ESA, DWP and the ATOS process – Part 2

It is Sunday afternoon, the trees are swaying in a light breeze and there is some sunshine peeking through the clouds.  I am still stunned at just how appalling the ESA assessment process is and just how many people throughout the UK are being bullied and abused by it.  My parkinson-riddled system is really not liking the additional stress and is protesting with bonus cramping, spasm and tremor.  Deep joy.

I mentioned the BORG in my first blogpost and the juggernaut that is the ESA Assessment process really does make me feel as if there could easily be a BORG cube a-lurking behind one of the alien-grey clouds I see outside my window.  The sense of impending and  as-yet-unknown hostile encounters is palpable.

Those of you who know me well, know that I have an almost irritating quality of “finding a positive” …. so stand by for some positives:

1. The local Parkinson’s Support Worker, who I emailed in a panic, gave me the phone number for a benefits advisor at Parkinson’s UK and he had some useful tips to share.  It is clear, however, from what I was told, that the “medical examination” is clearly nothing of the kind.

2. I have emailed the Parkinson Support Worker and asked her to come round and review the form I completed for ESA – I am hoping I will be able to persuade her to accompany me on 29 May as there is no-one else and I genuinely don’t know how I will cope with the day.

3. The positive feedback I have received from sharing this blog and my new website on Facebook and via Twitter (along with a request to sign the DirectGov e-petition for fairer assessments ) has been immensely comforting.

4. The ATOS Checklist post in the the DWP Examination blog is excellent and gives me a set of targets to achieve before 29 May.

5. The Parkinson’s UK Disability Benefits Campaign shows how seriously we need to take the failure of ATOS to manage its DWP task in an appropriate and reasonable manner.  I will contacting the Campaign coordinator next week.

6. I sense there are at present a range of disparate and varyingly successful groups working to ensure a fair disability assessments system, with several different petitions floating around, but for now nothing seems to be bringing them all together.  I shall call my idea to bring them together my Campaign Against Unfair Disability Assessments!!!  CAUDA for short.  I am not by nature a protestor but a fixer (in a good way!) and I want this system fixed.

….. to be continued…..



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…