Update to my Complaint to my MP

I have an update to the saga I am having to endure with the DWP/JP+ and the complaint I made to my MP David Willetts, the complaint can be followed here for anyone who has not read it:

https://diaryofansahstrokesurvivor.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/david-willetts-who-fails-his-first-obligation-to-his-constituent-duty-of-care/

Following on from the link above this is the reply I got on the 13th March 2013

willetts letter 1 13-03-13

willetts letter 2 13-03-13

This Letter goes on about the WCA as if I have had one of these assessments which I have not it also appears if Job Centre Plus (JC+)has written this reply to my MP without first refering to my file held with JC+ and/or DWP.

It goes on to say that my medical conditions are not expected to get any better that is true in fact they are more than likely to get worse of the coming months and years so why have they put me in the WRAG Group because this is for those expected to return to work within a year and is they entry into the WRAG GROUP stops after one year surely they are not expecting me to sign on for JSA because if I did I would be breaking the law because my health conditions do not warrent me to sign on for JSA as I would not be fit to sign on as my health conditions are life long.

It also says that the support group is for those with the most severe medical conditions, well tell me just how severe is an SAH Stroke and the post stroke conditions it leaves because I can certainly tell you it is far from mild.

Now on the brightside because there is a wee glimmer of light, it tells me I can appeal even at this late stage and pass the 30 day time limit they were so keen to imform me off and not once did they state they could accept late appeals which could be a given for those with mental health issues.

I will mow be replying to my MP with the above in response to the letter above and also making a complaint to JC+ copying in the letter above with my appeal form.

I am making progress although slowly but the future looks a bit better than it was before the postman arrived yesterday and it is one fight I have no intention of losing.

One man’s story of the ills of returning to work too soon

Following on from my article I did on the pitfalls of returning to work too soon after injury one gent by the name of Gerry has kindly emailed me with his story on the same issue of returning to work too soon. His story too has had a negative impact on his life and like me would have best served if he was given the time to fully recover before returning to his employment after all his employer could have taken on a temporary employee whilst he was recovering and it seems his employer just wanted short term gain instead of long term gain.

It is a sad reflection on one man’s life and where our nation is heading.

If there is anyone else that would like to contribute to this article and get their synonpsis down on print please leave a message on my comments and ill get back to you.

Link to my original article:

https://diaryofansahstrokesurvivor.wordpress.com/2013/03/08/returning-to-work-early-after-illness-is-it-really-good-for-ones-health/

His story in his own words:

I was 38yrs old when my industrial injury happened. All my life I had worked hard and was basically a work-a-holic. My family had moved to Cornwall, and after a very long and successful career in the transport industry, I took a job as a delivery driver for (Interlink); a franchised parcel distribution company in those days. In my 4th month with them, I injured my back, twisting whilst delivering a consignment. OK, I knew what a pulled muscle was like, but within a few moments my back felt as if someone had rammed a screwdriver into my spine.

Hospital tells me there’s “nothing wrong” (I begged to differ and a kind nurse helped me get dressed) (Helped…had to dress me as I could hardly move)

I was off work and after two days my employer started to phone me asking “when was I returning to work”. Her phone calls were quite frequent and without any kind of understanding of my situation. My 2 week holiday was fast approaching and I felt to be off 2 weeks sick, plus a further 2 weeks holiday, that would be a month off work. Given my boss’ attitude, my gut feeling was that I could lose my job, so I managed to get back to work for a couple of days before my ‘holiday break’ (Not ‘away’ anywhere on holiday but time off to spend with my two young sons). Neither did I want to let my employer down.

Those 2 days back at work, I ‘struggled’ to put it mildly. The other drivers would load my van (unbeknown to our boss), and customers would unload for me. I felt I had to make an appearance at work as I was off work for 2 weeks the next week, which I felt would give me time to recover.

I had made a little improvement I felt during those two weeks ‘holiday’ and I knew deep down, something was very wrong.

First day back from holiday and I daren’t tell my boss I wasn’t well enough to work, I got to the depot, and the very first parcel I picked up resulted in a loud scream from me as what I could only describe as an electric shock happening in my back. I continued on (good old Gerry) but by late morning I could hardly move, phoned my wife to make a doctor’s appointment that day if possible, and drove back to the depot. A very annoyed woman boss drove me home. In fact my wife described her later to me, as an absolute bitch after she’d spoke to my wife, telling her I had a doctor’s appointment later that day.

24 years later, I am physically disabled which I greatly attribute to being made to feel that I should be back working by my boss. Hindsight is wonderful, but when you consider footballers with torn tissue/muscle/ligament damage and the time and treatment it takes to heal, and then compare it with my injury, feeling pressurised to return to work after a matter of days, then causing even more damage trying to lift a parcel*, I wish I had said blow the job and looked after my back better. In the end, I lost my job and my good physical health.

*worth noting, My boss informed the others that I hadn’t lifted the parcel ‘correctly’…..I’d always been trained to ‘Keep back straight, bend legs when lifting’ My boss also told fellow workers that I came to the job with a bad back. Not true. Not the back problem I was experiencing after working for them.

Obviously, losing my job had an awful impact on my life and that of my family. I used to have 3 good days, 2 bad. On the good days I would try to go out, but by then, my confidence was wearing thin and depression had set in. We’d moved to a new area and didn’t know anyone. Physically, I couldn’t stay anywhere for long because of my back problems. As the days went on, I found myself not going out hence I never built up any sort of circle of friends. I didn’t have the confidence to socialise. Neither physically could I. On one occasion I drove to a nearby venue to see a musician play for the evening. I stopped my car, walked to the door to go into the bar to see him, had my hand on the door handle and couldn’t face opening the door.

As time went on, those 3 good/2 bad days turned to 2good/3bad days, and nowadays, every day is a ‘bad’ day, both physically and mentally. Forever trying to find a hobby that I’m able do physically and Mentally, I can’t be ‘bothered’ half the time. Also, having to rely financially on benefit was a new experience. It’s been basic living for these past 24 years. I’ve tried to return to work, but was found to be unsuitable for work. Even with the new tough rules of the Welfare Reform, I am deemed by the DWP, my Doctor and other medical evidence, unable to work; having been placed in the ‘Support Group’ of ESA until retirement age.

In a nutshell, that initial injury and my boss’ attitudes to me being off work, physically turned me from a healthy, able bodied person who enjoyed swimming, walking, surfing, attending car events etc., into someone who can hardly walk, help my wife in the house, and should I ever over-exert myself, I can hardly move at all.

Mentally, I suffer from long term, on-going depression. “You’re DSS” I’ve been told. (Charming). And if only some people involved with the DSS could have treated me with a modicum of respect? I said to my doctor once, that if some people who worked for the DSS were to treat me as a human being, I wouldn’t be in her surgery wasting her time asking for anti-depressants.

Treated with contempt by some, I no longer want to socialise, can’t be bothered with people. Yet, I was someone who used to be the life and soul of any party.

A large group of friends when I lived in Reading.

Been a musician for Walt Disney where I appeared on TV.

A successful rep for a nationwide transport company.

Also a good manager (imo) of transport depots

Reduced to a suicidal, worthless number desperately trying to get this dammed government (small ‘G’, no respect for them) to listen to the plight of people in similar and worse circumstances as myself.

I don’t feel ‘bitter’ towards the two that ran that particular depot where I last worked. In fact, I regarded them as fools. I have a professional qualification to operate a transport company….”Certificate of professional Competence”. They, who ran the transport depot had never heard of the qualification and didn’t know what it was. Boy, did alarm bells ring at my interview.

The reality is that I have a very bad back problem which I have to deal and cope with. Some days though, I don’t know which is worse, the physical problems that I have to contend with regarding my back, or the depression.

Returning to work early after illness……… Is it really good for ones health.

know-your-rights-when-going-back-to-work (1)I am writing this blog post in the hope of totally discounting the Governments view of  returning to work early after illness and against the advice of ones GP using first hand experience of this during my Stroke Recovery because there are untruths in there statements.

Firstly ill add this from the void:

New advice issued to doctors, patients and employers on sick pay shows just how far the Government intend to push the brutal regime for people on disability or sickness benefits into the workplace.

The DWP recently renamed ‘sick notes’ as ‘fit notes’ which in the new guidance has led to some genuinely Orwellian gobbledygook in the guidance such as: “if your employee’s doctor thinks they are fit for work, they will not be issued with a fit note.”

Just like the despised Atos run Work Capability Assessment, doctors can now declare a patient ‘fit for work’, unfit for work, or capable of some work but not necessarily the job they usually do. This means that if an employer makes some changes to a staff member’s working conditions then they may be forced back to work.

The new rules, which were devised in consultation with the Confederation of British Industry, seem little more than an attempt to bully people into work when they aren’t really well enough. The document is littered with bold claims that work is good for your health such as “People can often come back to work before they are 100% fit – in fact work can even help their recovery”.

Nowhere in the documents does it warn that people’s conditions may also be made far worse by going back to work before they are ready.

Bosses have welcomed the chance to force their sick employees back to work with one quoted as calling the new system ‘a joy’:

“The joy of the fit note is that it’s flexible enough for us to interpret and fit the GP’s recommendation within the context of our business.”

The truth is that the DWP are playing a dangerous game and could tempt employers into a legal minefield. One stark warning says: “You may need to carry out a risk assessment to accommodate the clinical judgement in the fit note (eg if it states that your employee should avoid lifting, you are liable if you give them work that involves manual handling).”

In a further complication, according to guidance from Citizen’s Advice, if employers refuse to make changes to an employee’s working conditions to accommodate doctor’s recommendations, then they are still liable to pay Statutory Sick Pay. The confusion doesn’t even end there. ‘Fit Notes’ are advice only and bosses are not legally obliged to follow that advice. They can sack you even if a doctor claims you are too ill to work. They could however then be taken to court. Employment tribunal lawyers will be rubbing their hands in glee at the DWP’s meddling with an already complex legal situation.

The DWP have already shown they are happy to play fast and loose with the Courts. Bosses who act the same way may be in for an expensive shock.

The guidance can be read at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/fitnote/

http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/work-when-youre-sick-say-new-dwp-guidelines/

Now looking further at the legal aspect of this we have this:

Re Lord Freud’s slip remarks, he is talking baloney  If you are unfit for work and you have medical evidence to prove it and you are employed, both yourself and your employer are committing criminal offences under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. By reducing your benefits as a result of an opinion by an ATOS medical professional and the decision of the Decision Maker at the DWP, you are being coerced into seeking employment and committing a criminal offence. You and your employer face a fine of up to £20,000 and/or 1 year in prison if convicted summarily or up to a £2,0000 fine and/or up to 2 years in prison if found guilty on indictment. We need a legal campaign and/ or a test case. Any appellant who won at Tribunal can prove that the assessment was inadequate and should be compensated for the mental and possible physical ill effects on them, so to should the next of kin of those who have died. Every guilty individual involved in each case can be prosecuted including civil servants and ATOS staff AND corporate bodies i.e. ATOS and the DWP.. A Judicial review would also come in handy. If  ATOS  aren’t giving diagnoses how come they are giving prognoses?  They are, according to Lord Freud eggs not deciding what’s wrong with you but saying when you’ll get better. Only a Doctor’s job I believe and only one who knows the full details of your medical history and carries out a thorough and proper medical assessment.

Now lets move forward further and put some first hand experience to how this would affect someone with an illness and returning to work early, for this I will use my own experience as it is very relevant and includes both mental and physical illness due to an SAH that caused a stroke I will not go into the details of that here but will concentrate just on the post stroke recovery but suffice to say my story can be read here for anyone that wishes to read it.

https://diaryofansahstrokesurvivor.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/my-story/

Now I came out of hospital without any Occupational Therapy and very little Physiotherapy and my only concern was getting my life back to how it was and wrongly thought in my case that returning to full time employment was a big factor in achieving that goal so I had just 4 weeks at home then decided to go back to work against the advice of my then GP, he said you have had a major traumatic event and thus need at least a year out to get your life back on track as their is more to life than just work.

Indeed thinking back now I understand what he meant, but at the time I did not understand the value and worth of life. The values of personal growth and development. The values social evolution and progress indeed my stroke took all this away and I was again on a steep learning curve. So I went back to my job as a valeter for a main dealer it was an 8am to 5.30pm labour intensive job and putting my right sided spasticity body in all manner of positions indeed 5.30 could not come soon enough by midday and I crawled home in so much pain where I would just sleep until the following morning then this process would start again.

I did this because it was all I knew but in hindsight I now understand it was wrong and should have put more faith in my GP and perhaps got guidance from an Occupational Therapist, maybe I would have done though if it was offered which it was not I was very much left to fend for myself after the six month post operative appointment at hospital.

I now live with joint damage to my wrist, hand, fingers, hip and foot plus a curvature to my spine all because I pushed myself to hard and fast in those early years of recovery and had I of had more Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy and took longer to recover and fit back into life I would not be suffering as much as I am now and maybe still be in employment.

So to sum up whilst we all agree that work is good for you on many fronts, returning to work to soon during recovery from an illness is bad advice/instruction from the Government because it could very well have a negative effect in later years in both a health and/or legal capacity and any instruction to return to work should be down to the real medical professionals your GP and/or Consultant.