The 28 days to respond are no longer ticking, and I have some space in which to get myself packed up, back home, and mentally prepared for the clock starting again.
The commenters here have been amazingly helpful and supportive, in both a friendly and a practical sense. Thank you all ever so much. Gawd bless the internets!
Even with all that support, I don't think I have the capacity to organise my own appeal. If I did, let's face it, I would go and get a job. Luckily, the job I used to have means I knew exactly who to call - DIAL. Locally, DIAL is an officeful of volunteers who have done Welfare Rights training and a whole bunch of other stuff. Their remit is to help disabled people apply for various benefits and resources, assist in appeals, and signpost any other relevant organisations. I think there are two paid full-time employees there, one of whom is the manager. I confess that during the course of my employment I met people who seemed to think the most important part of their job was getting enough Lottery funding to extend their salaries for another year or so, and maybe to employ some friends and family as well... however this is an accusation that cannot be levelled at DIAL. They were quite possibly the most dedicated professionals I met.
So, at 9:30 this morning (Monday) I phoned them. Shock number one was that the phone was answered by one of my ex-clients. After a slight tangle of emotion (happy to hear a friendly voice who recognised me, proud he's doing so well in the placement, embarassment at having to admit "no, I'm not back at work, I'm calling as a client", confusion as my whole brain/speech/style/whatever unconsciously slipped back into Job Mode as if I was calling in a work capacity, and a touch of stress about the actual DLA business) I explained the problem.
Within a few minutes I had been told clearly and concisely what the next thing to do was. I was to call the DLA, and ask for a reconsideration. They would probably offer an over-the-phone reconsideration which I must reject, because for DIAL to help me they need everything written down. I must also ask to be sent written reasons for their decision and copies of their evidence used to make that decision. Then I should call back.
There's no landline phone at Steve's and calling any government unit first thing on a Monday morning is asking to hear the ENTIRE loop of hold music several times over - if you don't start with a headache, you'll have one by the time you get through to someone. Not something to be done from a mobile. So I called mum, who knows all my details, has the letter and so on, and offered her flowers and chocolates and Pretty Things if she'd call them for me. She agreed - being the lovely mum that she is - and did.
Less than ten minutes later, she called back. I honestly thought something was wrong. I was expecting her to say "sorry, I can't spend an hour on hold to the DLA unit because my leg's been ripped off and I really must go to hospital". I think I actually answered my mobile with "what's the matter?" But no, by some unknown amazingness she'd got almost straight through.
They did try to get her to agree to an over-the-phone reconsideration, but she explained that we were getting help from an independent organisation and needed stuff in writing. So now, I'm down for a reconsideration and they are going to send all the stuff.
I called DIAL back and they said that what happens now is that my case will be passed to another "decision maker". IF the turn-down was just because of the original decision maker having a grumpy day or trying to hit a rejection target or whatever, then we should be okay, and I should get a letter awarding me DLA at whatever level. However, IF the turn-down was on the basis of that locum's half-assed GP's Report, it could be a bit more of a problem. The clock re-starts at the date of the next decision-containing letter. Upon receiving it, I have to call DIAL immediately and arrange an appointment to start an appeal.
I've decided to try and forget about it and enjoy the next couple of days, go to the Victoria for another cream tea, and go to the knitting group here on Tuesday again, and then on Wednesday get packed and ready to go home. I figure that even with the most unlikely dazzling efficiency, they won't have a whole packet of evidence and a fresh decision ready until Tuesday, and then it will take a day or two to get to the flat, and then there's no way I'll get a same-day appointment at DIAL.
I still keep feeling nauseous though.