Down With Persecution
DWP Department for Work and Pension
THE BENEFIT YOU RECEIVE IS CHANGING said the letter I received on behalf of my disabled daughter the other day. It went as follows:
You currently receive Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, or Income Support on the grounds of illness or disability. We are phasing out these benefits. This letter explains how this will affect you and what you need to do.
We need to assess you for employment and Support Allowance. This is a new benefit that helps people with an illness or disability move into work and provides people with the support they need.
WHAT WE ARE GOING TO DO
We will telephone you soon to talk about how this change will affect you and to answer any questions you have. We will ask you some questions to confirm your identity. After the call, we will send you a questionnaire to complete with details of your illness or disability. This questionnaire is called Limited Capability for Work.
The number we will call you on is .............. If you haven’t heard from us within two weeks of the date of this letter, or if the number we have for you is incorrect, please call us on the number above between Monday and Friday, from 8.00am to 6.00pm.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO
Once you receive it, please complete and return the questionnaire as soon as possible. IF YOU DON’T, YOUR BENEFIT MAY BE AFFECTED. It is important that you provide full details of your illness or disability on the form. After we have received your questionnaire we will contact you and tell you what you need to do next. You may need to attend a work capability assessment and more details about this are included in the Further Information section of this letter.
WHAT IS CHANGING?
Employment and Support Allowance is replacing Incapacity Benefit, Income Support paid on the grounds of illness or disability and Severe Disablement Allowance.
WHY IS IT CHANGING?
Employment and Support Allowance is a new way of helping people with an illness or disability move into work. The Government wants everyone who has an illness or disability to have this opportunity.
DOES THIS CHANGE EFFECT EVERYONE?
Yes, but at different times. Customers will be considered and assessed for Employment and Support Allowance between 2010 and 2014. We are writing to you because you are affected now.
HOW WILL I BE ASSESSED?
To decide if you are entitled to Employment and Support Allowance we need to understand how your illness or disability affects the amount and type of work you could do.
We will send you a questionnaire to complete and we use the information you provide to decide if you need to attend a Work Capability Assessment. It is important that you attend this assessment if you are asked to, or your benefit may be affected. We then decide if you are entitled to Employment and Support Allowance.
WHAT HAPPENS AT WORK CAPABILITY ASSESSMENT?
A health care professional will assess you and advise Jobcentre Plus how your illness or disability affects you in your everyday life. We will contact you by telephone to arrange the appointment and will also send you a letter with the appointment details and directions to the assessment centre.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I AM ENTITLED TO EMPLOYMENT AND SUPPORT ALLOWANCE?
No one migrating from their existing benefit to Employment and Support Allowance will see a reduction in the level of their benefit entitlement at the point of change. You may be required to attend a work-focused health-related assessment and work - focused interviews. It is important that you attend these interviews or your benefit may be affected.
WHAT IS A WORK - FOCUSED HEALTH RELATED ASSESSMENT?
A health care professional will ask how you feel your illness or disability could be managed to enable you to return to work, and to understand better what help you may need to start work.
WHAT IS A WORK - FOCUSED INTERVIEW?
This is a face-to-face interview with a job adviser. The purpose is to help you identify work you could do and the steps you could take to find work.
I have several issues with this letter.
1. Who are the health care professionals?
Why are the DWP not more specific about their professional status.
Are they GPs?
Are the DWP referring to Atos Healthcare and if so why do they not say so?
2. A random call - any time over a two week period?
I thought that was a little unsettling. That news would send some of my disabled friends who are already struggling to cope with an uncertain future, into a panic. They'd be frightened to leave the house in case they missed the call.
What if they were out shopping - or attending a hospital appointment or a visit to their GP, when they were being contacted? What if they were in the bathroom – in the garden – or doing a hundred other things that prevented them from answering the phone.
What if every time the DWP rang they missed the call?
So with that in mind I rang the number at the top of the letter and spoke with someone at the DWP. I asked why the phone calls could not be scheduled. I was told that was not possible because they had 1.3 million people to ring. So why bother, I asked them, why not just send out the assessment forms? I was told some of the wording may not be clear and they (DWP) would be at the other end of the phone to help people. ...
When the phone rang two days later at 10.30 in the morning I was unable to answer it because I was seeing to my daughter in the bathroom. When I was finished I checked the phone but there were no messages, so I dialled 1471 and saw the call had come from an 0800 number. I rang the number to deal with whoever had rung me. It was from DWP and gave out an automated message which said:
‘You were called today by the Department for Work and Pensions but were unavailable. If we still need to contact you we will try again later.’
And they did. They rang later that day.
I have to say it was a one-sided conversation, more of a cautionary call than an informal chat, reiterating the assessment process and reminding me that if I didn’t follow the steps, (you guessed it!) benefit could be affected.
I believe these random calls are an invasion of privacy and are designed to intimidate people.
The fact that my daughter's mental impairment prevents her from dealing with a phone call, and I have to speak on her behalf, makes it all the more ludicrous.
Why oh why do they think a 48 year-old woman with a severe learning disability, cerebral palsy, microcephaly, epilepsy and scoliosis could become available for work?
Clearly, we are being put through the paper exercise for no other reason than pure laziness on the Government’s part.
Why can't they stamp 'not applicable for work assessment' on my daughter's account and automatically change her over to Employment and Support Allowance?
I suppose that's too easy!!
Instead, I will now have to fill in yet another form, send it off to be assessed and wait for the letter that will state the obvious.
Haven't we parent carers got enough to do without constantly being dictated to and having to do all this extra paperwork?
I wish the Government would be mindful of the fact that we are not civil servants. We do not work for them.
Let us do the job of caring for our loved ones in peace and with dignity and let them stop this shameful harassment.
Roll on May 2015 when we WILL see the back of this Government.