Migration to ESA

ESA 53

Written evidence submitted by Heather Price

Summary – My experience of a Work Capability Assessment and how it failed me completely.

1) I attended an assessment funded by my employer after suffering chronic depression. At that assessment Atos reported that my depression significantly affected my life, and should be treated as a disability.  Although my employer made all the right noises, there was in fact no extra support and I was given no choice other than leaving my job.

2) At that point the Job Centre Plus advised me to apply for ESA, and gave me support to fill in the forms. They could see no reason why I would not be entitled to it. I was told by letter shortly after applying that I had to attend a medical assessment.

3)      I was extremely distressed the morning of the assessment, but a friend helped me get dressed, and helped me get there. It took well over an hour on public transport to get there, and cost a significant amount of money, considering at this point I had no income. 

4)      After waiting nearly an hour in the waiting room with no advice how delayed my appointment would be (the receptionist was rather rude), I was called into a room for my assessment. The doctor (I'm assuming he was one) did not introduce himself, and as I sat down said "You look macho, there can't be much wrong with you", at which point I got more distressed, and started to cry. After that he proceeded to ask me to bend over and touch the floor, walk across the room, sit up on the bed etc. At no point did he ask me anything about my mental health. The doctor made very little eye contact, and seemed more interested in his computer screen than listening to what I was trying to tell him. I also found him extremely difficult to understand as his English was very poor.

5)        I became hysterical in the waiting room after the assessment and the receptionist phoned a taxi to take my friend and me home. I was also not able to claim my train fare there back as my tickets were lost by the company. 

6)          I scored no points. 

7)          At that point I was too ill to appeal thanks to my treatment at the assessment. I am still too ill to work, and have to attend interviews at the job centre. They believe I should be on ESA, but I'm too frightened to go through it again.

April 2011