Successful Appeals Against Disability Assessments – It’s As If There’s Something Wrong With The System


Source: the Independent, written by James Moor.

It’s rapidly becoming clear that Prime Minister Theresa May’s bold pledge to create a Britain that works for everyone should have an asterisk attached to facilitate the addition of “except for those pesky people with disabilities, can’t we pack them off somewhere else?”

In recent days the Government’s plan to cut people with serious mental health conditions out of eligibility for personal independent payments has justifiably come under sustained fire. 

However, the attitude problem displayed by both May’s administration, and that of her predecessor David Cameron, goes beyond that, as a delve into the latest statistics demonstrates.

What they show is that the number of appeals against decisions made by the DWP on the basis of assessments made by the private, profit driven contractors working on its behalf is increasing at a similar speed to that at which Lewis Hamilton exits Silverstone corners. 

They show that there were 60,600 Social Security & Child Support appeals between October and December 2016, an increase of 47 per cent. Even Lewis might think twice about acceleration like that. 

Some 85 per cent of those appeals were accounted for by the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and the Employment & Support Allowance (ESA).

The rate at which the decisions made by the DWP on the basis of information supplied by the Government’s contractors – Capita and Atos – are overturned is also increasing. 

People started taking notice when it was running at 50 per cent. Now close to two thirds of appeals in the case of the PIP (65 per cent) are successful. The figure is higher still when it comes to ESA (68 per cent). 

I’m given to understand that the people who sit on tribunals have been asked to keep June clear, in an attempt to reduce a growing backlog. So forget about an early summer holiday. 

Needless to say, these people have to be paid, which puts extra cost into the system at a time when the Government says it’s trying to save money. 

Simply applying for either benefit causes a great deal of stress to people with disabilities. Having to go to appeal only exacerbates that. Applicants find themselves in the middle of a process that is humiliating and dehumanising.

That process also seems to throw up scandals with alarming regularity. Channel Four, for example, infamously filmed a Capita assessor saying a claimant had a “disability known as being fat”. Another claimed to have filled out forms before even seeing clients amid pressure to get as many done as quickly as possible. 

Other scandals have involved people with weeks or months to live being told they’re fit for work in the case of ESA, which is paid to people whose fitness to do so is impacted by medical conditions and disabilities. 

Set against that backdrop, is it any wonder that there has been so much criticism of the process, and so many successful appeals? 

If the assessment process worked effectively, and as it should, the number should be limited, and you wouldn’t expect such a large majority to be successful.

Ken Butler, welfare rights advisor at Disability Rights UK, says he is “very worried for all those disabled people who get turned down for benefits and don’t have the time or energy to challenge poor decisions made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)”. 

He adds: “We’d advise all claimants to get benefits advice and, if they are turned down, to use the independent appeals process.”

Butler says that the high success rate of appeals clearly demonstrates that there is something wrong with the system. 

Unless, of course, the system, also savagely criticised by the United Nations, was deliberately set up to be this way. 

Before you suggest that is me indulging in a conspiracy theory, take a moment to think about this. If you make something difficult, stressful and painful, if you litter it with traps, and take the view that everyone getting involved in it is a dirty scrounger until proven otherwise, a lot of people will get put off and won’t apply. Still more won’t appeal when turned down, saving the Government money it can use for things like millionaires tax cuts. 

Dealing with a disability presents enough of a challenge as it is, without having to get to grips with a state that operates in a manner that would have impressed some of George Orwell’s darker characters. Would anyone be terribly surprised to find O’Brien working as a civil servant in the DWP?

The cynicism on display is breathtaking, if my assessment is correct. Alternatively, the situation I’ve discussed could simply have been created by a toxic mix of bureaucratic callousness and incompetence. 

The net effect is the same regardless, which is why there will be peals of bitter laughter emanating from Britain’s disabled community every time those words of Theresa May’s are trotted out. 

You’d be able to hear them if it weren’t for the fact that so many people with disabilities are now trapped in their own homes.  

12 thoughts on “Successful Appeals Against Disability Assessments – It’s As If There’s Something Wrong With The System

  1. There must be something we can do to support people who are “trapped in their homes” Sue. The death toll from depression-related entrapments will continue to rise otherwise, no? I was thinking of something like “Help The Aged” but much smaller scale obviously.. If nothing else, we give each other emotional support throughout appeal-processes and/or after if they cannot be moved to do the right thing and give people the Benefit they are entitled to. YES, this is a call to Arms..


    1. I co-run a group with someone who is a lawyer, to support people going through claims, appeals and assessments for PIP and ESA. We deal with the law and regulations, the advice side of it all, and emotional support.

      What we really need is money to support people going through mandatory review, who have had their ESA stopped until they appeal.

      I wonder if we could set up a crowd fund?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Crowdfunding would be worth a try. Have seen it fund peoples movie projects as well as comic book projects. So don’t see why it couldn’t be used for something like this. The downside is for those movie and Comic book projects the funder has always been given some token thing for their donation. So you’d probably have to figure out how that sort of thing would work. Maybe make it like adopting a panda or something where they get updates on how it is being spent and who it is helping.

        I’ve recently gone through an ESA medical. My second one in two years. I’m on the autistic spectrum, but on the high functioning side of it, but with that comes issues like anxiety and depression. I’m prone to moderate bouts of depression, but up until 4 years ago I went through a 12 year bout of depression where I just would not go out other than for groceries. I’d stopped engaging with the public.

        These days its mostly the anxiety about change that gets me. I try to just take it one thing at a time.

        Anyway the ESA decision came through this morning. They’ve decided to move me from support group to Work Related Activity. I think the fact that I had started doing a little paid work for a charity as an autism consultant and gotten paid a little for it has effected the outcome.

        I also volunteer at a local community centre helping teach people guitar. I’m a musician.

        I’m still on DLA from an old claim from 1993 when they put me on it for life.

        Am dreading the letter for me to be moved onto PIP and the medical for that.

        I’m pretty able on my good days. I don’t have any obvious physical issues aside from arthritis in my lower back. And am not sure how the descriptors work with PIP. There does not seem to be the same information out there about PIP than there is about claiming ESA.

        I work with a support group in my local area called Autism Trafford. Its run by the lady in charge of Autism services in the Trafford area. She has said she will help me with my claim. So when that comes up. Am just keeping my fingers crossed that we can make a successful claim.

        At moment I get it for care and low rate travel on the old DLA rates. I know that am pretty screwed for travel, which is why am trying to get a concessionary bus pass. Though ideally I’d rather learn to drive and get an old banger of a car. But having not tried driving. Am not sure if I’d have the powers of concentration required to do so safely.

        I really hate this Government.

        They do not seem to understand the fact that some people are only ever going to be able to do a certain amount and others might not be able to even do that. What is further infuriating is the fact that we are getting more and more automated as a society. For years now technology has been taking away jobs that were once done by human beings. Meaning that less work is available now than say 20 or 30 years ago. Especially in the industrial sector.

        And my issues with sensory problems make it difficult for me to cope with most service industry jobs, which for most part are the only jobs available.

        One thing none of the Labour or Tory Governments have done is address the changes that have been caused by automation. Nor that either addressed the cost of day to day living.


    1. I am so sorry. As you probably know, it’s weighted towards ensuring people are turned down.

      Are you going to appeal? If you decide to do so, remember to apply the “reliably, safely and repeatedly” criteria to each task you are asked about. If you cannot cook yourself a meal every day, then you cannot do it reliably, safely and repeatedly, for example. Same with getting upstairs, to the supermarket, having a bath/shower and so on.

      Hugs x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks. Yes, I’m going to appeal.
        Managed to phone about mandatory consideration, but apparently they have to phone back (proving I can answer phone?).
        It seems that because I’m not under CMHT and have a dog, all is fine. 2 points and 4 points. Guessing the assessor told some fibby-poos, going by the comments in the letter.
        Thanks for the reminder on reliably, safely and repeatedly.

        This system is obscene.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The system is obscene, yes. You will also need a copy of the report to effectively challenge it.

        Sending my best wishes and very good luck with the appeal. If you need to talk, don’t hestitate x

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I just so wish more people who aren’t involved in the system (yet….) would give a shit about what we go through. I’m too scared to apply for PIP. Chronic severe facial pain doesn’t get treated well even with evidence of complex medical brain stimulators and truck loads of opioids. I’m too scared to rock the boat and affect my SG ESA that hasn’t been reviewed for about seven years (my MP helped me get it, he’s gone now, now we have a Tory). I can’t cook myself a meal reliably, or ever wash in a shower or bath, but the facial pain charities have evidence that not washing due to the guarantee of a bad attack is considered a “personal choice” and thus does not get any points. Sigh.


    1. Fizz, my guess is that people who are not affected also have their own problems, though they may not seems as severe as ours. I know it is hard to hear that and I so don’t mean it to sound insensitive. All strength and solidarity to U.
      I have not had my PIP assessment yet…going from DLA to PIP, but I am already trying to plan for the future in poverty, based on what other disabled people have described over the last few yrs. I am also a lone Mum so though suicide has crossed my mind many times and I have been admitted to a MH Crisis Unit, I really cannot leave my kid behind… I have a social conscious.
      So I have got all the support I possibly can and believe me that was very hard for me as I am fiercely independent, but alone in the kitchen (for example) I have burnt, bruised and cut myself so many times. I have fallen down in the street, to the point where it looks like I have been shot as there was so much blood pouring out of my head. I have broken three toes trying to force myself to walk in chronic pain and the list goes on.. In short, I am profoundly unwell (also live with life threatening levels of Asthma) so I am praying hard that I will get what I need . In the mean time I will continue to try and help as many peeps as I can with similar problems. Sue Jones is an inspiration to all of us

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Review of Evidence

    ESA50 Form Completed 13th March 2015

    Asked on Page 12.

    Tell us about any times or dates in the next 3 months when you cannot go to a face-to-face assessment.

    This is now irrelevant – the Medical Assessment did not take place until 27th February 2016.

    Gastroenterology – Had bouts of bowel and bladder incontinence – March, 2015. Page14 and proved on Pages 90, 216 & 217.

    Urology – Page 14 and proved on Page 42 – prostate cancer.

    Orthopaedic – Page 14 and proved on Pages 342 to 345 – Certificate of Partially Sighted.

    Pacemaker – Page 14 fitted 2009 not 2013.

    I would suggest to the Tribunal, The Department or Work & Pensions, The Centre for Health and Disability Assessments and everybody who was or is involved in this sad case – THAT DR RANJAN CHOWDHARY STOPPED WRITING HIS REPORT HERE. He does not answer Page, 20 – Unable to drive; vision impairment; surrender of licence to DVLA, early 2012; (sold car). Page 21 – Lack of Energy; can sleep ten hours at night and still need two hours in afternoon; can complete fifteen minutes of work – then need one hours rest. Page 26, Dr. David Mangion advised me to take early retirement and avoid stressful situations. (If possible). (Before stroke 08.11.11).

    Due to his “I cannot be bothered” attitude my family have suffered (pages 157-159).

    I did not make this application because of my bowel movements – I made it because Dr. David Mangion advised me years ago – “to take early retirement” and my GP, Dr. Kiss advised me – “you will never work again”

    Two highly paid; highly qualified professionals told me, for which I have the greatest of respect and trust.

    Should the Secretary of State require further findings – I would also suggest he approaches these two for their “FME’s” and “keep his eye on the ball”

    Why would the Secretary of State, take two years to make the decision – “Is Mr. Spencer, occasional or daily with his bowel movements” when it is pointless, with regard, to my application of the 13th March 2015 – IS INSANE !!


    1. Department for Work and Pensions
      4th Floor
      Caxton House
      Tothill Street
      SW1H 9DA 4th October, 2019

      Disability Discrimination by C.H.D.A.

      Dear Sir / Madam,

      Further to the letter of Mr.Matt Warman, MP, (attached), would you please advise why we are still waiting responses to the following letters:

      25th February, 2016 – Mr.Matt Warman letter to DWP, attached
      Delay of invite to Medical Assessment

      25th January, 2017 – ICE, waiting final response from DWP, attached
      “Within their own timescales”

      4th February, 2017 – to James Downton
      Telephone conversation held on Audio CD, Ref : Official 397-16

      The contents of these letters were not included in the Independent Case Examiner’s Report of 23rd October, 2018, nor any explanation why for the past 4 years I have been asked to sell assets without any written notification from the DWP.

      It is a great disappointment, I have been paid “Support Group” benefits, but the DWP and CHDA are unaware of the disabilities that forced me to take early retirement in 2012 and again these are not explained in the Independent Case Examiner’s Report.

      The Halifax Building is expecting the settlement of my mortgage on the 23rd October, 2019 and “payment arrangements” have been made to clear outstanding debts to overdraft and credit-card. Therefore, I demand your immediate conclusions.

      Yours faithfully,

      Maurice Spencer



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