The role of incapacity benefit reassessment in helping claimants into employment - Work and Pensions Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by Sarah Ross

I have been attempting to get a reassessment of my ESA as my conditions have now worsened but after having rung them consistently for weeks and not received the promised paperwork I gave up. That was months ago. They now claim I have the paper work and that I count as on the appeals process. This meant that when I needed to apply for a crisis loan I was not eligible for one as they didn't recognise my benefit as being active despite the fact it was. I had to make a very confusing round of phone calls to different parts of the DWP trying to figure out what was going on and what to do about it. This took all in all about two hours to sort out.

Additionally when I was applying for ESA and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) both parts of the DWP, during the initial application process they handled paperwork incredibly badly. ESA failed to inform me that my doctors note was not the right kind and kept telling me to get a doctors letter or note rather than the required medical certificate. DLA claimed that they had not received letters from consultants and doctors of mine despite the fact that I saw evidence to the contrary with both my consultants and GP. Both of these things caused huge delays to my applications and also meant that I was denied some of my back pay because it was seen as these issues where my fault not theirs.

I have attended my own Atos meeting and that of friends to support them. In both my own and the appointments I attended with friends the Atos doctor did not look at us, he stared persistently at his computer screen. The only time during my interview with him that he looked at me was when he came to the section about mobility and was about to ask to examine my mobility and then he finally noticed my wheelchair. With one friend who also has mobility issues he caused her such physical pain that she was in tears and yet she had to go to appeal as he scored her zero on all of her mobility factors. Another friend of mine who has many mental health problems that make it impossible for her to work was told that she is liar by the Atos doctor when she told him about her psychological problems and when I attempted to defend her we were told that anyone who claimed purely because of psychological problems was a liar and trying to cheat the system as psychological problems cannot be proven or measured. This particular friend was however lucky that her psychiatric nurse dragged her back down there the same day to confront the same Atos doctor and after 20 minutes of stern talking to about the errors of his ways as well as the reality of my friends condition and her treatment plan the Atos doctor conceded that indeed it was a genuine case.

I now fall into the category of those who need support in returning to work. Against all advice I am looking for a job because I feel very pressurised into doing so despite the fact that you are told in "work focused interviews" that you do not have to look for work if you are not ready the under lying message is still the same, that you are a waste of resources because a doctor who cannot get a job in a normal practice or hospital has said you are fit to work. I personally cannot move my arms very high due to sub luxation in my shoulder, I am in a wheelchair as I have two knees that are displaced permanently and the rest of my joints are deteriorating due to severe and degenerative hyper-mobility, This is not recognised by ESA as a serious condition due to the severity of my condition being rare with hyper-mobility—usually they just laugh and tell me how lucky I am to be double jointed and bendy—and this is coupled with a very poor immune system and M.E. which makes it impossible for me to work as other people could if at all. I feel pressurised into finding a job which I know I could never possibly hold down. At first I felt pressurised into finding any job at all and am now being pressurised into finding jobs that are full time which I certainly cannot do.

April 2011

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