One of the things that I am most proud of in 2018 was my ability to help a disabled client with a Personal Independent Payment claim. I had seen him in January and he had been telling me that he’d been for an assessment in December and was awaiting the results of the ATOS medical examination. He was confident that he would continue with his PIP award that he’d had for five years.
He was one of the first people to be awarded this new benefit in 2013 and it was re-awarded in 2015 but in 2017 he was called in for an assessment at their local office on Newburn Riverside in Newcastle.
He’d arrived with his sister, in his wheelchair and presented his driving licence as ID on arrival and everything seemed fine. It was on 22nd December 2017, a year and a day ago.
On the 5th January he received a letter from the DWP that he had lost his benefit and they had dropped his Daily Living allowance to zero and his Mobility to zero. This was a loss of £581.40 a month. His sister also lost her carers allowance of £64.60 a week (£258.40 a month) as it’s intrinsically linked to that benefit. Total loss £839.80 a month. He also lost his disabled bus pass and blue badge. His sister used the carers allowance money to take him out once a week, it covered the petrol, lunch, a few things for the house when he was out and made his life worth living. In a stroke, it was gone.
He appealed and they said that the award stood. I had seen him again in February when he told me about this predicament he was in and he said it was probably his last appointment because he couldn’t afford my fee to visit him any longer. He was solely dependent on Employment and Support Allowance of £174 a fortnight (£87 a week) until a reconsideration was decided upon.
Many of you know that I am a fully qualified accountant, I am actually an auditor and I specialise in seeing things that others can’t see, so I offered, free of charge to take a look at his claim and he phoned the DWP and gave me power of attorney over the claim, it meant that they had to deal with me directly from this moment onwards. He had nothing to lose and so I started this task the following day when I asked for a copy of his medical report from ATOS.
Four days later, one damp February morning, the report arrived. There was nothing untoward in the report. It was well put together but I noticed on four occasions the word “she”. I didn’t think much of it at first but my meticulous training made it bug me. I sent my client a text and asked him if both him and his sister would meet with me, all he had to do was tell her that I was someone he had appointed on a “no win no fee basis” to look at his claim, they both agreed and this then became very interesting.
He had arrived at the assessment centre with his sister, they held the door open and she wheeled him in and he presented his driving licence as proof of identification. His sister got him a cup of water and he drank it and then he was called into the assessment room. The report clearly said that during the entire 45 minute assessment he never took off his coat or jumper or moved from his wheelchair. I have embolden these three things because they are significant and anything hereon put in bold is significant too.
Their version of events was that she was “lovely, friendly and very concerned for his health and the assessor acknowledged that PIP had given him independence”. They thought the claim would be successful. The assessor wheeled him to the car and wished them a Merry Christmas !!!!!!!!!
The report I was sent by ATOS stated that he never moved forward from his chair and spoke slowly in it’s opening paragraph and stated “He arrived here with his sister as he doesn’t have a driving licence”
This is where things started to REALLY bug me !!!!
On four occasions over a two week period I phoned ATOS in Stockton on Tees and asked for proof of identification. On three occasions they were sending it in the first class post that day. On three occasions it never arrived. On the fourth occasion I asked for it to be sent special delivery at which point they said “We destroy POI after the client has left for data protection rules” to which I replied “Nope…… you don’t because two years down the line the DWP might want to see who arrived claiming to be someone else“. It was at this point that ATOS would no longer deal with me. I then went back to the DWP. It’s not unknown of people to cheat the system by turning up pretending to be someone else.
The DWP, in light of this requested proof of identification to be sent to them and they sent me a copy. It confirmed that the driving licence had been used, including the licence number. This was the first victory in this very sorry state of affairs.
After confirming that their information about the driving licence was incorrect the DWP said it did not constitute this a re-consideration and stated that the claimant had already asked for a mandatory re-consideration in January before I was involved and therefore they could not do a re-consideration of a mandatory re-consideration. I directed them to the blatant lie in the opening paragraph about the driving licence and they agreed to re-consider it again. Four weeks then passed
We were now into April 2018, the re-consideration was successful (sort of). He needed 12 points for higher mobility and they awarded him 11 and they awarded him one point under the threshold for the daily living allowance, so he got nothing for that but he did get a small backdated amount of money. The award was so small (£20 a week) that it was not enough to re-instate his bus pass or blue badge as they are only awarded on receipt of the higher element of the mobility compenent. I decided to take a fresh look at the report again and under my power of attorney with the DWP, I phoned Employment and Support Allowance who did a medical on him in 2o17 at Arden House in Gosforth. Their report was sent to me by special delivery and arrived the following day (thank you, you were lovely people to deal with). The report stated “his debilitating condition means that he should no longer be subject to a medical examination, he is near pensionable age and I am satisfied that he no longer needs to be assessed by the Department for Work and Pensions“. This was written by a registered doctor, not an ATOS assessor, the DWP use doctors for ESA assessments, however they use ATOS for PIP who are usually jobbing nurses, his assessor at PIP was a nurse and was clearly stated in the report…..yes a nurse, not a qualified doctor. He had already told me, prior to this, that his ESA had no end date and this was confirmed in the medical report.
I spoke to the DWP in late April and under my authority we elected to go to tribunal. In between my other commitments I went through his medical report time and time again and those “she” bugged me (as I said earlier) and so did the driving licence. It was then that I discovered something on my third reading of the report. IT WAS IN TWO FONTS. I had not noticed it before but pages 1-8 were in one font, 9-12 in another font and 13-18 in the original font. I kept this to myself.
I photocopied the report and circled words I didn’t like then I went onto “Word” and put the entire sentence which contained each word I didn’t like into a bullet point, much the same as I do with audit investigations. I was shocked at what I discovered.
The driving licence was in the original font, we had agreed it was incorrect and they were very blaise about it, saying it was just an oversight but I discovered that the “she” references were in font number two. Every she reference was in that font and it was in that font that the ATOS lady claimed she did a spinal column examination. What when he NEVER removed his coat. She then said she lent forward with the drinking cup and placed it on the table, yet previous she said he never moved in his wheelchair. What was it to be……….. she or he.
I wrote to his GP after he had taken a letter in giving me (once again) power of attorney over this. His GP agreed to meet me for 10 minutes at 8pm after surgery closed on a Thursday. She was very nice and I asked her to read their claim about the spinal column examination and she said “in my 35 years as a GP I can’t remember the last time I examined someone with their winter clothes on”. I asked her if she would put this in writing to me and she said she would do. The following morning the surgery phoned me and asked me to collect a letter. She confirmed it.
As we had elected to go to tribunal, I had received the court documents. I completed them, signed them as his legal representative and supplied the additional information from his GP. In my bundle was my own report about the medical examination, every flaw in it. The he/she, the examination that didn’t happen, the cup that was never put down, the two fonts and the opinion of his GP. I asked them to pay particular attention to pages 9-12 which seemed to be the medical report of a woman, copied and pasted into his examination report. I sent it on Monday 2nd July by special delivery. The Courts and Tribunal Service wrote back and gave us a date for 25th July 2018 at court which I received on Friday 6th July.
On Monday 16th July, upon reciept of my evidence, the DWP wrote to both me and my client and cancelled the court date and awarded him HIGHER Daily Living and HIGHER Mobility for 4 years and backdated his money and they re-instated his sisters carers and backdated that too. The carers allowance can only be backdated for three months but in light of this evidence they backdated it for a full six and a half months.
I might be a sex worker, but a sex worker did all of that for a client ……………. for nothing
THIS IS A TOTALLY TRUE STORY