Tag: ATOS

DWP issue conflicting advice as everyone is swamped with benefits paperwork

ESA File Height

Further to our story yesterday entitled “Benefits Paperwork Overloading Claimants” this website has uncovered certain documents in the public domain that seem to demonstrate confusing and conflicting information from the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP) with regard to Employment & Support Allowance Appeals.

The story yesterday spoke of ESA Benefit claimants being swamped by the paperwork that is involved with making a claim. The picture above was used to demonstrate the size of one claimants file of paperwork about her ESA claim that started in July 2010 which is still ongoing, next to a standard pack of 500 sheets of A4 paper to show comparative size. This claimant has not been paid any benefit money for approximately one year but is swamped with the paperwork involved in appeals and Tribunals as she believes she has never been placed in the correct category for her limited capabilities due to her Fibromyalgia.

The story also referred to a BBC Website article on the 4th May this year entitled “GPs ‘flooded’ with letter requests due to UK benefit reforms.” This article claimed BMA Scotland had said GPs were being “flooded with additional avoidable work” as patients seek support regarding benefit payment appeals. Dr Alan McDevitt, chairman of the BMA’s Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said: “The UK government’s flawed approach to benefits reform and changes to the Work Capability Assessment are flooding GP practices across Scotland with additional avoidable work.” It also states that The committee has advised GPs not to respond to these sort of requests which could literally leave claimants high and dry as they can not collect medical evidence to appeal.

In a document within the public domain dated 19th April this year the DWP have responded to a Freedom of Information Act request. The Question posed to the DWP was: “When a person appeals the decision of the DWP, for DLA & ESA which is based on an Atos work capability assessment. Who is responsible for obtaining medical evidence from their GP; the DWP or the person who is making the appeal?” The answer from the DWP was: “It is the responsibility of the appellant (the person who is making the appeal)
to obtain medical evidence.”

Yet in direct conflict the DWP responded to the BBC Website Article saying: “If the DWP requires further medical evidence it will be requested by a healthcare professional working for Atos Healthcare, which GPs are required to complete as part of their terms of service.” The article goes on and quotes Dr John Ip, secretary of the Glasgow local medical committee and a GP in Paisley who says: “There are contractual and agreed methods for GP’s to provide medical information to the Department for Work and Pensions.”

There seems to be total confusion about who should be requesting medical evidence from GP’s and Health Professionals. Quite simply it appears claimants are given misleading information from the DWP and do not know if it is their responsibility to collect medical evidence for an appeal or if that responsibility lies with the DWP. Due to this patients contesting controversial Work Capability Assessments conducted by ATOS Healthcare are having to collect evidence against these assessments for their appeal cases and they are doing so in huge numbers which is putting a strain on GP’s. There is so much strain that the BMA in Scotland are advising GP’s not to respond to requests which could lead claimants without benefit they may be entitled to because of the sweeping benefits reform especially with regards to ESA.

In yesterdays article we showed how claimants are swamped with benefits paperwork, the BBC article claims GP’s are swamped with benefits paperwork and we also know the Tribunals Service have a huge backlog of cases and are swamped with benefit paperwork as well. Therefore it is no surprise that a number of disability charities teamed up with Citizens Advice (who are incidentally swamped with benefits paperwork) to publish a document in 2010 about ESA, entitled “Not Working” because the benefits system is literally “Not Working” and since then nothing much has changed. This government have said they are committed to reducing bureaucracy and cutting paperwork levels within the public sector. But with regards to benefit reform and ESA, everyone concerned seems to be swamped in benefits paperwork as this system is simply “Not Working”.


Benefits Paperwork Overloading Claimants

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The paperwork for benefits claims is overloading claimants who have to prove they have limited capabilities for work and work related activity yet, are expected to manage a huge amount of paperwork.

The picture above is the file containing paperwork for one Employment & Support Allowance Claimant, next to it is a standard pack of 500 sheets of A4 paper for a direct comparison. Her claim started in July 2010 but this claimant feels she has yet to be placed in the correct category for ESA. She has not received any benefit for a year because of the 365 day rule for Contributory Based ESA, as she was placed in the Work Related Activity Group. By 365 days a claim should be resolved but instead it has taken nearly 3 years so far.

Despite her not being paid any benefit for a year, the responsibility to prove she isn’t capable to work is on her, despite her condition. This puts her in a real catch 22 situation as she is not capable to manage her case, but she has to do her case to prove she is incapable. When it comes to Tribunals claimants are not automatically entitled to help and many have to rely on charities and organisations like the Citizens Advice Bureaux who are being swamped by the volume of people needing their help. This has led to them joining other charities and publishing a report entitled simply “Not Working” about how the benefit simply does not work and overloads anyone going through it.

It all rests on the claimants responsibility to collect their own evidence, but if they are too unwell to do this and too unwell to approach these charities they often find themselves not being able to cope with the demands the state places on them. ATOS Healthcare are notorious in the British press and they hold the contract to conduct the Workplace Capability Assessment on claimants. However their notoriety comes from a high volume of clients appealing their assessments as ATOS has found they do not have limited capabilities. Often this decision is then overruled at appeal or tribunal if the claimant (who is incapable of work) puts a strong enough case together.

It is a huge problem for claimants when ATOS deem them capable as they then have to gather and often commission there own medical reports in an attempt to show ATOS are wrong and they are in fact incapable of work. This gives them a huge workload and overloads the charities that might be helping them. Today we have heard the volume of requests is also overwhelming GP’s according to BMA Scotland in this BBC Article. But the responsibility for all of this rests with the claimant who are drowned in paperwork, desperate for written evidence from GP’s , Specialists and Healthcare Professionals. As said previously the claimants often have to commission these reports themselves, it is their responsibility. This can cost hundreds of pounds while cases go on for three years despite not being paid any benefit.

Often ESA claimants also have to apply for other benefits like Disability Allowance, Housing Benefit & Council Tax relief. With benefit reform sweeping through these areas claimants are often left with huge files, like the one shown in the picture, for each benefit they apply for. I would certainly agree with CAB when they say “Not Working” as its not working for anyone and the system is simply flawed.


The Brown Envelope of…….. Success (rare as it is)

I will cut to the chase……. I’m in the Support Group for Employment & Support Allowance!!! It’s taken a matter of days short of Three Years to get it though!

That’s right, three years of hellish backwards and forwards communication, involvement of MP’s threats of legal action, national and local media involvement, and even threats to publish my entire case file online have paid off! The truth is, since I left employment as a Police Constable I have been unfit for work and work related activity and as such I contacted the benefits hotline all those years ago and was advised that Job Seekers Allowance was the correct benefit from an adviser who hadn’t even heard of Employment & Support Allowance! This set the tone and was the standard of service I have received from “Jobcentre Plus” and the DWP at almost every turn. Looking at my file its sheer thickness is about the same as a pack of 500 sheets of A4 paper and my success is down to my painfull journey to learn about the law so I know what should happen, better than most of their paid “advisers” and hold the DWP to account at every turn.

One major objective for this site is to educate and inform, so that suffers of Fibromyalgia don’t have to do what I have done and can benefit from the lessons I’ve learnt, as its almost impossible to get the correct benefit unless you learn everything about the system and the law behind it. This is because the system does not work, the staff are incorrectly trained and the computer system that manages all claimants is unfit for purpose!

Obviously for me it’s not all good news, for some reason I can not fathom just yet I won’t be in the Support Group until the 28th August. I don’t yet know why I can’t be in the Support Group from now or even from the date of appeal. I also don’t know why my benefit isn’t being backdated, my latest appeal started last year and all my ESA was cut back in April/May time. Another thing I don’t know is how long I have been awarded it for, from experience I know it can be for as little as three months at which point I will have to start again with an ESA50 form and another probable ATOS medical. It is a joke that classification can take longer than the award is for and the appeal process can take over a year for an award of three months! So chances are a claimant will either be in the assessment phase or an appeal phase rather than being in an confirmed awarded phase! It’s o wonder the DWP have completely overloaded themselves with assessments and appeals is it?

I will now have to fight for my award to be backdated so the fight is far from over! I also want to write a comprehensive guide in PDF form on benefits like ESA & DLA. This will include advice on how to prepare for an ATOS medical, how to write a successful appeal and how to prepare for a tribunal. The truth is that this is going to take quite some time, my health means most of my time is spent in bed and incapable of working on such a document as frustrating as it is. In the meantime a lot of the advice I would write in a guide can be found on the benefits sections of this website. I can not stress enough how important it is to do your own points assessment using the links I have provided before you fill in an ESA50, attend a medical, file an appeal or attend a Tribunal. Also remember its all about evidence, your word is not taken at face value so get statements from medical professionals and inform all consultants etc you require a copy of all reports to your GP as trying to get them all copied afterwards takes time and probably money!

Of course, I will keep you updated with how I get on! Use the site and get in touch if you have any questions!


Fibro and WCA News

I thought I would group my next two posts into one as I’ve already blogged twice today!

Fibromyalgia News

Firstly some rather bizarre news on Fibromyalgia from the Daily Fail (Daily Mail) about a GP who diagnosed herself with Fibromyalgia and then managed to cure herself by not eating Fruit & Veg. A rather extreme case of “five a day keeps the doctor away” (from work)!!! Obviously there is more to it and one thing I take from the story is the importance of keeping a food diary to see if certain foods, groups or properties may be aggravating or causing certain problems. You can read the full story here.

Work Capability Assessment under Review

Dr Harrington who is behind the controversial Work Capability Assessment that claimants of Employment & Support Allowance must go through is reviewing how his latest recommendations are been implemented. During this process he is asking for people to write to him about there experiences, particularly if you have had more than one assessment. I think it is vital for people with Fibromyalgia to submit their experiences as its not often we get this much of a chance to get our views and experiences under the nose of someone at this level. He will of course receive information from people with any other condition who have undergone the WCA and it’s not just about those with Fibromyalgia. The assessment is literally the practical implementation of the law and the Employment & Support Allowance regulations and the descriptors are part of schedule one and two of the latest update. If you feel like I do that the WCA is fundamentally flawed perhaps it’s worth making our feelings known. Although saying that we are not alone especially after Citizens Advice produced there damning report entitled “It’s not working” which I support. For me neither schedule encompasses the reasons why an individual may not be able to work, and not be able to take part in work related activity. To read more about the information he is after visitthis site and download the document entitled year three call for evidence skipping to page 11 if your limited by time!


ESA Update

After my frustrating post on June 15th I wrote another letter of complaint to the DWP (Jobcentre Plus) I told them the situation literally meant this letter was a complaint about a letter of complaint that was not acknowledged about a complainant and appeal that was acknowledged. Thats how absurd the situation was. I said I would have to consider writing to my MP to start another investigation, the Highest person in the DWP, publish my entire case file online (circa 400 pages) and write to local and national media!

Isn’t it stupid when you have to go to these lengths?

Well I finally heard from them, (first time since November when they told me they were dealing with it only to have my ESA cut in may) by means of a phone call. Hurray, someone is going to communicate! He was very polite and assuring and explained there had been a catalogue of errors by Job Centre Plus and ATOS healthcare with respect to my case. Basically a decision was made in December but I wasn’t informed. Then no one acted upon my first letter which to be honest I’m not sure it’s even made it to my file, then my complaint and appeal was not auctioned because I hadn’t signed the letter personally (due to my illness that day I asked my other half to print and send it) and that no-one had taken it upon themselves to tell me anything until three complaint/Appeal Letters were received!

So, he took my verbal evidence as reason for “late appeal” so he could actually submit it and sent me copies of all paperwork for signing. I took the opportunity to send a batch of medical reports through as well. It was a pleasant conversation and I think we both understood each other but I suppose only time will tell!

So I’m again officially in Appeal Status for ESA, still not in the correct group, time so far……. 2 years 10 months


Local conference of the British Medical Association votes against ATOS & the WCA

The United Kingdom Local Medical Committees Conference of the British Medical Association voted yesterday (Tuesday 22nd May 2012) to carry the following motion:

That conference, in respect of work capability assessments (WCA) as performed by ATOS Healthcare, believes that the:

(i) inadequate computer based assessments that are used have little regard to the nature or complexity of the needs of long term sick and disabled persons

(ii) WCA should end with immediate effect and be replaced with a rigorous and safe system that does not cause avoidable harm to some of the weakest and most vulnerable in society.

The motion was carried UNANIMOUSLY by 103 HAMPSHIRE AND ISLE OF WIGHT & 103a SCOTTISH CONFERENCE OF LMCs

Links & Further Reading:

The post by the Black Triangle Campaign whose member and medical advisor Dr Stephen Carty submitted the motion to the conference.

Twitter talk on the conference can be found using hash tag #lmclive

Scottish Doctors voted in March to do the same at the Scottish LMC

The story was also run by The Guardian


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