Know your rights!
Some brief advice on the process of appealing a failed Work Capability Assessment (WCA), as well as some signposting to relevant advice bodies who may be able to assist you.
When you first receive the results of your ATOS WCA and it is a fail, the first thing that many do, as they are panicked and desperate, as they have had their money stopped, is to panic and phone the Job Centre Plus and ask about signing on for Jobseekers Allowance, which is what they want you to do, but there is an alternative and that is by asking for a reconsideration and/or appeal.
How to request reconsideration/appeal
Many claimants have found they have scored “0” points in their WCA and thus their benefits have been suspended. As the suspension notice usually arrives on or after the claimants usual pay day, panic ensues, followed by a call to Job Centre Plus and advice from Job Centre Plus to sign on for Job Seekers Allowance.
This is not necessarily the case, there is another option, one which will give you some money whilst you seek reconsideration and/or Appeal. If you request an Appeal without requesting a reconsideration the DWP will automatically carry out a reconsideration and if the decision is not changed you do not then need to request an appeal as this is already registered.
Note, as soon as you know you have not scored sufficient points it is essential to contact your local Citizens Advice Bureaux or Local Authority welfare rights office, or other advice agency such as DIAL etc and request assistance from them. They are under severe pressure at the moment so get your request in quickly. You can also contact the Crutch Collective for help.
What is the difference between reconsideration and an appeal?
Reconsideration: - When a Job Centre Plus Decision Maker looks again at the ATOS Health Care Professional's report or any new evidence you or your Doctors, specialists etc. provide.
Appeal:- When your case has been reconsidered by the Job Centre Plus Decision Maker and the decision is not changed then it goes to a Tribunal (this is sometimes called a first tier appeal).
According to official figures less than 10% of reconsiderations are changed as opposed to 35% at appeal.
What to do (a brief guide to navigating the paperwork)
When you receive notice of your suspension due to scoring insufficient points to retain your benefits do the following:
- Make sure you have a pen and paper in a convenient and comfortable spot near to your phone before you begin.
- Call Job Centre Plus (or ask a carer or friend to this for you), ask the person you speak to for their name and contact number.
- Go on to request a GL24 form and a copy of the ESA85 assessors report.
- Tell the Job Centre Plus operative you will be seeking reconsideration and you wish to be put on the “Assessment Rate” during the appeals process.
- The Job Centre Plus staff member may be evasive, say they haven't got access to your ESA85, but be polite and persistent, (they have it, they need it to make their decision), ask to speak to a more senior person and continue until they agree to what you are asking, including putting you on the Assessment Rate.
- The Assessment Rate is the same as Job Seekers Allowance and allows you to retain any other help with rent and council tax you were receiving prior to your benefit suspension.
- When you have the GL24 and ESA85 (These may not arrive at the same time with the ESA 85 may arrive weeks after the GL24 – Fill in the GL24 immediately)
- First make a copy of the ESA85.
- Read through the document carefully, you may have to pause during this part of the process as it can be quite frustrating to find out what has been written about you. If you find this difficult get someone you know and trust to help you.
- Highlight every piece of information you consider to be:
In this order, using a different coloured marker helps.
If you are going to dispute a descriptor it is essential you provide supporting evidence from your own Health Care Professional as the Tribunal will accept the word of the ATOS Health Care Professional if you do not do so.