I posted on the 21st November about how the DWP and ATOS were treating my wife and her multiple Work Capability Assessments. That Blog can be viewed here.
As I mentioned in the small update I posted on that, my local MP Andrew Stephenson was taking up the case with the Secretary of State. I also complained to both the DWP and ATOS.
I've now had a reply from both my MP and DWP.
Firstly, the Department of Work And Pensions telephoned me last Thursday. They stated that everything that had been done was within their rules and perfectly alright. I questioned how long people can be placed in the Work Related Activity Group, and was told that it can range from 3 months to 2 years. I was also informed that the assessment process - ie. when the ESA50 "questionnaires" are sent out - always begins 3 months before this period ends.
In other words, if someone is given a 3 month period in the WRAG, they could literally be sent a new questionnaire the day after.
Am I the only one who finds that utterly ridiculous?
I completely understand that the need for some sort of assessment process is necessary, but putting already ill people through this constant barrage of questions and "fitness for work" tests is almost barbaric.
Then we get to the Secretary of State's response. Oh dear oh dear.
Written by Mark Hoban MP, Minister for Employment, he spends most of the letter exalting the benefits of ESA and the Work Capability Assessment before getting to my wife's situation in the final paragraph. He states that "Strict audit and quality control measures are in place to ensure that Atos healthcare delivers high-quality assessments", despite recent Panorama and Dispatches showing the contrary.
He also goes on about how Tribunals take into account different information and "Consequently, when a Tribunal overturns a decision, this is not necessarily due to a lack in validity or accuracy of the examination report used in the decision-making process."
Funny thing Mr Hoban is this - my wife has never been to a Tribunal. I wonder why you mentioned this?
Mr Hoban states that new ESA50 questionnaires are "normally issued by Atos Healthcare two months prior to the next assessment date", which contradicts what the DWP Complaints Team stated to me earlier. Indeed, I am aware of cases where people have received their decision and the very next day received a new ESA50 form.
All in all, Mr Hoban has produced a non-answer, avoiding the fact that my wife has a long term illness and completely ignored the hardship it is causing her.
It is a whitewash, and I wonder who it was intended to fool - myself and my wife or my MP. I rather think it may be the latter.
My wife has complied and filled in the questionnaire, but this has caused her a lot of unneeded stress and she is struggling to cope, as well as having an effect on me at a time where I have more than enough to think about with my own health. This is a ridiculous situation for her to be put in and I will not be stopping now.