These disability deniers have no incentive to do the right thing

Despair: How can you get the government to do the right thing when the rules mean it doesn't have to?

Despair: How can you get the government to do the right thing when the rules mean it doesn’t have to?

Those of you who read the comments on this blog will be familiar with Nick. He’s a gentleman who has been ill for a very long time. The effects of his illness are readily apparent just by looking at him – he describes himself as having the appearance of an inmate in a Japanese POW camp during World War Two.

The Department of Work and Pensions still wanted to tell him he was able to seek work; they only stopped trying to cut his benefits because his MP intervened.

This is how he describes the attitude of the Coalition government: “David Cameron … is not to be trusted as he has a way of killing people in a very barbaric way, the way of silence, in the privacy of one’s home, to have a letter dropped on them to place that person in a deliberate panic, knowing and hoping it kills them.”

Elsewhere, he states: “I myself have lost all my many online friends bar one… over the past three years – all dead at the hands of the DWP.”

Now this government department is doing its best to starve the life out of Mrs Mike, it seems.

She received a letter yesterday that makes absolutely no sense at all, to anyone with sense. Attend:

“Please allow us to apologise for the lack of communication you have received regarding the changes in your benefit. As per normal procedure, you should have received a letter and phone call some weeks ago to prepare you for the end of your contribution based ESA claim. An invitation to claim income related ESA should then have been sent out. A fault on your claim meant that our processing section did not receive a prompt to contact you to explain the changes to contribution based ESA eligibility.”

Our first reaction to that was: Not our problem. The “fault” on our claim would be one that was created at the DWP, by DWP employees, and is entirely the responsibility of the DWP. But who suffers for it? We do.

“I can see that you have an ongoing appeal against being placed in the Work Related Activities Group of ESA. I cannot see an outcome to the appeal as of yet. Once an outcome has been reached, we will contact you. If successful, you will be placed in the Support Group of ESA.”

The letter goes on to contradict itself, revealing that a decision-maker examined the appeal – in April – and determined that another work capability assessment would be necessary to find out whether Mrs Mike is less able to work now than she was in July last year.

We were not told about this decision. We have not been notified about any new WCA. And now we are confused – are we supposed to be claiming income-related ESA, or waiting for the results of the appeal – an appeal which has been ongoing for nearly half a year now – in case Mrs Mike gets put into the support group. And how is she supposed to live until then – on roots and berries?

“Please be aware that we receive a very high volume of appeals; due to the volume, it is not possible to resolve each appeal as quickly as we or our ESA claimants would like. However, please be assured that your appeal is ongoing and you will be contacted when we have an outcome. In your case, our Decision Maker has stated that we will need to know the outcome of your next medical assessment before we can progress your appeal.”

Yes, we are indeed aware that the DWP receives a very high volume of appeals – 255,084 between January and March. The cost of these appeals to the taxpayer totalled £66 million between 2012-13 – and that it is losing them in increasing numbers. This is because Atos assessors and DWP decision-makers have been making decisions that are not only wrong according to the law but harmful to the lives of those affected. Do I really need to quote the 73-deaths-per-week figure that we all know and loathe – and that we all believe has inflated to even more horrific levels since it was first released? We don’t know because the DWP – again – is refusing to release the figures it holds.

“When you were migrated across to ESA from Incapacity Benefit, you attended a medical for ESA reassessment. The outcome of this was that you were to be placed in the Work Related Activities Group for a period of 12 months, effective from 21.06.12. It is for this reason that you were sent an ESA50 form in May this year; you were due for your 12month review, as stated when your claim was migrated from IB to ESA.”

This is what we deduced when we received the form – which arrived with no explanatory letter. We completed it and sent it back very quickly and had heard nothing about it since. It would be logical to expect a response, or indeed a decision, before a benefit claim expired, but we’re dealing with the DWP here, whose agents seem to think they are a law unto themselves.

Note the two inaccuracies: Mrs Mike’s ESA started on August 14 last year, and the Work Capability Assessment is not a medical check and should not, in any circumstances, be described as one. It is a tick-box assessment to determine whether a claimant is capable of performing any work that may be used by the DWP as an excuse to close their claim. Nothing more.

“Your completed ESA50 has been received by ATOS; we are currently waiting for them to set a date for your new medical assessment. You will be contacted when this date has been set.”

Oh, so the fault lies with Atos, does it? That’s nice to know. In the meantime, what are we supposed to be using to pay the bills?

And has anyone noticed that we now have a choice between combinations of three ongoing matters: We can make a new claim for income-related ESA; we can wait for a decision on our appeal, which requires another work capability assessment; and/or we can wait for Atos to pull its finger out of whichever bodily orifice is appropriate and arrange a WCA in relation to the 12-month review, which is also awaiting a decision – all after the claim period has ended!

Will we have to attend two work capability assessments? That seems to be what’s implied, although nothing in the letter clarifies this.

“I have referred your letter of complaint to our Complaints Resolution Manager, for their response. I do appreciate that you have not experienced the level of communication or customer care that we seek to provide.

“Hopefully this answers your queries.”

How has this answered any queries? All it has done is create more questions!

“Once you have completed and returned the enclosed ESA3 form, we will be able to reassess your claim and consider income related ESA.

“Once you have been seen for your next medical, we will be able to progress your Support Group appeal. If placed in Support Group, it is possible that we will be able to recommence payment of contribution based ESA.”

Aren’t these mutually exclusive? Which do they expect us to do? And – again – how do they expect us to live while we’re doing this and waiting for them to get on with it?

Note that there is no mention that we can apply for a Short Term Benefit Advance while waiting for the DWP to fulfil its responsibilities. Few people know about this and the Department aims to keep it that way. Why’s that, do you think?

It is well-known to the DWP that, along with her physical problems, Mrs Mike suffers from mental health problems and depression. As I write these words, she’s asleep on the sofa where she has been bawling her eyes out for much of the morning, in utter despair at the situation. That’s the same sofa where she spends many days at a time in such agony that she cannot move.

She won’t be another casualty of this institutionalised cruelty, but now I have to be extra vigilant to make sure she doesn’t get low enough to do herself a mischief. That’s an extra burden on me, when I already have my hands full, running the household and trying to find ways to make ends meet (like the Vox Political book, Strong Words and Hard Times*).

Meanwhile, what sanctions have been placed upon the DWP officers who have been working on this case?

None at all.

Everyone knows unemployed people claiming Jobseekers Allowance have to sign a ‘Jobseekers Agreement’ in which they agree to meet stringent conditions in order to receive their benefit. In the same way, people on ESA must report changes in their own circumstances and medical health, in order to allow their benefit to be updated correctly. Both arrangements rely on correct and timely administration by the DWP.

But this is not happening – nor is it likely to happen in the future – because, when you check to find what sanctions may be placed on the DWP for failing to uphold its side of the agreement, what do you find?

None at all.

Of course, responsibility for the policy lies not with those who carry it out but with the policy-maker, in this case the Secretary of State, Iain Something Smith. How much will he pay as a penalty for masterminding this failure of a system that has caused so much agony to so many people – and that is costing the taxpayer so much extra money in legal challenges?

I’ll tell you. It’s exactly the same as the amount of remorse the failed, Returned-To-Unit Army bag-carrier showed when he was challenged about the people his policies have killed:

None at all.

There will be no hope for the sick and disabled of this country until those responsible for their persecution are made to pay the price for it.

*Vox Political: Strong Words and Hard Times may be bought here, here, here, here and here – depending on the format in which you wish to receive it.

49 thoughts on “These disability deniers have no incentive to do the right thing

    1. Mike Sivier

      The thing about standard replies is it’s so easy to poke holes in them, and in their logic.

      I don’t actually think this WAS a standard reply – it was very specific to Mrs Mike’s claim. Trouble was, they didn’t actually think about the implications of what they were telling us.

  1. jeffrey davies (@jeffrey33333)

    —Despair: yes it happens to us all when going from work to esa despair off our glorious government who daily see more of us off ,while we wait for that brown one which sais no more monies yes you worked most of your life to be told this while our mps award themselves more monies while we die ,yet they tell us they looking after us were is that bit in all papers showing how much they lied to everyone telling those they looking after us whilst standing on our heads pushing us further into starvation yet they get away with it more and more of our friends die slowly withering away but then they care they smother us in their kindness whilst telling others look we care yes they care only about them selves jeff3

      1. Annabanana

        Mike, start the income based ESA claim ASAP if you haven’t already. Contribution based would only go up to a year so I think that means CB ESA wibt be paid after that even after winning the appeal.
        I means having two claims to fight for but at least they should start paying done money to you. My local CAB were very helpful. If you are able, ask them for advice. They may be able to help you with filling the forms.
        I would take with you as much medical information and documents as you can. It’d be worth having a separate folder to keep all the bits in.
        Best wishes!!

      2. Mike Sivier

        If the appeal is won, she’ll go into the support group and contribution-based ESA will be paid again. That’s why I’m in two minds about it.

        As for the CAB – I’m the vice-chairman of the trustees so yes, it has been helping. Mrs Mike needs to get in touch with them again though.

  2. davidwilson457451595

    Hi Mike I do sympathise with your frustration with these fools operating our welfare system, they are incapable at best when it come to appeals and complaints. They know that the disabled and sick are just not well enough to put up with their shenanigins and double speak. I can only say take them for everything you can start a maladministration complaint against DWP and complain to ATOS through their own system at least you may be able to get some form of redress from them. Keep it going mate.

  3. Nick

    it’s very tragic mike to hear this and i don’t have any answers no one does

    my own caring team that look after me comes to a end in October in the house and then it’s just myself my wife and mp to find ways through the system

    for myself my body is irreparably damaged my mental state unpredictable so need to stay in where possible

    i think your mp should be helping you thou as that’s his job and as always wish you all the very best

  4. Pingback: These disability deniers have no incentive to do the right thing | Launchpad: By and for mental health service users

  5. Pingback: These disability deniers have no incentive to d...

  6. Alex Casale

    “The last chapter in any successful genocide is the one in which the oppressor can remove their hands and say, ‘My God, what are these people doing to themselves? They’re killing each other. They’re killing themselves while we watch them die.'” Aaron Huey

  7. First Night Design • Rogues & Vagabonds

    As ever, my heart goes out to Mrs Mike. Little consolation, but I have Strong Words, Hard Times on my lap as we speak and I am in danger of reading it in one sitting and doing nothing else! Courage, mes braves. I’m weeping at the thought of Mrs Mike lying on the sofa crying uncontrollably. I have been there so many times and expect to again before long that the thought of your dear wife going through it breaks my heart.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Most kind.

      One thing you could do to help is put up a review of the book on the various places on the Internet where it is up for sale – Amazon, the Lulu pages, iTunes. People buy on the basis of reviews and if people are buying the book, it relieves the financial pressure on us.
      As for the rest of you – here’s someone who could read my book in a single sitting! What more incentive do you need?

  8. Sam Spruce

    I am suffering profound distress caused by the intellectual charade presented by authoritarians. I spent two years complaining to the Children Services before I was stunned into silence when I finally realised their ‘rationalisation’ is nothing more than blind intellectual violence. It is insanity in the extreme. It is cultural insanity. They neither can nor will change. It is like a Freudian subconscious compulsion. They can no more stop what they are doing than a drowning person can ‘decide’ to stop breathing and survive. It is like a disease and unfortunately they are (maybe metaphorically) infected. A little Biblical quote comes to mind “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” [Matthew 5:29] my interpretation of this is that it is better to destroy these people before they take down the whole human race. The bible is far better than sanctimonious hypocritical Christians realise. But that aside I want to reassure Nick, Mrs Mike and all sympathetic readers of this article that this IS war and they (the authoritarians) ARE the aggressors and perpetrators of great evil. But trying to explain it to them is a little like pissing in the wind; You’ll just get piss on your leg! Sorry about the aggressive tone of this comment but I am at the end of my tether when it comes to these little bureaucratic prats (like Atos and DWP employees) doing the dirty work for the vicious fascists at the top.

  9. Thomas M

    Even Thatcher as far as I know didn’t try and starve the disabled to death or force them into slave labour or crime.

  10. hilary772013

    Mike I am so sorry to hear of yours & Mrs Mikes situation nobody should have to go through what the DWP is putting you & thousands through, it is just WRONG on all counts. Just purchased your e-book as I can magnify to read, I find it difficult reading hard/paper backs. I will leave a review when I have read it but know it will be very interesting as all of your posts are.. Good luck & best wishes to you and Mrs Mike.

  11. ghost whistler

    This cannot go on.

    Something has to be done. protest is not enough. politics is not enough. democracy has failed us. the media doesn’t care. the unions aren’t interested.

    The only answer: direct civil action.

    If we don’t start that now, and you can forget the utterly useless talking shops like the piss poor assembly, there is no chance.

    1. Thomas M

      We need enough people, like they had in Egypt, any small scale action would just be stomped on by the police (although in prison at least one would have food.)

  12. Theresa

    We have been through exactly the same as this. 18 months, 2 appeals and over 4 grand in arrears on gas electric and water, my hubby has just won his ESA back at the higher rate. We have starved and gone without so I could feed my diabetic son. He is the ONLY reason why the utilities have not cut us off, as he needs insulin which needs to be in the refrigerator. I have heard of people comiting suicide because of this government. They stop peoples JSA for no reason, it is so bad. I have Arthritis in my spine but they expect me to work. Like to see Cameron do it. I am not a person who hates people but I really have grown to HATE this government and those who run it. Cameron and lain Duncan Smith took the piss out of the homeless whilst they were at University, what makes you think they are going to change now.

    1. Mike Sivier

      I don’t think that, of course – hence the article (and indeed, the entire blog).

      Today I heard about a young woman who was sanctioned JSA because they wanted her to attend a meeting at the Job Centre (in a different town from her home), two days after she had a surgical operation on her leg. She couldn’t walk, but they wanted her to get from one town to another, by public transport, and then find a way to drag herself to the Job Centre. When she requested that the meeting should be rescheduled, they refused. It was an easy ‘Positive Benefit Outcome’, wasn’t it?

    2. Nick

      Theresa they wont stop till their dead that is why the government lost the vote last night for the missile strikes on Syria

      i know mike wont agree with me on this point but it would be very difficult for a mp to go along and vote for the killing in Syria of more innocent people like in Iraq in 2003 when the government at home are killing their own people albeit in different circumstances

      At the back of the mp’s mind would be what about the deaths here at home that were having to deal with on a regular basis my tory mp for example has quite a few albeit to deal with he keeps it silent from me but it’s not silent from the local press who report it in their paper

      just this week we have learned of another death in the Crawley observer for a man i won’t give out his name but i have all his details in case of a trial against the government in the future

      This does not forget are classed as the silent deaths as they are only reported locally and not on line. Had it not been for a failure of care prior to his death it would not have made the paper anyhow and we here would be none the wiser

      The bottom line is if you live alone you’re going to end up dead at some point because that’s how the system is working

      those of us with a partner are finding it tough and even in some cases both couples have committed suicide as the person who is giving the care cant go on as there is only so much a carer can do before he or she goes mental and it’s at that point the games over for that couple as the carers gone mental while looking after someone who is already mental with the whole thing imploding

  13. Mike Sivier

    I’m in the early stages of working on a book about the DWP, based on information that I’ve put out in the blog.
    The reason I mention it here is that so many of you have contributed information about your own harsh treatment at the hands of this organisation that I’d like to include some of them in the book.
    Would any of you object to this? I’m thinking that you should all by anonymised (even those of you who already use pen names). These real-life case studies would add a huge amount of veracity to the book.
    I’m also hoping to include stories about people who have actually died.
    Oh yes, it’ll be a fun-packed read all right. But I think it is needed.

    1. Nick

      mike it’s fine by me as i have the body to prove my point and that i do look like a prisoner of war i do receive my benefits of which I’m entitled but and it’s a big but the pressures placed upon me over the past 33 years has been enormous by the DWP leaving me unable to eat or drink in a way that keeps me hydrated as i am permanently nauseous and faint which keeps me dehydrated

      I have other health conditions as you would expect from this type of living like bad lung function and for the past ten years kidney stones suffering much pain

      i also have permanent bowel and bladder /prostate inflammation problems along with a serious neck condition which gives me very bad headaches

      1. Nick

        and i forgot to add for the record bad mental function there again as you would expect from the way i have had to live

        Aung San Suu Kyi and nelson Mandela having nothing on me the only plus points for them is that there political and heroes with the UK government while I’m just the man in the street and nothing

  14. elentari98

    The banks get billions in help, paid for by the taxpayer but the people are not only forced to work even when jobs have been destroyed and are more and more difficult to find BECAUSE of this “austerity” . So the banks are on welfare, socialism for the criminal banks – and the poorest and most vulnerable are fleeced.

    It is very strange indeed. They are quite deliberately killing people. Deliberately.

    Better vote UK – at least they will get Britain out of the EU.

      1. elentari98

        Lets ask them! Let’s ask them the question in a very forthright sort of way, and tell them, at the same time how terrible things are now for disabled people – and see what they have to say.

        I do think that it is desperately important to get out of the monster EU – a pitiless communist system.

        What about contacting Brian Gerrish to see whether he can help or at least talk about his news broadcast. He may have already done so, but I feel sure he would want to know everything possible.

  15. Pingback: These disability deniers have no incentive to d...

  16. sarahledsom

    You know Mike, I am sitting here feeling bloody guilty because I got “migrated” over from IB to ESA Support Group without a face to face “assessment”, just on the basis of the ESA50. I know I deserve it because of my disabilities,I have severe form of Rheumatoid Arthritis, but it doesn’t stop me for feeling deeply for those that didn’t get what they deserve. I will be buying your book this week, it’s the least I can do after all the brilliant posts I have read over the past few months, but I need you to know that I think of you and Mrs Mike each and every day and hope that your case is sorted quickly. My very best wishes and love to you both.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Sometimes a comment comes along that just catches me completely off-guard.

      Thank you so much for the kind words, and thanks for supporting the book. Please write a review if you enjoy it, and post it on the page where you bought it, to encourage others to do the same.

      And don’t feel guilty because you got what you deserve. If I were in your position, I’d feel angry at the DWP for denying the same courtesy to others.

      1. sarahledsom

        I will indeed write a review Mike, that goes without saying. I have been posting your work on Facebook for months and now Twitter and have been in touch with my MP too re DWP/ATOS, as this killing machine of a coalition has got to go. I campaign when I am able and like you am a full time carer for my elderly dad. For me, you have that gifted ability to put in to words what many of us feel and for that I will always be grateful. Hoping you and Mrs Mike have a day of strength and happiness. Much love xx

  17. Budgie

    If you have appealed against the decision made in 2012 and they reviewed the decision in April this year and could not agree to your appeal to be put into the Support Group, then the next step is a Tribunal hearing, not another WCA.

    A new WCA will only decide on Mrs Mike’s condition on the day of the WCA and what she is appealing against is the decision based upon her health at the original assessment. Just as Tribunals cannot consider deterioration in a condition between time of the original assessment and state of health at the time of the Tribunal Hearing, your original appeal cannot be decided by a further WCA which is not about assessing your condition as it was more than 12 months ago.

    If you have not already done so I would contact Michelle at the Fightback group on facebook. She is legally qualified and will be able to give you advice about the legality of using a further WCA to decide your original appeal.

  18. Nick

    the only time the government may stop if a sick or disabled person sets themselves on fire like Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia because of the constant persecution from the government and not until

    the poll tax under mrs thatcher highlighted the very severe weakness of the British people as she affected them and they come out and fought battles in the street but there selfishness showed through none the less

    because all of the people were affected they took to the streets and fought the poll tax and won but the sick and disabled cant do that with the bedroom tax / welfare reform and the fit and healthy wont bother with the likes of the sick and disabled so were stuck

    and as a group well only be free when something dramatic happens and the news as in Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi case goes worldwide

    but until that day comes we will die one by one day by day and may the lord have mercy upon our souls and to give us strength in our hour of need

Comments are closed.