I wrote yesterday about the saga of my ESA appeal. Today I had my appeal hearing.
My appeal was at 10am, which I was quite grateful for as it left me less time to worry about it. I was still quite anxious, although not as bad as the previous time (where I attended but they overran and I got postponed). I went to the office where the hearing was held, which was a CAB office, among other things. I sat with my parents in a little room waiting for the clerk to show us in. To be honest, I had a bit of a butterflies/feeling sick moment in there, but fortunately (and probably to plan) my mother amused me by repeating the word “lube” every 30 seconds after she had read it on an information poster for gay men.
Then we went into the tribunal itself. The people there were a (male & oldish) doctor and a younger woman. The government declined to send anyone. They explained that they would ask me some questions but that they had a lot of information about me, as they had requested my medical notes back to 2008 among other things. In fact, the only one who asked any questions was the doctor while the lady took notes. He asked me a few general questions about when I was diagnosed, other medical conditions, what was I like on the day of my original assessment, etc. They had mentioned that they were only allowed to consider my disability/sickness on the day of that assessment. I told them exactly what I wrote here. They asked about the jobs I had done (the doctor suggested that I might consider not working with people in the future!) and my reaction to them, about what happens when I am depressed and what treatment I have. They asked about my self-harm and what leads up to it, and whether I overdose (I had to tell the truth, that I have overdosed twice. I wouldn’t normally be bothered by mentioning this but my parents were there), about whether I smoke, how much and how much I drink. They also asked if I took illegal drugs (I don’t).
It was quite a short interview really. I felt that the doctor’s questions were good questions, practical, and not trying to trick me in any way. He also seemed really nice and, surprisingly, I wasn’t nervous at all once I got into the room. I think that this particular doctor probably has a good bedside manner. After I had spoken to them my parents spoke a little about how my depressions affect me, from the outside point of view, and mentioned that my papers had been lost several times and that the nurse who assessed me had said they would get in touch with my Consultant and GP and so I hadn’t provided the information myself. Then we went back to the little room while they deliberated.
We weren’t in there very long before we were called back. The lady (who seemed to be in charge) then said that they had decided to allow my appeal! She said that while I don’t really meet the criteria for ESA they were allowed to make exceptions in certain circumstances and they had decided to do just that. In fact, I got the impression – they more or less said so – that they thought the descriptors for mental health were a bit inadequate and certainly that the Atos assessment is. They wished me luck and said to expect my back payment.
So, I am officially part of the 40% of people who have their appeals granted. I was quite surprised actually as I thought they’d listen to me, hear someone with insight and a currently working brain and say that I wasn’t entitled. They did, of course, mention that I will be reassessed soon, but I knew that would happen. I have to say that I will probably not appeal again. This has been stressful, and I am so much better now that I want to just get onto as many helpful things as possible (like stress management courses) and do them, after that I am quite happy to go on JSA.
After we got back from the tribunal (some 40 miles away, good job I live with parents who can drive me!) I popped into the Jobcentre to ask about said courses. Unfortunately the lady who deals with ESA people is on holiday this week so I have been told I can phone her on Monday. As I said, I expect to be called to another assessment imminently so I thought I’d better get a head start.
I am absolutely delighted with the result! Not only am I out of limbo and properly on ESA, meaning I can access help to prepare for work, but I also get a bonus cash sum which will be very handy! It just goes to show that sometimes people are indeed sensible and fair.
Thank you to all who prayed for me, and I thank God for helping me through today, especially when it came to thinking of the words to say to the tribunal panel.