Bit of a detour here ladies but thought I would give some information for those who have been receiving Employment Support Allowance (ESA), and have recently been asked to complete a limited work capability form ESA50.
I originally claimed DLA and ESA under DS1500 rules, and because I had claimed ESA under DS1500 I was placed in what the Department of Work and Pensions call a support group (meaning I am not expected to make myself available for work). Both these benefits were awarded for three years. When the three years were up, I was contacted by DWP to ask if I wanted to re-apply for DLA. I re-applied under DS1500, and was awarded this for another three years.
However a few weeks after being re-awarded DLA under DS1500, I was contacted by ATOS (the private agency appointed by the Govt to assess claims for ESA), asking me to complete a limited work capability form (ESA50), The ATOS letter stated that if I did not complete the form by a certain date I would lose my ESA.
Fortunately, I was aware of the rules regarding this, and so sent them a letter. In the letter I said the following:
Before completing this questionnaire I would like to know why I am being asked to do this when The Department of Work and Pensions Guide to ESA50 states “Claimants who are terminally ill do not need to complete ESA50 as they can be automatically placed in the Support Group. A form called a DS1500 is used to provide evidence that a claimant is terminally ill”. Please see paragraph WCA at http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/esa-stakeholder-information-pack.pdf
Within a few day's of sending the letter I was called by very pleasant lady at the DWP who explained that I should ignore the letter, rest assured I would not be required to complete the ESA50 form, and would immediately be assigned to the support group. She also explained that ATOS send out these forms automatically when a claimants ESA award is due to expire - irrespective of whether they have been receiving ESA under DS1500 or not.
This means a lot of terminally ill people who were previously receiving ESA under DS1500 rules might be caught out by this.
As I understand it ATOS are receiving commission on every claimant they manage to get off benefits, so it's obviously in their interest to cast their net as wide as possible. Consequently people who receive ESA under DS1500, and are asked to complete a limited work capability assessment must write to ATOS and challenge this immediately. If people want to use the paragraph I have highlighted above please do so. Don't get caught in the net.