Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Contrary to expectations I did get some mail today.

Unfortunately it was a renewal form for my disability living allowance - thirty-nine A4 pages asking me to think REALLY hard about every single day-to-day activity I can't do or have trouble doing, and then write out exactly what sort of trouble I have. Phrased exactly right so that the maximum of information is given in the boxes they give you for each section, which is an art form in itself. You're allowed to enclose extra sheets, but given the DWP's astounding lack of ability to keep track of forms (they lost my initial claim twice), I wouldn't trust them with additional paperwork unless my life depended on it.

I think it may be one of the most depressing forms on the planet. Kind of like the opposite of a CV.

The thing which bugs me most is that if I was fit and healthy, it would cause me no problems whatsoever to sit at the desk for an hour or so and carefully write out "tailored" answers in their little boxes to depict a tale of such utter woe that I would be sure to get the money.

As it is, however, I can manage one page at a time, even with help. Then I have to lie down and shut my eyes and rest for a while, except the rest I get whilst in the middle of filling in forms like this is crap rest because it's full of worry - on the one hand, I don't like to think about all the stuff I can't do, but on the other hand, if I don't fill in this form on time and I don't tell it exactly how it is, I won't get the money I need to live on (especially as all my housing benefit and stuff links into the DLA decision).

It will take me at least a week, probably two, quite possibly three, to get this form sorted out, during which time I will be extra-stressed. And then on top of that, I've got this poxy ear infection/antibiotics thing going on at the moment too.



Anonymous said...

One of your friends should be sending this post to your MP, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Social Security, or whatever it is called. Plus the local newspapers. Just to make the point about disability.

I'd offer to do it but I'm not in the UK.

Mary said...

Nah. It's just how it is. They have to make it difficult to claim benefit so that you don't do it unless you really have no other choice.

I was lucky, I got my original award without even having to go to appeal, and the five-month delay between applying and being awarded the benefit was not as bad as it could have been. There are some claimants, particularly mental health patients, who have their recovery delayed by months if not years because of DWP cock-ups or not having used exactly the right words on the form.

I'm just in a big grump because of the ear and antibiotics - my tummy gurgles and I have to shout PARDON!

The Goldfish said...

I've issued this advice elsewhere, but here it is;

1. Type and edit your answers on computer withing your own time. Explain in your answers (under "Communication") that this is what you are doing and why. Print out the answers and stick them to the form.

2. Make a complete hash of the sticking process, insuring that some of the pages are stuck together. If you can bear it, ensure you sustain a papercut so that there is some blood on the paper. Demonstrate beyond all doubt what a duffer you are.

But quite seriously, the difficulty you have filling in this form is a perfect illustration of the effects of fatigue and cognitive dysfunction. It is a point worth making (and demonstrating the "help you need" with your use of a computer - though perhaps not the blood and stuck together pages) in the form itself.

Good luck! I'm off the hook until next year. :-)

Anonymous said...

It's one of the mose obstructive, awkward and depressing forms you'll ever have to fill in. Every box has to be filled in exactly right according to their protocol and the condition has to be described in the worst possible light. You dare not put anything positive in there else it gets pounced upon and used against you. "I can *sometimes* walk to the shop 2 doors down" would stop a normally wheelchair-bound person getting a chair-related benefit, by way of example.
I know what it's like, I'm on the 3rd one now and it's like ebing forced to write a novel each and every time. The only thing I've found that helps is to photocopy (or have someone do it for you) the entire thing just before sending it off, so that you have reference for next time and if (when) they lose the damn thing, you have a back up to rely on.
Good luck, lets hope your writing arm keeps going ok.

Anonymous M

Mary said...

Well you see this is where I win - my mum used to volunteer at DIAL where part of her job was helping people fill the forms in. That means she has a better idea than most of what is relevant to put in the little boxes. She's also prepared to help me - insofar as she actually can - with the actual writing-down part.

Goldfish - with my first form then I did the answers on the computer as best I could and then mum edited them (with me, not for me) and handwrote them in. I don't know if it counts as cheating that I downloaded the form the same day I asked for a paper copy to be sent so I'd have a few day's grace to get started. As for papercuts, NOT getting them would be nice!

M - yes, I've photocopied and filed every single document I've given to the benefits agency with a note on it saying when and how it was conveyed to them (in a provided SAE, or by hand to their office, etc). With my original sicknotes then I or a friend would deliver it to them by hand AND ask the receptionist to sign and date-stamp the photocopy as a receipt. Nothing makes a phone-muppet (trying to convince you that the problem is at your end) start backtracking more than a claimant saying "well, according to my files, at time, on date, actual named person did/said THIS."

Maggie said...

You could fill in the online form - you can even download it and save on your own hard drive as you fill in the different questions.

Check out, costs (I think) £16 to access full articles for a year. Best £16 I've spent - last renewal, about 2 years ago, I used their notes on filling in the form and I got an indefinite award so was able to get a Motability car that has been an absolute godsend.

My Dad is ill in hospital (admitted Tuesday morning) at the mo, so we've had to visit on Friday morning, Monday afternoon (when he was still at home) and then to the hospital on Tuesday. I couldn't have done the second 2 trips if I hadn't got the comfortable Renault Grand Scenic - the seats are good and upright, so there isn't the probs getting in and out of low car (before I had permanant scab on scalp from consistently hitting my head on the same place getting in and out of my old car - Citroen ZX - which has been fantastic and still going strong for husband, but suspension not as good as when new!).

Good luck with filling in the form, I'll be sending you lots of positive form-filling vibes your way over the next few days/weeks!

Best wishes from brightish Liverpool

Maggie said...

Grr I left a comment and it seems to have got eaten up by the blogger comment gremlins.

Anonymous said...

Blurrghh :-). One of my friends describes it as an exam with the form being the theory and the dr visit the practical :-).

Hope it all goes AWAP (as well as poss). No wonder you're giving up on the computer for now - one of those priority things.

Hope the ear clears up soon.

Mary said...

Maggie - given the nature of the form's questions and answers I would not feel happy about emailing it, as well as the fact I trust the DWP's computer systems even less than I trust their paperwork capability!

No gremlins, I got all your comments - and thank you for all the advice. All it is, I have "comment moderation" turned on after getting quite a bit of rubbish (see this post) so when you click to publish your comment, it gets sent to my email inbox, and then I have to approve each comment before it appears on the blog. As I'm not attached to my computer 24/7 there's sometimes quite a delay before I find out that I have new comments to approve.

Thanks Vic. I've got the antibotnots and have been taking them since Tuesday night so hopefully I'll have some improvement soon - be able to stop saying "pardon" all the time. The biggest problem is it's the ear I automatically put the phone to :(

staticgirl said...

Hi there!

My dentist advised me to eat probiotic yoghurts whilst taking antibiotics so my tummy doesn't get so upset. Don'y know if you already do that but it's a good excuse for some yumminess in your life.

Love Static. xxx

Mary said...

Hey Staticgirl! Nice to see you!

The probiotic yoghurt thing never occured to me, but I guess it makes sense. I'm having quite a bit of yoghurt at the moment anyway (also soups and rice and soggy weetabix and mushed banana) because the ear thing has made that side of my jaw swell right up, and I can't chew stuff properly.

The ear is easing up though, I'm getting a full night's sleep again and it's also oozing less.