Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Error the First

Ladies and gentlemen, may I announce my first form-filling cock-up on page 11 of the 39-page Very Important Form.

Two pages, both alike in dignity layout. At the top is a question and tick boxes for Do you have problems with this? Yes/No. Then there's a largish box for "Tell us the problems you have and the help you need" and another one for "Tell us about any equipment you need and if someone helps you use this." Finally there's some small boxes for how often you have these problems/need this help, and for how long each time.

The first page is headed Getting out of bed in the morning and into bed at night. The second one is headed When you are in bed.

I very carefully and neatly started writing about the problems and techniques and equipment I use to get out of bed. I'd painstakingly written about eight lines before I had to stop. I sat with my eyes shut until I felt a bit better, then looked back down at the form and realised I'd written it all on the When you are in bed page.

I may have used interesting language.

Luckily I have plain paper and a pritt-stick which I am assured by the helpline people will be absolutely fine, happens all the time, nothing to worry about. That doesn't stop me feeling like a total wally though.

Tomorrow I'll try and sort it out. Today, I used up most of my energy going to see the doctor. I was quite nervous about this - the GP who's seen me since I was a kid is on maternity leave and the doctor who is covering for her isn't someone I'd seen before.

Doctors can be a bit funny about ME/CFS. I can't completely say I blame them - some people with ME get a bit evangelical about the whole thing, they read every bit of research and see their GPs once a fortnight and chase here there and everywhere following crazy therapies and are convinced they're allergic to The World and campaign for this that and the other to such an extent that one can't help wondering what they might achieve if they put such massive amounts of energy into something other than "illness". The trouble is, this puts people like me, who are less enthusiastically ill, at a bit of a disadvantage. I want a doctor to look at my notes, spot the diagnosis of ME/CFS and think "ah, so she suffers from mental and physical exhaustion, a certain amount of pain, sleep problems, etc," and then listen to me explain why I have come to see them, rather than think "oh god, not one of them. What wacky cure/pseudoscientific research am I going to have to hear about today?"

Luckily I don't tend to see the GP because of the ME/CFS stuff, only for acute illnesses, or at her request ("come back in 3 months for a review"), and I hope this works in my favour as establishing myself as Not A Timewaster. This particular visit was mainly about my ear now that I've completed the course of antibiotics. It's still a bit tender and itchy and, to use the new doctor's technical term after having looked in it, there's quite a bit of "green gunk" in there. Lovely. Ear drops and more pills, and come back to see her in three or four weeks.

She seemed nice, so I braced myself and told her the little worry that has been on my mind - as part of the DLA renewal, there are forms sent to your GP to fill out, which isn't a problem for my regular GP who has known me for ages, but might cause a hiccup for someone who's only ever seen me for six minutes about an ear infection. She smiled and said she'd already had one of those for another patient already, and what she would like to do is, when she gets the form, call me in for a long appointment to go through it and dig up any information that isn't readily available in my notes. So there's another big sigh of relief.

In other news, I've broken my kitchen. One of the drawers (the cutlery drawer to be precise) has come apart, not badly or irreparably, but the side pieces of chipboard that had been glued together are no longer together. Suggestions about the best product to fix it with are welcome.


kate said...

I'd go for superglue.
And I just wanted to add that I think your post about blue badges illustrates perfectly why you must grin and bear it and fill in a 39 page form, and why this must be verified by a GP - because there are always twats that will abuse the system.

Mary said...

Yeah - and although it's a pain in the neck, I don't begrudge the form or anything, after all it would be pointless if the form was only "Are You Disabled Y/N? Would You Like Some Money Y/N? Please fill in your bank details here..."

The trouble is that the system has been getting bigger over the years. So many pages and verifications have been added that I reckon in a lot of cases we've got to a point where it would be quicker, cheaper and easier for them (the DWP) and us (disabled people) if we just had a 48-hour "home" assessment, Big Brother House style, to SEE how a person copes with this and that and the other.

After all, any person sound of mind and body can fill in a form with whatever woe they want, and ham it up for ten minutes every so often at the doctors. :(

I have all the tea and biscuits.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree with Goldfish - the more mistakes, the better :-) - although a bugger to re-do.

I, too, have often thought that BB-style surveillance would be a lot less hassle/intrusive than the damn forms! Glad you've got your Dr on side.

Anonymous said...

I find it's much easier to fill in a version of the form online, in a word processor, and then either get out the pritt stick or attach the pages to the back of the form. Either of these approaches works well (and is acceptable to the DWP). It makes it much easier to work on the form a bit at a time and keep going back correcting stuff until it's right. It also gets round the problem that I can't write more than about a paragraph without my hands giving up.

There is the added advantage that the form will provide a first draft for your application next time around.

Mary said...

Hi Vic. I try to turn in a perfect and legible copy of all benefit forms - if I write that I have difficulty putting on my socks, then I want whoever is assessing the form to go "aha! Mary has difficulty putting on her socks!" and move on to the next bit. I don't want them to get all stressed out about the gist of what I am trying to say being obscured in crossings-out and bad handwriting so that when they have to think about the important details, it's all fuzzy.

Hi Serena, nice to meet you. I did do my first draft of answers for my original application a couple of years back on the computer. As you say, it's much easier, you can edit until you're happy with it and probably fit more words in the spaces available.

However for the form itself, my mum writes some and I write some because both of us are better at writing than we are at cutting and sticking.

I always always always keep photocopies of the forms to refer back to. I think we discussed this in a thread on a previous post. The DWP are regrettably not to be trusted.

Anonymous said...

I've just remembered something from one of my previous DLA claims, a few years ago. In the section of problems getting into or out of bed at night, it said:

"If you want to tell us about any problems you have getting into bed or out of bed during the day, use the box on page 19". Page 19 however, was concerned with Help you need when you go out during the day or in the evening, for example, help with things like social and religious activities.

I don't know about you, but my daytime rests take place at home and aren't social events! I trust they've changed the form now and corrected the page numbering.

Mary said...

Hmmm... I have quite often needed to have a rest at someone else's house, and have either been helped to get settled in a bedroom or given a blanket on the sofa, so I guess that's help I need when I've "gone out" during the day, and a concession my friends and I have to deal with. But no, I wouldn't describe it as a social or religious event. And the vast majority of my daytime rests take place in my own home, when no one else is here.

kate said...

that would be easier for you, but very expensive to send someone away from the office for 2 days!

Mary said...

Admittedly I'm looking at it from an extremely biased point of view.

But in all seriousness, once you take into account distributing the forms and the claimant's GP's time to do their form and running the helplines for people to ask questions about the forms and the organisations which will fill in forms for people who can't do it themselves and the DWP employees who check the forms and send them back if they're not 100% correctly filled in and the DWP's "approved" doctors who do the independent medical assessment (never from the same town as the claimant to avoid conflict, so there's travel costs there as well) and the panel to decide the award and the number of people who appeal...

Okay so a 48-hour assessment period would be costly too, but I think everyone who's had to do these forms has wondered to themselves, "surely there's a better way of doing this?"

Anonymous said...

Didn't make it clear I was only half serious re:mistakes :-).

Actually, I've remembered what I thought *really* would help - some sort of activity/pain/fatigue monitor which we could wear for two weeks.

kate said...

I remain unconvinced that it would be cheaper, and that money would come off the benefits you get...
I reckon half the people would complain about the intusion and about their privacy in their home too. You can't win!

Mary said...

"You can't win!"

That's 100% right. A simple summary of all my and everyone else's waffle about the benefits system is: paperwork's a pain in the neck, it's really unpleasant to have to think in detail about all the negative aspects of one's life let alone disclose it on paper to whichever stranger sees it, and it's also not nice to HAVE to claim welfare money rather than earning your own cash.

Therefore we grump about it.