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My victory over Atos and DWP discrimination

Discussion in 'Finances, Work, and Disability' started by Pike, Jun 8, 2017.

  1. Pike

    Pike

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    My victory over institutional discrimination by Atos and DWP

    Last Friday I received the dreaded brown DWP envelope. Fully expecting yet more bad news I tore open the envelope ready to rip up the letter and fling it in the bin. The letter informed me that in light of my second complaint against my second assessment together with new medical evidence that the DWP was now awarding me the enhanced rate for the daily living and mobility components of PIP. My 8 month battle against institutional discrimination by the DWP had finally paid off.


    I believe that my struggle against institutional discrimination by the DWP was mainly down to a no-surrender/never give in attitude. Let's face it the DWP's war on the poor, a disproportionate number of whom are disabled, is part and parcel of the Tory government's class rule on behalf of the richest one per cent in society. I saw my struggle to obtain PIP as part of this class struggle against an establishment that seeks to impoverish the poorest sections of society while transferring wealth to the 1%.


    My story begins in August 2016. I already had the lowest rate of the mobility element of PIP due to my neurological illness. My illness which is a form of low grade brain inflammation and mitochondrial dysfunction called ME had got a lot worse. My wife was having to cook and prepare all my meals, having to push me round in a wheelchair etc etc. I had been on sick leave from my job for several months and knew in my heart of hearts that it was very unlikely that I would return. I told PIP that my illness had got worse and wanted a review of my award.


    In early November my wife and I went to the local PIP assessment centre by taxi which dropped us outside the entrance. After a short wait we were greeted by the health professional who was going to carry out my assessment. Once inside the 'consultation' room she started firing questions at me. I tried in vain to explain how my illness affected me and asked for time at the end to give him more medical evidence. I was ignored and told we could deal with this latter. The so called health professional fired one leading question after another at me. When she did not get the response she wanted she would repeat the question again and I would try and repeat my initial answer. The question would be asked again until she got a response that he wanted.


    After about 15 minutes my wife interjected and said,'My husband has answered your question so stop asking him it again and again'. This comment was ignored as the health professional persisted with her war of attrition style tactics that were grinding me down. After half an hour I asked for a break to take some painkillers and ribose, that helps with energy production. I was now so very fatigued that I had my head in my hands resting on the desk of the health professional.


    The questions continued unabated. She didn't stop to ask if I was in pain or feeling unwell. My wife began to answer questions for me as I was struggling to comprehend the questions due to overwhelming fatigue. By the end of the assessment I felt as if I'd been in a fight and just had one desire to go home to bed and take more painkillers. The health professional watched me shuffle out of the building and into the taxi waiting outside.


    A month later I received the dreaded brown envelope informing me that I was not entitled to any element of PIP and with aids I could cook a 3 course meal, walk up Ben Nevis and run my own business. You get the picture. With the help of the local CAB and my family I prepared my Mandatory Reconsideration letter that included further medical evidence and sent it off expecting to be turned down. A month later another brown envelope arrived turning down my reconsideration.


    Another trip to CAB and we filled in the form for an appeal. At the same time I wrote a letter of complaint that explained in detail the lies and distortions in the health professionals report. It also pointed out the omissions of things that I had told the health professional.


    Christmas came and went as I waited for the DWP to respond to my appeal and letter of complaint. It got to late January and I could wait no longer. I rang up DWP only to be told they had no record of my letter of complaint. I was told to send it again. Meanwhile, my employer dismissed me on the grounds of ill-health to round off a miserable month.


    In mid February, I received 2 short phone calls from different Atos managers who never gave their names, and informed me that my assessment in November was not up to the 'high standards' that Atos expects of its employees. The issues raised in my letter of complaint were never mentioned. I was told that Atos had decided to let me have a second assessment, this time at my home in mid March. I was told by me CAB worker that she had never heard of someone being given a home assessment after a complaint.


    In the build up to the home visit I was filled with anxiety hoping that this time I would be given a fair hearing. On the day my wife greeted the health professional who came into our living room. He identified himself as a paramedic. He expressed regret for my the 'unfortunate' experience I'd had during my first assessment and asked if I felt anxious about his presence. My wife repeatedly told him that his presence in our house made me rather anxious.


    He set up his laptop while I laid down on the sofa and closed my eyes due to overwhelming fatigue and pain in my back. My wife gave him 2 separate reports by different consultants that explained in great detail the debilitating impact of my illness upon my life. He promised to read the reports later. Then it was back to the same old routine of questions and type, type by the health professional.


    I tried my best to answer the questions with help from my wife. The assessment lasted an hour and a quarter and then the health professional carried out a physical examination while I was laid down. It lasted about 90 seconds and then he left much to my relief.


    Two weeks later and I received a copy of the health professionals report which had me in tears within a minute of reading it. I could not believe the lies, distortions and omissions of things I had told him. The consultants reports that I had given him were not even mentioned. He did however mention that the report from the November assessment, which had been described by 2 Atos managers as unsatisfactory, was part of the evidence that he had considered!


    I felt incredibly upset at not being believed a second time. I thought the first rule of medicine was to do no harm. Obviously, the health professionals working for Atos seemed to have forgotten what the word ethics means. This greatly increased the severity of my anxiety while I struggled with a flaring up of my neurological illness. For several weeks I was too ill to think about my PIP claim and regretted ever making a claim.


    A month after the home assessment I decided that I could not give in to this institutional discrimination. I spent two weeks going over his report line by line and took it apart. My critique ran to four pages and I sent it off by recorded delivery. Atos sent me the obligatory letter saying they would reply to my complaint within 30 working days.


    Seven weeks after my assessment I rang up DWP and was told that I would receive a decision in one to two weeks as they were considering 'new' medical evidence related to my claim.


    A few days later I received two letters from Atos which were replies to my two written complaints. The letter dealing with my first complaint noted that the health professional and her manager had failed to respond to the request from Atos client relations for a response to the points I had raised. It concluded with the statement that the health professionals report was,'both insufficiently detailed an d based upon information which dated from 2014 and earlier dates'. This was just not true. I provided several up to date reports from different medical professionals into the impact of my illness.


    The second letter was a reply to my second complaint and noted that a review of the health professionals report had been carried out by a Client Relations Medical Advisor. It went through in detail the many points that I had raised. It concluded with the statement that were 'many inaccuracies and omissions' within the report and that further medical evidence 'had not been fully considered'. To cap it all off was the further admission that the report contained many 'inconsistencies and contradictions'.


    After such a damning quality review the Atos client relations officer noted that the conclusions of the review had been sent to DWP for them to consider.


    Three days later and I received the DWP letter saying that I had been awarded PIP at the enhanced rate for daily living and mobility for ten years! Two days later and my CAB worker rang me up congratulating me and saying that the ten year award in such circumstances was unprecedented.

    I punched the air after receiving my award. I felt that I won a small victory over the institutional discrimination that seems to be the modus operandi of Atos and the DWP.


    The moral of my story is simple: Never give up fighting. No matter how many times you are turned down, no matter what lies are said about you in Atos reports don't let it get get you down. Turn the dejection, anxiety, stress and anger you maybe feeling into action. Put pen to paper and write a letter of complaint about what happened at your assessment and/or what is said in the health professionals report. Make sure it is sent by recorded delivery. You cannot expect to be treated with respect. You cannot expect fair treatment. You can expect: to be treated with disdain, to not be believed, the medical evidence you provide to be ignored.


    Tory Britain in 2017 is a society that fails disabled people on so any different levels. The benefits system is on the front lines of the class war against the disabled poor. We must stand together to give disabled people the help, encouragement and support necessary to fight for the benefits that they are entitled to.
     
    TreePerson, Benji, AndyPandy and 39 others like this.
  2. Ysabelle-S

    Ysabelle-S Highly Vexatious

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    Well done. So happy for you. :)
     
  3. Sean

    Sean Senior Member

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    :)


    Yep. :mad: :hug:
     
  4. AndyPR

    AndyPR Senior Member

    Welcome to PR @Pike and congratulations.

    I would guess that this your story then? If so, thank you for being willing to publicise your struggles with the system.

    https://www.disabilitynewsservice.c...rtions-exposed-by-double-apology-to-claimant/

     
  5. Hell...Hath...No...Fury..

    Hell...Hath...No...Fury.. Senior Member

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    @Pike well done, i'm so happy for you! Not happy that you went through the usual crap to get it but your persistence paid off. It must be a huge relief now :)
     
  6. Marigold7

    Marigold7 Senior Member

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    Well done indeed and of course this should not have happened. I have posted elsewhere of a similar battle I had re DLA way back now i n the UK; must have been the 80s. Same attempts to discredit etc etc with added refinements. ! Like the examination office being along 1/4 mile of corridors so that when and if you finally got there they said you are fine as you have walked all the way.. Then a consultant ( I was being misdiagnosed as ?? mentally ill??although severely limited mobility etc) actually sent for me for a fake DLA medical. When the real people sent for me weeks later and I told them I had just been assessed and refused? I still had the paperwork. They arranged a home visit and I was awarded DLA Mobility Higher Component for life. I moved to Eire in 2001 having made sure I could still get DLA overseas. When my incapacity allowance changed to old age pension they tried to tell me I had been cheating them by being paid DLA overseas and were stopping 10 sterling off my pension each week. I challenged that and won. ( even wrote to Tony Blair!) I remember then wondering how folk who are not highly literate cope? Been privileged since to help others with such paperwork.
     
  7. ScottTriGuy

    ScottTriGuy Stop the harm. Start the research and treatment.

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    Congrats. Such a relief. Hope you don't have long term effects from the trauma of being deeply invalidated and of having to prove your ill.

    The other thing that kept recurring - and reinforcing - to me as I read your tale, was the need to audio (or even better, video) tape these meetings as strong evidence.

    Some police forces have their police officers wear cameras - this has decreased the number of public complaints about abuse by police.

    Similar situation with ME: a public servant has an incredible amount of power to wield at their whim - given the institutional bias against ME, they should be held accountable in the same manner - no doubt the amount of trauma and PTSD will be reduced among ME patients.
     
  8. Marigold7

    Marigold7 Senior Member

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    MEMum and ScottTriGuy like this.
  9. arewenearlythereyet

    arewenearlythereyet Senior Member

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    Well done it's great to hear someone getting what their entitled to.
     
  10. Marigold7

    Marigold7 Senior Member

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    Similar situation with ME: a public servant has an incredible amount of power to wield at their whim - given the institutional bias against ME, they should be held accountable in the same manner - no doubt the amount of trauma and PTSD will be reduced among ME patients.[/QUOTE]

    With me it was not re M.E. So imagine please the things folk with eg mental health problems who also have eg arthritis are put through which they were saying I was and had. Life and benefits etc since i was diagnosed are far far easier than they were in the years before. And many get severely traumatised other than with M.E.
     
  11. Snowdrop

    Snowdrop Rebel without a biscuit

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    Good news in the end. So sorry to hear what effort was involved in getting there. I hope your story gets more press than here on PR. The people who do this need to be held accountable. But that would be it's own struggle as they have all the power to deny anyone their rightful benefits if they shine a light on this brutal practice.
     
  12. Starlight

    Starlight Senior Member

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    You must be so glad that your resistance and fighting spirit paid off.it This is real encouragement for others.I hope it hasn't flattened you physically. I'm glad you have one less thing to worry about. I love to read these stories and there are too few of them.
     
  13. Marigold7

    Marigold7 Senior Member

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    Anyone i have such issues with gets a letter headed cc legal counsel, Press Office.... tends to get action fast,,
     
  14. Luther Blissett

    Luther Blissett Senior Member

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    Congratulations @Pike ! A very well written post, containing valuble advice. Welcome to the forums :hug:


    If only it were so simple, @ScottTriGuy !

    Here are the rules for recording a PIP examination;

    In other words, you can record, but only on a device that most people don't have, is expensive, has limited use to you in everyday activites, and can produce a copy in almost real time.

    Devices that are used to produce professional quality audio for people like musicians, TV and Film? Not good enough!

    Try secretly recording and get caught? You will be reported to the DWP as 'refused to participate'!

    The best thing to do if you don't have a reel to reel double tape recorder !? is to have a witness present, and if things do go wrong afterwards, try to make them fill in as much paperwork as possible.

    They will be working in a modern office environment, with probably stupid targets for work done, time accounted for etc. What is the last thing they want? Extra paperwork.

    A few quick tips for others reading;

    • Learn the magic words; REPEATEDLY, RELIABLY AND SAFELY.
    • Learn what the questions mean and the assumptions behind them

    Example; Q. Where do you sleep? A. In my bedroom.

    Result; Report states you have no problems with managing stairs.

    Better answer; Q. Where do you sleep? A. In my bedroom. (Expand the original answer) I have problems repeatedly, reliably and safely using the stairs. I try to organize tasks in order to minimize having to go up and down stairs, as doing so would make my condition worse. (explain how and why it makes you worse) I use the stairs as little as possible, and am limited like this all the time. (Maybe your bedroom is downstairs, make sure to mention that!)

    • If the assessment, report, or decision contain things you don't agree with then appeal
    • appeal everything
    • if possible, fill in forms and paperwork on a computer and save them. It is easier both mentally and physically to amend a previous claim form/paperwork, than to write everything out each time.
    • if all else fails appeal and have a tribunal. At the tribunal your claim will be assessed by people not limited by targets, norms etc. You will be asked open questions and be able to present all relevant evidence.
    • The tribunal is far more likely to include all evidence, and come to a fair and just outcome.
    • Get all the help you can. Tell your GP if they are supportive. Ask for advice and support. There are information sources such as those provided by the ME association (@charles shepherd), the benefitsandwork website, people on these forums etc to help you. The advice will be provided by people with expertise and knowledge of the system.
    • Tell others about these and other tips you have learned.
     
    Philipp, MEMum, ladycatlover and 8 others like this.
  15. Luther Blissett

    Luther Blissett Senior Member

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    Well that was a spectacular (mis)usage of my old friend the semi colon :bang-head:
     
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  16. Countrygirl

    Countrygirl Senior Member

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    https://www.healthrising.org/forums...y-over-me-cfs-discrimination-in-the-u-k.5462/

    Follow the link for the whole story.
     
  17. Philipp

    Philipp

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    Couple of questions regarding this insane situation (fully expecting very disappointing answers):

    1. Can you not bring witnesses who write down everything that was said during the interview instead of recording? Luther wrote that this is the 'next best thing' you have, but does it tend to work out or is this the exception rather than the rule? I'm asking because in Germany that is what you more or less have to do if you want to stand any chance, but we generally don't need to provide actual video/audio to provide evidence we can use.

    2. How in the world can these insane rules regarding recordings be legal? I can imagine that this is how the DWP wants it done, but does this hold up in a court?

    3. Is there any possibility to sue the 'health professional' directly for this kind of obvious misconduct (repeating questions until you get the answer you want to construct an insane web of lies with no relation to reality 'should be' illegal)? Because, again, this is what we can theoretically do to the expert witnesses over here, maximum sentence being 2 years of prison for providing false evidence to an insurance company or agency. Doesn't work out for us usually because the rest of the system is as corrupt as in the UK, but we do have the option at least and usually when you let the other side know that you are aware they are breaking the law they sometimes suddenly seem to remember that maybe they should do their job properly in case you do want to sue them.

    4. Would it theoretically be possible (if we had a magic billionaire funding fairy) to construct a service through which a pwME can file a complaint and have the legal battle fought for him without having to appear in court (to avoid exposing one to another stressful situation and worsening symptoms etc)?

    If anyone is wondering by the way, no, the situation for us is not necessarily better because courts can simply choose not to allow cases to go to an actual trial based on no reason at all. This also takes away any option of appealing a case, usually. For this reason we do not have a real 'Rechtsstaat' or, as far as it pertains to pwME, constitutional rights since most people simply to not have the means to go all the way to the ECHR in Strasbourg. I doubt this is different for the UK, but if people somehow DID start going to jail for this kind of stuff it would change the whole game.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2017
  18. Luther Blissett

    Luther Blissett Senior Member

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    Good questions @Philipp .

    Firstly, at the same time as these rules were announced, large cuts in funding legal representation were made. There used to be a system where if you satisfied rules to qualify, you could get a state funded lawyer to represent you in legal cases. There was also funding for local groups that could provide legal advice for areas of the civil law like suing people or organisations, consumer issues, social security advice and appeals and other smaller disputes. Most of these groups had funding cut too.

    The legal cases involved broadly solicitors who either cared about the law and fairness and were prepared to endure long hours and no pay, or the lower skilled and/or uninterested ones.

    I don't know much about the legal system, but I've had a go at answering using my limited knowledge.

    (Long answer, shorter below)

    So we have a situation where if you want a criminal prosecution, say fraud, you have to report it to the police. If the police refuse to accept your report or say no crime has been committed, that is the end. I know of situations where the police just refuse to accept

    A quick search of freedom of information requests tells me that the number of DWP Decision Makers sued for fraud in the period 2006 - 2011 was 0.

    The problem I suspect is that a criminal (and maybe civil) lawsuit would be defended not by the individual, but the Government Minister, who would have expensive lawyers. If you used civil law and lost the case, you would have to pay the whole costs of bringing the trial. The cost of bringing the trial and some of the top lawyers in the country would probably be too expensive for someone to risk.

    (The shorter answer), 'The king can do no wrong'. rex non potest peccare

    The situation in your country sounds similar, the costs, both financial, emotional, and physically are too great. To reach the ECHR, All domestic legal remedies must be gone through first.

    To answer your first question :) (took a long time to get to it) yes, probably, but you would need a good shorthand writer with a good personal reputation, and I suppose there are not that many shorthand writers available anymore.

    A personal witness helps, but it is still only their word of honour against a professional, and there is a lack of honourable people with the time to help.

    An important point is there is no 'innocent until proven guilty' principle for the claimant to rely on in the DWP system, they can find against you and stop your money for almost any reason, and then you have the opportunity to appeal. This leaves the claimant without any income for what can be a considerable amount of time. They have the power to threaten your means to live, (food, shelter, warmth, medication etc), before you have the opportunity to challenge them.

    A system that declares people in comas as 'fit for work' with little media attention is what we have.

    Recent findings from one of the few media outlets who cares https://www.disabilitynewsservice.c...-and-still-dwp-atos-and-capita-refuse-to-act/
     
    Philipp, MeSci, AndyPR and 2 others like this.
  19. Sean

    Sean Senior Member

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    The current farce of a government we have here in Australia has done the same thing.

    It is, of course, in deliberate preparation for their savaging of the social security system, to deny victims legal help in confronting the extortion, intimidation, theft, and bald faced lies by the government.
     

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