Tuesday, November 13, 2007

DLA insanity

Like Louise Bolotin, the author of this rare insight into the insanity of the DLA system, I am also completely dependant on the financial security that Disability Living Allowance provides me. Unlike her however, I live alone, and depend entirely on benefits to survive, having no-one else to step in and support me so although my DLA has time left to run on it's current award, I'm permanently aware in the back of my mind that it could randomly be removed from me on the 'whim' of a decision maker, regardless of the level of my disability.

This for me is of particular relevance at the moment having strived so hard for so long to gain control over my condition and therefore improve my life. Should I inform the DWP that I have managed to 'improve' and therefore risk my entire award, which if I were to lose it would without doubt lead to a drop in benefits so drastic I would be left unable to meet basic utility bills and rent, let alone consider luxuries such as food, or should I say nothing as actually these improvements, although considerable for me, are by anyone else's standards minor and still leave me substantially disabled and genuinely entitled to the awards I've been given, if not the higher awards my GP pushed for me to be given at the time but the DWP in their typical nonsensical logic refused as they insisted the bodily functions I needed help with during the day did not exist at night.

This week saw my annual landlord safety check done by British Gas, where they come out and check all the gas appliances in the house. Whilst checking the gas hob the engineer asked if it always turned on in a particular manner, and asked to see me turn one of the rings on. I managed to do so after a couple of attempts, but only when prompted by him did I notice that as I'd turned it on, the only way I could do so had meant I'd had my fingers in the gas flames and left them there until he pointed it out.

For all the 'improvements' I think I've made, I don't think it's worth risking losing everything, including potentially my life, by informing the DWP of 'improvements' that are only improvements so they can remove benefits from the most vulnerable.


Vi vi vi vooom!!!!!!!! said...

Well I reckon the only improvements you really need to tell them, is if you improve enough to get a job! Otherwise, all benefits should stay the same.

spleenal said...

Right, so they pretty much put rocks on the road to recovery.

I remember way back when they first tried to get loads of people off sickness benifit they gave doctors who test people quotas to fill. (this week we need you to get X amount of people off sickness)
This resulted in one case were a woman managed to break her arm in a mobility test (she had brittel bones ) but was still taken off benifits.

I think she got it back on appeal but the whole system seems to be set up with the thought in mind that most people are bullshitting about how bad it is.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Spleenal, you've hit it on the head, the whole system is set up as though people are bullshitting, and in practice denies rather than grants benefits. It ends up meaning that genuine claimants miss out..too ill/vulnerable to cope with lengthy & intimidating appeals, and that's where fraud benefits as if you're taking the piss you wouldn't care about an appeal.
There is currently another big push to get people off health related benefits and into work, except employers don't want to employ most of these people, its too expensive and in fairness, too unreliable. Some can work, but most are on these benefits for a reason, the govt have muddled up their 'wanting' to work with being 'capable' of work.

Vi, DLA is non means tested, so in theory you don't have to let them know if you find work as it isn't supposed to affect it (unlike income support or incapacity) it's for the additional costs associated with disability, like continence products, the additional wash loads, or the mobility element for taxis or a car (though lower than the true costs these days) er, extra heating for people who can't move, ready meals instead of 'real' food etc. All stuff that for the majority doesn't change if they are lucky enough/determined enough to find work, then in practice often DLA gets removed anyway, the person loses their job cos they were relying on the benefit to cover those extra costs and goes back on all the other benefits too. It's insane.
The kind of improvements I'm talking about are more that I've learnt to cope with my condition, not that it's got any better (it's degenerative over all)

having my cake said...

Id keep quiet unless they are improvements that are guaranteed to be permanent and not going to be affected by any of your incidents.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Cake, you're quite right, they aren't permanent improvements, just me getting used to coping with the condition, and overall it's a degenerative condition. I think I've just been trying to kid myself of late that there's nothing wrong with me! lol!

Louise Bolotin said...

I've only just seen seen this blog (today being 28 Jan!). Thanks for the plug for my article. My review was refused so I'm now in the appeal system. Wish me luck!

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Hi Louise, welcome and thanks so much for reading and commenting. Yours was a great article, I assumed you're a professional journalist?
I wish you all the very best with your appeal (the stats I believe are pretty good for reinstatement on appeal, and even better with the correct advice/representation) I'll keep my fingers crossed! Bendy Girl

wordsmith_for_hire said...

Yes I am a journalist. I'm fortunate to be able to work from home - the DLA for me is is a handy top-up but I appreciate my not being dependent on benefits. The whole system is is indeed insane and the thing I hate most when you reapply is having to complete the entire sodding form in full from scratch all over again. Why isn't there a form for reapplication that allows you simply to document any changes (or not) since the previous award? It makes no sense at all.

I'm in tribunal waiting phase now. I may follow up with another article depending on the outcome.

I love your blog - it's great. The world needs to see the reality of living with disabilities that aren't immediately obvious because we're not all in wheelchairs.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Louise, I couldn't agree more about the reapplication process. I believe it's because the DWP don't keep the original documents on file longer than approx 12-18 months, which I suppose makes some sense when you think of the volumes of information involved, my last DLA form was over 100 pages long as I'd had to type it out and staple the additional pages in. Just thinking about it now in light of all the other data losses/scandals makes me slightly nervous actually
I hope you do follow up with another article, whatever the outcome. Faceless may be able to make some appropriate suggestions (check the comments on I see your true colours) but overall the stats are so good at appeal I'm hopeful for you. Actually perhaps that's merits an article in its own right, the discrepancy between initial applications being turned down and appeal rates.

Do you have an area of special interest or is it anything and everything? I ask I suppose because I'd love to start writing more formally (and eventually for money) but with the restrictions of the benefits system I'm not sure how to make that leap. Thanks for your compliments about the blog btw, I feel its about time the world realised the majority of disabilities are nothing to do with being 'wheelchair bound' (such an awful expression) or the kind of severe learning difficulties they expect if a person is not in a wheelchair. The idea that someone can be young, physically attractive and yet still have substantial disabilities still has not filtered into the general consciousness and needs to.

Do let me know when your tribunal is, I'll be rooting for you! BG x

Louise Bolotin said...

If the DWP allowed people to file online the the data could be stored on computer. OTOH, with all the data losses recently, perhaps not!

One of my areas of journalistic interest is social justice, which the disability rigts issue fits into. I also cover green issues and technology as well as real life stories and consumer stuff. I'm not sure how to advise on making a living while on benefits but you write well so you should definitely give it a go. Email me to talk about some options.

PS: no word on my tribunal date yet. It'll probably be in the summer.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Louise: TY, I will mail you (spandy hands might mean a delay though, sorry)
I think it's possible to put DLA applications in online, though last time I did mine I know the advisory charities were suggesting not to as I think the system meant you had to fill the form in all at once, or some such issue. Data losses in this area make one particularly nervous with the sensitivity of the information, but I suspect, like the lack of fuss there was about the loss of housing benefit data the wider public either won't care, or the media will portray it that way, after all, benefits claimants are second class citizens at best.

Summer is a long time to wait until your tribunal (mind, the back pay will be significant should you win) do you have representation? BG x

Louise Bolotin said...

It just seems crazy that we have the technology and yet the DWP still insist on people filing claims on paper. If the tax office can let you file a return online, then why not benefits? It would speed things up and cut costs, for starters. This is a real bug-bear of mine. A freelance colleague took ill and after self-certifying for the first seven days enquired about incapacity benefit. She had to go to the job centre to get the form (despite being too ill to work) and it was 56 pages and had to be completed within a few days – the last thing on your mind when you are sick and need to rest.

I grant the data protection issue is important, but the tax office seems to have resolved this. I think people do care about data loss. Think of the furore over the loss of half the country’s child benefit data! Not to mention the ID cards issue…

The tribunal process can take up to 6 months so I’m looking at June probably before I get a hearing. I’m hoping it may not stretch to that – requesting an appeal means your case automatically goes for review a second time so I may hear something within 11 weeks, perhaps in early April. My local welfare rights office is handling it – they deserve a medal!

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Louise: I agree. I wonder if it has something to do with wanting a signature, or the need for others to be involved in the process (I'm thinking about medical evidence or person who knows you best)
It is a major problem that the forms are so lengthy and have to be done when individuals are so ill and vulnerable, however I can't see any real ways round that, fraud being an issue as is.

For data protection I meant specifically that the public might not care too much in relation to benefits claimants, as you say there was a massive outcry about child benefit data(which everyone gets) but not much fuss about housing benefit data loss. Don't start me on ID cards ;)

With any luck things might change in your favour at review, the stats are poor compared to appeal, I think something like 10% at review, but it's possible and after all, the DWP dislike negative press.

I'm very glad to hear you have support from welfare rights, that' another area that's suffered greatly from funding cuts and the charities allying with the govt over changes to benefits. Sigh. It doesn't bode well for genuiune claimaints.

Anonymous said...

Hi, i have hms its taken 3 n half yrs to diagnose , im awaiting to see a spinal specialist on the 2nd of jan. Im sooo praying they will be able to do something, we think something was damaged in the back of my pelvis when i had my 4th child. I couldnt walk from 4 months pregnant. Does anyone have really sore skin? N a mass of something grinding behind your ribs? Sorry about all the questions, im in constant agony hadenough.com
Im still waiting to see Atos monday, oh wot fun! Last time i went to see them they wouldnt let me in the offices as i was a risk!! As i couldnt get downthe stairs in an emergancy. U would think they would have read my notes wouldnt you.
Btw my doctor is rubbish!! Sorry about the rant x