Michael Meacher MP wants your views and experiences of Atos / DWP. He is building a dossier to present to parliament in order to argue for radical changes to the current incompetent system. I emailed him mine yesterday. Below you will find part of his reply to me, describing exactly what he would like from people. So, please, if you have something you can share with him, do so. It may only be something trivial, but it will all count.
"Can I please ask you to confirm your address and postcode and if possible a short statement about your case which briefly sets out the order of events with ATOS together with the dates?
"If you are not one of my own constituents, I will not be able to take up your individual case with your local agencies I'm afraid, as this must be carried out by your own MP. But it would be very useful to make use of your experiences when I make representations about the ATOS system as a whole.
"Can you kindly confirm that you would be happy for me to use your details in this way? Also, would you be willing to be contacted in the event of any interest from the press or broadcast media?"
Yesterday I told him that my view is that the DWP doesn't know their arse from their elbow, and that a computer systems company should not be performing health assessments that affect peoples lives in a crucial manner, let alone with a system that was thrown out by the country that designed it. Today, following his official request I gave him the following story. I hope it gives you an idea of what to say. I did tell him that he could cut the first paragraph out if it isn't helpful to him.
"I suffer with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, Fibromyalgia, Hypermobility, Hypothyroidism, displaced vertebrae and anxiety (PTSD). Between the conditions they cause debilitating pain in almost every part of my body, extreme unremitting exhaustion, too many difficulties to list briefly. I am unable to work, though I wish more than anything to do so. I am unable to live any sort of normal life; I can't have a social life. My GP is concerned for my mental well being. I have been on suicide watch for the last 8 months. The last thing people in my condition need is added stress. Having no income is extremely stressful.
"I used to work full time, and expected to do so my whole life. When I became ill I was totally unaware of how the benefit system worked. I was misled by Job Centre employees, being told to live on loans and that my house mates had to support me. When someone is extremely ill, they are not up to researching the complications of the benefit system, and assume that what they are told by officials is correct. It should be made clear to ill people that they can get help. In the last two years I have had severe problems with the DWP. I was placed on Income Related ESA when I should have been placed on Contributions Based ESA. Because of that error my claim was closed when I received some money; had I been on Contributions Based ESA, this would not have happened. The claim should not have been closed; the DWP should have continued to pay my National Insurance Contributions. I was not informed that it was closed. As such, now, when I have no money, I am unable to claim Contributions Based ESA because of mistakes the DWP made. I cannot claim Income Related ESA because my boyfriends earnings are over the threshold, despite the fact that his outgoings are nearly more than his incomings. I understand that Income Related ESA should be means tested, but I also believe it should be based on what is left after outgoings, rather than being based on what comes in. I recently applied for DLA, but it has been turned down based upon an ESA medical that was performed two years ago and overturned at the time. My DLA application form was totally ignored; this too should not happen, especially when using out of date evidence."
I am really glad to know that we have MPs on our side. I received an email today from my own MP saying that she is willing to write me a supporting letter for my DLA reconsideration, as she personally knows that what was written in their report is untrue (due to my previous communications with her on another matter). It feels like we're starting to round that corner, make a tiny bit of progress. I can almost see light at the end of the tunnel.
I do hope it doesn't turn out to be a train.