"My support for the posting called "Health Related Benefits Reforms""

About: Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust / Adult mental health (inpatient)

(as a staff member posting for a patient/service user),

I read with dismay the posting titled “Health Related Benefits Reforms – Your Help is Needed”

I have recently been subjected to these “reforms”, having been on Incapacity Benefit I was sent for a work assessment medical which I “passed” or “failed” depending on your point of view. Subsequently I was put on Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and soon found myself struggling financially. Maybe, I thought, this was the kick up the proverbial I needed to get back into employment.

Soon after, I was successful in gaining employment as a Mental Health Support worker, working 16 hours a week with clients who have a mental health issue. I felt (and still feel) that I wasn’t ready to do full time hours.

Unfortunately, three weeks after starting work I contracted a severe illness which kept me off work for four and a half weeks. The organisation I work for have been very good but I was only paid statutory sick pay for the time I was off. On top of this, I did not qualify for free prescriptions and have paid, so far, over £120 in prescription and over the counter medicines which has left me in a position of getting into debt (rent, council tax, water bills etc. )

So far my mental state (I too suffer from stress, anxiety and mild depression) is holding out, and I should be able to cope (I’m looking for full-time employment which I’m not sure I’m ready for).

Over the last few months I have felt very fragile but I do realise that there are many, many people who are not able to cope with the way the Government, through its various agencies (including the DWP) are making it very difficult for people who are mentally (and physically) ill to have any hope in their roads to recovery.

Come 2013, I feel it will only get worse with the introduction of Universal Credits and the changes in the way Housing and Council Benefits are funded. It's my opinion that there will be more and more people getting into debt and ultimately having to seek professional help (at a cost to the nation) as their mental wellbeing will suffer.

I would like to offer my moral support to the person who wrote the posting.

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Response from Tim Wood, Manager, NOTTINGHAM FOCUS ON WELLBEING

picture of Tim Wood

Dear ConcenedPR1

Firstly, thank you for telling your story. I was sorry to read that you have had such a bad experience too.

I am convinced that this is only the beginning of very difficult times for people who are having their benefits reviewed, people who are often vulnerable and who might not be able to put over to Atos just how life is for them.

I am also concerned that decisions appear to be being made, about people's fitness for work on a short questionnaire and a medical which only appears to be concerned with the questions issued by the computer which directs the medical meeting. My understanding is that this is often a cold process removed of human warmth and understanding. At the same time I think it important that I acknowledge that the benefit review must be difficult job for those Atos employees that carry out the reviews.

In J's case he has been subjected to unnecessary stress and mental distress due albeit that the consultant working with him signed a letter confirming that J has currently limited capacity to work. J is left very much out of pocket and has had his recovery set back unnecessarily.

Thank you once again for your reply - hopefully more stories will come to light and we can evidence this as a means of facilitating change.

Best wishes Tim

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