Written evidence from the REACH Community Projects (HAB0119)

 

 

Why should the sick have to jump through so many hoops to prove they are sick!

 

Just before Christmas I received a ‘good news story’ from one of my colleagues.  It was about the award of PIP and extra money for ‘being sick’ from Universal Credit for a very unwell gentleman.  In total he received just under a whopping £11,000 of back pay!  A very happy man said to my colleague “at last the DWP recognise that I really am ill”!  And that was one of his biggest issues, (in fact, it is often one of the first things that people will say to us, “at last someone is actually listening to me!”)

 

But practically, it means that he won’t have to struggle to get on the bus to attend the many appointments he has too. And mobility is a big issue for him.

 

Just to give a bit of the background to the story, we helped complete the PIP application for our client in November 2020.  And yes, he did chase for a decision on this, but was constantly told that there is a backlog – which I can except, but to take just over a year is wholly unacceptable. 

 

He also had to continually submit ‘fit notes’ for his Universal Credit until the DWP sent out UC50 form for completion in June 21 (this is a questionnaire that the DWP use to see how unwell you actually are and if you might be able to do some work etc.)  And yes, we helped complete this for him too.

 

There are a few things that struck me on this, firstly; £11,000 is a huge sum of money and as great that it is that he’s got this, what was he supposed to do in the meantime?  I guess, just struggle on!  But the real issue I have, is why does a sick person have to jump through so many hoops to ‘prove that they are sick?  It’s hard enough being sick and unable to work in the first place.

 

This comes on the back of another large pay out for a lady that we’ve been helping for a while.  She has doggedly carried on working in pain with her legs and her breathing.  She finally admitted defeat and survived on her UC, food boxes from us, client aid to pay for electricity and a small grant from the British Legion.

 

When she finally got her UC50 form in January 2021, the DWP lost it.  Despite constant chasing we finally got another submitted in June.  It took another 4 months before the lady in question heard from the DWP that she had been awarded the ‘sickness’ component and backdated to June - just under £4,000!  The lady was not as ecstatic about it as you would have thought, just terrified that they had made a mistake and need it repaying at some point.  When my colleague reassured her that it is correct, she said “at least I’ll be able to put my heating on this winter!”

 

Again, the £4,000 is great news, but what was she supposed to do in the meantime – I can tell you what she did, she relied on 11 food boxes from the foodbank and nearly £300 of client aid from charity.  I really am so pleased that we could help her, but despite our best efforts, getting your food from the foodbank really isn’t dignifying and I so wish that there was another way!

 

But the real reason I write this piece is because I really cannot understand why on earth those that are so unwell have to constantly prove they are unwell and then have to re-complete a wretched new PIP application after a set period.

 

A very good friend of mine has been seriously ill for the last 30 years or more.  He was moved from the old DLA onto PIP a number of years ago and despite having heart failure, 3 kidney transplants, skin cancer and goodness knows what else, he carries a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ form on him when he goes out (just to hospital these days) and has been told by the hospital that they can’t do anything more for him.

 

So I was very surprised to hear that he had to complete another PIP application in April last year.  Naturally, we got involved and completed this with him.  But this had moved to an online form that my colleague (who is very experienced in completing such forms) struggled to get submitted.  Despite numerous calls to DWP about the issues she was having, it still took a couple of days to finally get it submitted. 

 

Guess what happened, yes, the DWP lost the form!  This only came to light when my friend got a letter from Housing Benefit to say that they had taken note of the changes in their benefits!  His wife called the benefits office and DWP, it did all get sorted, but it took a couple of months – and all totally needless in my opinion.

 

Why on earth is a new application even needed?  The needless stress that it caused for someone so chronically sick.  Why not the word of the doctor, “Has this person’s situation improved?”  Is all that it requires.

 

It really is high time that the DWP looked at the way it dealt with those that are sick and stop making some of the most vulnerable jump through so many hoops.  I could give many more examples!

 

Finally; it’s very likely that my friend will die at home.  If that happens it will be a doctor that will be called to verify his death and not someone from the DWP.  So as the old saying goes - “What is good for the goose, is good for the gander!”

 

 

February 2022