Shocking ESA decision obviously mail-merged

Am dealing with a case where the DWP has obviously used standard paragraphs that had nothing to do with the claimant.  Throughout the decision there is the pattern <Title><Surname> - and I mean literally that - not the actual name of the person at all!  This reveals the shocking "hatchet job" approach of the DWP to ESA - a formula of reports with standard phrases with the decision makers having the same standard phrases that are then copied and pasted into decision letters with names merged in (or not in this case).  An unlawful approach that completely fails to accurately take individual circumstances into account.  It's decisions like this that kill people.

Here's a copy of some of the offending decision, which the DWP apologised for, although the matter is ongoing as that doesn't put it right in this case: A Dodgy DWP letter

Gambling refund

Just got a gambling refund of money deposited to release "bonus offers".  These are unlawful under Consumer Rights Act 2015 - Unfair Terms.  If you deposited money into an "on-line cashier" or similar to release a "bonus" and then found you couldn't withdraw your money due to ridiculous "wagering requirements" you're due a refund.   Contact me with your email if you want letter templates in Word format.  This is a free service.

The truth about benefits tribunals

I get increasingly worried by the number of people who are given the impression that they must attend tribunals as if somehow the whole tribunal system is outside the scope of reasonable adjustments.  I have even heard of claimants withdrawing appeals believing that because they couldn't do it there was no point in carrying on.  It doesn't help that many advisers insist on referring to social security appeals as "court", presumably because appeal hearings are more and more held in court buildings to save money.  And the whole business of referring to tribunal chairs as "Judges" doesn't help - that change in the appeals system was a blatant intimidatory tactic.

Here are my tips to make the system work for you:

  • Make sure you, or your adviser, makes every effort to overturn the decision before a tribunal becomes necessary.  The DWP frequently makes the excuse that so many cases are overturned at appeal because new evidence is produced that hasn't been seen before.  There should be no new evidence at a tribunal - it's better to present it earlier on - be it by a witness statement, letter from GP etc.
  • Be honest with yourself and your adviser about whether you can actually manage a tribunal hearing.  There's no point in dragging yourself to a hearing only to be overwhelmed and say the shortest answers possible to get out of there!  If you can't face it there are a number of options: paper witness statements instead of oral evidence, a tribunal at home, a tribunal using video-link, or better still a robust attack of the offending decision directly with the DWP so as to head off the tribunal in the first place. 
  • Remember the tribunal must make reasonable adjustments for you and has a range of procedures designed to ensure it can meet its obligations.  These can sometimes appear disguised for administrative convenience, but they are there to be used!

New DWP Secretary like Saville in charge of children's home

So the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is none other than former benefits sanctions minister Esther McVey.  It's like putting Jimmy Saville in charge of a children's home.

Shocking NHS Data release shows nearly half of ESA claimants have attempted suicide

Figures available to the Government in 2016, but only just released, show that 47.1% of women and 43.2% of ESA claimants have tried to kill themselves. This compares to the general population suicide attempts figures of 1 in 15 adults, or 6.7%.

You can find the data here: - scroll down to: “APMS-2014-Chapter-12-Suicidal-Thoughts-Suicide-Attempts-and-Self-Harm-Tables/xls/apms-2014-ch-12-tabs” or go direct to: (you may get a safety warning but it is a safe link to official NHS data).

Disability Minister update on PIP regulations

The Disability Minister has announced that she feels that there are potentially 10,000 beneficiaries resulting from the Upper Tribunal’s decision to update the definition of “safely” in the PIP regulations.

The DWP had been arguing that for anyone to be considered to be unable to carry out an activity “safely” there would have to be a more likely than not chance of harm occurring. However, the Upper Tribunal decided the correct test is the degree of harm that could happen.



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