This is a time of change. New sickness and disability benefits are replacing old ones. The rules of qualification have recently changed radically: it is more difficult to qualify for the new benefits. The new legislation is on-line, but you need to know what it all means in plain English and how it will affect you.
The new sickness benefit, Employment Support Allowance, replaces Incapacity Benefit. Everyone is being reassessed and you will only have four weeks to fill in your ESA form. Some people who have already been assessed for ESA are being reassessed, so everything is chaotic.
Universal Credit is trialed in Tameside, Oldham, Wigan and Warrington, then goes nationwide from October. This will replace all means-tested benefits, including ESA.
Personal Independence Payments replace Disability Living Allowance. Everyone will be reassessed in the next five years. If yours is an indefinite or lifetime award, you will not be reassessed until after October 2015.
Sources of information
If you or someone you know is on benefits, it is important to bring yourself up to date. Sources of information are:
http://www.turn2us.org.uk have information, a benefits calculator and help line.
www.disabilityrightsuk.org have on-line fact sheets about the changes. They also
produce an annual handbook every May. This is a sickness and disability “bible”.
There have been so many changes that whole sections will need to be rewritten this year. The handbook is likely to be a sell-out, so order your copy in advance.
Child Poverty Action www.cpag.org.uk do a detailed guide, with reference to individual statutes and regulations.
The Disability Law Service www.dls.org.uk have information and a helpline.
As well as this, you need practical help: detailed information about how the system works, what the questions on the forms mean, and how to present your case to best advantage. I can highly recommend www.benefitsandwork.co.uk , run by an experienced advice worker and barrister. Their on-line guides to individual benefits are up to date and written in an accessible way. It is a subscription site: £20 for a year (occasionally reduced ) and cheaper for renewals. They also have forums.
I would strongly advise getting information and considering how your circumstances relate to the new benefit rules well before you are reassessed. You may also wish to get help from CABx and Stockport Welfare Rights to fill in your form. There are specialist advisers for mental health cases (ask your CPN or social worker).
If you need to appeal, remember that 38% of ESA appeals are successful.
Get help with your appeal; attend the tribunal and (hopefully) be represented to maximise your chances of success. Caroline Platt