‘I’m owed £5k as I can’t access disability assessment centre’

‘I’m owed £5k as I can’t access assessment centre’

A WOMAN has lost out on more than £5,000 in disability benefits… as she cannot access her local assessment centre. Jaki Whyte, from Colchester, has been out of work for 10 years as she is disabled.

In order to claim her Employment and Support Allowance she needs to attend the assessment centre in Colchester. However the centre in Wellington Street came under fire recently for its inaccessibility.

See this FOI 

Why is There No Disabled Access or Parking at Capita’s Birmingham PIP Assessment Centre

Hundreds have signed a petition for the centre to be made accessible by wheelchair users, as it has a 5ins step to the entrance. Jaki has been asking for a solution for the past two years.

She said: “It has affected me badly, in June the department for work and pensions classed me as fit to work as I am failing to attend appointments, but the reason is because I cannot get into the building and have to be manhandled in.

“It’s a matter of life or death for people like me, it’s so important.”

The DWP registers someone as fit to work if they do not register their presence at the assessment centre.

As Jaki has an electric mobility scooter, she cannot get inside the building. Because of this, her attendance has not been registered and she is now owed more than £5,000 in benefits. She has been trying to find a solution for the past two years.

She said: “I have been asking for a ramp there since 2016, I have suggested other venues but they refuse. “They class you as not attending even if you are sat outside the building, I have asked them to come and do an assessment outside in the car park but they will not do it.

“They also say I’m not sick enough for a home visit, but this has adversely affected my mental health.” She has asked her GP to apply for a home visit twice, but nothing has come from her requests. She has now been without benefits for 43 weeks.

She has been offered appointments at the centre in Chelmsford, but explained she cannot get there. Jaki has also suggested the DWP use the PIP centre in Hawkins Road, which has disabled access, but she was told there would be health and safety issues.

A DWP spokesman explained all of its Centres for Health and Disability Assessments comply with the Equality Act and where a centre is not directly accessible from street level, this is made clear before a person’s appointment.

The authority has also promised it will ask the assessment provider to revisit what else can be done to make the building more accessible. A spokesperson said: “We’re absolutely committed to ensuring disabled people get the right support that they need.

“All our centres meet legal accessibility requirements, but we go further and can arrange to meet at more accessible sites nearby or discuss whether a home visit would be appropriate.”

source

 

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Isle of Man set to scrap its ‘fitness for work’ test

 

BLACK TRIANGLE
I can’t wait until it happens in the mainland UK

Ministers on the Isle of Man are to scrap their version of the UK government’s much-criticised “fitness for work” test, prompting calls by disabled activists for the UK government to follow their lead.

The decision, announced to members of Tynwald, the Isle of Man* parliament, follows years of criticism of the assessment on the island, mirroring concerns raised repeatedly and publicly in the UK.

The statement by Treasury minister Alfred Cannan followed a report by Tynwald members into what is known on the island as the personal capability assessment (PCA), which is based on the UK’s work capability assessment (WCA).

In the UK, there has been nearly a decade of evidence that the WCA is unsafe, inaccurate, unfair, and lacking in empathy, while it has been repeatedly linked with the deaths of claimants.

In November 2015, public health experts from the Universities of Liverpool and Oxford showed in a study that, across England, the process of reassessing incapacity benefit claimants through the WCA between 2010 to 2013 was “associated with” an extra 590 suicides, 279,000 additional cases of self-reported mental health problems, and the prescribing of a further 725,000 anti-depressants.

Concerns arose on the Isle of Man after a new scheme was introduced to reassess most of the island’s 2,000 long-term claimants of incapacity benefits through a face-to-face PCA, firstly through a pilot programme in 2012-13 carried out by Atos, the outsourcing giant which was itself being heavily criticised at the time for its role in the assessment process across the UK.

The Isle of Man reassessment scheme was then taken on by another company, Dependability Ltd, which eventually had its contract terminated after it emerged that some of the assessments were not being carried out by registered healthcare professionals.

Just as in the UK, there were criticisms of the “tick box” nature of the assessment process, the failure to deal fairly with claimants with fluctuating conditions such as ME and multiple sclerosis, and the use of unqualified and unsympathetic assessors.

An independent review of the PCA, published in December 2016, reported “widespread” criticism, with concerns about the qualifications of assessors, and an “oversimplified” assessment which was unsuitable for those with more complex impairments.

The review added: “Many people believed that they had been treated with a lack of respect and that the system lacked compassion.”

It recommended the replacement of the PCA by a new “holistic multidisciplinary assessment” that would be “supportive” of the claimant and “based on trust and compassion underpinned by clear, open and honest communication”, with claimants “fully involved in developing a realistic return to work plan”.

A report by a committee of members of Tynwald that supported the recommendations of the independent review was approved by the parliament last November.

Cannan has now told the parliament that ministers are “minded to implement” the “complete removal of the existing personal capability assessment process” and replace it with a new “holistic approach”.

Any decision to change the relevant regulations will need to be approved by members of Tynwald later this year.

A spokesman for the Scottish-based, user-led grassroots network Black Triangle praised the Isle of Man government for taking the decision to scrap the PCA.

He said: “We warmly congratulate them. They have done what any humane government would have done and it is now absolutely essential that the UK government follows suit.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman declined to comment on the Isle of Man government’s decision.

But she said in a statement: “We are committed to ensuring that people with health conditions get the right support that they need, and work capability assessments ensure that everyone gets the benefits they are entitled to.

“If a claimant’s condition changes then we will consider any new evidence presented by the claimant’s GP or medical professional.

“Anyone who disagrees with the outcome of their assessment can appeal the decision.”

*The Isle of Man is not part of the UK or European Union, but is a crown dependency with its own parliament and government, although under the supervision of the UK government

source

DWP: Mum of tragic Jodey Whiting appears on BBC to continue Justice campaign for her daughter

Joy Dove appeared on BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show to keep up the battle for justice after her daughter, a mum of nine, took her own life

Joy Dove appeared on the BBC to talk about daughter Jodey Whiting, inset

The mum of tragic Jodey Whiting has appeared on BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme as she continues her fight for justice. Mum-of-nine Jodey took her own life last February after a long struggle with her health.

An inquest into her death last year heard that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) stopped her benefits after she missed a medical review – even though she was in hospital suffering with a brain cyst at the time and never saw the appointment letter.

The 42-year-old grandmother’s heartbroken family blamed pressure from the DWP for her death at the inquest last May.

Her mum Joy Dove, of Norton , has battled for justice for Jodey – launching a petition and campaign – and has been told the Independent Case Examiner will probe the DWP’s conduct – but due to a backlog of cases, that could take 16 months . She appeared on BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show on Friday morning and explained how Jodey had spent time in hospital with pneumonia when doctors discovered the cyst.

The family of Jodey Whiting from left: Daughter Leah Bell, mum Joy Dove, daughter Emma Bell, niece Demi Wathen, and daughter Chloey Bell
The family of Jodey Whiting from left: Daughter Leah Bell, mum Joy Dove, daughter Emma Bell, niece Demi Wathen, and daughter Chloey Bell

“She came out of hospital and her letters had been put aside. I opened it and it was saying she hadn’t been to a medical, why? It could affect her money,” said Joy. “We got all the information wrote it back saying she had just been in hospital.

“Instead of saying ‘ok’ we will give you another medical, they ended up sending a letter saying you are fit to work. Well we were shocked and she cried and said ‘what am I going to do mam, I can’t walk out the door’.”

Grim Tory benefits regime exposed in the words of this former disability assessor

‘A relentless conveyor belt’: Grim Tory benefits regime exposed in the words of this former disability assessor

A whistleblower says assessors have just 15 minutes to read claimants’ medical history before interviewing them

Department for Work and Pensions
Department for Work and Pensions

A former benefits assessor today exposes the grim world of the Tories’ “unfair” and “ethically questionable” disability regime.

Staff have just 15 minutes to read claimants’ medical history before interviewing them for vital Personal Independence Payment (PIP), the whistleblower said. And the process is such a “relentless conveyer belt” that they skip toilet and lunch breaks – just to get “10 seconds” back in the day.

PIP, worth £22 to £141 a week, is meant to be a fairer way for 1.6million disabled people meet everyday costs. But in a Mirror interview, the healthcare professional said they saw vulnerable people through “two worlds – the real world and the PIP world.”

Rigid and “uneven” rules meant some people who obviously needed help were denied the benefit, the assessor claimed. And some staff were reluctant to score claimants higher – because they could be “told to change” their decision by bosses.

“For staff it’s probably relentless, for claimants it’s probably unfair, and as a professional I think it just needs improving,” the expert told us.

Almost a THIRD of PIP disability assessments are ‘not up to scratch’

“I think the process was questionable from a clinical point of view. “If I got my code of ethics out, there were things I was having difficulty reasoning in my head.” Our source worked for a number of years for outsourcing giant Atos, which the government has paid more than £480million to assess people for PIP since 2013.

PIP is replacing the old Disability Living Allowance – but campaigners say assessments for the new benefit are unfit for purpose. Of 947,000 people moving from DLA to PIP, almost half (46%) had their payments downgraded or stopped.

Our source, who resigned amid concerns over the “unpleasant” system, told us the “intense” and “frustrating” daily routine for staff had an effect on claimants. They said: “You’re basically given four slots a day and those slots are fixed. You don’t organise your own diary.” That left 15 to 30 minutes to read claimants’ medical history before starting an assessment, the source said – if the centre was not overbooked that day.

Some claimants had just an application form and GP’s letter. But sometimes “you think great, I’ve got 15, 20, 80 bits – I’ve had 80 bits of evidence before – how am I going to read through that? “Atos won’t say ‘we give them 15 minutes or half an hour to read through’, they would just say ‘we’ll give them as long as they need’.

“But in reality, if I’ve got a 9am appointment, I know at 11am I’ve got somebody [else] coming in.” Our expert said appointments last 45 minutes to an hour, and guidance was to spend 105 minutes on each claimant’s case.

But if someone needed an interpreter or had complications, “booking times go out the window”. “I could have somebody come in with arthritis on their big toe and somebody come in with multiple mental health conditions,” the source said. “You generally get the same slot.”

The assessor claimed staff were so pressed for the time that they would skip lunch and toilet breaks. “You look for 10 seconds, anything you can grab, because you know you’re going to be pushed,” they added.

The second problem was the rigid criteria to decide if people were disabled enough. “We’ll have two worlds – there’s the real world and the PIP world,” the assessor said. “In the real world, you think right, I know they will find it difficult to get dressed.

“But because the definitions are so specific, it’s sometimes difficult to award them a higher level.” Shocking blunders in the past have led to questions over assessors’ competence. One claimant with no dog who couldn’t walk was told they regularly walked their dog. Another was asked: “When did you catch Down’s syndrome?”

Our source insisted staff were highly-trained as nurses, paramedics, physiotherapists or occupational therapists, with pay starting around £30,000. Instead the assessor blamed the scoring system – and audits that check it’s being followed.

Atos assessors give people ‘points’ for everyday tasks they can’t do. If someone scores below eight, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) denies them the benefit. But assessors can have their reports “amended” by superiors – and if it happens too often, they are put on a performance review.

The assessor agreed it was right to check reports but said the process was “uneven”. “It goes both ways,” our source said. “I’ve had reports back where auditors have told me to score higher. But I’ve also had reports where they’ve told me to score lower.

“What I’ve found is, more often than not, it’s more difficult to score people higher. I think it’s uneven.” Our source added: “You’re getting this stuff sent back and you’re thinking God, I really know this person needs assistance. No way they can do it.

“And it will be sent back and an auditor will basically be telling you ‘no, that’s not the case’. “What they’ll do is they’ll pick some other evidence in the report that supports their point. “In my opinion that evidence is sometimes weaker. But you’re essentially told to change it.” They said it took a toll on staff saying: “It’s led to so many colleagues leaving. On a daily basis it drives people nuts.”

A spokesman for Atos’ PIP arm Independent Assessment Services said: “We listen carefully to all feedback provided by those being assessed, and continually adjust our service to help deliver an enhanced experience for all involved. “Our Health Professionals (HPs) are able to take as long as they need to understand a claimant’s health condition or disability.

“All assessments are conducted in accordance with DWP policy, and there is no incentive or encouragement given to HPs to conduct an assessment in any way that would lead to a certain outcome.”

A DWP spokeswoman said: “Assessments work for the majority of people, with 87% of PIPclaimants telling us that they’re happy with their overall experience. “But one person’s poor experience of PIP is one too many, and we’re committed to continuously improving the process for claimants.

“We expect the highest standards from our assessment providers, and we work closely with them to ensure that all claimants receive objective, accurate and high quality assessments.”

“The stress of it froze me to the spot and I cried”

Janet Roberts burst into tears when she opened the letter that slashed her benefits in 2016. The gran-of-two had been unable to work for four years after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s aged 44.

But after an hour-long assessment for PIP at her St Albans home, her mobility payments were cut – from the full rate under the old DLA benefit to zero. Janet faced losing her adapted Motability car on her 30th wedding anniversary to husband Aubrey, 76.

But to her relief a DWP internal appeal restored her benefits with days to spare. The former NHS microbiologist, now 57, told the Mirror: “I just couldn’t believe it. “The stress of it froze me to the spot and I cried, because it was going to make such a difference to my quality of life.

pipx

“I had been living with this condition for 10 years. It is a rotten condition that greatly takes away all sorts of bits of your body and relationships. “To decide it was nothing felt like a real insult.”

Janet claimed the assessment was “not fit for purpose” because it didn’t account properly for her condition changing from one hour to the next. She said: “They ask how far you can walk. When my medication’s working I can walk reasonably far – but there’s six or seven times a day when I basically can’t move.” She added: “I had taken my medication at the right time so I was in my optimum physical state when I was there. “I said ‘if you wait ten minutes you will see me in the off state’ but the reply was ‘I don’t need to’.”

PIP is paid in two parts, ‘mobility’ and ‘daily living’, and following her appeal Janet now gets both. But she feared she had lost her mobility payments for around four months while the appeal went through. Thousands wait longer because they appeal to an independent tribunal.

Janet helped charity Parkinson’s UK hand a 33,000-strong petition to Downing Street last month calling for reform to the assessment process. She said the system can be “brutal”, adding: “There needs to be a certain amount of individualism.

“It’s almost like disabled people sometimes are [treated] like a different species – but we’re human beings with real struggles.”

source

I can see why there has been such a spike in suicides amongst claimants of PIP

Anger as woman with terminal cancer is called to benefit re-assessment

A WOMAN diagnosed with terminal cancer has been called to a ‘consultation’ to assess her capability to work.

Krissy Johnson from Clitheroe was diagnosed with incurable metastatic Breast Cancer in September 2015 and given less than a year to live. Nearly three years later, the 48-year-old has been called to a meeting by the Department for Work and Pensions to determine if she is capable of returning to work.

The mother-of-one shared a letter she had been sent last week by the Independent Assessment Services on behalf of the DWP in a post on Facebookwhich has been shared more than 6,000 times.

The letter stated:”Our job is to help the DWP understand how you health conditions or disability affects your daily life. “One of our health professionals has looked at the information you sent to the DWP. “After doing this we have decided that we need to see you for a face-to-face consultation to discuss you health condition or disability further.”

The former mental health worker said it was the third time she had been called to such a review where she would be expected to prove her condition was terminal. She said: “When I first applied in 2015 I received a call to say they had received my terminal certificate so I would be fast tracked.

“I was receiving my payments then after six months I was sent more forms to fill out and asked to attend a review which I could not go to because I was in hospital. “I then received another review appointment which I refused to go to. “Last Thursday I received the third review letter, and when I spoke to them on the phone they acted like I had done everything wrong.

“One woman said I had not filled the forms out, but I had on the 6th of January, then I was put through to a manager who said I had not put my long term diagnoses on my application.

“Two people in two minutes had called me a liar, I wish I was lying, I wish none of this was happening to me but it is. “I sent them everything, even my confidential medical report, my God I sent them stuff I didn’t even want to read it myself.”

Mrs Johnson said she now faces having her payments cut or revoked totally should the DWP find her fit to return to work. She said: “At the moment I am doing well, I look after myself, I take my pills but I am not sure how long until I get symptoms.

“I am not sure of anything, yet I am expected go to this review and explain why I can’t work. “I’m scared that my last time on this earth will be spent claiming or struggling to find money. “I’m scared that we will no longer be able to afford for Mark to care for me. “Not only will I lose the full time care I need, but we will miss out on the precious time we have left together, which is totally irreplaceable.”

She said:”I’m a very positive person, this is not a sob story, my aim is to get the word out and show everyone that it is not a fabrication. “I want people to take note and pay attention to what is happening to us because it is shocking.

“It is so upsetting to think of the people who don’t have the support network I have. “I have a lot of friends and people around me who I can rely on for help or just to put their arm round me, not to mention my MacMillan nurse who is an angle on earth.

“The forms are so ridiculously complicated, it’s almost impossible for someone who is terminally ill or has a chronic illness to handle on their own.

“I can see why there has been such a spike in suicides among claimants of PIP.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We apologise for the letters that Ms Johnson has received. “We have reviewed the case and she is now being paid under the special circumstances with no break in her claim.

“We can confirm that she does not have to attend any appointments and a letter will be sent to Ms Johnson confirming this. “Anyone having any problems with PIP should contact their local office whose staff will be able to help.”

Mrs Johnson said did not believe there had been a mistake, She said: “This is the third time I have been called in to be assessed.

“This is not a mistake it is a deliberate thing, they are relying on people in my situation just lying down and accepting their fate. “They just want us to lie down and die, but I have a voice and I still have the strength to fight it so I will.

“There needs to be a system put in place to help people in this situation and stop them being take advantage of.” Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans said: “Why are we re-assessing people who have terminal and degenerative illnesses?

“It’s a waste of public money and it’s causing these people further stress, it is inhumane to put them through this trauma. “We need to ensure there is a change in procedure so people will no longer have to experience this.”

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Suicide of sick mum-of-nine who killed herself ‘because DWP stopped her benefits’ WILL be investigated

Jodey Whiting tragically took her life in February last year after her benefits were stopped

Mum of nine Jodey Whiting took her own life in February 2017 

The death of a mum-of-nine who killed herself after allegedly feeling under pressure when her benefits were stopped has led to an investigation into the Government.

Jodey Whiting, who suffered a string of serious health problems, took her own life in February 2017. Her devastated family blame pressure from the Department for Work and Pensions after her benefits were stopped.

The young grandmother, 42, could barely make it out of her front door in Stockton, near Middlesbrough, because of a brain cyst and a curved spine, Gazette Live reports.

An inquest heard her benefits were stopped because she missed a health review – despite her never seeing the appointment letter. She had been plagued with ill health and the DWP were made aware of those issues by the Citizen’s Advice Bureau a week before she took her own life.

Jodey Whiting pictured with all her children (Image: Evening Gazette)

Jodey’s family blamed pressure from the DWP for her death at an inquest into her death last May, and since then her mum Joy Dove has continued to battle the government in her daughter’s memory.

She has pushed for her complaints to be passed to the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) – who investigate alleged wrongdoing by the Government department. That body has now accepted the complaint and will investigate.

But a letter addressed to Joy says that due to a huge backlog of complaints, it could be up to 16 months before the probe begins – which could take it to summer 2019.

Jodey’s family say the DWP pressured her before her suicide last year (Image: Evening Gazette)

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Joy said: “To have to wait another 16 months is devastating, but we can’t do anything about the fact there are so many cases that need investigating. “I’m glad they’ve taken the case on. We will always fight for justice for my daughter.

“She has kids and grandchildren left without a mum, and I’ve been left without a daughter. I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

The ICE will look at five key claims as part of the complaint.

• The Citizen’s Advice Bureau sent a letter to the DWP regarding Jodey’s health issues on February 15, six days before her death, but it failed to act on it until March 23.

• Despite being made aware of her death on February 23 using the ‘tell us once’ system, the DWP issued a claim to Jodey about her Employment Support Allowance claim on February 25.

• The DWP failed to take appropriate action to upgrade their computer systems until March 1.

• The DWP continued to call Jodey’s phone and leave her voicemail messages until May, despite knowing of her death.

• The department failed to respond to Mrs Dove’s letter of April 13, 2017 until June 14, 2017.

Jodey’s family has blamed pressure from the DWP for her suicide (Image: Evening Gazette)

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 Teesside Coroner’s Court heard last year that Jodey had battled with mental and physical health problems during her short life. A shop assistant, she was forced to retire young due to pain which left her on 23 tablets-a-day, including morphine.

She had been told to attend a health assessment on January 16 last year, but missed it as she was in hospital with a brain cyst and knew nothing of the appointment.

On February 6, the DWP ruled Jodey had not provided sufficient evidence and stopped her benefits. Jodey raised concerns about the decision on February 10 and made a formal appeal on the 13th. She committed suicide on February 21, before a different decision make ruled on February 25 that despite extra evidence, her claim should still be closed.

This message was delivered in a voicemail to Jodey’s phone after she died. The DWP has apologised to Joy for delivering the message – despite being told of her death.

Jodey’s mum Joy Dove with Jodey’s daughter Emma Bell (Image: Evening Gazette)

Joy has also started a ‘Justice for Jodey’ petition, with the aim of persuading the DWP to look again at how it handles benefit claims. You can sign it here: you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/justice-for-jodey

Joy said that messages of support there have helped her as she struggles to overcome her grief: “We’ll never stop battling. The messages I get on the petition, and from people who have been in similar situations, are incredible.”

DWP did not respond for requests for comment.

However, after the inquest into her death last May a spokesman for the DWP said: “Our thoughts are with Miss Whiting’s family at this difficult time. Suicide is a very complex issue.”

Source

Assessor Asked Suicidal ESA Claimant For Details Of How They Would Act On Their Feelings

Isle Of Wight Disabled People Against Cuts

12 hours ago

Testimony from my friend who accompanied a disabled man to his work capability assessment on the Isle Of Wight earlier today.

This morning, I supported a friend through their Work Capability Assessment – the exam the government use to test your eligibility for certain benefits. Its taken me about 3 hours to be unemotional enough to write this post.

I witnessed a 50+ year old wheel chair user, in tears in the waiting room post-assesment. He told me, through his tears, that he had noone to take him to the appontment and had desperately rang round friends this morning and luckily 1 had been able to help him. He told me how his financial support had stopped without warning last year. He spoke of how confused he is trying to navigate the new systems, how exhauating it all is and how he has struggled to access help. He doesnt understand the internet. Through tears.

I cannot put into words how awful it was. Grown man, proud man, his struggles not his fault, dignity in tatters. How stressed and frightened he must have been this morning, snow, no help, illness/wheelchair, exhauation FEAR. How reluctant he was to cry in front of a stranger, how desperately he tried to hold it in. But he couldn’t.

I spoke to another man who told me he had beem suffering with mental illness following historic child abuse. Fear in his eyes, worrying how hes going to keep his house now hes too ill to work and he has to convince the government he’s not on the make. I wont tell you anymore details to protect identity, but it was clear to me that he has worked hard all his life and was clearly struggling with circumstance beyond his control.

Some of the questions during the interview for my own friend, who also suffers with mental health problems, were excruciating, and imo, potentially dangerous. To ask a suicidal person for great detail about how they would kill themselves seems cruel, unneccesary and wreckless.

Listen, i know there are a (very small) section of individuals who will exploit our system. This makes me as angry as it does you. But what makes me angrier, is a government who implement a system that villifys good, decent people, has them stiped of dignity and living in fear.

Im going to resist the urge to accompany this post with a graph detailing the difference claimed fraudulently from welfare state compared to the billions avoided in tax by coorporations every year. Im too upset to be that clinical about it.

Conscientious cruelty.