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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:

Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2014/15


Available Now:

We are proud to announce the birth of the 14th edition of the Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health, with the first batch wending it’s way on to the shelves of our new main distributors at CPAG.

Weighing in at 2 1/2 lBook Mock upbs with all 364 pages in the right order, the
book has been revised thorough all its chapters.

You can get your copy from   Despite the growth in size, the book is on sale at a very reasonable £20.



Highlights include

  • Personal Independence Payment: revised timetable, the story so far and ten top tips and sample forms
  • Employment and Support Allowance: updated caselaw and mandatory reconsiderations
  • Universal Credit: latest timetables, updates, the great disability gap, and update
  • Attendance and Allowance and DLA: more help and sample pages when filling in forms.

New chapters bring together the updated old pages and new ones:

  • Benefits, Work and Conditionality: ESA work related activity and sanctions, the Work Programme, surviving as a jobseeker, moving into work and Universal Credit conditionality
  • Paying for : changing Housing Benefit, the “bedroom tax”, help with mortgage interest and Universal Credit housing costs element.
  • Mental health diagnoses and disability benefits: a brief guide to mental health diagnoses and like difficulties for AA,DLA and PIP with a more detailed look at bi-polar disorder

Alongside all the new sit our usual chapters all revised and updated: Contents, Barriers to Benefits, 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, Benefits in Hospital, Challenging Decisions and an easy glance 2014/5 benefits rate chart.

You can see sample pages here: Excerpts-Big-Book-Benefits-Mental-Health-2014-5

Read the Book? Now see it live!

We have courses and we will travel. You can see a selection of training courses on page 360. Or visit our training pages.

Contact to discuss your requirements

What do you think?

Please let us know what you think, constructive criticism, potential errors and help make the Big Book even better next time. You can e-mail or use the feedback form on page 361

We hope though the new edition will still be be a trusty friend in these very difficult times. Good luck and may you feel the benefit!

New 14th edition of the Big Book

Keys are rattling for the new 2014/5 edition, which will be our 14th. Any feedback, comments or suggestions to help us make the Big Book even better, would be very welcome.

We are moving homes this year to CPAG. You can view the bookshop page for the new Big Book and place an advance order 🙂 at:

We go with Mind’s blessing and we will be very proud to once again carry the Mind logo on this new 14th edition. It will be great to keep the historic link that goes back to that very first edition and to  work continue to work with Mind.

Publication has been brought forward to April, which seemed a very good idea at the time :-). Further details on pages, contents, publication date and sample pages will follow here, at CPAG and on facebook.

Sale now on !

Big book cover 2013 (small2)The last few remaining copies of the 2013/4 edition are available on sale now exclusively at the Mind bookshop at the reduced price of only £12.99 plus p&p – instead of the usual £18.49.

Just click on the link here to bag yourself a bargain!

You can see sample pages here

With a new look and thorough update, this edition has our first  full chapters on the new PIP including sample forms, Universal Credit and Welfare Reform changes.

An excellent opportunity to check out the Big Book at a bargain price and see if it’s suitable for you or your organisation.

Available now…

Big book cover 2013 (small2)After much anxious pacing we are pleased to announce the birth/publication of The Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2013/4 on 25th June at Mind.

The little purple and blue bundle of joy weighs in at 2lbs 1 oz. and is available from the shop at Mind for 18.49 plus p&p.

The sheer scale of both the rewrites this year and the sad loss of the book’s guiding hand and founding author, Judy Stenger has meant this announcement  is a tad later than we had planned! Our apologies then and thanks for your kind patience.
New this year are complete Big Book treatments of Personal Independence Payment (including page by page guidance/example forms to help you with the new forms) and Universal Credit (with a handy clulation sheet and building blocks to Universal Credit entitlement).
Every chapter has been touched by the winds of welfare reform; ESA, for example has been updated with the latest January 2013 descriptors,  ESA 50 forms and new sancctions regime.
Another new chapter summarises all the cuts and changes to help you see the welfare reform woods for the trees.
We look forward to your feedback on the book to help us improve for next year. While we aim to offer a friendly, informal, practical toolkit for the non-specialist, we hope that even experienced advisers will find interesting bedtime reading.
You can get a flavour of the changes, new content and sample pages from   excerpts from Big Book of Mental Health 2013-4. You can see a summary of what’s occurring and our current range of courses in the  flyer.
Of course once you’ve read the book you may want to see it live. If you can find a venue and up to 16 people and a spot of lunch we have training courses and we can travel. Just contact us for details of costs and to adapt courses to your needs.