Friday, 28 October 2011

An email that shames this government

I recently was forwarded this email by a long term ill person who recently went through yet another assessment for Employment Support Allowance. This is what he wrote to his MP. It is well worth reading and I ask you to share this with as many people as possible. People need to know what is happening.

Dear [redacted],

DWP has today surpassed itself and I am not sure which of the two emotions above will prevail. I have never felt so impotent, persecuted and depressed in all my life.

I will write to you more fully when I feel a little better, but there is one thing I would like your help with as urgently as possible. It relates to the part of a WCA that looks at walking, or mobility as it is now called.

Quite understandably the terminology has changed and I would hate to think that in the past wheelchair users had been written off because they could not walk. I don ‘t think this has been the case, but just as well to clarify anyway. Quite right, by and large, that people’s mobility is assessed against what for them can be regarded as “normal”. However, with me (and presumably thousands of others) this philosophy has been extended to an unbelievable extent. What I will describe next is from a conversation I had today with a Decision Maker (not the one who had decided for me) at the Wellingborough BDC in Birmingham. 

My mobility was assessed as unrestricted and I was awarded no points on this descriptor as “none of the above apply” (see attachment). In reality (as I noted on my questionnaire and explained at the WCA) I cannot walk even with my stick for more than 20/30 metres without a lot of pain and having to rest. However, as I now understand, the assessment was made from my ability to mobilise IN A WHEELCHAIR, even though I do not use one. The decision-maker decided that I could propel myself more than 200m in a wheelchair (if I had one). I asked about a chap who had no legs and was in continual pain, but had strong arms and the DM said that they would get no points too.

So, I asked him, am I better able to work in a wheelchair than without one? Somewhat awkwardly he had to admit yes. I pointed out that nobody, including the Atos HCP, had suggested I’d be better off in a wheelchair – GP, nurses, surgeon, consultant, physiotherapist etc – none of them. Another awkward silence.

I then asked about the 200m – even in a wheelchair, where was the evidence I could cover over 200m rather than say 100m or 50 m? His answer was that I can drive. When I asked him to explain, he said (almost verbatim) that if someone is able to turn a car steering wheel, in his opinion, they can also propel themselves over 200m in a wheelchair.

I then asked where in the DM’s manual it validated this connection. I asked this because I know that if you admit to going to a supermarket, DMs assume you can walk unaided without resting and without pain for 800m. (By now you will think I am making this up, but believe me it is absolutely true). He acknowledged the manual did not mention this point, it was just his opinion which he could not substantiate but thought it was abundantly obvious and fair.

I then asked if all of the other DMs held the same view and he did not know – some might, some might not. I then pointed out that this makes decision making rather subjective if not haphazard which was very unfair to claimants. He admitted the whole process is (of course) subjective and what else did I expect. However, they are all very experienced and always make the right decision.

So my main priority now is to get a wheelchair as I will then be more able to get a job. I have started the ball rolling which begins apparently with a referral from my GP to Social Services. I will feel a bit guilty about this as I am sure there are people far more needy than me. There is a wheelchair assessment process and god forbid I fail it otherwise I really will be in Catch 22.

I also need to think about all of the adaptations necessary to my car, home etc. to accommodate my new wheelchair. There are bound to be assessment criteria so again I hope I pass or I will have to fund it all myself.

I am actually quite annoyed with the NHS experts for not having identified this beneficial solution sooner and I plan to complain about their negligence to my PCT, although I will have to be quick because it is soon to be dissolved.

We then moved on to discuss the sitting/standing descriptor where I also score zero. After a short discussion, he acknowledged that 9 points might have been awarded, but as I still didn’t make 15, it was academic.

Although this is riddled with bias and false assumptions, it largely hinges on the interpretation of the top line of the attachment (in orange). He is saying that if there is nothing to stop me using a wheelchair (not having one doesn’t count) I could use one. The WCA manual refers to “Those individuals that use a wheelchair”, but nowhere suggests that wheelchair criteria should be used for non-wheelchair claimants.

There is no instant process of correction so I will find myself in the Tribunal Service queue for the next 6 – 9 months with absolutely no form of redress. Is this really what the Tory party is aiming for?

Remember, this is on top of the unilateral declaration that the workplace no longer requires bending or kneeling. I think a fairly clear pattern is emerging.

Please get back to me as soon as you can – I don’t want to wait the usual 4 weeks. Thank you.


PS I have the name of the chap I spoke to. He would only give me surname not even initial – said he didn’t have to. When I pointed out he knew somewhat more about me, in a very condescending and disapproving tone, he reminded me that it was me being paid benefit, not him. Up to this point I thought he had been to a small degree sympathetic over my predicament, but clearly I was just another benefits scrounger. So much for the support that Chris Grayling has promised! All I can do now is make this persecution as widely known as possible

1 comment:

  1. I have been to my A--s medical in June 2012 I have suffered 24 DVT's in my legs several blood clots in my lungs and inject heparin daily because the only drugs I take are going through a manufacturing problem at the moment hence the injections substituting the oral medication, I am in constant pain in my legs and excertion just makes the pain worse, I take hight doese opiates for the pain I was not asked to walk in my medical assessment not even with my crutches I have apparently according to a phonecall from the DWP today failed the medical and do not qualifiy I have had no letter to confirm this decision at all just this phone call I want to appeal but I dont know who to contact because I dont have a letter with an address on it, Is this method an obscure way to prevent claiments appealing? it all seems very odd to me. I have been disabled for 25 years unable to work because of serious illness and suddenly a DWP decision maker is more qualified that my hospitial Consultant and my GP who issued a Med 4 in 2000. to those that don't know a med 4 states your medical condition and wether or not you should refrain from work indefinately. I have been trying to find the contact details for my local DWP office which is now over 100 miles away as they closed the local office and moved to Birmingham (somewhere).
    I don't like this I must communicate attitude with all of my personal details from the DWP and yet they are not required to identifiy themselves at all, it is all very underhanded and treats people with a lot of disrespect, I agree with the above poster that the medical is not a true reflection of the medical that they should carry out according to the description of the descriptors provided by the DWP in their guidance handbook with is available online with a bit of searching.It does seem that your ability to atrtend the assesment and how you got there is counted as points against you, you are being assessed from the waiting room to the actual examination room and wether a proper medical examination actually takes place in the examination room or the examiner just sits and talks to you is neither here nor there, there should be a statutory examination for everyone making the assessment fair for everyone, I actually came away in more pain that I had before I went to the assessment and I had to go to the doctors for medication for the problem, the assessment actually caused me significant pain. Now I just dont know what to do who to contact and where to turn the DWP guidelines suggest that I must appeal within 1 month but who do I appeal to? This lack of information from the DWP leaves a lot to be desired.
    regards Nigel


I'm indebted to Birkdale Focus for the following choice of words:

I am happy to address most contributions, even the drunken ones if they are coherent, but I am not going to engage with negative sniping from those who do not have the guts to add their names or a consistent on-line identity to their comments. Such postings will not be published.

Anonymous comments with a constructive contribution to make to the discussion, even if it is critical will continue to be posted. Libellous comments or remarks I think may be libellous will not be published.

I will also not tolerate personation so please do not add comments in the name of real people unless you are that person. If you do not like these rules then start your own blog.

Oh, and if you persist in repeating yourself despite the fact I have addressed your point I may get bored and reject your comment.

The views expressed in comments are those of the poster, not me.