Written evidence submitted by Dr Sarah
I was a new ESA claimant in March 2010. My main problems
with ESA have been as follows: inaccessible format of the ESA50
medical form, unnecessary reassessment just months after the initial
decision and a basic error on Atos's part leading to removal of
the benefit with no warning.
Inaccessible format of form
The initial ESA50 form I am required to fill out
has no accessible electronic format. I am unable to write and
so have to ask someone else to fill it in, which given the personal
nature of the questions is very embarrassing. It took three hours
to fill in the first time with someone copying my answers I had
typed out on my laptop. This would cost me £30 if I employed
my carer to do so, and would take away three hours of care as
social services do not provide for this sort of thing in my care
It is also a huge task for me to undertake. Everything
else has to be put on hold. It took me over a month to fill out
the form and was totally exhausting. I got into trouble from other
government bodies for not filling in their forms as I was unable
to do more than one at a time. For example I was late with my
records for direct payments specifying care receipts and was told
that care could be withdrawn as a result.
Reassessing support group claimants months after
I was put into the support group without difficulty.
However incredibly, despite having an incurable and progressive
condition and despite having since been awarded indefinite both
high rate care and mobility dla, I was called for reassessment
just five months later. It is impossible for my situation to have
changed. All this can do is cause stress and problems for the
claimant and waste time and money.
Withdrawal of benefit with no guarantee of reassessment
due to Atos error
I was sent a new ESA50 to fill in. Although I sent
the form in plenty of time, I received a P45 to be given to my
new employer the day after it was due with no letter of explanation.
I discovered that my ESA had been stopped with no warning. I eventually
found that they claimed never to have received my form.
Rather than find out why, they had declared me fit
to work and stopped my benefit from one day to the next. I am
allowed to send in the form again and the decision maker can then
decide if my reason for its lateness is satisfactory. If so my
case will be reopened. If not, then I have to start a whole new
claim. In the mean time I have no money coming in.
It is astonishing that non receipt of a form through
no fault of their own means that a severely sick and disabled
person can have their only source of income cut off and be declared
fit to work with no guarantee that their reassessment will continue.