Sacked by the DWP after 34 years’ service for depression – and then found ‘fit for work’ by DWP/AtoS

Sacked by the DWP after 34 years' service because of her depression - then found 'fit for work' by DWP/AtoS

Extraordinary! The Express would normally say she was benefit-scrounging scum – a malingerer on the take. Here’s Jane’s story:

CLAIMS of government action to help mental health sufferers back to work have a hollow ring for former civil ­servant Jane. She says she was thrown onto the scrap heap by the Department of Work and Pensions itself. 

Instead of being supported during a mental breakdown she was fired on Christmas Eve and has since been in “a living nightmare”. She is now suing her former employers for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.

Jane, who doesn’t want her real name used because her family don’t know she has depression, is scathing about the way Jobcentres assess those with ­mental health problems. She said: “If they treat their staff the way they have me, what hope is there for ­others?”

Jane, who worked in a Jobcentre in the North-west, was diagnosed with depression in 2010. However, she did not tell ­anyone about this, even when her bosses moved her to a more stressful managerial role.

She noticed she was becoming more forgetful and last November left a Boots store without paying for some goods. She was arrested and given a caution by police. The day after her arrest, she told her manager about it and her depression. “I was in a right mess and I was just scared about what had ­happened. I told her I felt embarrassed and suicidal,” said Jane. 

If they treat their staff the way they have me, what hope is there for ­others?


 “I couldn’t talk to my family because I thought there was a stigma. My GP said it was a cry for help.”

Two weeks later, the day before her court hearing, she was told she was being investigated for gross misconduct and for bringing the department into disrepute. She was “absolutely devastated” and shocked that she had not merely been given a final written warning that would have taken into account her previously exemplary record.

The letter informing her of her ­dismissal arrived on Christmas Eve.

She said: “I feel utter hopelessness. The last four months have been dreadful. Some days, I can’t even get out of bed. I’ve lost all my confidence.

“Then when I read what Iain Duncan Smith wrote in the Sunday Express last week, I was furious. Total hypocrite. It was his department that sacked me.”

In support of the Sunday Express ­Crusade for Better Mental Health, the Work and Pensions Secretary said the Government was helping people with mental health problems return to work.

Since losing her job Jane has been claiming Employment and Support ­Benefit for her depression, which is ­classified as a disability. After 14 weeks on benefits she went to a work capability assessment centre run by outsourcing giant Atos Healthcare and was appalled by her “hour-long interrogation”. It was conducted, she said, by someone who seemed to know little about mental health, refused to make eye contact and stared at a computer while reading out scripted questions.

Jane said: “The questions were unbelievable. They asked, ‘What do you watch on TV? What is your mental arithmetic like? Do you answer the phone when it rings?’ They were not interested in terms of how my depression had resulted in my loss of employment after 34 years.

“It’s seriously worrying that this is a Government initiative treating people disadvantaged with mental health in this way.”

A spokesman for the DWP was unable to comment on Jane’s claims but stressed the department was “committed to meeting the needs” of staff and customers.


13 thoughts on “Sacked by the DWP after 34 years’ service for depression – and then found ‘fit for work’ by DWP/AtoS

  1. bridget price says:

    We are barely out of the dark ages with regard to mental illness! There should be no more stigma than there is for having cancer. The brain is just another organ and when its biochem goes wrong it is just as physical as when the biochem of another organ goes wrong.

    A person can no more ‘get a grip’ of their neurotransmitters than they can of their insulin levels when the pancreas fucks up. Her ex employers have acted from bigotry and prejudice stemming from grotesque ignorance. I hope she can win her case and sue them.

    I don’t know if you can pass on support to her to say ‘I am a loony and proud’. Part of the awfulness of depression is feelings of isolation. She is not alone but one of millions. What is more, the pit of total despair she is in will pass.

    Whilst ATOS have no comprehension of mental health issues, the court appeal system does. She may have a long wait to prove it but she is entitled to ESA.

    Best wishes from Eyore.

    1. Cns says:

      DWP-government establishment are actually. Just dismissed in the same way from April 17 2014-completely understand her story. Totally true.

  2. Celia says:

    In 2008 I had a severe bout of depression brought on by varous stressors including multiple berievements and my physical disability and then lost my incapacity benefit after an DWP medical which completely ignored my precarious mental state. I had a total meltdown and wanted to kill myself, but fortunately having suffered from suicidal bouts of depression before I rang my doctors in a panic, told them I was suicidal and needed help. Thankfully I recovered after treatment and have been without chemical assistance since 2010.

    As an ex-health care professional the general ignorance surrounding mental health issues astounds me especially amongst employers and I too would never own up to having suffered due to the prejudice that still abounds in the workplace.

    1. L.Berry says:

      My last job with DWP was working on the Incapacity Benefit/Income Support to Employment and Support Allowance. I was moving IB/IS claims onto ESA, that was if ATOS decided the customer was ill enough. The things I read and the work I had to do just wore me down. A fine job to give someone with a history of depression! More than once I was told I wasn’t there to care, I was only there to do a job. We had 2 hours ‘training’ on what to do if a customer said they were going to hurt themselves or commit suicide. We were told not to get involved and ask if they had anyone they could contact. I had a breakdown in work, in floods of tears. My manager came in and said what are we going to do to fix this? Not that I’d been telling them I wasn’t feeling good for several months at that point.

      ATOS and DWP are just uncaring servants delivering the governments welfare reforms without a caring bone in their cold, dead body.

  3. Christos Palmer says:

    Totally insane, sacked for being depressed and then found fit for work, you can’t be both. ATOS/DWP keep changing the rules all the time. You don’t know where you stand with them.

  4. Adam says:

    I hate that those of us with mental problems are never taken seriously! I have suffered for many years with depression and anxiety due to childhood trauma as well as having OCD.A friend of mine has depressive episodes that go hand in hand with her personality disorder, but was found fit for work. I have personally not been on benefits for my mental health, but understand those that are! Does it take for people to kill themselves before they will listen?

  5. Karen says:

    I’m puzzled why she says she had a court case, the day before she was sacked, if she accepted a police caution. She would have had same oppurtunity as anyone else to put her case across.

  6. Karen says:

    Sorry, that should say ‘investigated for gross misconduct’ and not ‘sacked’. Until an outcome had been achieved then you are innocent until proven guilty and that isn’t bringing the dept. into disrepute.

  7. danielhillary says:

    Same position January 2011 formerly DWP then IR then HMRC, Failed to give compassionate transfer/move as reasonable adjustment. A decade of Atos like occ health reports – nowhere near as bad though! Dismissed, accepted 75% culpability UNTIL challenged decision. Found fit to work Atos. Now asking about work DWP DO NOT WANT to know. Tribunal October 2012! Removed Mobility – perhaps after 1999 to 2011 now going decide BMI Capita and eventually Atos git it wrong, GP, specialists, etc!! Integration – treated like fool not capable of much, Remploy only real pathway to work I know of – and determined shut it in name of integration. I call it a choice!

  8. Sophia Lee says:

    Hi Jane
    I’m in exactly the same situation, same employer, same area, same illness, same caution-how they found out as police said I can keep it as confidential- god only knows. being persecuted & witchunted…fear as disciplinary Friday
    Love to talk if u get to read this

  9. daniel hillary says:

    The Guide 16.3 if waiting reasonable adjustments (move) that employer accepts needed absence should not count as dismissal. I even consider could have not dismissed and kept job open as technically absence not sickness. Occ health referrals tend by leading – to suit employer and bad faith but need be sufficient specialist as per MHRN judgement may 2013 and Atos ce 3883 2013 judgement June or July 2013. Problem is court tribunal service seem for me at least make difficult / less easy than could.

  10. Lee Berry says:

    I went through a terrible time when working for the DWP and their whole attitude towards mental health. I always said that if I had a broken leg, I’d be OK to have time off until the bone heals then back to work with no problems, yet because there is no magic button or miracle tablets I could take I received a totally different treatment. I’ve had a Jobcentre manager even say complaints had been made about me from customers and staff, that I looked miserable all the time, and that I should smile more!

    Ultimately I was dismissed because my absence could no longer be supported. I’d been back in work full time for 10 weeks before I was dismissed! I appealed the decision with the help of the union, but management all stick together and the decision was upheld!

    The whole thing was a living nightmare and I can’t find another job because as soon as I tell an employer why I not working they stop listening at dismissed and don’t want to know any more.

  11. says:

    Your illness or disability could not be supported because as an equal opportunities employer we now have the chartermarks and registrations that look good on paper. Management requires skills, reduction of staff numbers by underhand methods reduces costs of redundancies. Of course when employer continued lies and half truths of gps etc via sham nil value occ health reports which accompanied by ‘created’ paperwork that trys to suggest no breach duty of care by local authority/health trust (by occ health provider with contracts for these organisations) you have NIL chance. I spent from 1999 to 2011 telling them what I needed but was met with legal abuse syndrome that resulted in post traumatic stress and serious mental health symptoms being inflicted. I was then met by local authority (different organisations) and DWP trying to play legal games to avoid either ill health retirement or liability for discriminatory dismissal and harm caused. Even tried ‘customer knows rules’ ‘drip feeding me names computer systems’ and use of ambush catch 22 tactics and ‘reports’ written containing false statements to try cause complaints, to miss appeals and lose entitlement. Next IDS will be allowing employers to run dla/pip/pensions/iidb etc for their own ex employers – see the problem? DWP isn’t going decide DWP and TCO Benefits and Credits was wrong/caused injury or admit 12 years ‘supported’ understatements re disability impact. Sit at desk approach nonsense re mental stimulation and breathing restriction and need low intensity work with frequent posture change options.
    I am still unsure on what basis dismissed. Know NOT redunadancy. Surprsiingly HMCTS and DWP and Local Authority coordinated malfeasance and obstruction I believe.

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