Backbench Business — [1st Allotted Day]
Kevan Jones (North Durham, Labour)
The hon. Lady makes an important point that should be considered. That is where we need to join up the two relevant Departments.
Mental Health North East has carried out a survey and I thank that organisation and Derwentside citizen’s advice bureau for the examples I am going to use. Like the hon. Member for Loughborough, I asked whether I could use names. One person said that I could, but late last night she rang me to say no. I am sure that people will understand why I use letters to refer to these individuals rather than their names.
The first case is that of Mr A, a 50-year-old man who lives alone and received ESA. He suffers from depression, anxiety, agoraphobia and anger issues. Despite the support he is getting and the drugs that he is taking, he was called by ATOS to a work-related interview. He got no points at all even though he finds it very strange to go outside the House, let alone to interact with people. He decided to appeal and attended the appeal. There is a huge backlog in the appeals system that is adding to people’s anxiety as they are having to wait a long time, and the pressure on citizen’s advice bureaux and local welfare rights organisations to support those appeals is creating a crisis in some of them. When I give some of these examples, Mr Speaker, you will see that they should never have gone to appeal in the first place.
This case was very interesting. Mr A turned up at the appeal, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Islington North mentioned earlier, caused him huge stress as he thought he was going to lose. He turned up in the afternoon, and his appeal had been heard that morning without his being present and his award had been granted on the basis of the medical evidence. If the appeal hearing could do that, why could ATOS not do so? The reason is that ATOS is not taking medical evidence into account at all.
The second individual is from Stanley in my constituency and I have known this young lady since she was in her early 20s.