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ESA sanctioned/stopped completely - advice please.

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Hi all,

A little bit of information about me first.
I've been on Incapacity Benefit and DLA for around 8 years now. I have a mental health issue called retro-grade/anterograde amnesia kicked off by epileptic fits. Basically my brain doesn't process or store new information and sometimes wipes out older memories, so this will read like a diary entry because it's read not experienced.

Earlier on this year the benefit changed from incapacity to ESA, I filled out the big medical form but was never asked to go for the ATOS medical, I was placed in the WRAG group.

Had my first work focused interview on June 18th.
Met the advisor had a chit chat, discussed work, I explained my condition being not able to store new memories and needing to have everything written down. I explained that I often had fits which resulted in the loss of recent memories and stuff having to be re-learned from what I've written. I went on to explain about my 'head days' as I call them, which are days where I literally just don't wake up.
He did lots of nodding and uh-huhing.
I went on and explained that I had been fired from my last job after they had re-trained me for the third time and said that I doubt very much any employer would be willing to retrain me over and over and that I thought the best course of action for me would be to be self employed.
We talked about that for a while and I said that I had previously been on a college course which, although I've forgotten the actual course, I still had all my notes for and off the back of that I had been teaching myself to make jewellery for the past year, writing everything as I go. I said I'd had a couple of fits during the year and had to begin the process a couple of times but because I had everything written down in my own writing style it was easier to understand than starting from scratch.
He seemed very enthusistic about all this at the time. I had pointed out that I had no idea how to turn what I was doing as a hobby into a job and he then referred me to a company called Ingeus who he said would be able to point me in the right direction. He pointed out that if I decided to go with Ingeus it was a 2 year programme that I had to stick to. I asked if there was any contingency in place because over the course of 2 years I am going to have fits and lose the memory. He advised I should ask them when I go to the informal introductory day. The advisor also told me as I'm on contrubution based ESA the course at Ingeus was voluntary.
At the end of the interview he suggested I call the DWP and tell them I make jewellery which I thought was a bit odd, why would they be interested in my hobbies? but I did and that's when everything went horribly wrong...

When I called the DWP they informed me that my ESA has been sanctioned as I have declaired to the Jobcentre that I have been self employed for over a year. I relayed the conversation I had had with the man at the jobcentre regarding a hobby but she just said I would be receiving form PW1 in the post. I got the form which I couldn't fill in because I have no hours of work, employer, job title or wage. I took it to the CAB told them what was going on and they helped me fill out a statement on the back of the form stating that it was a hobby I had and not a job and that in the space of a year I had sold 1 piece of jewellery at a car boot sale for a £5.
3 days later I got another letter from the housing benefit telling me it had stopped because I have been self employed for over a year. I phoned them, went through the whole thing again and they said they couldn't do anything until the decicion maker had decided.
I phoned the DWP a few times eventually being told that my PW1 form that was sent back on the 21st June got passed to the decision maker on the 3rd July and it could take up to 10 working days for them to decide.
Finally the decision maker called me on 16th July and hilariously said she had my form in front of her and had read my statement but she couldn't decide because I hadn't filled in the information regarding job title, hours of work, salary etc .... I went through the whole thing again, explained it was a hobby that at some point in the future when I was actually qualified to do it my hope was to turn it into a job, she said 'well just so you know if you ever do make money from it you need to tell us' I said that's the plan, turn it into a job, get off benefits, be self employed.

As things have turned out the hasstle and stress of all this has brought on a couple of fits and a lot of memory has been lost, including the making jewellery stuff so I'm having to start from scratch re-learning all that information while being brought up to speed on what's happening in life in general and getting my head round the fact that it's 2013 not 2008

So after all that rambling, I have a few questions:

Is it the jobcentres job now to throw as many obsticles in your way as possible while offering no support?
Can my ESA just be completely stopped though I've followed all the rules regarding going to work focused interviews even offering my own solution to getting me back into work?
How long can a sanction last for and can I get any financial support while the decision maker decides?

Thankfully I'm still getting DLA or for the past 5 weeks I would have had no money at all.

thanks for reading, sorry it was rambly
«1

Comments

  • rogerblack
    rogerblack Posts: 9,446 Forumite
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    What letters have you actually got?
    If your money has stopped, you should at some point have had a letter saying 'your money is stopping due to x'.
  • silversan
    silversan Posts: 9 Forumite
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    Hi rogerblack, thanks for the reply,

    I've only had one letter that said anything. Had a phone call with DWP the first day and they told me ESA is sanctioned until I send back form PW1, which was sent back 5 weeks ago and a second phone call tuesday just there from the decision maker who basically read the form I filled in over the phone.

    The only actual letter I've had is from the Housing benefit telling me housing benefit has been suspended.

    It reads 'This suspension has been applied as we have been advised by the Department of Work and Pensions that your Employment and Support Allowance has ended as you have been self employed for over a year.'

    other than that it's just all been phone calls to the DWP and them telling me ESA is sanctioned until the decision maker decides
  • Jemma-T
    Jemma-T Posts: 1,546 Forumite
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    Next time you go to a WFI take someone with you to explain and reexplain you disabilities and ask to be referred to the memeber of staff who deals with disability. I'm sure I've seen mention of that person.

    And keep your mouth shut about stuff -write it on the back of your hand if you have to. Just answer their questions.

    If you're as bad as you sound I would have thought you'd be better in the Support Group which would give you more time perhaps to get things to your way of thinking (ie can you really work).
  • silversan
    silversan Posts: 9 Forumite
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    Thanks for the reply Jemma-T

    I didn't know there was a disability advisor, I'll ask to be referred.

    I've had a look at the Support Group criteria on google and meet the criteria but apparently I only had a month after being put on the WRAG group to appeal the decision

    had my second WFI on monday 15th July, took somebody with me to that one, when the advisor asked me something I didn't know the answer to and my friend answered, the advisor got the security guard and had him removed to downstairs as he's apparently only allowed to sit there and not participate in the interview, I did point out that he was there because I have recently had a fit and don't actually know what's been going on recently, but the advisor just said he's not allowed to speak and continued to ask me questions about the previous WFI which I don't remeber. It was a very redundant interview that has now been postponed until 29th July.
  • epitome
    epitome Posts: 3,199 Forumite
    edited 20 July 2013 at 9:47AM
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    silversan wrote: »
    I went through the whole thing again, explained it was a hobby that at some point in the future when I was actually qualified to do it my hope was to turn it into a job, she said 'well just so you know if you ever do make money from it you need to tell us'
    That sounds positive, sounds like she is going to re-instate your benefit.... Then again.... she might decide you are doing "permitted work" and your benefit will close if you have done (according to her) this job for more than a year.
    Did you phone again to ask if a decision has been made yet?
    If it goes against you, you should appeal.
    Can my ESA just be completely stopped though I've followed all the rules regarding going to work focused interviews even offering my own solution to getting me back into work?
    Yes, because there was a confusion as to whether you were doing undeclared work.
    How long can a sanction last for and can I get any financial support while the decision maker decides?
    It is not a sanction, it is a suspension whilst there is a descrepancy they need to fix. It is indeterminate how long the suspension can be and you can try asking your jobcentre advisor for an ESA10 to apply for ESA hardship (just an idea of mine I have no idea if it will work).
  • silversan
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    thanks for the reply epitome

    I have phoned again on Friday but there has still been no decidion made, though I have spoken with CAB and they've given me the appeal form just in case.

    As far as the ESA10 form, I've been told I'm not allowed to apply for any benefits or hardship payments because my ESA is suspended

    One thing I've learned from this whole thing is don't be upfront and tell the jobcentre anything you're thinking of doing to get yourself off benefits, I thought the jobcentre was there to help people, it appears not.
  • Jemma-T
    Jemma-T Posts: 1,546 Forumite
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    You seemed to have been treated badly -but it's not new.

    I'm not sure I'd let some numpty 'secuirty' guard remove my partner or husband or carer or whatever if I took them with me to the Job Centre. I'm sure they could be asked not to comment but I can't see how it can be fair to remove them from your side.

    Seems way over the top and I'd complain.

    Good luck with all the other stuff.
  • silversan
    silversan Posts: 9 Forumite
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    thanks Jemma-T

    the poor wee security guard was as confused as we were and kept saying he was sorry but he'd been asked to remove my friend. When he got downstairs the Customer Service manager was equally as confused by the fact that he had been removed from the interview and not escorted out of the building as she would have expected if anybody's behaviour had been bad enough to call security.

    When I got down stairs they were writing up a complaint already.

    I've since had a response that states I am allowed to bring somebody but they are not allowed to comment which kind of defeats the purpose as the reason I take somebody is to answer the questions regarding things I literally don't remember

    I've never actually had to deal with the jobcentre advisors before and as much as I imagine it's a tough job, there's not much humanity there.
  • Jemma-T
    Jemma-T Posts: 1,546 Forumite
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    It seems -I have no experience in years- that Job Centre staff are under immense pressure and have been for years and years.

    I reckon they've lost the best they had and now just employ anyone that comes along. Yes, some will be thoughtful & treat people well but I reckon there'll be a good few who are crap at their job, obnoxious, ignorant and complete !!!!s.

    Like I said, I have no recent experience but I shiver when I pass my local JC when I look in or see people queuing it looks and feels like a maximum security prison.

    Cold.

    I think if you have problems remembering make it clear to the DWP staff member that the person you're bringing is required. It's not like they're speaking 100% for you.

    What has this government and the previous idiots done to our services? Just horrible.
  • rogerblack
    rogerblack Posts: 9,446 Forumite
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    silversan wrote: »
    had my second WFI on monday 15th July, took somebody with me to that one, when the advisor asked me something I didn't know the answer to and my friend answered, the advisor got the security guard and had him removed to downstairs as he's apparently only allowed to sit there and not participate in the interview,

    Are you sure this was a WFI, and not an interview under caution?
    In an interview under caution, the above would be true.
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