Incapacity benefit: personal capability assessment (PCA)

Ok, to start with, some disclaimers.  Please don’t treat anything I say as gospel truth.  If I say something in this, then as far as I’m aware it’s true, but I could be wrong.

If you’re applying for Incapacity Benefit (IB), or facing a re-assessment, then the single most important piece of advice is this: go and talk to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB).  They’ll not only be able to offer advice which, unlike mine, is guaranteed to be up to date and accurate, but they’ll also be able to give you guidance related to your individual circumstances, which obviously I can’t.  In particular you should go and see them if you end up having to dispute or appeal against a decision not to award you benefit.  They can help you with every stage of this, and will even arrange for a representative to go with you to the appeal tribunal.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that if it wasn’t for the help of the CAB, I don’t think I would have won my appeal.

The information in this post relates to the personal capability assessment (PCA) for Incapacity Benefit.  From the 27th October 2008, all new applicants will have to apply for the Employment and Support Allowance, which will have different rules, and no doubt  different criteria for assessing medical incapacity.  People who are already receiving IB will continue to receive it for the time being, and any re-assessments will (as far as I know) be done on the basis of the existing PCA, so hopefully this post will stay relevant for some people for some time.

What I say about the PCA is based on two things.  Partly it’s based on my own experiences of going through the process several times, and so it will only focus on the mental health part of the PCA, as I don’t have any serious physical health problems.  It’s also based on documentation I was given as part of my appeal process, which outlines what the criteria for the PCA are.  This documentation outlines the PCA as it was in 2005.  As far as I know, there haven’t been any changes since then, but if there have, then what I say will be out of date.  This is why I very strongly recommend that you contact the CAB for advice, rather than relying on what I say.

Ok, on with the actual information.  (If you can’t face wading through all this text, there’s a 10 point summary at the end.)

The decision on whether or not an IB applicant is fit for work is made by a DWP administrator (called a decision maker), not a doctor, or nurse, or anyone else with a medical qualification.  Their decision is based on three things:

  • the information provided by an applicant in their form (form IB50);
  • any information provided by the applicant’s doctor, or someone else who is involved in treating the applicant;
  • a report made by a doctor appointed by the DWP.

The decision maker is specifically empowered to overrule medical opinion if s/he thinks it appropriate, which makes it very important for an applicant to present their problems in terms of the criteria used in the PCA.

The PCA criteria are based, not on what illness or condition you have, or even on the severity of the symptoms you experience, but on how those symptoms affect your day-to-day life, and so your ability to work.  At a basic level, this means that a statement on the IB50 form saying something like “I suffer from very bad anxiety” isn’t very useful to the decision maker.  A statement saying “Because of my anxiety I cannot leave the house on my own” is more useful.  You should also make sure that you talk about the full range of difficulties that a particular problem presents.  For example, if anxiety also makes other things difficult or impossible for you, you should say so clearly.

It really is important to stress the full range of effects that a particular problem or symptom has on your day-to-day life both when filling in the form and when talking to the DWP doctor. The reason for this is that you’re not trying to convince the decision maker that you’re ill, but that your illness affects your ability to work.  This can seem fairly obvious when it’s written down, but it can take some getting used to, particularly in the consultation with the DWP doctor.  In a medical consultation you will be used to describing your symptoms, being told (probably) what’s wrong with you, and what can be done about it.  It can take quite a big mental leap to realise that in this particular consultation it’s not the symptoms that matter, but the effects they have.

The reason I’m stressing this quite so much is that in one DWP consultation I had (the one that led to the appeal) I focussed on telling the doctor about my symptoms, but because I didn’t talk much about the problems they caused me, she decided they weren’t bad enough to interfere with my ability to work.  Although you might hope that the DWP doctor will ask you specific questions to reveal the information they need to know, you can’t be certain that this will be the case.

When they come to decide whether an applicant is fit to work, the decision maker is faced with a list of statements, which are known as descriptors.  They decide whether or not a particular descriptor applies to the applicant.  If they decide that it does, then a set number of points are awarded.  In order to be judged unfit for work as a result of purely mental factors, an applicant has to score a minimum of 10 points, from a maximum of 34.  It’s obviously useful to know what the descriptors are, in order to know what specific problems the decision maker is looking for.  It’s a good idea to try and keep them in mind both when completing the IB form (IB50) and when talking to the DWP doctor.  It would obviously be very difficult to try and remember all 25 mental descriptors, but you will probably find that some don’t apply to you, and that some are of greater importance than others.

The mental descriptors are arranged under four broad headings: completion of tasks; daily living; coping with pressure; and interaction with other people.  I’ve listed the various descriptors here, together with the number of points that are awarded if they apply.  (A list of the descriptors is also available here, along with the list of physical descriptors.)

Completion of tasks

  • Cannot answer the telephone and reliably take a message – 2 points.
  • Often sits for hours doing nothing – 2 points.
  • Cannot concentrate to read a magazine article or follow a radio programme – 1 point.
  • Cannot use a telephone book or other directory to find a number – 1 point.
  • Mental condition prevents him from undertaking leisure activities previously enjoyed – 1 point.
  • Overlooks or forgets the risks posed by domestic appliances or other common hazards due to poor concentration – 1 point.
  • Agitation, confusion or forgetfulness has resulted in potentially dangerous accidents in the last 3 months – 1 point.
  • Concentration can only be sustained by prompting – 1 point.

Daily living

  • Needs encouragement to get up and dress – 2 points.
  • Needs alcohol before midday – 2 points.
  • Is frequently distressed at some time of the day due to fluctuation of mood – 1 point.
  • Does not care about his appearance and living conditions – 1 point.
  • Sleep problems interfere with his daytime activities – 1 point.

Coping with pressure

  • Mental stress was a factor in making him stop work – 2 points.
  • Frequently feels scared or panicky for no obvious reason – 2 points.
  • Avoids carrying out routine activities because he is convinced they will prove too tiring or stressful – 1 point.
  • Is unable to cope with changes in daily routine – 1 point.
  • Frequently finds there are so many things to do that he gives up because of fatigue, apathy or disinterest – 1 point.
  • Is scared or anxious that work would bring back or worsen his illness – 1 point.

Interaction with other people

  • (a) Cannot look after himself without help from others – 2 points.
  • (b) Gets so upset by ordinary events that it results in disruptive behavioural problems – 2 points.
  • (c) Mental problems impair ability to communicate with other people – 2 points.
  • (d) Gets irritated by things which would not have bothered him before becoming ill – 1 point.
  • (e) Prefers to be alone six hours or more each day – 1 point.
  • (f) Is too frightened to go out alone – 1 point.

There are some strange things about this list.  For example, someone suffering from long-term unipolar depression doesn’t seem to have their distress counted – it has to result from a ‘fluctuation of mood’ [my emphasis].  This shows the importance of relating your experience to the criteria, and talking about it in these terms, both in the form, and during the DWP medical consultation.  For example, my level of depression varies to some degree over a day, so I have used this as evidence that a fluctuating mood causes me distress.

Even so, most people will probably find that a lot of the descriptors don’t apply to them, how ever much they try to fit their experiences to them.  This doesn’t mean that things are hopeless, and you should try not to panic.  On the application I sent in this week, I found that only 9 of the descriptors definitely apply to me (although I think another 6 partly apply).  That doesn’t sound like a lot, but would result in a score of 11 points, which would mean I would be judged incapable of work.  It’s pretty damn scary to realise that the margin is so tight, but I have tried to be as realistic as possible – I think even an unsympathetic doctor and decision maker would have to give me those 11 points.  If the decision maker and doctor assigned to me are strictly neutral rather than unsympathetic, I would expect to get closer to 14 points.

One of the possible responses to knowing the list of descriptors would be to invent evidence so that lots of them seem to apply to you.  I don’t recommend doing this.  The most important reason is that if you succeeded in getting benefit on the basis of lying, this would be fraud, and you could go to prison for it.  I also don’t think it would be very likely to be successful, as the DWP will want evidence for anything you claim applies to you.

So, for example, if you claim that you are too anxious to go out alone, but arrive at the DWP medical consultation on your own (they will make a note of this), this increases the chances that the decision maker will decide that descriptor doesn’t apply to you.  Equally, if you say that you need encouragement to get up and dress, the DWP will very likely want to know who provides this encouragement, which is clearly a problem for people like me who live alone, but nonetheless sometimes manage to get up and get dressed.  I actually think this is one of the most unfair things in the PCA, as it effectively discriminates against those of us who are single, and have no option but to do certain things for ourselves.

My strategy in situations like this is to stress the level of difficulty I face.  So, although I can’t say that I’m always too frightened to go out alone, I have stressed that I find doing it very difficult, have given examples of the difficulty, and have related it back to my MH problems.  The PCA is not supposed to relate to any specific day, but rather to an average day.  By emphasising the level of difficulty I face, my aim is to demonstrate that there are days when I am too frightened to go out alone, and hope that this will influence the decision maker’s opinion about an average day.  Although there’s no guarantee any of this will be taken into account, there’s a chance that it will make a difference, if not in relation to this particular descriptor, then more generally.

Officially, doctors working for the DWP are told not to use the descriptors as a check-list, but rather to use their clinical skills to establish the general level of incapacity experienced by applicants, and then use that clinical opinion to rate their capabilities in the various activities described in the PCA.  This means that, rather than asking a series of specific questions that relate to each descriptor in turn, the doctor should ask more general questions, and by listening to what you say, and observing your reactions, arrive at positions on the specific issues.  In reality this seems to vary wildly between doctors.  One DWP doctor did nothing but ask me a series of questions that were clearly based on individual descriptors.  At the other extreme, another doctor asked extremely general questions that seemed to hardly relate to the PCA at all.

This freedom given to doctors is really a double-edged sword as far as applicants are concerned.  On one hand it’s positive, because it means specific criteria are less important than the general level of incapacity you face.  On the other hand, although the doctors are allowed to take this general view, the decision maker will still make their decision based on the various descriptors in the PCA.  If a doctor is asking very general questions, it can be hard to be sure that accurate information about the problems you face with the activities described in the PCA will make it into the doctor’s report.

Really the only advice I can offer here is to keep in mind that, how ever the doctor expresses themselves, your job is to emphasise the problems that you face in doing the day to day activities mentioned in the PCA.  Obviously you have to answer the questions the doctor asks, but you should remember that, ultimately, the doctor will be looking at your capabilities under the various headings of the PCA, and you should do whatever you can to make sure s/he has a clear understanding of the difficulties you face.  In some situations this may result in you having to be more assertive than you are used to being in medical consultations.

Certainly, speaking personally, I tend to think that it’s my role in a consultation to answer questions in the same terms that the doctor asks them, but that can be dangerous.  For example, when I had to appeal, part of the reason was that the doctor I had seen had asked various leading questions (“So you were having problems with depression, but your doctor’s prescribed some antidepressants for you.  What improvements have you noticed in your mood?”), and I hadn’t realised that it was essential to emphasise the problems I still had, rather than what had got better.

I think I’ve probably covered more or less everything I can think of in terms of advice about facing the PCA, but here’s a summary:

  1. Try not to panic. Dealing with this is a horrible experience, but it is survivable.
  2. Read the various descriptors listed above, and decide which of them you think might apply to you.
  3. Think about your recent experiences and the problems you have in relation to the various descriptors, and present your evidence in such a way as to make the best possible case for a descriptor applying to you.
  4. Remember that your goal is not to convince the DWP’s decision maker that you are ill, but to explain to them why your illness means a particular descriptor applies to you.
  5. If you’re not sure whether or not a particular descriptor does apply to you, make a case for it anyway.
  6. Don’t invent evidence to support your case for any descriptor.
  7. The space provided in the IB form for your statement about your mental problems is tiny, but take as much space as you need to say what you have to say. There is an overflow space provided on the form itself, and you can also attach extra sheets of paper to the form.
  8. Keep in mind the descriptors you think apply to you when you are being interviewed by the DWP doctor, and try to answer the doctor’s questions in a way that supports your case.
  9. Try not to let yourself be intimidated or influenced by the doctor into being more positive about things than you should be.
  10. Remember that throughout the whole process your aim is to keep explaining as many times as necessary the ways your illness make it impossible for you to work.

Well, that’s that.  I hope it will be of some use to some people, and maybe interesting to some others.  But please don’t rely too much on anything I’ve said here.  If you need advice and support, contact the CAB.  You can be sure the advice they give will be up to date and accurate, but you shouldn’t assume that mine is.  Obviously I’ve done my best to make sure it is, but I would hate to think of anyone getting into any problems or difficulties because they rely on something I’ve said.

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60 Responses to Incapacity benefit: personal capability assessment (PCA)

  1. cb says:

    wow, that’s great stuff, Aethelread. Thanks a lot for taking the time to explain that. I am absolutely sure I’ll be back again!

  2. Pingback: Mental Nurse · This Week in Mentalists (44)

  3. Jenny says:

    Although I have physical problems rather than MH ones, a lot of what you say is still relevant. Excellent article, thankyou!

  4. BB says:

    A very good write-up of the brown envelope experience, having just gone through this myself it is very accurate. I sent my IB50 back about 3 weeks ago and I am waiting to hear if I have got to go to a medical.

    Your comments about the doctors at the medicals are also very accurate as well, one medical I went to the doctor avoided asking me anything about my brain injury and decided that as I could fill the dishwasher, read the paper and watch tv that I was magically fit for work.

  5. Cellar_Door says:

    I got 5 points…can I go part time? :0)

    Wanted to plug the CAB a bit more, they have been brilliant with my mum and sis.

    Interesting post, thanks Aethelread…

  6. Bendy Girl says:

    Excellent post, and excellent blog. I’ll be back for more, Bendy Girl

  7. Excellent stuff.

  8. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for all the comments, and glad to be of service… ;o)

  9. bippidee says:

    it’s worth mentioning too that the doctor is quite often sat next to the receptionist when you enter the building, which gives him/her a chance to see how you deal with strangers. They are also known to watch you from the window when you leave to see if you act differently (i.e your limp disappears lol). I’ve always worried prior to the assessments then found that I get so upset with myself once I’m there that they can tell I’m incapable of work. It’s not a case of putting anything on. The thought of losing my benefits terrifies me.

  10. Mac says:

    Well done, this is excellent – my medical is tomorrow, I’ve been through this already, failed (9 points!) and had to go to Appeal which took 6 months!! I won the Appeal but FEAR I will have to go through it again. I am always more verbally positive about my illness (Work related stress/severe depression) than I feel, and I always feel under pressure to say I AM FINE, when really I want to die! Your comment about the Doctor making you feel more positive than you actually are is soooo correct, and I fall completely into that trap. I want to get better soooo much!
    Thanks again for your help and advice, and if you read this before tomorrow, wish me luck! I will report back how things went, to maybe help someone else.

  11. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Mac,

    Good luck with it. The waiting is always the worst part, i find, or one of the worst parts, at least. Normally at this point i’d say something like ‘stay positive’, but, of course, for this damn medical it’s a question of having to say ‘stay negative’. But there are good doctors who work for the system too, and i’ve had some very sympathetic hearings in the past – it’s just the luck of the draw unfortunately.

    I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you, and let us know how you get on, if you want to (there’s no pressure either way!)

    Take care,
    A.

  12. Mac says:

    It’s official, I AM MAD!!! Turned up for the medical to be told its Wednesday!! not today……. my letter does say Wednesday, so its me, not them – wonder whether this will go in my favour or not.

    Thanks for your good luck wishes A, really appreciate it and will report back on Wednesday.

    Take care yourself…….

    Mac

  13. aethelreadtheunread says:

    D’oh! Sounds like exactly the sort of thing i’d do.

    Good luck for tomorrow

  14. Mac says:

    Think the new test was used on me today – but thank god the stupid questions about answering the telephone and using a directory were not asked.

    The “Nurse” seemed really nice, but I kept focused on what I needed to tell them in way that they needed to hear it. This though turned into a bit of a nightmare as I repeatedly got upset and was unable to talk. It lasted 45 mins.

    They said I would hear from the DWP in 3-4 four weeks which will be torture.

    Not sure what advice I could give anyone reading this, as the advice you have given is excellent and so, so relelvant – you could definitely not help anyone unless you had been there yourself.

    I guess the main thing to keep in mind is that they want assess you to see if you can do ANY job at all – dont fall into the trap I previously did thinking that as I am/was a Senior Manager that I would be assessed on my capabilities to my OWN job – so in a sense, the more senior a role you are struggling to return to, could leave you without benefits as you are capable of a much less stressful and less senior position. Bear this in mind.

    Needless to say I will let you know what the result is in a few weeks time and feel for anyone who is worried about this assessment.

    Mac

  15. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Mac,

    Thanks for the update, and that’s a good point about the level of job – having not really had anything other than pretty basic positions it’s not something that occured to me. :o)

    Hope you manage to make it through the long wait ok.

  16. Mac says:

    Listening to Five Live Radio this monrning explaining the new system…. how does this work if you are still employed?? I am, and I still receive part of my salary so still pay tax, so how can they send me for “back to work interviews”???

    The Minister for Health said the new system was to encourage people back to “any” work – would they expect someone like me to resign because I can’t return to my current job, but could in their opinion sweep the streets???

    Mac

  17. Mac says:

    Didn’t have to wait too long, received my letter yesterday to say that I “passed” and will continue to receive my IB.

    Thanks your support, good luck wishes and great advice.

    Look after yourself…….

    Mac

  18. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Mac,

    That’s great news! Congratulations (although i know being told you’re not able to work isn’t exactly a great feeling, but you know what i mean, i hope…)

    Now, hopefully, instead of using up all your mental energy worrying about the hoops the DWP want you to jump through, you can concentrate instead on trying to feel better.

    Take care,
    A.

  19. Murphy says:

    I am currentl getting IB for physical health difficulties and stress. I might habe made things worse for myself by using the Job centre plus to try to find work and even managing to get a couple of interivews. However it is clear to me that the sort of job I feel I could manage, part time low level admin tasks will not be offered to me as my age and heath problems deter employers from giving me a job. Now I am resigned to losing my IB as I cannot continue attending the job centre on a weekly basis as the recent experience of rejection has made my depression so bad that once again I am unable to leave the house. I fear that this will be seen as my being uncooperative and lead to the loss of my IB.

    I do not want to stay on IB for the rest of my life but I really fear losing it and the resuting calamity of losing my home due to having no money to pay rent and council tax. If it was possible for me to work at a job that I am physically and mentally able to cope with, even if the pay was no better or perhaps even slightly worse than IB levels I would do it as my current situation is terrible. I have no support network at all no family and friends long since having lost interest in me so there are many attractions to my getting a job. But I realise now after a few weeks of getting the “help” of an advisor at the Job Centre Plus that the only work I will be able to secure is the sort of job shunned by all but the desperate and I know that this will not be conducive to my health at all.

    I did consider trying the initiative whereby you do a course designed to give you the skills needed to present well at interview which is followed by a work placement. I was very positive with the idea of getting a realistic appraisal of my suitability from a real employer but when i realised that before getting a placement I would have to attend for several weeks on a course that in reality meant being confined in a small room with perhaps myself being the only over fifty in a class of six made up of teenagers I knew that I would struggle to be accomplish this.

    It is true that there is a financial incentive in the shape of a back to work allowance of £40 weekly for the fisrt year, and tax credits but for many it is just so hard to acually get a job and the rejection that you meet when tying hard to find works always makes your health much worse in a very short time.

    Perhaps the government should actually find ways to make the employment of those on IB more attractive to employers so that they are more willing to give you a chance if you have spent some time on IB. At the moment it seems to me at any rate that the present scheme where you can offer to do a job trial that means they do not have to pay you only makes you look desperate, which in truth I am.

    I am desperate to get a job that I can do without making my health worse, however the use of a job centre advisor to do this is not aways a good thing as, in trying to please the advisor, I am beginning to look at fdoing work that is clearly out of the question. I am at my wits end now, unable to sleep or function very well at all. This past month has led me from being in a position where I was coping with my limited life more or less adequately to the position where due to fear of being made destitute I am once again in a pit of despair.

  20. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Murphy,

    I am so sorry to hear about the difficulties you’re having. I know that people over 50 often struggle to find work because of prejudice by employers, and the same is true for people with health difficulties, so you really are in a tricky situation. The job centre should be doing what they can to help you with this, not applying pressure to take a job that is completely unsuitable. You, after all, are the expert on your abilities, and what you can or cannot do.

    If you’re getting Incapacity Benefit then the things you’ve been doing like attending the Job Centre and meeting with their advisers are voluntary. Stopping to do them for any reason, but especially because your depression has got worse, should have no effect on your getting the money. Unlike with JobSeekers, it’s assumed with IB that you may not be capable of doing things like going regularly to the job centre, and so you don’t have to prove how cooperative you are to the advisers there. (If you are on the new Employment and Support Allowance then attending ‘work-focussed activities’ might be compulsory, but the ESA has only been in existence for a few days, and only for new claimants, so you’re likely to be on IB.)

    I’m worried about the amount of help you’re getting for your depression. You sound as though you’re very isolated at the moment (i can certainly relate to that), which, as I’m sure you know, has the effect of making depression harder to deal with, but can also make depression worse. Have you talked to your doctor to talk about how your feelings have changed over the last month (the ‘pit of despair’ you talk about)? As you have physical problems as well, is there a chance that you tend to talk most about those things with your doctor, and so he or she doesn’t know how bad the depression actually is? Obviously I don’t know what help you’re getting already, but there might be other things that could be done from a medical angle to help you feel better.

    In the short term i think you should concentrate on trying to feel better, but in the long term there are charities that help people with health problems to find work that’s suitable for them. You may already know all about this, of course. The Shaw Trust ( http://www.shaw-trust.org.uk 0800 085 1001) are a national organisation, and they can offer things like ‘taster’ sessions to see whether a particular sort of work is suitable for you. They also build up relationships with employers, so you know that they will have a positive attitude towards you, and can help to support you once you’re actually in a job. It sounds as though they might be able to offer the sorts of things you’re looking for, although some of their work is paid for by the government, so it might feel too much like going to the job centre does. (I’ve never used them, so i don’t know what kind of approach they take.)

    Anyway, the most important thing to concentrate on is how you are feeling. It may not be the most help in the world, but i and lots of other people at least have some idea of what you’re going through, because we’ve been through simillar things ourselves. You’re not alone with this, although i know that’s probably how it feels sometimes.

    Take care,
    A.

  21. Mac says:

    Hey Murphy

    So sorry to read about your situation and how it is making your Depression feel out of control. If I was an “expert” which I am NOT, there could be a serious case of Catastrophic thinking creeping into your thoughts. Please make sure your GP recommends you speak to a professional CBT Therapist or similar so that you can talk through your fears.

    Please try not to worry about losing your IB, like ‘A’ says, there is no rule that says you have to attend the Job Centre, and the fact that this current situation is all too much for you, will, eventually, help with your IB “review”.

    If you have another appointment booked, phone or write to say how you are feeling, the symptoms of your Depression and the fact you are too unwell to attend any meetings for new jobs at the moment.

    From what I have learnt from ‘A’, there is no pressure under the old scheme which covers you, so don’t get tied up with trying to please someone else i.e your advisor.

    I hate to think of how isolated and lonely you feel, but you are not alone – keep as positive as you can and make sure you keep in touch with anyone with a kind word or kind face.

    Mac

  22. Mac says:

    Hey A

    Slightly off topic, but I beleive in Angels and that every now and then, one is sent to look after us……….. the number to look out for Angels is 11:11 i.e. any combination to make 11 twice i.e. 11 minutes past 11 or 11 November etc. etc. when you see this combination, an Angel is there to look after us ………………………… just take a look at the date and time that you replied to Murphy!!

    Wot can I say A!!!

    Mac

  23. aethelreadtheunread says:

    I just want to make it very clear that i’m not an angel.

    I mean, the wings would spoil the line of all my t-shirts, quite apart from anything else… ;o)

  24. Pingback: At last! « Aethelread the Unread

  25. david says:

    Excellent post – I always like to say “I’m FINE!” too, and just ticked 21 points on your list. I should really learn to be honest about the bad stuff. I must have a good GP, because at my last PCA I just said I thought I was getting better bit by bit but not there yet. I really can’t remember what I put on the form. Thankfully passed. Thanks for writing it.

  26. Alison says:

    Hi have my medical next week i did got to the doctor to see if they could do a house visit but they wont they are making go through with this, i lost my IB before because my husband waited for me in the car, i went to a tribunal which took 6 months with the help of CAB i under went another grilling in front of 6 people i could hardly speak i was so nervous i couldn’t swallow anything, so im sitting here worrying as usual i will post here went its over to let you know how it went thank you for posting this it makes a difference when you know your not the only one suffering mental health

  27. aethelreadtheunread says:

    david – pleased you had a good experience last time around, and I’m glad that you found my post useful.

    Alison – sorry to hear about your bad experiences before, and I hope it goes well for you this time. You’re right to know that you’re not alone in this, although i know that’s often how it feels. Good luck, and take care, A.

  28. Mac says:

    Just one bit of advice Alison, take your husband into the reception area with you – they will notice he is there and ask you during the interview who he is. Try not to pick up a magazine or a book, they notice this and as you know, this is one of the questions “can you read a magazine or a book”

    Good luck, let us know how you get on.

    Mac

  29. This is great but puts the fear of god into me.

  30. aethelreadtheunread says:

    The whole thing is a pretty horrible experience, but it can go well as well as badly. I’d say try not to worry about it, but i know that’s a pretty useless thing to say.

    Take care,
    A.

  31. Alison says:

    Hi just thought i would share with you the results of my medical it seems that im ok for another two years thank god for that, this site was so helpful thank you very much my husband came into the medical room with me this time he was asked questioned and helped me answer some of the question i do tend to rush answers so i can get out of there quicker but as you have said you need to answer each question as in full as possible once again thank you

    Alison

  32. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Hi Alison,

    Congratulations! It must be such a weight off your mind to know that things are sorted for a while, and you can get back to something more constructive than stressing over what the DWP might decide. I’m pleased if you did this post helpful – in fact, i’m thrilled, it’s what i wrote it for! :o)

    Take care,
    A.

  33. Mac says:

    Well done Alison……… so pleased for you, just concentrate on you now.

    Mac

  34. dolores says:

    HELLO.
    IM ABIT CONFUSED NOW. IM NOT ON IB AND I’VE MEVER BEEN. BUT TWO YEARS AGO I WAS IN A VERY BAD SITUATION. BY THAT TIME I WAS ON JSA. DUE TO SOME UNFORTUNE EVENTS I DISCOVERED I WAS SUFERING FROM DEPRESSION. I’VE ALWAYS BEEN DEPRESSED BUT NEVER REALISED IT. I COME FROM AN AFRICAN BACKGROUND FAMILY. FOR THEM I AM WIRD. DEPRESSION DOES NOT EXISTE WHERE THEY COME FROM. EVEN THOUGH MY MUM WAS THE ONE WHO PUT ME IN THAT SITUATION SINCE I WAS 12.
    I MANAGED TO MOVE IN A LOVELY FLAT. I WAS STUDYING, AND I WAS ON JSA. THEN TWO YEARS AGO, MY WORLD FELL APART. SOMETHING HAPPENED. DOCTORS SAID I HAVE CHRONIC DEPRESSION. I WAS CRYING ALL THE TIME, I FELT USELESS, I DID NOT WANT TO LEAVE THE HOUSE. MY BED WAS AND IS THE BEST PLACE TO CHILL. I NEVER BOTHERED TO FIX MYSELF WHEN GOING OUT AND I LET EVERYBODY DWN
    EVENTUALLY I STOPPED GOING TO SCHOOL AND SING DUE TO MY IMCAPACITY OF LEAVING MY HOUSE.
    MY ADVISER TOLD ME I SHOULD CLAIM IB. HE GOT ME THE FORM ANS SEND IT FOR ME. IT TOOK THEM 3MONTHS TO ANSWEAR ME. I DIDNT PASS. I DID NOT CONTRIBUTE ENOGH. DURING THOSE 3 MONTHS, I DID NOT HAVE ANY MONEY. I FOUND JOBS, BUT I’D END UP CRYING OR NOT BOTHERING TO GO TO MY APPOINTMETS. I WENT BACK TO JSA, BUT THEY REFUSED TO BACKDATE MY CLAIM. COULDNT PAY THE RENT AND I WAS MADE HOMELESS. I WENT TO THE HOMELESS UNITE IN MY ARE JUST TO BE TOLD THAT THE ONLY WAY THEY CAN HELP ME IT’S IF I GET PREGNANT.
    ITS BEEN A YEAR SINCE MY FRIEND TOOK ME IN HER HOUSE. I HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL, NOT JET. I STILL DO CRY WITHOUT A REASON AND I STILL THINK THAT MY USELESSNESS IS EPIC.
    NOW IM IN THE SAME SITATION AS BEFORE, WELL, NOW ITS WORSE. IM THINKING MORE AND MORE IN HURTING MYSELF N I DONT WANT TO BE AROUD PEOPLE. XMAS HAS BEEN THE WORSE PART. I EVEN GOT A KNIFE UP IN MY BEDROOM JUST IN CASE. I HAVE TO MOVE FROM WHERE I AM AND AGAIN I HAVE BEEN TOLD THE BEST WAY IS APPLYING TO IB SO I CAN MOVE BANDS. IM SCARED, I CNT BRING MYSELF THROUGH THE WHOLE PROSSES AGAIN. ALTHOUGH LAST JULY I RECEIVED A LETTER SAYING I WAS ENTITLED FOR A SHORT PERIOD OF TIMe.
    IM SCARED OF FALING AGAIN AND BE ON THE STREET. I CNT AFFORD TO HAVE A BABY WHEN I CANT EVEN TAKE CARE OF MYSELF. I KNOW I HAVE TO FIND A JOB BUT I JUST CANT
    AND IF 2009 ITS GOING TO BE AS GOOD AS THIS…….. IM NOT INTERESTED IN KEEP ON STRUGGLING…..
    I HAVE BEEN ON THIS SITE ALL MORNING. I FIND IT VERY USEFUL. DO YOU THINK THIS TIME WITH THE NEW LAW THINGS’D BE DIFFERENT?? DO I HAVE A CHANCE?

  35. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Hi Dolores,

    First of all, I’m sorry to hear you’ve been having such a bad time of it. I really hope that 2009 turns out better for you than things have been recently. I know it can be very hard (or even impossible) to do, but it’s worth trying to bear in mind that even the very worst situation will get better, and it really is worth hanging on waiting for that to happen. I really hope you find the strength to do that. :o)

    From what you say, it sounds as though you weren’t turned down for IB because the DWP’s doctor didn’t think you were ill enough, but because you hadn’t paid enough National Insurance contributions. If that is what happened, then you should have a reasonable chance of being eligible for the new benefit – you can get it on the basis of low income even if you haven’t paid enough NI contributions. (The only exception to that seems to be people who’ve been living abroad.)

    What i really think you do is get in touch with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau ( http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk ). You can use the website to find out where your nearest office is, or you could look in the yellow pages. They will be able to offer you face to face help with sorting out an application for benefit, and will also be able to help you fill in the forms. They may also be able to help with your housing situatiion – they will certainly be able to tell you what help is available in your area, and will be able to help you with any applications you need to do for that.

    The really great thing about the CAB is that they will be on your side. The people who work in the Job Centre, and in other official offices, can be really unhelpful, or even downright rude, but the CAB people really will want to help you to get whatever you’re entitled to. They will also be really experienced in helping people who are in the same situation as you.

    I hope you get the help you need, and that things start to improve. And please do get in touch with the CAB!

    Take care,
    A.

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  37. hippy says:

    Many thanks for a useful blog, I have my medical tomorrow and been having panic attacks for a week just thinking about it as normally I am very reserved and a private person. I would never think about what you have writen and how to let the doctor know how my illness is effecting me.

    will let you know the outcome and again thanks for advice

  38. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Hi hippy, and thanks for commenting. I’m glad if the post has been useful to you.

    Good luck with your medical!

  39. hippy says:

    Just a little feedback on the medical, Mine took 30 min from entering the examination room, there was no questions that I could relate to the descriptors, rather questions of did you manage to book appointment ok and what did you cook for dinner and do you shop locally, and of course how did you get here today and a couple of mental arithmetic questions and could i spell a word backwards.

    As I had little sleep in the lead up to the medical I think in retrospective I must have looked terrible and basically could also say it was a very bad day.

    Basically the questions where based on how I was living and coping with day to day things. In reality I think this was to see if I could perform tasks relating to work which is what the medical was all about.

    Anyway still waiting for the brown letter.

  40. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Hi hippy,

    Thanks for the feedback. I’m sorry to hear you had a bad day, but on the other hand if you’re going to have one then i guess it’s quite handy that it coincided with the medical.

    Hope the letter when it comes has the right result.

    Take care.

  41. BPboho says:

    Hi, I wish i’d read this before i went for my medical assessment 3 weeks ago! I got my dreaded envelope through the door yesterday and it feels like my world has stopped.
    I received 7 points, yet when i read through my alleged answers, i found that I could have easily have gained a further 10 points, IF MY ANSWERS HAD BEEN RECORDED CORRECTLY!!
    How do these :administrators” sleep at night knowing that they have deliberately deducted points from people who are already vulnerable?
    For any one who is yet to have their assessment, I would strongly suggest you RECORD YOUR INTERVIEW.
    I can not believe I have to now appeal this decision when my mental state is already so volitile, I too could jump from the nearest bridge and wrap a letter from the DWP around my neck with the word, “THANKS” scrawled on it.

  42. kymerduck says:

    Got my medical assessment a few weeks ago and found I was given no points so I’ve been on a downer since and just recovering and put appeal in, even the medical got 0 points even when i cannot lift heavy weights due to a hernia was disregarded.

    I found out also in my area after 1007 appeals against medical outcomes only 7 where successful at appeal, anyone any idea how long it takes for the appeal/tribunal hearing after a appeal is lodged.

  43. hippy says:

    opps sorry last post was mine kymerduck

  44. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    BPboho – sorry to hear about your experiences. Unfortunately what you describe does happen, and has happened to me. I think the people who administer the system come under a lot of pressure to turn people down, but that doesn’t excuse what they do.

    Needless to say, please don’t jump off a bridge – they aren’t worth it. I hope your appeal goes well.

    hippy/ kymerduck – sorry to hear you didn’t get the result you were hoping for from the medical, and that your problems were ignored.

    The 1007 cases with only 7 granted surprises me, as in most areas a majority of appeals against disallowance of incapacity benefit are upheld by the appeals tribunals. (I don’t known what the situation is with the new ESA.)

    In terms of how long you will be waiting, that depends what stage of the appeal process you’re at. The first stage is usually to ask the Jobcentre Plus to ‘look again’ (as they put it) at the decision. That usually only takes a few weeks, but also usually confirms the original decision. The next stage is to go to an appeals tribunal (this is the stage at which IB appeals are frequently succesful), and the length of time this takes will depend on how busy the tribunal is. You should get a letter from them giving the date of your hearing reasonably promptly, but the hearing itself might be several months off. If you’re getting help from the citizen’s advice bureau (and if you haven’t contacted them already, then i’d strongly suggest you do now), they might have an idea what the tribunal’s workload in your area is like.

    Anyway, i hope things work out for you,
    A.

  45. hippy says:

    Hi aethelreadtheunread, yes the 7 upheld at appeal related to the ESA.

    I had the dwp have another look and they forwarded it to appeal system and restored benefits which was nice of them lol

    Not sure if anyone might be interested but under a freedom of info request about esa in my local area on http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/teesside_esa_medical_assessment#incoming-36250

    Gives some data relating to outcomes although the dwp never released info relating to numbers and medical fails it is interesting read and public domain now.

    I have decided with guidance and to get rid of dwp rules and regs to go self employed in late october so basically now holding out for the 6 month period is over.

    So if the appeal takes around 3 months from the medical I can avoid the inquisition and get on with recovering apart from deepening with constant pressure from dwp.

    Daft thing is I only get 5 quid benefit as i have a pension ;p; seems a lot of money to save pennies..:-)

  46. Seamus Smith says:

    I have also just received the dreaded letter. My benefit has been stopped – I only got 7 points for my mental ill health (agoraphopbia, anxiety, depression).

    The sickening thing?

    My assessor has clearly ignored my answers in some instances and not allocated points.

    Apparently, I *can* answer the phone and take messages – even though I CLEARLY told him I don’t answer the phone, ever, because I find it distressing.

    Great way to save 2 points?

    There’s various examples throughout – I am starting to think my assessor might have had an agenda.

    The thing is, at the end of my interview, he told me I should resume my counselling sessions, which had recently come to an end, because it was obvious I needed help!

    I am about to appeal. I was depending on a benefit payment tomorrow and now I discover today I won’t receive it.

    I am pretty much in despair right now. I feel a great deal of anger at my assessor – the way he adopted a caring concerned manner while he was blatantly ignoring my answers.

    Hopefully something can be worked out because I don’t know what I’ll do now.

  47. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Thanks for the comments.

    hippy – sorry for not replying to you earlier, for some reason i didn’t see the comment come in (which is weird, because i’m normally emailed with all comments.) Thanks for including the link, you’re right, it makes for very interesting reading. I see that, rather sneakily, they include the number of appeals they’ve received and the number that a tribunal have upheld, but not how many the tribunal have ruled on. Without that last piece of information it’s impossible to work out what percentage of appeals are succesful. Still, it does make for fairlt grim reading, unfortunately.

    I’m glad you’ve found a way round the rules and regs. And i agree, it does seem to be ludicrous lengths to go to for £5, but i’ve always suspected that the whole process is aimed more at intimidating people from even starting an appeal than it is saving money with the people who are going through the appeals process.

    Seamus Smith – sorry to hear about your experiences. It happens far too often that the upshot of the whole thing doesn’t take account of what a calimant’s medical situation actually is. It certainly sounds as though the 2 points for phone related activity should apply – if you’re not answering the phone, then by definition you can’t ‘reliably take a message’.

    I think you’re probably right to feel angry about your assessor, although, as i said to BPboho, i think the assessors probably come under pressure to issue as many negative reports as possible. But that doesn’t excuse what they do.

    I hope your financial situation sorts itself out. Once you’ve lodged your appeal, you should be able to start getting some money from the DWP again, although it may be less than the full amount of benefit. I have to say, it sounds to me like you’ve got an open-and-shut case for your appeal, but good luck with it anyway.

    Take care,
    A.

  48. hippy says:

    Hi A, many thanks for your comments, as you mentioned anyone that is refused or failed the medical should appeal instantly therefore restoring benefits (ESA) they will put you on the Pathways to Work program to stress you out more. If you noticed in the FOI request they state they cannot say how much is paid to Athos but in another request they state £80m over 10 years.

    To me it’s a case of meeting some government target regardless of suffering so the doctors and DM’s turn down on anything to meet such targets.

    My other request under the FOI was the cost of administrating the ESA, this seems to be ignored, hence must be some massive amount to save little..

  49. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Hi hippy,

    To me it’s a case of meeting some government target regardless of suffering so the doctors and DM’s turn down on anything to meet such targets.

    I think you’re probably spot-on with that, sadly.

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  51. lisa says:

    hello, i live in portugal and know the same rules do not apply here but some of them must. I was injured at wrk 6 months ago and told i have a incapacity permanent parcial. The dr has give me no incapacity rating yet, but wants me to return to work which i know i cannot do as i tried one month previously. I cannot stand or walk for longer than 20mins and cannot kneel or bend to the floor at all. This has stopped me doing watersports which i have done for 10 years and is effecting my life alot. Always being fed up. I have not retuned to work yet but i am meant to tom. Nobody has told me of any benifits i am entitled to or anything what i can do. im scarred to try to go to work again incase they then say i can work because i have been doing anyway. can anyone help me….please???

  52. aethelreadtheunread says:

    Hi lisa, thanks for your comment. I’m really sorry to hear about the situation you’re in, it sounds really horrible. I’ve had a quick look, and i found this page which gives some basic information about benefits in Portugal, including sickness, invalidity and disability benefits. The page is in English, i’m afraid, and the information is fairly basic so you may know it already. I’m also going to put a link to your comment on the front page of my blog, and ask if any of the people reading are able to offer any more advice.

    I’m sorry i can’t be any more help, but i hope things work out for you.

    Take care,
    A.

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  55. pete lutton says:

    Dear AETHELREADTHEUNREAD,
    I just thought you might be interested in my assessment which i have just this minute finished.Firstly I suffer from non freezing cold injurie to my extremities i.e. hands, feet ,nose and ears,these injuries cause me accute pain in all weathers,and i have the lost the sensation of touch in my hands and have little or no feeling in my feet along with many sleepless nights.This was sustained during my military service of 2 tours of Bosnia 1992 and 1995 ,the upshot being that i was medically dischared in 1999 due to the extent of my injuries after 21yrs of service.I have been seen by probably the only expert on these injuries namely DR ,E.N. H. OAKLEY, Head Of Survival and Thermal Medicine BA,BCh,MB,He kindly wrote a medical report on me which i included along with my medical assessment form.To get to the point the examiner kept me waiting for over an hour in the waiting room, which was extremley uncomfortable as i have to keep moving all the time and find it difficult to sit or stand for longer than 10 mins,When i eventually got to see him he was not interested at all in the questions laid out on the assessment form infact i marked the questions down [as soon as i got home] that he showed any interest in these are, q1 = hospital treatment,q2= getting up/down stairs,q3=communicating with other people[because i wear an hearing aid],and that was it.He then carried out some streching exercises ,told me too grip his fingers asked if i could touch my thumb and fingers together turn my neck and twist my sides all of which i could do.He then examined my feet and hands commenting that he thought the circulation was good and informed me that he had never heard of Dr Oakley. All of this took about 25 minutes this included him typing in his computer.Needless to say that i dont hold out much hope for a successfull result,and would therefore be very gratefull to you for any advice that you could give to me re-my appeal which i will surley have to go through in 3 or 4 weeks time.
    Many thanks, and by the way your pages here are most excellent and very informative and important.
    Thankyou again,
    Pete.

  56. Hi Pete,
    I’m really sorry to hear about the shoddy way you were treated. It’s not unusual, unfortunately, but that doesn’t make it any less appalling. I hope, despite the unpromising medical, you get the right decision first time and don’t need to appeal – it’s obvious from the description you give here that the difficulties you face would make holding down any regular job almost impossible.

    It’s been several years since I had to appeal a benefit decision, so any specific advice I could give would probably be out of date, but my general advice would be to contact the CAB for help as soon as possible in the process. As you’re ex-armed forces, it might also be worth looking into whether there are charities or other organisations that might be able to help you – but you probably know more about that than I do.

    I hope things go ok for you,
    A.

  57. pete lutton says:

    Dear A.
    Many thanks for your speedy reply,and advice, I’ll keep you posted.
    Pete.

  58. pete lutton says:

    Dear A,
    As predicted scored nil points,[just got the phonecall to confirm this]what an absolute scam.Will now go down the appeals route lets see how far that goes.This in just pathetic.
    Will keep you informed.
    Pete.

  59. Hi Pete,

    Sorry to hear about what happened, though not surprised, unfortunately. Hopefully you will become one of the many, many people who are initially turned down but go on to win their appeal.

    Try to keep as cheerful as you can!

    A.

  60. pete lutton says:

    Thanks A,
    Will do that,and will keep you informed as I go along.
    Pete.

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