If you could say just one thing to Mark Hoban…..

By Sue Marsh

Finally, after months of petitioning by Michael Meacher and myself, after a debate in parliament specifically on meeting “Spartacus”, next week (10th September) myself and two other “Spartacii” who have been heavily involved in all ESA research will be meeting with the DWP Minister Mark Hoban.

We have 45 minutes – a generous time slot in parliamentary terms, but the merest blink of an eye with so much to put right.

Before I go any further, and indeed before I discuss anything with Mr Hoban, I want to make it perfectly clear that I believe WCAs and indeed the entire ESA system is flawed and should be scrapped. This has always been my position and it remains my position today.

For all of this week, DPAC are running a week of direct action, “Reclaiming our Futures” http://t.co/6OzxELYePK I would strongly urge you all to take part if at all possible. This is the way we will ultimately achieve real change.

However, I have a chance to explain to the minister how some of the worst elements of ESA and WCAs affect us and to petition for them to be changed. I will make my position on abolishing WCAs clear, but it would be naive to believe that we will come away from a 45 minute meeting having achieved that ultimate goal.

I DO believe however, that some elements of WCAs are intolerable and I already have an idea from previous consultations with you all what those things might be. However, before next week, I wanted to give you all one last chance to feed into this important opportunity.

If you were there with us and could say just one thing to Mr Hoban, change just one thing that might make the WCA process less harmful, what would it be? While DPAC, Black Triangle and other groups continue their excellent work to scrap the tests, what might make the process safer and less destructive in the meantime? 

I’m a pragmatist. If we can achieve any change for the better, I believe it is worthwhile. If we can save just one person from taking their own life, or falling into starvation or despair, I believe it is worth trying. If we achieve nothing at all, we will be able to say that we tried. And tried. And tried. That we engaged with democracy whenever the chance arose and did all we could to make ESA safer.

I really hope that as many of you as possible leave comments here and share this post on Twitter, Facebook or other networks you use. If I go alone, I am one voice. If it is just the three of us attending, we whisper. If you all come with us, we shout and have the credibility to demand real change. 

6 thoughts on “If you could say just one thing to Mark Hoban…..

  1. Migration from IB to ESA for those with chronic diseases by paper assessment alone is unsatisfactory. Must include face to face assessment as well.

  2. A meeting at last! It was shameful of the DWP not to meet Spartacus until now, in spite of Michael Meacher’s adjournment debate. I have shared this on Facebook and asked others to spead it. We Spartaci really appreciate what you are doing. Good luck to Sue and the others, Peaklass

  3. Have recently completed the ESA50 for my autistic son. I had to write 17 extra pages to explain how his condition affects him. I’ve submitted 11 separate pieces of evidence. The form is unsuitable for explaining the pervasive nature of autism. If he has to attend a WCA, he will be judged on physical appearance and deemed fit for work. People assessing him have no training or understanding of autism; make assumptions about his skills on physical appearance; will have no idea of what job he can reasonably be expected to do. Furthermore, the process is forcing people into a job market where there are no jobs for people with limited or fluctuating capacity; where employers who might employ him won’t have time to give him the constant and close supervision that he would need. Show my son a job he can do, and he will take it. He sees this process as a punishment for who he is and the challenges he faces, not as a helpful, supportive way of getting into work.

  4. I truly hope that you can achieve something as it’s vital that something has to be done to stop the discrimination and the horror that this government are putting the disabled and long term sick through!
    My voice is with your voices. and I hope that more voices will join!

  5. Thank you for the campaigning you are doing and good luck on the 10th…..please feel free to use the following…..

    I attended a Work Capability Assessment by Atos Healthcare in November 2012. A letter informed me 1 month later that I was not entitled to Employment & Support Allowance. I had previously been in receipt of long term Incapacity Benefit. Housing & Council Tax Benefit was also suspended.

    I appealed against the decision and was awarded ESA at the assessment rate with a disability premium (providing I submitted doctors statements), housing and council tax benefit resumed, once I could prove entitlement to ESA.

    The 26 weeks waiting for my appeal to be heard at tribunal were extremely difficult as I struggled to manage the collation of further supportive medical evidence, attend meetings, get legal representation, manage my illness, disability & finances and see my G.P. 4 weekly for repeat statements and appointments as my physical and mental health crumbled due to stress and anxiety. I believe my G.P. felt a little out of his depth, unsure of the support he could give to the many individuals going through a similar process needing supportive letters. I became more unwell than I was prior to the medical assessment. I also lost legal representation due to welfare benefits advice funding being cut meaning despite being quite unwell I had to represent myself, which was extremely difficult.

    At the independent tribunal the DWP decision was over-turned, as I remain unfit to work, and I am now again in receipt of full benefit. I should state that I wish I weren’t in this situation, having to rely on a system under such reform and a process that is unfit for purpose. I simply became too sick and disabled, and a risk for any prospective employer. I do not think entitlement to benefit a given right, and taking out of the country as Mr Cameron seems fond of pointing out does not come without conscience, and I am grateful for the existence of the Welfare State.

    I have also been in receipt of Disability Living Allowance long term and fully expect to be contacted imminently whilst DLA is being converted to Personal Independence Payment. The thought of having to go through a similar process fills me with dread, as in my experience; it is a flawed process that fails to adequately assess my illness and disability, and the process itself has made my illness much worse.

    I feel harshly judged, incorrectly categorised and because the reforms have bred much negative debate about disability within our communities am even less likely to engage in a society that doesn’t understand me, my illness or how that disables me. I have been sick for most of my life, this is unlikely to change, and my physical health continues to deteriorate, as does my mental health.

    I was doing ok before the assessment, the benefit the law entitled me to, allowed me to live to the best of my ability. I now, as well as my illness to manage experience a range of anxiety disorders that have been exacerbated because of the reforms you introduced. Whilst I understand the reforms are necessary, Mr Cameron when introducing the reforms clearly stated that whilst the reforms were radical they were fair. However in my experience, (and anyone I know that is unfortunate to have to claim benefit) the WCA is far from fair, being biased, judgemental and harsh.

    Now if the government had simply said they couldn’t afford to give so much in benefit to people with disabilities or illnesses that prevented them from being able to work for an employer, that cuts had to be made, would that not have been fairer than making sick/disabled people perform tests and tasks based within a computer based programme that even the British Medical Association has condemned?

    Instead the goalposts for what defines disability and limited capacity to work were moved, in effect saying that I am disabled under the old rules but not disabled enough under the new rules. I believe it would have been fairer to change what the law states a person in receipt of benefit is entitled to financially, rather than employ and pay huge bonuses to a company, it’s employees and CEO to carry out unfair assessments.

    Finally I would like to state that I take umbrage at employees within the DWP & Atos Healthcare labelling sick and disabled people LTB’s as highlighted within the media recently. This is unacceptable especially to people that live with discrimination and stigma daily.

    • I have yet to go to my Tribunal, but my story is almost identical to yours and I totally agree with everything you have said. It is almost irrelevant what incurable chronic disease you have, this whole process is severely detrimental to one’s health. In my case it must be costing the tax payer a fortune in extra hospital and GP visits – you can’t fake what shows up in blood tests, etc in an auto-immune condition.

      The Responses I have received from the DWP are at the very least nasty and spiteful. In my last letter to them, amongst other things I told them their responses were “biased, selective and suppositious” – yes, they did have the audacity to make things up! Normally, there is a delay of weeks in getting a response, this time I received a nasty little letter by return. Perhaps I’m getting too close to the truth.

      The impact of this vile, vindictive attitude and procedure is extremely stressful and upsetting for my family and friends as well. Whatever the outcome of the appeal procedure for me personally, I am determined to keep up the pressure to expose the brutality of this Welfare Reform.

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