Can Anyone Help Katrina

Following my post on ‘The Creative Incompetence of the DWP’ I had this comment from Katrina

‘Yes after ATOS turned my partner down at the reassessment even though his condition has worsened the benefits office telephoned after weeks to tell him of their decision, when we tried to find out more they denied phoning. We were told to wait for the letter which on arrival we could not make any sense of, it left us one week to appeal and arrived after they had stopped our benefits. We have no money coming in at the moment because all claims were halted and can receive no help and no explanation. Friends and family have helped us put electricity on our meter and we received some food from the food bank. We live in a village with no public transport so when our last bit of petrol runs out we will be able to make it to the food bank without walking a total of 10 miles. We have no idea how long it will take for the DWP to receive the appeal and they had given us an addressed envelope which the job centre told us was the wrong address. I was lucky to take it to the local JBC as they would never have received it. No one will speak to us about why this has happened or give us any indication as to how we are meant to live in the mean time. If anyone has any suggestions would love to hear from you.’

I’m afraid I’m not really qualified to help her, as I only have limited personal experience of Atos and don’t really have the knowledge of the benefits system to be able to offer much in the way of advice myself. I’ve no doubt that there are many people like her. Mike and Mrs. Mike over at Vox Political live in mid-Wales. It’s a great community there, but it is very isolated, and there is an unemployment problem. A year or so ago, Ian Duncan Smith or one of the other Tory loudmouths showed his ignorance of mid-Wales and its employment problems. He declared that unemployment in that part of the Principality wasn’t really a problem, as the unemployed could simply commute to those parts of Wales, where there is work. All you had to do was get on a bus, ‘and within an hour you would be Cardiff’. Well, that is if there were any buses running. The last one from Mike’s part of the world had been axed some time before. Wales is certainly not alone in this problem. Bus services to villages in England have cut since the 1980s, with the result that you need a car to travel anywhere if you live in the countryside.

As for the incomprehensibility of the letter from Atos, I was talking to a friend of mine, who has had experience dealing with the DWP. He told me that the reason they were incomprehensible is because the law itself is confused and incomprehensible. It’s been altered and amended so often, without any regard for consistency, that it is now a confused, self-contradictory mess of separate legislation. As for the letters, they’re computer-generated. Sort of like a bureaucratic Max Headroom, but without the wit, sharp suits and personality. The stutter, however, has been ramped up to ‘irritating’. When the decision is made and inputted that someone no longer qualifies for benefit, the machine automatically spews out the appropriate letter. No human intelligence is involved, which is why the letters don’t make sense. That also tells you that we are a long way from developing Artificial Intelligence, and that real intelligence in these bureaucracies is also in short supply. It also shows that if you thought Atos was a cold, inhuman organisation run by automatons, you’re right. Literally.

So, if anyone out there does have any suggestions to help Katrina and her partner, please send them in. You’ll not only be helping them, but also thousands like them in a similar situation.

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27 Responses to “Can Anyone Help Katrina”

  1. Mike Sivier Says:

    I just wanted to illuminate a few corners of this:

    Buses do still connect Mid Wales to Cardiff; last time I went down there (for a court case) I seem to recall having to change at Merthyr Tydfil, and possibly at Brecon as well. Total trip time was more than two hours, there and back. That is a cumbersome and potentially frustrating means of travel, and cannot be recommended for regular commuters (although I’m sure some people do brave it every day).

    As for the computer-generated letters, two thoughts occur. Firstly, the letters are generated at the Department for Work and Pensions, as are the decisions (although more than 90 per cent of these are based on recommendations from Atos assessors). They are made by a PERSON, not a computer, and claimants should be allowed to know who that person was, in order to make it possible (in an appeal situation) to find out their reasons. At the moment, that doesn’t seem to happen and I believe there may be cause for legal redress in that. Secondly, if the legislation is muddled, isn’t that something the wonderful Nick Clegg was supposed to be sorting out? When he dragged the Liberal Democrats into Coalition with the Blue Meanies, he said he’d be going through the statute books to root out redundant laws and make sense of those that are active. Has anybody found any evidence, at all, of this activity?

    • beastrabban Says:

      Thanks for the comments, Mike, and the corrections. Your comment that the decisions are made by a person, and that you should be allowed to know who that person is, in case of appeal, is very important. I am, however, not surprised that people aren’t told who the person that decides they no longer qualify for benefit is. It would mean too many people would suddenly find themselves able to seek redress. Also, there is a tendency in British politics for those making unpopular, authoritarian decisions to have the cover of anonymity. After all, we don’t want promising establishment careers ruined because of the proles and great unwashed, do we? I am also not surprised that Nick Clegg hasn’t sorted out the legislation as he promised to do when he joined the coalition. That would mean actually delivering on a promise, and spending long hours with legal experts scrutinising and critiquing a law, which he almost certainly supports and shows no intention of overturning.

      • Mike Sivier Says:

        Exactly!

        There was a lot of talk, a few years ago when Labour were still in office, about ensuring accountability – being allowed to know who made a particular decision and holding them accountable for it if mistakes were made.

        A lot of talk. No action at all.

      • beastrabban Says:

        I can remember John Major bringing legislation to make us all give our names, when I was working in the tax office. What happened was that generally we gave our first names only when dealing with the public. Labour seems to have been building on that. I am, however, not surprised that the legislation to ensure such transparency was never enacted. Private Eye catalogued several incidents, where such promises were watered down or quietly jettisoned, following concerns from interested parties.

  2. Mike Sivier Says:

    Reblogged this on Vox Political.

  3. Big Bill Says:

    Katrina should ask her questions on the CAG forums (Consumer Action Group).

  4. Alex Casale Says:

    A slight ray of hope?
    http://t.co/XRIagvwPMy

    ref: Amnesty International USA Amnesty International Canada Amnesty International Australia Amnesty International Norway Amnesty International-Ireland The People Vs The Government, DWP and Atos ATOS Miracles Atos Register of Shame

  5. fkreid Says:

    You could search for Fightback on Facebook. They seem to have a lot of experience in these situations and may be able to help. There is also a lot of useful information on their page, like how to get an emergency payment now that crisis loans have stopped.
    Here’s a link to their facebook stream: https://www.facebook.com/FightBack4Justice?ref=stream&hc_location=stream

  6. Mark Potter-Irwin Says:

    Citizens Advice Bureau ( http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/ )might be able to point you in the right direction for help and legal advice. If there isn’t one nearby you can phone them. I have found them very helpful and sympathetic. if you are not happy with the first adviser phone again and you may get a better one.
    Contact your MP or at least a sympathetic local one. Most of them are getting quite disappointed with ATOS to say the least.
    What ever you do, don’t give up. persistence usually gets results. Good Luck

  7. teessideaag Says:

    Reblogged this on Teesside Anarchist Affinity Group.

  8. Jonathan Marsh Says:

    Cheers, Mike. Every statement – these are not stories – is a catalogue of scary, minefield, life-wrecking grief. Worse, because of the spite and wrongheadedness with which they are motivated. No one who has not been through the Kafke-esque/Catch22/Orwellian sophistry that is the government’s chosen method of ‘reform’ will realise how it totally circumscribes EVERYTHING else in what passes for your life. ‘No’ means ‘Yes’ and ‘Black’ is ‘White’, all of a sudden. Those of us who are aware of this deliberate perversion of language in the pursuit of dubious aims must oppose, highlight and hopefully discredit and destroy what is being done to us. Both their principles – and indeed their principals – and their methods are revolting and must be stopped. In my opinion.

  9. aussieeh Says:

    Please pass on this link for Benefits and Work http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/‎ I joined the website a couple of years ago it’s full of vital information, most of which I have down loaded. I paid just under £17 for a years membership that allowed me to download tons of fact sheets. There is info on almost every health condition. If she has trouble or cannot afford the price I would be only too happy to help a fellow sufferer in any way I can.

    • johndeee Says:

      Good advice Aussie! I’ve used this site and paid the subs for three years now. Their very detailed guides: ESA (one each for mental and physical reasons for claiming), DLA, PIP and how to make the best appeal, are very enlightening. The downloadable guides (subscribers only) are very detailed and complex (due to the complexity of the constantly changing regulations) so you might need some help with them.

      The founders / authors are leagle beagles who ask for subs so that they remain independent and therefore are not influenced as to what information they are allowed to supply – unlike the CAB who are funded by the government and tell you what the government wants you to know.

      Much of their information has been gleaned /prised from the government using Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. They also have a very responsive forum where you can usually get an answer to a thorny question (but limited opening times).

      Much of the site and reports are available without subscribing but if you are in need of help then I believe that it’s well worth the money. They often have reduction specials so I’ve managed to pay about £15 per annum for each of my subscriptions.

      Heartily recommended! http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/

      • beastrabban Says:

        Thanks for suggesting this, Johndeee. It’s really good to know that there are sites like that around.

  10. beastrabban Says:

    Thanks, Assieeh, that’s going to be really useful for a lot of people.

    • aussieeh Says:

      That’s no problem. At the end of November 2011, I received my brown envelope from the DWP to say I had been placed in the WRAG. Because of my numerous health problems most of which are degenerative COPD, Emphysema, Arthritis, spinal, nerve, etc, far too many to name here, I thought along with my doctor I should have been in the WRSG. I appealed the decision immediately. I tried to get in touch with the local CAB, but because of cuts they had a backlog of almost 18 months. They helped me originally to get disability benefit. This time I was on my own. I must say that on the 3rd January 2012, the Jobcentre plus rang me to arrange an interview, for what I expect was workfare. I got to speak to a supervisor I told her with some difficulty I had appealed, at the time I was in really bad health with what turned out to be the start of pneumonia, The supervisor to her credit told me not to worry and she would ring again in a few months. Two weeks later I was in Hospital with pneumonia .
      I scoured the internet for any information I could find and came across the Benefits and Work site. After deliberating with myself for a week or so I decided to join, best decision I made that year. They list everything you need to know, how to write your initial letter, how to set out your appeal, you can even download the books AtoS use to train their assessors if you like. You get to see how their minds work, it’s not nice but it’s nice to know. It’s well worth the charge. I downloaded everything from A to Z; I still get all the updates and download them. I had to fight on my own, I have no family to turn to, and because of my disabilities I have lost a lot of my friends, they still work. In November 2012, I won my appeal. I collected as much info as possible from the doctor’s surgery, I listed all my health problems and how each one affects me. I went into my appeal with as much positive attitude as possible, when you’re in constant pain and taking Morphine that’s a task on its own. You have to stand your ground, know your rights. Personally I think without the help I received from the Benefits and Work people that task would have been almost impossible. I would recommend them to anyone fighting this fascist regime. I apologize for the length of this reply. I would be glad to email any info required.

      • beastrabban Says:

        Thanks, Aussieh – that’s really useful. And don’t worry about the length of the reply. It was all extremely useful, and I can see it benefiting an awful lot of people. I’m very sorry to hear about your own health problems, and the appalling way Atos treated you, and I’m very glad you won your battle against them.

  11. Smelly Says:

    Now that Katrina has an appeal in should her partner supply a sick note then ESA should be reinstated until the appeal is determined.

  12. Sean Says:

    If you contact us we’ll case manage it for you.
    https://www.facebook.com/VeteransParty

  13. hilary772013 Says:

    I agree with fkreid Fightback on facebook message Michelle & she will help personally she has legal know how on the benefits system she also has a freephone number you can call as well.. mark your message as urgent..

  14. Margaret Doran Says:

    Katrina should claim JSA for herself and her partner. He can still proceed with his appeal. She should also apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) if their housing benefit has been stopped – she can find the application form on her local authority’s website. She can also apply for a Crisis Loan via Welfare Rights – their phone number should be on her local authority’s website. She should speak to a Council Tax Adviser to explain their situation and request a ‘hold’ be put on their Council Tax Account until at least her JSA claim is sorted out. I hope this is of some help.

  15. Christine Cassidy Says:

    I remember reading something regarding if your ESA is stopped & you have NO OTHER MEANS of income , you can apply for HARDSHIP PAYMENTS don’t know how much you would get or how many you are entitled to BUT DWP DO NOT LET ON THAT YOU CAN APPLY FOR THIS.

    Also get you’re MP involved and another great site is :

    http://thefullfacts.com/esa/forum/index.php

    This site is free to access and they are a great bunch of people going through the system so they really do understand and can offer great advise re ESA ect. Sort of like an ESA family for people who need to talk and find things out.

    I wish you both well and get things sorted xxxx

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