I’m sure his family love him but I am REALLY getting tired of spending my Christmas with Iain Duncan Smith and am hoping the bi-annual ESA renewal form isn’t going to turn into a new household tradition. Wrapping paper? Check. Tinsel? Check. New nerve conduction test? Damn, there’s always something…
Nearly a million people who applied for sickness benefit have been found fit for work, according to figures from the Department for Work and Pensions.
The DWP claims 980,400 people – 32% of new applicants for Employment and Support Allowance – were judged capable of work between 2008 and March 2013. More than a million others withdrew their claims after interviews, it adds.
But disability campaigners said the work tests were “ridiculously harsh and extremely unfair”. A spokesman for Disability Rights UK said many of those passed fit will not, in fact, be capable of entering the workplace in any meaningful sense due to physical or mental health problems.
“They are finding people fit for work when they aren’t and they are not even giving them the support they need to get a job. It is a disgrace,” he told BBC News.
And having submitted a very careful updated revision to my ESA50 form of two years ago, I was instantly thrown off Employment and Support Allowance and declared “Fit for Work” because the DWP Decision Makers can apparently not read. Have a look and tell me what date you think they want my ESA50 in by.
Given that it says to return it no later than 16 January not once, but twice, you would think that it arriving special delivery on January 15 at the address given, being redirected at DWP/ATOS request and being accepted the next day that this would still mean it was submitted on time by January 16 as per the reminder. Yes? Well apparently not.
On the due date according to *these* instructions I was declared “Fit for Work” and had my Employment and Support Allowance cancelled solely because it was deemed to have arrived late. No big deal naturally, so the letter was then posted out second class which meant I only found out about the loss of what is the UK equivalent of Australia’s Disability Pension almost a week later.
Not surprisingly I’m only just coming down from the stratosphere now-ish.
There is certainly a chance that a mandatory reconsideration by a Decision Maker who’s not in the middle of a six-bell hangover (’tis the season) may simply get my reassessment pack put back onto the pile and processed as normal, and in the case of those with mental health difficulties there is a statutory guarantee that they won’t be penalised for late submission (within reason). However those of us with physical disabilities enjoy no such protection and there is a potential cascade of disasters possible with this change in status.
I just co-incidentally reside in an area that since 13 January is being trialled for the roll out of the much harsher Personal Independence Payment that replaces Disability Living Allowance, and as ESA decisions like these often result in the reassessment of linked DLA claims that could well trigger an automatic migration to PIP. Still, I guess it beats waiting for a malicious fraud report to achieve the same thing. Further I qualify for Housing Benefit on the basis of receipt of ESA so that could involve a potential re-application also. You’d think the system would include provision for “common sense” corrections of obvious mistakes but unfortunately bureaucratic history in the UK doesn’t bode well.
The DWP have 28 days to respond and I have enough cash to cover my living costs about that long. After that, it’s fresh air and anybodies guess. Will keep you posted.