Now in its 17th edition, The Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health started life whilst Judy was a welfare rights adviser with Neath Mind, where she worked for 13 years.
It’s aimed both at people who are trying to find their own way through the maze that is the benefits system and at people who are helping out along the way – a tactical handbook that has proven a helpful resource.
Scroll down to find: More about the book and links to sample pages to see what’s inside, What’s new this year ; How to get your copy ; How to see the Book Live ; Dedication and acknowledgements and Readers feedback
More About the book:
The Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health began from practical handouts for a 2 day training course for a CMHT in South Wales. And we are delighted to have relaunch an updated version of the very same two day Benefits and Mental Health course, by request of a mental health support group. You can find out more about this course and other courses – with or without a mental health bias – under our Training page
Inside this year’s edition of the Big Book, you’ll find 405 pages of information, hints and tips, example forms, supporting letters etc. all aimed at enabling people to secure their full entitlement .
Initial chapters address the scandal of unclaimed benefits and the barriers people with mental health issues face when negotiating the system, while suggesting a “three step” approach to navigating your way through the benefits maze.
After that chapters focus in on the key benefits in detail grouped on those “three steps” . Other chapters bring the different bits of the system that help with paying for housing or support or require steps into work into one place.
The aim is not just to demistyfy and explain in friendly, informal ways how benefits work but to also offer a practical toolkit to help with those benefit forms, to write/get effective supporting letters and to challenge a decision if you are not happy with it. And that’s the key to our training too – you don’t just get a useful training day but your own copy of the book to take with you as friend and companion as you turn training into practise and go out and make a real difference 🙂
While the Big Book’s focus is on mental health, its friendly, practical approach has wider appeal too. For a start many benefits issues – such as means tested sums – apply to all, and that alone makes our friendly and occasionally whimsical explanations popular to all sorts of readers.
But even when it comes to the more health related tips, suggestions and practical tools – which are naturally more mental health related – readers have told us they have found these pages useful for a wide variety of conditions. The causes and practical day to day difficulties related to cancer, ME or learning difficulties may be very different, but they often share that common feature of being hard to pin down in the “Yes/No” that the DWP seem to like.
Seeing an explanation of how the test is wider than the DWP would like it to be -and how tests of reasonableness and common sense have pushed back their often too narrow, medicalised view of disability – has helped readers with a wide range of health issues, as well as those living with mental distress.
To view the full contents and some sample pages from this year’s book, please click excerpts from the Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2017/18
To order your copy at £25.00 – price held from last year – plus p&p – by telephone, e-mail, post or online – please see the details below.
New in the 2017-18 Edition:
For those familiar with the Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health in past years, this year’s edition is fully updated and revised throughout. It’s been a year of big changes, as new cuts are loaded into the pipeline, with many long ago announced ones only now beginning to land with a thump into people’s lives.
Every chapter then has been updated and revised. Some highlights include:
- a fully updated cuts, changes and “welfare reform” overview, renamed to reflect that only a proportion of the changes amount to any sort of reform. Full update on the post 2015 new round of cuts to “balance the books on the backs of the working poor and disabled” , devolved differences playing their part and summary changes of all the changes since 2011.
- The Sickness route to benefits updated to reflect the increasing relevance of Universal Credit for sickness, ‘new style ESA, UC work conditionality while awaiting your WCA and the reneging on the ESA new deal with the end of the Work Related Activity Component / UC Limited Capability for Work Element for new claims and new caselaw. All joining the practical tools to help you fill in ESA50 / UC 50 forms, write effective supporting letters and challenge adverse decisions.
- Means tested Benefits and Tax Credits – revised and updated with Pension Credit integrated into means tested benefits to save space – PC will be covered in much greater detail than before in the new Big Book for older people. All the magical case studies are updated and and the unjustifiable “Two Child” policy.
- expanded coverage of Universal Credit (UC) – the latest – and final? – rollout and “transition” to Full Service UC is updated along with more detail around the changes that can lead to an early switch to UC. Our top survival tips from experience in the pilot areas is extended with news from the first UC Full Service areas. These join the updated coverage of how UC should work and the sums, with examples and analysis of UC’s “disability” and “pensioner gaps. A practical guide to UC’s coalition of chaos and incompetence 🙂 Stron and stable a benefit, it certainly isn’t…
- Paying for housing and Work conditionalty and moving into work chapters have been updated for changes for under 21 year olds, new bedroom tax caselaw
- updated and expanded coverage of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – updated for the March 2017 changes to the points system, with a new handy summary of the old and new systems with handy definitions on the back. Some updated guidance around the activities affected, especially the now overt discrimination against mental health within PIP Mobility. A revised example form to fit the new look PIP How Your disability Affects You form . These join the practical tools: page by page guidance on filling in forms, example supporting letters, appeals submissions, updated caselaw and a guide to common DLA and PIP related difficulties linked to mental health diagnoses. We include details of mitigations in N.Ireland and will keep an eye on what Scotland chooses to do with its newly acquired control with PIP.
- We have had to lose coverage of the “old” disability benefits of DLA and AA, lthough to make way for expanding UC and PIP. .
However you can get full resources for AA and DLA by either:
- using the free download to get the “directors cut” – the full chapter and example DLA forms from the 2012/3 edition available from our Downloads page here
- By keeping an eye out for our forthcoming Big Book of Benefits and Money for Older People 2017/19, which will have a fully updated treatment of these benefit, that remain crucial within an increasingly separate benefits system after “pension age”.
We will of course rethink coverage, depending on what Scotland decides to do with disability benefits – so that future editions remain relevant across the UK. Time will tell if we can do that within 1 edition or whether we will need a separate Scots edition.
Getting Your copy
The Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2017-18 is available from CPAG’s bookshop We are delighted that the this very good cause benefits from the main distribution profits.
You can order from CPAG either:
- by telephone: please ring: 020 7837 7979
- by e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
- online: pop a copy into your online shopping basket at the CPAG webshop here
- by post: download and complete the order form available here
It should also be available, via your local bookshop – who need your support to : -) – helped by the book now carrying an ISBN number: ISBN: 978-0-9954595-1-9
Find out more before you buy
You can see sample pages by clicking on: Excerpts from the Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2017/18
Or clicking on the thumbnail of the back cover – left – will give you a quick snapshot of what’s in the current edition.
Or why not book some Big Book benefits training:
Every course participant will get their own copy of the Big Book – to act as both a course hand out and a practical – and by the end of the day(s), familiar – toolkit to take with you as trusty as companion and friend! It’s all about practical training and resources to help you make a real difference.
So if you can gather a gang of up to 16 people, we have courses and we can travel 🙂
For more details see our Training page here
You’ve read the Book, now see it live 🙂
Acknowledgements and Dedication:
This 17th edition would not have happened but for:
- the reading, checking and input from Yvonne Bennett (who also joins me in delivering Big Book training courses)
- the support and news from the ground from Terri at Neath and Port Talbot Mind Income Project where it all began
- the patience and support of the team at CPAG, our main distributors for the last 4 years .
- the help from Linda in rehoming and supporting us into a new printing home and Gareth at Glamorganpress for helping with the birth.
- the kind permission of Greenwich welfare rights to reproduce their ESA safeguarding form and Newcastle City Welfare Rights and Money Advice to adapt their changes table.
- the kindness of friends who have borne with me as my eyes goggled
- the kind comments and feedback from gentle readers, including those helping us revive the course that started it all
- the warmth, wit and wisdom of the original author Judy Stenger despite setting the bar so high and her gentle much loved and missed presence as type away
This 17th edition of the Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health is of course dedicated to its founder and author of the first 12 editions, the late Judy Stenger, in the hopes that she will look kindly on me messing with her work.
But as Judy wrote in 2012/3:
“You don’t have to look far to find the casualties of welfare reform; they’re there amongst any group of support service users, they’re there telling their stories on internet fora,. Unluckier ones form part of the 14% rise in homelessness in the last year. And the hardest hit of all find their names recorded for posterity. Rest assured we won’t forget.
For those who remain, I hope the book will continue to help even in this grim time. It’s aimed at both at people who are trying to find their own way through the maze that is the benefits system and at people who are trying to help out along the way. Here’s hoping you enjoy and benefit…”
So this edition is also dedicated to all its readers, those facing change and those supporting them. May fear and anxiety be lessened a little, change eased and benefits old and new maximised.
Feedback from previous editions:
“There is really everything you need here…As a tactical handbook hat is not frightened to give its opinion on the current direction of social security it is unrivalled” Adviser magazine
“An essential piece of kit for all community mental health teams, community psychiatric nurses, approved social workers and voluntary groups as well as general benefit advisers… If you have a mental health problem and are trying to cope with the benefit system or if you’re a professional wanting to give good solid advice there’s no better guide that you can buy…” Community Care magazine
“Your book has brought positive results to so many of my clients and it has always been a joy to work from. Its humour, readability and understandability makes it the best of ways of finding accurate information and gives hope to people… wading through the treacle of the Benefit system.” support worker
“The book puts into words my own experiences, feelings and thoughts…” – service user
“Your work has been massively important for service users” – support worker
“This substantial but tremendously accessible handbook could well be one of the most useful guides around …” Health and Care.com
“The PIP form took half the time and was more detailed than it would have been” social worker
“Made me re-assess how I approached the form – I was awarded a higher rate of PIP…” service user
“I have been a benefits adviser for almost 15 years & bought this book with some doubt, concerned that I might be paying for ‘rehashed information’. I just wanted to say how delighted I am, I never thought I would take a benefits book to bed… but I could not put it down.
You explained dry legislation and complex rules in a personal and engaging manner, there were even a few laugh out loud moments!
Your explanations are clear and lucid, your examples very appropriate & your diagrams summarise information in an approachable and accessible way…” benefits adviser
“I have recently acquired the book which is actually an amazing document. I cannot praise it enough…” service user and advocate.
“We often though that Judy’s work made more of an impact on the quality of life of our service users than any pills, potions, therapy or or support we were able to offer” mental health team leader