‘Can sit in the gutter’ – the petty reasons people are being denied sickness benefits

[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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15 thoughts on “‘Can sit in the gutter’ – the petty reasons people are being denied sickness benefits

  1. lambtonwyrm

    Too horrific to comprehend. These assessors are meant to be professional people and act like bullies making lies up to see people suffer.

  2. foggy

    All of the above are common lies quoted by assessors (I’m sure they’re coached with these quotes!) which is why anyone applying for ESA MUST state on their ESA50 that they want any face to face assessment recorded (get carer/friend/support worker to chase it up and get confirmation when assessment ap letter has been received).

    Claimants for PIP can have their assessment recorded as well but the claimant must supply the recording facilities ( 2 old 1980’s tape cassette players/recorders are acceptable) but a claimant must put a permission to record request in writing on their PIP form and also in a letter to the DWP so as they can find an assessor that is willing to be recorded = Unicorns spring to mind here).

    It’s well known that claimants having any assessment recorded have a far better truthful report and correct outcome/awards.

  3. ishabluebell

    Do you have a contact form on your website, please, where people can write you their experiences privately?

      1. ishabluebell

        That’s a comment form, that I used to make this comment. There’s no contact form showing in my browsers.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        There should be both a comment form – for public comments – and a contact form for private messages to me.
        You have indeed used the comment form because your message has appeared in the comments.
        Others have used the contact form with this article so I would suggest the issue is with your browsers.

  4. John

    I’m not a law expert, and I obviously can’t speak for the investigation against Grayling and IDS, but I REALLY hope that as part OF the investigation, the police are also looking into these sorts of things, with the prospect of bringing criminal charges against others within the dept who are also responsible for the misery and death that the DWP have caused, and continue to cause.
    Obviously, a lot of these examples, if not all of them, will be completely deliberate!

  5. Jay

    Thus for those of us with complex issues struggle – my disabilities are mild comparatively speaking, but as an Autistic person just as I can do X thing today doesn’t mean I can do it tomorrow and certainly doesn’t mean I can work (not that it matters as they don’t even have criteria for neurological disabilities in assessments).

    I can’t apply for JSA because my disability stops me from meeting minimal criteria, so ESA is my only option as someone who can’t work right now due to disability…folk seem to forget ESA WRAG means ‘can’t work right now, may be able to work in future with support to get past barriers to work’. It was never supposed to be ‘absolutely cannot work and is five seconds from death’ which seems to be what these assessments look for (and even then they’d find an excuse to turn you down).

  6. John Kolacz

    Surely if an assessor lies in his assessment about someone and this someone has recorded the assessment and can proove 100% that the assessor has lied, then the assessor submits the fictional report to the DWP and someone/perhaps more than one person at the DWP reads this fictional report, surely this is liable and the assessor, not whom he works for, either Atos/Capita or Maximus, personally can be sued, please correct me if I’ve got this wrong?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      They’re acting as a representative of the company, so the company can be sued as well.

  7. JP

    I was lucky with my ESA assessment as I had a doctor that understood and had a good level of experience with my condition, not so much with my first PIP assessment, He told me not to be so negative when after he asked if I use a wheelchair I said not yet (within 2 years of the interview I was reliant on a mobility scooter and I knew that was likely). focused on the pain aspect of the condition and answered questions for me focusing on pain instead of what I was saying, I had been living with and working while in pain for the prior 18 years I had not stopped work due to pain and it is the smallest aspect of my condition. He reported that I moved well at a reasonable walking pace. I had to explain while appealing and making the complaint that the things he had done and said to me I had left as quickly as possible that reasonable walking rate was my version of running. I could go on about the experience with that horrible man, I won the appeal because I had a copy of my ESA assessment by the same group that completely debunked the PIP assessment, but dread every review after that worrying that the same thing will happen. If you ever have a PIP or ESA assessment it is vital that you get a copy of the transcript as soon as possible so you know if they have lied or misinterpreted what they said also what they have noted as Observation which is often where the biggest

    1. JP

      lies or errors happen and you do not know what they have said unless you get that document it really helps if you need to appeal

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