I need to share my experience, this afternoon, in a telephone conversation with a Social Security Worker regarding a possible claim for incapacity benefit. My GP recommended that I apply for incapacity benefit – which I duly did, not anticipating that I would be eligible. I send them a copy of the certificate my Doctor issued. They in turn send me a Claims Form, which I duly completed and returned. Today I received a letter asking for a Certificate from my Doctor. I telephoned to discuss this matter, the woman I spoke to said that she was speaking “on behalf of the person on the next desk – who was at lunch”. After several trips away from the telephone, followed much paper rustling she said she could not find it. She then went on to discuss my Claims Form – at this point the conversation deteriorated. I had told them that I do a part-time self employed job of leaflet distribution.
The woman was obsessed with this as being my job, no matter how I tried to explain that I had started the work before my current RSI problem, and that as a result I had limited my “work” to being very sporadic dependent upon how my arm was on the day – and using my left arm and not right arm, that some weeks I had not “worked” at all. I was given a lecture on many people claiming incapacity benefit had missing limbs and were really unable to work, that as far as they are concerned I am able to work, and therefore could pursue a normal job! At this point I saw red, I told her that I used to be able to earn 20.00 per hour, now if I was lucky I could earn 310 – 350 per week, using mainly my legs and left arm. Her reaction to this was “You are lucky to be able to earn 20.00 an hour; many people have to be satisfied with earning far less. I asked her if she would like to reconsider that remark – I told her I was not lucky that I achieved that level earning from many years of hard work and studying. I also told her that she should she have more understanding when dealing with people claiming incapacity allowance, as they could obviously be in a very sensitive and vulnerable state of mind.
I was polite enough to tell her that although I had no way of knowing how she dealt with other people that I did not feel that in my own instance she was displaying sufficient understanding. I spend some considerable time telling her that I could not do not go work as an employee (as she suggested), if I could I certainly would, IT and Computers are my living and I quite simply cannot carry on with this due to my RSI problems. I told her that my whole way of life, just like other RSI Suffers was changed, that everyday things took twice as long etc, etc (you all know how it is). I also asked her what “proper job” I could do with my left hand, as a totally right handed person.” Her tones were quite simply “I hear you and I am not listening”. I could go on and on about this, sorry to trouble you – I am seething because I feel that she is saying that RSI is not a real incapacity! Apologies for such heavy whinging – I want to scream – Ahhhhh – that’s better.
Comment 1: How awful for you! I hope you asked who her supervisor was and asked to be put through. No-one should treat you like that and she certainly has no right or qualifications to make broad brush judgments. I know it’s a struggle but you must keep on fighting your corner – no-one else will do it for you.
Comment 2: To get incapacity benefit you have to pass the ‘all work test’ i.e. have to satisfy the DSS that you are totally incapable of all work. Previous experience or preference for work is no longer taken into account – hence the ‘jobs as draught excluders’ jokes prevalent in the Disabled community. I may have misread your posting but what I think you may have really meant was. ‘I have tried to take on work, even on a self employed basis, but could not do it. I have now had to give up entirely and wish to submit a new claim’. Re-wording the enquiry in this way may be beneficial. If you are working (unfortunately) you cannot get a benefit for those who are incapable of ALL work. You will be assessed against a standard format and have to be very badly impaired to ‘meet the standard’. Once on the benefit, your doctor may suggest that you do a small amount of irregular ‘therapeutic work’ you would have to get agreement from the DSS first but! (I think this loophole still works but check)
I am sure you can read between the lines! I’ve been caught out this way in the past myself. Check details on Incapacity Benefit on 0800 88 22 00 (the DSS Advice Line for People with Disabilities) – their information is always correct. Try a DLA claim aiming at the lower rate for care – unable to prepare a meal qualification – that’s a two course including peeling veggies etc meal. Most people with RSI should be able to get this. Please cancel the DSS subscription to the RSI list – I’m feeling paranoid! Friends of mine used to work for the SS they were sent to an interview with the ‘Civil Service’ (when unemployed) and offered jobs on the spot as counter staff – if they didn’t take them their benefits stopped immediately!
Comment 3: Don’t underestimate the power of an ‘unprejudiced’ witness – good CAB‘s will telephone the DSS on your behalf – it’s often infuriating to have to ‘bring them up to speed’ but the ‘fear of witnesses’ often makes the DSS attitude change. They apparently have a coding (informal) for files – MP case, local councilor, CAB, British Legion and Secretary of State (on mine!) etc. for files that are treated with utmost care. I must credit my Great Aunt Victoria for my early training. This sheep is marvelous I’ve got four on the screen at the moment doing ‘things’. I’ve been sent another one that shouts ‘He’s looking at porno over here’ which I’m reserving for a certain person’s computer! May come in handy for the less co-operative managers as well!
Comment 4: Response much appreciated – however, I really did not believe I would be eligible for Incapacity Benefit, as I have a working partner. I applied under my GP’s recommendation and as I do somehow feel a little as though I am trying to get “something for nothing” (although this is not strictly true – as there is no way I can do my own job, or many others (as the woman I spoke to this afternoon suggested to which I replied “What job can I do with one hand?” Okay my reply was uncalled for, I know there are people out there with “real incapacities”, I know that they cope with them in a way I find hard to comprehend (needs must I suppose). My own grandfather lost his right arm in a farming accident in his teens – my father tells me he could tie his shoe laces, roll a cigarette and work as hard as the next man with his one land arm – I suppose that is why I feel a little “fraudulent” with my RSI problem. I realise it is not only others who can be skeptical about the condition, for I feel a little that way myself – even as a sufferer.
Anyway I digress, apologies, my real point of anger is not that my ability to claim an allowance is being questioned, but the way in which this woman chose to speak to me! Thanks for your advice – I do understand exactly what you are saying. I have no intentions of reporting the woman for her behaviour – not this time at least, but there is no way I will take that attitude again – not sitting down at least! Her implication was that if I could use my other hand, my legs, mouth etc then I was quite capable to working – even though it might in my normal capacity of teaching IT, still not sure what I could do which would not involve my left hand.
Comment 5: There is so much out there for properly qualified people – the ‘Disability Sector’ is full of non-disabled people who ‘once did a course’. In a forward looking organization your impairment will not matter – it is your knowledge and the ability to pass it on that count! As a Disabled Person you will be given credit not only for your qualifications but for your personal experience of Disability. DLA is not means tested, you are entitled to benefits that you and all of us have paid for. I think that there is far too much concentration on ‘severity of impairment’ rather than ‘severity of effect’ at the moment.
Sorry if I came across ‘a bit strong’ but I was trying not to have another go at ‘half trained DOCTORS who should at least do their homework’ and the aptly named SS! As an IT tutor just think how valuable you are! P.S. Try one handed keyboards, voice recognition software etc. I was on a training course two years ago (yes yet another course) where the ‘instructor’ used to have to ask me or another student to sort out ‘problems’, very basic problems like how to find a file!