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Out now – Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2021 – 2022!!

(This post was updated on 3rd July 2021)

After the odd hiccup, reworking of proofs, we are proud to announce the birth of our new baby, the Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2021/22

There has been a lot of beavering away and a few hiccups along the way, so we just missed our once historic Midsummer’s day publication. All the pages are in the right order, mostly typo free, detailed contents pages (whole book and each chapter) lined up, a clever idea which turned out not be in the proofs put right, and some last minute updating spotted along the way. So order now to be one of the first to get your copy, hot off the press and sooo… cutting edge.

A mock up of the The Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2021/22

You can order your copy: by clicking on the link at: CPAG

Or by ordering at your favourite local bookshop.

Or by clicking on the link at: Amazon

The mock-up to the left gives an impression of how it looks but it will actually come with a black spiral binding.

And with new stiffer laminated covers to help keep the pages in order and giver a nicer harder wearing finish.

We are also going to pilot an online edition this year via the CPAG website and will post anew when that’s up and running.

You can read more about this edition on the book’s own page on this site, which you can get to direct by clicking here

You can also get what lies between its covers by clicking here.

It has put on lockdown weight at a time of high paper prices for printing. So, after holding the price for 5 years, there is a regrettable need for a small price increase to £28

The ISBN number that can help your local book shop track it down is: 978-0-9954595-4-0.

Please let us know what you think using the feedback page near the back of the book or leaving a comment .

We hope you – or the people you support – feel the benefit over the coming year. Good luck 🙂

Big Book away to printers and e-books

Hi all, I hope you had good sunny Bank Holidays .

By the skin of May’s teeth, the Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2021/22 is finished and about to embark on its journeys to printers and posting as an e-book

I will confirm arrangements and final launch dates over the coming week and will post shortly about how you can get your copy 🙂

Mental Health Awareness Week & the new Big Book


You may have seen a lot of activity across all kind of mental health organisations, media, tv programmes and awareness raising activity for

If you are going to be far later than intended with a Big Book, then it’s as good week as any to get the last bits done, while planning ways to get both online and printed versions out there.


We had genuinely thought April would be doable, with both authors planning chunks of time to get this done. Apologies to all for not quite making it , but unavoidable stuff has got in the way for us both. and we have slipped into May. The final uploadable and print copy should be ready for setting up in new online homes and printing to start early next week. I will post again to confirm the how?, where? and when? , to get your copy , some pre-ordering possibilities pre- ordering and then to announce when the books are for download or available from all good bookshops. Thank you hugely for your kind patience

Please take a look :

  • and on our Downloads page where we will be posting some useful updated sample pages from the new edition to give both a preview of what’s inside and some free practical tools that may be helpful

A new Big Book of Benefits & other news

Spring is in the air and Happy St. David’s Day / Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus 🙂🌞

A quick update on “What’s occurring?” for Big Books generally and to help with the hunt for a new edition of the Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health

Changes at Big Books

Over recent years, I have welcomed the opportunity to keep the Big Books light burning, while keeping my feet grounded and a bit of financial security in working part time as an adviser. But that has also constrained how much time I could put into the Big Book of benefits Project.

Last Autumn was a big and difficult choice time. My part time post was going, but an awesome, full time vacancy was offered instead. A big move to the big city would be involved and with it being strictly full time only, it would have involved putting Big Books on a bit of a backburner 😦

After much pondering, exploring and agonising , heart has ruled head, Big Book of benefits it is, and you are stuck with me and wild plans to post more of news, happenings and content on this site and on our facebook page. And one of those is our involvement in a project to offer some free training across Wales…

Dangos: Showing People Ways to help others

We are now heavily involved in delivering a big project offering free online awareness training sessions funded by the Welsh Government . The idea is very “Big Books” in nature to train up frontline staff and volunteers across Wales to raise awareness of benefits, barriers andother help available to the people they come across in their working and volunteering roles.

The idea is to help people be more confident and better informed and more aware listeners, better able to hold conversations with people and encourage them to get to advice and support to access the help they need. To encourage people that it is worth talking to an adviser and to support them in linking up with one. You can find out more at:

The 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 it 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 rates were mostly out, some dragged their heels into February , others have been put off to this month’s Budget. That includes big 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 rapid pace of kickstarting the Dangos project mentioned above. This diverts a little, but is doing good Big Books type work and gives 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 – – 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. Printing is a bit trickier in these lockdown times, but we hope to offer that printed book option, as soon as we can.

Updating the website

Meantime, here at our website, it’s high time for a much needed spring clean, to brush off the cobwebs (after carefully re-homing all spiders ) . In recent months it has looked as though nothing much has been happening although in practise little feet have been paddling furiously 🙂 . So in coming weeks the plan is to update all of our pages to make this site a little bit more hip, happening and useful 🙂.

Stand by for news of cunning plans ahead, our renewed training offers adding online training options to when we hope to renew “in house” training courses . There will be lots of updated and new free resources and information on our downloads page.

Enough already…

Have a happy Spring day and I hope to be posting more news, more regularly on this site and announcements about the patter of not too tiny print soon 🙂


Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2018 -20

The Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2018-20  was published in early November 2018 .
This latest edition has  the usual mix of friendly guidance, practical tools, example forms and effective supporting letters. Revised and updated throughout, but with the biggest changes in PIP and Universal Credit , with the Government forced to rethink after Court rulings on their  disability discrimination in both areas.
We  do truly apologise for the lateness of this edition , but we are not at all ashamed about the Book itself ; it can hold its spine tall against previous editions 🙂 . It is also  smugly up to date after an unusually busy Summer for benefit changes. And it comes with the added value of being an 18 month edition with free online updates to April 2020.

How much is it ?

As a result the book has grown to 436 pages. But despite this, paper prices rising – another Brexit effect – and 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 .
If you like it, please help us out by recommending it to others. More sales both spreads the word and the good work the Big Book  can do , but will help us keep to the lowest price we can in future too

Where can I get a copy?

It  is 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:

Why isn’t in the usual annual edition this time?

Although the book still feels familiar – but humming with cutting edge newness – regular readers will notice:
  • a) this edition is much later than usual 😦 … our huge and sincere apologies for that ;  and
  • b) it covers  a longer period as we run as a 2018-2020 edition , with a shelf life of some 18 months.  During this time free updates will be posted on this website for people to download, to keep your copy refreshed and up to date.
This idea – a longer shelf-life with online updates – was worth exploring anyway – it has both pros and cons both for you , O gentle readers – and us But it was the only way to offer a Big Book this year,  as we had gone far too late for our usual annual edition.
We would love to have your feedback on whether it works for you – there are pros and cons for both you, O gentle reader and us.  Come April 2020, we can then either go with a two-year edition or revert  back to previous annual publication. But either way we plan to do so in much better time  🙂
We are truly sorry for having having run late, but hope you have found it worth waiting for. There are  silver lining to the cloud of our disgraceful tardiness though,  as we pick up on some important changes over the summer for PIP and Mental Health, and as we plan ahead for next time.

Where can I find out more?

For more information about the new Big Book Of Benefits and Mental Health 2018- 20 – plans, what’s inside, excepts etc – please see the book’s very own page on this site  – here 

We will also post on our Facebook page: – for more Big Book News and as we publish updates

Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2017-18

After a big year for changes last time, we were looking forward to gentle updating and our earliest ever availability for the new 17th edition . But late changes to PIP points, a new PIP2 form and more evidence emerging for re-opened enquiries into the coaolition of chaos and confusion in UC Full Service areas – strong and stable it ain’t 🙂 – all meant we were writing and checking into the wee small hours again.

Publication will now be in May and we will post again to confirm copies are on the shelves. Next year, we will sharpen our quills earlier :-).

So welcome to our new baby as presses roll. 405 pages of fully updated friendly information, practical tools and resources, example forms and supporting letters right through to appeal submissions and usedul case law. The Price is held at last years £25 +p&p

You can find out more about this year’s edition by:

  • clicking on the back cover below
  • having a look at the cotents and excerpts here
  • or by going to our Big Book of Mental Health page here

You can order a copy from our main distributors – Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) -either by:

  • ordering online: pop a copy into your online shopping basket, at the CPAG webshop, here
  • by telephone: 020 7812 5227
  • by post: download and print off the order form here
  • by e-mail:

Thanks again everyone for your kind feedback, patience and support 🙂 The book may not make a lot of money for the work that goes in, but we hope that it helps tells it how it is and offers practical tools to help you make a real difference. May you and others feel the benefit 🙂

Read the book? Now, see it Live 🙂 : If you like the book – or are thinking of ordering several copies – why not check out our linked linked Big Book training. See our Training page – here – for more details.

Clearer PIP discrimination against mental health from March 2017

Despite promises not to announce any new cuts during this Parliament , following a big PIP points row in March 2016, the Government are at it  again. They have  adjusted – or clarified – depending on your point of view,  the points system used in assessing Personal Independence Payment (PIP) .

Learning from last time, the change has been sneaked through in a rush and without the usual statutory consultation procedure . The aim was to over rule recent Court judgements , presumably because just appealing against them was judged unlikely to succeed based on any test of reasonableness. The changes make it crystal clear that they want to really limit difficulties around medication and to directly discriminate against those whose PIP Mobility difficulties are caused by mental distress.

PIP is a vital benefit for so many , as was Disability Living Allowance (DLA) before. For so many it makes the difference between “living and merely existing” . PIP is always paid on top of any other income, is not affected by any other income, savings or National Insurance contributions, is ignored in the sums for means tested benefits and can also trigger increases in those and other  benefits.

When the PIP points system saw the light of day we were told not to worry that several of the common difficulties we were used to describing on DLA forms did not make it on to the PIP points grid – which you can download – see below.

The grid was carefully worked out – with the involvement of disability charities – with two key principles in mind:

  • to offer a more level playing field for all health conditions and disability to enable those having sufficient places where they can score PIP points in a fairer way.
  • And as with DLA before , the issue  is the extent of the day to day  difficulties you face and not the underlying cause or diagnosis .

1. So Whats’ occurring?

The amended point system applies to all new PIP claims made on or after the 17th March 2017. Existing awards or claims made before the change are not affected. Nor are those made before 17th March but still being assessed or under appeal. However come renewal time, or if you apply to have your PIP claim looked at afresh before it is due to end – then the amended system applies. You can see the BBC News story around this here

You may remember, that  there was quite a kerfuffle the last time this was tried, back in March 2016. The row then was a change aimed at those with physical difficulties and was about changing the way aids and adaptions was scored.  announced within the more open Parliamentary process of the Budget. It resulted in:  the resignation of the long serving Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith and a “U-turn” on the policy. Another BBC News piece at the time is available here

This was followed by a clear commitment that there would be no new disability cuts to be announced this Parliament, reinforced and extended to all benefits by the new Theresa May Government.

But less than a year on, the urge to scratch at PIP has returned.   This time the focus is on just two of the 12 PIP Activities and the target is very people living with mental health difficulties as the target. However, the Government says this is not a new change but a clarification of what was always intended, in the wake of two binding legal judgements.

But they said very much the same last time too …  Is it a change or not? Is it a cut? All depends on your point of view 🙂  But the DWP estimate that if the old system – with the legal rulings in place – were not changed there would be additional spending of £3,700 million by 2020. New cut or not, the upshot is less money for those claiming PIP.

2. Which parts of the PIP assessment are affected?

The changes are focused on just two of the twelve PIP activities, both of which could be very relevant to people affected by mental distress.

A handy PIP Descriptors and Definitions Chart

You can download a chart of the PIP points system that works both for claims started before  and – with the changes highlighted – those started after the 17th March 2017 . The previous single-sided points table now also has a chart of the DWP Definitions – that were also amended – on the back , together with a reminder about Reliability and Variability.

The idea is to offer a useful easy reference tool to have by your side when filling in a PIP2 How Your Difficulty Affects You? form or when working out how to challenge a PIP decision. And it is one that will be good whatever your health conditions or disabilities.

You can download a copy from our Downloads page – by clicking  here  –  There you will also find other useful free  bedtime reading 🙂 .  Or you can go direct to the PIP chart here.

Activity 3:  Monitoring a health condition and managing therapy

Here,  the Government is clarifying / changing the test to say that help with medication is totally separate from help to manage therapy.

This will mean that no matter how critical or complicated your medication regime happens to be, any help will be confined to scoring an almost useless 1 point under descriptor 3b.

It’s almost useless,  because scoring a single grudging point for what might be a considerable part of day to day difficulties – usually can’t affect your overall PIP score. And that’s whether its because of issues around medication or all that is left of  DLA’s recognition of needs for  general  supervison against the risk of harm to self or others.  If it was 2 points – not alot for what could be major difficulty in someone’s daily life – then at least it might help. As just 1 point it only really helps in combination with Descriptor  4 e on the chart   .

The Court ruling has accepted – and this still applies if the unchanged points descriptor applies to your PIP claim – that  help with medication could combine with any other therapies and depending on the total weekly time needed, could score  you anything between 2 to 8 points within Activity 3.

Activity 11: Planning and following a journey

This is one of the just two activities for PIP Mobility, the other being physically walking at Activity 12. Often issues of concentration, anxiety , low mood, appropriate behaviour, fight or flight responses or confidence can get in the way of managing to get from A to B,  especially in unfamiliar or busy places or sorting out times, fares and enclosed spaces on public transport.

You may physically walk OK, but really need help to plan and follow a journey which is where Activity 11 comes in,  looking not unlike the criteria for the old DLA Lower Mobility

The change here is to make what was previously a slightly hidden, nudge, nudge , wink wink discrimination against people with mental health issues to now be an absolutely crystal clear one.

Right from the start of PIP, there were two seemingly unnecessary separate scores for those facing “psychological distress” :

  •  if you  need prompting to undertake any journey because of “overwhelming psychological distress” you get 4 points at Descriptor 11b – which on its own own gets you no PIP Mobility.
  • If it’s so bad that you just can’t go out at all, then you get 10 points at Descriptor 11e and the standard rate of PIP Mobility (equivalent to the old DLA Lower Mobility).

On the face of it, there was no clear reason why the other more general descriptors within Activity 11 couldn’t also be used to more sensibly explore your limitations caused mental distress, just as  as much as difficulties from any other cause, such as learning difficulty, sensory impairment. Under these quite suitable for all comers descriptors:

  • if you find it difficult to plan the route of a journey -see Descriptor 11c – or to get out in unfamiliar places without company – see Descriptor  11d – you could get enough points for PIP Mobility at the standard rate ( in the same way as DLA Lower Care)
  •  and if you needed company to go out in even familiar places you would get 12 points at Descriptor 11f for the enhanced rate.

There was nothing to forbid these criteria being applied when eg the difficulties in an unfamiliar place were caused by mental health issues, just some strong guidance and hints not to.

” Those 4 points from 11b are all very interesting but what about the difficulties generally planning and following a journey” said Advisers .

” Hmm…well we shouldn’t and perhaps only some of them…but fair point. Lets be reasonable”, said the Courts .

“No way we know not of these strange words that you speak !” said the DWP…

The amendment makes it very clear that PIP Mobility does discriminate people with mental health issues, even if the difficulties they face in planning and following a journey are directly comparable with anyone else. From 17th March you simply are not allowed to have those difficulties counted and Descriptors  11c, 11d and 11f  are closed off to you. You are just left with the much more extreme sounding – yet lower scoring Descriptors 11b and 11e on the chart.

The challenge to getting or keeping Mobility will be to link up to any physical walking difficulties under Activity 12. Or if you can point to any other causes than mental distress to get you back into the mainstream under Activity 11.

The Government are hoping you can’t as they have  relying on – now much more blatant – discrimination to get some 700,000 people off DLA Lower Mobility in the switch-over from DLA to PIP.

For more details  – and arguments you can use –  about these PIP Activities under both the  old and amended systems, please see the forthcoming Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2017 / 18



Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2016/17

Candles2016 - book mock up 2 have been burned at several ends smile emoticon in readying the Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2016/17 for the printers.

Presses are rolling and we hope that the first copies will be available within a week. You can pre-order at our main distributors CPAG .

Big changes this year – so  if you only update now and then, this is certainly one you need:

  • the first wave from the extra £12 billion cuts are hitting people from this April, with most of the rest next April. Full details in the relevant chapters and in the welfare reform chapter
  •  the switchover from DLA to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) started last October and runs until March 2018, so we are upping the help in our PIP chapter to help people through the switchover and to make an appeal if needs be, with new PIP caselaw sections.
  • Universal Credit is now beginning to reach out beyond jobseekers. Area by area – from May 2016 to June 2018 – all new claims for means tested benefits and tax credits will start to be for UC instead. For those already on what the DWP now call “legacy benefits”, it will become much easier to switch over to UC early and without protection. A once ambitious welfare reform – “to make work pay and protect the vulnerable” – has now degenerated more into a cuts led exercise that “balances the budget on the backs of the working poor and the disabled” . It seems UC’s founding father has had enough. Fully updated for this April’s “in work” cuts, the yawning disability gaps and next April’s “two child policy” and surplus earnings changes
  • ESA carries on as new kids on the block – US based health multinational Maximus – rescue the crashed assessment process. But the issues with the tests – when you get one – remain and advisers are seeing demand for help with ESA decisions pick up too. Your practical toolkit is fully updated with resources to help now and when Work Related Activity Component is dropped for new claims next April. .

But every chapter has been revised and updated – changes to Housing Benefit, Pension Credit, and tax credits are important as well and no chapter has been left untouched 🙂

But as well as all that big picture cuts gloom, we hope this year’s Book will help its readers shine a little light too. You can still make a very real difference to how the changes will affect you or the people you support and work with – whether to protect from the cuts or still claim those missing millions. You can make that real difference to gain or protect the benefits that make the difference between “living and merely existing”

The Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2016/17 is available from Child Poverty Action Group  bookshop and through all good bookshops.

You can pre-order from CPAG either:

  • by telephone, please ring: 020 7837 7979
  • by e-mail to:
  • by post :  download and complete the order form available here

Once it is available on their shelves – in the next week or so you can order online:

  •  by popping it into your basket at the CPAG webshop here

You can find out more about Big Books and linked training – including back by popular demand the very course that led to the book – on this website .

Readers of Your Big Book of Benefits 2014/15 – which was a joint project with Your Benefits are Changing – will find this years book is the nearest thing to an update. The two books share many aspects and the same familiar, practical, friendly approach . We hope though, to explore with Community Housing Cymru the potential for a future update of that particular variation. .

As ever we dedicate this 16th edition to the still much missed and loved author of the first 12, Judy Stenger. Her warmth, wit and wisdom still permeate the book through all its changes. And also to all those going through these changes with anxiety, despair , hope, humour and enduring courage. We hope in our own small way, that we too can make a difference.

 To find out more please see under the Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health page on this website – click here.

Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2015-16

The new edition of the Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health is selling like hotcakes! It is available from w2015 - book mock up So order your copy now before they all go :-).

Inside its 400 pages, you will find, new for this year:

  • Welfare reform changes – taking the summary of recent and forthcoming changes right up to the Election . As promised an update for the Summer Budget changes is available from our downloads page.
  • Personal Independence Payment – updated story so far and top tips  , amendments related to some changes in the PIP guidance, as we prepare for the re-assessment of existing DLA claimants from October. And as challenges and appeals become more common, new suggestions on supporting evidence and a sample submission
  • Universal Credit – latest developments on the timetable, top tips from the pilot areas, updated illustrations of the disability gap and new illustrations of the disabled worker gap.  And the strange world of surplus earnings rule that starts in April 2016.
  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) updated for recent case law and now includes page by page guidance for the ESA50/UC50 physical pages too

Alongside all that is new sit our usual chapters all revised and updated: Contents, Barriers to Benefits, Three Steps to Maximum Entitlement, Welfare Reform Changes Summary, The Sickness Route to Benefits (including page by page guides/sample pages to completing ESA50s, supporting letters, medicals), Benefits for Carers, Means-tested benefits in Working Age , Pension Credit, Tax Credits, The Social Fund, Universal Credit, Disability Benefits: AA, DLA and PIP, Mental Health Diagnoses and disability benefits, Help with Housing Costs, Benefits and Work,  Benefits in Hospital, Challenging Decisions and an easy glance 2015/6 Benefits rate chart.

Some older chapters have had to be left out, but are still available as free downloads from the downloads page, These will also give you an idea of the Big Book approach in the current chapters. You will also find a set of excerpts from this year’s Big Book and the promised Summer Budget update.

To order your copy – priced at £23 – ,by phone, online or via an order form,  please go the CPAG bookshop at 

Spring 2015 training programme in Wales

Big Books continues our collaboration with Community Housing Cymru (CHC), with a Spring run of training courses linked to the Your Benefits Are Changing Campaign .

CaptureCourses are offered at  a special campaign rate of only £99 per person (inclusive of lunch and your own copy of Your Big Book of Benefits).  They are running  in February and March 2015 with presentations in Cardiff and Bangor.

Benefit isues and challenges are almost identical over the borders, so visitors are welcome to pop along the M4 or A55.

The aim is to help you better understand issues and  queries from tenants and to act as better informed signposters and/or be more effective in actually helping with claims.  As a result, we hope tenants can better cope with significant changes,  protect (or even increase) their income and better able to avoid rent arrears or disruption to their rent accounts.

For more details please visit Spring CHC Training Programme page here, where you can download the CHC course programme.

Book early to avoid disappointment :-). To book your place please  e-mail: jennifer-

We can also come to you, if you have a suitable venue and up to 16 participants. Again please contact Jen above.

For queries about presentations outside Wales, to discuss other Big Book benefit courses across the UK or to tailor courses to your requirements, please contact me direct: