Friday, 14 November 2014

Life As A Carer - The Ongoing Battle With The DWP And ATOS

The other day Jan shared with you her experiences with the DWP and ATOS as a disabled person. I thought I'd share with you my post about what these experiences are like as a carer.

Ian

I'm afraid it's time for another of my not so whimsical posts (I'll try keep it as light as possible!). This time, it's about our ongoing battle with the Department Of Work And Pensions (DWP) and ATOS (I have no clue if it's an acronym or just their name!)... Allons-y!



As you will know if you read my last 'Life As A Carer' post, or have seen Jan(the pretty one next to Cousin Itt in a David Tennant suit in the picture above)'s blog, she is disabled. Despite Jan having been ill for a number of years, we had never even considered applying for Disability Living Allowance (DLA)...now called Personal Independance Payment (PIP) after a massive, hugely expensive, name change. We muddled on, she already received a nominal payment a fortnight due to her conditions, and I worked in a warehouse some 40-50 mile from our home due to lack of local job availability. We didn't like the idea of becoming a burden on the state...for anyone outside the UK I should explain, we are constantly bombarded by our government, and our media with messages that our elderly, and our disabled, are not only a burden, but a waste of money to our country.

In 2012, Jan was getting worse, I had been forced, by my bosses, out of my job due to time I had to take off for hospital/doctors visits etc so...we relented and finally applied for DLA. Jan was given a 12 month award...they give you an allotted time for you benefit because, as everyone knows, disability is temporary! That in itself was a nightmare to get! In order to receive the benefit, you have to fill a form in, send it off, they do nothing for months, then they disregard everything you said in the form and make you have a face to face assessment with someone from their company. The form, whilst full of invasive, and quite humiliating questions isn't the worst part, the worst part is the face to face assessment... 

Since losing my job I have also lost my car, and due to Jan's anxiety issues we can't use public transport so, I have to walk pushing Jan in her wheelchair. We told the DWP and ATOS this, both on the forms they sent and via phone so, they booked our appointment early one morning, in Manchester city centre, some 15 miles from our home...no way I could walk that. Thankfully, Jan's side of our family are great so, her dad drove us then waited around for us to finish. The assessment started over an hour late, which, as anyone who has/knows someone with anxiety will know, makes things a whole lot worse! When the assessor finally got round to us, he was one of the most unfriendly, impersonal people I have come across, and I've known some a*******s! He asked Jan increasing personal questions, all the while not once looking at us, if he had, he may have noticed the distress it was causing her or, at the very least, the nail marks in my arms from her anxiety making her cling to me like a small child. He then proceeded to ask Jan if she could walk unaided, when she responded no, he demanded she try anyway. I lifted Jan out of her chair and was immediately ordered to not help her stand. She stood, shaking like a leaf in a hurricane, holding onto the desk as though her life depended on it. I know what you're thinking, that's it right, he let her sit down then? Nope, after that he demanded she walk to an examination table. That didn't happen, I disregarded his demands and had to physically drag Jan across the room before lifting her onto the examination table because this petty, little man had no common sense. All the time Jan was on the table, I could see her fighting tears, the colour had drained from her, and she had a look of pain, humiliation, and frustration on her face. The dumb-ass doing the assessment still didn't take any notice of this, instead, he proceeded to get snippy because Jan's jean legs wouldn't roll up sufficiently for him to see her knees...to this day, I do not know why he wanted to see her knees, I guess he has a weird fetish. That was the end of the assessment, I got Jan back into her chair, he muttered some scripted bs about being sorry for causing her pain but he has to follow a check list and we could go...now, I'm a relatively non violent person, there are very few people I have ever wanted to physically hurt however, I could quite easily have tortured that man to show him the pain he had caused Jan.

I'll be honest, we didn't hold out much hope of getting DLA, especially when we had witnessed the attitude of the people working for ATOS but, about a month of two later we found out we had been awarded it. It was a real life line, we no longer had to be burden on our family, it also helped alleviate some of Jan's anxiety issues.

SADLY, THIS IS AN ALL TOO REGULAR OCCURRENCE


I wish that was the end of this whole sorry story, sadly, it is not. At the start of 2013 we received renewal forms for the DLA as they were set to run out in July. We filled them out almost immediately, sent them off, thought nothing more of it. More and more time passed and we hadn't heard anything. We contacted the DWP and was constantly told they would be in touch when they had gone through the forms. The renewal date came and went, we contacted the DWP time and time again, each time we were told they'd be in touch. In February/March of this year it became obvious they had no intention of getting in touch (if you look into it, this is one of their favourite tactics for getting out of paying), so, we started a new claim, this time for the the renamed version, PIP. After around 9 months of waiting, phoning them once or twice a week, we finally received a letter this week acknowledging the receipt of our application. The same day we received that letter we received another letter from them, this one with an appointment, again early in the morning and in Manchester. On the one hand I'm happy we are finally getting somewhere, on the other hand, I'm terrified. I have to watch Jan go through another assessment. I have to watch her go through pain and humilation knowing there is nothing I can do to stop it withough jeopardizing her benefits. Then there's the worry that they'll decide she doesn't qualify because she can move her fingers. She'll have gone through two years of anxiety and stress for nothing, she will blame herself which will make her depression, and other symptoms worse. I hope our assessment goes well, more so for Jan rather than the money. If I'm honest, I'm not that bothered about the money, I would just like us to have enough to be comfortable. I have no need for lots of money, I have simple wants in in life. As long as I can be with the woman I love, have a great family, and take pictures, then I'm happy. Hell, I wish I could work, I would love to be able to work as a photographer, and I know for a fact Jan would much rather be able to work that be disabled but, that decision is out of our hands.



I don't know how there can be all these 'benefit cheats' that the Daily Mail and the government keep harping on about when it is so damn hard to make a claim. If by some miracle someone manages to make a fraudulent claim...waiting two years, making it past all the forms and assessments designed to catch you out and prove you are lying, they should be hired by the Secret Intelligence Service.



I'm sorry for the lack of my usually daft nonsense, I just thought it's important I share my experiences so people in a similar situation realise they are not alone.

Have you experienced similar? How are the disabled and elderly cared for in your country? Leave me some comments below.

Thanks for stopping by, I do hope you enjoyed yourself (difficult I realise considering the subject matter).

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