Victory is sweet over Atos…

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But… a year’s wait, it’s no victory

When a notification thumped through the letter box, someone’s life seemed ruined. Not that it was exactly rosy to begin with. No one was driven to drink but the tears within a family unit were very noticeable to all and sundry.

That’s what happened to a fellow villager, a neighbour – born and bred in deepest West Sussex. Were it not for being a then fellow dog owner, it’s very likely that neither of us would have spoken directly.

Odd world really.

When over a year ago – more like 18 months – an odd but recognisable figure made contact with me. It wasn’t advice he was seeking but more guidance. He knew about the various advice centres he could contact and so on, but kindly remarked about the mutual kinship for dogs and my ‘being around for a few years’ – thought he might run it past me first, sort of thing. Well you know what ‘blokes’ are like.

The story [and all too familiar these days] was that he had been to an ATOS work capability assessment. Yes, he had filled out all the forms, and apparently it fair bristled with copies of his consultants’ letters to his GP – and yet still was found fit to work.

Well I know what most will say – no surprise there. The rueful joke of having been to Lourdes, how marvellous, indeed is quite funny – to a point. I too was guilty of the same jest.

The decision though is a no brainer. You have to appeal.

IT IS AGONY..

It means you wait, wait, and wait. However, to fight it and fight it hard, also means you the appellant must gather and submit as much as you can as evidence prior to the tribunal taking place. The final word is not the Decision Maker at the Department of Work and Pensions. Easy said especially when you’ve got bugger all to survive on.

This is what happened here. This assessment by a Healthcare Professional is seemingly rigged. It will pre-assume that everything from your diagnosis was and is wrong, even in so far that some or most treatments are to be discounted under their rules. The immediate factor of despair hits first.

It is up to the Department of Work and Pensions to gather such evidence to both prove and/or disprove your case, but you the appellant have to provide the evidence.  Equality,and reasonability goes out the window. But it is made all so damning. And in the ‘French Way’ you are the guilty person, when so obviously not.

The only way is to beat them hard is at their own game. So please, as that you are the claimant concerned, make sure you re-submit and furnish all such evidence again. YES AGAIN. To the Department of Work and Pensions, why? Because they will bin anything from a previous/current claim if it has been sent to ATOS. They will cite you new legislation and descriptors.

Make at least FOUR SETS of copies of everything from the commencement of the claim and during. Include every letter from any Consultants, Doctors whomever. For as, and irrespective of  third party literature, you have up to whatever date of the appeal, and including the day itself to provide further evidence. ALL may be gathered and submitted.

The work capability assessment which would negate any claim, cannot just be an opinion to rank above all previous. The Doctor sitting at the Tribunal should and will see through the worthless rubbish if so offered. Always remember, proven written facts. The longer and as full of investigative methods which apply in each case – will become the constant factor. Not by convenience any newly changed descriptors.

It is therefore insufficient to merely change the descriptors to sidestep or manipulate/massage when at the end of the day, the conclusions of a bus load of Doctors and Consultants will win the day.

The Computer Says NO.. 

Simply never take NO for an answer. This happened along the way too. The Clerk of the Courts contacted our hero advising his nearest office, sorry, Tribunal Court was [..get this] PLYMOUTH! Disbelief…!! Well you would, wouldn’t you. Apparently the Clerks’ were adamant. So I tried them.

True… the computer said NO, PLYMOUTH or nothing despite my saying do you have a map? Do you know where the Isle of Wight is? We are just above that on a map.!!??? Only to be told sorry its Plymouth or Cardiff.

Needless to say there was a venue closer to hand but you’d expect a little more help. Let’s be clear here, Joe Public tends to believe what they may get from the Court’s officers is a touch final. You kind of do.. Unless you are aware of their massive delays in administration, which there are. But a simple matter of finding a closer postcode, let alone a simple grasp of geography does push the limiter a bit.

So it also doesn’t help matters when papers somehow and with apparent frequency end up going missing. Whether that’s performed by the Department, or, by the Clerks Office. Hence you making these extra copies.

..and finally?

Everything to be done was done, it was now down to the day itself. The intervening weeks and months have been a positive  nightmare for the family, and our hero’s health has faired little better. He/They are confident although I keep saying you must be also prepared to lose the battle but by no means the war.

So we attended the hearing, in another County.

It is so advisable to confirm on the day – with the clerk – that the papers you may well have submitted in advance are before the tribunal. In essence ‘your’ bundle. Your hymn sheet. This may seem pretty basic stuff  but surprisingly an all too common place occurrence. To this end we supplied another copy of papers we had sent in advance for the Clerk to check against.

Before the Tribunal actually began and questions started an exercise in administration began. We were advised that both Members had read extensively the bundles before them, but!

It henceforth transpired that indeed, many of the papers pre-submitted which were to waved, discussed, and vehemently prosecuted as the constant factor – had indeed gone missing. This was significant. In fact the relevant Doctors’ and Consultants’ shared notes had got removed, as our copies on the day proved.

Apparent also, was that the Tribunal had read other pre-submissions one being a scathing attack on the personal ethics of the nurse whom had carried out the original assessment one year prior. In it was maintained that a series of examinations had taken place. In fact no such examinations were ever executed.

Other paperwork also submitted, was a copy of the Code of Conduct of the Nursing And Midwifery Council, the august body to which the said nurse was a member. Together with advice of her membership, it was worth noting, that she possessed no qualifications regarding the assessment of or working with the disabled being assigned against her membership – as suggested in her job title with Atos.

Important documents missing of huge sensitivity to the client, what are the odds of that happening on a random day in the workings of the Tribunal Court system. Some perhaps, but specifically linked to an already – how can I put this – contentious company.

I drew from members of the Tribunal – a Judge and a Doctor – that they were outraged that the documents had gone missing. From a very quick scan of those we presented I sensed something of a turn in events were forthcoming. We were asked to adjourn.

In the interim time I explained fully of what to expect. These so called missing papers held the key – or at least what they contained. If it hadn’t struck home exactly what all the Doctors and Consultants had told him, or if indeed, if he didn’t want to accept the finalities of the previous investigations, they certainly struck home now. They were a prognosis and not a good one to have.

We were to win. For the right reasons, yes. Moreover, for all the wrong reasons.

Those missing papers were in fact confirmation of a debilitating condition pertaining to the brain, likely to worsen than improve over time.  Exactly how much time and when remains unknown.

My presence assisting was purely in an administrative role. Something which no doubt will ring bells with advice centres across the land. In that my professional career has enabled me to be more familiar with procedures and thus help and ease matters, it is still seen an ordeal.

Requested to return, we heard of the victory, albeit pyrrhic. The hearing lasted all of forty minutes.

What happens now is that all benefits are to be restored unless, the Department wishes to assert its right in appeal. However considering the ‘Regs’ that have been applied together with the recommendation that the Department does not reassess within 24 months, I sincerely hope for now at least, they do as requested.

For those cognoscenti wishing to know, the decision notice said;

” ..because insufficient points were scored to meet the threshold for the Work Capability Assessment, but regulation 29 of the ESA Regulations 2008 applied.” 

And

No descriptor from Schedule 3 of the ESA Regulations 2008 was satisfied but regulation 35 of the ESA Regulations 2008 applied.”

What also will happen is that the ‘so called Nurse’ whose mendacious and divisive opinion caused and brought a suspension of benefits to this man and his family by misleading the Department of Work and Pensions into making that decision, will be brought to book as in breach of the NMC Code of Conduct.

It will be further examined as to whether or not criminal charges could and should be brought for a failure/breach of  ‘a duty of care in a public office’.

Perhaps some of the legal readers out there could advise pro bono. 

This woman in my view should never ply her trade again. EVER.  (As for Atos….!?)

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