Sunday, 20 May 2012

The shame of the blame game

On Friday night Christina Martin posted a link which caught my eye. It was a few lines from a local paper which said that a blind, deaf, tube-fed, non verbal, disabled man from Scotland had been deemed fit for work by the DWP. As a result of not completing the form correctly his benefits will be stopped on 7th June and he will have to access the appeal process to have this decision over turned.

This man has to have 24 hour care and the person who had completed his form for him as his disability prevents him had not included something in the 30 page form which meant that due to that error his money will stop.

These forms are very lengthy they are complicated and they ask many intimate and intrusive questions very like the Disability benefit forms I complete on behalf of my children (Disability Living Allowance) they suck the hope out of you as you detail why those you care for need help.

The problem isn't the fact that you have to ask for help, it isn't the time it takes to complete them, it isn't the caring that you have to do at the same time,  It isn't the humiliation that you feel as you complete them, it isn't the shame culture which has grown up in recent years around those legitimately asking for help, it isn't the grinding struggle of life with a condition or impairment which robs your dignity, it isn't the lack of a support network which isolates you, it isn't the fear of hate crime, or mate crime which vulnerable people face, it isn't the mental health issues which are a real and present danger for those who struggle to fit in to a world not created for disability, it isn't the lack of disability access which greet many disabled people who are called to an assessment with untrained staff, it isn't the MP's (from all parties)who show compassion in a photo with a disabled child only to vote for policies which will render them "undesirables", it isn't the Tabloid press who brand genuinely disabled people as scroungers and scum.

It isn't any one of those things. It's all of them.

The man was deemed fit for work, by virtue of an error a mistake. This mistake will take weeks to rectify and if reading this you still feel that this is a justifiable process in order to weed out the liars and fakes living in mansions and driving luxury cars, I ask you to think again.

The fact is that more money is lost in DWP error, than is lost through benefits granted to liars and fakes.

The fact that you feel this is a justification at all simply means that you have been desensitised by effective propaganda because Disabled people are the new scapegoats de jour.

Hopefully this error will be addressed but how long will it take and how was this allowed to happen?

Irrespective of what was omitted the words blind, deaf, epilepsy, non-verbal, were all, I'm sure included as were contact details, and medical contacts. A simple phone call would have resolved this issue rather than a systemic failure of a vulnerable man and a letter no doubt 2nd class announcing the cessation of all benefits with the only right to reply a lengthy and complicated appeal.

My thoughts are with those without a support network, those who are killing themselves because they have lost, or fear losing their benefits.

We have turned disabled people into the enemy within, as our hearts harden against the very people who need us the most.

The battle against disabled people shames us all.


  1. That couldn't have been written any better than you have done Nicky. This is what needs to be on the front page of every news paper, online paper, television any and all kinds of media. This is the reality the world needs to see of how people with disabilities, sick or vulnerable are been treated, it's not acceptable and as much as I know there are hateful, cold heartless people in this world I do believe that the majority would not find this acceptable. Thanks Nicky. xx

  2. Thanks Nicky for a well considered argument

  3. This system of testing is apparently so harrowing, so humiliating, so blatantly unfair that the government won't allow even such hardy souls as ex-forces personnel to undergo it. What chance of passing then should we expect mere normal mortals to have?

  4. Well the Government would much rather have the sick and disabled as a target to keep people minds off the people who have really screwed the country. The sick and disabled are an easy target (especially if the problem can not be seen such as missing limbs ect)and the papers love to splash the headlines of someone who is claiming being caught commiting fraud (drop in the ocean compared to the MP's expenses scandal) and they are the people who have not got the will to fight when they are victimised by the DWP/ATOS. It may be hard for some to believe but we do not enjoy being sick or disabled which sometimes mean that on forms we put a rose tinted view on answers but the new idea that its not to see what you can not do but to see what youo can do has led to a form filled with loaded questions such as 'How far can you walk before you are in pain?' There is no answer for 'zero as i am in constant pain'. It has come to the stage when even the people who created the ESA format have said that this is not what they created and wish their names to no longer be connected with this as its just to reduce the benefit bill with no thought about the actual people. How many of the people deemed 'fit to work' will ever be able to get a job when there are millions of people with no problems fighting for the same jobs?

  5. Thank you Nicky - Well Said.

  6. Thank you Nicky. Have already been called by DWP and had benefits cut, they aren't enough to live on anyway. Now lthe family lives in a constant state of stress and anxiety. I jump when the phone rings, I dread the post. if I go to the car I am afraid of people watching me.

  7. 2 years ago almost to the day almost exactly the same thing happened to me except that in my case the form had been lost. The end result was 6 weeks with no income of which only 5 were backdated. I've never had the strength to face the hassle of arguing about getting that one week. To this day I was miraculously officially fit for work for one week during March 2010.

    But that isn't what bothers me. I approached my MP. I also gave evidence into an enquiry into the implementation of ESA.

    As a result of this I received a personal apology from Mr Grayling himself. (I should have it framed!) and assurances that this was a one off mistake never to be repeated.

    The inquiry I gave evidence to sadly found otherwise, saying that it had found worrying evidence of disabled people being cut off from benefits due to "routine admin errors".

    In the government response to the inquiry, assurances were made that urgent steps were being taken. Some time later it was claimed that measures were now in place so that what had happened to me could no longer occur.

    It is very clear that this is untrue. An error or a missing form still causes a severely disabled person to be classed as fit for work from one day to the next, without warning and with no option other than to appeal that decision.

    This was supposed to stop TWO YEARS AGO. It would only require a phonecall to make sure that the form is corrected or sent in. Why is this being allowed to continue, and who is responsible?

    P.S. I will be trying to find out as soon as I am well enough.

  8. Thank you Nicky - you managed to type exactly how I feel.

  9. Well said. This whole business takes me back to my claim form being returned by the DWP because a social worker had signed the form for me: I was paralysed.

    A nurse kindly taped a pen in my hand with surgical tape and I was taken to a DWP office. A social worker 'helped' me 'sign' the form at the office. The long journey to the office and the fact that I hadn't been out of a small room in weeks was tremendously frightening.

    I'll never forget the indignity of being handled like a puppet to satisfy their petty bureaucracy.

    The thought that this mistreatment of the vulnerable is routine makes me feel ill.

  10. An excellent article Nicky, well done. What I am surprised at is with the constant pressures from the government about not wasting money, they seem to be willingly allow these team ATOS and the DWP to make huge mistakes such as the one you mentioned which in turn causes extreme amounts of expense in appeals to rectify.

    The government should really be looking at these peoples methods of working, to try and figure out why so many assessments end up in the appeal courts. It's disgusting that one can have their benefit stopped just because they have not filled out the forms correctly. Haven't they heard of human error. Of course they have, they are doing it themselves. About time someone sued ATOS and the DWP for the error they cause when making these claims of 'fit to work' and for all the stress etc they put folk through during the months it takes to sort it all out.

  11. I'd like to have something clarified here. Who says the form was incorrectly filled in? The DWP? And why would we trust their word on it? The whole point (and one I think has been missed here) is that completely accurately completed forms with supporting medical evidence are being turned down by the DWP and Atos without any reasoning.

    That's the biggest issue to me. People are doing everything right and still the DWP and Atos change the goalposts of the system. I agree that there should a better system for dealing with forms that are late or have mistakes, but how on earth is that meant to happen when only 2% of forms are backed up with medical evidence other than the Atos doc? We need to get the entire system smoothed out and then we can address the tricky cases properly.

    In the meantime I urge people to seek some help on filling out the forms. Many charities have helpsheets, benefits advisors can help or even take notes about your condition as you live with it to make it easier to remember what to put on there when the form comes. Send every with proof of postage and keep copies. I know it's tough doing all this, but if you do your ESA50 with the idea of forming a good appeal case right from the start, it may make the whole process less hellish than normal for you while we campaign for things to improve.

  12. It isn't only the mistakes we have to be worried about. It's the stress from filling out the forms in the first place.

    I had been trying to get DLA since 2001. Each previous attempt was refused for the most ridiculous of reasons and after much bureaucratic humiliation. At one point, when being asked to talk the Panel through the peripheral neuropathy in my fingers and toes, one Tribunal GP informed told me "please don't use medical phrases you aren't trained to understand": As a health professional myself, I found this treatment particularly infuriating. Despite 18 inches of paperwork and dozens of medical reports, I was summarily told I was not disabled enough.

    I had worked every year for thirty years, yet throughout my dealings with the DWP, I was made to feel as if I was lying and cheating instead of going through the very difficult process of asking for assistance out of necessity.

    In 2010, an accident at work exacerbated my existing spinal damage. It meant I was no longer able to work, but thanks to a hard working Social Worker, at least my benefits were sorted out and DLA granted.

    In the year or so since then, things have got much worse, but I’ve been really scared to fill in the forms to update my information. The most recent (40 page) DLA forms are stuffed with duplicate questions all asked slightly differently: Lots of things to catch you out unless you are really careful, alongside the usual denigration of abilities conquered through the struggle for independence. Already complicated, these forms are due to be changed into PIP forms next year – expect further complexity and struggle.

    As I cannot fill the form in myself, my Social Worker, Care Worker and I have spent four weeks trying to get through it and it’s nearly ready to go in. However, in updating my information I was informed by my Social Worker that I run the serious risk that I either get a benefit cut or lose it altogether. This is despite showing my health has deteriorated since the original claim.

    I cannot tell you how scared I am of having my benefits disrupted. I find it difficult enough to survive as it is.

  13. Excellent - couldn't have said it better myself.

  14. for all you who need help with questions or about your esa dla orchanging over ib to esa please use this site as we all in the same boat with this lot and thanks nicky good post but the trouble is its happening every day and people are dying because of it shame this goverment doesnot do shame they just robbed our benefits just like a st mugger no better thanks jeff3