One of our volunteers who suffers with a mental illness was called up for what is known as “the Atos interview” recently. We are pleased to say that he got through it ok thanks to a little help from out advice service.
“Without the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association’s help I could have ended up having my benefit stopped,” said our volunteer who agreed for us to write about his experience providing we didn’t mention his name.
The volunteer was very concerned as he has had a mental health condition that prevents him from holding down a “normal job” for many years. Instead he volunteers with us; coming in to help out with a variety of things. And when he can’t make it in or has to leave early, then that’s ok. We don’t put him under any pressure and he enjoys the work he does for us.
A couple of months ago he found out that a friend of his who also has a long-term illness had his incapacity for work benefit stopped after taking part in the Atos Healthcare interview. That friend is now having to go through the process of appealing the decision with the support of his doctor. This greatly worried our volunteer who didn’t want to end up in the same situation.
At our Neighbourhood Centre we have a small library of information and our volunteer was able to use the reference material we have and access to the Internet to help him prepare for the interview with Atos. He was particularly grateful for our copy of the Child Poverty Action Group’s Welfare benefits and tax credits handbook.
Despite the name referring to child poverty this excellent reference book is useful for people of all ages. Our volunteer is quite literate so he was able to read the sections of the book that relate to the Atos interview and with minimal help from our advisers was able to prepare himself for the Atos interview.
Together we typed up some notes for him to take to the interview as an aide memoire. The interview was related to his ability to work only and he felt very conscious about having to answer personal questions. We advised him to tell the interviewer that he had sought advice from us and that he should only answer questions relating to his ability to work.
Ideally we would have attended the interview with him, but we do not have the resources to do that. Instead we gave him the confidence to attend the interview with Atos on his own. Through our advice service we were able to advise him of his rights and were able to help him to help himself to ensure he was kept out of poverty.
Our volunteer is now sharing his experience with another person to help them get through the Atos interview.