Panorama - disabled or faking it? BBC2 8.30pm tonight

7/30/2012 12:06:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 13 Comments

Panorama has revealed evidence of disabled or sick people being cleared as fit to work by the Government’s Work Capability Assessment in spite of medical advice given by their own GPs.

Professor Harrington, the man appointed by the Government to review the assessment, told the programme that the success of the test is ‘patchy’ and that as a result, people who are genuinely unable to work will suffer. He says:
“There are certainly areas where it’s still not working and I am sorry there are people going through a system which I think still needs improvement.”

Over two and a half million people in the UK are required to take the test because they are too ill to work. The contract between the Department of Work and Pensions and Atos Healthcare, who conduct the Work Capability Assessments, is worth a billion pounds and runs to 2015. However, more than 176,000 cases go to appeal tribunals each year, costing the taxpayer an additional £50 million. Almost a third of these cases are overturned.

Neil Bateman, a Welfare Rights Advisor says that his success rate for appeals is much higher and that the system is badly flawed:
“I think I’ve won all of the appeals so far. 80-90% with experienced advisers is quite common, which is ridiculous that we’re getting such a fantastic success rate. The way they gather the evidence and the quality of the decision-making is badly wrong.”
Stephen Hill was sent to his first Work Capability Assessment in 2010 when he gave up his job as a sandwich delivery man after being referred for tests on his heart. His wife Denise was with him at the assessment. She says:
“She checked him out. She did his blood pressure and his heart and said to see a doctor as soon as possible.”
Steve did and was immediately referred to a consultant.
However, when the ESA results came in, despite the fact the assessor had recommended he urgently see a doctor, Stephen had been given no points in the assessment, and subsequently found fit for work.  In the meantime, medical consultants had diagnosed him with heart failure.
Steve won his appeal but this was followed up with a demand to return for another assessment.
“He got a letter for another medical and I couldn’t believe it,” says Denise. “He’d got to go for a medical when he was waiting for a heart operation.”
According to Denise, the second assessor was more interested in a problem with Steve’s knee than his heart. Once again he was awarded zero points and the assessor wrote in Steve’s report that “…significant disability due to cardiovascular problems seems unlikely.”
Steve’s family say that the second assessment decision started to affect him in an unexpected way. His son Shane says:
“He started doing more. He started thinking, well I must be ok now, I must be fit for work if they’re telling me I am. On Boxing Day he hoovered the car out and as he was taking it back into the house, that’s when he collapsed and had his heart attack and died.”
Stephen Hill died 39 days after being found fit for work. Shane Hill says: “You believe doctors are right so it doesn’t matter who’s doing the assessments.”
However, Steve Hill may not be a one-off. Between January and August last year, an average of 32 people who the department of work and pensions thought could be helped back to work died every week.

Panorama spoke to an Atos Healthcare professional who carries out the test. They are afraid to be named because of a confidentiality agreement with Atos but told Panorama that the Work Capability Assessment is too rigid.
“There are people who you would like to be able to award ESA [Employment and Support Allowance] to but you can’t. If you are doing it absolutely honestly, they just don’t get the points you know, that’s it, they’re stuffed.”
Atos insiders say that they’re also under pressure to see eight patients a day and with the paperwork around each examination, it could impact on the Work Capability Assessments.  “We’re under pressure to see eight patients a day, even if it’s impossible to do. I’d like to think that the quality of my work is consistent but time pressure doesn’t help.”
In a statement to Panorama, Atos said that their staff “carry out thousands of assessments every month in accordance with detailed guidelines as set by the Department of Work and Pensions… Any serious suggestion that our work has fallen short of the high standards we set ourselves… is investigated as a matter of course.”
However, local GPs like Chris Johnstone believe that they’re left to pick up the pieces when patients fail assessments. He says that the test - far from saving the Government money – is adding to NHS costs in poor areas.
“We are busy at the best of times and we are now having to fit in more people whose appointments are more for their benefits than they are for their health.”
Staff at the Maudsley Hospital in South London feel that they’re picking up the tab for a system that has gone badly wrong.
Andy King has bi-polar disorder and had already been feeling unwell when he was told he would have to be reassessed for ESA.
“That was quite a blow. I thought I might lose a big part of my benefit… and that’s what resulted partially in me being admitted to the Maudsley in mid November.”
Andy had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act and spent time in the hospital catatonic and unable to speak. The decision about his claim was made without him being seen – he was put into the Work Related Activity Group, which means that he was to be supported back into work.
The dedicated welfare team at the hospital appealed the result of the assessment and won.
Shelley Leckey from the Maudsley Welfare Team says they’re now overwhelmed with helping people like Andy appeal wrong decisions.
“We’re having to call upon the resources of the doctors and nurses, and social workers, to put everything together to send off to the Department of Work and Pensions.”
The government says that the system is being improved and assessors are getting new training in working with vulnerable people.
But according to Professor Malcolm Harrington, who recommended that training, there is some way to go.
Panorama: Disabled or Faking It? will be shown
on Monday at 8.30pm on BBC One.
Should you use any of the above information, please credit BBC Panorama.

For further information, please contact Matt Hall, BBC News Publicity on 07730 562 918 or


Q: When is a target not a target? A: When its a statistical norm #OnTheSick

7/27/2012 09:03:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 29 Comments

Details have begun to leak about the Dispatches investigation into the Work Capability Assessment scheduled to air on monday night, then followed by a Panoram investigation into the same subject. Dispatches report that they have sent an undercover GP, Dr Steve Bick through the complete Atos training process filming undercover.

As news leaks, reputable news outlets are reporting that this shows this must be proof of targets built into the WCA system, presumably in the contract the DWP issued to Atos. However, this is not quite the case, what is being reported based on evidence from undercover investigation is 'targets that aren't targets', ie statistical norms. What this means is that there are effectively targets built into the system, but they are targets that are not technically targets because the targets seem to be being imposed by a potentially false baseline average, for which there appears to be no source of original data or evidence at this time.

This means there are essentially two possibilities; either the government, DWP, ministers and Atos have all repeatedly lied on record about the existence of targets, or they are telling the truth and there aren't actually any targets, because they aren't called targets, they are called statistical norms. 

Atos are an international IT company, their business has been built upon using systems of statistical norms to determine trends. This can be seen as acceptable if for example Atos were running the contract for a telecoms system. A company who want to understand the different types of phone calls made at different times would clearly benefit from this kind of statistical analysis, which is presumably why telecoms giants use the Atos systems. However, human beings, particularly sick, disabled and vulnerable human beings do not fit neatly into any kind of statistical system. It is impossible to predict who will come through the door in any given day to see an HCP for their WCA, quite unlike telephone calls which tend group into averages - the way we see reflected in the kind of special deals offered by British telecoms companies who use such data to offer cheap calls after 7pm.

The consequences of getting the baseline figures wrong to work out an average for telephone calls might be significant financially for businesses, and impact on consumers by skewing the 'special deals' based on these averages, but they do not have the potential to have a devastating harm on individual lives in the way those exact same averages do when used to assess sick and disabled people for eligibility for benefits.

So, what really happens on the frontline for those being assessed for benefits and those doing the actual assessments?

A system of statistical norms is used to ascertain how many people a health care professional assigns to the different eligibility groups in Employment Support Allowance; the support group for those most unwell and not expected to perform any work, the Work Related Activity Group for those expected to be able to do some work at some point in the future, and those found fit for work. Using these 'norms' or averages, Atos monitor closely each HCP's performance, and as explained by Dr Bick, any who assign more people to those groups than the norms suggest they should are then audited.

Although I have been unable to find any evidence that HCP's are fined or formally disciplined for putting too many people in the support group, it is clear that frontline workers see this as a punitive process and are constantly attempting to juggle the requirements of the claimants they assess with the requirement to stay within a statistical norm. This average appears to be based on national rather than regional data, so an HCP assessing people in Croydon would be held to the exact same average that an HCP assessing people in the Outer Hebrides would. That's quite an extreme example, but demonstrates that using a system of averages creates a skewed picutre as it does not account for regional variations in population size, health conditions and the local economy.

At this time, no-one knows what original data these statistical norms, or targets that are effectively targets, but just aren't called targets, are based upon. It may be that data originated from the DWP, based upon guesstimates from the old Incapacity Benefit claims, but it may be that Atos only ever had access to an average data sample to build their national averages upon. Frankly, unless the DWP and/or Atos radically alter their stance and start communicating clearly about the details of the WCA system and outsourcing process then we may never know the answer to this key question.

The next question is of course whether these 'norms' take any account of different conditions, ie are there different sets of norms for people with Mental Health conditions, fluctuating conditions, sensory disabilities or Learning Disabilities? The answer is presumably not, as HCP's, confirmed by DWP and Atos quotes are outlining a simple one system of averages based upon crude numbers of total people seen.

That would lead us to wonder, how can a norm possibly be a norm for an overall client group without accounting for all these different conditions? Perhaps the DWP or Atos will see fit to share the answer to that question, but I shan't be holding my breath waiting.

Then that leads us to some even bigger questions, the DWP record outcome data for WCA's, to use as part of the official statistics relating to the benefit ESA. This data is of course based on outcomes from a system which uses Atos assessments held to unverifiable in origin norms, decisions almost always confirmed in practice by the DWP.

So, if the whole assessment system is based on a system of averages that have no regional or condition related breakdowns in them, then that flawed system is used to measure the official figures of those eligible for benefits we then have some very serious questions to ask about the validity of those final figures. Figures remember that seem to be built on an average assumption of how many people should receive a particular level of benefit, without ever leading us to the original data, if any, used to predict these outcomes.

This could mean that four years on from the introduction of a benefit which has caused terrible distress and fear to sick and disabled people having to claim it, been implicated as a factor in multiple suicides and used to make presumptions about work and growth figures has been based on nothing more than a guesstimate, that became an average, that became a norm, which became a target that isn't a target.


John Pring's Disability News Round Up - 20/07/2012

7/26/2012 10:03:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 0 Comments

  • Disabled people’s independence could be jeopardised by the government’s planned cuts to disability benefits, according to a leading Paralympian.
  • Disabled people are set to play a prominent and public part in both the London 2012 Olympics and the Paralympics, after organisers revealed that they would make up five per cent of the huge volunteer workforce.
  • One of the pioneers of the independent living movement has warned the government that its decision to shut the Independent Living Fund in 2015 could force thousands of disabled people out of their homes and into residential care.
  • The minister for care services has admitted “mis-speaking” after he appeared unaware that a fellow minister had already published the long-awaited consultation paper on the future of the Independent Living Fund.
  • The Department for Education has rejected a key recommendation of the equality watchdog’s disability hate crime inquiry, which could have undermined the government’s anti-inclusion stance on the education of disabled children.
  • The government is seeking to delay major parts of a new European regulation that would have given powerful rights to disabled bus and coach passengers.
  • The death of a young woman who killed herself after being found “fit for work” is the latest proof of the catastrophic consequences of the government’s cuts to disability benefits and services, say campaigners.
  • Disabled activists have held a “paupers’ picnic” in the lobby of the Houses of Parliament, to draw MPs’ attention to cuts they say are leaving many disabled people without enough money to feed themselves properly.
  • The success of London 2012 will be judged on whether London’s transport system allows disabled people to travel easily to watch the events, according to one of Britain’s top Paralympic powerlifters.

For links to the full stories, please visit Disability News Service


Important News From Benefits And Work

7/25/2012 08:42:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 0 Comments

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.

Yet, 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.

The 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 own questionnaire.

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 involved.

So, to help you take part, Benefits and Work has done two things.

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 Harrington’s team.

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 defence.

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.

And 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 people’s lives.

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 truth.

Thanks to Benefits and Work member papasmurf for alerting us to two programmes about the WCA both being broadcast on Monday 30 July.

Dispatches.  8pm,  Channel 4
“Using undercover filming, reporter Jackie Long investigates the shocking processes used to assess whether sickness and disability benefit claimants should be declared fit for work.”

Disabled or faking it?  8.30pm,  BBC2
 “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).

Aside from 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 case.

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 that:

“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 audio-recording.”

And we continue to hear from members who have been refused a recording and told they must still attend their medical.

We are 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 decision.

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.

As always, there’s much more news in the members area than we have room for in this newsletter, including:

Decision makers still bow to Atos

Double suicide draws further tragic attention to ‘fit for work’ test

Blue badge scheme ‘will keep focus on physical mobility’

27 Remploy factories to close

Has WCA improved, Harrington wants to know?

Work Programme success claims Grayling

MoJ video raised in house


John Pring's Disability News Round Up - 13/07/2012

7/17/2012 09:14:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 0 Comments

  • The opportunity to celebrate disabled people’s diversity has been “stolen” by organisers of the Paralympic torch relay, according to a leading disabled people’s organisation.
  • The government has finally confirmed that it wants to close the Independent Living Fund entirely in 2015.
  • Disabled activists have reacted angrily to the government’s decision to delay reforming the funding of adult care and support.
  • A national eligibility threshold for care and support will be introduced across England from 2015, ministers have announced.
  • Many working-age disabled people will receive free care and support for life – whatever their levels of wealth or income – when the funding of care and support is finally reformed, the government has promised.
  • Disabled people who want to overcome the barriers they face in seeking elected office will now be able to apply for financial support from a new £2.6 million government fund.
  • Just nine of the 36 sheltered Remploy factories that were set to be shut in the first wave of a government closure programme could be kept open under new ownership, a minister has announced.
  • The government’s radical “simplification” of the benefits system is likely to make the future “considerably bleaker” for many disabled people, according to the peer leading a new inquiry.
  • The government looks set to maintain the current focus of the blue badge parking scheme in England on disabled people with significant physical mobility problems.
  • Disabled activists have paid a series of emotional tributes to Nick Danagher, a central and much-loved figure in the disability movement and an “independent living revolutionary”, who died suddenly on Friday (6 July).
  • An award-winning performer whose work is set to be one of the highlights of the London 2012 disability arts festival is hoping this summer’s artistic and athletic celebrations will demonstrate the “normality” of being a disabled person.
  • One of Britain’s hottest prospects for Paralympic gold on the athletics track has spoken of her hopes that London 2012 will lead to more opportunities for disabled people outside the sporting arena.

For links to the full stories, please visit Disability News Service


Wanted: New Neighbours

7/14/2012 01:44:00 pm BenefitScroungingScum 3 Comments

Recently modernised 1st floor, 2 bedroom, affordable maisonette with stunning beach views. CH47

Would ideally suit handsome, single, intelligent chap with love of cooking, cats & no sense of smell. Please apply in writing to


Past Caring? WeAreSpartacus Report On Worcs #socialcare

7/12/2012 08:55:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 5 Comments

 The latest report from the WeAreSpartacus team is released today. Past Caring is an investigation into the proposals to return to a higher use of residential care by Worcestershire. (summary, full report) This report is further evidence giving lie to the Coalition's claims that they promote further independence for disabled people and believe in a 'social model' approach. 

Although the results of the consultation will have a dramatic impact on the ability of Worcs residents to live independently, and potentially be seen as setting a precedent for other local authorities to follow, typically the consultation is rushed and inaccessible, with Worcs only providing a postal address for responding.

It's a further questionable decision from Worcestershire who last year had to spend £5,000 on replacing city centre blue badge parking bays they'd spent £250 to remove and replace with a taxi rank 3 years earlier despite local campaigners objections. Though the £4750 spent on replacing blue badge bays may seem a trivial sum compared to the amounts considered in Worcs Maximum Expenditure Policy, its a good illustration of the money wasted by local authorities who don't consult local people properly and therefore end up making unpopular, expensive decisions which later have to be rectified at vastly higher costs than the original.

Press Release follows;

New council policy condemned as ‘flawed and wrong’ as national campaign group publishes report on
Worcestershire care changes
In the wake of the white paper on social care and in light of recent uncovered abuses such as Winterbourne,
Worcestershire County Council’s proposed changes to care for disabled people in the county have been
condemned as ‘flawed and wrong’ by a national campaign group which has published a new report on the

‘Past Caring’, which has been published by the research team at the WeareSpartacus campaign group,
analyses the county council’s proposals for a ‘maximum expenditure policy’, which would impose a cap,
meaning that anyone needing significant amounts of support may have to go in to residential care. As well as
criticising the council’s current consultation exercise, the report shows the new policy:

  •  Will mean disabled people get less support
  •  Will mean a deterioration in care standards and quality of life
  •  Could lead to disabled people forced into residential care, even if they don’t want to
  • Could force disabled people to rely on charity for the help and support they need
  • Goes against the recommendations of the Government’s flagship white paper on social care reform
  •  Could be open to a legal challenge
Dr Sarah Campbell, one of the report’s authors, said:
“We know that times are hard; disabled people in Worcestershire and across the country are being hit by
cuts to benefits and social care services. But the county council’s approach is flawed and wrong. Flawed,
because any ‘maximum expenditure policy’ will have a series of knock on effects for health and social care
providers which may end up costing even more; and wrong, because disabled people should be encouraged
and supported to live safely independently.
“Institutionalising disabled people is not the answer to the social care crisis, in Worcestershire or anywhere

The report acknowledges the challenges facing local authorities across the country, but also highlights the
principles of independence for disabled people, including a right to choose where and how they live, be part
of their communities and have control over their day to day lives.

Jim D Smith, Secretary of Worcestershire Coalition for Independent Living, points out:
"In a week when the Queen visits the County to open a new £60 million library it’s sad to reflect that the
lives of some individuals in the County are threatened by such negative proposals. These proposals, if
implemented, will undermine a generation of progress towards independent living and cause real mental
anguish for individuals and families.”

Local resident Steve Sumpter adds:
“The council needs to be more active with its consultation, and respond to the searching questions it’s
refusing to answer. But disabled people, their friends and families also need to speak up. The consultation
finishes later this month (July), and it’s crucial their voices are heard. It’s also vital they contact their local
councillors and MPs to express their views before the final decision is made at the end of September.”

ENDs For further information, contact Sarah at


Atos, DWP & JC+ - the unholy triumvirate, guest blog by @hossylass

7/11/2012 07:03:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 6 Comments

Hear no truth, see no truth, speak no truth. Or how the DWP, Atos and the JobCentreplus can’t lie straight in bed together.
15 years ago today I got up early, full of joy. I drove to my fantastic job, laughed with my super funny workmates, and then rode my beautiful horse. Ok I wasn’t rich, my car was rubbish, and my income and expenditure were in constant conflict, but I had no debt and I had a career I hoped to stay in for life.

Today I awoke again in tears; nightmares and pain combining to stab my dear friend Fortitude to death. Yep, I knew it was going to be shit. Just like yesterday, just like tomorrow.

Except todays shit was a slightly different variety. Today I was to meet with a nice man who promised that he would help sort out my council tax and prevent me going to jail. That seemed like a mixed blessing to be honest – I only have one unit left of my OU degree to do, and 90 days of solitude may have just swung things in my favour.

I have my doubts – after all there would be a library in jail. Just think, 90 days of clean sheets, cooked meals and library books… and you don’t even have to get up to open the door! Wowzer indeed.

But before the very nice man arrived, I decided to do the thing that had gotten me into Cloaca-Ville in the first place, and open my post. There was the now seemingly twice weekly missive from my MP, but this one was more dismissive than anything else – “I have forwarded your complaint to the relevant person at the DWP”.

Humph. Its irrelevant anyhow now Mr MP, as Atos have seemingly got the message and given me the answer via their website. Bless ‘em – who says that they don’t care? Apart from about 2 million sick and disabled people.

It’s a lie – Atos DO care, especially about getting blamed for stuff that clearly isn’t their fault. A bit like sick, disabled and unemployed people being blamed for the economy, and poor people being blamed for being poor, Atos catches crap for the DWP.

Now Atos are not without their faults. To my mind they have been a ickle tiny bit spineless and rolled over a little bit too much in their fawning to the DWP. And in return for their submission they have been savaged.

Atos DO have to pull it together as a company, they DO have to remove the renegade examiners and they DO have to find and remove the political statement that appeared at the front of their handbook , where “removing sick and disabled people from benefits was the right thing to do for the sick and disabled…” (I paraphrase, but it certainly set the tone).

So after spending a few seconds rolling my eyes about the DWP, I found a scummy brown envelope, from the DWP. Oh deepest sodding joy.

I think at this point I recognised that I must be either pretty low, drained of emotion, or dead, as my heart failed to reach the usual 3000 bpm when confronted by the DWP envelope.

So I did what every sick and disabled person does, and squeezed it a bit.

Now was it a form? Nah, too thin.

A standard letter? Nope, a bit too fat.

Contemplated that it could have been a pizza, but abandoned that idea when no tomato sauce oozed from it.

So mainly out of curiosity, and the fact it was addressed to me, I opened it.

Well what a marvellous surprise – apparently I had been voted the DWP claimant of the year and had been given a pair of first class around the world tickets, stopping at three destinations of my choice!

Well no actually I hadn’t. It was in fact my pre ESA50 klaxon bomb warning.

“Dear Benefit-scrounging-and-probably-faking-it Git. Sorry to ruin your life further, but you better ring us pretty damned quick.”

Or words to that effect.

Now I wish I had recorded the conversation for training and fact verification purposes, because what was revealed was a bit odd…

Going back to my MP, what I had asked was regarding the vague wording on the nice “Help” form from Atos. This nice “help” form is a QR1 03/11 and confused me with its vagaries of sending in medical documents with the ESA50 to support your claim.

However kindly and compassionate Atos have cleared this up for me, so armed with that fact I phoned the Jobcentreplus number as instructed on my letter.

Me: Hello

Them :Hello {dynamic so far}

Further conversation regarding them sending me an ESA50…

Me : what date will you send it, as I am going into hospital for 3 weeks…

Them : that’s ok, just tell us and we will send the form there.

Me: But what if I am there and then you send it here?

Them : tell us when you are going in and we will send it there.

Me: I don’t know when I am going in – this is rehab, so it could be short notice.

Them : we can send it there.

Me: But I might be there and you send it here – can you not give me an idea of when…

Them: No.

Me: If I am in hospital, how will I get the medical evidence I need to fill out the form?

Them : You don’t need medical evidence – you just tell us on the form how your disability affects you.

Me: I’m not that disabled, I am incapacitated with a condition that makes me ill and disabled.

Them: Just fill out the form

Me: But I can’t cart my entire medical evidence around with me, and I don’t know if I will be able to fill the form out in rehab…

Them : we can send it anywhere and you have four weeks to fill it out.

Me: But you may have sent it, and I may then get the rehab, but the form may be in the post. I will be in rehab for three weeks, and then there is the delay in posting, and I won’t have my medical evidence with me.

Them: Look, you don’t need medical evidence; just give us the name of your GP and any consultant if you have one.

Me: I do need medical evidence. Both Atos and the DWP state that people need medical evidence.

Them : You don’t.

Me: Are you sure, because both the DWP and Atos talk about submitting medical evidence on their websites, and I wouldn’t like to get it wrong…

Them : No, just fill out the form, telling us about your disabilities and how they affect you.


So no medical evidence needed according to JC+.

(Do you know, for ages I thought that was some Christian reference?)

But I had seeded it, on that QR1 03/11 form… it said “If you have any medical documents that you think will support your claim, send them in with your questionnaire. For example, this could be a medical report from your Doctor, Consultant or Support Worker.”

So in an act of faith in the new shiny Atos I checked their website;

If you are claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or you have been notified that your Incapacity Benefit claim will be reassessed under ESA guidelines, you will be sent a medical questionnaire (ESA50) which is your opportunity to explain how your medical condition impacts on your daily life.

The questionnaire is a DWP document and is an important part of your claim so you should try to fill in as much detail as possible.

If you have any medical documents that will help Atos Healthcare with its assessment or the DWP Decision Maker to understand how your condition affects you, please forward copies to us, with the completed questionnaire in the envelope provided.

For help in completing the questionnaire, or if you have questions about it, please contact the office of Jobcentre Plus handling your claim.

But, but, but… I have got medical evidence, but the nasty lady said I didn’t need it!

The nasty lady was quite clear about that. (She wasn’t that nasty, she was just adamant that I didn’t need medical evidence, even if I had it).

I am assuming that the JobCentre Plus recorded the call for training and fact verification purposes. In fact I am really, really hoping they have. I am also hoping that tomorrow, when I phone them again, I get the same message.

So whilst Atos, clutching a white dove in their teeth, have offered up a clarification, it appears that the Job Centre is still trapped in 2008 and not updating their scripts.

After all, they wouldn’t chose to misinform their clients now – would they?

15 years ago I woke up to a beautiful, simple, rewarding world.

Today I had to beg a stranger to keep me out of jail, and listen to another treat me like a muppet, in the full expectation that the next few weeks are not going to be in any way life enhancing, and possibly incredibly, phenomenally, a rogered-up-the-arse-by-an-angry-elephant-type vile experience.

And I have yet to search for the truth of the official DWP line, the Grayling line, The Miller line, the IDS line, the Circle to District line, the line in the sand, the line I have crossed and finally the scum line around the bath – though I suspect that elusive Scarlett Pimpernel “Truth” has fucked off round the world on my prize winning tickets.


Why? Because They Can #winterbourne

7/10/2012 10:51:00 am BenefitScroungingScum 6 Comments

This blog was sent in for publication by 'an anonymous parent'. To help people try and understand from the perspective of the person with learning disabilities as well as the parent I've reproduced 'Imagine You're Four' below the guest blog.
Cover up
Because they can
Wide spread shock and anger what happened at Winterbourne.
Viewers shocked by Michael and Jean’s story line in Eastenders how people can manipulate others.
And yet it is happening all over the country every day.
Everyday parents are speaking up as to what is happening and yet no one believes them because of the outdated attitude of what it’s like to be a parent of person with a disability. Over protective. Over emotional. Mad. Depressed. Stressed. Demented. So you’re not credible. You don’t know what you are talking about. It wasn’t like that. Your child dosn’t speak – so how do you know! Your child has a disability so what they are saying can’t be true.
Out of date stigma and stereotyping.
Staff who believe in dignity and value don’t speak up for fear of their jobs. And so the cover up continues. Other staff have been institutionalised. Or just don’t believe in equality. Or believe they are doing a brilliant job and they are the experts. They don’t call in outside intervention when it is needed. They lie.
Chemical cosh.
Recession excuses.
The CQC go in and inspect but as staff are in league with each other to keep their jobs it is an easy white wash. It’s a tick box exercise. The CQC need to wise up.
A huge change in culture and training is needed to up skill. Raise expectations. The right attitude dosn’t cost anything.
The way forward. Collaboration and partnership working between people with disabilities, their families, advocates, providers and commissioners.
Sent in by An anonymous parent.
  Imagine you're four. You love your parents, your friends, the way the light comes through your curtains early in the morning, twinkling on the walls while you wait in your princess room patiently for mummy and daddy's wake up time. Your favourite things are pink ballons and fairies, when it's all a bit confusing around you you know you're safe as long as you can catch sight of those pink flashes and know mum and dad are close. You love to give cuddles, hugs so tight there's no room to wiggle and when you get excited you rock back and forth from foot to foot, arms spiralling joyfully.

One day a new clipboard lady comes to see your mum and dad. You see them cry and decide you don't like this clipboard lady, you wonder where the clipboard lady you remember has gone. Mummy and Daddy are sad so you hug them then fling yourself to the floor and scream so the clipboard lady will go away. It works so next time you decide to scream louder and kick your feet harder to be sure she'll go before your mum and dad cry.

Next time the clipboard lady comes with lots of other people to take you away. Lots of big words you don't understand like 'aggressive' 'confrontational' and 'care order' float around the room and you can't see your pink balloons so scream and scream. Mummy and Daddy cry and tell you to be a good girl, that you'll love your new home, it'll be full of your favourite things to do, they'll come to see you soon.

When you get there it's all scary and wrong. It smells funny and the light doesn't wake you up in the mornings anymore. No-one knows you like to be woken up by the light and they wouldn't care if they did. The days are long, no painting or ponies like you're used to to fill the time and no-one comes to give you cuddles when you're sad. You cry alot and have tantrums. You're used to pink balloons and fairies when you have a tantrum, but without being able to see that you just kick more wildly, especially when the carers come to sit on you and hit you.

You might be only four but you can remember the important things Mummy and Daddy spent 18 years teaching you. You know how to hold out your hand and say 'NO!' in a loud voice if someone tries to touch you, to say the police will come to look after you, to call out for your Mummy so she knows to come to you. Mummy and Daddy were so proud of you for being their big girl and learning these skills, you try to remember that as you lie on the floor of your shower, surrounded by grown ups shouting at you, throwing cold water all over you, sitting on you and choking you. You cry and cry for your Mum but it just makes the carers hit you more. Sometimes the nurses come along and you look at them while you're on the floor, pinned beneath a chair, but then someone puts a blanket over your head so you can't look at them anymore. The blanket's brown and scratchy and you cry for your pink balloons while they hit you some more.

You don't get days out anymore. There used to be a car and Mummy and Daddy took you places with swings and slides. Swings, slides, light through the leaves and being happy slip further and further away until you're not sure there was ever a world beyond beige walls with no pink to hide in to bear the slaps, pinches and pushdowns that are your new routine. You're sure you remember your parents though and cry for them every day. You don't know the reason they can't come to visit is that now you're a hospital resident 80 miles away from home and the car had to go because you're no longer entitled to the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance and the Motability scheme. Mummy and Daddy are getting older and they had to care for you instead of going out to work. You don't know they're going cold and hungry now they're unemployed not carers, you only know that no-one comes to see you except the people who hurt you.

You don't know someone in the hospital did care. That they reported the abuse you are experiencing repeatedly. To their manager, to their manager's manager, to the Care Quality Commission. You don't know because no-one did anything, nothing ever changes now, the torture is your daily routine. You don't know the word for torture, but you could give a better account of what it means than a prisoner in Guantanamo.

You don't know that in the world outside your torture chamber that people talk alot about double funding, scroungers and fraud. Of something called a deficit, the need to cut costs and protect the vulnerable. You don't know that because all the talk is of stamping out fraud and you're so vulnerable no-one knows you exist.