Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Eek! My ESA50 form's late!!!

Are you filling in the horrible ESA50 form, hoping you'll be able to claim Employment & Support Allowance? Do you have that horrible big black line on the calendar looming imminently over you? Don't worry. You can rub that line out if you have M.E. or some mental health conditions (sorry, but I don't know which ones).

This subject keeps coming up recently. Mostly because people have still only been given four weeks to fill in their ESA50 despite Christmas and New Year being in the middle of it. A lot of people are running late with their forms and panicking. I knew I had read somewhere that people with M.E. needn't worry about late forms, but I couldn't remember where. Then I found that I had saved the information to my computer ... hoorah ... but doh! 

So, I apologise, I do not know where this information came from, but do please feel free to use it. Personally, I would not recommend running anymore than a week late with your form. If you are returning your form late copy and paste the information below into a document and submit it along with your form and a letter explaining your reasons for lateness.


DWP will insist that they do not give anyone a time extension for completing the ESA50.

This is contrary to their own guidelines. In a letter to the Countess of Mar dated 21 November 2011 regarding the Incapacity Reference Guide, and the flagging of ME/CFS along with mental health conditions, the DWP stated:-

"Therefore, for the avoidance of doubt I can be clear that the Department does not classify CFS/ME as a mental health disorder. The asterisk next to CFS/ME in the Incapacity Reference Guide (IRG) is not as an indicator of its classification, but rather to alert decision makers to the fact that a proportion of people with CFS/ME have symptoms related to altered mental function. Mental health condition and those that have mental function impairment as a feature are highlighted in the IRG so that appropriate safeguards can be put in place. These safeguards include not automatically rejecting a claim to benefit should an individual fail to return the related questionnaire, together with procedures for additional contact with the claimant during their application if required."

It may be useful to quote this to the DWP when you ask for an extension, in any case ensure that they make a note of your conversation on your records, or perhaps it is better to put it in writing to them, so that, if ATOS refer your case back to DWP as a non-returned form, then they should have to take this information into account before making any decision to end your claim.

The incapacity reference guide is here:-

http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/spmmanual/spm50600.htm

The correspondence with the DWP regarding ME is found here:

http://www.meassociation.org.uk/?p=9327

Should anyone know where this information came from, please let me know so that I can give the relevant credit.

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