ATOS appeal: from 0 to 18

I was sitting in a cafe, feeling anxious, drinking a coffee. Staring out of the window I casually noticed an article someone was reading, the screaming headlines went like this:

Beat The Cheat crusade

You pick up the phone and inform on people you think are fiddling their benefits to The Sun.

It made me sick inside as I was on my way to attend an appeal regarding the ATOS decision they made in summer (see this post). It has taken nearly 7 months for the appeal to happen. It was nerve-wracking, sitting in the waiting area, stomach churning, sitting waiting, worrying… Thankfully I had my partner with me for moral support and because of the backlog of appeals, this particular tribunal venue, sit on a Saturday.

The panel composed of a doctor and a lawyer. They actually made me feel welcome and stressed their objectivity unlike the man from ATOS who made no eye contact and just tipped and tapped at the computer. The doctor asked me probing questions and seemed genuinely interested, he also listened and made notes. Unlike ATOS man who spent more time staring at the computer. It occurred to me then how could the man from ATOS extrapolate information about me based on quick questions where you can’t really go into that much depth. Asking very superficial questions will only get a one-dimensional answers. While at the appeal, the doctor and lawyer wanted to get a full picture including context and changes over time. They listened and made notes without making me feel like I was on some ATOS conveyor belt. The decision-making by the panel seemed more robust unlike ATOS.

Unfortunately, for me, I had to go back in time and discuss the state of my mind during the summer of 2011. It was hard. Very hard. I had kinda repressed, censored out, the pain and crap I was going through. Explaining how I couldn’t get out of bed at a reasonable time, socialising was difficult, leaving the flat usually involved going out with my partner who acted as a carer. I felt safe in my flat, hiding in bed, I didn’t want to disturb my silence by going out inside a loud screeching world. Wanted to hide. Hide away from life. I felt too ashamed, worthless and depressed to talk about this to friends. I did contemplate suicide and self-harm. My life was one big mess worsened considerably by my former employers and union. I used to be a level-headed person able to organise, function and have structure in my life but that was all unravelling like my mind. My memory was awful. The park acted as a sanctuary where I would watch the wildfowl, once I saw the herons I would feel calmer (maybe that sounds daft but it’s true). Even now when I feel anxious I look for the herons in the park as a point of reference. Things got worse when my partner accepted a job in Bristol not his fault but I felt even more lost. Thankfully, the panel asked my partner’s opinion as well.

Dredging this up again distressed me yet the doctor and lawyer were understanding and kind. They asked me questions. They listened. They made notes. They asked more questions. Unlike the man from ATOS who when he asked me whether I had more to say, which I did and tried to explain how life was getting too much etc. etc. for me, he just nodded his head and said, “Yeah, OK”… nodding his head but made NO notes instead he seemed to rely on the all important computer software. Didn’t he notice my glazed expression? Didn’t he notice my eyelids drooping as I was so tired? Didn’t he notice me staring blankly at the wall? Didn’t he notice…anything? No, it’s not his job to dig deep and to examine the whole picture. It’s about taking a useless and distorted psychological snapshot of me via a computer package.

The appeal took 20 mins and I sat and waited for their decision. I noticed myself in the appeal drinking water from a plastic cup and couldn’t believe or control my shaking hand. They called me back in and told me I had won my appeal. I thanked them and left. Instead of feeling ecstatic I feel numb and in a bit of a trance, to be honest I thought I was dreaming and that I would wake up. But it wasn’t a dream, I had won. It took a lot to be confident and be courageous today.

If you fail your ATOS assessment I would implore you to appeal. You just have to be prepared to go into details, don’t hold back, be honest. At least the Appeal panel listen and take you seriously unlike ATOS drone…

My ATOS score was 0, today it was 18. I am not the first or the last in regards to people who win their appeals. The ATOS system is ideologically fixed against you and that’s why it is so vital you appeal. It’s gives you a chance to give your side of the story, without interference from the tip-tapping of a computer keyboard. The man from ATOS wasn’t trained in mental health and it came across he didn’t have a clue about the day-to-day life, ups and downs, the inconsistencies of distress. The decision was made via a computer. Today’s decision was made by two humans.

ATOS aren’t fit for purpose and this is patently clear with the number of people who win their appeals. The system isn’t working, the system is not objective it is based on ideology as opposed to medical opinion. ATOS need to be removed from the benefits system as they cause streif, pain, misery and their judgements kill. Why waste more public money on a faulty, flawed and incompetent assessment? ATOS needs to go.

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17 thoughts on “ATOS appeal: from 0 to 18

  1. Glad you won, well done for having the courageous to keep going with it. Atos really are the scum of the earth. Plus it MUST be costing more to employ a doctors and lawyers to hear the appeals for all the cases that Atos have got wrong, so even if it weren’t so ideologically dodgy it doesn’t even make financial sense.

  2. Well done.
    That ATOS/DWP can get away with such fraud is testament to the scrounger demonisation working in wider society, they are denying us ethical medical judgement & hoping the appeal stresses are too much for most. I think it meets the criteria for corporate manslaughter given we know of so many deaths from people in the process, but no big party will support benefit users, it’s very Niemollian.

    • Thanks Rick!
      Indeed no party is supporting benefit users, instead Labour capitulates and joins in the vilification and demonisation. Depressing! Good luck with your appeal :)

  3. well done for following this through,great result for you,how many other folk would have given up?,I took the suns advice and phoned the shop a cheat line,but they didnt want to carry the conversation when i told them that I wanted to report Greyling and Emma Harrison for benefit fraud

    • “I took the suns advice and phoned the shop a cheat line,but they didnt want to carry the conversation when i told them that I wanted to report Greyling and Emma Harrison for benefit fraud”

      That made me laugh :)
      Yep, they don’t want to hear about the powerful just the powerless.

  4. I am really full of admiration for the way in which you have faced up to this ordeal and hope that this encourages others to do the same. I am afraid that I don’t have your guts and decided a while back that when my form came from ATOS, which it did a few weeks ago, I would inform them that I had no intention of attending any interview and if that meant losing the benefit so-be-it (meant I could at least fire a broadside in my letter to them). I can do this because I have a very supportive partner and an ill-health pension. But I did feel guilty about fighting – I knew however that attending the interview would almost certainly make me ill and at 55 every good day is precious to me (too much life lost already). Anyway thanks for standing up and congratulations on winning.

    • Cheers Nick. It was hard work but was so incensed at the way ATOS fails people in every way with their ideology and can’t-care-less-attitude. They are callous and uncaring. Not fit for purpose.
      I can understand why you didn’t go to the ATOS interview it takes a lot of energy and to be honest it takes a lot out of you. I wished I didn’t have to do it but their decision was wrong. People shouldn’t be expected to confront so many obstacles when sick and unemployed. The treatment from ATOS worsens distress and anxiety and knocks people back.

  5. So great to see you found justice, and overturned a computer programme and fraudulent Company in ATOS.

    Can I please add, take heart at the quickness at which you received it; my daughter has been waiting for 20 months so far for a tribunal date. Without family support she wouldn’t be here.

    The Fight must go on

  6. If the government gets it’s way, it will be much more difficult to appeal, as ESA will not be payable whilst you are waiting for the hearing. having been deemed unfit for work by a doctor, claiming jobseekers would be fraught with difficulty due to the rigid availability for work, and actively seeking work criteria that apply. Sanctions are imposed if you don’t fulfil the criteria. Further more, the government intends to introduce a mandatory “second opinion” or revision to the first DWP. You wont be allowed to appeal whilst this is in progress, and there is no time limit set as to how long the DWP have to complete and notify you of their second decision. So that could be 6 months, a year, who knows??! In the meantime, no right of appeal. No money to live on. The proposal is transparent in a way, as it does make clear that it is a move to reduce the high volume of appeals. I would go much further than this, and say it is an effective way of dealing with a source of embarrassment for the government – effective appeals highlight that ATOS/DWP decision making is unfit for purpose. This proposal, if it becomes legislative will effectively gag millions of sick and disabld people indefinitely, and the problem will become hidden from the public eye as tribunals see fewer and fewer successes for claimants. It needs to be addressed, and quickly. Two main issues need to be addressed – one is that claimants need to be paid ESA basic rate right up to Tribunal decision, and secondly, there needs to be a time limit on the mandatory second decision of no more than 6 weeks, during which the claimant continues to claim ESA flat rate. There are more, but those are the two crucial ones for me.

  7. well done for the win! I also won my appeal last November after spending much of last year living on 41 pounds per week. I didnt have to speak – the judge and doc had already made their mind up based on the documents I sent in to them prior to the hearing. I had no representation either: )). I scored 0 in the ATOS assessment too. My Gp was appalled and asked if the DWP think that chemotherapy is now handed out to people like candy…..My chemo isn’t for cancer, its for life threatening autoimmune illnesses. Anyway, glad people ARE winning!!!

  8. I’ve just been reading your great, passionate blog. I’m writing a piece (at pitch stage) for The Guardian and have Scope and the MS Society lined up to source potential case studies. I love your voice and would you be interested in talking to me (telephone/ even email – I’m a wheelchair user so face-to-face is difficult) about the impact these reforms may have on you and your life as it is and this fiasco with ATOS?

    Many thanks

    Michelle Mullen

  9. I have just had my incapcity benefits looked at and on the medical used by ATOS I have scored 0 points I suffer from IBS, ACUTE and CHRONIC PANCREATITIS, CEOLIAC DISEASE, ASTHMA, ECZEMA,OSTEOPOROSIS, POMPHLOXY on HANDS and FEET, BAD BACK and DEPRESSION and yet they say I do not qualify for any benefit apart from JSA and that I am fit for work

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