This is an angry post, written at 2 in the morning.
This evening I had an interesting, if somewhat distressing conversation. A man I talk to on Twitter has a friend. This friend has a diagnosis of schizophrenia. He has recently been released from a mental health unit, after being a resident for six months, and is currently staying in a residential home. He hasn’t worked for over ten years.
He sounds pretty vulnerable doesn’t he? Certainly someone that will need support, and a safe space to get used to being outside of hospital. It will take him time to adjust to the different pace of life, a new routine, and to think about his future. He has a Social Worker and CPN. He might also require the help of an Occupational Therapist, or Support Worker to get him out and about, engaging in that wonderful thing we call society. Going to the shops, the library, the post office. Maybe doing some voluntary work. In the longer term, some part time work in a supportive environment. Eventually maybe a full time job, or return to education.
Unless of course his benefits claim comes up for renewal. Unless he is invited to an ATOS medical. Unless his ATOS medical is carried out by a ‘Doctor, Registered General Nurse, or Physiotherapist’, with ‘ideally three years post qualification experience’. Unless that ATOS health professional has to use an inflexible and illogical computer generated questionnaire. Unless that questionnaire and highly qualified health professional completely fail to correctly assess his mental health problems. And decide he is immediately fit for work.
Obviously that couldn’t happen. We have been assured repeatedly by the Government that the vulnerable are not the target of benefits reform. Its the scroungers, the fraudsters that they are targetting. The vulnerable will be protected.
This man has just failed his medical assessment. Not by a couple of points, but completely and utterly. Out of a minimum requirement of 15 points, he scored zero. His benefit claim was immediately cancelled, he was transferred onto Jobseekers’ Allowance, and will start attending the Job Centre from next week.
He wasn’t even transferred onto the Support Group of Employment and Support Allowance. A person who hasn’t worked for over 10 years, with a complex mental health problem, recently released from hospital, and living in a residential home, has been deemed immediately fit for work, with no support needs.
Of course he can appeal. Although he may not be upto an appeal. The stress will adversely affect his health. It will take weeks or months for his case to be heard. An appeal will cost the Government even more money, in paying his Care Team to help him prepare, and a Tribunal to hear his case.
And besides. He shouldn’t have to appeal. ATOS should have got it right first time. This is an all too common occurence. It’s not right.
ATOS – Sort yourselves out.
Update 30th November 2010:
His ATOS appeal was successful, and ATOS were reprimanded for weighting the medical against people with mental health problems.