ESA, DWP and the ATOS process – Part 1

The UK Government has been radically modifying the benefits system and as a consequence many, including me, who already receive disability benefits are being required to undergo an assessment to receive a single Employment and Support Allowance instead of up to three other benefits currently paid.

No-one should object to a fair and appropriate assessment to receive benefits of any kind.  It does, however, seem a little incongruous to me for the DWP to be re-assessing someone with a chronic, progressive and currently incurable condition.  If symptoms of the disease were sufficiently bad 6 years ago to meet relevant criteria then without a miracle they are going to be worse 6 years later!!  How much simpler and straightforward It would be for the DWP to contact my GP, Neurologist, Speech Therapist, Physiotherapist – all of whom are independent medical professionals with specific knowledge of the disease and its impact on me – and have them complete a simple questionnaire and then together with the paperwork  I submit as a claimant, the individual case can be fairly assessed and the outcome more readily accepted.

Unfortunately, the DWP has established a “one size fits all” assessment, details of which can be found here.

Notwithstanding the wealth of reports on the flawed nature of this assessment, key being the Who’s Cheating Who reports by BBC Scotland, now on YouTube:

Part 1 here,

Part 2 here and

Part 3 here

and the reportedly underhand tactics of the for-profit multinational IT company, ATOS, conducting them on behalf of the DWP, there is no debate.  There will be an assessment.  You will attend.  If you don’t attend for whatever reason, your benefits are stopped pending review.

So accepting that, like the BORG, the UK disability benefits system requires us to comply, it then becomes important to plan for the upcoming event.  If you don’t know much about parkinson’s (I can tell you more in due course) let me just say that stress is a major debilitating factor.  To reduce stress, every aspect of any outing needs to be planned  Every detail, every possible hiccup, all needs to be considered because on the day, if something unexpected happens the smooth and coping facade can crumble in an instant and the full tremoring, shuffling, incompetent-seeming parody of a human can appear.

Having had a phone call telling me I am to attend a Work Capability Assessment on 29 May at 1130 at the ATOS Medical Examination Centre in Cherry Orchard Road, Croydon., I start my research into what I might expect.  Google is my first port of call and when I input “ESA Work Capability Assessment” my heart sinks at what I find.

The centre is the closest to me but … Google it yourself… there is a lot written on the internet about this one venue! You will read that it has no disabled parking, cars have to drop you off at least 50m away and the nearest public transport stop is 7mins away (normal speed – for a slowcoach like me that could easily become 20mins of slow, awkward and stressful walking along busy roads).

The assessment centre is apparently on the 1st floor of its building. There is a lift but… the physically disabled are NOT allowed to use it as their inability to use the stairs means they can’t evacuate the building as is reported here.

Apparently, if you climb the stairs (46 steps) then you are assessed as able to climb stairs (forget the pain, stress, exhaustion) … if you don’t climb the stairs you are deemed to have not attended the assessment, so your benefits are stopped and only reinstated if your appeal/next assessment deems you worthy.

40% of appeals are won by claimants.

Please sign the DirectGov e-petition here

…to be continued…