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can anybody help with ESA non-contributions please

Hello,

I have been off work since last September and claimed Statutory sick pay which then moved onto ESA about March (about £70) a week. I had my final Employment review meeting in May and my contract was finished under Sick Capabilities policy and luckily given 12 wks notice on full pay until the 20th August then I will recieve my p45. In the meantime I was assessed by ATOS on behalf of the DWP in May also. And received 0 out of 15 and a letter confirming that my ESA would be stopped. My NI stamps are all upto date for the previous tax year and enough to cover the 12months ESA. They said I should contact my employer and arrange to return to work if I was already in work or included other leaflets explaining other benefits to try and claim,as they say I am fit to do so. But my employer does not want me back and I am happy with this as the role I was doing was stressful and seemed to be speeding up my symptoms. I have appealed the decision as I am not in a postion to look for other work as I am still officially employed, also still receiving sicknotes from my doctor too. Because of the appeal they are still paying the £70 until the appeal is heard.

I did read on another thread that once you are assesed and it is felt you could do something else then the ESA is topped up and help is given, did I miss something or was I right to appeal? What do you think I should do next?

any help would be appreciated

Catherine

just wondering if anybody has any thoughts on above?

ta x

Hi Catherine,

I began to reply to this last night, but then found I was getting a bit bogged down, because I didn’t really understand everything about your post. So I think I’m going to have to answer with some questions, as well as comments, if that’s alright?

Firstly, I didn’t understand why the title of your post was regarding ESA non-contributions. I assume, by that, you mean non-contributory, or income-based ESA? But if you’ve been working, and your NI contributions are all up-to-date, then surely the contributory version would be the one that applies to you? Or are you looking ahead to the one year after which that would run out?

Although I don’t think you did wrong to appeal (it’s always worth a try), I don’t think you have much chance of success on the grounds you have chosen. You would need to appeal on the grounds that the 0 out of 15 points was wrong, and you are NOT fit for work. The fact you are still employed, and therefore not in a position (you say) to look for work has nothing at all to do with your fitness for work, so I don’t see how you can dispute the fit-for-work decision, by saying you are not available to look - which is a totally different thing.

I must admit, I’ve not really understood why you couldn’t look for other work, in any case. Do you have some specific clause in your contract that says you’re not allowed to, whilst still technically on the payroll? 20th August is less than a month away, after which they will have no claim on you. In the current climate, if you began looking today, do you really think you’d have landed a new job and be asked to start before the 20th August, meaning it would conflict with your current contract?

Even if it did, I can’t see that your present employers could do very much about it, other than stop paying you for the overlap, because you’d already found something else. Or will you collect an ill-health pension, that’s conditional on not being able to work at all?

If you have been found fit for work, scoring 0 out of 15, then unless you can get that overturned, I can’t see how you can get ESA at all, let alone “top-ups” and extra help to find something else. They will take the view you don’t need top-ups or extra help, because you don’t have a problem that limits your ability to work. I’m not saying that’s true, but that’s the harsh reality about how they will treat it - that you are an ordinary person, with NO health issues. Therefore you might well be able to claim Jobseeker’s, but not ESA (unless, as I say, you can get the fitness ruling overturned). It’s probably too late now, if you’ve already submitted your appeal, but you really do need to focus on the assessment itself being wrong, and not on non-health related reasons why you’re not available for work.

I think (not absolutely positive) that if you apply for Jobseeker’s you may be able to access a “disability” advisor, who would be able to assist people like yourself who don’t qualify for ESA, but nevertheless don’t have completely zero obstacles.

I looked into this (briefly) for myself - but not that recently, which is why I’m a bit vague. I was interested in speaking to an advisor, but discovered I’d have to be claiming benefits first. Which was a bit of a catch-22, as it meant I’d have to prove I was actively looking for work. I wasn’t ready for that, as ideally I’d have liked to chat to the advisor first, about my options, before saying yes, I’m available and looking. But you can’t do it that way round. So as a result, I’m not claiming benefits, but have no access to any advisor either. I really can’t see why you should be prevented from speaking to an advisor, simply because you have chosen not to apply for benefits - yet. But that’s a whole other story, and doesn’t have much bearing on your problem. I just thought I’d mention such advisors do exist, but you’ve got to be claiming first.

Tina

x

thanks Tina,

yes I did head the post the wrong way round, sorry for the confusion. I have taken on board what you have said and I am just reading all the paperwork they have sent me. Reading your notes, its a surprise they did not through this appeal out sooner. I did get a call and she confirmed it all hinges on the Lumber puncture results which i am having on the 30th July and she said it would be in my best interest to send the results in sooner rather than later. they have a back log of appeals and they have confirmed that I will not hear anything for another 17 weeks, but they will carry on paying the ESA in the meantime. I also have a choice to attend the appeal or not too, I have 14 days in which to reply. Its looking slim that I will get anywhere, so it maybe best for me not to attend, its hard enough having to face numerous consultants.

Catherine

Hi again, I can’t see what on earth it has to do with your LP results! ESA does not depend on what your diagnosis is, or even whether you have one, but on how you are affected. LP is not a measure of disability, and is not even positive in all cases of MS. So would have no bearing at all on whether you are fit for work. It’s all about what you can and can’t do. The only medical test that might carry some weight (in my opinion) is where they do a full neurological examination, and record where you are on the EDSS (expanded disability status scale). That scale is specifically used to measure disability in MS, so a neuro’s report indicating you rank “high” would be strong evidence you face serious difficulties in everyday life. But a lumbar puncture tells absolutely nothing about the extent of any disability. You could be very bad, yet still have a normal LP, or the opposite - LP supportive of an MS diagnosis, yet negligible disability. Sorry, not your fault, but sounds bonkers to me. You do not have to prove what illness you have - only that you have health issues that significantly affect your ability to undertake various tasks. Tina x

thats why I was surprised when she said the decision would hinge on the result of the LP?!?.

What they have used after reading my notes to take my appeal forward is the fact I mentioned the Occupational Physician at my work place has confirmed I am unfit to return work ( I included all documents from them) and ATOS say I am. The papers go on to document the differance between the two assessments.

I have just spoke to DWP in Bristol who confirmed that if I proceed with the appeal and I fail because I am on the basic ESA I will not need to pay this back. But he confirmed there was a good chance it would not fail. Its all such a test of nerve’s.

That does all seem very weird but the whole thing (DWP and benefit system) is broken -

First, a government audit has found that their work capability assessments are so poor that not only must all their current health professionals undergo retraining but also new providers are to be brought in to break up the Atos monopoly by next summer.

Second, an upper tribunal judge has ruled that the opinion of a physiotherapist – on whom Atos are heavily reliant both for carrying out WCAs and even more so for PIP medicals - is of no value if the claimant has a mental health condition. The ramifications of this decision could be huge.

Meanwhile, GPs in South Wales have been told by their local governing body to always refuse to provide letters for claimants in connection with benefits claims as it is ‘an abuse of the national health service’. Only requests by the DWP will be met in future.

Elsewhere, rumours that the software for universal credit has had to be scrapped and started afresh continue to grow. It is looking more and more likely that there will be no genuine rollout of universal credit before the next general election.

Emailed news from work and Benefits (http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/)

I’m sorry, that can’t be of any comfort to you. But I think it makes the point there is no point trying to fathom it out - what bit of sense there is in the system is buried deep.

Advice on these forums is often to join benefits and work - it costs about £20 for a year subscription.

Good luck.

From my next to non-existant knowledge, if at present “fit” notes fom your GP advise not fit for work then JSA is inappropriate and you would have to over-rule them.

The work capability assessment is wrong if you cannot do the tests safely in and in an appropriate time (it says that on the form for claimants to fill out and I’ve heard government officials on the TV quote it in the defence of the system) but the assesors are given a simple check list and a simple job - probably, I guess, with a target proportion of failed claims. People have a tendency to do their job - it isn’t the assessors job to bear in mind the validity of the assesments.

Jon.

wow Jon,

this is deep stuff, I will let you know of the outcome. Thanks for above its an interesting read.