Migration to ESA

ESA 28

Written evidence submitted by Advice Services Coventry

The ASC partnership was formed in 2005 and includes:

§ Age Concern Coventry

§ Coventry Benefits Advice Line

§ Coventry Cyrenians

§ Coventry Refugee Centre

§ Coventry & Warwickshire Family Mediation

§ Coventry Citizens Advice Bureau

§ Coventry law Centre

§ Midland Heart

§ Holbrooks Community Care Association

§ Coventry Student Union Advice Centre

§ Willenhall Advice Centre

§ Wood End Advice & Information Centre

ASC is a partnership of agencies who are classified as providers of independent advice services.

Summary

As the migration of people from Incapacity Benefit to Employment and Support Allowance has only just started we are keen to share the evidence we have seen from people trying to claim employment and support allowance, which we believe will be of value to the committee.

As the evidence illustrates there are major failings with current processes which will significantly impact this migration and we would recommend all migration activity to cease until these issues have been successfully resolved.

Evidence from our clients illustrates key failings with:

- Medical Assessments carried out by ATOS.

- Decision makers do not look at all the medical evidence.

- DWP processes – inadequately trained staff, poor record keeping.

Client 1 – 01/04/2011

1. Single unemployed male – transferred from JSA to ESA when he became ill. Client hospitalised, suffering from Gliblastoma (brain tumour) and is receiving radiotherapy.

2. On initial call by Citizens Advice to DWP to chase the clients claim, the caller was advised that a claim had been established and the client now needed to submit a sick note. Citizens Advice made a follow up call 4 days later to chase MI12, advised that we had been given the wrong information and that a claim had not been established and sent for processing because it was incomplete. Further visit by Citizens Advice to the client in hospital had to be made to complete a new claim form which has delayed payment further.

3. This client has had a very poor service from the DWP when he needed help and support the most whilst he is in hospital. There should be a dedicated team to deal with very sick people; no extra effort has been made for claimants with life threatening illnesses.

4. ESA has been a place for a long time now and we still see cases like this where DWP staff do not know what they are doing.

Client 2 – 01/04/2011

5. Female client lives with partner, diagnosed with secondary breast cancer and had to give up work as a result. Client is having intravenous chemotherapy but has been asked to complete an ESA50 in order to claim ESA.

6. Client had also recently been turned down on her DLA application but this decision was overturned following the withdrawal of the appeal by the Disability Benefits Unit (DBU).

7. A very poor service has been provided to the client by the DWP. The medical evidence provided does not appear to have been taken in to consideration in order to make the appropriate decision. This client experienced additional stress during an already difficult time and apart from her own health issues, her mother recently died.

Client 3 – 08/04/2011

 

8. Male client diagnosed with cancer of the pharynx in November 2009 which is now terminal. A DS1500 has been issued and a claim for ESA was made over the telephone by our adviser as the client has speech difficulties due to his illness.

9. The ESA worker was advised that our client has been issued DS1500 but continued to discuss with our worker the fact that the client would be asked to attend work focussed interviews and medicals. This was questioned by the adviser who again said that a DS1500 had been issued and that the client should be placed in the Support Group. Client has not returned yet to say which group he has been placed in.

Client 4 – 08/04/2011

 

10. We had been assisting this male client with a terminal brain tumour for some time. He had claimed ESA using a DS1500. However, when he died his wife came to the bureau and it was discovered that he had not been put in to the Support Group but paid the basic rate. We are waiting for ESA to telephone back to discuss this.

11. This poor administration at a time of upheaval in a household is not acceptable. The correct information had been provided and yet again a poor incorrect decision made. The household income was very low during our late client’s illness and now extra work has to be carried out unnecessarily.

Client 5 – 08/04/2011

 

12. This female client with a terminal brain tumour made a claim for ESA following her SSP entitlement using a DS1500. Almost immediately an ESA50 was sent to the client for completion.

13. Our adviser contacted the manager of medical referrals at ESA who looked in to the situation. He came back saying this was issued in error and should not have been. He was very apologetic and said it would be withdrawn.

14. Once again, our client was subject to poor administration by ESA and caused extra distress and stress at an already difficult time.

Client 6 – 08/04/2011

 

15. This female client suffers from a condition called Cyclothymia which is a mild form of Bi Polar Disorder. She takes medication and is under the care of the Caludon Centre, University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire. She was informed that as of and including 03/03/11 she was not entitled to ESA as she scored nil (0) points for mental health descriptors, following a medical assessment. This seems very unusual given that our client has specialist medication and psychiatric support. Our adviser completed a GL24 and drafted a supporting letter. Whilst our client is awaiting her appeal the ESA will be paid at the basic rate. When ESA was not awarded her Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit were withdrawn. These should now be reinstated pending the appeal.

Client 7 – 23/03/2011

16. Female aged 50, in receipt of DLA – low rates care and mobility lives alone in social housing bedsit.

17. Failed Limited capability for work assessment for ESA, scored nil points for mental health. Client suffers from bi-polar disorder and has recently been discharged from NHS mental health unit after a 2 month stay. Client receives support from a social worker and NHS mental health support worker. We are supporting this client to appeal this decision.

April 2011