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[Image: Black Triangle Campaign]

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign]

As Damian Green consults on plans to make it harder for people to claim sickness benefits, it seems he will have few options – judging from the reasons his privately-employed, hired work capability assessors are already using to kick away support for the vulnerable.

Last week, This Blog urged people who have claimed sickness benefits to tell us the nonsense reasons their claims were denied. Some of them are farcical.

All of the comments that follow are true, and were made by real people. I have anonymised them for obvious reasons.

Let’s start with a person who was denied a home assessment. The reason? “He can get to hospital for cancer treatment.” Have a little think about that. Where else but hospital was this person ever going to get cancer treatment? And shouldn’t cancer automatically qualify him for benefit? Apparently not.

Try this: “Can heat up a tin of beans and make toast” The person concerned had explained that if they actually ate beans on toast they would be hospitalised.

“Can sit in the gutter to rest between short bouts of walking.” According to some assessors it is perfectly permissible to force the sick and disabled into the gutter. That’s where the removal of benefits will put them, in any case.

Another claimant was denied benefit because they were able to propel themselves in a wheelchair. The problem? This person does not have a wheelchair.

“Can watch TV for an hour – 0 points.”

“Able to have a bath unaided – 0 points.”

“Tying shoelaces – 0 points.”

(Bear in mind, folks, that these are comments in work capability assessments, and ask yourself: How is watching TV a usable work skill? How does having a bath or tying shoelaces make a person a more attractive employment opportunity?)

“Was able to answer questions without help from another person.”

Of someone with fibromyalgia: “Moved well for someone with arthritis.” Fibromyalgia is not arthritis.

“Despite us explaining that travelling was often difficult as [this person’s partner’s] seizures cause blackouts, amnesia and confusion they completely ignored this and said he had no problem reading signs and getting to places (untrue). They were also … seemingly oblivious to the fact that “non-epileptic” seizures is a medical term, they therefore dismissed them as not serious.”

“I had the ‘Brought a bag, opened a door’ nonsense. Plus it said I was ‘Neat, presentable and well kempt’ when at that point, I actually hadn’t been able to wash or shave my beard for about two months. And my beard is full on Albert Steptoe, not a trendy lumberjack type!”

“When asked if I went to the shops I said yes, once or twice a month as I have to buy food. That got turned into ‘goes shopping every day and uses public transport every day’. When I replied by letter saying I don’t do these things every day the response I got was ‘maybe not, but you can’. So the need to buy food makes a person ineligible for benefit. Doesn’t that mean benefit should only be paid to dead people?

This one is beyond belief: “Shortly after my father died of a massive brain haemorrhage and whilst my brother was in hospital on a life support machine after a brain haemorrhage): ‘enjoys an active social life visiting … brother in hospital on a regular basis.’ Between those two events I had been diagnosed with a rare and incurable and untreatable disease I knew little about and hadn’t even been assessed by NHS at that point. ‘Has no mental health problems’ – I was clinging on by my finger tips. Incidentally, this assessment was carried out by a consultant psychiatrist with no knowledge of my condition and who promoted Atos by praising the 9-5 hours which allowed him to work on his real passion – making furniture.”

“Refused ESA because I could put a crumpet in the toaster for my daughter.”

“Having a backpack.”

“No problem putting on a coat (that I wasn’t wearing … as it was summer).”

“Can walk around Tesco. This is after I told her I cannot walk around the whole supermarket and that I had recently left my shopping half way through.”

“I got upset.”

“I scratched the back of my head. [They] said I carried two bags of shopping into assessment which was a total lie.”

“My assessor told the DWP that I had never worked and didn’t want to work after discussing with him 20 years in catering and the fact I’d worked since I was 15 and had to give up work due to illness.”

“The DWP … told the tribunal that I hadn’t filled in the application or sent in any medical records. I had sent 20 years worth, registered mail, signed for and had an email confirming they’d received them. The tribunal asked what I had to say to that. I responded ‘How did I get to a tribunal for something I didn’t apply for and how did they receive an assessment from a medical I didn’t attend?’ Then handed them copies/proof of everything I’d said. I was awarded my benefits.”

“At a tribunal they found me fit for work because I could operate my washing machine. I’ve had it for years. All it takes is three buttons – on, cottons, start.”

Here’s a classic that is still being used: “Does not suffer anxiety as they do not rock back and forth in a chair.”

“Claimant stated chronic back pain but on observation was observed to be fit and well. (I have a VISIBLE scoliosis).”

“Claimant stated … suffers from Agrophobia but attended assessment (because they REFUSED a home visit & threatened to cut off my PIP for non attendance).”

“Claimant claims she needs support if forced to go outside but was observed alone for her assessment (my support Worker attended with me).”

“At my tribunal I was denied ESA because, and these are quotes from the DOCTOR, ‘You seem to be able to put your hair in a pony tail, your nails are painted, you have eye make-up on, surely if you suffer from severe morning fatigue you’ll be fine to work afternoons’. I suffer from chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and illness induced anxiety. And this was 2015! It’s quite unbelievable how rude, unprofessional and belittling these people are. I cried for days afterwards.”

“Was told I ‘showed understanding of my condition’ as evidence that I was lying.”

“My most recent assessment was six weeks ago and the report is filled with so many lies it’s unreal as well as comments such as ‘Carried a sheet of paper in her hand’, ‘Drank water from a disposable plastic cup’. All my money has been stopped because of what this assessor has put in the report, just before Christmas too. Cheers DWP.”

What do you think? Are any of the people who provided these comments fit for work, based on the assessments they mention here?

More to follow tomorrow – if you have been refused sickness/disability benefit for a stupid reason, please tell us about it using the form below.

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