This is my story
I had been in receipt of Incapacity Benefit for several years (i had one medical with ATOS not long after starting to claim IB as the period from sick notes to full benefit was coming up, I was awarded IB without needing to send in any more sick notes and that was it) due to a combination of health complaints. I received the letter and questionnaire for migration to ESA December last year, filled this in (actually someone did it for me with my approval) then i was duly called for a medical.
I was very unhappy at the ATOS Dr’s conduct – he sat back in his chair laughing at me while i told him about my chronic bowel problems (i showed him the small bag i carry with wet wipes and a change of clothes in case of an accident which he thought was hilarious), he laughed when i started crying when he asked me if i’d ever wanted to commit suicide (a bit close to the bone for me) he hardly typed anything, but sat there making comments and being snide, but i pressed on and told him everything – ALL the truth. I have absolutely nothing to hide, i told them the truth several years ago and everything had been fine. I’ve always worked a decent days work right up until my conditions became too much for me to cope with as well as working a job. As I was leaving the Atos Dr said to me “don’t bother sending in your evidence to support your claim, if they want it they will ask for it” I had already been told the same from JobCentre Plus when i got the questionnaire in the first place, so the questionnaire was sent in its own with no evidence.
Two Weeks later I received a phone call from a decision maker telling me i was not ‘disabled enough’ and not eligible for ESA, she spent 20 minutes trying to push me to the Jobseekers team to start claiming jobseekers – i cant go to work, i suffer from Rotational Vertigo and am constantly off balance, objects moving into my field of vision set off weird dizziness so it is tortuous even moving around the house, let alone going outside, i can’t read, watch tv, use a computer as it sets off these weird dizzy spins, suffer chronic fatigue, suffer tinnitus, Visual disturbances, vision loss, music (noises) set off rotational spins, coupled with the pain, cramps, bloating and ‘accidents’ associated with IBS (and other conditions) i can barely function and i have no life. I asked the decision maker on the phone what she based her decision on and she said it was because i told the ATOS Dr i could use a microwave and cook a ready meal (i dont use the cooker because i can’t stand there and cook, if i had a funny turn while the gas was on it just doesnt bare thinking about, the microwave is better because if it pings and i can’t get up it’s not a fire hazard) and because very occasionally, when i was able to, a neighbour drove me to the shop. I asked her how this equated to a full days work 40 hours a week and she said she didnt know, but informed me again i wasnt able to get ESA as i wasnt disabled enough – my dizziness was of no relevance to her, she fobbed it off. She tried a few more times to get me to agree to go through to the Jobseekers team. I point blank refused, then asked her to send the relevant information through and i would then decide whether to ask them to look at their decision again or to initiate a full on appeal. I politely hung up the phone.
I received the documentation through the post and sure enough i’d been awarded 0 points. AND the ATOS dr had written the complete opposite of everything i’d said. He missed off crucial points pertaining to my medical conditions, lied and said he saw me bend down – which didnt happen because i can’t. And he wrote i’d said things i didnt. AND they had completely disregarded the questionnaire we filled in. Ironically, i had to cancel the first medical appointment as i had a hospital appointment on the same day around the same time, but even though i told the Atos dr the reason for the appointment being rescheduled, he chose to report i did not see ANY specialists and did not visit a hospital with my medical conditions. I was in total shock at the lies that had been told.
I spoke to JCP and they told me i could ask for the decision to be looked at again and if i sent in sick notes i’d get £67 odd a week (a cut of £35 a week in benefit), i was told that if i asked for an appeal i would get the £67 a week BUT it would go straight to the tribunal without JCP looking at it at all, so as we felt it didnt need to go to a tribunal (rather naively i think) as we had all this evidence to give them. We sent everything off and 6 weeks later i still had no money, i’d not heard from JCP so i telephoned them and they told me that of course i wouldnt have any money! – because i’d asked for a reconsideration! I told them that i’d been told i’d still get paid if i asked for a reconsideration. They said that was wrong. So they said i’d have to appeal to get any money, BUT i was told that because of what had happened that if i appealed JCP will be kind enough to try and reconsider their decision first and if they couldnt it would go to a tribunal. So i said fine, we changed it to appeal and sent the letter confirming we wanted an appeal off. I still didnt get any money, when we rang JCP to find out why, they said it was because the covering letter was without a signature and because it didnt have a signature they couldnt action it (i was sick in bed on the day the letter was done so didnt sign it, the person who writes the letters for me just went ahead and did it so they wouldnt be disturbing me) JCP told me i only had 10 days in which to send a signed letter in. So the signed letter was sent and i got some money.
In the appeal letter that was sent in, i DID enclose all my evidence. They said they didnt want it, but i wanted my say – i sent all my consultants letters in, GP letters, Driving License revocation, the lot.
I then received a letter from JCP saying i’d asked for an appeal and that they would look at their decision again (as i’d been told on the phone) and if they could change it they would, if not they would write and tell me why not then give it over to the tribunal service, and i should still send it sick notes.
So that’s what i’ve done for several months. I telephoned JCP a few times to find out what was going on, and they really don’t know what’s going on. I ring the number in Derby and they all say something different when you speak to them, they have no idea what they are doing. Someone in Plymouth (who is dealing with the appeal) rung me and said they’d seen my file on someones desk ready to be looked at and she’d ring back with a time frame and never did, i tried to ring Plymouth direct and was unsuccessful. The last time i spoke to JCP (Derby) was over a month ago (3 weeks after i spoke to someone in Plymouth), i spoke to a very nasty unpleasant young man who spoke to me as if i was mentally retarded. Sometimes i find it difficult getting my words out, it’s like my brain goes CLUNK! and it takes a while for me to say what i want to say and get my point across, so i do um and arr, the young man tried to say it had gone to a tribunal the week before, then changed his story it hadnt gone to a tribunal, they hadnt been able to change their decision, then they had. So i asked him why it was going to a tribunal when i’d provided to them so much information, and he said to me “well it doesnt matter what letters you send in, even if they back you up because we listen to the ATOS dr not qualified specialists”. With that he put the phone down on me. I haven’t rung back since because i find it pointless. I’ve had no letter from JCP saying we’re going to a tribunal and why, so was he even telling the truth? am just stuck in a limbo. The only letters i get are ones asking for a new sick note, which i always get and is sent in on time along with any new hospital letters i have.
So, several months and still counting of being cut £35 a week in benefit, i can’t afford to eat so i dont often. My money has gone down, but the people i pay bills to still want the same if not more money and it’s not there so i have to go without food to pay them, one of the utilities companies i owe money to told me on the phone that my financial situation wasn’t their problem and i owed them money – they wanted it and they’d take me to court for it. I ration the heating (good the weather has been mild) and electric. I live alone and am solely responsible for my finances so the buck stops with me. My shoes have holes in, which i can’t afford a cheap new pair, am relying on charity and handouts from people which is truly shaming. It’s none of our faults we became ill, it’s not my choice to be so dizzy and unwell all the time. I can’t work, there is nothing i can do. I’m frustrated, depressed, have developed other medical conditions, because of the way i walk with the dizziness my hip is in agony all the time which affects the way i walk, so it’s made worse and i’m being penalised for being ill, like so many other people. it’s criminal. Take my benefit away from me, But take my illness away at the same time.
I don’t know what’s going to happen if the Tribunal (if we ever get there) find me fit for work.