78% won on appeal.

According to Epilepsy Scotland, which obtained the figures, the benefit assessment system is flawed because it fails to take account of fluctuating conditions like epilepsy. Claims assessors focus too heavily on the type and number of seizures a person has, while ignoring other symptoms like memory impairment, confusion, anxiety and depression.

Frances Brown, Epilepsy Scotland’s welfare rights officer, says: “About 70% of my work is PIP-related. Since 2017 we have had to double our workforce to cope with demand and have recovered £1m in unpaid benefits, including PIP.”

Being denied PIP brings financial hardship but also damages mental health. “We’ve had numerous people tell us that they don’t want to be here any more – that they have had enough,” says Brown. “It’s that feeling of not being believed – of not being listened to.”

Epilepsy charities in England and Wales are also reporting soaring demand for help. Daniel Jennings, senior policy and campaigns officer at Epilepsy Action, says the number of people contacting their helpline about PIP rocketed by 123% between 2016 and 2017. “Many people use that benefit to travel to work on public transport, as a lot of people with epilepsy can’t drive. If people lose that money, they lose the one thing that might give them their one bit of independence,” he says.

An early-day motion, signed by 34 MPs, expresses “serious concern” at the number of people with epilepsy being denied PIP, and “alarm” at rejection rates. They want the government to make the system fairer for people with epilepsy.

The figures are just the latest in a litany of problems with PIP. Disability rights organisations and patient groups have widely campaigned against the PIP process, which a former top civil servant described as Kafka-esque in its complexity when his own application was rejected. Last year a cross-party committee of MPs concluded the system was failing a “substantial minority” of claimants; the process was undermined by basic errors, insensitivity and ignorance about people’s conditions. The criticisms prompted key changes to PIP guidance.

In November 2017 and again in June 2018 the DWP issued amended guidance, following a successful legal challenge, which found that government policy had been “blatantly discriminatory” against people with mental health conditions. This has resulted in an increase in the mobility element of the benefit for some epilepsy claimants. Even so, nearly half of claims since November 2017 were still turned down.

In theory, things should improve for epilepsy patients in Scotland, as the Scottish government intends to reform PIP when responsibility for the benefit is devolved next year, with changes coming in 2021. Scotland’s social security secretary, Shirley-Anne Somerville, says: “We will be replacing PIP with disability assistance for working-age people, a new person-centred benefit.

We will be working to get decisions right first time, supported by a reformed assessment process, delivered by Social Security Scotland, not the private sector. We will reduce the need for face-to-face assessments, but, where these are necessary, we will provide people with choice and flexibility over their appointment. Our new system will also provide for the needs of people with fluctuating conditions like epilepsy.”

PIP has not been devolved in Wales but the Welsh government has repeatedly called for the system to be overhauled. A government spokesman says: “We will be carrying out research into the implications of devolving parts of the benefits system to Wales. This will include looking at the Scottish model.”

Charities in England also want a reformed system. Phil Lee, chair of Epilepsy Action, says: “We are looking at what’s happening in Scotland very closely; it’s an opportunity to learn from mistakes and put them right. Hopefully, we will see a better system in place in Scotland which the rest of the UK can model – Scotland is leading on this.”

In a statement, the DWP said 27% of people with epilepsy get the higher level of PIP support compared with 6% under DLA. “In November 2017 we updated our guidance, which will increase entitlement for a number of claimants, particularly those with conditions such as epilepsy.” It is now identifying existing claimants who may be entitled to more PIP support.

Back in Irvine, Purdon is finally getting her life back on track. “I feel a lot less stressed. We’ve got money for the house and we don’t have to worry about food bills. It also means I can give my daughter pocket money again – having to say ‘no’ to her for all those months was heartbreaking.”

Case study – Murray Goulder


HR professional Murray Goulder, 39, from Crawley, West Sussex, knows firsthand just how difficult it is to qualify for PIP if you have epilepsy. Goulder takes 20 tablets a day to reduce the risk of seizures, which come without warning and bring mental “absences”. Each episode can last from a few seconds to three minutes. He has four or five seizures a month, but they are unpredictable – one weekend he had 90.

“I have almost walked off train platforms before, without knowing,” he says. “I get tired very easily and terribly forgetful – my memory is in tatters – and my mood can be drastically effected. I also have constant headaches.”

Goulder applied for PIP when his DLA – worth £174 a month, typically spent on public transport and medication – ended in November 2017. His application was rejected but was finally granted this February on appeal: he was awarded £468 a month with £6,608 in back claims. He says: “It caused a lot of stress and made me feel like I was a liar. It meant I didn’t have enough money for pursuing my hobbies like going to concerts and the theatre.”
DWP followed policy in denying dying man benefits, review finds.

Stephen Smith, 64, from Liverpool, weighed 38kg and was gravely ill at time of death.


An investigation into the treatment of a man who was denied benefits despite being seriously ill and weighing 38kg (6st) before his death has found the Department for Work and Pensions “followed policy”.

The internal DWP review ordered by Amber Rudd found that the department missed “crucial safeguarding opportunities” but that “policy guidance was followed” in Stephen Smith’s case.

Smith, 64, from Liverpool, had a range of debilitating illnesses including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoarthritis and an enlarged prostate, and used a colostomy bag.

His death was reported in April, months after he was forced to get a pass to leave hospital to fight a decision by the department to deny him of crucial benefits.

Smith, who could barely walk, was deemed fit for work after a work capability assessment in 2017, which meant his employment support allowance (ESA) payments were stopped.

In February the government overturned the decision and agreed to pay back about £4,000 in wrongly denied benefits to Smith. However, he died before he could spend the money and it was used instead to pay for his funeral.

After his death, the Liverpool Echo published two letters from two different doctors that had been ignored by the DWP.

One note, written by Dr Terence Crowley, stated that Smith “could not mobilise a distance of 20 metres repeatedly without needing to stop due to pain and breathlessness”.

Amid widespread condemnation of the department’s treatment of Smith, the MP for Birkenhead, Frank Field, wrote in April to Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, to call for an official inquiry into the case. Rudd refused to grant a full inquiry and instead ordered the internal review.

Writing to Field to reveal its results, Rudd said: “Whilst the policy guidance was followed in Mr Smith’s case, there were crucial safeguarding opportunities which were missed by the department. The review has identified areas where we need to change our policy and we will be implementing these changes to ensure our most vulnerable claimants are protected.

“The department will be working at pace to ensure that these are embedded and that vulnerable claimants are receiving the best possible support from the department. I am adamant that we will learn important lessons from this tragic case and make changes to protect people like Mr Smith in future.”

Among the jargon-heavy changes Rudd outlined were improving awareness of how changes to benefit entitlement could affect other benefits in payment or under appeal and “identifying other trigger points for information sharing between benefit lines to improve, join up and provide more holistic support”.

A DWP spokesman described the missed safeguarding opportunities surrounding Smith’s case as “failings”. He said the changes would ensure that if someone’s condition deteriorated while they were appealing against the result of a work capability assessment, they would be able to access the benefit support they needed, and greater links between the department and authorities such as social services would be established.

In response to the letter, Field said: “What kind of policy guidance is it that fails to recognise that somebody is seriously ill and dying? This letter heavily disguises the fact that we’re talking about a man who lost his life, not a package that got lost within the DWP. It sums up much of what’s wrong with the DWP, which is apparently very short on human sympathy.”