Real Issues with Welfare reform – Part II

On April 8 I wrote my first official DEAEP Blog, regarding the support we offer, this week Alex & I attended his Tribunal. we arrived at the venue, in a central hotel, to find the tribunal receptionist was extremely chatty; he happily informed the room that there were people from all over the UK, booked to attend, he went on to state every one of the claimants had waited for well over a year to get a hearing! He also informed us that for the day the Tribunal service had paid for 6 meeting rooms –  for hearings, waiting rooms and a room for the court clerks; add the expense for this to the salaries of at least 6 panellists (possibly 8), 3 clerks and the receptionist; and I shudder to think how much this must have cost?!

We were called in on time and given that the DWP had already agreed that Alex should be in the Support group in February 2013, we were expecting this to be a open & shut case but…NO. Firstly the DWP had failed to inform the panel they had AGREED they’d made a mistake, luckily the accepted the letter we had as full evidence; however instead of recognising that the DWP had already accepted Alex was too ill to work, and therefore he had every right to receive the back pay, the judge of the panel grilled Alex for 45 minutes on his inability to work in November 2012. We were made to explain, against each of the ESA qualifying points, that how for a whole 3 months, before the DWP agreed Alex’s health made him unable to work, this was the case. The Dr on the panel on at least four occasions referred to how, in his medical opinion, Alex’s handwriting on the appeal letter clearly indicated Parkinsons, as did his observation of Alex’s body; but the judge persisted in her questions, reducing Alex to tears on one occasion! Why was this – for MONEY – and for a far less amount than the 2 panellists earned in hour we were in there, never mind the the costs of the day’s Tribunal as outlined above; but for an amount that means Alex can afford to live a little more comfortably.

The good news is Alex WON his tribunal but…surely as the DWP had already conceded, wouldn’t it have been far more cost effective, never mind humane, for them to have merely paid him the money he was owed? According to Channel 4 Employment and support allowance (ESA) tribunals cost the taxpayer £66m in 2012/13, and this fails to consider the hidden costs of anxiety and stress to the claimant, both personally and in terms of the Health/support services, consider all of this and what a ludicrous situation this proves to be.

I don’t presume Alex’s case to be unique and given the number of successful tribunals by sick and, or disabled people, this is yet more evidence the current ESA/WCA process is severely flawed.




17 thoughts on “Real Issues with Welfare reform – Part II

  1. The story is just typical of the way this government has conducted themselves. To integrate someone through the trauma of both retelling this story concerning their disability expect evidence and for a judge to overall a doctor during the tribunal, despite the doctor indicating through his handwriting that Alex was telling the truth, was nothing short of disgrace.

    The fact that Employment and support allowance (ESA) tribunals costs the taxpayer £66m in 2012/12 does not surprise me, as it has never been about the money. It’s all been the iniquitous ideology the government wants to disseminate both politically and socially.


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  3. This story is certainly not unique, but highlights how bureaucratic, one-sidedly legalistic and adversarial the system has become. Privately contracted “healthcare professionals and decision makers” outside of any real control can ruin peoples lives based on a totally flawed and unjust government policy and force them to appeal indefensible decisions to an over stretched judicial system without access to proper legal representation. The appeals system is touted as a lesser and simpler quasi non-courtroom style panel to redress complaints and mistakes, but for those forced to use it it is anything but simple. Just getting there is a desperate struggle for some of our most vulnerable citizens. Sadly, it is a reflection of our failing society that some of the weakest in our society are made to endure this inhumane hardship.

    About 2 years ago my brother who is disabled was found to be fit for work and his ESA was withdrawn. I attended his ATOS medical and the result was 11 points (15 required then for ESA). He asked for the decision to be reconsidered which took several months just to get an answer, it was upheld. The application for appeal took several months more during which time I helped my brother gather all the medical evidence possible. At the appeal I represented my brother, DWP failed to appear and were not represented. My brother won the appeal and was awarded 39 points on the descriptors and his ESA was reinstated. A hollow victory since the tribunal would not place my brother in the support group, because he managed to walk from the waiting room to the tribunal hearing, a matter og 30 metres, but it was considered he could manage over 50 metres.

    My brother is a disabled veteran and I had been working on his behalf since 2007 for him to be awarded a war disability pension due to his disabilities being attributable to military service, ESA being an evil necessity during the struggle. The systems are basically the same with quasi-judicial tribunals. They are anything but simple, putting appellants through misery. I represented my brother at all but one appeal, the first one being assisted by a veterans organisation which was less than supportive and lacking in enthusiasm for the case. My brother had to endure 4 appeals over 4 years in order order to win through and finally be awarded a war disability pension. Thankfully the last war pension and ESA appeals coincided somewhat and he withdrew from ESA.

    We thought he was now free from the clutches of DWP, but it now transpires that ATOS has taken over medical assessments for war disability pensions. Cest la vie!


  4. I’m disgusted that a woman, who thinks she is above all, including a doctor, had the gall to make Alex cry – I’m so angry I could kick the cat – If I had a leg to kick with and if I had a cat 😉
    So glad that it all got sorted in the end and that Alex can breathe easier.


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