Monday 2 September 2013

If you could say just one thing to Mark Hoban.....

Finally, after months of petitioning by Michael Meacher and myself, after a debate in parliament specifically on meeting "Spartacus", next week (10th September) myself and two other "Spartacii" who have been heavily involved in all ESA research will be meeting with the DWP Minister Mark Hoban.

We have 45 minutes - a generous time slot in parliamentary terms, but the merest blink of an eye with so much to put right.

Before I go any further, and indeed before I discuss anything with Mr Hoban, I want to make it perfectly clear that I believe WCAs and indeed the entire ESA system is flawed and should be scrapped. This has always been my position and it remains my position today.

For all of this week, DPAC are running a week of direct action, "Reclaiming our Futures" I would strongly urge you all to take part if at all possible. This is the way we will ultimately achieve real change.

However, I have a chance to explain to the minister how some of the worst elements of ESA and WCAs affect us and to petition for them to be changed. I will make my position on abolishing WCAs clear, but it would be naive to believe that we will come away from a 45 minute meeting having achieved that ultimate goal.

I DO believe however, that some elements of WCAs are intolerable and I already have an idea from previous consultations with you all what those things might be. However, before next week, I wanted to give you all one last chance to feed into this important opportunity.

If you were there with us and could say just one thing to Mr Hoban, change just one thing that might make the WCA process less harmful, what would it be? While DPAC, Black Triangle and other groups continue their excellent work to scrap the tests, what might make the process safer and less destructive in the meantime? 

I'm a pragmatist. If we can achieve any change for the better, I believe it is worthwhile. If we can save just one person from taking their own life, or falling into starvation or despair, I believe it is worth trying. If we achieve nothing at all, we will be able to say that we tried. And tried. And tried. That we engaged with democracy whenever the chance arose and did all we could to make ESA safer.

I really hope that as many of you as possible leave comments below and share this post on Twitter, Facebook or other networks you use. If I go alone, I am one voice. If it is just the three of us attending, we whisper. If you all come with us, we shout and have the credibility to demand real change. 


  1. I think communication is important. Once an ESA50 form is sent back to DWP we are left in limbo - there is no letter of acknowledgement, no phone call to the same effect. And when one calls the DWP to enquire about the outcome of the form they inform us to contact ATOS. Why doesn't the DWP have this info?

    1. The WCA does the opposite of it's stated intention.
      It does not encourage people to focus on what they CAN DO.
      It forces them to seek supporting evidence to prove what they CANNOT DO.
      In doing this it pushes people into a recurring cycle of focusing on there illness, when they should be receiving support to focus on their health.
      I have been through 5 assessments and 4 appeals.
      The first 4 caused a huge degeneration of my already poor health.

      My first WCA was in 2008.
      Few people at the time understood what this was all about.
      I felt isolated and persecuted.
      I am now a WCA veteran. I have developed strategies for dealing with it, and try to support others.
      This does not make it any easier, just less stressful.
      The time I have spent trying to deal with paperwork, which piles up to almost 2 foot deep (not counting the piles held by DWP, ATOS and Tribunals), has deprived me of opportunities to regain some health, enter education etc

      This is a brutal perverted system. It has isolated sick and disabled people.
      It is being instigated by people who claim more in expenses for a single breakfast, than many people have to feed themselves for a week.

    2. Far longer periods between very high stress inducing reassessments for those with long term/life time & degenerative conditions. 5 year minimum (when many may die) review interval where no improvement is ever expected.
      An assessment process that takes in to account medical info provided by GPs, consultants & the patient themself BEFORE you get to the appeal stage.
      Mental health professionals to assess MH patients. Such patients continuously fall through the gaping cracks of this system.
      Why limit ESA to 365 days suddenly? (Purely a cost saving change

  2. Good grief, Sue! My list is so looonnnngggg!

    If I have to whittle it down to one thing you might be able to say in the time-frame, then it would be to do something about the problems folk with mental health issues are having, though what is beyond me!

    Sorry if that's not help at all!

  3. I would want to make him understand the stress we go through and how much worse it makes our conditions. To try to make him understand that the people assessing us MUST be specialists in our conditions and NOT just pen/button pushers with only a base line or general medical knowledge.

    1. I totally agree with Fibrography here Sue. That would also go for Mental health and Autism which my son has. I cannot allow him to ever face ATOS, he wouldn't be able to cope.

    2. Agreed. I have epilepsy, and the stress of attending assessments and filling out forms (Which my local CAB cannot help with any more thanks to cutbacks and the loss of specialists) dramatically increases the frequency and severity of my seizures.

      Fluctuating or less-understood conditions make this ten times worse. And trying to prove how sick you are is a crazy situation to be in when part of the problem ties into anxiety and mental health, and the person you are seeing has never even heard of your condition before.

      The system needs to be tied up. We *have* a nationalised health service, with records. Why are they the last thing that is gone to? If the government is paying an external body to assess, why not invest that money instead into a body that connects to the NHS where the information already exists?

  4. Actually, I realise there is something. If we fail the WCA and want to appeal, the new regs leave us with no income at all. THAT!

    Unless you can demonstrate, via Hoban's responses, that UKgov ideology intends to leave us penniless.

    1. This! This is what terrifies me the most - people left destitute halfway through a process which may well then decide they do qualify for help after all.

    2. I agree. The withdrawal of benefit income pending appeal is a particularly cruel and inhuman aspect of recent changes, and if I had to choose just one issue on which to focus it would be this one.

      But it is impossible in reality to focus on just one policy from the raft of those recently implemented, by the coalition government, against people who find themselves without the means to sustain themselves. The present government have neither understanding of, or compassion for, those outside of their own narrow social circle.

    3. hi* Sue!
      to tell M/H* that he's breaking EU* law!
      the UK* gov! signed up(ratified)
      the UNCHRdp in 2007!
      making the articles therein UK* law,
      by virtue of the fact that it is an international treaty!
      so the right to independent living! Article19*
      and the right to legal-assistance(Article no* unknown*
      is enshrined in EU* LAW!
      I have an E/mail reply from the UN* to confirm this fact
      I can be contacted on>dickmagus@gmail!
      if you need further help?

    4. I would agree wholeheartedly with continuing payments until and appeal is concluded, or until it becomes clear that no appeal will be lodged - ie the time for appealing a decision has expired. It is criminally inhumane to take away income when the decision to do so is not conclusive.

    5. The scrapping of Clause 99 is certainly the most urgent change needed - this will badly affect so many vulnerable people when it comes in next month

  5. Look at the medical evidence supplied and contact GP/Consultant and only pass to atos as last resort.

    1. Yes, it is our GP who sees us on regular basis and knows best of all how our chronic illness(es) affect us day to day. Also we need Assessment Phase to be time limited and still receive lower amount of benefit.

    2. I totally agree. The total disregard for my medical evidence was the hardest thing to deal with. When your GP and 2 medical experts opinion is totally ignored you don't know were to turn or what to do next. The medical evidence must outweigh the flawed WCA.

  6. The WCA is not fit for purpose and this is from someone who completed the ESA50 and was migrated from IB to ESA support group without the need for a face to face "assessment". I struggled with the ESA50 so what it must be like for people with mental health issues, I cannot imagine. The fact that so many people had their decisions of "fit for work" overturned, never mind the massive cost to taxpayers (we are ALL taxpayers)shows without a shadow of doubt that it is simply NOT WORKING! Was it ever designed to work though? The thousands of human beings who have died and continue to die within a short time after being found fit for work is testament to the real reason the WCA was brought in, in the first place. Do politicians have no morality or conscience, or is that just for the majority who happen to be working class? There is an obvious war that has been declared on the poor, vulnerable, old, unemployed, sick, disabled and worst of all, the children of the UK.

    The only safe way to "test" people is to go back to the Physicians who are qualified, and above all else KNOW their patients. DWP decision makers are NOT medically trained and ATOS "medical professionals" should be in a court of law for the destruction they have caused and continue to cause.

    1. I'd just like to second that. I completed my son's ESA 50 a few months ago. Recently found out that he is to remain in support group with out the fight of last time. I find the form misleading and in order to get the true situation across it ended up being 48 pages long. If I find it a struggle and I'm a Civil Servant (not DWP) and a different type of caseworker I do not know how any one who is ill ect being able to fill in the form and gather all the evidence to satisfy the DWP/ATOS. I found it stressful and exhausting.

    2. I agree. I think Mr Hoban needs to be reminded of the anxiety and stress completing the forms and the testing process causes. How many households have cried tears of frustration and fear and had roof lifing arguments caused by all the stress and worry? I'm sure a GPs survey reported an increase in the numbers of patients presenting as suicidal as a direct result of the assessment. The descriptors for mental health are next to useless and do not attempt to investigate the complexities and difficulities faced by mental health sufferers in the context of real life. I had to attach essays to every question just to try and explain how my condition limits my life because the questions didn't cover anything much. I felt as if I was on trial and having to prove myself to people who wanted to trip me up and find reason to deny me support. It's soul destroying to have to prove how mentally unstable you are to a faceless stranger reading about you in an office somewhere, or the assessor for that matter. Usually mental health professionals build up a relationship with you before they probe your suicidal thoughts and so forth. They don't blurt out on first meeting and ask how often you harm yourself or if you've tried to kill yourself, or if you wear make up for that matter. It's just callous, cruel and intrusive and potentially dangerous. It takes a month out of your life just filling it in, many more worrying and scared. It causes untold fear, stress and misery and makes you ill. Gathering evidence and trying to get the urgency across to an apathetic GP surgery who take six weeks to photocopy evidence when they know you have four, that's another story.

  7. @RevPaulCA "Why don't you send an "any change?" form to Drs instead of putting ppl with degenerative illness' through repeated assessments?"

    1. Sue, I think Rev Paul is on to something with his suggestion. However, not just for degenerative cases. A simple email (practices are supposed to be on-line now and emails don't really get "lost in the post" as well as having the advantage of being dated) to the practice, PRIOR to issuing forms and passing to ATOS where appropriate, with that simple question (any change amelioration/deterioration) and an optional Q possibly as to whether the GP considers the client capable of some work. The latter would mean GPs could choose whether or not to answer, and patients could not blame GP's if DWP decide to re-assess. This would be less bureaucratic than form-filling and could save taxpayers a fortune in cases not needing to be processed by ATOS.

      Good luck for 10th! %)

    2. Unfortunately this would still be in obeisence to the warped ideology of "Work for All" pedalled by the DWP as the puppets of Unum Insurance.

      The principle of retirement is fundamental in a democratic society. Regardless of age, if a person with a chronic condition has reached the point of being unfit for full-time work (in the judgement of their own doctors), there should be the right to claim their retirement pension. For life. And even if they still manage to do the odd few hours of blogging, volunteering, or other therapeutic activity.

      It's not as if there are enough jobs to go around for the young and able-bodied.

      The DWP should drop the UNUM-inspired WCA scam, pay those with degenerative conditions their pensions, and trouble them and their doctors (who should be allowed to get on with treating the sick) no further.

  8. Please ask him: When someone with a long term chronic illness is assessed, is he aware how stressful the whole procedure is?
    Does he realise how many long term sick people are put into WRAG group without a medical?
    How stressful the appeals process is?
    How long it all takes.....what with the "lost" letters, slow response times, and no acknowledgement of any items posted to these people.
    The procedure is distressing, takes far too long, and no communication = depression = more illness.

    1. Also, threatening letters......
      You will only receive this benefit for one year! Seems to mean after a year you're on your own, sod you!
      The wording is always threatening and frightening. They want you to hide, and dread the sound of the post dropping through the letter box.
      It really is all aimed at driving one to...........sorry, can't put that word in, it's too close for comfort!

  9. I think the one change I'd make is the way the evidence is weighted when the decision maker makes their decision. The self report form needs to be used in this and the evidence of a person's GP/Specialists needs to be weighted heavier than the ATOS/DWP medical report.
    He needs to be made to see the ridiculousness of the situation where people with complex conditions that cannot be properly input into the computer program or assessed by a person without specialist knowledge in such a little time as 20-30 minutes.

  10. Something to make the whole process less stressful for all disabled/sick but definitely for those with mental health issues. Many simply not able to cope with the level of intrusion and fear surrounding WCA. Resulting in exacerbated symptoms, breakdown - new issues/symptoms - self harm (even in some cases suicide)

  11. Speaking from my own experience, look at the medical evidence supplied with an application - don't make a claimant feel disbelieved, have to wait sixteen months for an appeal with all the allied stresses - then decide in the appellant's favour based purely on a letter from their GP supplied FOURTEEN months before the appeal.

    Don't automatically write to the council following the assessment (which may be appealed), thereby stopping housing benefit etc immediately, it smacks of being presumed guilty before being proved otherwise...

    Also, have a process whereby if someone is given zero points, which ATOS themselves revised to 27 points a few months after the deeply flawed assessment, their disabling health conditions are acknowledged, that it doesn't then still drag on for over a year on appeal after, and cost the taxpayer for further reports done by five consultants when all the evidence required, right down to the relevant sections of the guidance (from a GP who's served on the appeal panels for many years) was already in the hands of all parties responsible for decision making...

    Oh, and if he could bring back my friend who hung himself last year after losing his home etc. following another flawed ATOS zero point assessment, that'd be nice too...ahem.

  12. For sham reports written by Atos and the DWP agreeing with it leaving people with no income at all.

    1. Scrap the system now. Easy it is not fit for purpose all evidence is ignored. Sick ill or disabled are not experts in writing forms about there health the GP s are and consultants are so why do you ignore this?

  13. Allow the patients Doctors to make the decision about disability not clerks

  14. Just one thing?!! Oh I have a list! Please ask him why Atos assessors are allowed to make a prognosis and predict recovery rates at the time of the face-to-face assessment when they haven't read or received medical evidence? If people have been ill for a very long time, with a poor or deteriorating prognosis or a condition that doesn't respond to treatment, is incurable etc, why are people being told they'll be ready to work in the short term?

    1. If you take your evidence with you and they photocopy is still ignored.Sad fact this happened to me.

    2. No Atos assessor should ever be allowed to make a prognosis that suggests a person with a chronic or progressive condition will recover.

      Doing so is fraud, pure and simple.

    3. I agree. So little is understood about my condition that not even my consultant made a correct prognosis.

      Which group you are put in should depend on what your condition is like *now*. Too many people are put in WRAG on the basis of prognosis, not on the basis of whether they are able to do work related activity now.

      If someone is too ill to do work related activity, but realistically (ie their Dr says) will recover, they should go into the support group and be reviewed in a year, not into WRAG to be reviewed every 3 months.

  15. I've blogged here on what I see as a fundamental problem.

    Part of the ESA system assumes abilities of the claimant and wants to encourage claimants into work, yet the other half is determined to kicks anyone off who could ever work, it seems.

  16. Yes yes going from 15 points to 0 points when clear evidence is written by GP.
    In between time leaving partner on Carers money £59 ish a week and his wife with secondry progressive MS who is in support group without any given time frame scared to death to get any sicker I get £162 a week early oc pension deducted ESA £62. ( change of pension income rule would get full amount if on IB). I recieve full DLA and if I go in hospital for over 4 weeks Carers allowance goes and DLA goes? Where the bloody hell does my husband get money from he has chronic heart failure.
    We have a small mortgage and can not get any money for aDFG because of pension income.
    Missed one appeal as both to sick to know what to do and can barley write.
    Stop the Sham as it s making people scared.

  17. Please ask him if he realises how degrading and humiliating it is, for people already beaten down by painful and debilitating medical conditions, to be required to recite the litany of your own inadequacy, your failure to be "normal", your requirements for help to do the personal things almost everyone takes for granted, your toilet habits, your pain, your misery, again and again for the judgement of strangers. Ask him if he would like to do this for himself or for someone he loves, at the whim of an uncaring regime. Ask him if he thinks that helps anybody's mental health, and whether or not he thinks a regime of testing and re-testing people who will never get well is value for money for all us, the taxpayers.

  18. Why do we need an ATOS? When we have already been medically assessed by the NHS.Why as taxpayers do we pay for the NHS to medically assess sick people, then waste money on ATOS second guessing the professionals, then wasting even more money on the appeals system overturning ATOS decisions, money is tight enough already without this farce of a flawed system adding to the problem.

  19. The constant re-assessments has got to change. There is no cure for my Seronegative Arthritis/ Lupus, Fibromyalgia, or my son's autism. We are never going to be "cured". There is no magical "have managed to get better". And there is no 10-minute test to see whether or not I can pick up a coin or press a button which will determine if either of us is fit for work as there's precious few jobs out there which require us to only pick up coins or press a button once an hour.

    1. This! The constant 'revolving-door' process is simple, senseless, pointless cruelty. And how much money must a system that insists on re-assessing such cases be wasting, when it is abundantly clear there can be no change (or no change for the better)? Same goes for the contemptible practice of summoning people to re-assessment within months of them succeeding at appeal.

  20. Must take into account older medical evidence. People with long term conditions don't keep having medical investigations and consultant appointments can be as long apart as yearly.
    Eg Apparently my EEG showing I have epilepsy is no longer admissible. There is no way my neuros are going to send me for another one, and neither should they. Would be a complete waste or time, energy and resources.

    DWP should be responsible for asking for medical evidence. They should provide claimant with list of medical evidence they asked for. If claimant is not satisfied, they can ask DWP to ask for more evidence before making decision.

    ATOS should send acknowledgment when claim form is received.

    ATOS assessment centres should be accessible.
    If the nearest is not then a home visit should be offered as routine rather than claimant obliged to travel long distances.
    Home visits should be more widely available and offered.
    Better accessible parking should be available at all assessment centres.

    ATOS should have contact number for queries rather than a phone number to phone in order to find out your local jobcentre phone number who then tell you that they can't help you as only ATOS has the information! ARGH!
    (eg have they received form, why have they sent you a strange letter, etc etc...)

    At reassessment, claim form should be accompanied by explanatory letter telling you that this is your reassessment claim form! (see above re phone number)

    At reassessment claimants should be asked if any change has taken place. If no, then should be sent abbreviated form+confirmation from GP etc and fast tracked.

    3 year reassessment limit should be extended to 5.

    WRAG should be awarded same protection as support group with regards to disability benefit rules (eg uprating bill). WRAG is NOT the same as JSA.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree with this.

      In fact, at the moment my neurologist has discharged me as they have decided that tinkering with my medication would probably only make things worse, and I am to go via my GP if anything changes.

      Does that mean I stopped having seizures? Nope. It just means they're not doing anything about it any more because I have dissociative seizures as well.

  21. I agree with everyone above who wants MORE INFORMATION on how their claim is progressing rather than being left wondering if the form arrived, if it's been passed to atos, if it's got to a decision maker yet, how long will all this take?

    The form itself needs to make clear that in addition to ticking the relevant boxes, you have to write a paragraph or so detailing why you ticked each box. Many of my autistic friends assumed that ticking the boxes would be sufficient and it very much isn't.


    Some way of rearranging an ill-timed atos appointment other than by using a phone. I quite like email as I cannot use a phone.

    No idea what to do about the deliberate use of leading questions (ie my assessor tried to work out how far I could walk by asking me to describe how I get to the pub then asked about some other places when all my answers indicated I wasn't walking more than a hundred or so metres at a time) or the awful way that the assessment starts *before* the appointment does, with (often false) assumptions being made about one's abilities based on the fact you got to the appointment at all, how long you've been waiting, whether you brought anyone with you, if you respond to your name being called... It's just.. abusive to make all those assumptions without asking for details.

  22. I would like to know why can't all illnesses/disabilities have the same option as cancer patients (the last page) where all that is needed is for a healthcare professional to state whether the patient is able to work. QUOTES FROM FORM:

    "If your single health problem is cancer treatment and its
    effects on you, you do not have to complete the rest of
    the questionnaire if you don’t want to."

    PAGE 20 Last page: to be filled in by the patient's own healthcare professional:

    "In your opinion, is it likely that the impact of the treatment has or will have work-limiting side effects?",

    "In your opinion are these side effects likely to limit all work?

    In your opinion how long would you expect these side effects to last?" END QUOTES

    Surely these same questions could be altered to include all illnesses/disabilities and include the effects of the illness/disability.

    And then have the option of whether to fill in the form or just the last page.

    Cancer patients have the option to fill in the form as well but they do not have the option to not fill in the last page.

    There would need to be an option to not fill in the last page and for this to not be used against you by Atos (provided you filled in the form) otherwise those of us with unsupportive GPs would be stuck.

    But at least when a GP is supportive having the alternative of only having to fill in that one page would not only be less harmful to the patient's health but would also be much more sensible and quicker for Atos to go through and means they have to listen to a healthcare professional.

    Surely if this alternative is there for cancer it's discrimination to exclude other illnesses/disabilities from having the same alternative option?

    1. Such a list of basic questions could just be appended to every sicknote for doctors to complete when signing off those expected to be long-term or permanently unable to work.

      At most it would take an extra minute or two of the doctor's time, and WOULD SUPPLY THE DWP DECISION MAKERS WITH *EVERYTHING* THEY NEED to inform them about an individual's fitness to work.

  23. It might be helpful (if galling) to put all this in the context of effective spending. If people with genuine support needs are going to be wrongly assessed as fit for work due to failure to use medical evidence, those people will not be working, and without support their conditions are likely to degenerate until they need hospitalisation, leading to far higher costs overall. Unless the government is really looking for people to kill themselves when denied support, as is happening - I would very much like you to ask him if this is the aim. If not, what possible benefit can it have to deny people help that they need?

    1. If i may second your comment please misspiggy, as you make very good points. Thanks.

    2. Thirded!

      Especially when the EVIDENCE IS NOW OUT to challenge MH - in the recent report showing that 45% of those with progressive conditions are being subjected to this injustice.

  24. DWP MUST be responsible for ensuring ALL medical history is used and where there are any questions MUST contact the claimants health professionals BEFORE a decision is made.

    Non payment during reconsideration must be addressed, it is both callous and cruel.

  25. Could you please suggest to Mr Hoban that we have a system in place that is better than an assessment by ATOS or any other computer information company.

    It is called the National Health Service, whereby a General Practitioner sees a patient (aka Claimant) and diagnoses over a period of months that they need to see a Specialist or Surgeon at the hospital. Between the two levels of diagnoses, there is a level of treatment, this treatment may or may not be designed to cure the illness. If the condition is incurable or degenerative, the GP will be able to inform the DWP that this is the case and that this person will not be able to enter full time work as it will cause them injury, pain, illness to do so.

    The GP can then issue a piece of paper formerly known as a "Sick Note" to state that this situation is unlikely to improve in the next 6 months to a year. After this period the DWP could trigger the issuing of a letter to the effect that the Certificate is running out and the claimant is to get another. If in the opinion of the General Practitioner the patient is able to return to work, no certificate would be provided and the claimant would have to claim JSA instead of DSA (Disability Support Allowance).

    This system would incur no extra cost to the DWP as the system described above is already in place and would in fact cost less as the need to pay £110 million to Atos would be removed.

    1. Thirded.

      Atos is a scam and the WCA is a eugenics profiling exercise where we scramble to hand over more and more sensitive personal data that an even crazier and more vicious government (if that's possible) could refer to in selecting candidates for euthenasia.

  26. I was put in WRAG.
    I appealed & was put in the Support group on Reconsideration.
    WHY is it left to the claimant to gather all additional info?
    WHY is this not done initially?
    My GP charged me £15 for a letter of support.
    My Consultant gave me one for free.

    My theory is that Atos were told to put practically EVERYONE Fit for Work.
    The GENUINELY SICK, will appeal.
    The SCROUNGERS will not!

    1. I am not a scrounger, but I have not appealed because I am terrified that the stress of doing so will finish me off with a heart attack or stroke (I am at high risk of both).

      I doubt my situation is unique.

  27. As an agoraphobic who cannot really leave home as stated on all forms why was I told to attend an Atos interview I couldn't manage leading to deep depression. Instead I sat and did nothing because of depression and am now faced with eviction and bankruptcy.

    1. I would have done the same if family had not intervened. I have agorphobia too. 15 year history but told it would clear up in 12 months despite me attaching DWP's own guidance that prognosis is poor if the condition has lasted beyond 4 years. Didn't know I'd been put in the WRAG because the letter I received was about a change in money and didn't state a decision had been made. JCP asked me to attend a work related interview straight away, but I couldn't go due to agoraphobia so they telephoned. The advisor said she had no choice but to mandate me to the work programme! Luckily, I still had a few days left to appeal so I had to. Reconsideration was rejected but the report was missing all the medical evidence I had sent. The decision maker eventually changed the decision to the support group. I was receiving threatening letters from G4S and JCP about appointments which were impossible to attend. Try stopping the machine once it's in motion, you can't. JCP advisors make no reasonable adjustment for your disability. It can't be right? I read today in a report that disabled people are over-represented for sanctions. I can understand why. You can't take your carer to a group work programme appointment! Sick people should not be threatened with sanctions for appointments they cannot reasonably be expected to attend.

    2. Poor you Carl. Your story sums it all up, there is ignorance on a scale never before known and it is simply intolerable arrogance from this countries insufferable government. Please God, may Sue be heard and understood.

    3. Hooray to that! Please God let all of our questions be heard.

    4. Carl, your comment has been on my mind. I wanted to empathise with your situation but not to add any more pressure or stress by asking questions. Will just say that I hope you have been able to get in touch with someone to advise and help you, your MP, GP, and CAB usually will come out and visit if they know your situation. You've highlighted another big problem with the WCA, the lack of help, advice and guidance, especially for people who are alone, isolated and housebound. Best wishes. Take care of yourself.

  28. There is so much...

    But, why have over 8,500 people who Atos decided were "unfit for the longer term" put in the WRAG? doesn't this show that the Support Group criteria are too tight and utterly unreasonable. Source, Mark Hoban in a letter to Roger Williams MP.

    I was migrated to the WRAG and my MP intervened and I was put in the support group. No face to face. If I could work I would!!!!

  29. I have been on ESA Support Group for mental and congenital physical disabilities (transferred from Income Support) for a few years now.

    The main thing I'd say is that the constant DWP/ATOS harassment of the sick, by way of far too frequent re-sending of ESA50's, is making a lot of people *SICKER* not *BETTER*. Not everyone on benefits will see themselves as weak, but I am and I feel utterly helpless.

    I've been doing everything I can with the local services to try and find a way to some sort of work, and, every time I start to make progress, the ATOS/DWP boot sticks in and it all falls apart. I don't care for wealth and physical work redeems me and helps my depression, which is why I've been trying my hardest to work with the only service left in this area to find a way to deal with the barriers which prevent me from - and this may be a shock - achieving my dream of being able to work.

    As it is I can't even lead a near normal life. I don't drink, I don't go out at all, I can't socialize and have no social life at all. Financially it's hand to mouth. This is not something anyone would choose.

    The last ESA50 came three weeks ago. I don't remember that week after opening the deceptively unbrown envelope, but I do know the distress was so deep and unrelenting I just wanted it all to stop. I made two serious attempts at suicide, but both times failed. I came to in the woods, alone, crying. Crying because I messed it up and had no more helium. I can't describe the pain in my head, but if he could feel it, maybe he'd understand.

    In the next 2 weeks I have been in hospital twice; first time tonsilitis, second time viral meningitis. My GP said - without any cue from me - that he believes 'ATOS is making you sick'.

    I'm honestly not being melodramatic when I say I think they might well kill me. 5 days left and I'm supposed to be resting. I am so full of worry and fear that I feel like one gentle breeze could knock it all down forever.

    Bottom line - ATOS/DWP need to be more in touch with the claimants doctors etc., because at the moment too many people who are genuinely unfit to work, and their families, are having their health and lives torn apart.

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  31. Where do I start?

    I have Asperger's and currently receive ESA and DLA. I was migrated from Income Support on to ESA in 2011 and recently had a reassessment, on both occasions being put straight into the Support Group without a WCA. Had I had to undergo one, I would certainly have not coped with it and there would also have been the added stress of being pressurised by the HCP into giving answers to questions which are completely irrelevant to my condition.

    I have a part-time job as a lollipop man in a village, several miles away, under the Supported Permitted Work rules as I was advised some years ago by an autism specialist that full-time work would be too much for me to cope with. I am dreading the change to UC a few years down the line as I can't see any provision for people like myself and therefore would be expected to look for full-time work (which I've been advised against doing) or face losing my benefits.

    Likewise with the changeover from DLA to PIP. I have been on an indefinite award since 1993. Again with PIP there is no provision made for people with autism and I am dreading the day that I have to fill in the application for it, and then the possibility of being assessed by a HCP. Because of DLA I have a bus pass and a railcard which I make good use of. If I am declined for PIP this would take away my independence and force me to give my job as I would then have no way of getting to it. Both of my parents are now dead so I would be unable to move back in with them if I was to lose my benefits, and financial support from them would obviously be out of the question.

    Please, Mr Hoban, stop and think about what your reforms are doing to people. One of the effect of Aspergers/autism is stress and the prospect of losing both my allowances in a few years' time is exacerbating my condition. I have achieved many things which at best hard and at worst impossible for people for ASDs, such as learning to drive a car and live on my own. Now, I potentially face having both my independence and my freedom being taken away from me. Is this what you really want?

    1. Keep strong Steven. It sometimes appears to be a bad joke, until we realize the government is deadly serious. They are scum to make people suffer for such a small, ridiculous matter of a MINORITY of people falsely claiming benefits when they shouldn't, as opposed to the MAJORITY of claimants who actually need the welfare support. Oh and don't forget the businesses getting away with zero hours, minimum wages, etc and offshore tax havens, that's where the government should be looking for its precious pennies. Trust me, the conservatives won't get away with this immoral crusade against decent innocent people.

    2. I'd like to think so Martin but the Conservatives have shown that they have no regard for the law. In the instance of the Workfare case the court ruling was immediately rendered meaningless as emergency legislation was introduced to ensure that it could continue as before, this time only legally. And the DWP are currently appealing the ruling that WCAs for diasbled people are unlawful. Put simply, if the Conservatives don't like what they're being told then they simply change the law - this is what we're up against.

    3. My son has Aspergers and gets no help at all. He has DLA at the moment and was awarded it indefinitely too. I too dread the day of him claiming PIP. I would have to fill it in as I am his appointee. I have no idea whether that still applies with PIP. All doctors/ CAMHS/CMHT left when his statement of special educational needs ended. He was taught at home after a 'breakdown' at school. He could no longer cope. That same year he was diagnosed at 14 years old. He ended up with 2 Home and Hospital tutors. But the taught him from behind his bedroom door for 5 1/2 YEARS, because he could not cope with face to face interaction. But when his statement ended at 19 everyone disappeared. He rarely sees and doctor/GP, no one knows him or wants to know him. I am 62 and his mother, we are alone and I have mental health problems and have difficulty in getting out. I am also on DLA and have a indefinite award. I/we dread PIP. There is no way I could put my son through an assessment medical. I went to an ATOS medical, and it was hell on earth. I had an welfare rights officers with me from RETHINK. I got through, but only just.

  32. I agree with many on here, that say the written evidence of consultants / GPs should be the over riding factor in whether an assessment by an ATOS type body should be necessary. There should be some guidance given to GPs etc to help them write up assessments appropriately taking into account the wishes of the claimant + plus the type of condition they have. Some conditions should rate an automatic entitlement to benefits, like conditions that people do not recover from. If your Doctors say you are not capable of working then that should be enough for the DWP.

  33. personally my G.P has been very supportive, I was put in a ESA support work group, though I was not assessed at all by atos, just by a remote computer probably. At the time I could not afford to appeal. It has been very stressfull, in January/February I will have to undertake the whole damned process again. For about 4 months or so I was not in any group at all, jusst left in limbo, with a reduction of £20 per week. I have previously been on incapacity benefit for anxiety and depression. I have had no face to face interaction for quite a while and often think I have simply been forgotten. Regards...and thanks for all you do.

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  35. Three points -

    1. The descriptors should be changed so they better reflect the need to identify if someone is TOO SICK to work rather than "just" disabled.

    2. Medical evidence from the claimant's own GP, nurse specialist or consultant MUST be taken into account (whether it is provided by the claimant or sought by DWP/ATOS). If acquiring evidence takes longer, so be it. Delay is better than a wrong decision. Old evidence should still be persuasive if the claimant's condition has not changed or has only got worse over time.

    3. The findings & recommendations of a qualified HCP MUST NOT be changed by someone who has not seen the claimant/is not medically qualified, simply to meet "statistical norms".

    If these 3 issues were addressed, the system would probably work a whole lot better. The fact that they're not suggests to me that the Government doesn't actually want decisions to be correct. If that is the case, they should be honest enough to admit it.

    1. Thanks Jane -
      I think you are reading my mind but I doubt the Government will ever admit the reality of the Hidden Agenda:

  36. Having seen two of my (adult) children battle depression, anxiety and brainfog to fill in their ESA reassessments, I agree with previous comments that there should be a simple 'Any change?' form, only followed up by the longer form if necessary. And there should definitely be some sort of acknowledgement that the complete form has been received.

  37. People placed in support group should be left three years minimum before being reassessed and "repeatedly, reliably, safely and in a timely manner " should be included in ESA50 as people with fluctuating conditions don't always realise this is how they should be assessed.

    1. Unfortunately the questions themselves on the ESA50 seem to be designed to trip people up.

      Lord David SchadenFreude himself confirmed that a person should be considered NOT able to perform a task if they could not do so reliably etc.

      However most of the questions have tick boxes for 'Yes', 'No', and 'It Varies'.

      The 'it varies' option puts psychological pressure on claimants to feel they must 'be honest' and 'fess up' to being able to struggle through a task once or twice - even though they might be slow, clumsy and left exhausted and in pain for hours.

      The Yes-No-Maybe tick box trap, gives Atos the power to still justify docking marks, even when claimants are UNABLE to perform descriptors RELIABLY. After all "they asked for it".

      This is despite the govt's confirmation that the form was intended as a binary can-do vs. can't-do (i.e. 'nul' points vs. 15 points) evaluation.

      The anomalous and fatally misleading "IT VARIES" tick-box has to go.

    2. I'm afraid I have to disagree with you here. As someone with an illness characterised with "flares" and so called "remissions" (for this read "sick" and "even sicker") there are certain things I can do (reliably etc) some days but cannot do at all on others. Thus "it varies" is a necessary answer (I then just have to give an estimate of the proportion of days I am unable to do the given task).

      I am by no means unique in this. This is common for many fluctuating illnesses and conditions, not just my own.

    3. This is exactly the psychological trap involved.

      Lord Freud clarified that to do a task "reliably", you must be able to do it EVERY SINGLE DAY, with NO bad days or fluctuations EVER (and similarly with the other criterea).

      He confirmed that when this is not the case, claimants should just tick "NO".

      So if there is the chance of you experiencing a flare at some time in the future which could interfere with doing a task, then ACCORDING TO FREUD, YOU CAN *NOT* PERFORM IT RELIABLY, and should therefore tick the "NO" box.

      You can still back up your "no" in the comments box, by highlighting the proportion of time when you can not perform the action. The crucial difference is that you will reduce the chances of having points docked unfairly or being wrongly assessed as fit for work or work related activity.

      Bear in mind that in completing the ESA50, you are expected to do so in regard to your WORST days - i.e. the days when you CAN'T perform the task.

      Atos is supposed to be assessing you on your worst days, and SHOULD NOT mark you down for whatever you might manage on a good day, so why encourage them?

      This is exactly why the "it varies" box is so misleading and evil. Anyone who ticks it for the same reasons you describe, should have been ticking 'NO'.

      This dirty psychological trick is the likely explanation why 45% of individuals with progressive conditions are being bizarrely sentenced to WRAG.

      If claimants would only stand firm, hold to Freud's Criterea and have the courage and audacity to boycott the 'it varies' box, there would be many more in the Support Group, and it could even save lives.

      Considering this is the same DWP that operates its own 'nudge' unit with a remit of psychologically manipulating benefits claimants and experimenting on them without consent, as exposed on the Skwarkbox Blog,
      and in the Guardian, the confusion created by this misleading tick box is unlikely to be accidental.

    4. It really needs to be emphasised that in the light of Freud's criterea, there can be NO medical condition for which the 'it varies' box is ever appropriate. (I write as a former welfare rights advisor and I am pretty sure of my ground).

      This is even true for people with relapsing-remitting conditions, where the remissions tend to be lengthy and leave them restored to normal with little if any functional impairment.

      This relates to the fact that ESA rules classify remissions and exacerbations of under 3 months duration as "fluctuations" which are disregarded for assessment purposes. Claimants should only lose benefits when an improvement has lasted longer than 3 months.

      This means even someone with a history of long remissions would be seriously unwise to tick "it varies". Without a crystal ball there is no absolute guarantee of a future remission. In the event that they later experience a significant improvement of 3 months duration, that would be the time to notify the DWP accordingly.

      If Atos assessors were encouraged to be fair, most assessments would be accurate, and cause the minimum of stress and disruption to our lives. But sadly, as has been widely exposed, Atos staff are under pressure to search for loopholes to trick people out of their entitlements.

      The 'it varies' box is one such loophole, as it gives Atos an instant excuse to dock points. They will not stop to worry about whether this is justified, since they are rewarded for harshness and never penalised for getting decisions wrong.

      Atos assessors and DWP Decision Makers assess our claims with the eyes of lawyers, accountants, and dodgy insurance companies - not as compassionate healers. As such the only way to beat them at their own game is for claimants to also think like lawyers when completing the forms.

  38. I was told you can only change your WCA appt ONCE, others have been told different timings. I changed WCA as the mornings ARE heavily affected by health issues, and so new date was set, yet ON THE DAY of the new WCA I was telephoned and my appt was cancelled and yet to be resceduled... because the Doctor was sick. Mr Hoban, isnt that a bit IRONIC because sick people are MANDATED to attend, and yet the Doctors can be sick, and mess up any arrangements that may have been made to attend, under fear of sanction? It seems very ludicrous, and pythonesque. The system is broken.

  39. Quite simply the biggest change with the biggest knock-on effect on everything else is this: all assessments must be recorded. It should be mandatory for all assessment centres.

    It was so effective even when it was up to claimants to specifically request it and most of the machines were broken, the DWP still scrapped it. They gave utterly ridiculous reasons, fuelling reasonable concerns that the DWP were simply trying to cover unpalatable truths up.

  40. This is brilliant Sue, and also very timely from a personal point of view as I have just received another ESA50 through the post, my second in as many years. For what it's worth, I feel that a key point to raise is why people with long-term and/or lifelong conditions have to be continually reassessed by a tickbox system, and why individuals can't be assessed as individuals by the appropriate specialists.

    Best of luck, not that you'll need it as I know you'll put him under the spotlight and ask him what needs to be asked. We're all behind you!

    Loads of love

    Billy xxx

  41. For Pat's Petition, our one key, simple, message has to be to look at the cumulative impact of all the changes on disabled people and carers. Don't look at any one bit in isolation. It is the effect of this whole tsunami of changes at the same time which makes it overwhelming - welfare reform, NHS changes and cuts to local authority budgets.

    Though if it were just WCA by itself, we would say scrap it.

  42. Will post some recommendations on the forum Sue in good time for your meeting.

    I'll send you the link when it's ready.



  43. I would ask why NONE of the questions relate to a normal job. It is so flawed even a seriously ill patient recovering from major surgery could still be found fit, touch head -check. Lift coin-check. Move 50m in wheelchair-check.

    Most of us no longer work because of combined factors once we are awake, medicated, washed dressed, eaten that's it, often isn't anything else left in the morning or day to do anything productive. It dosnt even ask you how long you can stay awake for! If you do "pass" it should then be assessed if reasonable for you to be out at work for least 3days a week and if this would be sustainable in long term ie more than few months without you crashing. Only then should you be passed as fit to work.

    1. If the questions related to a normal job, no one would fail.

      The WCA is based on scamming business practices used for decades by Unum Insurance - a rogue corporation that has been prosecuted in civilised countries (google) but welcomed with open arms as a mentor by successive governments in Britain.

      The test is designed to strip people of their entitlements and is not intended to be fair.

  44. I would ask him to stop thinking of this affecting strangers. Ask him to imagine it's his own mother, or brother, or wife. We are not real to him. Until we become real people, I don't see anything changing.

    1. That's the hypocrisy of this damned government. They treat people like strangers, but it's the government who make themselves strangers to the rest of us. We are very capable of common understanding and sympathy.

  45. you have to remind him sue that many deaths are not posted on line by their local newspapers. like in this case below you have to buy the local paper to be in the know

    another death reported august 29th today in the Crawley observer on page 4 in the name of lee Robinson who committed suicide after his ESA was stopped following long term unemployment

    tell him sue that we are fed up having to report about the deaths across the UK and beyond EVERY WEEK and is very time consuming to say the least

    45 minutes is ridiculous just to get to grips on all those that have died and to PREVENT others from dying would take at least a day

    tell him that when the sick and disabled are so stressed they in many cases die from their heart problems and cant breath the same with the asthma deaths they look like they have been gassed tell him

    if he wants to know what a gassed person who cant breath because of the stress of the DWP looks like tell him to look here


  46. I think Jane has it right in saying medical advice must be taken into account, but I would go further and say it must be sought, and here we can use Hoban's own position against him. DWP say the massive tribunal overturn rate is overwhelmingly due to people presenting evidence late (never mind DWP slashed the time allowed to gather it), but if that's the case then we can eliminate that issue entirely by making DWP/Atos proactively seek medical reports, and I'm willing to bet that the cost of procuring a medical report is significantly less than the cost of a Tribunal.

    Staying on the successful appeal rate, Hoban is on record as saying it is 'only one in six'. As I've said before, I've done quality control work professionally in a technical environment, and we would have described a one in six failure rate as an utter disaster. And drawing on the same experience I'd have said the Atos quality system and its focus on expected 'norms' (but not 'targets', never 'targets'), amounts to a calculated fraud intended to drive and intimidate the statistics generated by HCPs towards a set figure, no matter the cases and evidence individual HCPs see before them. But that may not be the ideal way to phrase it to Hoban ;)

    Turning to WRAG, my major issue with it is that it represents a flawed understanding of disability. I clearly don't fall within the Support Group criteria, so according to DWP that means I should be doing 'work-related activity' to prepare me for my eventual return to the workforce, but in 25 years of disability the trend has been all one way, and my consultant has said within the past couple of months that he absolutely can't see a way back into the workforce for me. It is perfectly normal for a disabled person to only meet the WRAG criteria, yet have no possibility of returning to work in the near term, which means that for them 'work-related activity' might be better termed disablist harassment. WRAG is insufficiently precise, we need to divide it into two, covering people who have near-term potential for return to work in one group, and people who have no near term potential for a return to work in the other. Arguably this could also be done by expanding Support Group, but the difference between someone who scores 15 points and can likely return to work shortly, and someone who scores 15 points and will never return to work may be solely a matter of medical prognosis and not something the WCA descriptors can readily pick up.

    1. Even for short-term conditions, when doctors sign people off work, it is to give them the space to heal and convalesce - not for them to be sent scurrying around in decreasing circles at the hands of Jobcentre and Work Programme bullies.

      Even animals will retreat into a corner, lick their wounds, become lethagic etc when sick or injured, so that their bodies can divert as much energy as possible into fighting invaders and repairing damaged tissues.

      UNUM Insurance's BPS Model of disability has reframed this needed downtime as "Sickness Behaviour" and claims it is purely psychological - but try putting a sick rat into a treadmill and see how fast it dies.

      WRAG is based on fundamental disability denial, in other words.

      The appropriate time for any gentle work related activity would be for the first year or so AFTER a sick person has been legitimately pronounced recovered and fit for work by the doctors treating them. In a humane system there would be a strong case not to throw potentially fragile individuals in at the deep end of Jobcentre abuse and bullying (which should not exist anyway), and there should be protections and a lack of pressure for at least a year - and indefinitely for those such as cancer survivors and anyone with a chronic condition.

      Workfare is an abomination and should never be inflicted on anyone ever - and certainly not those with a health condition or recently ill.

  47. stop coming from a position of faking until proven otherwise, recognise fluctuating conditions and their unpredictability, remember that we are real people all of whom are ill and do not need the stress of this process, just put a bit of humanity back into it all, make there phonelines available to explain the process, explain about what to expect at an assessment, remember you're dealing with people.

  48. A difficult one to answer.

    I think there is something in common with the issues about assessing mental health, fluctuating conditions and chronic conditions.

    If I get time, I'll try to do a brief review of the diagnostic techniques - and why a short structured interview cannot accurately identify these, or their impacts.

  49. to ensure people with disabilities who have actual first hand experience of living with various disabilities and what it's like to try and navigate the system are employed as government consultants/advisors.the money they currently spend could employ many disabled on a part time basis,who would not only offer better advice but also better value for money.

  50. I would say stop repeatedly assessing those people who have chronic,incurable illnesses.We are not going to get better ..EVER.Leaving us on benefit is not "writing us off" it is allowing us to have some security and peace of mind,knowing we can at least pay our bills and feed ourselves no matter what.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree with your comment
      I am absolutely terrified of being made destitute
      What angers me is the fact the criteria keep being changed which is an attempt to deny disability

    2. Hear, hear! Why, once someone has been awarded ESA, can they not send a simple letter once a year or so, asking:

      "Has there been a significant change in your condition? Yes/No.
      If 'Yes,' has your condition a) improved significantly or b) worsened significantly?
      (Delete as appropriate.)

      By 'improved significantly' we mean that in the opinion of your health-care team and yourself, you might be capable of starting to move towards employment.
      By 'worsened significantly' we mean that in the opinion of your health-care team and yourself, you might be in need of extra support.
      In either of these cases we might choose to send a questionnaire in order to establish whether you need more or less help from us. If there has been no change, we will write again in (x) months time. Please remember that you should always let us know if there is a significant change in your condition that is likely to last for more than (x) months.

      Please ask your GP (or another health-care professional who knows you well) to sign this statement as well as signing it yourself."

      That would save a fortune and high proportion of the stress and fear currently inflicted on claimants and their families/carers, as well as in the workload on those in the NHS who try to treat and care for us.

      Good luck in the meeting, Sue!

  51. The whole process should be referred to the local GP/NHS with appropriate remunerations. We did not need a second tier of the DWP, outside of the public sector (ATOS) taking billions outside of the public purse.

    1. All assessors should be qualified to assess the condition in front of them ie your own doctor or consultant. Medical evidence must be taken into account at the beginning of the process not the end . Mental function champions on the end of a phone that may or may not be contacted is simply not good enough in a modern welfare system. This denigrating of disabled and sick people in our country is inhuman ,unfair,immoral and unforgivable we are clearly not all in it together it seems the big society won't help you if your sick .

    2. That is exactly what a GP's standard sicknote already does.

      Sadly the entire Atos/WCA circus does not exist to 'prove' disability or detect (non-existent) fraud. It is there to strip people of their lawful entitlements, exactly like the fraudulent business practices of UNUM Insurance that it is based on.

  52. "Just one thing that might make the WCA process less harmful". That's tough, and one thing that Hoban might actually listen to, even tougher.

    I'll say redesign ESA50 so that it actually reflects the regulations, it is without doubt the single worst form of it's type I have ever seen. Good Luck!

  53. Also if he wants to pay a lower benefit award then he needs to get the sick and disabled a visa to a country where this may be possible a third world country where the costs of living and the renting or buying of a property are much cheaper

    This was my idea 10 years ago as i believe that this is the only true option available to the sick and disabled to avoid the constant persecution of the sick and disabled by the DWP which leads to their death

    I believe that this policy of mine still to be as valid today as when i first thought of it as i had ALREADY been persecuted by the DWP for many years leaving me to look like a skeleton and i knew then in 2003 that if i couldn't leave the country with the right credentials visa small benefit payment i would be persecuted till the day i died if i stayed in the UK and this for me has proved to be the case

    who needs Burma when your already living it. for me Burma would be a step up as I'm getting on at 60 and the weather's better then the UK and with the Burmese people of one of caring i could do quite well

    I do believe that the UK government should help in some way instead of just persecuting the sick and disabled hoping that that die in one way or another in like the case below in silence as this death was not posted on line in keeping with most local newspapers in the uk you have to buy the paper to report it

    another death reported today in the Crawley observer on page 4 in the name of lee Robinson who committed suicide after his ESA was stopped following long term unemployment

    also to remind him sue that
    September the(6th) the official day of remembrance for those that have died

    THOUSANDS of sick and disabled people have died or committed suicide due to the conservatives new reforms and attack on those who are vulnerable with their policies and negligence, atos' s negligence, lies and false reporting just to increase their profits and the dwp for taking part in target performance for reducing benefits.

    So at 8pm on Sept 6th each year those who can make it to a prominent place in their city, town or village to hold a candlelight vigil at 8pm (just after sunset) and at 8:20pm please take ONE MIN SILENCE to remember those who are now longer with us. and for those who cant make it out to one of these mass gatherings show your support by placing a single white candle in your front window.

    Please share this event and invite all you can It's time to remember those who should still be here!!!

    Meeting points so far

    Norwich - Forum (co organiser needed)
    Plymouth - City Centre by the big screen
    Cardiff - Bevan statue, Queen st (organisers needed)
    Bradford - Centenary Square/City Park (organisers needed)
    Liverpool - Mann Island Pier Head (organisers needed)
    Leicester - The Clock Tower (organisers needed)
    Barker's Pool, Sheffield -in front of City Hall (organisers needed)
    Portsmouth - ATOS offices,Commercial Road.
    Bradford - Centenary Square/City Park - (organisers needed)
    Northampton: All Saints Square - (organisers needed)
    Bristol - Job Centre- (organisers needed)

    and is he ATTENDING

  54. What would I say? Please make the decisions based on evidence from the doctors who actually know us and our conditions rather than using non-specialist and non-medically qualified assessors who don't even understand the conditions they are judging.

  55. Best of luck for the meeting, and here is my vote:

    END the deeply abusive situation recently highlighted by four disabled charities, where 45% of people with progressive conditions are being kicked into WRAG and even the Work Programme (my own situation with my Stage 3 Parkinsons exacerbating to Stage 4 under the stress!) with the DWP insisting that we will recover after a year.

    The situation arises because of the murdrous demand for 15 points on a single WCA descriptor to qualify for the Support Group - even when the total points scored are 50, 60, or more.

    There is also the direct discrimination against those with conditions such as parkinson's and MS, which involve a combination of physical and cognitive impairments, that the points due for one or the other are bizarrely disallowed.

  56. Almost 90% of the ESA50 forms that have been sent out throughout July and August DO NOT have any written statement on them informing the claimant that they can request their WCA to be recorded. NOTE * during the last debate re WCA, Mark Hoban MP stated that all ESA50's will be amended to inform the claimant that they can request their WCA to be recorded and the amount of recorded requests will be monitored throughout summer to see if it is a viable request*. Could you please bring this to the attention of Mark Hoban MP as a recorded WCA plays a very important role in making any WCA that little bit better for a claimant & that any collection of data in regards to numbers requesting a WCA to be recorded will be invalid due to claimants NOT being informed of such via the ESA50 !

  57. The Work Capability Assessment is flawed
    It is totally unacceptable for someone to be placed in the WRAG group for a mere 12 months and then left destitute if they have a partner who works
    Each person in the household should be financially independent

    1. Entry to the Support Group should be automatic for anyone who is: a)unfit to work and b) with a prognosis that they will not have recovered within 12 months. This is what the SG was intended for.

      In the case of WRAG-ers who are STILL disabled at 12 months, it is clear that they were INCORRECTLY ASSESSED at the start of the claim - so why are they not being automatically upgraded to the Support Group, and sent a backdated payment of the money underpaid to them?

      For the DWP to do anything else adds up to fraud.

  58. All you need to remember is that any concession you get will be shown by this government as validating the WCA as a good way of assessing peoples claims. Pragmatism is generally a phrase used by the weak as they sell other people out. Stand strong and give them nothing to appease them with. Just lay out our case for scrapping the WCA and having our GPs and consultants decide if we are fit to work or not. Achieving a small concession may look good on a CV but wont help stop the deaths.

  59. Some thoughts:

    In my opinion, the greatest threat to sick and disabled people in Britain is destitution. ("Destitution" is not a term used in DWP legislation and therefore it has not been defined in the context of social security, either in statute or case-law.) Yet I am receiving reports and coming across distressing news stories of U.K. citizens whom have been left penniless and destitute, either sanctioned or stripped outright of their benefits.

    It is therefore imperative that clause 99 be scrapped—or, at the very least, have a fixed timescale—as mandatory reconsideration puts claimants in 'decision limbo' and at a significant risk of destitution. Claimants should not be bereft of income pending appeal.

    For the sake of transparency, please urge the minister to release post-November 2011 mortality claimant statistics; see

    There are a number of people with long-term, incurable conditions who are being forced on repeated occasions to prove that they are not able to work, despite supplying medical evidence that indicates that their condition is permanent and will not improve.

    Benefit claimants who are seriously ill in hospital should not be hounded to get back to work.

    I know someone in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) with CMT 2J (charcot marie tooth variant 2j) which is an extremely rare progressive hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy. There is no possibility of him recovering. Why is he there?

    I firmly believe that sick and disabled claimants are 'parked' in the WRAG solely for the financial benefit of welfare providers.

    Recommend that aggressive benefit sanctioning be halted, along with workfare schemes.

    Sick and disabled benefit claimants shouldn't be the victims of a dispute between the GPs and the government—the consequences are too serious. (See

    Samuel Miller
    (Montreal, Canada)

    1. 100% agree clause 99 MUST go. If that is the only thing that can be achieved at this meeting then so be it.

      If people have no money coming in, whilst waiting for the reconsideration by DWP, their health will deteriorate (or worse, God forbid) and the susequent appeal (if required) will be so much more difficult for them.

      If the removal of clause 99 is not forthcoming then a time limit (weeks not months) MUST be placed on the reconsideration process.

  60. at the end of the day sue mark Hoban along with IDS will have to answer in the high court for all of the many hundreds of negligent deaths that have occurred during the welfare reform process just as the Syrian president will have to answer in the criminal courts for the using of chemical weapons against his people at some point

    death is death irrespective of the country or the circumstances if the government have played a part then all those responsible should be tried in a court for criminal negligence

    if the police kill someone or a hospital kill someone by negligence of care or duty they always have to stand trial for that offence and the government should not be treated any differently

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Nick, I agree strongly with the views you have expressed, and wish to inform you that the DWP is refusing to release information on post-November 2011 IB/ESA deaths. The department has confirmed that it "does hold information which could be used to analyse the mortality of benefit claimants after November 2011 but this has not been compiled”.

      On July 13, 2013 I requested an internal review; see for more information. is a book of possible interest.

    3. thanks Sam
      If he come round my house and saw me with my skeleton frame and the pain and the mental anguish i have had to endure over the past 33 years you could be sure that it would be game over for the government

      33 years of ongoing stress even today I'm not on ESA because of delays in getting transferred over from IB and that's if I'm lucky

      forget nelson Mandela or Aung San Suu Kyi sure they did time but came out world heroes where as i will come out unknown and in a wooden box

      like sue here i fight on and just pray that i get called by a judge AT SOME POINT to give my 33 years of experiences at the hands of the DWP

      And while I'm at it i would like a big thank you to all those that have helped me with kind words over the past few years which as always is very much appreciated

    4. and also Sam the DWP wont release any more death figures as with the last updates here

      would prove that the sick and disabled are at even more at risk of dying at the hands of the DWP then first thought

      When is it all going to end that's the main question as many who like me are fighting their will be many many more who wont have the mental capacity to carry on no normal person could keep talking about the DWP day in day out without committing suicide hence why so many do and we have to all remember that

      we here are strong but we are a minority the majority of the sick and disabled will give up as to expect these people to do battle with the DWP year in year out like myself would be madness

      At least i have a mental condition brought on by the DWP so i more then anyone know the pitfalls of battling the DWP hence the reason so many have died

  61. Good luck with the meeting and thank you for all the work you do.
    Here are my thoughts….

    Re word the ESA 50 to take fully into account the way fluctuating illnesses affect individual people. The Support group criteria is too rigid and narrow in the way it determines who is to be included. What happened to Lord Freud’s comments “it must be possible for all descriptors to be completed reliability, repeatedly and safely, otherwise the individual is considered unable to complete the activity.”

    I was recently transferred from Incapacity benefit to WRAG without a medical although I have just attended 11 hospital appointments over the last 2 months for various long-term health conditions. I have the full support of my Gp who filled in the ESA113, but it would appear her evidence was not given any credibility and completely ignored. I am now in the process of appealing. The added stress of this does nothing to help ones health and wellbeing and if it wasn’t for support of family it would be too big a burden too bear.

    Give more weight to the evidence supplied by GPs and Consultants, they know us best, not some tick box computer system or people with limited training of our health conditions.

    I could go on but appreciate you have a limited time to speak. I have no problem with people being assessed for benefit but let’s do it with integrity, not as a profit making exercise.

  62. also to remind him sue of the human rights that have not been upheld take me for an example when i look like a skeleton and just holding on although many have died around me and all of us here know of someone who has died

    Article 1.
    All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

    ^ Top
    Article 2.
    Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

    ^ Top
    Article 3.
    Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

    ^ Top
    Article 4.
    No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

    ^ Top
    Article 5.
    No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

    ^ Top
    Article 6.
    Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

    ^ Top
    Article 7.
    All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

    ^ Top
    Article 8.
    Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

    ^ Top
    Article 9.
    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

    ^ Top
    Article 10.
    Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

    ^ Top
    Article 11.
    (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
    (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

    ^ Top
    Article 12.
    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

    ^ Top
    Article 13.
    (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
    (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

    ^ Top
    Article 14.
    (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
    (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

    ^ Top
    Article 15.
    (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
    (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

    please see the full listing

  63. How do you sleep at nights would not only be a question for Mr Hoban it would be a question for certain mp's from all parties.Let us not forget freud was working for the labour party too.

  64. Designate certain chronic, degenerative and fatal conditions, as diagnosed by a medical professional, as not requiring assessment. It is a massive waste of money to continue putting these people through assessments, as well as cruel. If they won't care about people, maybe they ought to at least act in terms of money and manpower.

  65. To my great surprise my own WCA was handled really well & I think how they all should be done. For a start the doctor was good, knew my condition (Fibromyalgia), he did not use the LIMA system & hand wrote my report which was very good, fair & accurate bar the mobility element, & said he'd not be giving me a physical as I had Fibromyalgia & therefore not required so I assume that he was putting the Harrington recommendations in practice. Not only was he very sympathetic but also made it crystal clear that he believed me. However he couldn't give me 15 points for any one element so gave me 18 months WRAG which can't place me in a work programme as I'm just not well enough - said I should appeal & should be in the support group but had already asked for reconsideration & still couldn't get my 15 points - mobility is the issue. No one could read my report & conclude that I should not be in the support group so I would ask Mr Hoban to eliminate the 20 metre mobility restriction and put people in the appropriate group. If you would find it useful I'd be happy to supply my report to you & you could show that to Mr Hoban & see what group he thinks would be the right one for me. Of course lots & lots more questions I'd ask, like the one year ESA restriction, those who have an earning partner having their benefit taken away, definitely remove the LIMA system, definitely stop the quota targets which are patently influencing the doctor's conclusion - mine says unlikely to recover in the short to medium term particularly because of the length of time I'd had the illness but still he couldn't put me in the support group. I think everyone else has covered all the other issues. I am serious about supplying my report & response from DWP after reconsideration so please tweet me @ sillybugs55 if that would be helpful. I know you'll have it all covered Sue, you always do so good luck & no need to say don't take any shit from him because I know you won't. Well done you for managing to get this meeting together & I'll keep everything crossed it goes well.

  66. The DWP send out an ESA72 that clearly states they will contact the claimant again after the date they put on the form unless they receive information to say otherwise, ATOS send out the next ESA50 2 months before that date why are the DWP allowed to break what it says on the ESA72 without showing they have received information of a change.
    The excuse the DWP give of it been so they can have a assessment arranged for around the date on the ESA72 is just harassment of sick and disabled people in my opinion. I sent my last one back blank to ATOS with a copy of the ESA72 and a letter of complaint, then waited 3 days before emailing the DWP with a complaint and the ESA72 and copy of the letter sent to ATOS with the ESA50, that's when I got their excuse of to give them time to send out the ESA113 and arrange the assessment if needed.

  67. My message is why won't they do a cumulative impact of all the changes on disabled people and carers? Do they know that the report would find that they are breaking all the human rights that we have?
    Why do we have to have Atos, or any kind of "company" being awarded millions and millions of pounds when our NHS could be paid that money to run their hospitals and could also pass us fit for work, fit for some kind of work, fit for a little work or not fit for work full stop!!!
    I'd also ask why him and the likes of him are going to carry on breaking a law against discrimination towards us!
    Oh yes, do they get a kick out of each death that they contribute to? They sure seem to!

  68. Hi Sue,
    Agree with nearly all that's been said already, but if I could choose 3 asks it would be:
    1) To pay ESA at assessment rate during a DWP reconsideration, which could take months. Too many sick people having to appeal a fit to work decision will be too sick to get to a Jobcentre regularly to sign on for JSA. This is a catastrophe waiting to happen.
    2)Get medical evidence from claimant's own HCP for each claim, and pay the GP/consultant a fee for it. This is system agreed for PIP, I believe. Currently some GPs are Just Saying No to providing reports upaid and DWP then blames the claimant for the flawed assessment that results.
    3) If a claimant is placed in the WRAG there must be a clear rationale for either a) medical prognosis of likely short-term recovery or b) identification of support needs as well as having some work capability so that the WCA is integrated with specialist disability employment support.

    Good luck with the meeting.

  69. Simple improvements to make to the WCA:

    1) Drop the imaginary wheelchair test (it's ridiculous that double amputees can get no points for mobility).
    2) Stop docking points from amputees who can lift an empty box with their stumps.
    3) Stop penalising people just for turning up to the assessment.
    4) Reduce the number of assessments done in one day like Harrington (and Meacher) recommended.

  70. Firstly, Good luck and thank you for everything you do. Secondly, I would recommend that the WCA was scrapped all together and replaced by a proper medical performed by the NHS. It is madness to access sick people and ignore their illness, and why say to bring all medical evidence and then ignore it completely ? Would you also please remind Mr Holborn that sick and disabled people and their carers and families have the vote and I for one can"t wait to use it in 2015.

  71. You could ask him:

    1. What on earth is the point of repeated assessments of people who are CLEARLY not going to get better.

    2. What is the point of reassessing someone shortly after they have won an appeal?

    3. If he can imagine what it is like struggling to come to terms with a serious illness/disability that has robbed you of so many of the things the well take for granted, and then having ATOS harrassment, or the fear of being left without support on top of that?

    4. How many people found fit for work have actually found real jobs, given that most employers are extremely unlikely to want to employ them?

  72. I posted this above as a reply to someone else, so I am posting it again.
    My son is 22 and has Aspergers and gets no help or support at all. He has DLA at the moment and was awarded it indefinitely too. I too dread the day of him claiming PIP. I would have to fill it in for him as I am his appointee. I have no idea whether that still applies with PIP. All doctors/ CAMHS/CMHT left when his statement of special educational needs ended. He was taught at home after a 'breakdown' at school. He could no longer cope in a school environment. That same year he was diagnosed at 14 years old with ASD Asperger's. He ended up with 2 Home and Hospital tutors. But they taught him from behind his bedroom door for 5 1/2 YEARS, because he could not cope with face to face interaction. But when his statement ended at 19, everyone disappeared. He rarely sees any doctor/GP, no one knows him or wants to know him. He managed to pass some exams at home. He wants to continue education and as a disabled person he should have been able to do that. But the Connexions advice was hopeless and funding has been cut. He could not cope in a work environment. I have tried to get people to understand his complex condition, but no one understands, not even the autistic teams. I am 62 and his mother, we are alone and I have mental health problems/anxiety/arthritis and I have difficulty in getting out. I am also on DLA and have a indefinite award. I/we dread PIP and UC. There is no way I could put my son through an assessment medical. I went to an ATOS medical myself 2 years ago, and it was hell on earth. I had an welfare rights officers with me from RETHINK, who was appalled at how the ATOS person spoke to me. I got through, but only just. I know my son would have another breakdown. Please ask what they would do with my autistic son.

  73. Having read all the comments I agree 1 thing is so hard to pick out of such a trifle of disaster - but I have had to settle for the fact that NO ONE should ever be left £ penniless for daring to speak so it has to be reinstatement of benefit whilst awaiting appeal

    All best for the meeting

  74. It has probably been said already (not had chance to read every comment) but WHY REPEATED ASSESSMENTS? This is so hugely emotionally and physically damaging to people. Also WILL HE ACKNOWLEDGE THAT SOME CONDITIONS WILL NOT IMPROVE? Which ties in with point one really.
    Best of luck Sue, I dislike Hoban intensely, I don't believe he has any understanding of sickness and disability at all, but if you can get something out of him, it would give us hope, and might just save someone from the holocaust that is the WCA.

  75. Another idea has occurred to me that I haven't seen proposed before:-

    If people really must be reassessed, the reassessment should be required to begin from the starting position of the points they already have. Any points taken away from that must be clearly explained with the precise nature of the change identified. This should help stop 'no problems in this area' - 0 points when it clearly isn't credible.

  76. It's a disgrace Meacher is giving you any time whatsoever. You do not speak for the majority of disabled people or carers. You have no right to put forward a personal view of things and you certainly have no right to profit personally in any way.

    The meeting will be as big a sham as anything the coalition has been involved in.

  77. They need to request and scrutinise a diagnosis from the gp, and any tests or consultant reports that have been used to confirm this.This will allow then for the "genuine" disabled as they put it to be spared the agony of being tormented. This would surley cost them less money on all the appeals from this group, and give them an understanding to tackle the other groups with limitations.

  78. Hi Sue,

    I agree with a lot of the points raised here and I'll try to keep my own point as concise as I can. I would ask that you take Mr Hoban to task over the wording of the descriptors which are often open to misinterpretation and as such bear no relation to whether a person's health conditions could allow them to work or not.

    I (thankfully) haven't had to attend a physical Atos medical for the last 2 years due to the severity of my mental conditions (severe social phobia/agoraphobia/anxiety disorder), however the DWP placed me in the WRAG last year, only "changing their decision" 5 months after I began the appeal process to put me into the Support Group, where I should have been from the start.

    I believe the initial incorrect decision was wholly due to the wording of the descriptors in the mental health sections of the WCA form, which makes it almost impossible to meet the criteria for the Support Group despite the severity and complexity of my mental illnesses making it impossible for me to work, to attend the job centre or indeed fill out any of the tasks required by the WRAG.

    For example: Part 2/16a one which relates to my own MH issues: "Engagement in social contact is always precluded due to difficulty relating to others or significant distress experienced by the individual" (15).

    “Always Precluded” could mean that ANY form of social contact, even contact with my family, my partner or GP could be construed as “engagement in social contact”, despite the fact that I can barely leave the house unless accompanied by my partner and due to severe anxiety/paranoia have to heavily pre-plan any face-to-face or telephone contact with strangers and usually those known to me too.

    How on earth could I feasibly meet the conditions of the WRAG, ie, attend the jobcentre and do job-oriented tasks under these circumstances? Last year it took them 5 months to re-examine their decision – a process which was supposed to take 9 weeks. In those months the pressure exerted on me by the Jobcentre to attend made me so ill with anxiety I developed additional physical long-term health problems. They were loathe to pay a home visit and even one the one occasion that happened my partner had to take the day off work to sit through it with me.

    I really hope you can bring about some positive change to the WCA form and process and thank you for all your work on this.

  79. I am going to have to echo others.

    The worst bit of the whole process NOW is leaving people with no money while they appeal. Considering the DWP can take thier sweet time in thier review, that means they now have the ability to sit on a case until the claiment gives up and closes the claim. We all know this will happen. They will starve the sick and disabled into submission.

    We all know that ATOS is not fit for purpose. They are not there to 'weed out scroungers' but to reduce the number on benefits. Just like the Jobcenter is. The whole process is bad. But now they have made it much worse with the new rules.

    We have been through this process times already with my husbands claim. Each time we always asked the DWP to look again at the decision, and it was ALWAYS a swift no. I dontbelieve they even looked at the decision again, just auto declined it. Now they want to give them the power to do this with no time scale? We all know they will say no. What we dont know is how long it will take them to do so, and in the mean time we will be left to starve.

    So I believe the most important point to make here is to have this removed. That will enable us to continue to fight decisions as we have before. After that is removed, we can then go on to fight the whole process. This is the one block that has the power to knock the fight out of every single claiment who needs to appeal.

  80. I have secondary progressive ms and get cESA £62 a week because I have an early retirement pension £162 a week and recently was awarded high rate care.

    Under incapacity benefit I would have received full benefit with no deductions because of high rate care due to Pension income rule of £85 per week. This rule is abolished in ESA and no body seems to be kicking up a fuss it is a huge loss. I think it s prob similar when they scrap SDP. A loss to those withe greatest need in society and a loss to local council who calculate in to weekly care package.......I cn t afford one at£56 a week!

    Also my husband has a long term condition and was put in WRAG group as we know learnt he scored 15 points. After 12 months he got nothing but NI credits so we applied for him to get Carers allowance ( a small sum of money) . Upon reassessment was awarded 0 points even though nothing has changed and submission of medical evidence on the day. So appealing but still on cares allowance.

    We could not get ESA income related because of my pension nor any discount in council tax. We are not eligible for DFG as have to pay first £12000 about £10000 is needed.

    I pay £52 a month tax and all nhs cost teeth etc as not eligible for that either.

    If I go into hospital for 4 weeks I lose DLA and my hubby loses Carers allowance. I don t know what happens then because my pension income is slightly above £7500.

    I m worried to death and hear lots of similar stories?

    The conclusion to all this if we have truth full assessment and not fabrications my husband would be in support group in his own right.

    Also please can you ask Why they abolished £85 pension income rule that was in IB.
    I have followed this and labour were never going to?

    That's a question I would ask and have asked if it will be reinstated in PIP it won't.

  81. Thanks sue for all you do.
    I like to stay quiet because I completely overwhelmed all the time and am scared my neurologist recently astounded by all this and said what can I do and to carry on with anti depressants as I ll need em. So I have support at end of phone there.
    Every thing I write is not very clear but all true.

    We need to be protecting our children coming up and without you and others blogging campaigning else is it done! Mr Hoban listen as ESA assessments are a sham making people destitute.
    Thank you again.

  82. Why is there only 4 weeks to fill out such a complicated form when you are sick? The questions are ambiguous at best. And why does Atos say there can not be an extension to fill it in when DWP says there can be. And why are Atos so rude when you ring them up with a question? I have experienced this and so has a friend.

    Why do they insist on reassessing people which chronis and degenerative conditions so regularly? It is a waste of taxpayers money.

  83. The main issue for me when claiming ESA was the assumption that I could travel for an assessment (and the first time I was supposed to go, it wasn't even a disabled-friendly building and I am wheelchair-bound when out). It took my doctor three attempts for them to accept that I couldn't get to an assessment, and they only cancelled it the day before I was expected to go. I am certain that if I wasn't that lucky, I would either have had to destroy my health for months by attending, or have my application scrapped.

  84. One of the factors at base of the maladaptive WCA is the government's use of the 'biopsychosocial' model of disability (Mansel's influence). I think one of our campaigns should strongly focus on persuading them to adopt the use of the 'social' model in line with the whole of our disabled people's UK community.

  85. If possible, urge the DWP to end its use of premium rate phone lines. See … and

    Good luck with the meeting!

    Samuel Miller
    (Montreal, Canada)

    1. the government have kindly set up a freephone number for their "benefit fraud hotline", 0800 854 440. just dial it, press any key twice to speak to someone and then ask to be transferred to whatever department you want...

  86. Well good luck with this, but you don't seriously think that Mark Hoban is going to answer any of your questions, do you?

    He will just sit back, smirk at you, and then read out several pre-prepared statements along the lines of:

    "the work capability assessment is constantly being improved",

    "we inherited the current system from the previous labour government who are ultimately to blame for any failings",

    "the previous system condemned thousands of people to a life of welfare dependency in which they went unchecked for years and years and were never given the opportunity to return to work",

    "any criticism of Atos is ultimately down to unfounded media hype and urban myths".

    Hoban doesn't give a shit about any of this, no matter what happens he still gets his £70,000 salary and his silk cushions and chrome shower racks on expenses...

  87. We should not have to live our lives in fear of being reassed, when it is clear from our own doctors that our illness is long term and will not get better. Atos it is clear is motivated by profit engineered by this government to knock as many ill and disable people as possible of their much neede benefits, which we need to live a half normal life. Living in pain and enduring a life long condition is bad enough without feeling you are a scrounger especially when you worked and paid your taxes until illness struck.

  88. indeed kathryn
    why should we live inn constant fear when the likes of myself look like a prisoner of war for the past 33 years. don't you think that i could do with some respite ? tell him sue and see what he has to say on the matter. tell him would he like to come round my house and see for himself ?

    Or do i for what's left of my life have to live in daily fear ?

  89. oh and one further thing tell him sue to read this blog so that he knows on what's going on and not to act the fool by saying what blog i know of no blogs or deaths

    the German government are now prosecuting justice officials have said 30 former Auschwitz death camp guards should face prosecution for crimes committed during world war 2

    better late then never

    all these DWP /ATOS deaths tell him will never go away they will haunt all those involved for the rest of their lives tell him

  90. There is also the bigger picture of how the abuse of the disabled fits into the Coalition's #slavebritain ethos.

    * There are the Gov't attempts to block working people from obtaining sicknotes. Yet appropriate sick leave prevents workplace epidemics and often nips long-term disability in the bud by allowing minor conditions to heal rather than exacerbate.

    * #UniversalCredit will force those on low incomes to take on overtime, extra jobs and even workfare, with no time allowed for rest or leisure. As well as shattering families, this will devastate the health of those concerned, driving many into chronic disability.

    * The #pensionsnatch. Figures from ageuk suggest that 1 in 6 ppl at 60 have a progressive condition, rising to 1 in 3 at age 65. Older people also have increased risk of heart attack, stroke and other severe reactions to stresses, including in the workplace.

    Yet WRAG now seems to be crammed with those being denied their pensions after decades of NI contributions. There is no hope of jobs for these chronically sick individuals - why are pensions not being reinstated rather than hounding them into early graves?

    * Teenagers. Unemployment may appear to drop for the rest of this year, because 16 year-olds are being detained in the education system. One reason why there is no room for them in the jobs market is because of the bottleneck of 60 year-olds not being allowed to retire.

    Oh but wait - most teens won't be doing A-levels or apprenticeships - it seems that the same firms declining to recruit paid staff are still finding unpaid forced labour 'work experience' places for the young.

    Since the coalition government views the public not even as slaves, but as "stock", they would do well to read 'Black Beauty'. But there again they see us all as battery hens, not prospective racehorses.

  91. oh and another thing that keeps haunting me is that when mark was speaking in the commons he said that only 5 per cent would be affected by a bad decision what was the context of this

    did he mean that only 5 percent of the sick and disabled will die as a result of these mew measures or did he mean that just 5 percent have been appealing

    sue has a better angle on maths then i do and would know first hand how many sick and disabled are in the country claiming benefits

    on 1 million sick and disabled 5 percent equals 50000 thousand deaths or appeals

    we have to date the death figure which is not up to date of around 10000 deaths and rising

    you could add at least a thousand more that have died since this last report

    and lastly is he going to any of the memorials for the deceased like for all those that died in the twin towers on 9/11 tell him that's what normal people do when so much life has been lost

    tell him also that more life's long term could be lost and we will be up with the Syrian figures of life's lost at around 100,000 by the time the DWP are finished with their work

    or has mark got plans to keep the deaths down and what are they ? as we would all love to know i know my wife would

  92. How demeaning it is to explain to strangers that one is incapable of all aspects of self care! And now we're required to go through this utter embarrassment again and again. I can't do it. All my life I've pretended and dissembles because of my shame. And I'm sure I'm not the only person who cannot bring themselves to admit what life's really like.

  93. When I completed the ESA50 I had to do a lot of online research just to try and understand what the questions were actually asking me, and how they related to my condition. If you were filling it in for the first time you wouldn't know that you were being scored on points. (Points are not the way to determine barriers to work and real life difficulties that won't get picked up by the assessment) How Atos interpret your answers is not transparent and needs investigation I feel. An agoraphobic who finds shopping in a supermarket unsupported impossible but can run in and out of a small local shop with the car parked right outside will score zero points on the 'going out' descriptor. Imagine then being told to attend a work placement in a supermarket! Violent or disruptive behaviour acceptable on some days but not every day? Can't leave the house without support but fit to do work related activity? Where's the logic? It's upto the Atos HCP and decision maker to decide if you will be harmed from work related activity but you don't score points even when it's clear that you would be. The criteria for the support group is far too narrow.

    Atos and future private contracts should be scrapped and the assessments brought back under the control of state employed medical professionals, doctors and pyschaistrists. They ought to be allowed to use their training and years of applied expertise and judgement fairly and professionally, to assess at the individual as a whole person. Frankly it's impossible to pick out one thing. The assessment is rotten through and through. It should be scrapped.

  94. Dwp classification for declaring a person unfit to work is "if a person has a terminal illness/physical/mental impairment/ contagious disease and who is under medical treatment" according to the social security act 1972 which has not been ammened or revoked. All disabled and sick people are under medical treatment thereby we have medical evidence to support so we do not need to be constantly be assessed by atos/dwp/pip etc. Good luck in your meeting hope he shows up and doesnt send an alternative mcvey in his place.

  95. Something else I would like to mention to Mr Hoban is the stopping of your money when you appeal. What the thinking behind this is I can't imagine and the fact that you have to gather your own medical evidence and pay for it, how do they expect ill people to do this. ? We have a wonderful and supportive GP, I dread to think where we would be without him. Some people are not so lucky.

  96. I wonder if Mr Hoban would fill out a ESA50 questionnaire and attend a WCA.
    He can choose illness, long term condition, disability or even a terminal diagnosis and go through the motions of filling form out for him self or a loved one.
    Pure emotional pain of this is cruel beyond belief.......if not i think the presentation of one so he can physically hold it surely must prick his conscience somewhere!
    Lets hope he realises it is wrong to treat people like this.

  97. Some disabilities fluctuate. I don't know if I can put my socks on one day. I don't know how many time I fall etc. it's like asking how much water are you going to drink a week on Tuesday... !

    LISTEN and take account of what our doctors say. And reverse the designs. disabled until proven otherwise. We should have to prove our disabilities. We have enough to be getting on with!

    Good luck with the meeting . He's not going to know what hit him!!!
    Friday @

  98. One thing the government doesn't have is a heart, so it will be hard to instigate a change based on Mark Hobans feelings. This is probably as bad a government as Great Britain has ever had in every way, so the welfare/ care/ support of disabled people were always under some threat, but even considering the facts, it is obvious that DWP, Atos, Wrag, ESA, PIP, etc, are all unfairly contributing towards an immoral, unethically direct attack on disability related issues in Great Britain, which is totally unforgivable and unacceptable. I wish that everyone who has commented here could accompany Sue into her meeting. At least Sue knows she has so much support, that everything she says will be the voice of millions and that is infinitely more powerful than anything Mark Hoban will have to offer. Really hope Sue can make a change begin, one that takes the pain out of everyday life for every disabled person in Great Britain and even the world. X

  99. Dear Sue

    With your consent a vote was undertaken on your sugested approach of seeking reform with Mark Hoban of the WCA in your meeting or an Option 2 of not seeking reform and telling Mark Hoban that the WCA should be scrapped, and why, and that this is not a matter of reform as our GPs and consultants are capable of understanding if we are fit for work or not, so a WCA is a humiliating waste of tax payer money.

    The vote consisting of more than 100 disabled people resultd in only 19% wishing to seek reform of the WCA from the Mark Hoban meeting. The other 81% voted for option 2 which is to make the case for scrapping WCA altogether and not discuss reforms.

    Before the vote commenced you agreed in the outcome of a strong preference such as this to adopt option two and not seek any reform of WCA but just put forward the case for its abolition.

    Please confirm you will do as you agreed.

    1. The vote that was set up enabled people to vote more than once. If it was 1,000 people it still would not be enough to claim any sort of concensus. Sue did not agree to abide by this vote, she said she would take it on board as an opinion, just like the many other opinions on her two posts on the matter. Whether you like it or not, many people want changes made now. Read the comments on the two posts and stop trying to harass Sue into taking your position. Everybody's opinion is valid, yours is just one of many.

  100. I would ask Hoban and his government to come clean and stop pretending that the welfare changes along with cuts in services are anything other than a politically and ideologically driven means of making disabled people pay for a financial crisis they didn't create.
    I would point out that members of his own party are now owning up to this as Charles Walker MP, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on mental health, did yesterday. In response to a letter asking him to speak up about the effects of welfare changes, he wrote: " It would be extremely welcome if this Country could have continued as before but to do so would have bankrupted us. The consequences of financial meltdown in Greece mean that many mental health wards have been closed, psychiatric doctors and nurses have been laid off and patients are bound/tied to their beds. This is a fate that had to be avoided at all costs".
    Of course, even though the mental health system is in meltdown, we are unlikely to see patients tied to beds in the UK as there are now no spare inpatient beds to tie people to.
    I would also ask Hoban to come clean on how many deaths the government has calculated will result from its policies on welfare and health and social care and if it has a number that even it would feel was too many?

  101. We’re really unclear on what is happening here- Sue you are going to meet Hoban and claiming to represent 'vulnerable' disabled people, as you like to say-is this correct? We are astonished at your lack of understanding on this whole area re WCA e.g. no mention of medical documentation support, number of deaths under this system, sanctions, legal cases that have been brought forward etc. You also consistently take a medical model approach to everything as well as claim expert status in speaking for disabled people. Although we are pleased that Phillip Jones strongly urged you to put out the survey which at least gives disabled people a say, but only those who read your blog…
    We and many others are surprised and saddened that you have not sought any contact with either DPAC or Black Triangle who have been working on this whole area for a number of years, Black Triangle especially are making great inroads into radical alternatives on this horrendous test –How you can still claim that tinkering with the WCA is the right option , we have no idea -you also claim to support both DPAC and Black Triangle but we can no longer really believe this unfortunately-have you been totally unaware of the calls to scrap this and the many protests against this? This comment will be posted on the DPAC site should it fail to pass moderation, DPAC and Black Triangle

    1. You seem to have no idea what people are suffering, they need change and they need it now. The WCA is awful but it's here and I can't see the government abolishing it any time soon. In my opinion any changes that can help people now are worth fighting for. Read the comments on Sue's two articles on this subject about the changes people want. I hope you post this on the DPAC site too, many people have a different opinion to yours and it is no less valid.

    2. I also see you say 'disabled' people. Sue is also speaking for 'sick' people and uses the term sick/disabled. There are many people with chronic illnesses that need changes now.

    3. I don't understand what is happening here, and this division greatly concerns me. I've read the post on your blog and some of the attitudes displayed in the comments are deeply troubling. I am a great supporter of DPAC and indeed all campaigners. I think it's great what people like you are doing, but this division is senseless and utterly self defeating; why could you not have posted your view here, just as you are posting now? I don't understand how you have been excluded?

      Please resolve this, it is heartbreaking when we lose even our solidarity. Don't let the tories take that from us.

  102. Scrap the WCA and call for the immediate resignation of Mark Hoban, Esther McVey and of course IDS. David Freud should be removed from the Lords and have his peerage revoked.

    I frankly don't care how difficult some of this is, anything less and we compromise ourselves fatally and utterly. There can be no 'realpolitik'. We demand what is just and what is necessary, nothing else. It is obvious the tories dont' care and it is obvious they are intent on wrecking the lives of people. So we fight back, whatever it takes. No talking shops/people's assemblies, no pussyfooting around. Strike, withdraw, civil disobedience (no violence). It is the only way.

    1. Ghost Whistler is right Mark Hoban, Esther McVey IDS.David Freud are very deeply floored people in so many ways and in reality could never never be taken seriously with so many sick and disabled people having died a negligent death

      The only long term outcome in my summing up is that they will continue on the path there on and many more sick and disabled will die and in all reality only the police long term will be able to stop them and i cant see any other way as i do not believe there is any other way and every one i have consulted outside of the UK on the international scene fully agrees with me

    2. I'm also deeply saddened to see the division breaking out between activists/groups. I don't know any of the people involved other than by reading blogs like this. But we must have solidarity otherwise we lose. Arguing amongst ourselves just gives the tories everything they want.

      I firmly believe that the only goal must be the removal of the WCA. I've no doubt Hoban won't even countenance such an idea, but then he won't agree to anything. Remember, these people are removing ESA during the 'mandatory reconsideration phase', which has no time limit. How do you agree to a compromise against people as unreasonable as that? They have set their standard so far right of centre that any compromise is still going to be in their favour.

      My concern is that compromise will just be the start, unwittingly of course, of being manipulated into capitulation. I'm sure they could toss out a few meaningless sops and then be seen as reasionable. Unless and until the entire system changes we have everything to lose.

      But this division must be resolved. Without the solidarity amongst those that have been set against this awful government we have nothing to fight for.

  103. Sue, Despite Phillip's claims, I can clearly see from reading the comments on your two posts that people are crying out for changes to the WCA, I know any change that would help sick/disabled people would be welcomed by many, including myself.

  104. Sue, I would also like to say that I am shocked and horrifed to see the way people are trying to shut down others opinions and insist that their way is the only way. I never imagined that I would see disabled groups attacking somebody for trying to help people. Their intransigence astounds me. I hope you know that you have plenty of support for your views and many people wishing you well for the this meeting.

  105. Please petition Hoban for the end of workfare and the Work Programme in WRAG.

    My own referral to workfare came just weeks after I suffered a suspected heart attack in my local Jobcentre during a mandatory work focussed interrogation. My plight was noticed by a supervisor (the so-called disability advisor had steadfastly ignored my insistent attempts to tell her I was feeling ill). The supervisor could not hustle me out of the building fast enough. I was not offered an ambulance, or even a glass of water, and it seemed that their only concern was to avoid having a death on the premises.

    This leaves me seriously wondering whether a large part of the agenda of WRAG/Workfare might not be to shunt off some of the sickest, passing the buck to Work Programme providers in case the stress kills us.


    With recent ESA death statistics now being suppressed, this may be one of the issues being covered up.

  106. admin that's a dreadful experience but all to common

    if labour's Liam Byrne confronted IDS with the REAL facts about this type of treatment and all of the facts about the dead IDS would be stumped and unable to speak

    he has failed to do so so must be of the same opinion as IDS and mark hoban that it's OK to kill and have the DWP abuse at will the sick and disabled as there can be no other reason for Liam Byrne stand off when up against IDS etc

    If i were a mp sue wouldn't even need this blog in the first place so yes people matter and can make a difference all the public have to do and that's go out and find a decent person to run the country

    sounds very simple to me because it is there's hundreds of people like me all over the country that have in the past done a great job and even today there are many people in society that do a great job many even do it for free so don't anyone say it cant be done because if the people are willing and will only vote for the very best there is then anythings possible

    people like IDS and mark are just life's failures who have managed to sweet talk themselves into power that's all any fool could do that and many have done so David Cameron the list is long

    There not fit for work and only fit to talk and because they have money that's the only job they can do it's just a pity that they now pray on the weak but like all things in life god has the last word and that's always been the case

  107. Like you, I think the whole ESA system should be scrapped - the 'descriptors' are far too rigid and inflexible, and don't adequately cover variable conditions.

    However, it we were to limit changing the ESA system to just one change, it would have to be getting rid of ATOS! They are beyond hopeless.....I volunteer as a welfare rights worker, which involves supporting people through the WCA process. It seems like only the most obviously ill people get passed by ATOS. The rest score no points (including, for example, a gentleman with unstable bipolar disorder who swings between suicidal levels of depression and mania where he has absolutely no regard for his safety or the safety of others). Typically the ESA decision maker just rubberstamps the ATOS recommendation.

    They then have to wait, and wait and wait some more (typically almost a year) for the review and appeals process to work through, before they finally get a tribunal hearing which overturns the original decision. (In the case mentioned, the tribunal put him in the Support Group).

    Very very stressful and worrying for claimants. The actual ATOS medical assessment can be very upsetting, as claimants can feel as though what they're telling the examiner is totally disregarded.

    Please - if only one thing can be changed, get rid of ATOS assessments and go back to letting GP's, who know their patients very well indeed, provide evidence to the DWP for ESA entitlement. Under the current system, when a case goes to appeal, often GP's at that point find themselves providing evidence to support the cut out the ATOS middleman and let GP's support the original application please.