Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Disabled People with Permanent Brain Injury face UK benefits 'trap'

Disabled people with permanent brain injuries are stuck in a 'revolving door' of benefits assessments and constant pressure to remove their only source of income, it has been claimed.

The UK brain injury charity Headway and Scottish personal injury lawyers Digby Brown have said many people with brain injuries are failing the government's new benefits assessments.

Many have their benefits reinstated on appeal.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWS) claim that the assessments will help people avoid a "life on benefits," which is a UK Government political term for cutting benefits.

Some people have had their benefits removed and reinstated, following appeal at the High Court, three times in the last two years.

Anyone who is claiming benefits for a disability or illness now has to have regular and humiliating "work capability assessments" under changes to the benefits system brought in by the UK London government in 2008.

Assessments are carried out by the already discredited, Atos Healthcare for the Department of Work and Pensions. Atos's performance is measured on how many people they can remove from the benefits system.

Simon Glen, Headway project co-ordinator, claimed the assessors don't ask probing questions.

He said: "Thinking problems - problems with memory or planning or concentration - can all appear hidden but they really affect your ability to live a normal life.

"If you don't remember how to get somewhere, where you are, or who people are, that really affects your life.

"The assessment process doesn't attempt to pick up these cognitive problems."

"It can be an absolute nightmare for clients," said Kathleen McMonagle, a client support manager with Digby Brown.

"Time and time again they're going for these assessments and being asked a very closed set of questions that leads to a pre-determined result (i.e. every candidate is fit for work and will have a costly and stressful fight the UK Gov dept on appeal to prove otherwise).

"Normally, a decision is made that they're fit for work. They go to appeal. They win. They go back to the Department for Work and Pensions and they're automatically referred for another grueling health assessment.

"They fail again, and we're back to square one." It's an oppressive and de-humanising process aimed at reducing benefit costs for UK Government at the expense of disabled and injured people.

Standard questions
One individual who had suffered a severe brain injury when he had an epileptic seizure, has had his benefits removed and reinstated three times in the last two years.

He explained: "They don't attempt to understand the individual effect of the brain injury, and they don't even ask you the relevant questions.

"They just ask you standard closed questions which require a 'yes' or a 'no'. It's all very worrying because then you have to go to appeal. It's not in any way fair."

Increasing Costs of Appeal
Digby Brown has seen a big increase in the number of clients who are constantly having to go to appeal to have their benefits reinstated.

It provides a welfare rights service to its existing clients and also to people referred by charities such as Headway.

Official figures suggest around 30% of decisions are being overturned but Digby Brown says 90% of clients with brain injuries are having decisions reversed.

Atos claim that the UK Government have designed the process and the questionnaires used, which confirms the cynical manipulation of data to reach a determined outcome.

They also added that although all those who carry out work capability assessments are fully trained doctors, nurses and physiotherapists with at least three years clinical experience, they are not allowed to diverge from the process nor are they permitted their own 'opinion' on the result.

Inside information reveals that the Atos doctors and staff are also concerned at being used as dumb tools to further an oppressive UK government policy.

Work and Pensions Rhetoric
A UK Government spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions issued an empty and politically correct statement to support the government's discredited policy for the disabled and injured:

"We know that conditions affect different people in different ways and can change over time, so it's right that people should be reassessed rather than written off to life on benefits."

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