Wearing my DEAEP Company hat, last week I met with a lovely man, I’ll call him Adam; Adam is in his 60s and worked all his life until last year, when his health deteriorated to such a point he could no longer physically manage. At this time he completed his claim for ESA, he heard nothing and then, out of the blue last month, Adam was called for an appointment with ATOS. He initially asked about home visit as he loves 12 miles outside the City centre but was told he needed a letter from his Dr to support his request; as this was not possible, Adam informed them he was happy to attend but he wanted the assessment recorded, ATOS assured him this was fine and he arranged a date.
He contacted me wanting support for the assessment and, after Adam struggling to make his way into town for 10.30 we met prior to the assessment to discuss his requirements. We sat at a coffee shop 3 doors away from the assessment centre, and in the time it took us to finish our drinks Adam received 2 phone calls, both from the same Nottingham number and each time he answered his phone the line went dead. We both recognised the area code and knowing the regional ATOS office is based here, Adam returned the second call, only to find the call could not be completed at the receiving end.
Experience called us both to speculate if ATOS actually had organised for the recording equipment to be there, and chatting about this we entered the building ATOS use to carry out the ESA assessments for Leicestershire. ATOS are based on the first floor of a sixties office building which has no access/egress for wheelchair users in an emergency; knowing this we were both on sticks. Using the lift we emerged on the first floor to be met by a door with no automatic functions, causing us to engage into some form of strange dance to pull open the door when neither of us have full use of our arms/hands; achieving access we were then met with a second, this time fire retardant door, again with no automatic function. Having recreating our dance anew we proceeded through into a small space with a third non automatic door, thus we repeated our caper finally emanating in the reception area for ATOS.
Noting how extremely quiet the waiting area was, with only one other person in the room, we made our way to the desk, where we were met by a very friendly woman who after taking Adam’s details said he was “more than welcome to have the assessment but…”; yes, the recording equipment wasn’t there! She apologised and said they had tried to call him to which we both explained what had happened at our end. She went on to say as Adam didn’t want the assessment without it being recorded, he would receive another phone call in the next 2/3 weeks to rearrange it.
By this time we were both exhausted and in pain, so much that before we left Adam was forced to resort to his default position for managing extreme pain on his hands and knees; when Adam’s pain had returned to its regular level, we made our way our of the building, this time going backwards through the three doors, our backsides providing the impetus required to push them open.
The real irony of all of this is Adam retires in July, that’s correct, he has to go through all this again just to receive ESA for three months!
I met with a second DEAEP customer today, who I’ll call Alex; Alex is going to Tribunal next week, the reason being having fought for two years to be placed in the support group due to the progression of Parkinsons, the DWP decreed the were wrong and have done precisely that; but they insist he must continue with his appeal and attend the hearing. It seems the purpose of the Tribunal, which is being held at a local hotel instead of at the Tribunal centre, is for 17 months worth of Back pay, the difference between basic rate and the enhanced rate Alex is now receiving in the support group! I’ll report back on this next week.
What the DWP and the Politicians who have devised the immoral and unjust Polices ignore is the anxiety and stress both of these men are going through, as they are forced to fight their way through the broken Welfare Reform process; and what really sickens me is the total amount of money involved in these two cases is far less than the pathetic amount Ms Maria Miller has been instructed to return following her fraudulent expense claims!!