What Is Wrong With WCA

The WCA has been a disaster. Having been through the test myself I cannot see how it can ever be used to judge if a person is fit for work. The questions on the ESA50 equally have nothing to do with being capable of any work.

The most appalling questions are those which ask the following;

1). Can you reach with one hand to put a pen in your top pocket?

2). Can you lift some light such as an empty cardboard box?

3). Can you lift a 1 litre carton of liquid?

A person may be able to do any of these or indeed all of them but whether they can do them repeatedly, regularly and reliably is another matter. The next question that springs to mind is there a job our there where a person would be required to do such tasks all day every day? I have yet to see such a job specification.

The WCA needs to be a real world test with questions relating to safely traveling to work, if the person needs and special equipment if they were to be offered a job, can the person attend work every day, can they do all of the tasks that may be asked of them in the workplace, what sort of workplace would be best for them, what are their own qualifications, are they well enough to attend a training course to get new skills because their illness or disability would make it impossible to return to their previous type of employment.

It must be remembered that no matter how much we all want there to be equality for disabled people there are jobs that no matter their determination they simply cannot do. A blind person could be no more a heart surgeon than a person who loses a hand can be a bricklayer. It’s not what we all wish to hear but there are harsh realities that must be considered. No amount of laws can make a person suitable for a job which requires a certain level of skill, ability and knowledge when the person due to no fault of their own becomes sick or disabled is completely unsuitable to undertake.

The WCA needs to concern itself whether or not a person can attend and do a range of jobs. Narrowing the job range will be very upsetting for a person with a chronic illness or disbility; indeed being told you are fit for work but there is only one job you may be able to actually do is so rare that there is absolutely no chance of a person being able to take up such employment.

The rule regarding the time of being able to claim contribution based ESA is also very unfair and a person in their 50’s may become I’ll or disabled with 30+ years of contributions paid in good faith that should they fall on hard time then they will have their contributions as their safety net. To limit this to 365 days is a sin. The thing is a person is either sick or they are well, if they are sick then they are unfit to work if they are well then they should be looking for work. There is no halfway measure, the person would much rather be in work believe me.

The system is a basic start point but to ensure the reduction of appeals, which over 40% are won by the claimant, the number of people who die within weeks of being told they are fit for work, all of these things scream out that there is something by wrong with the way this WCA is undertaken, implemented, used, misused and with the various undercover investigations showing there is a quota system then it is easy to see the problems and the obvious solutions. As outlined above.

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How much lower will ATOS go?

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/mentally-ill-woman-sheila-holt-rochdale-6553258

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.

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Big Benefits Row

Ok have just tried to watch the #BigBenefitsRow. I know many others on twitter and other social media have done the same.

I make no secret of my physical ill health and disability nor my mental illness. I refuse to hide it because it’s part of me and I believe in honesty.

I am on benefits, no I don’t like it, yes I’d love to be well enough to get back into work. I do apply for jobs still, I do have a lot to offer but being realistic my health issues make it basically impossible for any employer to give me a chance unless I could do it all from home at times to suit me and my illness/medication.

I like many others want to feel useful and not surplus to societies requirements. I am able and do try to help people via e-mail, telephone, at times to suit me. It pays nothing but i do get that glow of satisfaction that I’ve helped make life a little better for another person or family.

Some people can’t do what I can for many reasons, they do feel down, it can lead to a spiral of depression this is one of the mental issues people want to talk about & get help via sorts of talking therapies such Psychotherapy. Alas access to good mental health help varies throughout the country. With help being so sporadic & ranging from great to being put on a waiting list for years! Surely it is better to treat the person via immediately accessible mental health services then they would be able to get well, have the help and return to some work slowly and eventually they would be able to work full time and not be reliant on benefits. All of these approaches must have a caveat, some people with all the help possible are simply not able to cope in the world of work. So this will work for some but not all.

I am all for working if you are able bodied and not suffering from a severe or mental illness. We have read and seen how people in a coma, in severe kidney failure and on dialysis, people who have had strokes, brain tumours etc who are told they are fit for work because they can lift an empty cardboard box, put a pen in their top pocket and hold a 2litre milk carton. This does not take into account the way the illness/disease actually prevents them from being available to work for certain amounts of time etc.

Yes there are some people who do abuse the system, yes there are some who pretend to be single parents when they have their partner live with them. This is because the rules make it financially beneficial to be “a single parent” rather than valuing marriage, cohabitation etc which is really the best for any kids to live in a two parent family.

Some people are told at the Job Centre they will be worse off by £x.xx if they take this or that job. That is wrong and people should be better off in work than on benefits. However, when we take a view of it like “if I take this job I will lose out on time with my child, most money will go on childcare, the cost of travel to work, and with all taken in to account I will be £3 per week worse or better off”

In the above scenario you will get many people who would rather be in work and will take it because being on benefits and not having a routine, a place to be, a reason to get up and get outside can leave a person really isolated. There are more than just money that is gained when a person takes employment. These other really positive aspects aren’t discussed. I humbly suggest they are.

I think people are brassed off with those people, small minority, who have never worked and seem to have a much nicer lifestyle than the person working on minimum wage. It can get vey upsetting and it can be irksome.

However, those people may have “invisible” health conditions that mean they cannot work, again this aspect is overlooked in any discussions.

I had until I got sick, 5 years or so ago, I had always worked and or been in education. I am only just coming to terms with the steep decline of my health and it’s still no fun and I don’t like being in this position. I’d give anything to be able to control my illness (there is no cure) so that I could maybe work part time. I know lots of others I a very similar situation.

There is no easy answer to this but I do feel that putting pensions into the same calculation does give a very warped view of the money spent on benefits. Maybe it would be helpful if the costs were put into their respective headings. It may help.

We have had a really terrible down turn, recession, double dip recession and during that time many thousands of people have lost their jobs, in some areas they have found it almost impossible to find any other job. Lots of people have moved to find work. Many cannot due to children being in eduction at a critical time such as SATS, GCSE’S or at College undertaking education or training.

Anyway remember 99% of people who are out of work, wish they were in work. We have graduates on the checkout at supermarkets, alas this is a state of the employment market BUT I respect everybody who takes a job they are vastly over qualified for because they would rather have some money coming in rather than being on benefits.

Benefits street as a programme focused on such a tiny microcosm that is it impossible to to actually use that as an example of the norm for all those who are out of work and claiming benefits.

Maybe there should be a programme on showing how hard many people try to get a job, any job. Showing the people who send off vast numbers of applications per day yet don’t even get an email/letter/phone call back to acknowledge their application or to say thanks but no thanks.

Most of all you must for the most part think “There but for the grace of god go I” because sadly illness and injury can change your life over night.

Well that’s my 2p’s worth if it’s worth anything at all?

ESA – jargon explained

I have copied and pasted the reply from the DWP Ministerial team. I thought this would be useful information for those who have been timed out of Contribution ESA whilst in the Work Related Activity Group but who are then successful at an appeal and are put into the support group.

It essentially means that you will be put into the same position you would have been had the Assessors and Decision Makers took into account all of your personal circumstances and care needs.

I know that this may only help a few people but it’s better than none!

Keep up the fight; you’re not chronically sick or disabled for fun & I know more than 99% of those claiming ESA, DLA, PIP etc are doing so because they have absolutely no other choice.

Remember also in the support group you are allowed to undertake permitted work without it affecting your benefit (up to a certain earnings level).

If in the support group & receiving contribution based benefit then the earnings of your spouse/partner are not taken into consideration. This will only become relevant if you have to claim Income based/means tested benefits.

I have put it into words we all understand rather than the DWP Language only understood by the Sir Humphrey types of this world!

**(Watch ‘Yes Minister’ on you tube or on a satellite channel; it is very true to what goes on in the Civil Service etc; a more sedate version of ‘The Thick If It’ – both equally worth watching)**

Let me know if this is useful….. Thanks 🙂
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Coming off benefits is like Ground Hog Day!!!

As many of my blog/tweet/website friends know I have been in receipt of ESA. I have had to endure the system imposed on me. I have always done everything as openly & honestly as is humanly possible.

Since we (Me & Hubs) were elected by the votes cast by people on 22nd May I have been phoning, writing, e-mailing, sending smoke signals, semaphore & morse code to all the various DWP/HMRC agencies to update them!

I rang a number of them on 23rd of May (the same day as results were counted & verified) explained the situation. Frustratingly I was unable to get past their tick boxes. So I thought I know I will send them a letter. After all there is only a number of times per day that you can keep going through the Spanish Inquisition to get to speak to a human being.

It is now 4weeks since the election, I have 2 Tax Credit Award notices, one is correct as far as I can see and states we are now over the limit & are no longer eligible. The second and most recent one is contrary, it states we are entitled & will be give £x.xx every 4 weeks!

I have tried calling the Tax Credits people every day, I have endured the inquisition only to be told at the end of a 5 minute call to a computerised voice that “there are no Customer Service Operatives free to take my call, to call back at a different time of day, goodbye” There is then a dial tone.

This is ridiculous & unfair on any claimants who must pay for a wasted call to an 0345 number. Is it any wonder so much money is “lost” in the Benefits Budget?

I want to stop receiving money, I want them to take me off their system. I have written, phoned & filled in official forms all to stop being given money to which I very much doubt I am entitled to!

I am at a loss as to what more I can do. It seems that no matter what I do the system isn’t geared for people who actually want to get off benefits. They tell you to contact them if there are any changes in circumstances , how on earth can you do that if you can’t get through on the phone, they won’t accept your letters?

I don’t want a hand up any more, Thank you for the support during a very difficult time BUT we have come through that and no longer require any assistance.

Any ideas on how to get to a human to sort this are very welcome.

Now to try again and again in my stop paying me benefits Groundhog Day!

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Letter To DWP Ministers

Dear Sir/Madam

Please would you clarify a point for me and countless others regarding successful appeals.

Many people make their appeal as per the rules and time limits. Many of these claims are made by people who are initially assessed as being in the Work Related Activity Group.

The appeals can take a very long time. In my personal situation I had the assessment in March 2012, I was put into the WRAG on Contribution Based ESA as I have worked until I became to sick to continue with my career in Law. My first appeal to the decision maker was unsuccessful so I did as advised by my Personal Adviser and made an appeal to the HMCS Tribunal. The appeal was lodged and I waited for a response.

During the time between the the tribunal service receiving my appeal I kept them updated as to my continuing deterioration. I waited over 6 months and still no date. My contribution based benefit was coming close to 260 days. My ESA contribution based was due to end in March 2013, still no appeal date received. Unfortunately my husband was made redundant and I was advised to claim for my husband and he claimed Carers Allowance. I was then on means tested benefit as my 365 days were up on my contribution based ESA.

This was at the end of March 2013, still no date for the tribunal.

I then received my appeal date in May stating I would have my hearing on 13th July 2013. I was successful in my appeal and was put into the Support Group with a recommendation that I was not assessed again for at least 18 months.

The day I received the confirmation of my successful appeal I also received an ESA 50 form to complete. I telephoned my local JCP and was told I must complete it and to mention the appeal result in the section where any further information can be written.

My query and that of many others is this; as the appeal tribunal assess and decide the appeal based on how you where on the day of the initial assessment and if the appeal is granted there will be a back payment of any benefits you should have had. Does this also in turn put you back into the Contribution based benefit as though you had been put in the support group originally and thus had not been through the means testing?

If ones partner then whilst you are in the support group obtains new employment will the claimant thus retain their ESA on a Contribution based calculation?

I look forward to hearing from you with clarification of the above.

Kind Regards

I will post their reply when & if I receive one

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Sheila is still being hounded

Department for Work and Pensions ‘put girl in coma’ – now they won’t leave her family alone
http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/department-work-pensions-put-girl-3135341

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The Work Capability Assessment is a complete farce! I had to go to a tribunal to be put into the support group. I’m a solicitor & I felt I was on trial, this must affect others in many ways. Sheila should never have been put into this position. Her mental health issues meant that her personal situation needed to be handled on a gentle and caring manner.

I have received so many e-mails from people who are scared & feel like they aren’t being assessed on their individual physical & mental issues. Those with ‘invisible’ symptoms are treated worst of all in my opinion. I have been there at the end of the phone after reading some of the extremely harrowing cases.

I have a friend who has had cancer twice, chemotherapy, on high doses of various pain relieving, anti epileptic, anti depressants etc who has been put in the Work Related Activity Group. His cancer treatment has left him with spinal problems, his hip & spine have fused due to crumbled discs. He’d do anything to be well enough to work but me, him & thousands like us are treated as though we are pretending to be so ill. If we are then we should get an Oscar!

The fact is only around 1% of claims for ESA & DLA are fraudulent. Our GP’s, psychologists, psychiatrists aren’t contacted, despite being asked to name them on the ESA50 form.

Demonising the sick & disabled is callous, inhuman & is abhorrent. So when there is a job for every person that complies with the questions on the form I will eat my wheelchair!

The form asks; can you put a pen in your top pocket with either hand, can you lift or move an empty box, can you raise either arm above your head, can you walk 50mts, can you lift a carton of milk?

How questions like this can help assess ones physical & mental state I do not know. A person may be able to do one or more of those things BUT likely not everyday, likely not reliably & likely not safely!

The WCA needs changing there isn’t a tick box that could ever cover a persons individual circumstances. Too many people are being bullied & not assisted. Too many people are dying after being found fit for work & many are stressed & scared when told they must attend courses, interviews etc. Well a person is either sick or not sick. There is no middle ground.

I hope Sheila will get well very soon and return to her loving, caring & supportive family.

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