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A Carers Thought's

right from the start, you were a thief, you stole my heart

ESA is an out of work sickness benefit provided by the government and has replaced Incapacity Benefit.
I’m sure that most people are aware of  ATOS and their involvement in this transition but I wonder how many people understand the differences and major problems with this relatively new benefit. The first major difference is that they split the recipients into two different groups. One is called the support group and the other is known as the WRAG  (work related activity group).
When in the support group, it is understood that you are not fit for work, there is no time limit on how long you can claim for and you receive a higher rate than the WRAG.
In the WRAG however, they limit the time you can claim to a year, you must attend the job centre to see an adviser and begin the process of getting back to work, you can be placed on the controversial ‘mandatory work activity’ and you receive less money.
I agree that on the surface this sounds like a fairly good system as their are many illnesses and accidents that will stop you working for a year or less.
The big flaw in this system is that very few people are put into the support group and most people have to appeal again and again until it is at the tribunal stage. Around 40% of appeals succeed in a tribunal ( http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/employment-and-support-allowance/esa-appeals).
This is a very high rate considering what you go through to get to this stage. You will have submitted your form which describes your disability/illness and how it impacts on your day to day life, they will have received information from your own doctor and possibly specialists, you may have attended an ATOS medical (which are very questionable but we will visit that again another time!), your form will have been reviewed and “marked” by an ATOS nurse and you will have appealed, probably submitting yet more evidence (gathered at your own expense).
After this supposedly thorough review and investigation, 40% of appeals still succeed, does this not show that the system is not working?!
Another major flaw is that even when people are found fit for work, and want to get back to work, the support is not there to help them and there are no jobs around! Even if you want to work and are capable, the likelihood is that you won’t be able to! Particularly if your employer would need to make adaptations or allowances for your illness/disability.
My partner is currently at the tribunal stage. His payments were stopped in September last year, right after he lodged a late appeal due to not being informed which group he was in. Despite having degenerative problems, losing a lot more mobility, being awarded higher rate DLA care and mobility, he was still placed in the WRAG again. His medical records from ATOS stated he had an illness we had never heard of, upon going through his personal medical records, he had never been diagnosed with this mystery illness!
He spoke to them two days ago to check the procedure for submitting evidence, and was informed there is still another 4/5 month wait until his hearing. We are lucky, because I work and because of his DLA we can get by, we don’t have luxuries, we can’t afford new clothes or valentines presents and things like that but our rent is paid, we pay our bills and we usually have enough food to last. The ESA he is entitled to would make a big difference, it would allow me to work less and actually care for him.
The tribunal process is long and daunting. We have visited the CAB and the woman there was wonderful, fully convinced that the decision would be overturned, in fact everyone we meet concerning this feels the same.
We have sent off our evidence and now have a long wait to see what happens. This is our real life example of government systems. My partner is left at home all day, 5 days a week, struggling, he can’t cook, clean himself and struggles to even get around our bungalow. This is not fair and can’t continue. He is not lazy or a shirker, he has served in the army and the police force, this is the thanks he gets. If he was able to work he would be, there is nothing he wants more.
This process is a lot of unnecessary stress, money and time. Surely we can find another way of doing it?

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