Written evidence submitted by Patricia
1. I first claimed ESA in 2009, when the sick
benefit part of my pay was stopped by my employer - HM Revenue
& Customs. I was subsequently dismissed for inefficiency (ie
long-term sick absence due to workplace stress and bullying) in
2. In late November 2009 I had a medical to determine
if I was fit to return to work. The outcome was that I was not
fit to resume my job. Less than two weeks later I had an interview
with Atos for ESA.
3. I received very little support or advice at
this stage, but did not anticipate any problems in "proving"
I was ill given the result of my other assessment.
4. However, the interview was very difficult
for me and the doctor completing the forms misrepresented some
of my answers, although this might have been partly due to his
command of English. He refused to let me describe my symptoms,
insisting on sticking to his checklist. He rarely made eye contact
and rushed me through his list.
5. When the result came out, he had scored me
at zero. And the letter told me to go back to my job. I was extremely
distressed by this, although my GP and Therapist assured me I
would not have to return to the situation that had caused my mental
6. I appealed to DWP, but this was dismissed
immediately even though I pointed out that there were mistakes
in the report. Atos also dismissed my complaint about his behaviour
and the errors. This was very unsatisfactory - surely if I could
prove there were errors in the report they should have investigated?
7. I decided to appeal again, although I knew
that the process would delay any recovery, or even make me worse.
I waited about ten months for a date. The day before the Tribunal
hearing was very difficult and I nearly cancelled. The only reason
I was determined to try to go was because some Ministers, MPs
and media were representing those of us who did not appeal as
scroungers and liars. I did manage to attend, with support from
my therapist and family. Going over the traumatic experiences
again was very hard, but the Tribunal judge stopped at the point
where I had already scored 24 points. This was without considering
my physical health problems (asthma and arthritis).
8. Apart from the personal experience of a doctor
who didn't appear to care about me as a human being, the checklist
is totally unsuitable for anyone with mental health problems or
with diseases where the symptoms fluctuate, as with my asthma.
9. Also I have "hidden disabilities",
for which there is medical evidence, but that this system ignores.
I didn't have ten operations for fun! This limits the type of
work I can do even when my depression and anxiety resolve. Why
doesn't the ESA system take into account evidence from our doctors
and other health specialists?
10. I am also very concerned about the proposal
to time-limit awards. I no longer receive ESA, but if I were younger
would still be too sick to resume work after two years. The extra
stress for people with my conditions is more likely to delay any
healing rather than get us back to work.