We could not understand why DWP were denying all disability benefits and yet still Leigh was in receipt of a motability car the two contradicted each other massively. This was perhaps the only fact We could hold onto and was confirmed by the Village Benefits who were the only organisation willing to help us.
With a wonderful man called Gerry from the Village benefits helping us we began the appeal process but it was extremely complicated and not once did anyone offer to help us but thankfully for Gerry we were able To create a successful appeal campaign which took six months and a hell of a lot of patience and constant chasing up!! But we got there !
What we discovered is that the doctor who had examined Leigh severely misreported and misexamined Leighs condition was on a bonus scheme the DWP was running for external agents in assisting them to reduce the number of claimants. We also discovered that no matter how many times we refuted the medical claims of that health ‘professional’ the DWP would not accept them as its their protocol to support their external agents decisions.
I can understand this to a point but struggle to accept it when a doctor and GP report clearly refuted the health professional’s claims. It was just a hopeless situation to be in as the DWP did not listen or understand our argument at any point the only advice they gave was to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance and for Leigh to be put on a back to work scheme at this point Leigh was not leaving the house so this was unimaginable.
Here are the tips I learnt from Our experience:
- So with the DWP nothing happens quickly emails and letters are lost so whatever you send, send it with a tracker and for something very significant such as a medical certificate go to your local job centre and send it through there. DWP will tell you not to do that and rather post it that’s purely down to them wanting to reduce the amount of traffic going into the job centre !! That’s their issue not yours sending it via the job centre is the quickest and most secure form
- They don’t always tell you when they need medical certificates nor do they phone you – they had not informed leigh they needed a medical certificate in the new appeal phase and so for 1 month we sat there awaiting further updates from them. We called them 3 times and not once did they mention requiring medical certificates so at every single point you speak to them check what they need, if they have everything they need and ask for confirmation from the manager if they do not sound sure. I phoned 3 times in a day and got 3 different answers ! The court emailed them the appeal acceptance and the DWP managed to lose that so it has nothing to do with heirarchy they are just ridiculously chaotic !! The way to combat this is keep on top of everything they are doing, phone them daily keep on top of them!!
- Do not wait for them to contact you and be prepared to be on the phone for at least an hour – also don’t stress yourself out with this so I would often phone them in poor signal areas and so I would get cut off and this would frustrate me further so I gave up and made sure I made the phone calls whilst doing the washing up or Cleaning at home so I didn’t feel It had impeded on my
Day and it meant I got all my questions answered and I wasn’t as stressed. These calls are very stressful often they pass you from person to person, they can be very patronising and deny all knowledge of anything unless once in a blue moon you get an excellent DWP worker and when you come across them use their knowledge and skills. Keep note of every single PHONECALL and get their names. DWP generally records everything but some Calls get missed. I would phone them daily whenever I could just to check everything was in order and they had everything they needed also to check at which point the appeal Was at.
- Be prepared for the communications from the DWP to be bullish, patronising and for want of better words they will Make you feel like you are outright lying !! It is horrible and when you complain they will simply state that’s protocol which is very hard to hear but maintain your dignity keep note of every phone call
And letter, put the frustration aside and know that this is how they treat everyone, you will push forwards do not let them bully you or put you off !!
- Seek other help and ask other people in your situation for me the main people who helped us in this situation were Village Benefits, Carers Trust and benefits and work website: http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/
This is a widespread issue and there are experts who know exactly how to word appeals and evidence without bringing emotion into it which is something I struggle with when defending anything to do with family
So their help was instrumental to the win!! Only seek advice from experts in the benefits and DWP expertise there are so many different aspects to this law and process you need an expert hot on the case.
- Get every bit of evidence possible – hard facts and overwhelming display of info from qualified professionals beefs up your case massively. So for our evidence we compiled statements from Leigh and myself on the medical examination, the phone call we received, letter from the surgeon, letter from the GP which we did have to pay for but was very worth it just make sure it’s exactly as you have requested as its made mistakes on it, we also had a letter from the carers Trust which we didn’t actually Use but was useful to have on hand as it highlighted the impact on the family and the level of care that Leigh needed. We could have also sought statements from Leigh’s other surgeon and prosthetic doctor but our advisor was able to tell us we had enough information to back us up.
- So the process for appeal is extremely long:
1) following the receipt of the medical report we requested a mandatory reconsideration which took 1 month for DWP to consider and they denied this
2) we then had to appeal and send our papers to the court which took 2 months at this point they could have dismissed the appeal but they chose not to. Once I found the right court they were absolutely outstanding they sent us copies of everything the DWP sent to them and it was only at this point we realised the DWP had been referring to a form which Leigh completed in 2013 – 3 years prior so they were assessing Leigh in a completely different way and particularly with the awful medical examination they had a complete misrepresentation of what Leigh’s health was currently like
3) we attended the appeal, this was absolutely nerve racking and horrible. It was quite an informal affair but very daunting there was lots of protocol but no disabled parking access and so Leigh had to be wheeled around the side of the building up and down various crooked pavements, a completely ironic situation to be in and absolutely laughable. If you don’t laugh you have to cry so we had a good laugh before we went in. The judge focussed very much on Leigh and within 10 minutes of him explaining his day to day life the Judge dismissed the case, reinstated Leighs benefits and increased the support.
5) we were thrilled With the decision but it took 6 weeks to confirm the decision from the DWP and a further 3 weeks to receive the monies owed – absolutely hideous to learn that a judge’s decision has been lost on the email system so absolutely do not wait for them to contact you even when they tell you to wait 10 days phone them each day as often as you can to ensure you get the support you need ASAP.
6) we sent a formal complaint to the DWP just before the court case it took 2 months before they found this complaint and when they did they sent 1 page letter with 10 lines stating there had been no wrong and sorry for bullish nature but that’s protocol. We very nearly gave up at this point but luckily they had printed the direct number to the head of complaints and so I thought let’s give that a try.
7) this was the first phonecall at which someone had listened he could not say there would be a change in decision but he admitted they had poorly investigated it and their response was shocking in reply to our 5 page detailed complaint which highlighted 5 areas which they could improve on.
8) 3 weeks later we received a phonecall to which every single department had accepted liability and more importantly the ‘health professional’ who had conducted the shoddy medical examination was to be spoken with, given extra training and it would be on her record. I do not like people being in trouble but when a job is done shamefully. Wrong that person deserves every second in the small hope it will avoid being repeated.
This case against the DWP is ongoing in seeking proper compensation for the chaotic mess they created and the impact it had on my husband and our family. My husband worked since he was 14 long hours and long nights, he had to walk to and from work despite having club feet he did that because he has an excellent work ethic. The financial disruption was immense and quite desperate but this was nowhere near as important as seeing Leigh be devastated by the wrong judgement and reporting of a so called medical professional and then the awful and bullish behaviour of DWP which was so intimidating that inevitably made us question everything we were standing for which is just absurd !!
So for us the most important thing we needed to hear from DWP was ‘we are sorry’ and there are improvements to be made. They took every single one of our suggestions and whilst there will be no Immediate change its on their records and it will help inform their decisions. The key words for Leigh to hear was ‘the medical examination was catastrophically wrong and failed entirely to represent the reality of the client’ this for Leigh put everything right that had been done wrong, besides the months of chaos it was a very small but highly rewarding few words to hear – to know that they realise it was wrong and they will be doing something about it was fantastic. This was the real victory !! This is when we were finally able to close the matter and know we had done everything possible our end to ensure it wouldn’t happen again. Unfortunately, it will happen again there’s too much chaos in the DWP and so I felt compelled to write this blog –
Although very long I hope it may help others, if you need any help or advice on this I am no expert but do contact me on 07809244895 or email@example.com
We are very lucky in this country to have amazing financial support streams but due to bureaucracy it can go horribly, horribly wrong so please do not be put off no one wants to receive support we all enjoy independence but in times of need it is important you get the support you need.