Dismissed after 39 yrs service following Cancer.

“There is a horrible irony that the organisation [Department for Work and Pensions] that is designed to look after the more vulnerable members of our society is constantly falling foul of the Equality Act around disability,” as featured on BBC Panorama, March 2020. https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/dwp-disability-discrimination/

“I had an aggressive form of Cancer and after long and intensive treatment, I returned to work as a civil servant with the DWP to do the job I loved. I had lost my hair at the time and when I returned, I found I was confused and disorientated. I had developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) of which I was unaware – I now know, that this is an extremely common after effect of Cancer.

The symptoms of this led me to feeling frightened, having hypomanic attacks and severe anxiety in seeing customers. I would get panicked and extremely anxious at things which ordinarily wouldn’t have impacted me. I remember feeling shaken and upset one day as I thought a colleague had said the word “ghost”. This reaction, was not ordinarily me. I just wanted someone to listen to me at work - not punish me - which is what they did instead. I couldn’t even walk down the stairs at work and the constant self-doubt made me check things over and over again. This severe obsessive compulsion disorder (OCD), I now also know, is a symptom of anxiety.

Instead of the DWP helping me, making reasonable adjustments, contacting a medical professional or even a family member, after 39 years of dedicated loyal service, I was shouted at, had the door pushed on me, was ignored, put on suspension, put on a performance plan and eventually dismissed by the DWP. I tried my best to remediate, but things got worse and they put me through over ten investigation meetings, despite it being formally raised by staff members, including the DWP's own mental health trainers, that I was extremely vulnerable and showing signs of numerous mental health conditions. The DWP told me I brought the organisation into disrepute.

My final crime being unable to move desks on a day when the actions of the DWP led me to having a severe hypomanic anxiety attack. I was told to pack my things, and had to be driven home due to my vulnerability as I lived alone.

For someone who has helped hundreds of thousands of individuals to find work, who was diversity chair of the age network group, who had been commended a year prior for high achievement, I have lost my identity, I now have a phobia of seeing my reflection in the mirror. I have nightmares and flashbacks every day of what was said and what happened to me. I am no longer who I used to be”.

Dear reader – the above is from my Mum, I hope you can empathise with what she has gone through, and that you feel her pain in helping her and others, to not go through this experience.

She needed support from the DWP at a time when she was so vulnerable. Cancer can be a devastating disease and my Mum could not see or understand her psychological problems that she had developed from it. Early intervention and support would have prevented the permanent mental health conditions she has today.

My mum was a very dedicated, independent person and lived alone and it was only through a subject access request that I understood the extent of what had happened to her behind the closed doors of the DWP. This could have resulted in a loss of life - there are extracts of colleagues asking for an ambulance to be called or family members to be informed, yet none of this was done.

Please therefore support us so that through this anguish, we can set legal policy change to strengthen and protect the rights of employees who have either had Cancer, experienced ill mental health in the workplace, or as with my Mum, experienced both.

What is the current situation?

--> 34 claims of disability discrimination, victimisation and harassment have been lodged and accepted at the Employment Tribunal. A full 12 day disability discrimination hearing with a three judge panel will take place in November to December of this year.

--> The case has been assessed and accepted by Legal Aid, due to the strong merits of the claims, and my Mum’s extremely low financial means. However, no matter how strong the claims are, Legal Aid stipulations mean that representation in court is not covered.

--> As a result, without your support, my Mum will not be able to represent herself in the tribunal, and will be at a very significant disadvantage compared to the DWP. They have instructed City lawyers, and in contrast, my Mum, who has recently gone through Cancer and has mental health conditions, will not be able to present her case effectively to the Employment Tribunal.

--> Due to the complex nature of the case, the contravention on human rights, and to maintain equality of arms in this hearing, a Barrister experienced in this field and in the law of the Equality Act 2010, is needed to defend this case. The costs of the Barrister that I need to raise, which have been reduced due to my Mum being on Legal Aid, are £50,000. This is required to cover the extensive case preparation and full representation at the full 12 day hearing.

--> All funds raised are paid directly from this platform to the Equality and Employment Law Centre Charity, (equalityandemploymentlaw.co.uk), to afford the costs of the required Barrister. The centre have been advising us through Legal Aid, however, they are unable to represent my Mum at the employment tribunal due to the above stipulations.

A letter to confirm the above is attached to this fundraising campaign, which has been written by our Legal Aid Solicitor, Pam Kenworthy, OBE. Please see below:

 

 

Having Cancer and experiencing ill mental health, could happen to anyone. My Mum was the most independent and courageous woman, she bought me up as a single mother – but our worlds have turned completely upside down. I have lost my Mum in the most terrible way, at the hands of an organisation that we should have trusted.

We therefore need your support to raise the profile and see that individuals receive the appropriate support for their mental health in the employment arena. This case, is the very case to make this change.

Donations can be anonymous and are all gift aid eligible, going directly to the Equality and Employment Law Centre Charity from this platform. Please kindly share this campaign link with your connections, on social media or amongst those who you believe may be passionate about this cause - that support in itself, will be graciously appreciated.

I sincerely thank you for taking the time to read this. We hope you will please support us through this very difficult journey and that through our pain, legal policy change will be forcefully enacted.

My ongoing commitment to you:

  • I will continue to champion the rights of employees with either cancer or a mental health condition.
  • I will continue my work in improving workplace policy to ensure that what happened to Mum, doesn’t happen to another.
  • I will continue to keep you updated as our sponsors, through each juncture of our journey.

* For any unused funds, these will be donated to the Equality and Employment Law Centre Charity to support clients who are on extremely low financial means and are unable to access justice*

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Organizer

Natasha Garcha 
Organizer
London, UK
Equality and Employment Law Centre 
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