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WCAcartoon

Don’t you just hate it when you get a hoax call from the Department for Work and Pensions?

Mrs Mike had one this week, it seems – from Atos.

“Your appointment for an assessment with a healthcare professional” was the heading, beneath which were the words: “We have been asked by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to carry out an assessment in relation to your benefit claim. We have arranged an appointment for you at [date and place]. It is important that you attend this assessment. If you don’t attend, your benefit may be affected.” And so on. It was dated January 30 and we received in on Tuesday (February 3).

Long-term readers will know that this writer is her carer and attended her first work capability assessment in that capacity. I wanted to do so again but on the day we had the letter I was full of a cold that has been going around, and did not feel well enough to deal with grinding bureaucrats until today (Friday).

Phoning up the number on the letter, I gave Mrs Mike’s details, only to be told that there was no appointment booked for her. The person on the other end of the phone – who was very polite and helpful – suggested that her appointment might not be for ESA but PIP, and provided a phone number so I could inquire.

Let’s cut a long story short. She didn’t have an appointment for PIP, or DLA either.

So the letter is a hoax.

I’ll be attending the assessment centre anyway, in advance of her alleged appointment, just to make sure – and if I find that she is listed for an appointment there, somebody will catch it hot because that means the telephone advisers were wrong.

Whichever way you slice it, somebody is trying to create problems for a woman with a long-term illness/disability – and that is not acceptable.

Suppose somebody else had a letter like this. We all know that they create stress – sometimes to extreme levels – because of the stated threat: “If you don’t attend, your benefit may be affected.” Now suppose they don’t have a carer to phone up and find out they don’t really have an appointment at all. They go to the expense of hiring transport to the assessment centre, get there in good time – and find nobody there.

What happens next?

What are they supposed to think? What are they supposed to do? They won’t know.

Up goes the stress.

There’s also the physical strain to consider. People claim incapacity benefits because they aren’t healthy. Having to attend benefit assessments will add extra strain to their bodies.

People have died because of it. They’re ill; their hearts can’t take the extra load.

wcaassessment

And then Iain Duncan Smith counts it as a “positive benefit outcome” and crows in the Daily Mail about how he is shrinking the welfare state.

That’s not right, though. There is a case to be made that it is a premeditated attempt at worsening a claimant’s condition, with the DWP being reckless as to the result.

According to the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act of 2008, a company or organisation is guilty of having killed a person if its activities have been so managed or organised as to cause a person’s death. Would that not apply in cases like this?

The DWP is laying itself wide open to prosecution under this Act of Parliament, by its behaviour towards the sick and disabled.

There only needs to be one successful case for the floodgates to open.

Please circulate this article freely to anybody who may benefit from it including incapacity benefit claimants, their relatives or carers, and relatives or carers of recently-deceased benefit claimants.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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