Disability benefits and the policy changes in claimant’s eligibility

Okey cokey, knees bent, arms stretched, fit for work!

This Government justified these changes in claimant criteria to the tax payers, claiming that it will cut down on fraud. In short total tosh and a whitewash to justify the real purpose of these policy changes.

The most obvious first question is: Why do people claim this benefit ‘legitimately’? – Obviously they are sick and or disabled and as such have no other means of support (except benefits) and are at a disadvantage of securing paid employment due to their incapacity/disability. In other words unemployable or limited and although discrimination laws are clear, if you were an employer faced with an able bodied person or a disabled person at the interview stage, who would you employ?

So the new back to work/ training is a waste of tax payers money! It will cost this country far more in training, man hours, interviews, the inability of disabled people to attend interviews and training, filling in these forms, (costs in wasted forms and postage) pressure on the N.H.S, GP’s, Counsellors. H.M.R.C… the list is endless, time consuming and costly and the obvious lack of suitable employment (now made worse by the announced closure of Remploy factories) for our sick and disabled. This will cost the country more than all fraudulent claims put together in lost revenue and benefits claimed. And yes those who intentionally fraudulently claim any benefits will continue to find a way to do just that!

The ‘undue hardship’ (please remember this phrase) and discrimination against individuals since these policy changes were introduced, beggars belief. From personal abuse by individuals who believe this Government spiel claiming that the majority of sick and disabled claimants are scroungers. We, with a little common sense, already know that David Cameron blames different minority groups or every other party for the failures and for the problems that this country faces and has faced since he came to power. He openly sets one group against another in numerous statements he has made and of course some of the population agree and a minority will act on these inflammatory accusations by verbally or even physically abusing this group of vulnerable people. They are given the ‘authority’ and the ‘permission’ of Cameron to do so. Personally I think he should be held accountable for almost every case of this kind as if he himself had carried out the attack. He always ends these statements by saying ‘we are all in this together’ Do we really believe this or is it not more a case of divided we fall?

Here are some of the cases of friends and acquaintances that I have listened to and who are going through the ‘Appeals Process’:

Janet…what have I been doing today? Well at 6 am I started going through a friends’ back to work’ hahaha! medical report and answering and correcting that… A complete load of tosh written by a foreign doctor employed by a French company, Atos, who themselves are employed by The Cam-moron and his cowards and designed specifically at soft targets. 9 am – I finished writing so I could take this friend to an appointment at job centre plus, (she is disabled so couldn’t go alone) after having her benefit stopped based on the report of this pro med examiner 4 weeks ago that stated that she was fit to work. She has had NO money (she hadn’t told me or I would have advised her before). She has lived on handouts from family, friends and the food bank since then. I told her on Monday to ring the D.S.S. She did and was given a crisis loan. You couldn’t keep a pet on it but it was something and was told that even though her GP has given her a 12 wk sick note, they chose to ignore it and she must register for jobseekers. Her appointment over the phone was set at 10.15 AM that morning and she rang me on Monday to ask if I would take her. At 9.45 that morning I picked her up and we arrived at 10.10am only to be told that she had missed her appointment as it was at 10am. Obviously someone had made a mistake. But as it was obvious that she was struggling they would fit her in at 10.50am. We went back and were seen. However, because she was not fit for work according to her Med cert from her GP (although the (foreign) adviser seemed to think this was invalid and that the findings of their expert would be the only medical evidence that counted) she was told that she needed to phone the DSS again and appeal the decision although she was probably too late? So it was back to the phone at home and she rang and luckily the phone was answered almost immediately (by an English speaking adviser) rather than the two and a half hours it took on Monday and in short she asked for an appeal letter and the adviser is sending one in the post today…. This was three weeks ago and as of today 1/8/12 she has still not received a payment!

 (Case 2)

Okay re yesterday, the appeal at Tribunal failed, why? Well it is a complicated thing. But for all of you have to consider and remember that when you apply for Disability Living Allowance (D.L.A) you say you’ve had whatever for at least 3 months and it is expected that you will continue to have this problem for at least 6 months after you claim. If you continue to have it at the same severity or worse the entitlement remains but should you get better or improve during the following 6 months you are not entitled…

OK, so you have had your illness, disability etc for three months. You fill in the claim form, some 32 pages and not easy for a lot of people. Now the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) send out their ‘medical expert’ (as we have covered previously he/she is making a living out of refusing you) and so they at the DWP find a reason to refuse your claim. You then appeal, they refuse and uphold their decision and send you to appeal in front of a tribunal… Okay that’s where we were at yesterday.
So in summary (if possible they make a decision then) it was decided that the person I accompanied was in fact entitled to D.L.A when it was claimed and for a further 5 months afterwards. However, in the last couple of months her symptoms, although still severe are better than she was and so for 8 months of those nine months she was in fact entitled to it but is not now!… Okay, so bear in mind they are required at tribunal and it is stipulated by the clerk, that they are considering ‘how you were at the time of your claim and not as you may now be’. So logically speaking she was entitled at the time of her claim….Got that?

So her appeal was denied. Now had she applied and been granted D.L.A at the outset and start of the claim procedure, (WHEN AS STATED SHE WAS ENTITLED TO IT, IN WRITTEN AND ADMISSION RESPONSE BY THE (contradictory rules) TRIBUNAL YESTERDAY) but denied, she would have received the benefit for those 8 or so months? So that being the case and in my humble opinion, she should be entitled to claim those 8 months benefit that she was legally entitled to and denied, shouldn’t she? Well, as you can imagine this will be my next step for her in this case. We can go to a further appeal however… so it ain’t over till the fat lady sings. Incidentally the condition/disability that this person suffers from is lifelong and there is no cure and as with this last exacerbation of the condition it will happen again and will increase her disability and the severity. Meanwhile as I have suggested to all of you appeal,appeal,appeal again…and then wait for your three months and start your claim again.

Because of the stress of this appeal process this person has decided she cannot face taking it further and she says she will just have to give up and die!

The Case of a friend of a friend

Don’t critisize those on benefits.. but look to those that will benefit, from all of the cutbacks. 1% tax millionaires, bankers, Fat Cats… because, the British public won’t get to improve their lifestyle. You work for minimum wage… because the powers that be… want you to. It’s not a case of employed or unemployed. It’s a case of being shafted by the Government, to which only they and their rich mates will benefit.

Now that you may have read my rant about the people who I know personally who have had their sickness/disability benefits stopped. This is an excerpt of an email that I got today. I rest my case….This isn’t about the people that have fraudulently claimed that they are too sick to work. I quite agree that they need to be weeded out, but I guarantee those same people will continue to find a loophole and because of their selfish actions and this damned government’s policies. What price is human life worth?

Please note I have removed the surnames to protect their privacy
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
How sick do you need to be before the DWP will admit that you are probably never going to work again?

Very sick indeed if your kidneys are failing, as two recent decisions show with brutal clarity.

Paul … one of the world’s longest surviving kidney dialysis patients is hooked up to a dialysis machine for five hours, three days a week. He’s also had cancer and pneumonia and suffers from spontaneous internal bleeding, brittle bones a twisted bowel and agonising joint pains as a result of his renal treatment. He’s had four failed kidney donations.

To top it all off, Paul has had 14 heart attacks in the last five years and believes his last attack was caused in part by the stress of trying to deal with the DWP. Sadly, patients with chronic kidney disease are actually more likely to die from associated heart disease than from kidney failure itself.

In spite of this, Paul has been placed in the work-related activity group meaning that he is someone who is expected to return to the workplace in the reasonably near future. Paul’s request for this dreadful decision to be looked at again came back with the same result – he should be moving towards a return to work.

We hope that Paul is now appealing . . . and that his heart will stand the stress.

More desperate still is the story of Karen…, a disability activist connected to the Spartacus campaign, whose kidneys were failing and who was waiting to be put on dialysis. In spite of her very serious condition, Karen was placed in the work-related activity group, meaning that her benefit would soon stop altogether because of the time limit on contribution-based ESA.

Karen spent many months fighting that decision. Two weeks ago she finally won her exhausting battle with the DWP and was placed in the support group.

This week she died of a heart attack.

According to a fellow campaigner:

“She was terrified. Beside herself with fear. She lived her last months desperately scared that her family would not survive the onslaught it faced. . . . The system failed her and she spent her last precious moments in this world fighting. For herself, for her family and for others.
“She was one of us. She was Spartacus. And now she’s dead and she died in fear because the system failed her, because cruel men refused to listen and powerful men refused to act.
“She spent her last months fighting for the “security” of £96 a week and the reassurance that it couldn’t be taken away.”

Last month, in a speech to Work Programme providers at the Institute of Economic Affairs Chris Grayling the Employment minister explained why the Work Programme is not making the profits for the private sector that had been hoped for. His explanation as to why the much prized incapacity benefit to ESA transfer claimants – for whom providers get paid £14,000 when they place them in work – are in short supply, touches directly on the fate of Karen ….. and others like her:

“We have more people fit for work, and moving to Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). We have more people needing long term unconditional support than expected. And those in the middle [work-related activity] group, who would expect before too long to be mandated to the Work Programme, have proved to be sicker and further from the workplace than we expected. So it will take far more time than we predicted for them to be ready to make a return to work.”

In other words, providers will have to be patient, but eventually those £14,000 a time claimants will be handed over to them . . . unless, like Karen …… and an increasing number of other seriously sick people, they die before the bounty can be claimed.

 FREELANCE WELFARE RIGHTS WORKERS

Combined with an increasingly brutal benefits regime are cuts in funding to the very agencies who can help claimants fight the worst of these decisions.

In May of this year, the Legal Aid Bill became law. This means that legal aid for most welfare rights, housing, employment and debt issues will be withdrawn completely next year, causing a huge cut in the income of many advice agencies and law centres.

Coupled with ongoing cuts in support to the voluntary sector from local authorities, this means there will be a dramatic fall in the availability of free advice – or indeed advice of any kind – and a considerable increase in the number of advisors who are out of work or working only part-time. Coupled also with ongoing cuts in support to the voluntary sector from local authorities, this means there will be a dramatic fall in the availability of free advice – or indeed advice of any kind – and a considerable increase in the number of advisors who are out of work or working only part-time.
 
Another of my friends has been given nil points by ATOS (the private company sanctioned by the government to ensure the disabled are less eligible for benefits) and is expected to return to work and sign on. She has had a brain anurism, an operation on her brain, a mini stroke and a hip replacement that went wrong. She suffers with anxiety and hypertension and has just turned 60. So you tell me, who the bloody hell is gonna give her a job? This Government attacks the vulnerable, disabled, the elderly, in fact all areas of British society with the exception of the rich. As I said above there are malingerers and fraudulent claims but this systerm is not set up to stop them! If it was the genuine cases of need would not be fighting to survive. Dying through lack of food and heat, the basics-damn this makes me so bloody angry. I could go on all day about the wrongs of this decision. British people have fewer rights in Britain today. But still Cam-moron and his ministers sit there taking this country to the brink of disaster and argue about bloody tax on pasties. The people are far too busy trying to manage day to day to fight for our rights but this is exactly when we need to pull together and speak up.

MY ADVICE IS: APPEAL EVERY DECISION WHETHER ON YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL OR AS A COUNTRY. KEEP ON APPEALING. IF YOU THINK THEY HAVE GOT IT WRONG TELL THEM IN DETAIL. IF THEY STOP YOUR BENEFITS BEFORE THE APPEAL IS FINALISED AND IF IT IS GOING TO TAKE MORE THAN 8 WEEKS FOR A DECISION, APPEAL THAT TOO. FOR EVERY BENEFIT AND EVERY DECISION THERE IS AN APPEAL PROCEDURE….LET’S HAVE A RUN ON THE APPEAL FORM GL24.  Incidently, when I asked for one, they didn’t have them, in fact they didn’t know what I was talking about. Even though it was up on the Government website that it was the form we all need. Incompetence of this Government and its policies beggars belief.

Important information from other peoples’ experiences

The appeal system prior to policy changes would take 6-11 weeks. The waiting time is now 6 months. The benefits of these claimants are stopped immediately, no benefit is paid to them for 6 weeks or more and bear in mind that although certain disability benefits are not means tested all other benefits are. Therefore when disability benefit is stopped so is every other benefit until the person is reassessed for another benefit which due to the total confusion within this system most won’t fit into any box (other than a wooden one) and probably won’t be entitled to anything. The main flaw is that these people are sent to job centres to sign on for jobseekers allowance. You can sign on for this benefit if you are actively seeking employment and fit to do so. I have yet to hear of one claimant accepted and is capable of signing the declaration. As a result they do not fit any criteria which has resulted in most going without food and heating and unable to pay rent or for the basics of survival. Those that can will be able to get a small amount of essential supplies from food banks. The majority of these people are though unable to cook meals for themselves. They live on microwave meals, toast and sandwiches. Therefore, unless they have close family and friends (and bear in mind that carers are also no longer available to these people) they will find it very hard. They are supposed to be fit to work and therefore not entitled to concessions on care as they can’t pay for care as they get no benefits! Still with me? The full time carers who are usually family members are no longer entitled to carers allowance, resulting in another person looking for work or joining the queue at the food bank. Leaving the disabled person alone to fend for themselves in real danger of increased disability, starvation, dehydration and death…Exaggeration? I will leave that to you to decide!

And what of Atos and their so called ‘Medical Experts’?
Firstly, Atos are a French company, so do we the taxpayers benefit from the billion pound contract? A French Company! Why not British?
A medical expert employed by Atos is paid to get people off the sick and into non existent jobs. ‘Back to work it’s good for your health and well being isn’t it?’ Well this government thinks so!
If they were to agree that the majority of patients they are paid to examine were unfit for work they would soon be out of a job too, so there may be no written guidelines and targets but the thought is there and we all know it’s the thought that counts don’t we?
Is this change in the disability benefit system fit for purpose!  ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!!!

Janet Rogers

On Monday 30th July Dispatches reported an investigation by local GP Dr Stephen Bick. He went undercover as an ATOS assessor to investigate how decisions are made regarding disability allowances. Here is what he found. Dispatches