Posts Tagged ‘Tribunals’

@refuted: Independent Tribunals Have Been Destroyed by DWP Mandatory Reconsideration

March 10, 2015

@Refuted have posted this piece, Benefit Sanctions briefing: DWP’s Mandatory Reconsiderations have “effectively destroyed” independent Tribunals, reporting the effects of the DWP’s introduction of the above mandatory reconsideration on the number of cases now being appealed against according to the Benefit Sanctions Briefing of 18th February 2015. The complete report is available to download at the site. The piece by @refuted summarises the report, highlighting the most important facts to emerge from it. These include

The independent element in the system offered by Tribunals has been effectively destroyed, completely in the case of ESA and almost completely for JSA, where only 0.14% of sanction decisions are now being taken to a Tribunal. MR has had no overall impact on the proportion of JSA sanctions overturned, which remains at about 13%. But the proportion of ESA sanctions overturned has fallen from about 35% to about 20%. The most disturbing possibility is that ESA claimants’ medical conditions are rendering them unable to cope effectively with the phone calls made to them by DWP officials at home during the MR process.” [emphasis added]

The piece is at http://refuted.org.uk/2015/03/04/tribunalsdestroyed/. Go and read it.

This is another instance where the government has introduced reforms with the deliberate intention of making it even more difficult for the victims of government policy to appeal against it. Like cuts to legal aid, and the 600 per cent increase in tribunal fees in order to prevent people suing for medical negligence, amongst other cases, as reported on Sunday by Tom Pride.

This is a government that cares nothing for the poor, or for justice, and only about securing the power and prosperity of the wealthy.

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Vox Political: Government Making PIP Applications More Difficult

February 8, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political also has another story about the government moving the goalposts again to stop disabled people claiming the Personal Independence Payment. It’s PIP reviews and tribunals: The DWP keeps piling on the pressure. It’s partly a follow-up to Mike’s previous post about how Atos told Mrs Mike that she had to come for an assessment, which on inquiry nobody seemed to know anything about. He goes further, and reports the experiences of two of his commenters, who have tried to claim PIP, one of whom was called before a tribunal. It begins

Further to yesterday’s article on the hoax letters being sent out by (in this case) Atos, summoning benefit claimants to non-existent “assessment” meetings, a couple more developments have come to light.

Firstly, Mrs Mike has received a new letter stating that her assessment has been cancelled and she doesn’t have to attend. This writer shall be going in any case – just to make sure.

Secondly, it seems matters get worse if you are unlucky enough to be denied benefit after an assessment. What follows refers to Personal Independence Payment. First, let’s hear from a commenter who had to go through the ‘mandatory reconsideration’ procedure:

“With the help of my local CAB (Citizens Advice Bureau), I made an application for PIP. As is normal, they refused it. The CAB explained they would, and requested a ‘Mandatory Review’.

“Under the old system, they would write a letter stating their reasons why the decision is wrong. Now, though, Atos will not accept this.

Atos has now resorted to phoning up PIP claimants unexpectedly at different times of the day, so that they will have to present their case unaided and without representation. This is obviously in order to make it easier to turn the claimant down.

The other commenter provides a grim portrayal of the stress caused by their appearance at an Atos tribunal, and the complete inability of the woman, who turned down their application for benefit, to understand even the most basic facts about mental illness. Such as that you can plan ahead, but later changes in the condition may mean you forget. This commenter states

“For anyone with mental health issues to have to go through the PIP claim process, Atos assessment and ultimately a tribunal, it is unbelievably cruel and careless. I have been extremely distressed today.

“I am also not going to find out for a few days due to my appointment time being so late in their working day, which is also upsetting.”

It’s worth checking out the comments on Mike’s blog, because many of the commenters have experience and technical knowledge that can help others. This piece is no exception. Particularly useful are the comments from Beret54 and Levinas.

PIP: Derby Mental Health Group Want to Hear From You

Beret54’s comment is that a mental health group, Derby, is appealing for information from people, who have undergone the PIP assessment. He writes

THE mental health action group derby is shortly to launch a survey form on experiences of PIP and present evidence to DWP will post link to survey when its launched soon,
Mental Health Action Group Co-ordinators
Room 312, Kelvin House
RTC Business Park, London Road
Derby. DE24 8UP

Tel: 01332 345966 ext 5
http://www.mhag.org.uk
Check out our Facebook page “Mental Health Action Group Derby”!

Levinas on Legal Challenges to Atos

Levinas also provides this advice for the two claimants:

The first claimant should invoke the Equality Act and reasonable adjustments in that it is discriminatory to the claimant to expect them to
1- Make representations using a device that in and of itself puts them at a disadvantage due to their disorder/difficulties and
2- to do so without representation they’ve secured being there to represent them. Again invoke EA to secure their presence.

They won’t like it, will argue against it but stick to invocation of reasonable adjustments under the EA to refuse the use of a telephone for contact and lack of representation Equate the representation to the use of a wheelchair or crutches to expose how discriminatory it would be to refuse, comment that it opposes justice to have this thrust upon them. They could also send an email revoking any consent given to release Atos from the DPA and reassert their rights, ergo Atos is not lawfully allowed to hold, nor use your home phone number-All communication therefore will have to be via letter as address is all they can hold. This is how I tackled Atos and WCA for ESA, I’ve not had the hurdle of PIP yet.

Second claimant-Is it usual to have the decision maker at the tribunal? Again I’ve only had to attend ESA tribunal hearings but this sounds somewhat ominous to me. Were they on the panel? I doubt they could legally be if independent and wonder if sent by DWP to oppose the claimant? I’ve had DWP turn up to oppose, think it might be usual when there’s a big award at stake. Again argue the case, hopefully with representation and support, to give you breathing space from the DWP rep.

This is proof that Atos and the DWP are as nasty as ever, and if anything getting worse. But hopefully pressure from groups like DPAC, the Disability News Service and the new Derby people will keep the pressure up and force them either to change, or make things so difficult for them they’ll want to lose the election.

Wildthing66 also advises claimants to get angry with the assessors and threaten them with leaving in a body bag. It worked for them at the Jobcentre, apparently. I wouldn’t go that far, as it wouldn’t surprise me if they tried to charge anyone, who adopted quite such an aggressive approach with threatening behaviour. However, they are bullies. One of the DWP whistleblowers has said that quite, meek individuals will get sanctioned, whereas a 6 foot brickie won’t, because they’re obviously physically afraid of the brickie. So, it’s important to stand your ground and not allow yourself to be walked over, as difficult as that may be.

From 2012: Private Eye on Atos and Serco as their Successors

April 9, 2014

Private Eye in their issue for the 4th – 17th May 2012 ran this article reporting further examples of Atos’ cruelty towards claimants, and expressing fears that Serco were about to step into their shoes.

Health Assessments

Occupational Hazard

Disability campaigners are alarmed to hear that security giant Serco may also be moving into the health and disability assessment market, currently dominated by Atos, the French outsourcing giant.

Serco is aiming to link up with occupational therapists to “explore” how they might do assessments usually carried out by doctors or nurses; and recently hosted a seminar at the College of Occupational Therapists. The worry is that Serco could prove even more adept than Atos at doing the government’s dirty work by slashing benefits for some of the most vulnerable people.

Although some occupational therapists hesitate to join forces with Serco, the college itself sees the move as a chance to bolster the industry. Its primary objective in dealing with commercial organisations was “to ensure that there is perceived and discernible benefit to the profession and/or better health and wellbeing service for the public”.

Meanwhile, at Atos and the Department for Work and Pensions, it’s business as usual. Last week a coroner said a decision to declare a mentally ill man fit for work may have influenced his subsequent decision to commit suicide.

Martin Rust, 36, who had attempted suicide previously, had been diagnosed with treatment-resistant schizophrenia in 1998, but was living independently with mental health service support.

He died in November last year after his mother said the pressure of finding work when he felt he couldn’t cope had been extremely worrying for him. Recording that Mr Rust had committed suicide while suffering from a treatment-resistant mental illness, coroner William Armstrong said the DWP’s decision “caused distress and may well have had an adverse effect” on Mr Rust.

There was good news, though, for Jenny, the 59-year-old former teacher, who was forced to give up work when she developed the debilitating illness fibromyalgia (Eye 1300). Her benefits were stopped last year, forcing her to raise funds by selling some of her furniture, following an Atos assessment which she claimed was “cursory at best”. A tribunal panel has now said the Atos examiner’s report was full of anomalies and is instead relying on the detailed assessment and medical history for her own GP.

Doctors are the latest to raise concerns over the tests and the fact that nearly 40 percent of assessment decisions are overturned on appeal. As well as the amount of time GPs are spending on reports for appeals, there are also concerns at the length of time people are having to live, often without benefits, waiting for an appeal – nearly 25 weeks on average.

This cast some doubt on whether Atos’ statement that they are withdrawing from administering the work capability assessments will mean any improvement, if Serco takes over them. As for Atos, this report gives another victim of the company’s cruelty and incompetence. Johnny Void, Mike at Vox Political and many other bloggers have reported doctors’ criticisms of the damage the stress of the assessments has on their patients’ mental health. This article shows they are also concerned about the sheer time their patients were left without benefits while waiting for an appeal.

As for the Tribunal rejecting Atos’ reports and relying instead on information from ‘Jenny’s’ doctor, this is very much how it should be. Jaypot has stated that if a doctor declares that someone is unfit for work, then that should be sufficient as far as further assessment is required. the Work Capability Assessment itself is seriously flawed, and in my view, a completely spurious piece of pseudoscience rather than anything resembling good medical practice.