Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health – April 2021-22
When I last posted, on our Facebook page, we had worked out the eccentric notion of making the next book a 2021 Annual, running from January 2021 to January 2022, as this seemed the earliest practical way to release a new edition of the Big Book.
So what happened to ? Well, it’s back to a conventional April 2021/22 edition now, for a couple of reasons:
- While the new benefit rates from April 2021 were mostly out, some dragged their heels into February while others have been put off to this month’s Budget. That includes significant decisions affecting many of our readers, such as whether or not to continue the vital extra £20 on UC and what next for the other Covid special schemes?
- the very full on rapid pace of kickstarting the Dangos project mentioned on our upate on our front page. This diverts a little, but is doing good Big Books type work and giving Big Book of Benefits a bit of a financial base to make things happen
So, your Big Book authors, have now exchanged hard stares over Zoom – scary I can tell you – and committed in blood – or vegetarian equivalent – to very firm plans for getting the new edition out.
- The next step will be a bit of a pre-launch at the next gathering of the National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers – http://www.nawra.org.uk – alongside a Big Books presentation of recent benefit changes to advisers from across the UK.
- The new and upcoming edition of the Big Book will then incorporate all of those latest changes and sharing of information and ideas into a final updated copy with all the final fiddly stuff of page numbering, proofing and all else that goes into the birthing of a new edition, over the course of March.
- The new edition will then emerge all shiny, sheeny new and so on trend and on time, as the Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health – April 2021/22 .
The new edition will be available as an e-publication from the start, but following the familiar Big Book format. It will be dowloadable as a.pdf book and we will check if we can get the format to also work in Kindle. Printing is a bit trickier in these lockdown times, but we hope to offer that printed book option, as soon as we can.
A further update will give you more of a sense of what’s in the new edition and some sample pages will give you a sense of what’s inside.
The Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2018-20 – Out Now !!
What is the BIG BOOK And When?
The latest, longer life, larger than ever, added value 18th edition Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2018-20 was published just after Samhain / old Celtic new year/ Halloween – or plain old early November 2018
This 18th edition of the Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health provides a fully updated friendly guide and practical handbook for the benefits newbie and experienced advisers alike. On the face of it, the book offers is full of friendly, informal practical guidance, tips and tools to help you or the people you support find a way through the benefits maze, even if you are completely new to the benefits maze.
Page by page guidance takes you through the ESA50 / UC50 and PIP 2 assessment forms. And step by step explanations help you understand the sums of means tested benefits and the strange new benefits world of Universal Credit. It can take away some of the mystery of DWP processes, and make it easier to challenge them, right through to an ESA or PIP appeal – with example appeals submissions and how to write short but effective supporting letters.
For more experienced advisers, the Book offers up to date detail on key benefits, insights into the tricky world of applying your benefits expertise to the difficulties that go along with life with mental health issues and handy summaries of case law, “limited capability” and PIP points. Beneath its non-intimidating welcome for total beginners, lies plenty of more advanced fare for those who want it.
Getting hold of your copy:
How much is it?
Despite growing to 436 pages, a Brexit effect on paper prices and the the added value of a longer life and free online updates, we are holding the price – for the third year running – at £25.00.
That does mean us taking a bit of a hit and a risk. Its by way of an apology for our lateness, while understanding that life is tough for so many of our regular readers too . But do please spread the word – if you like it – as we need to get more copies out there, not just to cover the costs but to make the most difference, in hard benefits times.
Where will I be able I get a copy?
It will be available from all good bookshops, who can obtain it from our distributors Central Books with the ISBN number: 978-0-9954595-3-3
It is also available online from Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) at:
It’s later than usual but will be good for longer… How’s that work then?
The idea for a bit of a change in our previous annual editions , was brought upon us by delays – for good reasons and bad – which meant our previously planned and usual 2018/19 edition, had gone beyond all decency and viability 😦 . For that we are truly sorry – for letting down our readers, ourselves and our founding Jude.
One option would have been just to admit defeat, take a gap year and come bouncing back to be sooo… on time in April 2019 🙂 with more contingency and back ups plans than you could shake a stick at 🙂 .
However, as Universal Credit comes crashing chaotically into people’s lives, this didn’t seem a year for quiet wound licking . In as far as we can help people to make a real difference , we felt that we really should. With PIP seeming a bit tougher and UC all over the place, the space and need for a friendly practical guide remains.
Some silver linings to the cloud of our lateness:
While deeply sorry for our lateness, we feel positive about the new 18-month 2018-20 edition itself. There some real advantages in doing things a little differently this time, even if it was forced upon us as the only way:
- we are right up to date with an unusually busy Summer of benefit changes, as the Government responded to Court judgements around their disability discrimination in both UC and PIP and as they consult on how the future “managed migration” to UC will work
- it will reduce the cost of keeping up to date via the Big Book as this new edition will good – with its updates – until April 2020
- It will give us a longer break to the next one – which will be so on time 🙂 for April 2020 – to take a really good look at the current format to see if we can keep all that’ s useful, but re-order and cut out any repetitions or too rambling tangents 🙂 to see if we can make lighter to read and carry .
- Or at least no heavier as we will need to make more space for developing Scottish benefits . We are fully friendly for all devolved differences right now, but over time there may be bigger changes to disability benefits beyond a first two years of running PIP along principles of “dignity,fairness and respect” . Such talk along with “rights based social security” agreed by all parties in the Scottish Parliament gladdens our hearts and bodes well. Not just for readers in Scotland, but those moving either way across that border. But if Scotland can solve many of PIP’s problems, why not for the rest of the UK too?
- Starting to use this website more for updates too, will kick-start us to offering more general blogs , updates and resources too both here and on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Big-Book-of-Benefits-173007586161781/
What’s InsIde ? And What’s New?
And the back cover below will also give you an idea.
Each chapter though comes with its own detailed contents page too, so we reproduce some of those here too. You can see some sample pages from this edition by clicking the link here
This includes pages now updated for April 2019 to 2020 benefit rates. You can download a copy of the April 2019 Benefits Uprating Pack – here. From this you can either update the relevant pages by hand or print them off and either keep in the back of your book or stick them over the earlier versions of those pages.
We may be doing things a bit differently for this new 2018-20 edition , but the book itself feel familiar to old friends and regular purchasers of past editions, while we hope just as welcoming to new readers and friends unmet yet 🙂 .
While all chapters are re-visited updated and tweaked there are naturally some chapters that need more substantial re-writes. Among these bigger changes are:
- Big alterations in the Universal Credit (UC) chapter – not because of UC changing that much on paper, but more because there are a lot more survival tips to share in the light of greater lived experience of UC’s chaotic implementation and unpreparedness for a much wider range of new claimants. To be fair changes have made UC less of a cause of destitution and disposession on first contact, so we can offer some real re-assurance too as some past horror stories no longer apply. But UC is by no means fixed. It is time for UC to engaged with practical implementation problems, staff training , better processes and some serious rethinking of the fundamental design. Implementation problems are not new , but UC is unique in failing to recognise its failings and doing much about them; you can’t call it “teething problems” some five years into running a benefit. Its not just about sorting the IT or running “an enhanced JSA with digital knobs on” ; but making a benefit that is safe and fit for purpose for the 98% of claimants who will not be jobseekers.
- Could UC be fixed? Probably, but it’s a big task that needs resources a change in mindset and dogma and probably a name change as the brand has got so toxic. But in the meantime, we hope this even bigger and better UC chapter will help : to feel more re-assured about some problems that have been eased , more confident in adapting to UC’s new ways if all should go smoothly and better able to handle matters if they don’t. Knowing what should be happening – and when UC are making it up as they go along – can help you or an adviser – help UC to put things right 🙂
- In the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) chapter – PIP hasn’t changed much overall – apart from the timetable for switching people over from DLA extending to March 2019. Meanwhile, and growing numbers face a re-assessment of their original PIP award. There are small hopes of change from new DWP changes around feedback and recording assessments that may help the credibility of both assessment and decision/review process, but it may need some bigger Scottish changes to make a real impact. The big news and changes has been around the Court ruling that the March 2017 changes to PIP Mobility amounted to unlawful disability discrimination against those with mental health issues. So, we detail where things stand now, the new Guidance and what the DWP are going to do about it. Overt discrimination ends, the workaround to escape covert discrimination is restored and better described, but the danger of discrimination remains as long as PIP Mobility retains separate lower point scores for psychological distress.
- We see the first of the Scottish benefit changes in a top up and then a new Carer’s Assistance. Scotland will take on disability benefits (including PIP) from April 2020, initially running as PIP does now , but in a rather different way – we detail the plans –
- UC makes a bigger presence within the in the Sickness Route to Benefits chapter, complemented by a new section on UC health and disability issues in the UC chapter
- Our summary of benefits cuts and welfare reform changes is brought right up to date with the latest with tables of changes updated and other coverage substantially rewritten
- All chapters are revised for new rates, smaller changes and double checked. That includes ensuring the book remains just as useful in all nations of the UK with full coverage of the different dates and fixed menu of differences for N.Ireland and the potential for far bigger differences in future in Scotland. Key differences in Wales are of course covered, as that is where Big Books – and dragons – are made 🙂
We are then sorry that the new edition is later than intended, but would welcome your thoughts on the different approach – of a longer shelf life with online updates. Should we carry on like that in future or return to annual editions? Either way we will be so on time for April 2020 🙂
Have your say and many thanks
We really would love to hear from you about things you like about the book and things you may not be so keen on. Or it may be that you have an idea or a thought as to something we could add in that would helpful.
In particular we’d love to know what you think about the idea of a longer running edition with regular updates. The plus side is that you can keep up to date for less the downside is that you may have some updates to carry about with you.
It’s a bit of a risk going with a new approach or printing at all this year especially as we hold the price despite costs rising.
So thank you for any help you can offer in recommending the Big Book to friends and colleagues – yes we need every sale we can get to make the sums add up – but even more importantly the more books that if circulate further and wider, the more difference each one can make in people’s lives.
Thank you then for bearing with us during this Book’s far too long pregnancy , but we hope you will like the bonny babbi that will soon be in your hands. 🙂 Thank you for inspiring us with your good humour, experiences, feedback, enthusiasm and courage under benefits fire.
And thank you above all for the difference you make as you use the Big Book – whether in standing up to any nonsense on your claim or supporting others with theirs. That is really what the Big Book is all about – sure we need to cover the costs of making the next one – but mainly its to help our readers in making that difference. For it is only when you, O gentle readers pick it up and use it – the ideas and tips inside rather than as a weapon 🙂 – that our dreams of making a difference becomes reality…
Thanks then for all that you do to keep a little light burning and a cwtch / warm hug of “social security for all” in these hard benefits times.
The previous edition:
Big Book Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2017/18
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