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…

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Mostly housebound these days I keep engaged with the wider world via social media. I knit and crochet for charity (and yarnbombs!), keep tabs on the state of our blue dot and find inspiration from exploration here on earth and in space!

6 thoughts on “ESA, DWP and the ATOS process – Part 1”

  1. I too have a condition that unless they can discover how to transplant a spine is incurable and I have a degenerative condition, it is getting worse, my Consultant advised in December of 2011 that there is nothing that can be done, there is no treatment even in the pipeline and I have to simply live with the condition. That can be a devastating enough without finding out that an organisation will assess me as fit to work contrary to not just medical evidence but work based evidence where my managed condition not working deteriorated so rapidly upon a phased return to work that my workplace doctor said that I should never work again if i were to have any form of quality of life.
    There are too many people out there that hear the words disabled and benefits and immediately add the word Cheat, this organisation and their methods only confirms this in the mind of the general public.
    The Government, both this one and the last who bought in this system, love announcing headlines that a huge number of people applying for disability benefits have been refused, they fail to announce that 90% of those who appeal win. This has two impacts , one on the claimant who may well find that due to the stress their condition worsens but also costs the government a significant sum of money. There is no saving to the Government.
    What needs to happen is common sense, a genuinely ill person will have no problem with an assessment provided it is based on medical evidence from qualified professionals.
    I propose that at first a person should be reassessed after 15 months of benefits to check that the condition still means the person needs benefits. At this point at the 15 morth reassessment, based again on medical evidence only, it should be determined if this is a long term condition or one where there may be a chance of improvement or cure. If it is obvious that there is no chance of a return to work or that the person continues to need what is now called DLA then the benefit should be given indefinitely, with reassessment after a period of say 7 years. This will save government a considerable sum of money and look after the ill and disabled. I did send this suggestion to Ian Duncan-Smith but I have never even had an acknowledgement

    1. How do others cope with the ATOS bulndiig in Sheffield? I had a friend drop me off by car outside but then they had to drive away to go park the car using my Disabled Blue Badge. Meanwhile this meant they couldn’t help me into the bulndiig. There was a staff entrance on the ground floor but the access for everyone being assessed was up a very steep outside ramp. The ramp curved upwards as if it was a path up a mountain with switchbacks. I can only assume the destination was the second floor rather than first floor. It was a cold and rainy day in October and I have a heart condition so by the time I struggled up the ramp I was frozen and soaking wet (had an umbrella). I was not in a fit state for an assessment either but it went ahead and I was found fit for work’. I won my appeal.

  2. Hi RC,Nice job w/web page.
    I watched BBC reports to get an idea of what was going on and found it disturbing.
    And in your case,the place and circumstances for your exam are bizarrely cruel.
    None the less, myself and certainly other SOLers are wishing you good luck and will br thinking of you on the 29th of May
    With warm regards,Mike
    PS I couldn’t sign the petition Some silly thing about citizenship 🙂

    1. that he was going to recommend that I was not fit to work, he also asked me if I thgouht it had been progressive, which for me, over the last 25 years it had.he then added a very telling comment, saying that if they’ asked him to change his recommendations, he wouldn,t!Of course, I was put in the WRAG group, went through the old phone interviews etc .awaited appeal, contacted them in the end after 6months to see what was happening with it, only to be told that, surprise, surprise, a decision had been made only a few days earlier!!! And was now in the support group, a letter would be on it’s way to me. Of course it didn,t arrive,, so I had to contact them again.they seem to be in a right muddle.By question is’if the doctor I saw was going to recommend I was put in the support group, why does the decision maker not take his views into account? What was the point of a medical if they were going to ignore it?’

  3. Yawn… i shall lie here in the sun in FLORIDA…. and soak up the rays…. oh btw how is weather in UK?? heheheh

    1. Atos were trying to force my husanbd who has poverty of speech to attend two seperate appointments miles apart just after moving with no doctors in place yet,the impact on my health and his was huge,my BP argueing for him went up to 250,as he was claiming for both of us it meant to have him fail would of had awful consequences,I took us off ESA to save my death and his sanity ,it was complete disability discrimination, MIND and also solicitors contacted did not say they could provide help,so we got none,we had to go onto other benefits,indeed my husanbd should never of been placed on ESA anyway it was not a new claim,they just slid him across fromIncome support,rather insane in it self!Instead of being able to answer questions he would of just replied I dont know and vomited everywhere with stress it was an impossible situation they placed me in,I would of died of a stroke or heart attack trying to get him there!!

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