Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Presses Roll

Big book cover 2013 (small2)

The presses are  rolling on the new Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2013/4. which will be available exclusively via Cover price is £18.49 plus p&p.

The precise publication date will be confirmed when the first batch is on Mind’s shelves, but the challenge is on to have it out for solstice! You can register for an e-mail notification from Mind.

It’s been a substantial rewrite this year as you can see from the back cover . There are new chapters on: welfare reform overview, Personal Independence Payment and Universal Credit, but no chapter has been untouched by the winds of welfare reform change blowing through the benefits system. You can see some sample pages here

The PIP chapter includes page by page example PIP2  “How Your Disability Affects You” questionnaire, with a facing page containing the full descriptors, DWP Guidance, Big Book comment and likely difficulties for that PIP Activity.

Universal Credit has a step by step guide to the sums and a calculation sheet alongside full coverage of this “simpler” benefit (it isn’t!) which will slowly replace means tested benefits and tax credits.

Other big changes apply to Housing Benefit (“the bedroom tax”) the Social Fund (goodbye discretionary fund) and Council Tax Benefit (a new postcode lottery undermines aims of  Universal Credit)and Employment and Support Allowance (with modified descriptors and ESA 50) .

A new Welfare Reform chapter though will help you step back and see the welfare reform woods before getting up close and personal with the trees.

The book has grown to 316 pages, but to make room for the new we have had to cut down on coverage of DLA, even though this will still be useful for some. However the full version of the DLA and AA chapter (with example forms and difficulties) will be available as a free download from this site.

We are sorry that the sheer scale of changes and the impact of the sad loss of Judy Stenger means that we are a bit later out than we’d like,  but we still hope you will find it useful in these changing times.

We’d love to hear from you about what you think and ways we can improve for next year.

Next post will confirm shortly that it is on sale.

Big Book of Benefits 2013/4

Big Book of Benefits 2013/4

Work is well under way on the 13th edition of the Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health 2013/4. The new edition will include new sections on Personal Independence Payment and Universal Credit as well as extensive revisions to most chapters as the chill winds of cuts and “welfare reform” work right through the benefits system.

There will also be a handy section summarising all the changes in one place so that you can see the welfare reform woods for the trees along with  welfare reform summaries at the start of each section to highlight what’s changed or is about to.

Big benefit changes means that it’s a big  a rewrite this year, and the work is all the harder without original Big Book author, the late Judy Stenger. However we hope that much of her original wit and wisdom will live on in the new edition and that revisions and additions would meet with her approval.

Many thanks go to Neath Port Talbot Mind where the Big Book originated for their advice and support, along with practical input from the other half of the former Terri and Jude partnership at the Income Project. Also to Mind UK for their interest and support for a new edition. Between them we hope to keep the new edition grounded in the experience of claimants, advisers and recent policy work.

A future post will confirm actual publication date and how you can get your copy


Big Book of Benefits offers books and training courses to help you find your way through the benefits maze, especially in these changing days of welfare reform. Whether you’re a claimant, support worker or welfare rights adviser, we hope that our accessible, friendly – and even fun – training and publications can help you get to grips with the changing face of social security.

We aim to build on the well received Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health – now in its 17th edition –  planning other Big Books in the future. We already offer a wide range of benefits training courses and can adapt these to meet your specific needs, with or without a mental health bias.

The story so far…

It’s twelve years now since the Big Book of Benefits and Mental Health first appeared. Since then much has changed – and things have got harder.

Has there ever been a more difficult time to be a claimant? Probably not, this side of Beveridge. Certainly for those reliant on benefits paid on grounds of ill health or disability, anxiety is rapidly becoming a way of life rather than a diagnosis.

Some of course have by now come through the first big wave of current change, their migration to ESA completed. So far the process seems to be a bit of a lottery: some have been fairly painlessly transferred to the Support Component without a face-to-face medical, others have inexplicably ended up on the Work Related Activity Component when they should doubtlessly not be, others still have been told that they are fit for work; in fact that’s been the experience of 37 per cent of old sickness route claimants. And it’s not just the actual migration and outcome which are hurting – it’s the sheer worry of it all –  knowing it’s ahead and wondering what will happen.

You don’t have to look far to find the casualties; you’ll find people who have been told they are fit for work – and who know that they are not – amongst any community, and here telling their stories on internet fora. Unluckier individuals form part of the 14 per cent rise in the homelessness in England in the last year. And the hardest hit of all find their names recorded for posterity. Be assured that we won’t forget.

And ahead lie myriad more cuts, the replacement of DLA with the Personal Independence Payment and the coming of Universal Credit.

We hope that the book – and now this blog – will continue to help, even in this grim time.