Welfare Benefits

Our Help With Benefits Applications And Problems / Sources Of Information And Help / If You Have Nothing To Live On / Travel / / Advice Centres In South East London / Current Items Of Interest To Claimants / Important - Pip And Esa: Completing Application Forms / Disclaimer


Applying for benefits is one of the most stressful things with which you can be faced when you have ME. We attempt to ease this process for our members.
  • Our volunteers can help you complete application forms for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Depending on our own health at the time, we may be able to visit housebound members in their own home.

  • We subscribe to Benefits & Work, an online organisation that provides excellent guides to filling in benefits application forms. We can email you these guides.

  • We may be able to advise on a wide variety of matters, for example housing benefit; permitted work; disability premiums, and much else.

  • We are members of Disability Rights UK and have access to advice from their welfare rights adviser for complex queries.

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Benefits and Work www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/ produce extensive online guides to claiming illness/disability-related benefits for their members. They also offer a newsletter and forum which are free to non-members.

Action for ME www.actionforme.org.uk/ offer a welfare rights line for their members and leaflets and guides to help with claims.

The ME Association www.meassociation.org.uk/ produce guides to claiming benefits.

Benefits calculators help you work out what you're entitled to:

A closed Facebook group provides advice and documents on a wide range of benefit-related issues for people with ME:

Citizens Advice http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/england/benefits_e.htm offer free advice face-to-face and by phone. (See the list of advice centres below for offices in south east London.) They also have online benefits advice at www.adviceguide.org.uk/england/benefits_e.htm

Community Legal Advice www.communitylegaladvice.org.uk/ offer free online and telephone legal information and advice on a range of issues such as tax credits, welfare benefits, debt, etc. Their website also provides information on local advice services and local legal advisers.

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Information about local welfare assistance schemes for people in urgent need following an emergency is at www.cpag.org.uk/lwas?dm_i=5MH,2DA3L,8RNEXY,8LJZ5,1

If you are left without benefit, your first port of call should be your local council. Councils run a variety of emergency support schemes, with differing criteria. Some prefer you to apply online, but some websites are hard to navigate. Relevant phone numbers are: Bromley: 0800 8595922 or 0203 324 0382 (welfare fund payments); Croydon: 0800 731 5920 (benefits advice line); Greenwich: 0208 921 2078 (emergency support payments); Lambeth 020 7926 1000 (service centre); Lewisham 0208 314 6000 (central switchboard); Southwark: 0207 525 0200 (emergency support scheme).

Make sure you keep proof of your situation where possible. For example, if you have been turned down for ESA and have been unable to claim JSA during mandatory reconsideration, keep the letter from the DWP stating that you have been found fit for work, and any medical evidence that suggests that you are incapable of work.

If you are awaiting a first payment of benefit: Jobcentre Plus should provide emergency loans if you are in financial crisis.

If you have been sanctioned: you can apply for a for a hardship payment from the first day of the sanction onwards. You will need to complete the hardship form available from your jobcentre.

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Oyster: Bus and Tram Discount Photocard

JSA, ESA and IS claimants can apply for half price travel on London buses and trams if you are aged 18-60, live in a London borough and receive no other form of discounted travel. You have to reapply every 6 months. You can get an application form from your local Jobcentre or post office or you can download it from the Transport for London website: www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/14306.aspx Tel: 0343 222 1234

Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount Card

This is an alternative for anyone on JSA/IB/ESA/IS who is working with an adviser on returning to employment (but not if you are in the Work Programme) which enables you to travel at discounted rates. www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/14423.aspx

Disabled Persons' Railcard

If you receive DLA mobility component (either rate), or middle or high rate DLA care component, or Personal Independence Payment, or Severe Disablement Allowance, you are eligible to apply for a Disabled Persons' Railcard, which gives a third off tickets for you and a companion. It costs £20 per year or £54 for 3 years. You can download an application form from: www.disabledpersons-railcard.co.uk Tel: 0345 605 0525

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If you or your partner receive means-tested benefits (income-related ESA or JSA; income support; universal credit; pension credit guarantee credit) you are automatically entitled to free prescriptions, free standard NHS dental care, and help towards the cost of glasses. You will need to produce documentary proof.

If you are not on these benefits but are on a low income, you can still get help with health costs if your savings are less than £16,000. You will need to complete form HC1 which can be downloaded from the link above.

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Please note that we are not able to recommend any of these centres or services.
Advocacy First http://www.advocacyfirst.org.uk/what-we-do/about-us/ Unit B, Clan Works, 1a, Howard Road, Bromley, Kent, BR1 3QJ. Offers casework advocacy in issues of health and social care, housing, legal matters and benefits rights.

Croydon Council www.croydon.gov.uk/advice/benefits/welfare-benefits/ have a welfare benefits hotline and can direct claimants to other sources of help. Also http://advicefinder.turn2us.org.uk/?q=node/1020252 for advice and casework service from several locations including GP surgeries and community centres.

Croydon Citizens Advice Bureau www.croydoncab.org.uk/ Locations: 48-50 Portland Road, London SE25 4PQ; 1 Overbury Crescent, New Addington, CR0 0LR; Bernard Wetherill House, 8 Mint Walk, Croydon CR0 1EA.

Disability Croydon http://disabilitycroydon.org.uk Old Housing Office, Central Parade, New Addington. Offers advocacy services and an information and advice helpline for disabled people.

Greenwich Association of Disabled People www.gad.org.uk The Forum @ Greenwich, Trafalgar Road, London SE10 9EQ. Provides casework advocacy to people with disabilities as well as a broad range of services including welfare rights and personal care.

Lambeth Council http://yourcareyourway.lambeth.gov.uk/Services/165/Every-Pound-Counts. Every Pound Counts scheme: free benefits check and advice. Phoenix House, 10 Wandsworth Road, London SW8 2LL.

Lambeth Law Centre www.lambethlawcentre.org/sidebar/lambeth-advice-network Work with a network of advice agencies in Lambeth providing advice on benefits, housing and other matters for Lambeth residents.

Merton and Lambeth Citizens Advice Bureaux http://mlcab.org.uk/ Lambeth office: 1 Barrhill Road, Streatham Hill, London SW2 4RJ.

Brixton Advice Centre http://www.brixtonadvice.org.uk/ For debt, benefits and housing issues. 167 Railton Road, London SE24 0LU.

Disability Advice Service Lambeth http://www.disabilitylambeth.org.uk 336 Brixton Road, London SW9 7AA. Provides casework advocacy, citizens' advocacy, support with benefits, community development and outreach.

Lewisham Council www.lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/socialcare/children/Pages/FIS-detail.aspx?directoryid=21 Provide advice, information and representation on all aspects of welfare benefits, housing, employment and debt problems to residents of Lewisham. 190 Evelyn Street, London SE8 5DB.

Lewisham Disability Coalition www.scope.org.uk/support/services-directory/lewisham-disability-coalition-information-advice 2 Catford Broadway, London SE6 4SP.

Catford Citizens Advice Bureau www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/getadvice/bureau_detail.htm?serialnumber=101249 120 Rushey Green, London SE6 4H6.

170 Community Project http://advicefinder.turn2us.org.uk/?q=node/1007763 Assist local residents and runs a range of projects as well as giving welfare rights advice. 170 New Cross Road, London SE14 5AA.

LAPD (formerly Lewisham Association of People with Disabilities) http://www.lapdonline.org.uk Downham Heath and Leisure Centre, 7-9 Moorside Road, Bromley, BR1 5EP. Provides information, advice and advocacy in cases of social care, benefits tribunals, housing, hospital discharge and discrimination.

Southwark Citizens Advice Service www.southwarkcabservice.org.uk/ Main offices: 97 Peckham High Street, London SE15 5RS; 8 Market Place, Southwark Park Road, London SE16 3UQ. Special drop-in advice sessions for difficulties with council tax will be run at 8 Market Place, Southwark Park Road, London SE16 3UQ on the first Tuesday of each month, 5.30-6.30 pm.

Southwark Legal Advice Network www.southwarkadvice.org.uk/advice/benefits-nlg.html A range of agencies offering welfare and other advice.

Advising London (formerly Blackfriars Advice Centre) www.blackfriars-advice.com/ Cambridge House, 1 Addington Square, London SE5 0HF.

Southwark Council: Rightfully Yours www.southwark.gov.uk/

Southwark Disablement Association Independent Living www.sdail.org 10 Bradenham Close, London SE17 2QB. Provides information, welfare rights advice, befriending and practical help.

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All benefits - if you want to contest a decision:

You can no longer proceed straight to appeal. You have to request a mandatory reconsideration (MR), which is a review by the DWP. Do this within one month of your letter of decision, in writing: it can be hard to get permission later. If you are again unsuccessful after MR, you can appeal. If the DWP try to persuade you before or during MR that it is not worth proceeding, ignore them.

Cut to the WRAG:

From 3 April 2017, new ESA claimants placed in the WRAG will receive the same amount of benefit as those on jobseeker's allowance, i.e. almost £30 per week less than previously. However, this reduction does not apply to existing ESA claimants who are reassessed after April 2017 and placed in the WRAG.

Fall in support group awards:

Support group awards as a proportion of total awards of ESA fell during 2016. This is due to changed guidelines for the application of regulation 35, which enables claimants to be placed in the support group if they would face a substantial risk of harm to their health from undertaking work-related activity.

ESA applicants found fit for work: You have to go through MR before appealing, and during MR you cannot claim ESA. You should usually claim Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) instead. This will not prejudice your appeal. But you will probably want to place restrictions on the work you agree you are able to do. Your medical evidence for this needs to be carefully worded. If your doctor states you are not fit for work at all, you won't qualify for JSA. But your doctor can specify limitations, e.g. you can only work two or three hours in the afternoon; you can't travel far… A doctor's letter is more suitable for this purpose than a 'fit note'. Also useful would be details of current medical treatment or proof that you are receiving DLA or PIP.

If you are again turned down at MR, you can proceed to appeal. At that point, you can claim ESA at the assessment rate till your appeal is heard. You can submit further evidence after your case has gone to appeal.
Avoiding and dealing with sanctions if you are in the WRAG: Sanctions are at high levels. Benefits & Work have issued useful guidance for avoiding and dealing with sanctions. www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/other-benefits/jobseeker-s-allowance/jsa-sanctions

If you are awaiting a first payment of benefit: Jobcentre Plus should provide emergency loans if you are in financial crisis.

PIP and ESA reports: ESA reports are sometimes being used as a basis for PIP assessments and vice versa.


Reduction in backlog?

It appears that the very long delays suffered until recently by applicants for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) have been reduced.

This may be due to DWP guidelines introduced in the hope that more people would be assessed on paper evidence alone.

On the positive side, fewer severely ill people will need to attend medicals. But since you may be judged purely on paperwork, take care in completing your form, providing as much detail as possible, and try to obtain supporting evidence. Evidence need not come only from health professionals: relatives, friends and carers may also write in support of your application.

PIP Enquiry Line - for any queries regarding individual claims: 0845 850 3322 (Monday to Friday 8.00am to 6.00pm); Textphone: 0845 601 6677. For complaints - see www.gov.uk/complain-disability
PIP and ESA success rates at appeal: these are high for both benefits – around 60%.
Social care: A severely disabled man has lost a High Court challenge over cuts to his care package he claimed breached the Care Act.
Response to government consultation: In February 2017, Catherine Hale and Patricia de Wolfe responded on behalf of South East London ME Support Group to the Green Paper Improving Lives: The work, health and disability Green Paper. Our response can be viewed here.

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Disclaimer: we feel it's important you understand our limitations. Our benefits volunteers work hard to provide reliable information but they are not professional welfare rights workers. We can't accept liability if you rely on our information and things go wrong.