DPAC received this email from someone who wanted everyone to know what was going on with ESA and work providers. We have had many similar emails, but we don’t publish unless the person is absolutely sure they are OK with us doing that. All names and dates have been changed to protect anonymity.
Here we see why we cant trust the DWP (again), yet also how disabled people are being used to make money for private contractors (again), and the continuing chaos of ESA (again). A4E hit the headlines a while ago for taking tax payers money in ways that constituted fraud-we see they are still playing this game and still being served with public money to persecute people that should be left alone . But the Coalition continue to focus on disabled people as the fraudulent people- When will the public see exactly what’s going on and how many lies this Government has produced to protect their wealthy corporate friends, while they destroy everyone else’s lives?
November 2013 Began 2nd year Wrag and from lodged request for Mandatory Reconsideration of WCA conducted on paper by Atos and received appointment to Attend A4e for induction course in December
2014 After various changes to original appointment attended the induction course with an advisor which lasted 3 hrs. At that time made her aware that I had day hospital appointment for pain management course every Thursday through until end of August 2014 and she stated that she wouldn’t interfere with any of hospital treatment.
Began Pain Management in April and 2 weeks into it received appointment for interview with new advisor. Attended and was told that regardless of hospital appts am mandated to attend any appts made.
From then on in addition to hospital on Thursdays I had to go to various appointments at A4e for courses and interviews with advisors. Being barely able to walk and having extremely limited use of only one hand due to a very rare neurological condition, I needed to take a taxi to A4e offices 12 miles from home at a cost of £26 each time. Also, as patient transport was not available at times to suit my hospital appointments I paid a driver mileage expenses of £14 every Thursday to take me to the hospital and back. My consultant at hospital was aware of the pressure from A4e during my time on the pain programme which included 8 weeks pain psychology.
On one occasion I was to attend an A4e Inspire course. I asked the advisor what this entailed and she told me it was about positive psychology to motivate people and that although doctors tell people they are ill, that’s seldom the actual case. Having a long career in law, I was immediately alerted to the implications of this especially as the course I was on was subject to my declaration to seek no other psychological (coginitive behavioural) therapy elsewhere. My consultant was less than impressed with this especially when research revealed that these sessions were run by A4e trainers who had acquired a “qualification” on the internet. However, in the event, the invitation to Inspire never materialised.
At my last face to face interview with the advisor at the beginning of July she made it clear to me that I might as well get on with looking for a job as the dwp “would get me in the end anyway” and a few days later I received 3 appointments to attend their offices within the next 10 days. At that time the Decision Maker was in contact with me and I advised her of the problems all this had caused ie that it had indeed interfered with the intense demands of the pain programme, homework for that etc and the need to learn and practise stress management and relaxation and also that the cost of travel to 3 of their appointments and 1 hospital apt in a week was more than the ESA I was receiving. A couple of days later I was put in the Support Group backdated to November 2013.
Since that time A4e have continued to issue 24 hr warning texts for appointments the following day for various courses and work focused interviews, followed up by telephone calls from the advisor requesting reason for non attendance. I explained to her the terms of the rules re Support Group but she had never heard of them and stated I was mandated until JCP told her otherwise. In response I stated that I had the paperwork necessary to protect me from any sanctions and had no intention of attending on a voluntary basis.
This situation has subsisted now but, to date, I haven’t made an official complaint. The fact that I’m aware of JCP making the same demands on other people leads me to believe a complaint would be fruitless. I have however made my local MP aware of the situation. I’m now over 60 with a long career in admin, banking and law and HR behind me and also had other skills working weekends prior to leaving school so there is little any work provider could teach me, a point which the decision maker has agreed with. In the circumstances, I believe that A4e are processing me still as a “voluntary” attender and claiming a fee from JCP accordingly as this will be most lucrative with me being in the group hardest to place.
Other Problems encountered at A4e:
At induction claimants are requested to bring their birth certificates. If they do not have them or refuse to hand them over A4e merely orders an Extract themselves. Work Program Guidelines state that this is unnecessary for identification (in any case who would want to hijack anyone’s place on the WP !). I was born Scotland where everyone’s birth certificate contains full details including their mother’s maiden name and details of parents marriage etc. These certificates are kept in the claimant’s folder at A4e together with all other information from the claimant and DWP ie Nat Ins No etc making this a prime target for identity theft and when pointed out to them the advisors appear to have no knowledge of Data Protection Act. This is extremely concerning but it’s a case of No birth certificate = no benefits.
The premises at their office at Clinton are accessible only via a heavy glass place aluminium door into a block of offices and once in there a heavy wooden door is pulled outwards. Accordingly, invariably disabled people have to hang around outside until a non-disabled person comes along to let them in. New claimants are not made aware of any fire safety and during a training session there can be 50-60 people in their office at a time.
It was plain from things said to me and demands made by the advisor and from hearing conversations about other people when I was there (an open plan office with absolutely no privacy) that the staff have absolutely no awareness nor requirement for reasonable adjustments and merely treat those in WRAG and Support Group the same as a non-disabled 16 year old.
The Work Providers Guidelines give A4e and other companies the opportunity to flout the law and to treat claimants however they wish by allowing them to “encourage and help them obtain employment “by whatever means reasonable to their circumstances”. Unfortunately, most claimants have absolutely no idea about their rights in such a situation.
I can only speak to what goes on in A4e but, given my experience of them, I would welcome an investigation in the practises of all work providers who have the power to sanction claimants who can’t or won’t jump through the hoops they set up.