Just thought Id let you know how my transition from Incapacity Benefit to the NEW Employment & Support Allowance. Hopefully my experience can allay a few worries and worriers, of which I freely admit to being the worst.
Ok, So I got a scary brown envelope, DSS on back, never good news. Opened it up, panic,horror, anguish... They wanted me to undergo a medical test, a suitability for work interview, and various other hoops to jump through. Guess what? It was ATOS , The Nightmare creators themselves.
The letter said I would receive a phone call, and then a big questionnaire, to ascertain if I was able to work, or not. If I was found able, my IB would cease, and I would be placed on the Employment Allowance, with weekly,monthly and 6 month courses, Attend several interviews a week, actively seek work, no longer disabled, no longer on Incapacity, basically , well, PANIC..
Quick medical- Severe Gold iv COPD, Chronic Pain intercostal muscles, FEV1 22.3%, Oxygen at home, walker needed .
Sure enough, Phone-call asking if I understood what was happening and if I was able to complete a form...Part 1 of the hoops thought I. 'I can fill forms, but only after I am pain free for the day from my Morphine and with my oxygen on. I got the form 2 days later.
It was a huge form, with multiple sections, questions, tests, trip ups,open areas where any answer was detrimental. I spent several days collecting and collating letters from My own GP, My Local Area Lung Specialist, The Big Specialists up in London, my diagnosis, and indeed my 2-3 yr prognosis.
I took my time, included a long letter detailing in understandable format what the reports, test reports etc meant, saying each time, 'As you are medically trained you know what a BODE of 9 is, you know what FEV 1 of 22.5% is and so on.'
Posted it off, registered mail so I knew they received it, and waited. I waited 6 weeks, and then rang up my local job-seekers office to find out the progress. They didnt actually know what the heck I was talking about, or the young lad on the phone didnt, I got a cut and pasted message saying that there were massive holdups, with decisions taking up to 3 months, but I could ring Atos to inquire.
I rang them immediately. I was almost instantly past on to a lovely lady, very polite, and understanding. She took my details, checked, and said 'My dear, please stop worrying. We have looked at all your information, your letters etc, and Im happy to tell you that there will be no need for a medical, no need for a face to face,' I had been found unable to work due to severe disability and I would hear from the DHSS, who Atos had sent their report to 10 days beforehand.
After 4 more weeks, that sound of a heavy letter hitting the floor. I peeped out of the lounge, saw the brown envelope and started to panic. 5 feet way, 2 feet, got it. Slowly turned it over, saw the DHSS on the back, gulped, big breath in, and Open.
'Your Benefit is changing to Employment and support allowance.You have been placed in the 'Support' Group as your illness or disability restricts the possibility of working. Your payments will commence May 29, where you will start to receive the Allowance fortnightly. Your payment has also been increased due to information received, and you will receive £xx.xx benefit, etc.
I had worried for nothing, the process had simply worked. I can sleep easy again.
Hope this will alleviate anyone else worrying as I did, it really is a simple enough procedure, just make sure you send EVERY medical letter, Breathing Test, Chest X-Ray, Medication report and so on, even if it is a tiny few lines, send it. Highlight stuff with marker pens, underline pertinent information, cover every base, and you wont get any problems.
Good luck, sleep easy