Some time ago, I blogged about my daughter, Christine, and the fact that she has developed a long term chronic illness. For over a year now she has been immobile and as time has progressed has been told that she will likely remain this way for the next 2-5 years as it has been brought on by a virus. She is waiting for a clinical appointment at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. In that time she has been referred, by them, to Newham adult social services to get assessed at home and in the meantime agonised and then decided to apply for Personal Independence Payment which is the new benefit replacing Disability Living Allowance. She applied in July 2013.
13 weeks passed before she was given an appointment to go to Earlsfield, which is just past Wandsworth. She is unable to use public transport, can't travel long distances in a car, and as she lives in East London, travelling from one side of London to the other, during a week day is a long journey. A few days before that appointment, they cancelled and offered her another 2 days later at the same place, to be there for 9am , there was no way she would possibly be able to go to that appointment, it would mean getting up at 5am (it takes her a long time to get ready, all part of her condition) to leave at 7am to drive through rush hour traffic across central London. They would pay taxi fares, so they gave her another appointment at Clerkenwell for the 28 of November.
On the 28th of November, she took at taxi to Clerkenwell at the cost to herself of £34 (It takes 14 working days to reimburse taxi fares) all the time she has little money as her husband has been put on half pay by his very understanding employer. She arrived in time, to be asked why she was there as the assessment had been cancelled. Understandably she was upset, fatigued and angry. When her husband called, they said they had called the evening before on their home number, he informed them the land line phone wasn't working and gave them his mobile number and checked that they had hers which they did, so why they didn't call that too is incomprehensible. They promised her an urgent appointment. That appointment was made for today back at Earlsfield.
Today, Christine and her husband, took a taxi (£64) to the other side of London to be told ,when she got there, that ATOS had cancelled the appointment again! She phoned me on the verge of tears so I phoned ATOS for her.
I actually spoke to very nice lady, who told me they had called her the evening before to cancel the appointment, I asked what number they had used, she said she didn't make the call, but the first number was...then quoted her land line number. I pointed out that they had been informed before not to use the number and checked they had both her and her husbands mobile, they only had hers, so the previous phone call had fallen on deaf ears! She admitted to me that there were notes on her file to say this was the 4th appointment that had been cancelled and suggested they cancel someone else. She also told me that the previous payment for the taxi fare hadn't been processed until the 17th of December and that after that it would take 14 working days to reach her account, so we can assume that the £64 she paid out today will take over a month to be reimbursed. Do the sums, that is £98 wasted by ATOS through their incompetency. More than a 'shirker' gets for a weeks unemployment benefit. There are assessment centres just 1 and 3 miles away, but they deem she needs to see a physiotherapist. If her own GP cannot fathom the effects of her illness how the hell willl a physiotherapist?
I feel angry and powerless, the image the government would like you to believe is that all benefit claimants are like the pile of shit Channel 4 broadcast called Benefits street. Don't even get me started on that. I emailed customer services at ATOS today and told them they weren't fit for purpose and have made a complaint to my MP for all the good it will do!
Is it a ploy to wear people down so they give up? 'Save' the working tax payer some money. Let's face it, by awarding a contract to such a negligent company costs us thousands already.
Today, I really thought, at last, she would get assessed and then hopefully life will be a little better for her, but all that has happened is their apathetic attitude has left me speechless.