It’s a sad consequence of having to fight a court case that I don’t have as much time for some of the subjects that made This Site’s name – such as the persecution of benefit claimants by the DWP.
This particular issue is one on which I have personal experience, though – as, I dare say, has anybody who has had to deal with DWP letters.
My case differs from that outlined by Disability News Service, though – in that the DWP contacted Mrs Mike to tell her that her PIP review was due, and could she return the form within a month of the date of the letter?
The letter arrived no less than 10 days after the date on it. That left three weeks to get the review done.
It is not enough time. Not only do PIP claimants have to navigate the form, which is worded in an open way but which is marked according to very specific requirements, but they must also seek corroborating evidence from carers, community helpers and healthcare professionals.
All of this takes considerable time.
As her carer, I knew that we needed to seek expert help in writing the form, so I contacted Citizens Advice and was immediately told that I would have an appointment to talk to someone in a few days’ time – and that I should seek an extension on the deadline at once.
I can’t say that conditions are the same across the UK – I live in Wales – but once I managed to get through to DWP (there was an inevitable wait of more than an hour) the department could not have been happier to extend the deadline.
I think I was given a couple of extra weeks.
I therefore advise everybody to do this – especially if receiving a letter with a deadline that appears to have been delayed in the post. It makes the argument between DWP and the Royal Mail irrelevant.
And I needed the extra time. Mrs Mike has a condition that can only get worse, but it wasn’t until I spoke to somebody else about it that I realised the extent to which her condition had degenerated.
Help I had provided as a favour when she was feeling particularly bad had become a habit – meaning that he condition has worsened – and the very shape of our days had changed as these accumulated.
The changes had been so gradual that I had not taken them into account – but they mean a great deal when dealing with the DWP.
I therefore advise everybody going through a benefit review to seek expert help from Citizens Advice or an organisation that is similarly qualified.
Finally there was the question of corroborating evidence. I provided a letter, as Mrs Mike’s carer, describing the obstacles she faces getting through the day, and the ways I have to help her.
We sought letters from community organisations and some professionals but received no interest in return.
And we contacted Mrs Mike’s doctor, too. This seemed likely to be problematic. “Oh, you’ll get no help there,” people said. “Doctors have been discouraged and disincentivised by the DWP! If you do get a letter, they’ll charge you a fat wad of cash!”
Not a bit of it was true.
We received a letter in due course, containing a printout of Mrs Mike’s medical history and a medical opinion that was adamantly in favour of her receiving the highest degree of benefit available to her.
Finally, when it was time to post the completed form, I took it to the post office and paid extra to ensure that the DWP would have to sign for it, to confirm receipt.]
This is very important. I know from personal experience and the experience of others that the DWP finds it easy to claim non-receipt – as it did in the case of the claimant in the DNS story.
This cannot happen if you have evidence that somebody signed for it. It bypasses any concerns about whether delays were caused by the Royal Mail or the DWP because it provides proof of delivery within the time stated.
The decision took about a month to come back. It confirmed Mrs Mike’s benefit would continue at the highest rates possible.
So that is my advice for anybody going through the benefit review process:
- Seek expert advice on filling out the form because they must provide specific information that the DWP must see before it awards any points.
- Contact the DWP and ask for an extension on the deadline if its letter arrived late.
- Seek evidence from anybody who has experience of the claimant’s disability. The worst that can happen is they decline to provide it. Don’t be put off asking your doctor.
- When you post the form back, make sure the DWP has to sign for it to confirm that it has been received.
These are measures that work.
They deprive the DWP of any excuse to blame another organisation for delays in processing a claim.
And they ensure that your benefit payments are disrupted by any nonsense if the DWP claims that you haven’t returned your form.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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