DWP appointment hoaxes ramp up stress for the sick and disabled

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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49 thoughts on “DWP appointment hoaxes ramp up stress for the sick and disabled

  1. NMac

    Whoever is behind it, it is an extremely nasty trick to play on anyone, and that’s putting it mildly.

  2. peter

    People here (Croydon) are regularly being sent to places like Greenwich and Deptford for assessments which are nightmare journeys on public transport before you add in the stress of going to see faceless bureaucrats who hold your life in their hands. They seem to be going that extra mile to find people with any kind of anxiety disorder in their diagnosis to undertake a 2 hour bus journey (involving several interchanges) to a place they are unfamiliar with. They blame this on the backlog but Greenwich and Deptford must have their own backlog so I assume they are coming the other way.
    Four times in the last 3 weeks extremely distressed people have arrived to be told the assessor has had to go home ‘for a family emergency’. Fortunately they had support workers with them to help them cope with the emotional as well as logistical side of the situation. I can only imagine how many people have turned up alone and how traumatic it must have been. Then they invite you back in a couple of days time with a 9am appointment to really stick the knife in

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Can you make sure the article gets seen by everybody there who might benefit from it?

    2. Hermes

      That’s totally bizarre: I live in Greenwich and had to have an assessment in Croydon. Very stressful all round, the journey, the examination and the outcome – I’ve been found fit for work and am now on JSA. Horror story all round, won’t go into details but my best wishes to Mrs Mike.

      1. farmersboy

        Hermes – I’ve always believed this has been purely to harass, worry and inconvenience people (probably in the hope they drop their appeal/claim) and the fact you’re making the reverse journey just confirms it

  3. Anon

    I’m not so sure it is a trick ..more like sheer incompetence, apathy, and contract outsourcing, DWP departments have been fragmented; mixed with private companies working alongside, above and around the broken up DWP, meaning the left hand knows not what the right hand is doing.

  4. Jonathan Wilson

    Mike I think DPAC or WFNS were asking for people who have received these letters. They sent a rake out some time back, then the shit hit the fan and they promised to re-word the letters to make it clear they were only “invites” and not mandatory…. but did a second “call out” mid last month as it seems as if they, the badly worded ones, have been sent out again.

    The other problem was these should not have been sent to people in the support group, especially not with the badly worded text as they are, from what I can recall, just “invites” to see if they can help, either with help to work or benefits in general and they are nothing to do with WCA or Work(un)fair or JCP mandatory appointments for “work group” people.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      That doesn’t seem like this letter, to be honest – it included the word “assessment”, which tends to indicate that one was going to take place.

    2. Florence

      I think it’s just another dirty trick, like the phantom appointments that are being used to sanction JSA. I would take a guess that if you don’t respond at all to these letters, it seen as disengagement and used to cut off the benefit. It’s just the type of tactic the hit squads would come up with. All it takes is a piece of paper and a stamp, and you could in theory “off-flow” someone from the support group. Now where did I hear that someone in Maximus thought there were too many in the support group?

  5. Thomas

    Someone might get a hoax letter, fall for it, then think a genuine letter is a hoax and not turn up and lose their benefits.

  6. TrevR

    There is a similar letter that was picked by DPAC, this letter sent to claimants in the ESA Support Group.

    https://samedifference1.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/shirebrook-job-centre-scan-1.jpg?w=870&h=1160

    We have created an auto response form for this letter here http://welfarecentral.org/1/component/rsform/form/20-esa-decline-interview if anyone needs it.

    If anyone has a response template in mind for the letter sent to Mrs Mike we’ll be happy to create a form for an auto-response.

  7. Connie Ferguson

    I have received a letter as carer for my son who gets SDA and IS. They need to assess him for ESA. They say they are going to phone me and after the call send me a questionnaire to complete, Limited Capability for work. The letter was dated22\1\15 but I never got it till 5th Feb. They say if I haven’T heard from them in 2 weeks from date of letter then I have to call them. Then I will have to complete the questionnaire asap or BENEFIT MAY BE AFFECTED. I have to provide full details of his disability on the form. I have also just received a letter saying DLA is changing and I will be asked to reapply for pip. In spite of having a lifetime award. This is all very stressful as I am afraid I will either say the wrong thing or miss something out. Not fair. No wonder I’m on tablets for palpitations!

  8. concernedkev

    Hi Mike I trust it was a genuine letter from ATOS and more importantly did it have her National Insurance number on it? If it was a genuine letter but with misleading appointment then you have a case you could take up with your MP. From the reading I have been doing round this subject (I have a Mrs Kev who relies on me to act for her ) the DWP are using all manner of subterfuge to throw people off benefits. If this is the case with your wife it is an utter disgrace. I know only too well how stressful it can be for the sufferer but also for yourself as if caring for someone is not stressful enough. It took me nearly 12 months to get my wife placed in the support group following lies being told by the health care professional in his written report. I am dreading her next WCA which is due soon. She has MS which will never get better and is gradually getting worse and yet these inhuman b*****ds insist on putting her through the ringer again. Will post this on FB meanwhile hope things work out to the good.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Genuine letter, NI number included. We’ll have to see what happens on Monday morning.

  9. Dave Rowlands

    And where are the names and addresses of current claimants coming from for these “hoaxes” to be a hoax?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      The DWP has all the names and addresses of all its claimants, and it’s the DWP I’m suggesting are hoaxing them.

  10. David

    Stress on disabled now being added to by Welsh Government & Labour controlled Councils. Removing Blue Badges from people who have had them for years. No clear reason given, simply “you don’t qualify now”, and no appeal possible. Clear intent is to remove as many ‘Discretionary’ badges as possible. If you don’t get Higher Rate DLA Mobility they will remove badge unless you are very lucky.

    NPT Council staff today were rude, aggressive and contemptuous.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Mrs Mike has a blue badge and lives in Wales but nobody has tried to take it away from her. Are you sure you are directing your anger correctly?

      1. mey151

        this is also happening in gloucestershire cant remember there excuse but was something like government have new rules and to many were in issue so basically if you can walk go away

    2. Tez

      Yes!! Coz it has happened to me in Plymouth. I failed my assessment by 1 point because I was misled during said assessment. I can no longer go to my local post office as there is nowhere to park except double yellows. I risked it the other day and got a parking ticket. So yes, they are hitting the disabled here too. I had had my blue badge for approx. 15 years until they stole it away from me.

      1. Tez

        Sorry,meant to say that this means I have also had my concessionary bus pass taken away too because I only qualify for one if I have a blue badge!!!!

      2. Florence

        Blue Badges now have to be applied for online to a central DWP site, and must include a digital photo with very specific technical parameters. Many will fall at that hurdle. It is worded so that if you are not in receipt of higher rate DLA (or PIP) and on their database, you are considered a fraud.

        You also have to include the vehicle registration that it is going to be used with. It does not say that this is the only vehicle you can use, but then it also doesn’t…….In Wales our council will take a digital photo if you can get to one of their offices, and they will take all your paper work too, but there is a charge. Again, another block for some. It can take up to three weeks to get your badge.

        I hope you do look into this Mike, as many on DLA are looking at PIP migration, and the possibility of loosing all benefit because they are only getting the lower level care, and hence the badge, and hence the bus pass. The war on the disabled is a disgrace. It is putting back the advances made over the last 50 years.

      3. wildswimmerpete

        @Tez ……………..I was on Incapacity Benefit and under my circumstances at the time I qualified for an orange “Disabled” bus pass (I live in Cheshire) – I don’t drive so never had a “blue badge”. My orange pass expired after I was sixty so I was then issued a standard blue pass.

  11. jeffrey davies

    im afraid this is how the dwp jcp work now we all had it but then talking to ones mps hum its still going on after they all now that they culling the stock the rtu ids way i am afraid we going to lose to to many through this vile corrupt government jeff3

  12. Sasson Hann

    This is despicable.

    I’d like to say what I think as to the possible reason for it, things that have probably gone through your mind, but think that it’s better to keep quiet. Some society we live in when we feel that this is the best thing to do. I’ve done so for a long time now, yet you’re still ‘out there’ which is so highly commendable.

    All that I can say now – and apart from my severe physical illness I’ve also got PTSD – I’ve worked through all the possible outcomes as regards all of this, and it’s not been easy. I’ve had to say goodbye to my home in advance and any kind of life, such as it is, when facing possible and complete destitution.

    This government robbed me of 3 years spent in absolute anxiety (on top of what I already suffered mentally) over threats due to bedroom tax, as well as these sorts of tricks that can happen. I’m not going to let them do that to me again.

    It’s been a hard road that many have fallen by the way. I’m just glad that there was support for you as there was for me.

    I hope that you can get to the bottom of this however.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      No – this has all happened today.
      Also, as he’s a Liberal Democrat, I don’t think I can expect any support from him.

      1. Shaun Thomas

        Hi Mike, this is a terrible reflection of where Britain has gone to under this coalition government aided by its lackeys in the print media. With respect to making a complaint to your MP. The MP should, and they usually do, pursue this matter irrespective of the political party they are part of. It’s a procedural error or malicious act that is the M.P’s duty to investigate. As a human being, though often out-of-touch with reality, they will probably be disgusted by the DWP’s action. You would not loose that much anyway. That noted, you are, it appears to me, well able to deal with this atrocity your self, but sometimes it can all get too much. Take care of yourself

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        Cheers. I know that MPs should do the right thing for their constituents, but the comment columns of this blog are littered with tales of those who haven’t. Mostly they’ve been Tories (surprise, surprise).
        To be honest, I’m probably being over-hard on my own MP. I can only ascribe that to five years of disappointment in him.

  13. aturtle05

    I would turn up at the assessment centre at the time stated, taking a photocopy of the letter. I would suggest, if you can borrow the return fare, you get a taxi to and from the centre. As soon as you get to the reception desk ask for an expenses claim form. If the letter is a fake, you say, “Thank you, please sign the back of this photocopy to confirm I have turned up for this fake appointment.” If they refuse to do so, ask for their name, note it down and say, “I’ll be in touch with the Citizens’ Advice Bureau to see how I can assess the cost of the stress on my wife and I.” Of course, fill in the expenses form and return it with receipts from the taxi firm.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      As I’m on the trustee board of the local CAB, there might be a conflict of interest there…

      1. Gazza

        Mike if its fake, and causes unneeded expense would it not fall under Harrassment? Misuse of Government Records? Misuse of Position? Each of those on their own is Gross Misconduct – 2 and you’re sacked – thats simply on the DWP side. I am sure Appropiate rules apply in the Private sector if you include the assessors.

  14. jennifer

    i accompanied a friend of mine for a pip assesment yesterday and it was 25 miles away from our town,the questions they asked her were really silly and i said so!,my friend said she felt stupid answering them,i really don,t know how they get away with making people feel so small

  15. Jim Round

    Shouldn’t make any difference wether he is Liberal Democrat or Monster Raving Loony, his job is to help his constituents, I would ask for his help and see what happens.
    If he is dismissive I would then write to your local paper outling what has happened and say that your local MP has refused to help.
    Is there a Labour candidate for your area?
    If there is, can they help?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I’ll see what happens on Monday.
      Yes, there is a Labour candidate – I know him personally.
      I wouldn’t ask for his help in this, though.

  16. Helen Gale

    Same here, live in Greenwich, told to go to Croydon. No direct route from here, very difficult to get to. Could not travel that far. I asked if there were any assessment centre closer to me and they said no, Croydon is the closest.

  17. Chris

    It has been inferred thaqt even second world war disabled veterans will be re-assessed for disability benefit and these all tended to have life awards.

    The Tories are thinking of cutting state pension even to current claimants (copying what the Troika has done in poor EU member states) if they win in 2015.

    The Lib Dem Pensions Minister Mr Steve Webb is presiding over the biggest con in UK history of the flat rate pension, which will leave huge numbers of men and women with
    NIL STATE PENSION FOR LIFE or a massive cut from even the lowest state pension of all rich nations.
    See why under my petition, in my WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT section, at:
    https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/state-pension-at-60-now

    Because of the raised retirement age, disabled / chronic sick people in their 60s (that TUC agree are most unlikely to gain re-employment) are equally liable for workfare, benefit sanctions, re-assessments, when age is also factored in to the pain and exhaustion of disability / illness.

    This is just as much a threat to elderly hearts or even a stroke.

    If Labour went up against the Lib Dems and showed up the con of the flat rate pension, and did a u-turn they would gain millions by votes, and by:

    – revoke the Coalition’s Pension Bills 2010-2014 (flat rate pension) and
    – just paid a flat rate, without any NI record conditionality, of all the same £113.10 basic pension,
    – plus the mis-sold opt out from SERPs / S2P (since 6 April 1978) so giving about £165 per week top up,
    – then the loss of Pension Credit (both kinds – savings by abolition 2016 and guarantee credit by more complex conditionality in 2016, even to current claimants) would be covered.

    – Paying state pension to men and women turning 60 to 66 in 2015 would all pour into charity shops and town centre businesses, so creating youth jobs, so that they may escape the cruel benefits regime.

    Then Labour could form a majority government on its own, without any need of coalition.

  18. Brian Eastment (I would prefer if my Christian name wasn't used, however it's your rules)

    I wish you well and Mrs Mike, all I see or know is Agencies are all on targets.
    For what it’s worth, the DVLA withdrew my Driver licence over a damaging Consultant’s letter.
    My case was closed without my knowledge or agreement and it is so difficult when you don’t know what is happening with only a call centre to deal with. You have my sympathy. I hope you get satisfaction.

  19. Gazza

    Mike, there is something else to look at in addition to Corp Manslaughter. Do a Search on “Threats & Menaces” I am sure you can connnect the dots.

  20. cat

    Unless Mrs had a current new/repeat claim open since way back then it would be a mistake. They paused all the regular retesting of currently accepted claims while there’s a massive backlog. Utter incompetence but that’s not a surprise anymore.

Comments are closed.