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Department of Work and Pensions forced to apologise for treatment of Emmanuel student

Emma student made to wait nearly 6 months for disability assessment

Despite announcing in 2019 that 9 new Regional Stakeholder Networks were to be chaired by members of the Office of Disability, it appears that the Department of Work and Pensions maintains an appallingly lax approach to their disability policy.

On Tuesday (28th January), the unacceptable treatment of Emmanuel student Anna Ward was finally raised by Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner in the House of Commons. The Modern and Medieval Languages student has spent a gruelling six months battling unsuccessfully for their Personal Independence Payment, a payment that they are legally entitled to.

After Ward had two home assessments cancelled with less than 48 hours notice, Mr Zeichner issued a complaint. Atos reacted by claiming that there were "no appointments available" to those in the Cambridge area who required a home visit, an act deemed by Zeicher "totally unacceptable".

Speaking to the House of Commons , Zeichner questioned "why the government think it's okay to treat disabled people so badly?" Following his complaint, he was told that the Department were "urgently investigating that, because that shouldn't be the case" and that an "Honourable Member" had "flagged it up" with them earlier on.

Commenting on the outcome of the case, Mr Zeichner said "While I am pleased at the outcome, it shouldn't take an MP asking questions in the Commons to sort out this kind of incompetence, which leads to financial and mental stress for disabled people just trying to get on."

Ward has now been given a date for their assessment on the 11th February. However, they will potentially have to wait months for a decision following that assessment of if they are entitled to receive their disability benefit.

They commented that:

"It has been super stressful – it has taken way longer than it should have done, I've been incredibly ill over the past year and having this hanging over me for way longer than necessary is not helping my mental health. The new appointment that they've given me is less than 24 hours before I am having an operation so obviously this is horrible timing, but the fact that you can't cancel your appointment no matter how ill you are just feels like they have no regard for people's wellbeing whatsoever. And then for them to cancel at such short notice when you've prepared for the appointment, it's horrible to have to go through that several times."

However, this will hopefully prove as motivation for the Department of Work and Pensions to re-assess their policies concerning disability payments, so that any future issues that may arise need not go all the way to the House of Commons.