Roger has written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, to protest about the suffering the policy of mandatory reconsideration of ESA claims is already causing in his constituency of Birmingham Hall Green.
Roger wrote to the Minister about the case of one of his constituents, who was told that her ESA was being stopped despite the fact that she suffers from a life-threatening heart condition as well as kidney failure. After her ESA was stopped, she was unable to afford to make the journey from Birmingham to attend her appointments at a London hospital.
Happily, the result of the reconsideration (which took nearly two months) was that the original decision should be overturned, and the constituent’s ESA reinstated. The original Atos assessment awarded her just 6 points, but at the reconsideration she was found to actually qualify for 15 points. Roger has called on the Department for Work and Pensions to investigate how Atos got this assessment so badly wrong, as he is extremely concerned that similar grossly incorrect assessments are being carried out on a wide scale.
Roger is also concerned about DWP’s refusal to set a time limit for how long mandatory reconsideration may take. This means that people are left in limbo, with no money with which to buy food or travel to hospital appointments for weeks or even months. This issue has been raised many times by a number of Members of Parliament, but DWP has consistently refused to set itself standards on this.
In his letter to DWP, Roger wrote: “While my constituent’s ESA has now been reinstated, it is not the case that no damage has been done. There is an extra cost to the taxpayer, who had to pay Atos to carry out an assessment which was so incompetent that it had to be redone, again at taxpayer expense. Much more importantly, there is the human cost to my constituent and others like her. She is seriously ill, and has a right to state support because she is too unwell to work. Yet she has been caused an enormous amount of extra stress and worry, as well as having to miss crucial hospital appointments. As she wrote to me, ‘Every day is a struggle but this has made everything that little bit more difficult.’”
Roger concluded his letter to DWP with: “Has a cost-benefit assessment been carried out of the savings to the taxpayer of the mandatory reconsideration policy? I am extremely sceptical about the likelihood that that, after factoring in the cost of the Atos assessment and the mandatory reconsideration, this policy will have saved the taxpayer any money at all. Even if it does, it is at the expense of vulnerable and seriously ill people such as my constituent, whose health can only be made worse by the added stress of having their only source of income snatched away while your Department takes months to overturn a hopelessly flawed Atos assessment.”