24 February 2012

Looking Into Prosecuting ATOS For Harassment

I promised to update my blog with my experiences of the ATOS assessment process as I go through it, as a woman who has been on income support for nearly 10 years due to suffering from Anxiety Based Depression, Chronic Insomnia, and Social Anxiety Disorder. I am one of the thousands being transferred from Income support to ESA as the former benefit will no longer exist and all new claimants are being put onto ESA (or being turned down for it no matter how disabled they are apparently.)

The whole process is causing me great distress, my medication has doubled since the welfare reform bill went through, I have to take sleeping medication again (which I've currently run out of 4 days until I can get more). I have also starting to have nightmares again, something that hasn't happened to me in a long time, but is a symptom of Anxiety Based Depression.

The first thing they did was send me a rather strange letter informing me I was going to be moved over to ESA from income support and they need to assess me for ESA (no surprises there I was expecting this ok so far). Then it gets weird, instead of including a form with this letter it says they are going to ring me, but if I haven't heard from them within  2 weeks of the date of the letter I have to ring them. Just to clarify for people who don't understand, people with social anxiety/anxiety based depression don't like unexpected phone calls, or having to phone strangers. I have an answer phone to deal with these things and prefer it if people write to me, I often don't answer my phone when it rings even if I'm sat right next to it. People watching me do this find my behaviour odd, and even I can't explain it totally, it's just a symptom of the illness I suffer from, I feel dread when the phone starts ringing, and don't want to pick it up unless I'm sure who it is, caller ID helps, but unknown or withheld numbers don't get answered. So if ATOS rang me I didn't answer it or receive an answer phone message, and I never called them. But a couple of weeks later a pink form arrived anyway which I dutifully filled in and sent back, but on the form it still said they are going to ring me, there was no option to request no phone contact, and no indication of when or who will ring me.

So now I'm left wondering what will happen, will they just send me the details of my medical, or is my not talking them on the phone going to effect this? They said it was going to the first time with the form, but sent it anyway.

Today though there was a ray of light, it's been drawn to my attention that phone call's which will cause undue alarm and distress are illegal under the "Protection From Harassment Act 1997". So in theory if I write to them informing them these suggestions that I might or might not get a phone call at an unspecified time in the near future are causing me alarm and distress and I'd prefer it if they only contacted me in writing, they have to stop. I'm not unreasonable, I know I need an assessment and will go for it, why does it have to be so stressful finding out when it's going to be?! That's all I want to know.

I'm currently looking into what legal actions I can take against ATOS  to stop this, will update when I have discovered what I need to say to them in a letter to make them leave me alone unless it is really necessary to contact me, and why they can't just do it in writing. Will update as soon as I have more info, and here is a link that helps to define what is harassment, I'm sure this must qualify:


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