Anger and outrage at Ellie’s benefit battle

My previous post about Ellie and her battle to obtain employment support allowance from the Department of Work and Pensions due to her severe life-long disability, has struck a chord with many.

That includes GPs who called the “all too common” situation horrendous and pointed to “loads of completely unjustified failed assessments and benefits cuts” and said they too were having to write sick notes for patients severely disabled from birth. Others pointed out their advice was being ignored.Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 17.01.52

Dr Chaand Nagpaul head of the British Medical Association’s GP negotiating committee said he agreed the “system was grossly unfair to the most deserving”.

After we published Ellie’s story of having to wait a year or possibly longer to have the approved medical assessment that would judge if she was ‘fit to work’, we have been inundated with people sharing similar experiences.

Louise, Ellie’s mum, could barely get out of the school playground when dropping off her younger children for people saying the same had happened, that it was disgraceful and even that they had given up pushing for benefits they were entitled to because they did not have the energy to fight it.

The local paper in Bradford did a prominent story after reading about Ellie’s situation and articles are being planned by the nationals.

It prompted Ellie’s Liberal Democrat MP, David Ward, who we alerted to this blog to say he would personally take on her case.

He was quoted in the Telegraph and Argus as saying it was “bureaucracy gone mad”.

And local disability services said medical assessments were becoming more frequent.

The DWP also responded to media requests for comment stating that in cases like Ellie’s they “require supporting medical evidence from the claimant’s GP or medical specialist before we can process the claim”.

Funny that, because they have plenty of evidence, including GP and consultant letters and a previous medical done by their own department. Ellie’s GP had offered to do the medical herself but was refused.

Here’s the breakdown of the information they have, which makes you wonder what on earth their own medical assessment would be checking for…

  • Unconditional disability living allowance award (by DWP) at higher rate for personal care
  • Full run down of Ellie’s disability (supported by doctors) including:
    • Can’t read or write
    • Can only say a maximum of three words together
    • Austism
    • Mental age of five
    • Gasostromy feeding tube
    • Bowel and bladder incontinent
    • 70% curvature of spine and limited mobility
    • Life expectancy was around 16 years ago

Ellie also has the added complication that she cannot cope with strangers and there is absolutely no way she would let any new doctor carry out any sort of medical. Her own GP has to set up appointments on a weekend when no one else is around.

To get the photo for the newspapers, Ellie’s younger sister had to stand out of shot singing Hokey Cokey.

There is no additional information to be gained from an employment capability assessment other than to check that everything that every professional has told the DWP so far is not a lie.

After ATOS walked away from the £500m work capability assessment contract early amid criticism of how the medicals were being done, US company Maximus have now been appointed.

I have no idea if this change is the cause of the year-long backlog but its fair to assume the waiting list would not be so long if the professionals in cases such as Ellie’s were listened to at the start.

The media coverage and MP support may well expedite Ellie’s case but you should not have to rely on a journalist cousin with a blog to have a voice.

It does not change the fact that thousands of others will not have the option of kicking up a fuss or just give up feeling they will not get what they are entitled too or are finding the whole process too difficult or stressful.

Surely there has to be a better balance between checking people are not claiming benefits they are not entitled to and leaving the most vulnerable without funds to pay for vital care, equipment and support.

A good start would be listening to the GPs who know their patients history inside out, and considering every application with compassion and a little bit of common sense.

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