Tuesday, 14 January 2014

DWP Limbo

Ahh, the DWP outdoes itself again. They have now stooped so pathetically low, they might as well take up limbo dancing. They'd be unbeatable.

Yesterday on social media, a Facebook post started to circulate. Whilst I haven't yet been able to track down the boyfriend who wrote the post, in my now very great experience (too, too great), people tend not to make up ESA stories about things like Ewing's Sarcoma and share it in an official DWP format.

"My girlfirend has Ewing's Sarcoma (a rare bone cancer) and according to the DWP she cannot claim for employment and support allowance [previously incapacity benefit] because she "contributed to her medical condition"...." https://twitter.com/Avitusparta/status/422029617403162624/photo/1

Ewing's Sarcoma is almost exclusively a childhood bone cancer, so no point getting all judgemental that she may have smoked or eaten her way to such dramatic ill-health.
"There has been a lot of research into possible causes of Ewing's sarcoma but the exact cause remains unknown....There are no known risk factors that people are born with (hereditary factors) that cause Ewing's sarcoma." http://bcrt.org.uk/bci_causes_of_ewings_sarcoma.php
Having discussed this with some of the UKs finest social security experts last night, we could only think of 3 possible explanations :

1) It's a typical DWP cock-up. Nothing sinister, no conspiracy at all, just their usual ability to get 100% of everything wrong.

2) There is more to the story than we know.

3) The "girlfriend" is the first victim I've heard of from this : http://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/esasos.html?m=1

Way back in the beginning of last year (2013) the Spartacus report "ESASOS" warned, that the DWP were sneaking through some changes, unscrutinised by parliament. They insisted on calling them "minor" but we thought they were very serious changes indeed. ttp://diaryofabenefitscrounger.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/esasos.html?m=1

Effectively, it gave the DWP the right to refuse subsistence support to sick and disabled people in the UK if - in their opinion - the claimant has somehow hindered their own recovery or not accepted treatments

Benefits could be removed for failing to take certain medical treatments, even if a consultant decided for some reason that they were inappropriate.
"Soon, thousands more people could be judged as fit to work, without being consulted, on the basis of an “imaginary” aid they don’t own or may not even be able to use! The infamous "imaginary wheelchair test".
It gets worse. Even if returning to work may clearly put you at risk, these changes will mean you can still lose  disability support, as long as the assessor believes that trying a new therapy or treatment might reduce that risk. Whether you try it or. Confused? No, it really is as ridiculous as you think, it's not just you.

As chris Fry, a legal experts with Unity Law pointed out at the time 

"How individuals are assessed to receive ESA could give rise to large numbers of legal claims being made against them. These changes immediately put the UK government at risk of breaching article 9 of the European Convention for the protection of Human Rights, which preserves an individual’s right to ‘thought, conscience and religion’. The new rules provide for an individual to be refused ESA if they do not take any medication or accept an aid which DWP believe could aid their condition. For example, they can now impose a financial penalty on individuals who refuse treatment on, say, religious grounds. Given the very recent decision involving the Christian, Nadia Eweida and the court upholding her right to wear a cross – the government is on very rocky ground with these changes.” 
Chris Fry, Solicitor and Managing Partner at Unity Lawwww.unity-law.co.uk"
A leading professor at UCLH said :
"For this Kafka-esk philosophy to be extended further is little short of shocking.
I can think of countless examples where the patient could be or will be seriously disadvantaged by this being implemented.
It also begs the question as to why someone who might be helped by an aid wouldn't already have it.
It is overtly insulting to the medical (and other) staff who manage people with disabilities as it implies that we would have failed to arrange for that aid and that we were complicit in a denial of that patient's proper rehabilitation. It is far from unusual for patients to try all sorts of aids/interventions and find them lacking in value (or as you say even deleterious). Of course there are many strategies that clinicians use to try and optimise their use but when these fail we abandon the aid/intervention. It appears that patients could now be penalised because they are not using aids that have been proven to be of no value or have actually made them worse.
The whole policy comes across as akin to the worst excesses of the former communist regimes in Eastern Europe."
Back to this case, the only reason I can think for them coming to this kind of decision intentionally, could only fall under this rule. You can't "cause" Ewing's Sarcoma. you can't exaccerbate it or make it worse. There are no known risk factors.

So one way or the other, it can only be either that the DWP are so incompetent that they don't read the files at all, (as the nice lady at the DWP explained was the case with my Disability Living Allowance application) OR, they're so cruel that they believe children who fall victim to the very worst illnesses deserve nothing to live on as adults. Either is pretty horrific when you think about it. 


  1. they know what their doing sue if they see a weak person on their own then that's the death Nell for that person as they believe they can get away with it

    my group of doctors would never challenge a DWP decision as that does not make for a quite life the future as i have always said if you don't fight your corner you are dead and i cant emphasize that enough

    i have always fought hard like most and till the day i die that will always be the same and that goes for everyone across the country

  2. @NonaMirana "My report said that I'm able to hold a stable relationship. Because what that has to do with fibromyalgia, I do not know."

  3. @Neffectual "I got rejected for ESA because I was 'articulate and well-kempt'. The transcript spelled 'fibromyalgia' 3 different wrong ways."

  4. @HelveticaLaBold "the dwp refuse to speak to my other half as he doesn't live with me, but seem happy to use him as a reason.Baffling"

  5. Here's a fun one - I just fought this last year, actually:

    I had to fight for over two years to get High Rate Mobility for my hyperactive, ASD son. The council and the DWP tried to say incredibly ridiculous things like having a Teacher's Assistant walk my son two miles each way to school would be a great solution (The school asked "On what planet would your son be able to walk 50 yards along a busy road? Or 20 yards? Five yards is a stretch!" The DWP fought and fought and fought. I was tired from already fighting to get my son into a school which could handle him and actually teach him something that I completely spaced the date for my son's tribunal hearing - the clerk ended up calling me to ask if I wanted to attend. They said they could postpone if I preferred, and I said yes. Ten minutes went past - the clerk called again and said in light of the huge amount of evidence, they had ruled in favour of my son. I didn't even have to attend the hearing. If there was that much evidence, why the hells did the DWP make such a fuss about refusing the evidence?

    Fast forward, tribunal won - and now the motability vehicle testing. I had all the paperwork, my son was in a new school, but suddenly when we tried to order the car, it came back flagged that my son was not eligible. Apparently, for some mad reason, the DWP felt that my son being in a residential school mean that he was actually in a hospital, and that I was no longer his parent or carer. I called the office repeatedly and even had my social worker call in as well to figure out what on earth was going on - she was shocked at how rude they were to her and said the call was very eye-opening to her. Every time the office said they would just send another letter to the local authority to tell them the status of the school, and they left it at that. They never tried to call the LA, or the school, and even though the school has plenty of students like my son, no one put two and two together.

    It took months, with me having to get the National Autistic Society, my local MP, the Local Authority, Child and Family Services, and finally the Official Receiver (who didn't even realise there was a problem until my MP wrote to him directly). The O.R. was appalled, stating that because the DWP has shifted all of its adult specialists to the children's special unit (because children will be on DLA till they're 16) but apparently no one had any particular training with disabled or ill children. They had completely new offices and staff with no experience in children, who were making decisions following the adult guidelines, and refused to even bother to follow up. Calls should have been made rather than sending letter after letter, and more than just a "flag the case" after the first few calls. The Official Receiver couldn't believe he actually hadn't heard of the case at all till it crossed his desk that particular week and said there was "clearly something very wrong." He was duly apologetic and things did get sorted very quickly. It should be noted that particular O.R. ended up taking an early retirement last year.

    Eventually I did get things straightened out, but it's pretty clear the blatant "Computer Says No" seems to still be in circulation - I wonder if this is due to discourage those but the truly determined.

  6. It occurs to me that DWP staff may now be asked to find completely spurious reasons to reject claims, because even if the claim is found to be valid at appeal, the rejection and appeal process now gives the opportunity to put people on Mandatory Reconsideration. Which will save quite a bit of money in the short term, and may result in people getting discouraged and dropping their claim.

  7. @LonAitewalker I have diagnosed arthritis and I am living in a council bungalow as I cannot do stairs, but I have "no mobility problem"

  8. @The_Morningstar "I was put in the WRAG because of the imaginary wheelchair, that I can't use. Which was why I won my appeal."

  9. Sue this is a link to the letter on facebook https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152365227298787&set=a.10150092440523787.276755.517748786&type=1

    not sure if it is the original or not - theres more going on here than seems apparent as the dwp are paying ESA at the under 25's basic rate

  10. First time I dealt with sons ESA, he had previously been on IB the 'nurse' from ATOS decided that his congenital conditions would be cured within 18 months. This was without seeing him as I had apparently lodged enough evidence for them to make a decision. The decision was in direct conflict with 5 medical consultants who had looked after him, some since his birth. I got the decision overturned.

  11. I have ME and have problems with mobility - I clearly stated in my application that I could not use a manual wheelchair for the same reason (fatigue and muscle weakness) that I could not use my legs. ATOS accepted this but the DWP decision maker decided ATOS were too generous and of course I could use a manual wheelchair. I felt that they had not read what I had written but had decided any objection would do, however fatuous. The tribunal members made a face at this one, but it took me a year of uncertainty to get there.

  12. I am still waiting for that massive lightning bolt to hit IDS. Any time soon please God.

  13. I have M.E and problems with dexterity/muscle weakness/loss of grip are amongst my symptoms, which means I usually can't dress myself. I wore a dress with buttons on to this particular tribunal (the one where I was 'unlawfully' found fit for work, later overturned by legal challenge). Reading the reasons given for refusal by the tribunal later, this one stuck in the mind: apparently I must have no problems dressing myself if I could wear a dress with so many buttons on it. Although I often fiddle with one button on that dress, I cannot get my hands in position to do all of the buttons up. Especially not while still sleep-sick first thing. To get into it I lay it on the bed with the skirt dangling over the edge, then bump sideways under it on the floor next to my bed, and pull it over me. Then take a good 10 mins to work my arms into the sleeves. I'm often not fit enough to even attempt this.

    I still only get lower rate care.

    1. Oh my various gods, I got that one pulled on me for a council care meeting, I was wearing a shirt with buttons; I never did up the buttons on it ever, I wriggled into it to get it on, it's why it was several sizes too large so I could get into it. Just...wow. Assumptions, everywhere.

    2. I've had this when the buttons were entirely decorative, no button hole, just sewn on!

  14. It seems to me that the dwp will find any spurious excuse to withold benefits these days.

    I am just about to go my third round with the dwp and atos, having had the form in the post last week. The form they sent out this time is smaller than A4 and there is hardly any space for detailled answers to any of the medical questions. My husband had the same form last year. I am visually impaired and cannot complete this form, so rang the jobcentre and asked for a large print one. This is supposed to be supplied on request as part of disability discrimination, but seems not to apply to them!

    First I was told to get a family member to complete it. When I explained I only have my husband who is also visually impaired, they suggested I visit the CAB. To get an appointment with them round here takes 3 weeks and I only have 4 to complete and send the form back. Welfare Rights is even worse, it can take 3 months to see someone there, so no chance!

    Eventually they did agree grudgingly to send the form. I have waited a week so far and received nothing, so will ring again tomorrow. If I dont get the form, I can see them cutting my benefit off because I havent sent it in within the time limit!

  15. I've followed this blog for less than a year; reading the post about the changes the DWP made last year made my blood run cold.

    Some years ago, when I chaired an ME support group, some controversial advice on "treating" ME with graded exercise therapy was incorporated into the NICE guidelines, despite strong opposition from patient groups. Surveys of patients had found time and again that although some people with ME benefited from this treatment, some were made worse, and sometimes so much worse that it took them months or even years to get back to their previous level of (very poor) health.

    We (and many others) wrote to ministers that we were anxious that people could be effectively forced to undertake treatment which they did not want and could make them very much worse or have their benefits cut off. Of course the reply reassured us that patient consent to treatment was an unassailable principle of healthcare. Now it turns out that not only is this principle treated with casual contempt, but that patients' own GPs, who may have guided them through illness for many years, can be overruled on what is good for their patients by an ATOS physiotherapist (for example) who has seen the person for perhaps 20 minutes. Even in our wildest anxiety-driven nightmares did we not come up with that scenario.

  16. This is consistent with the 'illness as deviance' nonsense which has been brought in 'by the back door' I would urge anyone who hasn't already to read this - it is a long read, but explains in detail what is driving these changes. Thanks to Big Bill for the link -

    I doubt this is an isolated incident by the DWP but a deliberate policy to remove benefits from sick people under any spurious pretext.
    I know many people who read your blog are ill Sue, but there's no-one as sick as the DWP at the moment. Who's running it, Goebbels?

    1. 'Who's running it, Goebbels?' Many a true word written in jest. I am beginning to wonder what country we are now living in, I really am. I heard that some of the Tories claim to be devout Christians?!! The mind truly boggles. What genuine love of Jesus seems to shine through every decision they make; giving tax breaks to the very wealthy and making the poor suffer even more, and blaming them for their poverty. Such Christlike behaviour.

    2. you raise a very good point

      i have known many Tory mp's over the past 40 years and i have yet to meet a fellow Christian within the conservative party

      They are more inclined to be anything but Christian they certainly dont resemble at all the church I'm from

      in fact I've never been to any church where the torys mp hang out and I'm indeed very thankful for that

      i don't even think any of them go to church as their style and lack of empathy don't mix and i cant see any vicar putting up with that type of person in his church

  17. If the DWP do pass these "amendments" what repercussions are there in terms of legal redress? I have lost track of what's happening with Legal Aid.

  18. They abolished legal aid so that if we want to sue them we have to do it ourselves, and as we don't know the basic court stuff we are likely to lose even with a good case.

  19. Surely there has to be legal repercussions - class action lawsuit, something?

    1. Bar Pro Bono is a charity which helps to find pro bono (free) legal assistance from volunteer barristers.