What rabbit hole have we fallen down? My experiences of Atos Work Capability Assessment

Ever since claiming Employment and Support Allowance, I’ve worried about being called to a Work Capability Assessment. A few weeks ago, a letter marked “Atos” dropped through my door. As I’d feared, it instructed me to attend for WCA at my nearest assessment centre.

Knowing how anxious I was my partner, Tom (a senior NHS manager), arranged to take the day off work so that he could support me. Before we set off we agreed, following a suggestion from a bipolar friend who had recently undergone his own WCA, that Tom would not only sit in, but would take notes of the assessment. We were both well aware that general healthcare professionals don’t always have a good understanding of mental health issues, so we planned to ask the assessor their name, qualifications and experience in mental health at the start of the interview. Again on the advice of my friend, I had written a letter outlining all the ways my condition and its treatments disable me and limit my ability to work. Atos asked me to bring my passport (as apparently I would need to prove my identity), and all the prescribed medicines I take.

The “nearest” assessment centre was about an hour away, and a brisk 10 minute walk from the nearest car parks and tube stations (I note from the map enclosed with the appointment letter that it is also at least as far as that from the nearest blue badge disabled parking spaces). We entered the ground floor reception, where a woman using a crutch was leaning on the front desk, waiting while a man – clearly her carer or advocate – spoke on the phone. He was impeccably polite, despite the fact that his side of the conversation suggested he was getting nowhere. “I understand that, ma’am,” he was saying, “but you see this is the third time this has happened to her. I just need some kind of undertaking from you that this information will be passed to her local Jobcentre. Yes…yes, I am speaking on her behalf. If I could just have your name, that would be very helpful, in order to make sure this doesn’t happen again. I do appreciate that, ma’am, but you see…” and the conversational loop would begin again.

The receptionist appeared to be dealing with a problem; it seemed some clients had been instructed to come at the wrong time, causing problems for the appointment system. She asked us to wait a moment, then took a pile of files behind a partition, from which we heard audible groan of stress or despair. When she returned she smiled, all professional again. She asked for my passport, made a note verifying my identity, and asked us up to go up to the first floor and sit straight down. We took the lift to a waiting area, where another receptionist sat behind a thick plate of glass. She was evidently shouting when she asked us to “JUST TAKE A SEAT!”, but her voice was strangely muffled; there was no grille or aperture in the glass to allow her to communicate with clients. The glass thing seemed especially odd as there was no barrier at all in front of the downstairs receptionist. Could the waiting area be that much more risky for staff than the reception? We sat and waited by a poster-sized version of the Atos customer charter, emblazoned with the company’s logo, a quizzical angelfish. The charter explained that “customers” would always be treated with respect, and as an individual, and would be listened to.

A heavy door opened and my name was called out, softly, so that for a moment I wasn’t sure if it was me they wanted. The assessor, who looked very young (mid twenties, max) took us down a corridor to a consulting room accessed using a keypad, which he carefully shielded from us. There wasn’t much in the room except a desk, three chairs and a computer. The assessor sat in front of the monitor, and we took the chairs behind it. Tom got out his notepad and pen. The assessor was silent, looking down at my file. I had the distinct impression that he hadn’t had time to look at my case in advance and was playing catch-up. Without raising his eyes, he began, “OK, so you have been asked to come here today to undergo an assessment-”

Tom politely cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, and you are…?

The assessor said, “My name is Maxwell,” but then looked up from the file and noticed how Tom’s pen was hovering over the notebook. “Who are you? You can’t take notes,” he said, flustered.

Tom looked at me, and back at Maxwell. “What do you mean, I can’t take notes?”

“You are not allowed to take notes about her assessment.”

Assuming there was some sort of client confidentiality issue, I grabbed the pen and notebook. “Fine,” I said, “Then I’ll take the notes. Now your name is Maxwell…?” I waited for him to tell me his family name, but instead he shook his head.

“You are not allowed to take notes,” he repeated.

“Wait a minute,” I said, looking at Tom and then at Maxwell and back again. “Wait a minute! You’re telling me that I can’t take notes on my own assessment? On a healthcare assessment that’s about me?” I was flummoxed. I tried to throw logic at the situation. “Look, if I go to the GP, I sometimes take notes. If I go to see my Consultant psychiatrist, I certainly take notes. I just want know the full name of the person who’s assessing me, and what their professional background is. That doesn’t seem much to ask.” I thought back to all the times I have given my full name to clients in professional practice. It’s information I’ve shared willingly with men convicted of extremely serious violent or sexual offences against women; with parents of children I am about to recommend should be placed under Child Protection Plan; with young gang members living half an hour away from me. In many public sector roles, in fact, I have been required to wear a name badge. I have always introduced myself, giving my full name and professional qualifications, because people have a right to know who is undertaking the assessment and making professional judgements about them.

Maxwell shook his head. “You can’t notes. You can ask for the interview to be recorded, but you have to ask in advance.”

I was becoming frustrated. I got out the leaflet telling me “what I need to know” before attending an assessment. I flicked through it. “There’s nothing in this leaflet to say you can’t take notes, or about asking for a recorded interview. How are we supposed to know if you don’t tell us?” (Since the assessment, I have become aware, via the Where’s the Benefit blog, of just how difficult Atos make it for claimants to record assessments even when they request it in advance – it’s basically a non-starter.)

Maxwell kept trying to state the rules about notes. I continued telling him that I intended to take notes on my own assessment, and that it was utterly reasonable for me to want to know who he actually is and what his training is. I kept having to say, “Let me speak,” because he was talking over me by repeating the rules. Around the time I started saying that I knew huge numbers of cases went to appeal after WCA, and that I wanted dates, times and names in case I should need to appeal at some point in the future, Maxwell suddenly said that he could not work with us anymore, because we were being “very aggressive.” Tom and I, with our combined years of frontline experience in the NHS and criminal justice, actually laughed in disbelief. I was thinking of the times I have been kicked, spat on. I have been called a “useless c*nt”, a stupid bitch, had fingers jabbed in my face. Huge men have stood up and loomed over me (I’m 5’ 4”), controlling my space and blocking my access to the door, enjoying my fear. If Maxwell considered me wanting to challenge nonsensical rules an example of a client being “very aggressive”, I could only assume he hasn’t worked in the public sector very long. He was up on his feet anyway; he had decided we needed to be seen by another assessor. Having no confidence in him, we agreed, and followed him out.

Back in the waiting room, Tom went up to the glass. “I’LL HAVE TO COME ROUND TO THE DOOR, I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” mouthed the receptionist. She opened the heavy door. “I’d like to know how to go about making a complaint,” said Tom.

“We should have leaflets downstairs, but we’ve run out,” the receptionist said apologetically. “She might still have some envelopes, I don’t know. There is a phone down there, though, with a number you can call.” I thought back to the polite advocate on the ground floor. A lot of what we’d overheard was making sense now.

“It’s a shame Kafka isn’t alive to see this,” I said to Tom.

My name was called again, this time by a statuesque woman with a facial expression which suggested that she was not in the habit of taking crap from anyone, and had already marked us down as troublemakers. We were shown into a much bigger consulting room (did this mean she was a doctor, rather than a nurse?) and again sat down behind the computer. “OK, so I am Marjorie.” This felt like a better start; at least she’d volunteered her first name.

“Marjorie…?” enquired Tom, pen poised.

Marjorie fixed him with a steely glance. “And who are you?”

He replied, “I’m Tom R________,” with heavy emphasis on his family name. “I’m her partner and carer.”

Margaret ignored the hint and offered no further information about herself. She looked at the notebook, and announced, “You have to ask me whether you can take notes.” She sat back in her chair.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “I’m confused. We’ve just come out of another room, because that assessor wouldn’t let us take notes. So I’d assumed that we would be put with someone who would allow us to take notes, but now you’re saying we can’t do that…?”

She shook her head. “I’m not saying you can’t take notes. I’m saying you have to ask me before you can take notes.”

Maxwell had been adamant we couldn’t take notes at all. Now we could take notes if Marjorie said so? “We have to ask you?” I repeated, checking I understand this move of the goalposts.


There was a pause. Tom asked whether, if we asked to take notes, Marjorie would be like to say yes. “You have to ask me first.”

Tom asked, “Marjorie. Please can I take notes?” I couldn’t look at him. Hearing my partner, someone with line management responsibility for senior NHS clinical staff, asking this unidentified healthcare professional to take notes, like a child asking the teacher to use the toilet, was too surreal.

“Yes, you can.”

What rabbit hole had we fallen down?

Marjorie now explained that she’d be entering information directly into the computerised assessment tool, so we shouldn’t think she was being rude if she didn’t maintain eye contact (again, more positive). She pulled the Limited Capability for Work questionnaire from my file. “Is this your handwriting?” she asked, thrusting it under my nose. I explained that, no, an advocate at my local disability rights centre had filled it in for me. Marjorie stared at me, flipping to the page where those filling in the form on behalf of a client are supposed to enter their details. “Why haven’t they written their name here, then?” I had no idea what to say. I had trusted the advocate to complete the form properly, since her knowledge of the forms and of the system was so much better than mine. I had no way of accounting for any omission on her part. I offered to give her the advocate’s details, but Marjorie moved on.

Now we were onto the assessment proper. Marjorie began asking about my where we lived, what floor our flat was on (of no relevance to mental health) and who lives with me. Tom told her we lived there as a couple. Next she asked me about diagnosis and how long I had been unwell. She asked if I had brought my medication with me, so I got out my antipsychotics, my lithium, my diazepam, and the meds for constipation and indigestion caused by the quetiapine (requiring a humiliating explanation of my problematic bowel function). I spread the boxes and tubs all over Marjorie’s desk, and she recorded each drug name and dosage on the computer. She suddenly stopped in her tracks, looking over at Tom. “Oh – those notes I said you could take? They’re not to be used for legal reasons, OK?” We nodded. What legal purposes did she think we would put them to?

The computer prompted Marjorie to ask me if I had children. I said I had two. Her head snapped up; the steely glare again. “I thought you said only the two of you live at home?” I explained that my children lived with their dad for the majority of the time, and that this too was a consequence of my illness.  By now I was beginning to feel that any claimant who did not “have their story straight” would be in trouble, and that no quarter would be given to the confusion and forgetfulness induced by many mental health conditions or mental health problems.

We moved on to when I last worked and what I was doing when I became sick. Explaining the circumstances of my sick leave, I started to cry. I’d thought I was over all the feelings of loss and disappointment about losing first my managerial role, then my role as a frontline professional; clearly I was not. Marjorie seemed to soften a little. “Do you have any tissues? I’d offer you some, but we only have hand towels… Would you like a glass of water? Do you need a minute?”

“Better to carry on,” I said. “If we wait for me to finish crying, we could be here all afternoon.” I was only half joking.

We began to go through all the ways in which bipolar disorder and my bipolar meds affect me. Marjorie wanted to know about an ordinary day, what the pattern was, how I coped. I found I had to answer every question with, “it depends.” She asked me about sleeping, about getting up, about dealing with money, about cooking. For every question, I could have given at least three answers: one for a high, one for a low, and one for a “good” day when I just about cope with the sedation, sleep problems and bowel problems. Marjorie seemed to find my imprecision frustrating (presumably because it was difficult to enter onto the computer). “Yes, but,” she said, “we all have good days and bad days.” Tom and I were not at all convinced that she understood that a bad day for a person with a severe and enduring mental health problem is nowhere near the same as a bad day for person who is mentally well. And all the time I was crying as we talked.

Suddenly Marjorie announced that the computer assessment was over, and asked if there was anything else I would like to say. “Look,” I said. “You’ve been asking me to tell you about an average day. I can’t tell you what an average day is like. That’s the whole problem. On a Friday, I can make a plan to meet someone or do something on Monday. On Monday, I might well have to text them and say I can’t go. It’s the unpredictability that’s so disabling. I would love to get back to work, but I can’t because I never know how I am going to feel. And then the pattern of my illness has really changed over time. Do you know about the difference between bipolar I and bipolar II?” Margaret said that she did, but offered no information as to her understanding of the terms. “When I was younger, my condition was much more like the pattern of bipolar II; I had lots of depressions, which lasted months at a time, and then smaller highs that I probably didn’t even realise were highs. Whereas now, it’s become more like bipolar I. I have a lot more highs, and it’s taking me a while to learn how to deal with that. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve started having borderline psychotic symptoms, really horrible paranoid beliefs. And that’s completely new for me, so I have no idea how to deal with that.”

Marjorie appeared to be actually listening now (too late?). She asked me if I had any additional paperwork I wanted included in the file, so I offered her my letter, and showed the medical certificate signing me off until late September, which she suggested I ask the downstairs receptionist to photocopy. “Well, I wish you all the best,” she said, sounding warmer than at any point during the interview, “I hope things improve for you. Especially as you have children.” And just like that, the assessment was over and we were back out in the waiting room. I continued to cry in the lift. I cried in the downstairs reception, as Tom got the certificate copied and obtained an envelope (it was true, there were no leaflets/forms) for the Atos complaints department. I cried as we walked out of the building and into the rain. I was crying because, just as when I went to the Occupational Health doctor, and just as when I had my last sickness review at work, I’d had to summarise exactly how disabled I am. Only this time, I had had to do so for someone who wouldn’t even tell me whether they were a doctor or a nurse, someone who got to hear about my paranoid thoughts, my pain at not being to care for my children fulltime, and my embarrassingly disordered bowels, but wouldn’t even tell me their family name.

As soon as we got home, Tom wrote a blistering (and lengthy) complaint letter to Atos. I was too nervous to blog about our experience right away, worrying that it could be considered a further act of “aggression” and lead to my Employment and Support Allowance being stopped. As it is, because I am on contribution-based ESA, I am only entitled to a year’s money, and that year is in up in October. It would probably be almost as cheap to just pay me the remainder, rather than run a WCA with two receptionists, an assessor (or two), administrative support and Jobcentre plus decision making and any possible appeal.  I’m still awaiting the outcome, but I’m not scared anymore. The WCA felt like an attempt to try and intimidate me, and for a week or so, it worked. But no more.

I have not used the real names of the staff members involved.

Addendum 13/09/2012

From Atos Healthcare’s website FAQ on QCA:

“Notes can be taken during an assessment by you or your representative.  The notes will only be for your use and will not be forwarded with the medical report to the DWP.”

About purplepersuasion

40 something service user, activist, writer and mother living with bipolar disorder. Proud winner of the Mark Hanson Prize for Digital Media at the Mind Media Awards #VMGMindAwards
This entry was posted in Mental health, Politics and current affairs and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

88 Responses to What rabbit hole have we fallen down? My experiences of Atos Work Capability Assessment

  1. T Smith says:

    This is truly awful; I know that’s stating the obvious, but god. A family member of mine has ME, which is similarly problematic with the predictability issues: when she filled in the DLA form, she found so many of the questions either irrelevant to her condition or so very dependent on what sort of day she’s having, what she has done recently, etc. There is just far too little understanding of invisible and so *variable* illnesses, even among health professionals.

    Can I also say how much I admire you for being able to write so eloquently and openly about your experiences. I suffer from depression, and while I’d like to be open, and encourage better understanding of mental illness, I am aware that I’m really not very good at it. But you are, so well done, and thank you.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words. I try and write when I am able because I think it’s important to let non-sick/disabled people know what’s going on, and other people in the same boat know what’s going on in the benefits and health systems.

      • p thomson says:

        I argued about the true disabled when the blitz on benefit cheats began, was then implied my writing seems fine so maybe i need be assessed as not having mental health problems. I am diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. Then another stated when i mentioned i had a car he was jealous i had a car….i told him i was jealous he had 2 legs which could use and he too could have a car if cut off his leg..then i was strung up and mobbed by the pack lol. Now i have lost over 24 kgs very depressed, told need assessment by Atos, when told them i would not attend then received another letter December 23rd stating no longer need attend as had just had a risk assessment from psychiatric team. Then New Year eve another letter stating i need attend and when called to clarify told not a mistake, not able to see from my files if entitled to ESA. Not being rude and i understand the taxpayers need for accountability but to be quite honest…as i told the DSS ..i shall not attend. I really have had enough of this, yes there are many who need be assessed, such as a bad back etc, i am diagnosed with schizophrenia,been on a section for 18 months and placed on a treatment order as ” a risk to myself and the public”,severe depression and not able to sleep properly, have paralysis below my left knee due to a suicide attempt and yes i agree i am a drain on resources and feel hopeless and now at less than 7 stones in weight and doctor trying to get me to attend hospital for severe malnutrition this is too much, also once again i have another risk assessment approaching as hopefully going to leave this earth by default through not eating…yet seemingly not allowed and probably will be sectioned as deemed mentally ill and not in charge of my faculties therefore being force fed. Sorry to hear of your treatment by Atos and they have not a prayer i shall attend, personally i prefer not breathe the air as probably wasted by myself…at least that is 1 down …and at no cost:)

  2. These interviews are absolute torture. You’re so right- we do have to explain the most hideous details of our life, things we’re desperately ashamed of, to a complete stranger. It is absolutely humiliating. Think your thorough account is extremely useful for anyone who will be undergoing one of these assessments. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. Ros says:

    And, in an act of unbelievable irony, these people are sponsoring the Paralympics.

  4. mrsshortie says:

    As always a well written post, I always feel like I am there with you when you are explaining situations. I have been fortunate (some would say) that I have not had to go through assessments with regards to employment as I had voluntary left my last employment as my mat leave began, but I can fully understand how it must be so frustrating when people ask about your daily life as I know that each day can differ depending on you emotional and mental state (are they the same thing?). I find it hard enough when I speak to my CPN or psychiatrist about ‘how I have been’ because unless it is a weekly visit (which it is no longer) then I can not always remember ‘how I have been’, I just know there were good and bad days.

    I hope that one day these assessments will be changed to reflect physical illness / disability and the mental / unseen illness. I also hope that you get a good result from Atos, and you are not expected to go through that type of assessment again.

    • Hi Kate! So nice to see you. I doubt I will have to go through it again since I am running out of entitlement to benefits anyway. The WCA is not geared up for MH in so many ways, no wonder Mind and Rethink and the Royal College of Psychiatrists have expressed such concern about it. There is just a fundamental lack of understanding that if someone comes in on a good day in a good week and says things are OK, next week they might be incapable of leaving the house, never mind working! grrrr.

      C x

  5. Heeey! Was lying awake (mind too busy + the heat) last night and was wondering how you were – but it was too late to text. I think providers tend to have an idea of who is “client material” and forget that many people who use their services are actually rather intelligent, and many are also educated and articulate. Last time I used crisis services my experience was poor and when I wrote about it ended up on Mind’s blog! Cancelled appointments are awful, I have been lucky in that regard but I have a couple of friends whose therapist and psychiatrist keep messing them around with appointments. It’s just a basic courtesy thing, let alone when you dealing with people for whom anxiety means that gearing up for appointments is a very Big Deal. Hope tomorrow is more fruitful! Keep in touch!

    C x

    • Oh yes, the ‘client material’ judgement moment. I know that CMHT staff do it and assume (albeit not maliciously) that if you are articulate and intelligent you don’t need as much help as you can apparently get it elsewhere. I know it’s happened to me because my care co-ordinator had faith in my capabilities and was actually being my cheerleader, but it upset me that if trained experts do it so easily, the midwife or physio Atos have stumped up for the day is going to do it with bells on and my WCA is not going to go well…

      (Not that anyone’s does, but you know what I mean. Too many people seem to think MH issues are visible to the naked eye with just one glance.)

    • p thomson says:

      Just curious as to what people think of the reformed ( reduced maybe more apt?)mental health crisis teams? I have had no luck, had the phone put down for raising my voice! Did they merge them with Dss/Hb? Told no room at the inn when suicidal; then paralyzed after a suicide attempt, omg never saw that coming lol? Asked “What do you want from us”? Refused a Psychiatric review and then when pushed was given another ” opinion” via phone as had read my file!The opinion being psychopathic though i’m very sensitive then phone hung up for raising my voice again. It seems if you can give a little logical thought or comprehension then you are fine.I actually understand my mental health problems though not listened to as of course i have mental health issues, deemed not capable of knowing my own thoughts or feelings. I have no faith in the mental health teams, care in the community was basically my sister had to cope with me but she died last year so now my care is a support worker and though not adequate for my needs, it’s all i have though really wish join my sis though she is in heaven and i shall be going somewhere much hotter 😦 I hope the professionals actually realize that patients have actual feelings and not a page in a book or simply a statistic as themselves have maybe made errors much larger than myself but suppose no accountability as not financial, i have spoken with many patients who too feel were wrongly medicated or mis-diagnosed. I wonder why a murderer can appeal and if found later to be not guilty, they have that label removed, yet if schizophrenic ( that label sticks) Does not matter if another opinion is formed as the original label sticks for life. I actually had almost all i knew not want me around since and is horrible and sad. After 17 years on meds i came off as complained often was the meds
      which gave me voices, yes i am ill once more but through grief and depressed but no schizophrenic episodes and have lost all i had and now nothing, i wonder how i coped if the diagnosis was correct as doubt it, if read up definitely would have had a breakdown, but guess i am just a “nutter”. I have yet to meet a former patient who was actually listened to, wondering how many actually are as i have yet to meet one and the cmht are being given a much larger case load with less resources so more than likely many are being left to “pull their socks up”…my warning was be violent and will make certain my prison sentence would be severe, great to have that feeling as made me take extra care to not go outside:)

  6. Alan Henness says:

    There are no words.

  7. Pingback: What rabbit hole have we fallen down? My experiences of Atos Work Capability Assessment | Disability Issues | Scoop.it

  8. Jude says:

    I think your blog should be made compulsory reading for all would be Atos assessors. Beautifully written and heart rendingly honest, as ever. J

    • Ah Miss J, thank you for reading my post… I have sent it to the Ministers for Mental Health and Work and Pensions, as well as my own MP, but no response from anybody thus far… xxx

  9. It’s so sad that so many people have to go through this process.

  10. Helen says:

    A really well-written and moving piece. I have heard so many people use Kafka’s name in conjunction with this process too but I bet even he couldn’t have constructed this infernal hell. I wish you the greatest of luck and I really hope this hasn’t affected you too negatively.

  11. Yvonne says:

    The Tories are simply laughing at people’s plights, because they are wealthy and don’t give a fig. Atos staff should look at holocaust films and hang their heads in shame, because the disabled were persecuted until they died by people who couldn’t care less back then. Every one of Atos WCA assessors should ask themselves this: is the money they earn worth it, when people are treated like cattle off the camp trains by them?

    • p thomson says:

      Of course the money they earn is worth it, each one kicked off is a bonus in their pay so to them yes:) I really would love to have Atos actual state what qualifications they actually have to perform an assessment…or maybe i will be able to apply as have a good insight into mental health, also the meds etc,whle at the job centre i ought to apply to be a government minister? I wonder how many who have now been taken off of incapacity have actually even be taken seriously by an employer? There are many fit healthy highly skilled workers with no job so i am guessing the former who are now assessed capable will be given a lovely little scheme to achieve and receive a shiny star on a piece of paper which nobody gives a **** about as worthless, i guess going to respond to others as i am very angry at not just my own treatment but the treatment of disabled in general as seems little difference in disabled/benefit cheat. I told them anyway i had repaired my mind, plus my leg with a modelling kit, maybe i can now have a job at Nasa or similar? lmao:)

    • Brian Davis says:

      I agree with your statement in the strongest possible way. Greed is what drives Atos & the government in this day & age, I am afraid people just no longer matter….didn’t the Prime Minister have a disabled child, oh I forgot (silly me) he’s a multi millionaire.

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  13. Nick says:

    Since the BBC and Channel 4 expose of Atos training of it’s staff, how can anyone have faith in an assessment that is proved to be numerically target based. Where, if you can push a button you fail the test.

  14. Pingback: “And the score from Glasgow is… nil points.” | purplepersuasion

  15. laura kelly says:

    Reading this brings it all back ATOS are the worst company i have ever come across, in July last year my partner was sent for his ATOS assessment, and he was being moved from Incapacity Benefit to ESA, (a bit about how he ended up on ib, he has had chronic renal failure since birth, is on his 2nd transplant, has ospteoperosis in knees and spine due to steroids, chronic swallowing and choking problems due to osphogus spasms due to his ulcers due to his medications, he suffers with anxiety and depression due to living on a lifeline knowing that it will all happen again one day)
    His consutalnt was the one who advised him to stop work in the first place, as he picked up every illness going.
    we arrived at the assessment centre to be told that the appointment may not go ahead as more people had turned up for their appointments that usual! so i explained i had taken time off work to be there, unpaid,(as i work full time) so the receptionist said she would see what she could do.
    we were put in a waiting room with a pile of sick, yes sick in the corner, swarming with flies, we eventually got seen by a lady who was Spanish, she was quite hard to understand and we had to ask her on more than one occasion what it was she had asked, when it came to my other halves medication, she asked us “what an anti rejection drug” was which baffled me, as she was apparently a doctor, we mebtioned the fact my other half has lost 2 stone, due to the choking and swallowing problem, we also had all his medications with us (he takes 48 tablets in total a day), as well as all the other problems, we were in there for 50 minutes, we recieved a letter 4 weeks later, and he was awarded ZERO! YES ZERO points,some of the things we spoke at in length were not even put on her assessment, we appealed, and were told it would go to a tribunal, but a judge made the decision without us being there, and put him in the limited capability for work section, his consultant has said he was unhappy with that and send us a letter about his many conditions, we sent that off as we believed he should be on the other catagory, but it was sent back, and he has now lost his money as he lives with me, he can not claim job seekers (even though he is ill) because we live together, so he doesn’t get a single penny, not even for the prescriptions that keep him alive, i get £1023 a month and the bills are £1022, (mortgage,council tax, water,tv licence,bt line, gas and electricity, home insurance, my life insurance, boiler cover) and their advice was to let the house be repossed, the house we fought to keep when my partner was on deaths door and i had to take 6 months off unpaid from work using every penny of saving, this country doesn’t care, and doesn’t make sense, so rather than giving his £71 a week to help him find a job, it wants us to have the house taken off us, get given social housing, me to stop work, both of us get benefits and live like that, which would cost a damn site more than £71 a week? it just doesn’t make sense, i would love to stand in front of whoever made this decision about the sick and disabled, and let them know that right now my partner is in hospital after trying to take his own life, as he feels worthless in society, there are no jobs for him the social won’t give him a penny, and his is the lowest i have seen him, meabwhile we are waiting for our repossession hearing on our home and as we don’t have children, the best we can get is a 1 bed flat, no longer can we keep our little terraced house with a bit of outdoor space, tonight i am sad and feel unhappy to call myself British, this country seems to have forgotten all about its own, and it doesn’t care less, i wonder why i am here myself, i get up go to work, go to hospital to visit him go home, go to bed get up go work, and it goes on, good luck to anyone battling with ATOS they beat us unfortunately, god only knows i wish thigs were different, but they never will be.

    • I don’t know what to say… except my Mum is an advocate who attends WCAs to support clients and she sees this stuff every day. I know I am not different or special but I hope that by writing about my experiences I can raise awareness among people who aren’t in the system and have know idea what is going on. So very sorry for everything you and your partner have been put through xx

  16. El says:

    Oh, I left a long reply and it’s been lost :0(

  17. El says:

    I’ll try to cut a long story short, I too have Bipolar, am in the midst of being penniless whilst moved from contributions-based to income-based ESA. I went through the appeal process last year for support group as opposed to work-related and can’t face another. I envisage being on JSA in the not-too-distant future. There are no jobs, full-stop, let alone for a single parent with a chronic mental health diagnosis. The form-filling has recommenced…

  18. PRISCA FURLONG says:

    What a well written account of the WCA experience – so similar to so many other mental health claimants’ experiences. I think you should send it to your MP and the Prime Minister and show them what the government is sponsoring.

    • Thank you! I have already sent it to my MP and to the ministers for Work and Pensions and Mental Health. My MP also raised the issue with the DWP Minister. We received a very standard, meaningless response. The Minister for Mental Health has declined to respond. We are also awaiting the outcome of a formal complaint to Atos.

      • El says:

        I thought we didn’t have a minister for mental health, hence calls to create a ministerial post as early as June of this year?

      • No, Paul Burstow MP was junior health minister with portfolio for social care which included mental health. However, since the reshuffle looks looks like it will be Norman Lamb http://www.carers.org/news/care-services-minister-paul-burstow-replaced-cabinet-reshuffle

      • El says:

        I am a politics student and in my humble opinion… We are doomed… ;0) I’d laugh if it weren’t all so depressing :0(

      • PRISCA FURLONG says:

        Sounds similar to my experience when my MP raised the issue of the not fit for purpose WCA with the DWP – complete waste of time. All my evidence is now with Professor Harrington for his 3rd independent review of the WCA – it proves that his recommendations from his 2nd review haven’t been put into action by the government, despite them saying that they have. A glimmer of hope is that the Public Law Project Judicial Review aimed at showing how the WCA is inadequate for mental health claimants has been allowed to go ahead by a high court judge – this would not have happened had he not realised there were serious issues to be looked into. We all need
        to campaign wherever we can to get the system changed for the better – it has gone on for far to long causing undue distress and worse for thousands of mental health claimants and the only way we will be heard is by publicising the scandal wherever we can. By the way we should encourage every claimant to insist they have their WCA recorded – I did for my WCA… I was failed and I then presented the CD recording to the Decision Maker pointing out how the assessor had manipulated facts discussed and omitted important facts discussed and he was forced to reverse the decision to fail me. This CD is also with Professor Harrington for his review.

      • I wasn’t informed about recording until I got there, and no way was I going to come back another day!

  19. Nick says:

    How do you go about requesting a recording of the WCA? what equipment would have to be involved? Do they supply it? Cause from the evidence it seems obvious certain information is beind deliberately left out if it goes in the claimants favour.

    • Hi Nick, if you click on the link in the middle of the post for the Where’s the Benefit? blog you can find more info – Atos actually make it super hard to get a recording.

    • PRISCA FURLONG says:

      I didn’t know it was possible to have a recording made but when ATOS phoned me to arrange a date for my WCA I told them point blank I did not trust their assessments due to the fact that I had had so many appeals upheld in the past and the whole procedure was causing me huge stress and exacerbating my illness. It was then that they volunteered the fact that I could have the WCA recorded using one of their machines which would produce 2 CDs – one for me and one for them. I immediately said that I wanted to take advantage of this facility. They had to give me a later date for the WCA in order to arrange for the equipment to be sent to the assessment centre but this didn’t bother me as I thought it was vital to have a recording made – as proved to be the case.

      • Nick says:

        Prisca Furlong
        I note with surprise the reponse you gained from ATOS and that they supplied the recording equipment. I wonder if others would get the same response? There seems to be no reason why this recording service shouldn’t be offered to all claimants as part of their welfare rights. I also note with interest the fact that even though ATOS supplied their own recorded CD to you, they still distorted the facts as recorded. Am I right? It only proves what a company they are. But it seems this is what you end up with when you put peoples human rights out to private tender and market forces. What happened to good old medical evidence from the proffesionals? I know this had it’s own flaws to, but it was much better than this. I’ve also become aware that the DWP seem to have done away with face to face interviews in case reveiws (unless they ask for it). On a couple of accassions recently I’ve asked for a formal interveiw to disscuss my case and was only offered a phone call back by 3.pm. Both occassions I had to wait around all day noly for the phone to ring at ten to three. The person on the other end didn’t allow me any space to speak. I felt dictated to and no apology for the fact that I’d contacted them due to their mistake. The person on the other end made me feel like a suspected fraud untill eventually I had to literally tell him how to use his own computer to scroll through my file and read the facts. at which point he decided he’d had enough and told me he was going to refer it to ‘the decision maker’. Needless to say, I got a phone call a couple of days later from said person who had to scwirm their way out of attaching any blame to his department for their mistake by blaming another department for not passing on information. No apology and my benefit delayed by at least a week through no fault of my own. I’m dreading my WCA. I feel a real danger of losing it with them if they continue showing such disrespect and treating us like dog do do.
        Glad you won your appeal by the way.

      • PRISCA FURLONG says:

        I think all CABs and GPs should advise clients/patients to request recordings (I’ve asked my GP to do this for other patients who are claimants) as ATOS is failing to make it known that the facility can be requested. If a request is denied with the excuse there isn’t a machine available it could be helpful to demand to speak to the head manager and stand your ground. Blatantly it is not fair to allow some people a recording and not others. Goodness knows why my assessor still distorted the facts even though a recording was being made – I suspect she needed to fail me and reach her target (as exposed as general practice by the Dispatches programme) and also she probably thought ATOS would protect her and the decision maker uphold her findings despite the recording (which he did in the first instance until I contested it) – or maybe, like most ATOS officials, she was incapable of thinking outside the box! I would get your request in early, by writing, to have your WCA recorded – they shouldn’t have any grounds for excuses then. By the way if you have a recording made their copy is not sent to the decision maker, it is sent to an archive. You would have to request it is sent to the decision maker.

  20. Nick says:

    purplepersuasion, read the link. The requirements by ATOS are obviously designed to stop any recording of their assements. This is probably because they didn’t want brought to public attention what channel 4 and the BBC have done with their undercover filming earlier this year. But did ATOS take any legal action? No. Did they say their privacy had been invaded? No. because they know there is a direct public interest in there being exposed for what they are and that they don’t have a legal leg to stand on. So they make it virtually impossible for any claimant to record an assement. One thing I didn’t understand about the judgment in the court case was, could the judge have ordered ATOS to supply their own recording equipment (like the police) and a copy given to the claimant (or representitive at the end of assement? A multi million pound company like ATOS could have probably claimed the costs back from the DWP under expenses. I await to see what the Harrington reveiw recomedations are and if they will be implemented. past experience points to little change from government, which begs the question about the benefit of reveiws. All this and

    we still have the PIP (DLA) reforms to come.

  21. pp very good account of the atos way ,they treat us just with comtempt and only look at us as their bonus we know before we go there no points ,only to win at the tribunel stage ,where are our mps why do they allow this to go on and on where many lose their lives .unfit unclean its just so heartning that they can vbe alowed to treat us this way .4 one coming up and to go through it when ones ill and disabled doesnt need a person with some brains to say enough and give this company made by blair and used by the torys to finalise us its so that every day i see or hear that someone takes his or her life because of them and would if i can talk them out of it but they have no heart this lot they know in the big house whots happening to us and are turning their heads away from us ps please if you in the dark place come to the www. dwpexamination.org where you can talk and be helped jeff3 thanks pp

  22. Damo says:

    I am sure your’s is not a unique experience in terms of the WCA…..hopefully things are improving following review of the current assessment system. I just want to clarify as well as you have cited in a newer post also regarding the rules of duration of ESA. Just because you receive contribution based ESA does not mean it will only be for 1 year. The differentiation within the contribution based group is between whether you are placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) or the Support Group. For those in the Contribution based Support Group, ESA is payable unless assessed otherwise at a future assessment. For those placed i the WRAG, there is 12 month limit.

  23. You poor woman, having to go through all of that hassle and the part where they claimed you couldn’t write notes is disgusting. I have read through a lot of forms and the so called leaflets and none of them state that you cannot take notes for your own use. The 1st * and i’ll use this term lightly * doctor, was wrong to attempt to chastise you for that. I have an appointment in 3 weeks time and i have of course requested the interview to be recorded, as well as my wife taking notes. If they don’t like it, its tough. They will claim aggressive with almost anything but if you are having the interview recorded they can’t say otherwise. I’m pretty sure i’ll post what happens afterwards lol

  24. Name? says:

    After reading your post I am reconsidering suicide, it seems to be a gentler option than looking for “help”.

    • I wouldn’t go that far! But it is certainly distressing and comfortable, and much of what is distressing isn’t even about the descriptors used, or the (alleged) targets for getting most people off benefits, it’s that on top of all that suffering, they are carried out badly and unkindly. It may be that the rest of it cannot be helped by now, but the interpersonal issues certainly could.

      • Nick says:

        Purple persuasion, don’t know if you saw on channel 4 news the other evening where the parents of a person with severe epilepsy was found fit to work and had around £70 per week in benefits removed. The anxiety this caused, according to his parents who live only two doors away due to having to give their son the support he needed, made his condition worse which allegedly resulted in a fatal epileptic fit. They found him dead on the floor of his flat the next morning. His dad said – quote – ‘this government have killed my son and I will never forget this’. His son was asking the DWP to look into his case again. Five weeks after he died his parents received a letter reinstating all his benefits and admitted the first decision should never have been made.

        In defence ATOS said the usual, namely, they don’t make the rules but only carry out goverment directives and procedures, blah, blah, etc.

        The DWP tried to despicably worm their way out by stating that many people didn’t give them all the relevant medical evidence at the first offering but that many brought new evidence when appealing.

        This is disgusting as there is overwhelming evidence to say that relevant medical evidence is being routinely ignored in preference to ATOS’s work capability findings. Indeed undercover documentaries don’t only allege this but in my opinion PROVE it! the figures according to channel 4 show that well over ninety percent of decisions made by decision makers at DWP are in compliance with what WCA by ATOS found regardless of contrary specific medical evidence. Do you think there might be a bit of collusion going off? Na… all you got to do is read there website charter and see what a wonderful company they are with the well-being and intrests of their testees to the fore in every aspect. Oh, except when they’ve reached the 12% cut off approved rate. Then the assessors must get scared or something cause apparently only 12% of sick claimants are not capable of work on average they say. I saw the trainer and assessors espouse as much on the undercover documentary. To me this is proof – not speculation.

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  26. scrapheapvictim says:

    I felt physically sick reading this. After 14 years without one and having retired on a full ill health pension due to my mental health issues I have received a letter about an Assessment and then a full two months after the date of that letter will be the date of the Assessment according to a second letter I received.

    This hiatus means I am hardly sleeping, I am thinking about this all the time, about the stress on my partner and carer and on the effects of losing the money we are getting which is stopping us from going under financially – not to mention the health care (we live outside the UK in the EU) for both of us that is dependent on my status. My partner would die without that health care.

    I don’t know whether abroad this will be an ATOS driven interview or not. I have tried to condense my mental health issues down onto sheets of paper and have 4 pages of close typing which shows how they began in childhood and my encounters with NHS, suicide attempts etc. The Assessment process itself is actually making me more ill.

    • Hi, I know from family experience that things get even MORE complicated when you are applying for benefits from another EU country. If your assessment is with Atos, it will say so – it is Atos that sends out the letter, not the DWP. I wasn’t clear from your comment which benefit you are receiving, are you someone who has been on Incapacity Benefit? If you can give me a few more details, I could ask my online network to see if I can find out more about what the process is for someone outside the UK. Best wishes, C

      • scrapheapvictim says:

        Very kind. The letter advising there would be an assessment came direct from DSS in Newcastle and does not seem to on standard stationery (IPC SU 485 ESA 03/10)that was designed for this situation overseas.

        The appointment letter came direct from the medical practice abroad. My partner has warned the medical practice he has challenged this appointment on several grounds with the DSS (by FAX the day of the first letter arriving) who seem to be very slow in responding – and did try to ascertain whether this involved an ATOS computer overseas which they seemed to deny. The idea a computer script rubber stamped by a doctor (or Anor.) validates a mental health assessment seems madness.

        I have been on ICB for 14 years – without ever it seems ‘applying for it’ – I have a full employer pension after being retired on medical grounds back then – but financially we are desperate at the moment and the medical care (that is now essential) we get because of my status depends on my being in the ‘Support Group’, I think, after the ESA.

  27. suzee lewis says:

    i have just been for an assessment and must say the nurse who took my report was professional, kind and extremely polite……have heard some real bad stories aboout these assessments but all i can say is i felt she empathised with me and really listened to what i had to say

    • Nick says:

      suzee lewis
      Your experience probably points to user groups campaigning making in-roads into the assement process. However, I would wait until you hear from the decision maker before you start counting your chickens.

  28. Nora B says:

    I have my assessment this monday coming, so far I have been sent four assessment appointments, one before I sent in my ESA50, and the other 3 in response to my husband ringing Atos to find out why I had it sent before they received my form to assess whether or not I should be called in. I am dreading it truly I am. I too have mental health problems – I have borderline personality disorder (try explaining that to anyone) and CPTSD (comples Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) — I hope everying works out for you … it is really scary I really did not belive it could be worse the Thatcher’s Britian.

    • Nick says:

      Nora B
      I understand how you feel about the assement. It does appear to be a stitched up process. I hope someone is going with you to the assement. Please let it be known at the assement (reception) how much anxiety the process has caused you. If you have to wait around or they cancel your appointment certainly make it known to them the anxiety this causes and how it affects your already serious condition. I would advise that you ask if the person accompanying you can take notes at the assement. If ATOS refuse (which they have no reason to) ask for a written explanation and legal reasons why you are not allowed to take notes. Further, you could request for the assement to be recorded and that you receive a copy and that a copy is sent to the decision maker along with the assement notes. Although I think it may be too late at this stage to request a recording. Its best to do this when you send back your ESA50. Even then theres no guarantee they would acknowledge your request but you have the right to do this. Hope its not too horrible for you.

      • p thomson says:

        Sad to hear your words and curious what happens during the assessment? In the good old days i had my cpn accompany me to a DLA tribunal, i could barely understand anything as on anti psychotics, sleeping tablets, anti depressants and 1200mg chlopromazine daily so really just sat like a cardboard cut out, when my cpn tried to speak on my behalf he was told politely to be quiet:( really the thought of even worse i am not able to even contemplate similar, let alone worse as now more ” with it” and the best i would get is kicked out for raising my voice though i really am wishing to not wake up as impossible i attend no matter what promised or even if sedated again:(

      • Hi, I described in my post what happens at the actual assessment – after that the Healthcare Professional fills in the computer-based assessment tool and send it to the DWP decision-maker – they are the ones who actually make the decision but they draw heavily on the HCP’s views. If they find against you, then you can lodge an appeal as soon as you have the decision. It doesn’t go to tribunal unless the decision-maker’s decision is upheld.

  29. i would not be so happy suzie lewis wait untill that brown envelopr comes 1in8 pass through the atos doors that will get through 1in 8 its just another atos employer asking the same questions lima ones that find you fit to work

  30. Arealist says:

    Welcome to the future of welfare in Britain, no amount of disabled persons throwing themselves across Oxford street to stop the traffic will do a blind bit of good, DLA will disappear for ever, the welfare reform bill will not be repealed things are going to get a whole lot worse I am sorry to say, politicians have washed their hands of the sick and disabled of this country, while they line their pockets with filthy lucre.

  31. Anon says:

    I am going though the same process appalling company totally target driven company where they do get paid to get people off the sick lists. Yet before I had 4 assessments including one home visit. Now they gave me 0 points and I went along with someone as a witness they lied like hell on his assessment he is ex army and has post traumatic stress disorder they gave him 14 points one short of he magic 15.he has now been section due to stress and worry.

    People are committing suicide companies are getting contracts to run these test yet have no background in health care. Personally I think the whole system is corrupt from the top down MP’s do not care they huff and puff yet do nothing. But we all can email them or write to them telling them if they do not stop this you will not be voting for them the more people do this the more they will have to listen and do something.

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  33. newbie2013 says:

    hi all i have been sent an appointment assessment my first but was for 24th dec and as this was delivered only a week before hand i had flooding down my lane and bug stopped me going so a appointment for the 10th of jan 2013 has been given to me now to attend i phoned yesterday 3rd of jan requesting that i would like a recording done at the time of assessment please and was told an email will be sent about this to who ever he didnt say and for me to phone back next week if i have not heard any thing from any one as they may do another appointment if they do not have the recording players available or ready i asked if i could have his name in case there was a problem and was given just first name and when i asked for a surname was told no i can give an id no only, which i wrote down i asked was it a good idea to write to atos and who ever about this and get it registered by post as i had heard someone say this he said no it will be ok.i have no idea if this will be and knowing two days before if i am going in or another appointment is happening is stressful i am asking for any advise please should i write any way? and how much notice do they normally need for this am i being fobbed off about this and they will say no too late at the last min i have many illnesses and some have not been diagnosed as of yet still trying to find out what it is lumpus or sjrogens? or other? and i have stress related and nervous disorders post traumatic etc

    • I am by no means an expert, just someone who has been through it. I would recommend that you seek advice from a Citizen’s Advice Bureau, a local disability resource centre, or a local advocacy service – they can give you proper advice. A few points do occur to me, however.As you may have read in my post, they are VERY reluctant to give out family names, which makes it very hard when you want to make a record of who you have actually spoken to – but I hope you are keeping a record of dates and times of calls and exactly what was said. If you are given another appointment I would suggest you attend anyway, even if the recording is not sorted, but then explain when you get there that you have been requesting a recording and that you are not happy to proceed without it. Remember that you ARE entitled to take notes – even if you are told you are not, this is nonsense, because it clearly states that you can on Atos’ own website. I’d be wary of missing any appointments. If you don’t turn up, even for a good reason, there is the possibility they will put you down as a non-attender and that will go against you. In terms of getting other diagnoses, I don’t think they will wait for you to get these, but a letter from you GP details what tests and examinations you are undergoing. Good luck, and do get some proper advice, I think it’s really worth it x

  34. Cherryl says:

    I too have been on an atos assesment. It happened last may 2012. I have chronic osteo athritis, and spondulitus in my neck. The person I saw asked me questions such as can you raise an empty cardboard box, can you raise a pint of milk off a table. She said spondulitus doesn’t exist . She also asked if I had pets I said yes two old dogs. she said how often do I walk them I said I don’t because I cant hold them and my stick. i said I used to attach them to my mobility scooter and take them out every Sunday round the park but my scooter broken. On the copy of the form I got back it said ” Takes dogs for walk around park every Sunday ” she asked do i have a bath or shower in the house. I said bath but can’t use it because can’t get in and out. copy came back ” has a bath every day ” Asked how long can you comfortably stand. I said for max 10 mins. Copy stated ” can stand for an hour” the lies on the form go on and on. Oh yes I am also 60 and have been disabled for 10 years.
    I then got a call from DSS saying that the assessment conclusion was I have to get a job and my benefits would stop that day. I was shocked to say the least and went to CAB to get help. Iy took them 9 weeks to get me some money. For those 9 weeks I had nothing coming in and was borrowing of friends and family just to eat.
    It is now January I had no Christmas except one day at my son’s I have been waiting for since last June for a tribuneral hearing to get my money back.
    The CAB in Birmingham have been brilliant.

  35. anon says:

    ATOS and the DWP have apparently cracked time travel as I have just received a letter from ATOS Medical Services stating that the assessment I attended in person eight days ago has now been cancelled and I am no longer required to come in for it. The cancellation letter was dated and sent out two days ago – six days after the fact. Cue the theme tune from The Twilight Zone…..

  36. newbie50 says:

    i to am going through the process of this hell and am ill with many illnesses i am rural my cab local was useless so phoned to get a support group to help ie mind did not get back with a silly quite good luck all message on machine with nothing in my area so found a forum that has all the answers to any problems questions on web site explains how to get tape recordings etc all members will help as in same boat i feel as much info is good to make mind up well done for fighting purple

    • This is where I think the internet is just fantastic. When I was growing up, if there was no support, or no-body told you about it, or you lived in a rural area and could get to whatever support there was, you were alone with you difficulties. Now you can always find someone who understands, who has maybe been there too, and who wants to help. My main support is Twitter, I don’t know how I would manage without it! I wish you the very best of luck. Charlotte x

  37. Peter Hendry says:

    About your bowel problems I would suggest that you avoid wheat for three days.
    On day four you will either feel better or be able to rule that one out and have a big pizza.
    I was depressed for two years then a friend suggested Honey and Cinnamon which I take in my coffee in the morning and in a glass of warm red wine at night.
    Won’t take up space on details as you will probably check it out for yourself on the web.

    • Ah, no, you misunderstand. The bowel problems are not diet related in any way. It’s purple because of these extremely sedation, metabolism-slowing medication. And um,don’t you think that if my mental health conditions could be fixed with dietary methods, I would’ve sorted it by now? I have a severe, lifelong condition which has affected my life for 27 years. Cinnamon and honey will do – well, absolutely nothing.

  38. I live in the US. We have a similar assessment system with our Social Security Disability system. Basically, when a person applies for disability, he/she has to provide intimate details about every day life and every medical record possible to say they are disabled. I have two degenerated disks in my back-L4 and L5. This can cause some ugly symptoms ranging from mild muscle spasms to sciatica to other problems. I have days when I can do a good bit of work around the house and other days when I can barely get out of bed. It’s one of those “it depends” things. I had a knee replaced in 2005, I have asthma, and type 2 diabetes. I was allowed disability in 1994 and my back is worse now. It’s been recommended I have surgery, but I’ll put that off as long as I can.
    I just thought I’d let you know that we have a similar system and you are not alone there. God bless!

  39. butterflywgs says:

    HAHAHA honey and cinnamon will cure you! And cutting out wheat! Don’t you just love random Internet advice.
    PS. It takes at least 2 weeks to see improvement on cutting out wheat (if it’s going to help). I have found that helped my digestion, strangely didn’t cure my mental health issues.

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  43. don says:

    Did you ever have to go for a re-assessement and if so how long did it take for atos to contact you again after your first one and what was the result? Appealed a decision and put into support group july2013 but don’t know anything about when I will be re-assessed. Thank you.

    • No, I just went straight in for appeal, and after I won I dropped my claim. A) I was starting to earn a little money – piffling amounts, really, but more than permitted earnings on ESA and B) if I could possibly manage without ESA, there was no way I was going to allow them to reassess me. Right now I am waiting for my PIP assessment… not sure if I can face attending.

  44. My wife has uncontrollable epilepsy, taking between 100 and 130 attacks each month. She has been put into the ESA work group, she also suffers from a rare skin condition called Bullous Pemphigoid which can cover her skin with large blisters. She cannot be anywhere near man made fabrics and has to be careful even walking through a shop with racks of clothes.
    Yet they classify her as capable of heading towards work. Although she has been like this for over 25 years we only applied for DLA benefit in 2009. She cannot face these interviews like you have described so we are letting them stop her benefit when the time comes for work place assessments. We would rather be poor and happy than living with worry. We are both around 60 now and it’s too late to consider such work placements even if they were suitable.
    PIP would be even harder to get so thats out.

  45. Nick says:

    Dear James,

    Have you thought of contacting your MP to take up your case?

    Very best wishes.

    • Rheal Perrier says:

      I am employed in the sosial service housing department . In January o was given a 15 week stress leave from work . Was supose to start working on May 11 . I was told i could not go back to work inless i had a doctors note . Well i got the note and payed $25.00 . I was supose to start on a Monday . The week before i let my supervisor know that my 15 weeks was up on Sunday and i had my doctors bsck to work note . Well this is the 19th of May and still waiting for the office to tell me what the capability assesment is all about . As if it takes more then two weeks to know what they must do . My uic is running out and still no news on what the assesment is all about . This is putting me back on stress mode and is not gair . I feel like they do not want me back . My job was part time full time . Part time due to only 20 hours a week but fill tome . They hirred my temporary replacement as part time full time . No problem this is how we meeded to post the job . Well i want to thank you on the lnowlage of what the assesment is about . I feel like they have no intention to take me back . This is my last uic check and maybe not . My last check was probably my last . I hope not . Make beleive assesment is what i see . How come they are allowed to use any material against you nut we are not allowed to have material notes or what ever to fight this after . Equal rights is what in this country ??????? I would need advice on who to see before i have this assesment . When i gave my resume i have mentioned that i desable from a motor vehicle accident and that i had limited capabilities on working . They accepted me as a desabled person when they hirred me . What to do ……please reply . Thank You

      • Hi Rheal, I’m a bit confused – are you from America/Canada? Because the $ sign and resume rather than CV leads me to think you are, but this post is only about the UK Department of Work and Pensions and employment law – so I’m afraid I don’t have any information that might help. Good luck though!

  46. Dan Timoney says:

    Great article. It doesnt suprise me that the assessment is all based on what the assessor sees.
    My wife has an appointment with ATOS soon. Any advice before we go?

    • Make sure they know what things are like at their worst (days and symptoms). One’s capability to work or not isn’t about how many good, work-ready days we have, it’s about the days and experiences that make work impossible for her. And yes, you can take notes! So probably a good idea. All the best!

  47. Pingback: Tory welfare reforms, Britain’s secret penal system | Fear and loathing in Great Britain

  48. Pingback: Fitness for work – the real life questions the system never asks | purplepersuasion

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