A few weeks ago, when the DWP tried to stop claimants seeing a useful employment and support allowance (ESA) appeals video, Benefits and Work readers helped make it the most popular video the ministry of justice has ever produced and spread it across the internet.
Now, it seems, the DWP are trying to prevent
claimants giving evidence about how fairly Atos and the DWP are treating them.
This evidence is vital for millions of people because it will affect both ESA
and disability living allowance (DLA) when it becomes personal independence
payment (PIP). So, once again, we’re asking for your help to stop the DWP
getting away with it.
In this edition we also ask who is lying about
ending the right to have your ESA medical recorded?
We also tell you
about the two page letter you can copy and paste to give yourself the best
chance of getting your audio-tape.
Finally, there’s news of two upcoming
TV investigations into the work capability assessment (WCA), one of which
includes undercover filming of Atos.
Professor Harrington has made a call for evidence for his
third review of the work capability assessment. He especially wants to hear
from claimants about whether all the changes he has introduced mean that Atos
and the DWP now deal with you more fairly and effectively.
astonishingly, there is nowhere for claimants to answer the questions he puts to
you. Instead, the DWP have buried the questionnaire in a .pdf file which cannot
be written to unless you own software costing hundreds of pounds.
only way claimants can take part is either by printing off the document, and
then writing the answers by hand and posting them to Harrington or by trying to
copy, paste and reformat all the questions into another document to create their
In addition, the call for evidence went out just
before the summer holidays and ends on September 7th, just as schools go back.
This means that it has attracted very little attention from charities and other
organisations that might otherwise be encouraging claimants to get
So, to help you take part, Benefits and Work has done two
We’ve created an online version of the questionnaire you can complete. Your
answers will be emailed to you and you can then check them and forward them to
We’ve also created a text version of the questionnaire, so if you prefer you can
type in that and then send your answers to Harrington.
Make no mistake,
this review matters.
The DWP and Atos have faced ever growing criticism
of the WCA, with even GPs calling en masse for it to be scrapped and two TV
investigations of the WCA being broadcast next week. Their response has always
been that they are putting into place all Harrington’s recommendations and that,
as a result the WCA is greatly improved.
If you agree that it has got
better it’s important that you show your support for the changes to silence the
critics. If you think it hasn’t, then it’s equally important that you make it
as hard as possible for Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith to use Harrington as a
There’s a series of questions about issues such as whether
telephone and written communications have improved, whether medical examinations
are better and whether the WCA is now fair and effective. There’s also an
‘anything else’ box you can use to address issues like recording medicals and
waiting times, for example.
Harrington particularly wants to hear from
claimants who have had more than one WCA, but he does also want opinions on
fairness and effectiveness from claimants who have only had one.
because personal independence payment, which begins replacing DLA from April of
next year, is assessed using a very similar system to the WCA, whatever
advantages or failings there are in the WCA will almost certainly be reproduced
for DLA to PIP transfers. Because of the dramatic effect that DLA/PIP in
particular has on living standards, your evidence could literally change
So, if you’ve had a WCA, please complete the
questionnaire. And if you can post details on forums you use, forward this
newsletter to a friend and ask any charities you’re involved with to encourage
members to take part as well, we can ensure that Harrington hears the
TWO TV INVESTIGATIONS INTO THE WCA
Benefits and Work member papasmurf for alerting us to two programmes about the
WCA both being broadcast on Monday 30 July.
“Using undercover filming, reporter Jackie Long
investigates the shocking processes used to assess whether sickness and
disability benefit claimants should be declared fit for
Disabled or faking it? 8.30pm,
“Panorama investigates the government's plans to end the
so-called 'sick note culture' and their attempts to get millions of people off
disability benefits and into work. In Britain's modern welfare state, millions
are being paid to private companies to assess sick and disabled claimants but is
the system working? Or are new tests wrongly victimising those who deserve
support the most?”
The fiasco over
the recording of medicals has now even reached the pages of the Guardian (external link).
the lack of recording equipment, the biggest issue at the moment is whether you
can have your WCA postponed if you’ve asked in advance for a recording, but the
equipment isn’t available. Grayling keeps reassuring MPs that this is the
As recently as 17 July, in response to a written parliamentary question (external
link) he stated that:
In the meantime, while Atos will do all that they
can to accommodate requests for audio recording there may be times when the
service cannot be offered, for example where it has not be possible to get
access to recording equipment on the date/time of the WCA. In these
circumstances clients will be told in advance that their request cannot be
accommodated and offered a later date.
On the other hand, Atos claimed in their company blog (external link) on 6 July
“We will make every effort to accommodate requests for this service
and hope that we will be able to meet demand. However, under the terms of our
contract with the Department, we cannot postpone an assessment on the basis of
And we continue to hear from members who have been
refused a recording and told they must still attend their medical.
taking steps to discover whether the DWP have indeed issued instructions to Atos
not to postpone medicals.
Meanwhile we have produced a two page letter
Benefits and Work members can copy and paste to ask for their medical to be
recorded and warn of the possible consequences of this request being refused.
It draws on parliamentary statements, the Equalities Act and an Upper Tribunal
The letter is included in the latest editions of our guide to
the WCA and is also downloadable in text format for easy copying and pasting in
the ESA section of the members area.
always, there’s much more news in the members area than we have room for in this
Decision makers still bow to Atos
Double suicide draws further tragic attention to ‘fit for work’
Blue badge scheme ‘will keep focus on physical
27 Remploy factories to close
Has WCA improved, Harrington wants to know?
Work Programme success claims Grayling
MoJ video raised in house