After today’s brilliant ILF Judicial Review appeal win, we are waiting with trepidation the result of the WCA Judicial Review Appeal for mental health claimants. I have everything painfully crossed for this, but knowing this Government like you all do what their reaction will be, and they will not take the decision if they lose lying down.
It’s been a long time to get to this. 2 years and more now. When with DM we said goodbye to the legal team outside court 62 at the court of appeals, it was a strange day. It was an emotional day for everyone involved that day. A day of wondering what would happen next, and feeling so so tired, exhausted.
When I met DM in June 2012, I remember the day so clearly, the pre application for the Judicial review to be agreed to be heard, the vigil outside the royal courts of justice, and the summer of so many friends and fellow campaigners who passed away with the detoriation of their health over this cruel and heartless process and many have taken their own lives over the W.C.A too.
I have seen since 2008, how the W.C.A has affected people, close friends of mine who could not cope anymore, cannot take any more of the stress, not knowing when they will be reassessed again, the dreadful fear of the postman, that brown envelope laying there and the hell of filling out the questionnaire, and then the wait for will it be a face to face assessment with Atos, or will be a decision, and how long will I wait for it?
I lived in dreadful fear of waiting for that assessment, the fear alone of the wait put me in hospital, that cost the NHS thousands that three month stay in hospital, I could not bear the words DWP, or ATOS, or if I saw a brown envelope during that time, had a full blown panic attack and needed sedation. I caused my family and friends dreadful worry during that time when I was hospitalised, I had disappeared for a few days intent on taking my own life, totally beleiving the DWP and Atos were following me, sat in a darkened room with the curtains drawn feeling as though they could see through my curtains and harm me.
The hardest time, was when I thought the doctor on the ward was an Atos assessor and he followed me down the corridor to reason with me and I was not having any of it, he frightened me, and in my state of mind at the time, nothing would have told me anything different that he was not an Atos assessor, I do not remember much what I had done, but I was on that floor, with 10 nurses holding me down, while they injected me. I was not a human being, they made me feel totally worthless, tied down and injected against your will, that is what the words W.C.A did to me.
Later that same year in 2011, i started having problems with horrendous fatigue and headaches, I thought it was all the stress and hell I had just been through, in fact, the doctors said it probably was. Little did I know then, that the symptoms were the start of Rhuematoid Arthritis, an auto immune disease that attacks the lining of the joints with imflamation and horrible pain. It attacked me over night, and it progressed pretty quickly. Its been two years on from that, and two illnesses collide, Bipolar and R.A. and i was told by the Rhuematologist that the stress and fear of waiting to be assessed, along with other family issues at the time, probably triggered the illness to be triggered, I will never know for certain.
I have read terrible plights of people who have gone through this hellish process, people with cancer, MS, even my own father with dementia was called for a face to face assessment, and he was found fit for work too, and if you met my father, there is no way on earth he was fit for work. He cannot remember my name, and that of my brothers, or even a lot of the time he is married to my mum, and they have been married 42 years.
Thankfully, our GP sorted his claim out and kicked some DWP ass, and from the stories I have read, heard in person, there are people in the department who need some ass kicking, the real jobsworths who relish causing the stress, and pain that has been unleashed to sick and disabled people in the last five years.
But, to be fair, not all the staff in the DWP are like that, there are many, fearful of losing thier jobs, and seeing the hell of what the governmental policies are causing, feeling torn between being militant and helping us with information and trying every which way to ease the stress and be as kind and helpful as they can, to knowing if they speak out, that is their job, and the dwp have targets, if they do not sanction enough people, they are pulled up in front of thier managers and asked to explain why they have not sanctioned people, and the same goes for the W.C.A, although lately, more people are getting placed into the support group but its not enough.
This whole process discriminates, how does a mental health claimaint, if for argument’s sake suffers from phychosis, explain thier illness to an Atos assessor? I know my friend could not, he struggled. His thoughts were his reality, it was not his family or his friends, but his thoughts were very real to him, as were the audio and visual halluncinations he was constantly tortured with. He was terrified of the world around him and the people in it. He would not hurt anyone, and was one of the most gentle people to walk the earth. He was pulled up for an assessment, despite numerous suicide attempts. The Atos assessor, a physio therapist in his case, had not the foggiest clue about his illness or how it affected his ability to work or how it impaceted on his daily life. My friend could not communicate to anyone how the illness affected him, he lacked the insight into it and would not speak to days about anything. That phsyio therpaist should have contacted his dr and got a medical report from his physchiatrist, but she did not do that, and my friend did not have the foggiest idea that he needed medical evidence and the onus was on him to collect it, or, that with overwhelming evidence from his dcotors, would have shown Atos that he had been sectioned some 16 times, had a history of 70 suicide attemtps and would have been covered under regulations 29/35 but no dr was contacted, and he was found fit for work in July 2013.
I spoke to him a few days after this decsion and said to him i so wish you had spoken to me, I would have helped you with your questionnaire and would have done everything to support him as best as I could, But I know that he would not because he was too terrified to talk to anyone.
The last thing he said to me was, please make Atos go away, they keep following me and are hounding me, and they are there at the end of my bed, I can’t sleep even with my eyes closed they are there. He called them demons.
The last thing, yes he is no longer with us, he passed away a few weeks later in August 2013, he took his own life at the local train station, and now he is another statistic on a list. To me, he is and will always be a dear friend, who I miss more than words will ever say and I knew him for over 20 years. We set up a service user involvement project up together to help people with mental health issues in the commmunity. We campaigned together, we cried, we laughed, and now he is gone. I stood at that station a few days after his death, looking at the flowers and I vowed one thing that day, I would get justice for him, and for everyone else who has suffered under this cruel and callous process.
A short time later, was the 10,000 cuts and counting event in London, a memorial service to remember all the sick and disabled people who have passed away due to the W.C.A. At Parliament Square that day, were a field of white flowers. It was moving to see them all there, and so emotional, and raw. In front of parliament, those white flowers lay there, every one of them a life, a human being no longer with us, and I struggled with tears, as I remembered all my friends who had died and fellow campaigners, and all those struggling today.
I burned with anger and injustice, wanted IDS to see what we were seeing that day, and wanted him to feel the pain we were all feeling. One of the hardest things I did that day, was read my piece of poetry Lest we forget. I broke during one verse, holding a white flower at the edge of that stage, but I finished reading, and threw my white flower to all my friends into the sea of flowers. I came down that ramp and I cried on a friend’s shoulder. all I knew was I wanted to help get justice, and I wanted my friends back, even if for a minute, but at that moment, they were all there and it hurt like hell. It does everyday.
I have seen this year the ESA questionnaire change yet again, more regulations bought in, and the appeals system change again, and for the worse, as now from 28th October 2013, the reconsideration stage has come into effect, meaning if you are appealing the decision, you have to have another decsion maker at the dwp look at your paperwork and you do not get any money while waiting for this to be completed, and now, you have to submit the tribunial paperwork to the tribunial yourself. How many will not last the winter while awaiting an appeal?
What IDS, Grayling and David Cameron hate, is that Atos have been found not fit for purpose, that 42 per cent of appeals are successful when you do not have a welfare rights advisor represent you at tribunial, but rises to 70 per cent with a welfare rights advisor at that tribunial. They do not want us to appeal, so in October slashed legal aid so claimaints can not access it, and changed the appeals process, and put us in a catch 22, not well enough for JSA, but fit for work for ESA, and thus no money.
How many in this process will be bow beaten into claiming JSA or being sanctioned if they do not? In the last year 400,000 people have been sanctioned. My friend Clive was one of those. I met Clive at the swan conference in March this year. Clive was a social worker who worked for a charity and was made redundant. We all heard his story of him being sanctioned. He was sanctioned for his first offence for three months. He told us of his story of looking for food in bins to eat, not eating for days, keeping warm in a library as his flat was freezing cold. At that conference he broke down in tears and his voice cracking and shaking at the podium, he said he did not blame the JCP worker for sanctioning him, but this government, and he vowed to fightback against them, and he started campaigning. But, there is more to this story. Because of the stress he had been through, he struggled with Depression, and had to go through the W.C.A process. He was found fit for work on 18th September, and many of us are trying to help him and many others keep going another day right now.
The W.C.A is costing this Government more money than it saves, and what sense is there of putting people through three month six month assessments, claimaints have been told like amputees to grow back limbs, I mean please, Atos it does not happen! The Cerebral Palsy claimaint who was told by an Atos doctor they would be ready for work in six months. How senseless is all this.
During the last 18 months, I have stood outside the royal courts of justice with the mental health resistance network with the pre application hearing, for the wca Judicial Review, through the actual WCA Judical Review in January 2013, and then just recently for the appeal that the dwp bought against the cliamints because they lost in May 2013.
We have stood out in the streets outside the courts in rain, the cold, the snow, gales and the sun to highlight the issues around the W.C.A and how unfair this entire process is and how it affects claimaints.
I sat through four and a half days of legal proceedings, talked with the lawyers with DM, stood there with many others with the megaphone, told the public how it really is for us, and looked across the court room at the judges pleading with them mutely with my eyes for justice for everyone who has suffered, is sufering and will suffer this horrendous process.
I know only one thing, the W.C.A harms people, that only one third of Harrington’s recommendations from three of his reports have been implemented and the Government has no intention of making this process fair. They only care about getting as many people off benefit as humanly possible, and if people suffer well according to them we are all scroungers, and deserve it.
I have only this to say, we are human beings, and anyone can become sick, anyone can develop a devastating disability or be born with one, and as racquel rolnik said on 11th September 2013, one death was one too many. One. Under the WCA we in 2011 had 10600 of them, and that figure is more, but the DWP refused the freedom of information request in summer 2013 for the 2012 figures and now they will not keep records.
This process is harming people, people’s health is detoriating as they wait for yet another assessment, and one death is one too many.
As we wait for the decision for the W.C.A Judicial Review for mental health claimants, I know only one thing. I want Justice. I want to stop living in fear. I like all of you want this government out, and if I could I would want this Government to face the justice they should face for the pain and suffering they have caused millions in this country.
I hope justice is served and remember this DM and MM have been through so very much to bring this case to the courts, they have been through hell, whatever the decision is with the appeal, they took on the DWP and Atos, and gave them a bloody nose in May, and that should not be forgotten. I know one thing, I was proud to stand with them the past 18 months, and will continue to stand with them.
Let’s hope justice prevails.
Protestor Poet. xx