Email Conversation with MP asking for urgent help
By Carol Hall on Friday, 21 September 2012 at 18:21
My original email: 7th September 2012
To: Tim Farron MP
Tim, I am asking for you to show your personal support to me and other disabled people in South Lakeland and indeed the rest of England and Wales Re:- Welfare Reform and Atos.
Firstly I note with extreme dismay that you have not signed the following Early Day Motion and ask that you do so:
ATOS Main content
Session: 2012-13 Date tabled: 28.06.2012
Primary sponsor: McDonnell, John
Sponsors: Corbyn, Jeremy Edwards, Jonathan Havard, Dai Lavery, Ian Turner, Karl
‘The work capability assessment carried out by Atos Healthcare under a 100 million a year contract; notes that 40 per cent of appeals are successful but people wait up to six months for them to be heard; deplores that last year 1,100 claimants died while under compulsory work-related activity for benefit and that a number of those found fit for work and left without income have committed or attempted suicide; condemns the International Paralympic Committee’s promotion of Atos as its top sponsor and the sponsorship of the Olympics by Dow Chemical and other corporations responsible for causing death and disability; welcomes the actions taken by disabled people, carers, bereaved relatives and organisations to end this brutality and uphold entitlement to benefits; and applauds the British Medical Association call for the work capability assessment to end immediately and to be replaced with a system
that does not cause harm to some of the most vulnerable people in society.’
Secondly, you kindly supported me during my dealings with social services two years ago and you may recall that I am a disabled person living independently in the community with care support and with my children.
You may also remember that my impairments are extremely complicated to the extent that they force me to spend almost all of my time in bed. That I am in constant chronic pain and that I have difficulties with brain function and fluctuating speech.
However, I am proud to say I am still a functioning parent and carer for my children…just.
Quite sometime ago I attended the job centre I had much more function than I have now ~ they said that I should not be contacted again or called for a medical ~ this was on the old benefit system.
As you know the Department of Work and Pensions are acting upon ill-conceived welfare reforms via the contracted firm Atos to re assess disabled people like myself and the benefits they currently receiving this is my own personal experience and I need your urgent help with this matter.
I was requested to attend a medical. An Employment Supported Assessment medical! I found this strange as my local jobcentre said I shouldn’t in their opinion be called for a medical because of my fluctuating disabilities and health.
In order to travel to attend the arranged medical I required care support that I have
already qualified for albeit under the old system.
This resulted in me having to go without care prior to and after the medical appointment.
My benefits do not cover extra “extra” support for medicals however if I didn’t attend I would have lost benefits.
On arrival I was informed the ESA medical had been cancelled.
They didn’t telephone me to say it had been cancelled.
A simple telephone call would have saved me the effort of having to forego my care support at home for that day.
I was and am appalled at the total lack of understanding by the Atos assessors.
Indeed, when I did get home along with my carer I did received a telephone call I was staggered to find I was placed in the ESA Work Related Activity Group!
The effect of this decision has had a dreadful catastrophic mind boggling cascading affect on me and reduces other benefits that I receive.
It has brought me to the edge of living on the edge.
I am frightened worried and down right scared at the very time I should be
supported more than ever.
I now find myself in a situation where absolutely every income source is either being
removed reduced or under threat and the assumption that some intervention by the job centre is able to make me fit for work!!
I am in a panicked freefall.
Also I have been informed there can be no decision on my Disability Living Allowance whilst “they” gather evidence ~ “they” have never bothered before.
I have seen my housing benefit reduced. I no longer get the discretionary payment I depend on to live in a suitably accessible property.
Accessible properties which as you know are as rare as hens’ teeth in the area where I live.
I have also had to start paying Council Tax as I am now placed in the ESA Work Related Activity Group. Indeed, at the Jobcentre, their records will show that the process made them incredulous and apologetic to me for the very fact of being called in.
Sensibly they have deferred seeing me until the outcome of an appeal.
However I cannot even begin to start an appeal due to me repeatedly failing to navigate the automated phone security system that is in place this is due to my memory and word confusion ~ it is impossible for me to use.
I have got so desperately depressed that I cannot even discus benefits let alone complete forms this has resulted in me having 2 months housing benefit docked.
Benefits that I can ill afford to loose.
I did manage once to notify housing benefit that I had to move very fast due to my landlords selling my home as you can well imagine a traumatic time for anyone however this caused me to get very ill and depressed I was unable to function and I had to swallow my pride and asked my social worker ********* to support me because my children and I were at huge risk of not being able to afford food let alone pay rent.
Two years ago you kindly supported me with issues of care support, housing and retaining my children as my ability to parent was brought into question and I thank you for that.
That battle with social services drove me to the very edge of suicide. Since then I have been managing my mental health reasonably well until I was informed that I was to have an ESA medical and the emotional fall out and stress from the domino effect of that event onto my financial instability for me and my children is unbearable to the extreme I just cannot cope.
I am a proud person, Tim.
I was a manager at a Sure Start Centre.
I supported people myself ~ I knew and know the type of people who did and do need the skills ~ nurturing and encouragement into the workplace. I, however, do not have the luxury of being in that position.
I have attempted many times to establish income sources using technology but I have failed each time.
I am just too ill to work.
If this government was to stop my benefits, regardless of what support to work was in place, my family would starve.
I am so very very tired and fatigued by having to demonstrate my lack of ability ~ I want to be able to use those few abilities and little resources I do have for the benefit of my children and society but am prevented to do so because of the continual emotionally battering attack I am experiencing.
The battles I had with Social Services 2 years ago threatened to remove my children.
They questioned whether I was well enough to parent however with your support I continue to do so quite successfully however how after 2 years of rapid decline can I now be able to “work with encouragement”?
I couldn’t even write this letter legibly I have had to ask a disabled friend to sort it out for me so that you can read it. I know that will have taken her time and energy that she can little afford in order to make MP’s like yourself, Tim, really understand the total madness of these assessments tests and beyond cruel acts that are being forced upon genuinely disabled people.
Disabled People who have little or no energy to spare because that energy goes into living day to day existing looking after their children families and not much more.
Worryingly, friends (one of whom is editing this letter and wish you to know) know despite my complicated unique disabilities they have seen me change over several months from a gregarious, happy, cheerful woman who has supported many other disabled people in the past to a very worried, scared, isolated frightened woman.
If I sound desperate and beyond hope it is because I am and hear from many other disabled people nationwide who are too.
I have already lost 2 friends to suicide who died whilst having issues with benefits; please act to stop more needless deaths.
I implore you to sign the early day motion and would really appreciate your further help for me and my children through this minefield of welfare reforms and the downfalls I am experiencing.
I look forward to hearing from you.
FARRON’s refusal to help:
Subject: RE: FW: FW: Please help
Date: Thu, 20 Sep 2012 10:16:55 +0100
Ms. Carol Hall
Our Ref: Hall********
20 September 2012
Thank you very much for your recent email that focused upon the shortcomings of ATOS in its administration and conduct of assessments for medical need for benefits.
I can assure you that I have been much to the fore in presenting repeated cases of
malfunction of this organisation that have harmed my constituents.
I deeply regret that the previous Government gave such leeway to this organisation and that the Government are contracted to use their services until 2017.
To my simple mind, it seems obvious that the assessment of the needs of the disabled should be in the hands of the GPs who know them best and who should understand their conditions in proper context.
If Ministers are determined to use the services of an outside provider like ATOS in future, I believe that such contracts should include stiff penalty clauses for decisions that the Appeal Tribunal determines to have been incorrectly made.
The Liberal Democrat standpoint and action to date towards ATOS has been as follows: –
“We recognise the serious problems of ATOS: –
· That’s why we were instrumental in securing 5 independent reviews of the Work Capability Assessment.
· Professor Harrington (See in link under Harrington ~ Black Triangle), who has conducted the first two and is in the third, found that the system was not broken but needed improvement
· So we’re working with Professor Harrington to make the changes that the system so desperately needs.
· The most important thing is that the first Harrington review made it clear that the face to face Atos assessment should no longer be the main focus of the WCA, with decision makers simply rubber stamping it. Instead the Atos assessment should only be one part of the WCA process.
That’s why he’s given Decision Makers more flexibility to look at other evidence, to speak to medical professionals and to make a decision based on all the info rather than just how someone performed on the day of the Atos test. Chris Grayling has got fully behind this principle- Atos are providing part of the test, not the WCA itself
· Harrington has also been working to ensure that feedback is given by judges to DMs so that they can see why judges override WCA decisions. This will help ensure than more decisions are right first time round than having to go through an appeals process.
…and the Government/DWP is listening to him:
· DWP accepted 21 out of 25 recommendations made by Professor Harrington’s first review, including that:
· Communications have been overhauled so the process is now more empathetic;
· Atos have made improvements including introducing Mental Function Champions;
· Decision Makers are better supported to make accurate decisions that take account of all the available evidence.
· ..and Professor Harrington has noted significant improvement, though there is still a long way to go.
· All of his second review recommendations have been adopted, which include:
· Introducing checks on benefit decisions to ensure fairness and consistency.
· Working with disability groups to help develop guidance for Atos healthcare professionals and Decision Makers.
· Improved support and communications for people who move onto Jobseeker’s Allowance to make sure they get the help they need.
· Regularly publishing data on performance and quality to improve the transparency of the face-to face assessment.
· We are currently in the third review, latest call for evidence on 12th July, which will focus particularly on fluctuating conditions.
From this guidance I have concluded that Atos and the Work Capability Assessment does need significant, major improvement but I disagree with the premise of EDM 295 because it would do more harm than good to start from scratch, as the EDM suggests.
Meanwhile, I continue to pursue many failings of Atos in direct communication with the Minister.
With best wishes
Tim Farron MP
Carol’s final response:
Thank you for your response.
Since all of my benefits are currently not being paid with the exception of the reduced housing benefit and chid benefit, I can only assume from your lack of help that you would be quite happy to see me and my family starve or should I be feed the children and myself a month’s medication at once – That is currently a very attractive option.
See also: Nottingham Defence Campaign ‘Too Much of this Sort of Thing: Professor Harrington, independently review my crippled arse!’ at Page 14
This was Nick Clegg’s chance to save his skin. He failed by Polly Toynbee:
Instead his “sorry” video ended with a string of the same weary non-truths, exaggerations and political boasting that make politicians so detested. “We are fighting for the right things, day in and day out: rebuilding our economy to make it strong, changing the tax system to make it fair, defending the vulnerable in these tough times.” These three short phrases each fly in the face of what’s happening – and everyone knows it.
He has not been “defending the vulnerable in these tough times”. Surely he cannot even pretend it to himself. The savage £18bn benefit cuts include the sleight-of-hand switching of inflation from the retail to the consumer price index, so benefits will fall another 10% behind every decade, for ever, for those in and out of work, for the sick and children who are hit the hardest. Nearly 60% of benefit cuts will still lie ahead next April; child benefit will be means tested; evictions have begun due to housing benefit cuts; and big disability cuts are still to come. Lib Dem councillors must decide what to do about council tax benefit cuts that will charge hundreds of pounds to poor families who never paid it before. If at the Lib Dem conference Clegg again boasts of his pupil premium, an Ofsted report now confirms Sutton Trust and Barnardo’s critical findings: this un-ring-fenced money, skimmed off the schools budget, is too seldom used for intensive help for children who need it.