Written evidence from Taryn & William Taylor (HAB0063)


I would like to share with the committee, two stories, (our cases) of applying for disability benefits, for both myself & my elderly husband.

I am now 62 years old & my husband is 81 years old.

Firstly, of my husbands case. Back in 2007-2008 my husband had two knee replacements. One of which was bodged but he was advised not to chance having another operation to correct this. He also suffers with chronic arthritis in both feet ,which have caused some deformities in the bones,Again was advised that nothing could be done to correct this.Plus some other issues including deafness.

So back in 2008, I rang the DWP to make some enquiries about any disability benefits that my husband was entitled to & could claim. I had been told that there was one called disability allowance? I spoke with a very nice gentleman, about this,told him of what illnesses & disabilities my husband had & asked would he be entitled to any? The chap was very knowledgeable & kindly explained everything but stated that as my husband was over the state pension age, it would be a benefit called Attendance Allowance but would also be entitled to Carers Allowance too. But that I had to call a different number for those. But in doing that, I was met with one of the most rude,obnoxious & unhelpful people who just asked what was wrong with my husband.? She stated "we don't pay out benefits for that"!! Basically, she spoke to me (for around 5-10 minutes) as though we were trying to make a fraudulent claim & put the phone down on me?!!.Even though I was shocked in her approach, rather stupidly & naively, I thought well she works there & must know what my husband is entitled to? I thought that maybe the other person had got it wrong?. I  tried again some years later for him , this time filling in the necessary forms & sending them off with the medical evidence. We then received a call (the lady stated that she was from the DWP) & was calling to go over the claim form.After talking with her for around twenty to thirty minutes,she stated that she would not be processing the claim (rejecting it) because he did not have a "rise & fall" electric armchair? And that falls indoors did not count (only outdoor ones) He had had falls both in & outside! I am sure that we had asked for a mandatory reconsideration at the time & that also came back as a refusal.But we did not take it any further than that. Forward onto last year,we asked Age UK Norfolk to help him ,to try to claim benefits ,the benefits that he was entitled to. This was all done over the phone (due to Covid & lockdowns) The lady was very polite & extremely helpful & knowledgeable.She filled out the forms, with the answers that I was providing her with.She kindly sent a copy over, of what she had completed.She assured us that he was most definitely entitled to the benefit.Then sometime later(only a short time) ,He received a letter from the DWP giving him the full rate of the allowance! We could not thank this lovely lady enough & were so grateful to her & Age UK .I said to her "that it was just such a shame, that he was treated like a fraudster from the outset & that it had taken 12 -13 years to finally receive ,the benefit that he should have had all those years ago"!!

Secondly, of my case in trying to claim disability benefit.

Due to my continuing deteriorating ill health & no prospects of getting any better( I was being constantly ignored by my then GP surgery ). In 2016 , I called the DWP to enquire about making a disability claim. The lady with whom I spoke with , was very nice & knowledgeable.I told her what the problem was , my back , as I had been getting much worse, since 2014! (I knew all of the red flag warnings/symptoms) as I had previously been ignored back in 1996/97 ,when I had first injured my back.Which in turn had left me paralysed down the right handside (my leg ) & incontinent. After nearly six months of no medical assistance ,I was finally operated on (through Bupa) which thankfully was a success. But it had left me with ,not being able to sit,stand ,or lay down for long periods.Plus, I did not regain all of the feeling in some of the toes. But I was truly thankful that I had not ended up being permanently left in a wheelchair.I also did not make any disability claim back then either.

So in February 2016 ,this  kind lady talked everything through &  stated that I could even have a home assessment if needed .

I filled in the forms but did not have much in the way of "medical evidence" to send, due to my gp's attitude/ignorance in this field. Though, I finally did have an MRI scan, before the appointment for an interview with the health assessor , in May 2016. I was told that the interview with the health assessor (Atos) would be held at Norwich. When asked about a home visit this was denied to me. So I attended the interview & spent quite a time there being interviewed & examined by a lady. She was polite & seemed to be knowledgeable.But I still did not have much in the way of evidence, though she did ask whether I had any images of my spine to show her,which I had not? June 2016 I received the "award letter" which stated that there was nothing given for "mobility" & only the lowest amount for "living allowance"? Needless to say I was upset,bemused,staggered at such a decision & quite honestly very depressed by it all. As no one seemed to appreciate, in what torturous & agonising pain that I was going through. It was only myself ,that was concerned & frightened, of yet again ending up paralysed & being in a wheelchair! So I ended up going into a state of depression, as there was no prospect of getting any medical ,nor financial help.Nor of any physical help either. Come the September ,I was taken to hospital for a suspected heart attack. I ended up having various tests ,thankfully it was not. But what the doctors noted was that I was complaining of the numbness & strange sensations  in both my legs. They had also noted that I had chronic back pain & that I needed an urgent referral to see an orthopedic surgeon. So because I had this in writing , I called the DWP again to say that I do now have a bit of current medical evidence in regards to my "mobility".The lady stated that it was too late to appeal the June decision (award letter) & that I would have to put in a fresh claim & start all over again? I also asked could they send out a "copy" of the original award letter as I had misplaced it.This was refused to me! Later that month , I rang again & spoke with someone else  & something was mentioned about unplanned/long term/plan intervention?To be honest, I was left so confused  & no one was willing to help me from the DWP. They just kept putting barriers up.So once again , becoming very depressed & left in despair,I left doing  a new claim. At the beginning of January 2017 , I rang the DWP  ,to try again.I told them that I did now have some "current" medical evidence to back up my previous claim.They stated that I had to do a new claim ,that I was out of time to appeal the 2016 decision.(which later on ,I found was untrue) So I filled in all of the forms again,sending it with all of the medical evidence.Which now included not only a MRI scan of a large prolapse but fibromyalgia,osteoarthritis,trapped nerves etc.In the February, I finally received a copy of the original 2016 award letter.In the May, I had an appointment  date with Atos, at Great Yarmouth. I had to call them ,to ask could they do a home visit as I was too ill & in too much pain to attend the venue. I was told that they do not do home visits & that if I did not attend, that my claim would be refused! So after 15 minutes on the phone, she finally agreed to reschedule it. In June 2017, I attended the interview at Gt Yarmouth. Firstly, when I was in the reception area, a young lady asked me for identification. As I was trying to get some out of my purse,she "snatched " the whole lot out of my hand.She took what she wanted & went to the office area to photocopy it. Then when she returned it to me,stated & pointed to where to sit in the reception area. But as I have bladder problems, I wanted to go & use the toilet first. So as she started to walk off,she did not realise that I was following behind her.She then bellowed out, down the corridor to her colleague ,who was coming out of a room."the lady who supposedly can not walk is here"??!!! I was absolutely appalled by her attitude.Her colleague saw me behind going into the toilet.She waited for me & ushered me into the room. She made a comment to me , to which I replied "that it did not matter what I said,that they would put down whatever they like"! (as I was still smarting from what had just occurred) She retorted by saying "well if you are going to be like that,if that is your attitude,we might as well not continue & I will say that you refused to co- operate"!! So of course because she knew that she had the "power" over this meeting ,I had to state that I was wanting to proceed with the assessment. To which her first question was "when do you have the most pain"? "morning,noon or night"??!! I have never heard of such claptrap come out of someone's mouth, especially as she later told me that she was a registered nurse? I did not know that "pain, clocks in & out?!! Well needless to say, that was how the rest of the "assessment" went. When I finally got to see her "written report" It was full of lies,stating that I needed no help getting on & off the examination couch? That is very strange , considering that I needed her to lower it & for her help to get on & off it, she had to give me her arm to hold onto. And even then, that it was still difficult to get up off it!

When I got home later that day, I made enquiries & complaints to the DWP & Atos about these two women. I asked for a copy of the CCTV from that reception area. I was later told that they did not have CCTV footage, nor a camera. Which I found very hard to believe.I had also requested copies of all written reports,evidence,film footage & photos of myself etc. Because I knew that on a number of occasions ,that I was being followed & "investigated" (I had caught sight of being filmed/photographed) Which in turn DWP denied but later admitted to me that they only do that in cases of "Fraud"?!! In August 2017, I finally received the new award letter, again only stating that I was entitled to the lowest level of the living allowance nothing again for mobility (despite this time round ,having medical evidence)?! I called the DWP to discuss this. I ended up talking to a very nice man who took me through the procedures of what happens next. He stated that I could ask for a reconsideration. A mandatory reconsideration.So I sent the letter to the DWP requesting this. I got a call at the end of August from a man stating that he was the one who would be making the decision &  he wanted to discuss a few points, which I did. He stated that the call was being taped (I thought good!) I stated that I thought that some of the questions on the forms were quite ambiguous & gave two examples.etc At the beginning of September, I received a letter from this man dated the same date ,as when he called me. Stating that he had considered the decision? But the decision still stood? Nothing for mobility? So then I started the process of appealing,to go to a tribunal hearing. I had noticed that the tribunal service/DWP were taking out some of my evidence that I was submitting.Which I wrote a letter about. A judge notes this (before the hearing,which ended up being cancelled due to the Beast from the East)  He demands that this is addressed by the tribunal service/DWP as it was most serious. I then get another court date in April 2018 which I attend with my husband. At the time, I was upset by what happened in that room, with this panel of people.As it was only the judge that spoke to me. She came at me like a "steam train" Talking quite ferociously & quickly, I was having trouble trying to keep up with ,what she was saying,as I am partially deaf too. I have to look at people's faces,try to hear , lip read  & understand what is said, all at the same time.But what was stated & what I later read as her "findings/reasoning" was that there seemed to be some discrepancy over aids,whose they were? It was alluded by the assessor,  that they were all my husbands? And that I had the "presence of mind" to ask for a "mandatory reconsideration"? Also, that the 2016 & 2017 benefit claims were not connected? Which I claimed they were. Because if I had been told the correct information in the first place. That despite misplacing my first award letter but then gaining some "medical evidence papers". I did not have to make a fresh claim & start again, I could have appealed the 2016 decision & asked for a mandatory reconsideration or an appeal because it states in the literature that it can be upto 13 months in exceptional cases.And if I had been helped with the procedures in the first instance ,instead of hindered & lied to, I would have only been out by weeks , not months. So not a long time span at all.? This judge thankfully could see that I was bemused by all what she was stating. Because I said to her that the only thing that was "my husbands" aid was a handrail in the bathroom , that had been previously put there years & years ago ,for his late wife ,who had died of cancer?! She set it aside & wanted the DWP to answer questions that she had for them & to attend the next hearing!. But I have to tell you, that in hindsight, I had the "right people" on that panel that day. As the doctor was a specialist on spines, the O/T was knowledgeable , the clerk was very accommodating (making sure that I had got a comfortable chair ,which I had requested for)And I can see that the judge was firm but fair. ALL these people jumped up at the end of this hearing,all tried to hand me a leaflet about help from a charity in law.They all stated that I needed help from someone with this case.! I later asked for help from another charity,who kindly wrote up a report of my mobility & how far that I could "walk". They attended the next tribunal hearing with me. But it was an absolute horror from start to finish. Prior to going in ,the clerk (a man) admitted to removing some of my evidence papers again?! The doctor who started the hearing, his first words out of his mouth were to state "that he had not read my papers ,as there were too many of them?" He quickly changed this (because my face was one of absolute shock) He stated "oh I have not read them all"! Well it seemed as though no one on that panel had read or looked at any of my "evidence".The O/T then stated that my husband & I had claimed disability benefits before?! I am not sure whose papers that she had read but they certainly were not mine.Neither myself ,or my husband had claimed disability benefits previously In fact ,my husband had never claimed anything in all of his life! The judge then started to speak to me as though I was a fraud! Well needless to say, the outcome of this hearing, that seemed to be a "setup" ,was that I was not entitled to anything other than the lowest living allowance?! The judges reasons/findings were that she thought that I could go around galavanting around the shops of Norwich?.That there was nothing wrong with my mobility?etc etc..I found out the doctor was not specialised in orthopedics, he was  a doctor for mental health? I wrote a letter to state that in my opinion ,none of this panel should ever be allowed to be on any hearing for benefit claimants. I later tried appealing this decision.This took nearly a year,which was conducted by someone (a judge) still from the Norwich office where I had originally attended. Even though all my calls to the DWP & tribunal service chasing up with questions of  what was happening to my case.I was constantly told , "it was at an outside location" & that they could not say where etc. etc..?? I finally received a reply/decision in 2019 stating that it was staying the same. But also included, were statements stating, that I was only interested in getting more money??!! I then applied for this to go to the 2nd tier , again adding more evidence to it. Again the tribunal service, or DWP taking a lot  of it out! Again, at the end of 2019 , I received another pious & bigoted reply, mocking me in the letter , also stating that they stood by the original decision. So my last option , was to take it to the courts in London. When I called to make enquiries of how to do this & what it would entail. I decided that it was just all too much for me. That I was not mentally in a good place with all of this humiliation & dehumanising behaviour, by so called "professionals".I knew that I would not be able to get to London travelling ,it was impossible. Neither was I physically well , not just to travel but to spend so much time in a court, As by  then , I was also suffering with sepsis. Plus , I did not have the £250, that it was going to cost me , to take it to court. So I had to leave pursuing this,as it was taking such a toll on my health, not only physically but also mentally too, it nearly broke me!. I had to accept, that I was completely beaten. I should have been reassessed this year but that has been put off now until 2023 due to the pandemic. Am I, or will I look forward to it, not in the least. Firstly, I would not have applied for the benefit if I did not think that I was entitled to it. Like my husband, I have worked & paid my taxes & NHI, I thought that ,that is what we pay in for.When help is needed, it is there.? But one finds, that it is not, at all!! .I later found out, that I had had a mental health nurse spy on me ,to assess whether I was genuinely ill? I am not sure of where this took place ,as it does not state in the papers/her report. So it must have been at a hospital appointment, or at the doctors surgery? The Atos assessors are not professional ,neither are they really qualified to assess , or report on a wide spectrum of disabilities. I checked my assessors abilities out with their relevant registered bodies. I was told, that if they had further qualifications in specialised areas, that these would be noted by their names. Basically ,all they do apart from humiliate & degrade a person, is lie as much as they can on the reports.This must be for a monetary reason/benefit to them.As I can not think of any other valid reason for doing this. They abuse their "powers" as does a lot of the DWP staff.The assessors &  DWP staff expect respect but can not & do not show any to the claimants.Any correspondence arrives by "snail mail" therefore not giving the claimant enough time to respond within set time limits. It seems that the only thing that assessors & some DWP staff are competent at , is lying. Even the DWP office lied & have committed perjury on my papers, I can prove that, I have evidence of such. An easy one being , that they lied about how many times that I had called into their office. They only state a handful of times, when in fact, I have itemised call billing on my home phone ,which showed many many times of my calling them.Which do not even include the times that I had called from a mobile phone! Regarding the questionnaire that is sent out & the accompanying booklet for claiming. In my humble opinion it was not written up properly, it is deeply flawed. (written up & worded like one of those scam ppi's or an insurance policy) Many of the questions are ambiguous.This has not been written up with disabled people in mind, nor with the help of disabled people, the varieties of different disabilities or conditions. It is written up to mislead. Because even if the claimant feels  that they understand the question & write in their answers.At the assessments there are different questions, or ones put in a different way, so as to make the claimant look as though they are dishonest, a fraud, a cheat, when they are not! Ultimately, the only way to improve any part of this system ,is for all of those in question ie; the so called professionals . To learn how to communicate properly,do not abuse their power in order to just humiliate & abuse a claimant. Show a bit more compassion & humanity. Be transparent & there needs to be more accountability for failures.Learn more about varying disabilities & of the  limitations to a person's way living (the impact) & their mobility. Above all, start listening to the claimant & what is being said by them.Make the starting point of the claim &  assessment , of how can that claimant be helped.Not one , of everyone is a benefit cheat!!

This DWP department has not & is not fit for purpose. It is in dire need of a forensic audit throughout.If the claimants arew not in receipt of their full entitlements. Where are all of the vast sums of money really going to?


November 2021