From Assessment to Assessment, from 65 Points to Zero: No Safety in the System

Our head of casework writes about one of our disabled clients who in 2016 was awarded 65 points on her Employment and Support Allowance with the recommendation never to be reassessed at Tribunal. She was then reassessed and awarded ZERO points. UPDATE: After 6 months of waiting, Joyce was placed back in the support group without her case being listed for a hearing on the basis of her previous award.

Anne Killeen, Head of Casework & Support

25 April 2019

UPDATE: After 6 months of waiting, Joyce* was placed back in the support group without her case being listed for a hearing on the basis of her previous award.

The judgement on paper reads:

By reason of her particularly complex combination of health conditions Joyce* is significantly limited. [..] if she were found capable of work or work related activities this would result in a substantial risk of harm to Joyce as it would be likely to cause deterioration in her mental and physical health. In reaching its decision, the Tribunal placed particular reliance upon evidence within the Health Professional’s report and an earlier Tribunal decision to place her in the support group of the benefit for the benefit.

The appellant asked for an oral hearing of the appeal and so the Tribunal Procedure Rules require than one should be held. However, they are the only party to require an oral hearing and the Tribunal is of the view that a decision can be made on the documentation evidence alone. In these circumstances an oral hearing would be an inefficient use of judicial resources.

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I first met Joyce in 2016 when her ESA had been stopped on the basis that she did not score the required 15 points. The case went to tribunal where she was awarded 65 points with a recommendation that due to the level of her disability she is not reassessed again.  This was the best outcome we could have achieved for Joyce, giving her the chance to move forward, as well as manage day to day living with her condition.

I was both outraged and devastated for Joyce when she returned to me this week, having recently been reassessed and given a negative ESA decision saying that she had scored zero points.  She was shocked by this as her health has not improved. Joyce’s daughter attended a two hours medical assessment with her mother and whilst she did not have a copy of the previous tribunal decision with her she told the medical assessor what happened.  This made no difference.

With no other income this puts Joyce in the position of having to claim universal credit which is something she does not wish to do as she feels it has been forced upon her.   She is concerned she will not cope with monthly money management and online journals.

It seems common sense that universal credit will work more effectively for those who are ready to handle implications of the change, rather than forcing people who feel shocked and confused at having been denied their legacy benefits. With Joyce’s permission I spoke to her adult daughter who lives with her and is currently at university. I explained that her mother may have to claim universal credit otherwise she will have no income until either a revised decision is made putting her back on ESA or a negative decision which allows us to lodge an appeal  which will give her an reduced income of £73.10 pending the outcome of the appeal.

I also advised her daughter that if a claim for Universal Credit was made there will be a housing costs deduction regardless of  her income  from Joyce’s housing costs of £72.16 per month which is a new flat rate  deduction including  university students residing at home.

Under the present housing benefit rules there is no deductions for students. Her daughter said they will struggle but will manage. I have also again advised Joyce to claim Personal Independence Payment and this time we will arrange for her to be given assistance in completing the form and any further potential negative decision. Another case of potential forced migration causing unnecessary stress and anxiety.

In this case, we have helped Joyce to weigh up the pros and cons and she has decided with the financial help of her daughter not to have universal credit forced upon her. We have already requested a mandatory reconsideration and have enclosed a copy of the tribunal decision and await the outcome.

Our concern now is the time frame that she may have to wait for the mandatory reconsideration decision in order to get Joyce Employment Support Allowance pending appeal.   We do hope in reality that she can manage on the reduced income and we will also be providing food-bank vouchers.

* To protect the identity of our clients, a false name has been used.

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