DWP bases benefit decisions on allegations about the assessors’ character rather than evidence

Paper exercise: To some people with disabilities and long-term health conditions, the sight of an ESA50 form is enough to trigger anxiety, panic, or even heart attacks.

Paper exercise: To some people with disabilities and long-term health conditions, the sight of an ESA50 form is enough to trigger anxiety, panic, or even heart attacks.

This Writer was amazed – yes, dear reader, amazed – to discover a new wrinkle in the DWP’s web of deceit, while writing a letter in support of a friend’s appeal against an Employment and Support Allowance decision.

My friend – who has multiple conditions, both physical and mental – had been placed in the work-related activity group nevertheless, and at 2pm yesterday, Yr Obdt Srvt was staring in astonishment at the DWP decision-maker’s professed reason for doing so.

It was the same for all the descriptors: “I place greater weight on the evidence of the Health Care Professional because they are trained disability analysts and the advice they provide is both impartial and unbiased”.

The DWP decision maker had not based his (or her) reasoning on any evidence at all, of course.

Examining the wording of this statement, we see that the decision was in fact based on two unsubstantiated claims about an unnamed ‘Health Care Professional’ who has never met the claimant – my friend had been migrated onto ESA from another benefit in a paper exercise and had not been asked to take part in one of the DWP’s medical assessments (which, in any case, we know are unfit for purpose).

Who is this ‘Health Care Professional’? How do we know this person is a trained disability analyst? Because this was a paper exercise, the ‘Health Care Professional’ had gone unnamed and had never met the claimant. They had never been asked to produce any credentials so the claimant was left with no idea whether this person really was a “trained disability analyst” or not.

I knew their advice was not impartial or unbiased because it was wrong. They had not taken account of the evidence they had been given but had chosen to ignore it instead. Looking at the ‘mobility’ descriptor alone, I know that the claimant in question has significant problems with walking so the advice that “there was no evidence to indicate that you were unable to do this activity” is incorrect, therefore the decision is also incorrect.

Most pernicious of all is the fact that my friend’s disabilities make it extremely difficult to challenge this faked, falsified decision. My friend suffers from chronic anxiety, with poor concentration and memory, panic attacks, and a tendency towards stress. When dealing with authority figures, my friend tends to lose track of what they are saying, fixating on elements that are tangential to the main issues. This makes it very hard to fight wrong decisions, which is why This Writer was asked to step in.

How many other disabled benefit claimants are there, who don’t have recourse to somebody like me?

Reading between the lines, it seems possible, if not downright likely, that the DWP decision maker saw an opportunity to achieve benefit savings targets by pushing somebody, who is clearly not going to be ready for work within a year, into a group where they will lose benefit after that time and be forced to seek work anyway.

If you want to know what happens to people in that position, look at the case of Michael O’Sullivan.

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  1. mili September 24, 2015 at 11:09 am - Reply

    Tweeted @melissacade68

  2. Jeffery Davies September 24, 2015 at 11:23 am - Reply

    Oh come on now you now these hcp are very very trained
    by the these so called companies who take doctors around ten days nursez twenty to pass their denial of benifits test oh yea oh yea of little faith they highly trained assassins jeff3

  3. Ian Keeling September 24, 2015 at 11:33 am - Reply

    Couldn’t agree more Mike, it also contradicts the justification made for taking the GP out of the process in ending IB and implementing ESA. Here it was said that a GP couldn’t be impartial as they represented the patient, nothing there about professional integrity. Well by the very same logic clearly ATOS or their successors are in the pay of the DWP and cannot be impartial either.

  4. James Kirkcaldy (@Bradford_Indie) September 24, 2015 at 11:58 am - Reply

    Apologies if the following suggestion has been made. It seems to me a good idea, Mike, to collate an advice sheet for people. However, I am not saying provide an advice sheet to help struggling claimants but rather one for advocates who, like yourself, can step in to help under these circumstances where needed.

    Out of interest, how many groups and people are there out there helping claimants avoid scenarios as you describe? People who are comfortable with paper work and bureaucracy and can help claimants?

    Of course, establishing a wider network of helpers under a single umbrella and where advocates are ‘trained’, in a way, is a big (t)ask. However, my thinking here is that this way it will be easier to also record all of this and to identify the strategies being used by the DWP more clearly and to count instances of them. It doubles up as a data collections exercise with a view to compiling a more through dossier of case studies to pass onto the Shadow Cabinet.

    On a final note, by umbrella network I allude to the trend for Voluntary good cause groups to band together temporarily on particular issues to form an ad-hoc and temporary ‘advocacy coalition’.

    • Mike Sivier September 24, 2015 at 12:59 pm - Reply

      I think there are quite a few organisations that have put together advice sheets for people – Benefits and Work, Fightback, 4UP etc.

      • James Kirkcaldy (@Bradford_Indie) September 25, 2015 at 4:06 am - Reply

        But are they advice sheet for people to represent others? How to do the advocacy in this context?

        • Mike Sivier September 25, 2015 at 10:06 am - Reply

          I’m not sure it would make much practical difference. Appeal forms have a section asking if the appellant has a representative; if you fill that in, then you may carry on, using the help available, as the representative.

      • clouty September 25, 2015 at 7:08 am - Reply

        There are several benefits support groups on facebook. Most of them are free and voluntary. Fightback isn’t free. Just sayin’. Benefits and Work are the gold standard, for a small annual fee (they have to eat) you get access to all their excellent guides.

    • jacqueline September 28, 2015 at 2:23 pm - Reply

      Hello James. I welcome your comments and agree that people need clear, accessible information. The regulations have mostly been redacted and misinterpreted elsewhere. There is little advocacy anywhere and the information should not be pay-to-view anyway. Please post anything you have about ESA regulations.
      Please would you do something else urgently that i cannot find help with because nobody believes me.
      Tim Farron has written to ask the minister this question but has not received a reply. Obviously it is a reply that i need. Most people remain puzzled by an apparent paradox in decision notices which state that ESA regulation 29 applied but regulation 35 did not apply. IDS can and must clarify this without further delay. Many thanks.

  5. random bloke September 24, 2015 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    Be weary of even asking regarding qualifications during those assessments, even if its a genuine curiosity and you are trying to just be pleasant they can take it as harassing behavior and use it to justify terminating the interview.

    In reality, whats happened is you have a low level nurse or medical worker without any sort of diagnostic training whatsoever trying to deal with things dealt with by for example a senior psychiatrist, neurologist and so forth.

    I suppose in a way you could compare it to being interviewed at dwp, where you may have a medical report on file of your various diagnosis and the adviser or coach glances at it and says “oh, I’ve had that before, its nothing really” or “is that even a thing?”

    • wildswimmerpete September 24, 2015 at 1:43 pm - Reply

      @Random bloke
      “you have a low level nurse or medical worker without any sort of diagnostic training”……..in the days of Atos, certain serious conditions could only be assessed by a doctor. Things like stroke, heart failure and strangely enough, Aspergers. Don’t know about Maximarse.

      • Rab Streambattle (@rab_otter) September 25, 2015 at 8:06 pm - Reply

        Very interesting. That’s likely a major factor in why ATOS were told to assess me only for Anxiety(No other information passed to them). If DWP had relayed the Asperger’s diagnosis, sounds like it would have been an entirely(slightly?) different process.
        As it was, the Assessor was disgusted with the DWP file sent to her, and then when she compared to my brought-in documents, apologised profusely that I, parents, and social worker had been forced to attend, and recommended SG with as long a delay before re-assessment as she could.
        3+ years to get to that point.
        Thought of getting an ESA50 form petrifies me daily.

  6. marcusdemowbray September 24, 2015 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    Notify the UN Special Rapporteur of this immediately! It is strongly indicative of the Clerical over Medical aspect of the affair, and clearly indicates fraud and deceit.

  7. jaynel62 September 24, 2015 at 12:50 pm - Reply

    Dozens in my personal experience this year alone; how I agree with you Mike

  8. Stephen Bee September 24, 2015 at 1:03 pm - Reply

    More evidence for the UN Rapporteurs visit to study if Disabled peoples rights have been breached??

  9. Nicola Hall September 24, 2015 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    Under the law, DMs are required to consider all the information and where there is a discrepancy they are required to investigate and request more evidence, if necessary. If this wasn’t done, then a complaint needs to be made about the DM, as well the HCP (whose details you can get via a FoI).

    Was this a new claim, or a reassessment? If a reassessment, what group was the claimant in before?

    • Mike Sivier September 24, 2015 at 1:35 pm - Reply

      It was a migration.

  10. leonc1963 September 24, 2015 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    Nearly the exact same situation as me due to SAH Stroke that has left me with Executive Dysfunction that all people in a position of authority ignore and sweep under the carpet, it is a very complex condition and very hard to explain in limited words but has an effect in everything I try to do and is one area of mental health that gets no attention at all

  11. mrmarcpc September 24, 2015 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    They never really listen to what you are saying and what your problems are, they’ve already made up their minds, their minds being made up for them by IDS and his motley crew of twats, it doesn’t matter what you are suffering from, they want to pass you as fit for work when you are not, it’s just another dirty tactic devised by this shower!

  12. rockingbass September 24, 2015 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    Happened to me over a year ago…..all I can suggest is that if your friend’s medical condition has deteriorated go back and ask the following….I was told by my Job Centre .”Please contact us to ask for a Superscession to the support group” If this is granted ESA wil go back in to payment.That may be worth a shot . Good luck

    • Mike Sivier September 25, 2015 at 10:12 am - Reply

      For clarity: My friend is receiving ESA but is in the wrong group – WRAG instead of support.

  13. Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7) September 24, 2015 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    Mike, you might be aware that I’ve been recently tweeting that a human rights lawsuit against the DWP should be filed in conjunction with a UN CRPD “grave and systematic” violations finding. Linda Burnip of DPAC liked my suggestion.

    With regard to the predicament of your friend, I highly recommend that you both consult with a human rights law firm. Legal consultation fees, if reasonable, can be raised via crowdfunding sites. (I’ve consulted in the past with Leigh Day on a benefit sanctions case, but decided not to proceed.)

    I’m keen on having sick and disabled Britons launch a human rights lawsuit against the DWP and this case could be included in the litigation, if it has merit.

    • Mike Sivier September 25, 2015 at 10:11 am - Reply

      Would that need to happen after the appeal hearing? If my friend wins? If my friend doesn’t win?

      • Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7) September 25, 2015 at 5:11 pm - Reply

        If your friend doesn’t win his or her appeal, I would then proceed to consult with a human rights law firm. Please keep me and your readers informed of the outcome of this case. It has piqued my interest.

        • Mike Sivier September 26, 2015 at 12:07 am - Reply

          I will.

  14. gary September 24, 2015 at 5:44 pm - Reply

    please attack the dwp in court over this Mike, you successfully did it once and many people know that you are a force to be reckoned with. we can’t have the tories and the dwp keep deliberately setting 80 people a month up for certain death or suicide. you actually forced IDS’s hand. please do it again until he resigns from the post or gets forced to do a u turn on gov’t policy

    • Mike Sivier September 25, 2015 at 10:08 am - Reply

      Hopefully there will be a tribunal hearing and I will be there.

  15. Nannytime September 25, 2015 at 1:18 am - Reply

    I admire all of your hard work, you are all doing for vulnerable people who are being physiologically abused

  16. Ash Ford September 25, 2015 at 5:07 pm - Reply

    Happened to my partner in respect of PIP – Asperger’s: ignored by assessor. Visual impairment: Not even discussed by assessor. Motor dyspraxia, leading to issues around safe mobility: Not even discussed by assessor. Previous eating disorder, which stress, in particular financial anxiety, causes to flare: Dismissed with the deceptive “question” – “Do you enjoy your food?” My partner has Asperger’s. She answered (honestly) that yes, she did. Assessor clearly had no experience or understanding of eating disorders, and decided it “wasn’t relevant.” Chronic, high-level anxiety was put down as “concerned about lack of recent, relevant skills and work experience” – that’s the least of it. This is someone who gets anxious about making a doctor’s appointment. Anxious about telling people she is unable to do something. Anxious about taking a break if she is engaged in work (to the extent that she’ll go a full day without food or drink.) She has an assessment for ESA – and is terrified of being placed in WRAG, as when she was claiming JSA previously (as she “didn’t think she was entitled to” ESA, thanks to abusive family situation, where her disabilities were ignored, and she was told she was “lazy”, “dense” and “clumsy”) she suffered a breakdown after applying for fifteen jobs in two days, after being told “If you don’t get a job within the next fortnight, I’m placing you on daily signing until you get something – I don’t care what it is.” Because of anxiety and depression, combined with a tendency to “believe that authority figures are always right”, she wasn’t able to cope with the demands of making an appeal.

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