they are trained to access how your disability affects you using a system of questions and visual observations. the scoring is called descriptors. so there are some trick questions. most centres deliberately have the assessment room more them 50 metres from the waiting area. this is when the scoring starts. make it to the room walking and you got your first zero.
atos has been awarded the contract to access everyone on disability living allowance from oct 2013. so i guess this site is going to be very busy.
they get away with not being a doctor or nurse because they are assessing how you disability affects you. and offer no medical advice.
this explain pretty much how it works
this makes good reading from someone who under went it
I recently had a medical for esa, which I have found out today has been successful - from the fact that arrears have been paid into the bank, though I don't know which group yet as the arrears don't really tally for either. Sorry its a bit of a wall of text, but there was a lot of info to share.
I was not expecting to be successful - as a benefits caseworker, I'm well aware of the flaws in the descriptors and in the medical itself.
I wanted to share how I'd approached this in the hope that it may be able to help others.
Firstly, find a benefits adviser to help you complete the esa50. If you really can't find someone to help then take your time completing the form - you have 6 weeks normally. Read the questions carefully - they do not always mean what you think they mean. Before you start get a copy of the descriptors off of the internet, go through them carefully and decide which descriptors apply to you.
When completing the esa50, do not just tick the boxes - write as much as you can for each question, if possible giving examples from daily life. For example, if you say you can't stand for more than 10 minutes, give examples of different things that this means you can't do - in the case of standing it might be that you can't do the washing up, or take a shower standing up etc. For a mental health issue like execution of tasks, it may take you a long time to do things - so a 5 line email may take a healthy person 5 minutes but takes you 30 minutes. When you're finished take a copy of the form before you send it so that you know what you've written. Consistency is very important in this process - the best way to be consistent is to be completely honest about your capabilities - the truth is always the easiest thing to remember!
Also remember, the descriptors are all that matters for most. They don't really care about anything else. The one caveat to this is that if going back to work would cause substantial mental or physical harm, make sure you write this down on the 'any other information' section of the form. Explain how and why in detail, continue on a separate piece of paper if necessary. Before the medical get a letter from a doctor or consultant backing up that significant harm and deterioration would occur if you had to return to work.
There are a few exceptions for other things, but these won't apply to most people. See http://www.disabilityalliance.org/f32.htm
scroll down to number 3 and number 6 for details.
When the time comes for the medical, get it officially taped if possible - I wasn't able to do this, but it is becoming available now. Personally I would also covertly make my own recording, but this would be for ease as I think they give you a tape, and I'd rather have the digital recording available for myself. I did record covertly myself - but be careful doing this if there is no official recording going on as it may result in the medical and benefits being stopped if you get found out.
Take someone with you to the medical, this is particularly important if you have mental health problems. Firstly its a stressful process and having someone around to support you and advocate for you will be better for your mental health. Secondly, if you have mental health problems and seem to be managing fine in the medical (regardless of how you are actually managing) they will make assumptions like you managed the medical, you can manage some work. Thirdly, having someone with you who can advocate is wise. Someone who knows your capabilities and can speak for you if your mental health issue becomes incapacitating in the course of the medical.
Don't make any special effort for the medical. Be how you normally are. This is what they need to see - how you normally are every day, not how you are when you've psyched yourself up and are making a special effort - if you're not able to make this effort most days then don't do it.
Think carefully about the venue for the medical. Do you have to get on a bus to get there or a train? Is there parking close by, or would you have to walk a long way from the car park. Is it a long distance to travel? Is your condition so severe that you may need a home visit? Many people will push past their comfort zone for a one off event, but if you can't do it most days then don't do it for the medical.
For instance in my case, the medical was originally arranged in a different town (strange because I live in a city), I phoned to explain that there was no way I could manage an hour travelling each way by car, plus the time for waiting and the medical itself. Conveniently, it turned out it was possible to have the medical 10 minutes drive from me and only two days later (suggesting the initial appt was a test - ie, make it to this and you're capable of work). Even the venue nearby wasn't ideal. There was little parking outside, and I couldn't be guaranteed to be able to get parked. The next closest parking was several minutes walk away which I can't manage, so I decided to get a taxi to drop me right outside the building. Anything that you do to get to the medical and home again, they will make the assumption that you can do it everyday. They will take no account of the fact that may be pushing through pain and anxiety knowing its just one day, and you can rest as many days afterward that you need to (for me I was incapacitated for a week afterwards).
Yes, they probably are watching or filming you on cctv from the minute you arrive at the atos offices. But this should not bother anyone who is geniune - as our behaviour due to illness or disability does not differ in the medical, in the building, in a shop or in our homes, it is simply how we are.
The atos staff like to make assumptions, its the basis of how they assess you - assumptions.
When in the waiting room, if you do not tell them you are in severe pain or anxiety due to the excessive waiting time, they will assume you're doing just fine and coping well. I wasn't doing fine and went to ask the receptionist how much longer as I was in a lot of pain - I was then seen within 3 minutes.
When you're in the medical you need to be quite strong in making points about your condition and capabilities that are relevant to the descriptors. They will try and keep your answers yes and no - don't let them. If you have mental health problems, this is where your advocate will be most useful. For instance they may ask do you have a pet. You may say you have a dog. If you say nothing further they will assume that you take care of the dog, feeding and walking him. Or if you have a cat, they will assumed that you are the one feeding him and changing the kitty litter. They will assume that you deal with any pet related emergencies like unexpected trips to the vet. They may ask do you do your own shopping. If you answer yes they will assume you walk up and down all the aisles in tesco, wait in a checkout queue, fill the bags, haul them into a boot and then haul them into your house, even if you actually do your own shopping on line and have your shopping delivered and the nice man brings all the bags into the kitchen for you.
Even 'how did you get here today' can be a deceptive question. Answer that you drove there, and on your medical report it will say 'drives regularly'. Be specific, use every question as an opportunity to give more information about your capabilities. For instance, when asked how I got there, I explained that I can't walk far, couldn't guarantee a parking space, so I got a taxi to drop me outside, I also said I rarely drive now anyway because of physical limitations. Another example, 'do you see friends or family', just answer yes and the assumption will be that you see them regularly and are social and outgoing. But take the time to explain that you do see them, but only at your house, arranged in advance, but that you often cancel due to your condition, and if someone knocks on the door you hide and don't answer, that people you know understand that they can't just drop round. Each incorrect assumption that atos make is less points for you.
It is hard to take charge with some of the examiners - I was lucky, the person I had allowed me to speak. But if you're recording, the fact that you tried to say these things, and you were not allowed to continue will go a long way in your favour at appeal. Of course none of this will help if the person conducting the medical is not honest in their report - but there is nothing you can do about that except to find some way to record the medical.
If you are lucky enough to pass the medical and be put in the work group. Think carefully before appealing to be put in the support group. If you go to tribunal and are unsuccessful they can take your whole award away - so get specialist advice before making that decision.
If you do fail the medical, appeal immediately (within 1 month of the date on the decision letter) saying you believe the decision is wrong and that you should have scored in excess of 15 points - you don't need to be specific at that point. Check if you receive your payment on the day its due - if you don't receive it that can sometimes be the first indication that you have failed the medical. If you want to continue on esa while appealing, write this on the appeal form. Fax the form if possible as this will give a fax receipt that you sent the appeal.
I hope this might help anyone yet to attend.
what me. never heard of you never had a debt with you.