Thursday, 13 February 2014

Another epistle to the Romans

I started this blog post ages ago but couldn't finish it. Why? Because I simply couldn't write anything else. The strain of having to write it, both physically and mentally took a huge toll. I received my award letter a couple of days ago so it seems as good a time as any to finish it.

I have finally finished writing the epistle to the Romans that is completing a Disability Living Allowance (DLA) form. Some 40 pages long with some 63 different sections to complete, it is sadly a necessary evil to receive DLA and at which level. They can also call you in for a medical and request further information from your GP or consultant. There are two tiers for mobility and three for care.  It is an extremely stressful and tiring process which has caused a massive flare in my arms, particularly the left. lt took me a month to complete it, doing as much as I could each day. It's hung over me constantly, a weight round my neck. Why you might ask? It's simple. The money I receive is vital to our existence, it helps pay the bills and feed us. If I'm turned down I have absolutely no way of replacing that income. How could I get a job when I need help to do the simplest of things like get out of a chair?

The final word count was circa 17,000 words. Of course none of the boxes were large enough for me to explain properly so there were something like 18 overflow pages. I also included some 16 other documents ranging from medical reports, sharing agreements (Occupational Therapy trying to help you by putting in aids which mostly don't help as my needs don't fit into their boxes) ill health retirement award letters . There is so much repetition from section to section because some actions (such as being helped out of my chair) form the starting point for so many other things. To ensure the decision maker at the DWP gets a full picture the only way that you can show just what's involved is to spell it out in detail. Going out for example involves so many different actions we have to complete before I can even get to the car (help with dressing, help with getting up, help to get to and use the commode to name but a few). Everything down to the minutae is included, leaving no room for any doubt of how I live. In all it's degrading glory. Don't get me started on why I have to fill in another form (albeit for a different benefit) a year after I filled in the ESA form. It seems too much to ask that these different departments talk to each other. In this day and age it beggars belief really!

I'm lucky that I can still write in-depth and articulate reports when I need to, albeit incredibly slowly. There is an obvious difference to the format of the form since the last time I filled one in, back in May 2009.....tick boxes. Lots and lots of them. You could just tick the boxes that apply to you, write the name of your condition in a table together with the medications you take and send it back. But does this approach guarantee that they are getting the full picture? Of course it doesn't and most surely mean that lots of people are not getting the reward they should. This . raises several questions?  What happens to those people who can't write like I can? Those who can only tick boxes because they might have learning difficulties or simply don't know what the form is asking them? Or have mental health issues which make writing about their condition worse? Why is there no longer a specific box where you are asked about the condition you suffer from and how it manifests itself? Is there a hidden agenda, a checkbox doesn't give the full picture after all does it? A person may have problems which would put them in a higher tier but they haven't elaborated, just ticking the box that is the nearest match? After all the Government has cut the welfare budget by £20 billion with more to come. They have to do this somehow or am I just being skeptical? This goes some way to explaining why some 40% of rejections are overturned at appeal. Because the person can describe their situation better picture or have someone with them to speak on their behalf.

I firmly believe that the amount of help Eric has to provide would warrant the higher care component. Just what is expected otherwise tell me, what else would he have to do? I subscribe to the excellent website. They recently sent me an email about Personal Independent Payment (PIP) which is the Government's replacement for DLA. This doesn't work as a form as such but seems to require you to 'tell them about your situation and how it affects you?'. If that isn't a method designed to fail people I don't know what is. And the figures seem to justify my point with only 37% of people being awarded it. Bearing in mind that the fraud on DLA was only 0.5% how can it possibly be so low? Well, I reckon the Government has managed to move the goal posts suitably so that it is nigh on impossible to get it. Easy to do, and they will insist on taking ever more billions from the DWP budget. Easy fodder the sick and disabled. We don't have the energy to fight back do we? Ah, but we can vote and I know it won't be yellow or blue that's for sure....

Back to my application. I recieved a letter Friday before last saying they'd received my form on 20th February. At least they'd got it. I didn't hold my breath as to when I would next hear from them. Imagine my surprise then when I got a phone call last Monday (3rd March) asking me how long it had been since my condition had progressed to how it is now. 'A couple of years' was the best guess I could come up with. 'That's fine' she said. 'We have to check timescale when a change occurs to ensure it's been 3 months'. 'A decision will be made this afternoon and a letter will come out to you in the post'. I asked if she could tell me what the award was which she couldn't. She did say it was 'favourable'. A couple of days later the brown envelope arrived. Higher rate mobility and higher rate care, both for an indefinite time. The relief was enormous and it was great to see that Eric's care has been recognised as the care component has increased from middle to high.

It's a strange feeling when you get the highest level of an award you can get. Initially I was delighted and relieved. That source of income is secure and will be until they migrate me onto PIP whenever that might be. It wasn't long though before I reflected on the speed it took for the decision being made. They include a list of reasons to show why you've been awarded the levels you have. This stretched to 2 pages, listing item after item that I can't do or need help with.  It's really sobering that my condition is so bad that dealing with my application takes such a short time. The same was true for ESA as well. And it will be for PIP migration as well, hopefully! There are so many people out there who have a huge battle in getting the award their illness / disability that they should. From the stress of a medical to the appeal process, it sounds truly awful.

It's good that something hasn't been a battle for once. That said I wish I hadn't had to apply in the first place way back in 2006. Contrary to what the Government would have the public believe, the vast majority of us on sickness related benefits would give anything not to be sick or disabled. Why would anyone choose to live the way I'm forced to because of CRPS? There will always be some who try to fiddle the system. Any system. To tar us all with the same brush simply isn't fair and very wrong. Painting a section of society as 'scroungers' is wrong on so many levels. But to pick on those least able to fight back is cruel and despicable.