I honestly thought the system in place regarding the Work Capability Assessments undertaken by ATOS could not get any worse. I was wrong! Sadly a mentally ill lady who is in a coma and has suffered a heart attack since her benefits were withdrawn last year.
This lady has a long standing illness, her Bipolar disorder has meant she has been unable to work since leaving school. Her medication will have helped to keep her at a level of equilibrium but it cannot and and would not cure her condition,
Sheila was pushed to the limit by the worry over the changes to the benefit system, she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act after her benefits where withdrawn. The worry of her benefits being withdrawn, the impersonal nature of how the assessments are carried out, the dismissive letters that are “standard” are written in DWP Jargon and are quite frankly difficult to understand. I have trouble with them and have to read them a number of times. I admit that I have had to phone up to try to get the letters explained. It’s very frightening, you feel like you have done something wrong, there is no humanity involved. You know to the people in the departments see you only as a number, a file on the computer, a list of DWP regulations and you feel terrible.
Quite honestly you feel like you are on trial. It is such a scary and frightening process, you know yourself that you are too sick to work. You feel that the assessors don’t listen to what you say. They barely look at you as they are too busy typing on the computer.
Sheila was likely asked to fill out her form, it was possibly done by someone in her family and someone who cares for her. They will have answered to questions honestly and to the best of their ability. Before Sheila was pushed over the edge, she possibly could have done the majority of the physical tests. Sheila would likely be able to pick up an empty box, pour herself a drink from a 1 or 2 litre carton, she may also have been able to walk more than 50mts. Sheila was not physically disabled she had longstanding mental health issues.
In October 2013 the DWP were told they must contact all of the people involved with the care of patients with Mental Heath issues so that all of the evidence required to assess the person in relation to their capability for work. Some people with mental health issues can and do work, however there comes a time when all they will sadly have a breakdown and need time off or need to be and in patient.
Mental health issues are just as dibilitating as physical disabilities. Surely the DWP know this, you would expect they would have devised a form that will not be oppressive, will be open questions so people can explain their individual physical and or mental issues, the questions are not helpful and so many appear to be asking the same question just in a slightly different way. The forms are like a mini novel, it can take people a few days to fill in. There really has to be a better way.
Sheila is now in hospital, in a coma and ATOS are demanding that she be available and must attend a further assessment. Sheila is too ill to send a reply, she is too ill to attend any assessment centre. What will the DWP do when they do not hear from her? Will they send a letter saying they are sanctioning her?
I hope that the local JCP will read this and see how Sheila is currently,
1) can she move an empty box? NO.
2) can she feed herself? NO.
3) can she put a pen in her top pocket? NO.
4) can she walk without any help or aids? NO.
Sheila cannot do anything for herself, she needs 24 hour care and why is that DWP/ATOS? It is because you have scared a very vulnerable lady, you made her feel so scared that the fear caused her to have a total breakdown and her Biopolar was not under control. On top of the break down which will also have exacerbated her physical health she suffered a heart attack. she now has little chance of having any form of life, it is highly unlikely she will ever be anywhere near as well as she was before.
Her life is effectively in the balance all due to an uncaring Government who are happy to see the super wealthy avoid tax but if you’re a person who has health problems then you will be vilified, made to feel like you’re a fraud and that you are cheating the system. We can only say well done to the Conservative/Liberal Democrat administration who have been instrumental in these reforms, maybe their intention was to cut fraud but as only 0.3% of all claims involving sickness or disability then they seek to go after the most vulnerable in order to weed out the scammers.
I hope David Cameron, Nick Clegg and all the ministers in the DWP and their staff, the ATOS assessors read about Sheila and then look in the mirror. Are you proud of this? Are you proud of the numbers of people who are taken off the ESA benefit? How can any compassionate human being see the reports daily where people like Sheila, like you, like me, have become seriously ill or in an increasing number or examples the person has died!
Whilst assessments are a good idea, they need to be conducted in a better, more human way. Full patient history should be examined by a qualified GP or even a specialist in the area the persons illness falls into.
Sorry but for people like Sheila your current system is a disgrace and you should hang your heads I shame. Maybe you should look at the real scammers oh you do they are around you I the Commons! How many of you put paper clips on your expenses, the odd tv, maybe a stereo, a couch, a porn film, stamp duty costs because you decided to cash in on the property boom in London, the tax pays funded that home but did one penny of the profit go back into the coffers……..did it heck as like.
This administration is a much of a joke as its predecessors. Yes everyone the MP’s who are whipped to vote how they are told are no better because they aren’t acting in the best interests of their constituents.
I hope Sheila will come out of the coma, I hope she will get well enough to leave hospital. I hope she never has to undergo an ATOS or Capita assessment ever again.
Get well soon Sheila.