The chief executive of CAB said: 'Our specialist advisers are being overwhelmed.'

 

Nicknd Welfare Rights Specialist

4 July 2012 9:32PM 

Whilst I warmly welcome the recognition given to the pressure welfare benefit specialists are under at the CAB in this excellent article by Amelia Gentlemen of the Guardian and also by the organisation’s CEO Gillian Guy, I think we should be clear that the problem caused by ESA assessments is really only the start of what’s to come.

The purported £50 million a year cost of these appeals is a massive understatement of the true cost to the public purse.

The tribunal president in his annual report produced earlier this year predicted that by 2015 appellants will be bringing 644,000 benefit appeals a year.

The number of social security benefit appeals has sky rocketed from what we were seeing back in 2008. If the president’s predicted figures transpire to be correct; for the period from 2010 to 2015 the total number of all benefit appeals will have escalated to an almighty 2.5 million.

The cost of these appeal is being wildly misquoted, my research shows the combined DWP & HMCTS cost to be £429.66 per hearing; the total cost is absolutely phenomenal and being played down by the Government.

The DWP’s figure for an Employment and Support Allowance / Incapacity Benefit Interview alone is put at £109 (2009/10). It stands to reason that if the cost of a one to one interview at the job centre costs over a £100 the cost of a full tribunal appeal hearing will be much greater.

Little is known about how hard working CAB and law centres are totally reliant on legal aid funding for the provision of specialist advice, it is absurd that we face the loss of this vital funding with effect from April of next year. This is when the recent legal aid reforms take full effect and effectively abolish specialist help for all the people who turn to us for specialist help in what are often very complex and time consuming appeal cases in the first – tier tribunals.

Nearly 50% of our caseload is taken up with client after client coming in for help with their ESA appeals. Our results speak for themselves – we win around 80% of our cases, how you can you argue with results like these?

Our success rates have to tell you something about an endemic failure on the part of the DWP to achieve satisfactory standards of decision-making in their adjudication of ESA claims. The national success rate of 40% would I suspect be much greater if more of our clients were able to access help from fully trained welfare benefit specialists.

Ironically the need for benefit specialists was well recognised by David Cameron when addressing the National Autistic Society back in July 2009 when he compared applying for disability benefits as complicated as ‘applying for a mortgage’.

If Mr Cameron thinks applying for these benefits is complex he should try appealing for them! Our office is crammed full of files awaiting preparation of well agued legal appeal submissions. It can take a fair number of hours to put together a case and becomes particularly difficult in say a case where the client has a complex mental health condition.

What government just doesn’t get is how the change from Incapacity Benefit over to Employment & Support Allowance is a completely different assessment. In the vast majority of cases we are trying to advance an argument on behalf of our client to the Tribunal that our client is entitled to support via Government’s ‘flagship’ WORK programme.

The reality is out of all the cases we win very few clients go on to be attached to the WORK programme. The number of long term incapacitated being attached to the programme is shamefully low.

The reality is that no sooner has a client’s appeal been upheld that they then find themselves being reassessed again, they just get stuck in a never ending revolving cycle which denies them access to the help they need.

If government is serious in its intention to help people with limitation into work then it has to do better than hide behind overly positive statistics. The system is so ludicrous that of those clients who lose their appeal they end up back on ESA very shortly afterwards; the Jobcentre all too soon recognises how they can’t meet the labour market conditions!

But all of this will be a drop in ocean as the DWP moves towards implementation of Universal Credit where millions of claimants will see themselves overly stressed in a sea of utter confusion. I’m sure the same will apply to the influx of appeals we expect to see when Personal Independence Payment replaces Disability Living Allowance.

The scope for official error is immense; yet Government assures us all that we will see ‘simplification’ of the benefits system. It’s an admirable aim but I fear it will take light years to achieve.

The huge array of newly drafted legislation tells me what’s around the corner, this will be far from simple as mistake after mistake is commissioned by the greatest serial litigator of them all; our good old friends ‘The Secretary of State’. 

Please let’s stop this farcical pretence that the CAB and other advice organisations can cope without sufficient funding for the chaos which is all too rapidly bearing down upon us.

We need to stop pretending that committed volunteer generalist advisers can cope with the resultant complexity; specialist appeal work is a completely different ball game. Government needs to put its hand in its pocket, see sense and fund us properly for the work we do at a ridiculously cheap fixed fee of just £150 a case; it’s exceptional value for money.”

Nick D

Welfare Benefit Specialist

The point is that Government would sooner there were NO Citizens Advice Bureaux at all, Nick D ~ All the better to rob sick and/or disabled people of the benefits to which they are entitled in a just and civilised society, governed by the Rule of Law! 

We have descended into a State where the Government has gone on a lawless rampage against millions of its own people, some of the weakest and most vulnerable people in our society, in a policy of ‘passive euthanasia’ for those who fall by the wayside and are not able to keep up. The safety net has been removed.

The only way to ‘fix’ the system now is to literally overthrow the ‘Government’!

The solution is political, not bureaucratic.

The sooner we all agree on this and withdraw, en masse, our consent to be misgoverned by this government of gangsters, the sooner things will improve.

Until then, there is nothing but injustice, blood, sweat, tears and misery to look forward to.

Now is the time for EVERYONE who is not with this government to pull together to bring it down by any and all means, excluding violence, at our disposal.

~ Black Triangle


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Citizens Advice buckling under volume of calls over new benefits” was written by Amelia Gentleman, for The Guardian on Wednesday 4th July 2012 00.04 Europe/London

Advice centres are struggling to cope with a surge in requests for help because of rising problems claiming employment and support allowance (ESA), the new sickness and disability benefit, according to Citizens Advice, which responded to 97,000 requests for support on this issue alone in the first three months of 2012.

The charity said its “already overstretched service” had been put under severe pressure by the problems connected with ESA, and the controversial computer-led fitness test, the work capability assessment (WCA), which determines eligibility for the benefit.

Problems connected with ESA were the fastest-growing area of need among people who consulted a Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in the first quarter of this year, rising by 71% on the same quarter last year. There was an 82% rise in requests for help in mounting an appeal against a decision not to award the benefit. Around 38% of appeals against a refusal of the benefit are currently being overturned in the claimant’s favour.

The rise is explained in part by the fact that last April, all former incapacity benefit claimants began to be reassessed for the benefit, which was introduced for new claimants in 2008; the increase in demand for help will be linked to claimants’ lack of familiarity with the new process. Overall requests for help with benefit claims rose by 6% in that period, making this the largest part of the charity’s work, making up 34% of all advice given by CAB.

The charity warned that its advisers were already struggling to cope with the huge rise in applications for support, and would find it extremely difficult to handle a further surge in requests for help next year when fundamental changes to the welfare system arrive with the introduction of Universal Credit.

Gillian Guy, CAB chief executive, said: “This is a very worrying trend. ESA is giving rise to a far higher volume of appeals than any other benefit. As well as the huge additional stress and hardship this causes our clients, it also puts severe pressure on our already overstretched service. Our specialist advisers in bureaux are being overwhelmed by the volume of these complex and time-consuming appeals.

“Things are likely to get even worse when sweeping legal aid cuts come into force next spring. These will have a devastating impact on our capacity to provide specialist welfare benefits advice and casework – just as the biggest shake-up in the benefits system since the welfare state came into being begins to get underway.”

Chris Grayling, the employment minister, said: “Given the comparison of the two periods, aA rise in contacts to the CAB is not surprising when you consider that along with all the new ESA claimants, we are reassessing 1.5 million people over three years.

“We are determined to ensure the process is fit for purpose, which is why we are implementing all the recommendations made by our independent reviewer to make it better and fairer.”

Comments will be switched on for this article at 9am on Wednesday.

Contact information for those seeking help and advice on welfare issues can be found here.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Comments
  • Darren July 5, 2012 at 7:17 am

    JJ – I believe your stance of non-violent removal of this government to be untenable. They are trying to kill me and others like me, and they have already succeeded in killing some 1,100 of our fellow disabled people. This makes them legitimate targets for reprisal and they know this, so they will also use violent means to protect themselves. Never mind missile installations; think instead about the sonic weaponry we have been told about, or overflight drones, as well as the riot-equipped police. The sad thing about a mob is that its IQ is only as high as that of its least intelligent member divided by the number of people in the mob. This means that they will only ever attack such a force head-on and they will, as a result, lose. Those whose only purpose will be to loot for profit will be caught by CCTV and other means as they were in the last riots and nothing will be gained.

    If this government is to be brought down the action will require planning and, above all, self-discipline on the part of those who choose to enter the confrontation. Anyone who believes that such a confrontation can be non-violent, though, is deluding theirself. Again and again throughout history we have seen that those who hold power do not simply relinquish it in response to a polite request. It takes overwhelming numbers to demonstrate intent and then, at some point, measures are taken to ensure that the oppressor cannot return for another go. Witness Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena – executed. Witness Saddam – executed. Witness UK Prime Minister Spencer Perceval – assassinated in May 1812. So it *can* happen here…

    In any revolution violence, legally sanctioned or otherwise, will always have a necessary place, if only to ensure the future security of the new regime.

    Eventually, for any beleaguered group, a time must come when they must use violence in their own defence, and this is where most revolutions begin. It has long been known that poverty breeds revolt, but yet again this arrogant government is choosing to ignore the lesson that history provides. While the gun is denied to the majority of the population in the UK today, there are other weapons available to us that are not only easily constructed, but are still legal to hold without a licence, mainly because they are not *seen* as weapons in their ordinary, everyday state.

    I know, for example that I could walk from my garage into my kitchen and, within only two minutes, most of which would be spent emptying and cleaning the delivery unit, construct an effective short-range weapon that would leave my target permanently blind.

    I’m sure that those of sufficient intelligence will, during the Olympic Games, see several types of potential weapons in use for sport, that could be easily and cheaply duplicated and constructed by amateurs for more sinister purposes. They wouldn’t have the power or range that those of Olympic standard do, but in the right hands they would have the capacity to be lethal nevertheless.

    From being, initially, a single sector of society that was being victimised, the ranks of the already poverty-stricken, and the future poor, have been swelled almost daily as the unbridled evil that is the ConDem government has released details of its plans to strip welfare-dependent people, of varying levels of ability, of their already meagre incomes. Every day, therefore, there will be more and more minds seeking the means to destroy before they are, themselves, eliminated.

    We have gone from being only the disabled to being the disabled PLUS: the under-25’s who are to be denied their opportunity for independent living; the unemployed who are forced to search for non-existent jobs and then sanctioned for not finding work; the workers who cannot feed their children because their wages are insufficient when benefits are reduced or withdrawn entirely; and the pensioners, who know that they will be on the hit list once CaMoron’s lying party returns to office whether that is in 2015 or later.

    These ranks are now also being bolstered by the families and friends of those of us who have been affected directly by CaMoron’s and Duncan Smith’s murderous policies. The targets will probably not only be CaMoron and IDS though; all their “lieutenants,” such as the Minister Against Disabled People, as well as those in Job Centre Plus who have collaborated to inflict this misery upon the vulnerable will, I believe, also be either made to suffer greatly – possibly through the medium of their families – or else be destroyed themselves. “Only obeying orders” will probably not be accepted as an excuse.

    Those collaborators should be aware that in every city, town, village and hamlet there will be people able to say: “We know where you work. We know where you live. We know where your wife goes shopping. We know where your children go to school,” and they should – if they are sensible – be very afraid of what will surely come unless the guardians and enforcers of justice for ALL step in to defuse the situation. About the only thing I can see that might stop any uprising now will be the police acting to arrest and charge those government ministers who are guilty of culpable homicide along with those who have assisted them in their evil schemes.

    As the police are not likely to do so, though, I wonder who in our growing impoverished community will be the first to be inspired by the Olympics….

    Let it be noted, please, that I have made no direct threats against anyone in what I have said. I have, rather, merely pointed out what is likely to happen unless the evil schemes of this government are stopped permanently, and mentioned those whom I believe would be the primary targets of any uprising that might occur so that they might be given the opportunity to reconsider their positions, policies and actions before it is too late. I have also made it known that what I could improvise as weapons, others will be able to improvise as well quite independently from me and without any contact being made between us.

    And apologies, JJ. this was supposed to be a comment but I fear it has turned into something of an article in its own right. Sorry for hijacking your page.

  • kasbah July 5, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    We simply have to get them out.

    When people are pushed too far the survival instinct kicks in and for many that expresses itself through violence. For others it expresses itself through campaigning, marching, protesting, trying to use the legal system to catch them out-which i truly believe we can as they are breaking European law- e.g. IDS’s derogatory language about the disability benefits and rushing through The Welfare Reform Act before the official “consultation” period was over. I wish i had the energy to pursue the legal side but am too ill to do so and am totally skint, but have looked into European Human Rights Law and found them to be guilty of disability crimes. The law acts slowly and is expensive therefore many people take the law into their own hands. Who can blame them? We are being attacked and have been impoverished or murdered by Condem policies. Deprivation breeds revolutions.

  • Allen Vincent July 5, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    I am surprised an Gilllian Guys comments erm NOT ….. do people realise truly how much CAB get annually? A LOT.

    Please peruse enclosed link of Canterbury Cab manager unlawfully excluding me under the Equality Act 2010 http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/191/ssofcanterburycabmanage.jpg/

    This applies to Dover and Doncaster CAB to as I DARED to make a complaint and found CAB’s complaint process to be unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 as it is to difficult and oppressive for disabled people in all it’s forms to use.

    AllenVincent489

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