Denied disability benefits after a
lifetime of hard work
Hard-working former delivery worker James is denied a lifeline by government cuts
The disability benefit fiasco
continues, with the seriously ill
and disabled wrongly denied
Yes, the system needs to change.
Those milking it and living off
handouts because they can’t be
bothered to do a day’s work should
But the reality is that the -
assessment brought in by the
Government to achieve this simply
Instead, hard-working people who
have paid their way, many grafting
for decades and paying National
Insurance in the belief this would
protect them if they became too ill
to work, are losing the help they
desperately need at the crucial
time when they are struggling with
serious ill health.
Former delivery worker James
Grindle is one. He is in pain,
confused and worried about how
he and wife Susan will keep up
with their bills as his Employment Support Allowance has been stopped. James has
been suffering stomach and bladder pains for more than a year and has had an
operation on his prostate.
He was deemed fit for work after an Atos assessment regarding his eligibility for
ESA, despite losing his job after being deemed unfit to work after an Atos medical
assessment for his previous employer.
James, 63, from Rotherham, says: “The first assessment lost me my job after
saying I was unfit for work. Yet a few months later I was suddenly fit for work.
How can that be?
“I am recovering from an operation so couldn’t go out to work at the moment,
even if I could find someone who will take me on in my condition. I have done 48
years of hard graft and paid my way.
“I stupidly believed that would entitle me to a bit of help if I ever needed it. But
now Susan and I are struggling on just her bit of money from the 25 hours a week
she does. We are really worried how we will keep on top of things and manage to
juggle our finances. The stress and worry is dreadful. It really isn’t doing anything
to help me get stronger, which is what will be needed if the Government want me
James is appealing against the decision with the help of his local Citizens Advice
Annette Cassam, of Rotherham and District Citizens Advice, says: “This case raises
many questions about how Atos assesses people for fitness for work.
“We accept the assessments were completed for different reasons but can’t
understand how the same company can do two assessments on the same person
and produce such contradictory results. Mr Grindle is understandably confused
about his position. This needs to be looked into.”
James is just one of tens of thousands of people being refused benefits after they
have gone through a Work Capability Assessment to find out if they are fit for
The assessment is part of the Government’s sweeping changes to the benefits
system that are meant to make things simpler and fairer, to ensure that only those
who are genuinely entitled get the help they need.
But huge numbers of the most vulnerable – those seriously ill and disabled – are
being hit hard and left penniless.
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: “Sadly James is not an isolated
“We are seeing a lot of very sick and seriously disabled people being wrongly
denied ESA and being put through enormous additional stress and hardship at a
time when they most need support.
“In most cases they have worked and paid into the system all their lives –
sometimes over three or four decades – believing this will protect them if they
become too ill to work. They are feeling very betrayed and frightened for the
CAB says it has serious concerns about the test used to decide if people are fit for
work and the way it’s carried out. In too many cases medicals are rushed, people
aren’t listened to, information is recorded inaccurately or ignored and medical
evidence from the doctors treating people isn’t taken into account.
Gillian adds: “We wouldn’t allow a private contractor to let us down on the
Olympics. We can’t allow one to let down disabled people.
“Mistakes by Atos have a human cost and a cost to the taxpayer. Getting medical
assessments right first time is absolutely essential to making sure seriously ill and
disabled people get the support they are entitled to and cutting the number of
unnecessary appeals. Private companies on government contracts must be -
accountable to the public. We want to see Atos face a fine for every inaccurate
report they produce.”
Atos were awarded the contract to carry out assessments from the Department for
Work and Pensions in 1998 and have just had it renewed through to 2015.
They say they cannot comment on individual cases but the Work Capability
Assessment is not to diagnose or treat a medical condition but instead to look at
someone’s ability to work. A spokesman said: “We know applying for benefits can
be an emotional and difficult time, which is why we do all we can to make the
part of the process we’re responsible for as straightforward and comfortable as
“We carry out all assessments within the criteria and policy guidelines set by the
Government and do not make any decisions on benefit entitlement.
“The assessment by us forms an important but single part of information used by
the department to make its decision on benefit entitlement.”
CAB advisers helped with more than 97,000 ESA problems between January and
March this year – up 71% compared with the same quarter last year, making ESA
the fastest-growing advice issue seen in bureaux.
In the same period, CAB recorded an 82% increase in advice about appeals against
ESA decisions. Latest official Department of Work and Pensions figures say 38% of
appeals against ESA decisions are successful.
CAB advisers estimate the success rate at appeal, where someone receives
specialist CAB advice and is represented, is 80%.