I have suffered from Severe Depressive Disorder & Anxiety Disorder since childhood. It is managed with medication and CBT.
I suffered a severe Depressive episode 18 months ago shortly after my daughter's death. My employer was very good. Unfortunately, last October I suffered a further episode and lost my job.
I spent the next 6 weeks in bed. I was physically, mentally, and emotionally wiped out. I did nothing, I never left my flat, and withdrew completely.
Once I started to recover, I realised that I was unemployed and had bills to pay. I am a 'new style ESA' claimant and live in a 'live Universal Credit' area. I rang the UC Hotline and told them I was now able to look for work and asked for my claim to be backdated to my first day without work.
Universal Credit did absolutely nothing about my ESA and, after much chasing, a decision maker said they would not back date my claim. No medical evidence was sought, no assessment (either by questionnaire or by Maximus) was carried out. I immediately contacted the ESA Helpline, who said that I had a good cause for late application and took the claim.
Now, because I cannot supply a Fit Note for the period, they are refusing my claim completely. My GP has written to them explaining that I am a long term sufferer of mental health issues and that I have suffered similar bouts before.
I know that the Equality Act cannot be used to challenge a Medical assessment (and probably correctly, the Equality Acy defines disability etc, and not capability for work & a genuine medical assessment could not be overturned by a basic piece of legislation as the assessment is personal and professional), however, my right to actually make a claim was denied initially by UC staff (clerks not doctors) and the ESA department have declined my claim likewise.
As many depression sufferers can testify, during severe episodes we can (and I did) feel unworthy, feel as though we are a burden on the world, we withdraw, we don't seek help because we don't feel we are worth it. Additionally, every day of my sickness the media were telling me not to go to ER or the GP if nothing can be done for you because the system is collapsing. This totally reinforced my lack of action. When I suffered my previous episode and was in work, I received a Fit Note (because I knew my employer would require one), but whilst ill this time and not being employed, I did not even consider benefits payments (I didn't even consider that I might still be alive in a matter of weeks). Also, when seen by my GP last time, he told me to give in to the tiredness until I was rested enough to feel that I could start bringing myself back - I was, of course, medicated and remain on the same level of medication.
It strikes me that the DWP's flat refusal to pay a legitimate claim on the sole grounds that I did not obtain a Fit Note (and without having obtained any medical assessment of me) is in breach of the Equality Act because they are not making any attempt at any reasonable adjustment and are not taking the actual symptoms of my illness into consideration.
Is there any option open to me to have the case reconsidered in light of the genuine facts rather than the blanket 'no Fit Note no claim' stance and has anyone had a similar experience.
It strikes me that the DWP would decline a coma patient for failure to ring the Hotline, or ask someone who has suffered paralysis from giong to the Jobcentre. I sympathise with the many physically disabled people in the world but I believe that many people who suffer physically would need and wish to get medical assistance, and so would not be in my predicament; however, the symptoms and effects of my mental health illness actually were the major factor in my not asking for help.
I find myself in a horrendous Catch 22 situation and am now financially ruined.
Any advice would be very gratefully received.
Thank you