Saturday, June 30, 2007

No worries

With the DLA crud dealt with, I've been just taking it easy, relaxing, trying to recoup some energy, that sort of thing. You remember I said it's been like dealing with an exam? Well, this is that big knackered empty feeling afterwards except the knackered part is multiplied by "I have long-term lurgy and have been overdoing it".

So there's been lots of blank time, just lying still and not thinking about anything at all. And there's been a lot of gently vegetating in front of the computer. Well, in the vicinity of the computer. In fact I've spent a good deal of time gazing at the patterns of light on a can of furniture polish that's on my desk. And watching my Sunshine Buddy - very soothing.

I've been particularly enjoying watching a lot of stuff on youtube by Tripod, a trio of comedy musicians from Australia. Particular favourites include Gonna Make You Happy for all the other Girlfriends of Geeks out there (you have to listen at least until 1:08, the whole thing is 3:52), Ghost Ship which is just very silly indeed, or this relaxing little bit of politics.

Those who know me will not be surprised to hear that my favourite is Scod, the one with the dark hair and glasses. Me and geeks with dark hair and glasses, it's just this thing and there seems to be very little I can do about it. Don't worry though Steve, you don't need to learn guitar.

Knittingwise, I've got my next project lined up - a hat for Sister Dearest - and she has picked a pattern and told me what colour she wants. I've got the needles and I'm just waiting on the wool. For some crazy reason, charcoal-coloured 100% merino wool yarn is tricky to get hold of in June. She wants black flowers embroidered on it. So if anyone has a handy end-of-a-ball of black yarn in their stash that they want rid of, I have a use for it. Also, I would like to flag my utter amazement at the knitting dedication of Dominocat.

Finally, it just wouldn't be a Saturday if I hadn't recieved some rubbish from the Department of Work and Pensions that requires action or query but that I won't be able to do anything about until Monday morning.

Luckily it's not a "worry" thing. There's a letter from the DLA department reminding me that I had said I had additional information to submit for my reconsideration and that if this is the case, I must post it to them ASAP (hurrah!) and one from I'm not sure what department, but not DLA, that starts with "thank you for informing us of your recent change in circumstance" which, ???!?!? because I haven't actually informed them of any changes, being as how nothing has, you know, CHANGED as yet. I hope it's just a pre-emptive thing because my original award of DLA expires on August 8th. If it is, that's a relief, because it means there was actually a department that were on the ball and I don't have to go see them on August 7th and say "ummmm...", but it is always as well to check these things, and write down the name of the person who explains it to you.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

and now we wait

All the DLA stuff is now compiled, copied, and sent. Well, I say "all". They never did get round to sending me the copy of the medical report I'd asked for - in fact all they sent me was that half-baked Written statement of reasons and that took them two weeks. Still, it's something.

So they have a copy of the specialist report, and they have a copy of the certificate from my Incapacity Benefit renewal which confirms that the level of disability (by which I mean, the extent to which my condition hinders me from doing things in a usual manner) that I described on those forms was consistent with the medical evidence and is unlikely to change for a couple of years yet. They have a copy of a statement from Steve about my care and mobility needs, they have a description of what happened with That Locum (a considerably shorter, calmer and more polite version, but containing all the important bits). And, they have the step-by-step refutation of the ridiculous claims they made on the Written Statement of Reasons.

It is all immaculately calm and polite, full of "I ask you to bear in mind" and "obviously you have already read (blah) but I would like to reiterate" and as many references as I could make, all prefixed with "please see (evidence)".

A slightly interesting exchange when I went to the Post Office. I put the envelope on the scales and explained that I needed it to reach its destination within the week, preferably sooner, and that I needed proof of it having arrived and been signed for and accepted by the recipient. The gentleman on the other side of the counter nodded and asked me to pass the envelope through, he took it, looked at the address, and chuckled. Apparently the DLA address is rather notorious to frontline Post Office staff. The DWP "lose" an awful lot of stuff, it seems. I was worried that it might be a little bit paranoid to insist on proof of receipt as well as proof of delivery. Turns out it's the only really sensible way, especially if you've got a time limit.

There is only one thing I still have to do, and that's go to the council and get them to change the bit on my housing benefit that says "Disabled (in receipt of DLA)" to "Disabled (in receipt of long-term Incapacity Benefit)". This won't make any difference to what I receive, but will cover the gap between my original DLA award expiring and the renewal being approved, or indeed if the renewal isn't approved.

I'm not sure whether I want to try and do this by letter or in person. In person is trickier, and you don't have black-and-white photocopied evidence of what was stated - which has caused trouble for me before with them. But letters often don't get read properly, little things like they don't notice words like "not" or "no longer" - which has also caused trouble for me before with them.

I also know that I should be making a complaint to the DLA about the problems I've had, but part of me is worried this could be detrimental to my reconsideration (I don't believe in the Chinese Wall) and a large part of me doesn't want to have anything more to do with the department than I can possibly help. Your thoughts, as ever, are welcome.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

One day to go...

... no, not that benefits rubbish, I'm talking about the important things in life. Kingdom of Loathing, a game to which Steve, myself, and several of our friends are utterly addicted to, is having a major overhaul.

Very Brief Explanation for Non-KoLers:
KoL is a text-based online role-playing game which draws heavily on the sort of humour found in Monty Python, Discworld, or The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, as well as being full of "references" to songs, novels, adverts, historical events and that sort of thing. You create a character, you adventure in various zones, you gain experience, and as you gain experience you are able to do more things, visit more zones, wield bigger weapons and so on. Helpfully, you have a limited number of "adventures" per day, so you can't just sit there playing it for hours on end. You start as a Level One character, and then for each level you attain you are given a new quest, up until Level Eleven, when you are tasked with hunting down the Naughty Sorceress.

A month ago, the warning was given that "NS13 is nigh!" NS13 is a project that the dev team have been working on for a while. Primarily, it means the quest to hunt and defeat the Naughty Sorceress is being moved from Level 11 to Level 13, with new quests being inserted for Levels 11 and 12. There's also going to be about 30 new zones, 400 new items, 100 new monsters, and twenty new trophies. Certain aspects of gameplay are going to be tweaked about. Most importantly, there have been no full descriptions of what is staying the same and what is changing. There's been hints here and there, but nothing definite beyond what you've just read.

There is now One Day To Go until NS13.

So yes, anyway, the last month has seen players in the Kingdom trying to get ready. Some have been farming for meat (the in-game currency), some have been trying to get trophies that are considered likely to be unobtainable after NS13, some are stockpiling goods, while some are trying to liquidise their in-game assets. Some have just been repeatedly ascending (explanation here if you want it) as fast as they can.

My own strategy has been a combination of these - I've picked up a couple of trophies, amassed a reasonable amount of meat and goods, and made sure that both the characters I play are up to level 13. At this point I should make clear that by the standards of the forums, I am a very distinctly casual player.

Rollover occurs at 3.30am UK time - in other words, that's when the in-game Today becomes Yesterday and Tomorrow becomes Today. I'm not planning to wait up, but I bet a lot of people are. KoL's load is spread over eight servers but tomorrow, odds are they are going to be creaking with the strain of people bouncing in to explore the new content.

It is only a game, but it's one I enjoy, and have done for over a year. I'm currently somewhere between apprehension about the new game mechanics, a hint of annoyance at having my cheese moved, but overwhelmingly, excitement at the idea of lots of new content to explore.

Which is better than spending the evening stressing over my draft response to the Department of Work and Pensions.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

DLA503a, "Written Statement of Reasons"

It arrived in the post this morning, four sides of A4 that it took them 14 days to print out and put in an envelope for me. This supports my theory that the Department of Work and Pensions only ever send letters like this out to people to arrive on a Saturday, when the helpline is closed. They would have sent it sooner, but then it would have arrived at a time when the helpline was available and that would just be too sporting.

One side is just the usual "If English is not your first language..." and "we would welcome any comments, good or bad..." and about two sides were this information which is pretty general knowledge, it's the simple list of what they ask you to think about when you are considering whether you should apply for DLA or not.

And four paragraphs pretended to explain why I was not awarded DLA. It's not really very helpful stuff though. It says things like "you can cope with all tasks for preparing a cooked main meal for one person if you have the ingredients", but it doesn't say why they think this, you know, like "your response to section X indicates that..." or "your GP tells us...". This statement, and others like it, lead me to suspect that they didn't even read my answers on the form. In fact at the moment I'm feeling rather hard pushed to create a response beyond simply repeating the stuff that's already on my forms that they just obviously haven't paid attention to.

There's also a sentence that doesn't really make sense - I can only imagine that while copy/pasting standard responses, someone made a mistake, because it reads:
"You may require help at time with bathing but your conditions are considered to be reasonable well controlled with your levels of medication taken." (all spellings and punctuation reproduced exactly). I'm not sure why having a bath has any connection to the effect my medication has on my condition. I have No Idea how to respond to this statement. Ideas welcome.

The reason I'm blogging when I should be working on my response, is because after a couple of sensible, thought-out responses, referencing evidence on my forms and the report from the specialist clinic and so on, I got to a point where all I could think of to type was "read my goddam forms, you morons". I doubt this would go down well with the reconsideration lot.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Day 15

Firstly, KNITTING - the needle case is complete!

My sewing is not the neatest in the world, but I would describe it as "passable". I don't look at the finished product and think "dear god, the Littlun has snuck in during the night and tried to finish it off for me" so it's all okay.

The Fair Isle pocket looks rubbish, the tension is crappy so at one edge of the pocket the green Vs are too big and on the other edge they're too tiny. But at least I now know that doing Fair Isle drives me bonkers and doesn't look good on completion, so I can avoid it from here on in.

The beaded pocket, on the other hand, looks lovely. I'm quite proud of that. Plus, I'm proud of the sheer acreage and variety of knitting that I have actually accomplished. If you'd told me when I started, back in March, that I would be able to do that by June, I would have laughed at you.

I have a sort-of-scarf to keep me occupied for those moments when I just need to do a little knit, it's just straightforward garter stitch with a multicoloured yarn. My next project, however, is going to be a requested hat for Sister Dearest. I showed her the needle case and she liked the embroidered pocket, plain stocking stitch in a DK wool/cotton blend. It is very nice to the touch. I asked about colours and she said she wanted charcoal, to go with her long winter coat - which is also charcoal, knee length, very suitable for work or funerals, you know the thing. But she also said she wanted a bobble on it. In Brain Of Mary, "charcoal", "smart coat", "winter" and "hat" go together fine, but with a bobble? Personally, I would have thought a hat with a bobble should be done in funky, fun, bright colours to contrast with the austerity of the long, dark coat. Still, mine is not to reason why with someone like her. So, if anyone has a simple pattern for a single-colour bobble hat using DK yarn, then do flag me.

Secondly, the DLA debacle.

Today's post arrived and there was still nothing from the DWP, so I phoned up to ask what is going on.

A friendly lady named Linda went off to check, and then came back and told me that:
- A "written statement of reasons" was definitely sent in yesterday's post and so should really be with me tomorrow or Monday at the latest.
- The "Evidence", the bundle of information used to make the decision to not award DLA, arrived in their department on 11th June, to be photocopied and so on and a copy sent to me. There's no note of it having been sent on my file at this point.
- The "Evidence" will be sent separately from the "written statement of reasons".

I have no idea why it should take fourteen days to print off a copy of the reasons used to make a decision that, at the time of my request (by which I mean the time they interpreted my request correctly) was only fourteen days old. I mean, it's not like the reasons should have gone into a long-term storage vault or needed translating from Aramaic. The reasons were available on the computer on 7th June, the day I phoned. They even started trying to read the reasons out to me over the phone until I managed to explain that I did not have the capacity to take it in, remember it, or write it out as they dictated, and that therefore I needed a written version to actually look at. I can't imagine it's unusual for their clients to have difficulty dealing with important stuff over the phone.

Oh well. At least the Reasons are on the way, and at least I'm pessimistic enough to have made my own photocopy of my form before I sent it to them so I at least have one thing to refer to as I refute the Reasons.

I think once this crap has finally arrived and been dealt with, the next order of business will be a letter of complaint - not about the award or non-award of DLA, but about the barriers imposed by the system.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


According to my records...

On the 24th May I was turned down for DLA.
On the 2nd June (a Saturday) I received the letter telling me this.
On the 4th June, (Monday) my mother on my behalf asked for a reconsideration and for us to be sent copies of the reasons and Evidence used to turn down my application.
On the 6th June, the wrong forms arrived.
On the 7th June, I rang up to query this. I was told to ignore the wrong forms and assured the reasons and Evidence would be with me in 10-14 days.
On the 16th June (a Saturday), I recieved a letter confirming that I was up for reconsideration, but with no mention of the reasons and Evidence. I phoned and was told that my request for this documentation was being processed.

Today is Wednesday the 20th June. Depending on how you look at it, it's been 13-16 days since I requested the documentation relating to my claim. If it isn't here by Friday, then I have to ring them up again and attempt to be assertive. I'm not looking forward to that.

So, I'm waiting. I've done my best to clear the decks of all other claims on my time and energy, I've made sure I have plenty of food (a combination of microwave meals, pre-prepared saladyveg, fruit, juice and smoothies for healthy vits, and junk comfort food) but now I'm just tensed. I know that as soon as the paperwork arrives, I have to get working on it, and I know it's important.

It's exactly like the feeling you get before an exam, which I suppose it effectively is. Except, when I was at school and college, and I had an exam coming up, I knew when exactly it would be. I knew that on this day at this time, I would be required to walk into the exam hall and force my brain as hard as it would go for two or three hours, after which, it would all be over. So my tension was generally reserved for the four or five hours leading up to Exam Time, and maybe an hour afterwards winding back down. Which was fine. But with this, I don't know when the exam starts, and I feel like I'm not prepared for it, and instead of it being over by lunchtime it's going to be several days of sustained effort, plus, you know, ILL, with the headaches and muscle pain and nausea and whatnot.

I keep trying to sleep - I'm shattered even by my standards - but I can't, because I'm all tensed and my mind won't stop working on what they might say is a reason and how I should best argue against it.

To cap it off, today is Little Sister's birthday. I was sunshine this morning and I'm going to go and be sunshine this evening for dinner as well, and even her friends will agree that my sister is an exhausting person to spend time with, but luckily, while I'm in this kind of state, I'm not really registering what people say to me so the torrent of words should hopefully just wash right over my head (Sister Dearest, if you're reading this, you know I don't mean it nastily, but you also know it's true). On the plus side, I will be getting a really nice, home-cooked, fresh-ingredients meal, without any of the prep or clearing up, since my parents simply won't let me. I do feel guilty about it, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a nice treat.

Sorry about the grammar and punctuation in this post (nod to Dr Crippen. I know it's all over the place, but I can't make it fixed any better right now.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Nearly finished

All pockets complete!
Originally uploaded by girl_of_bats
All the knitting is now done for the knitted knitting needle case. My favourite yarn to knit with was the dark green Rowan wool cotton. The pink Rowan cotton glace, on the other hand, was horrible stuff that made my hands feel funny. I'm still undecided on the dark red "kid classic" - it's nice, but it's all too easy to accidentally poke the needle through the actual strand of yarn rather than the stitch. That's probably just a practice thing though.

The cabled pocket was the one that gave me the biggest sense of achievement. The beaded one was fun, once I'd found some appropriate beads. The stripes weren't so enjoyable, although it wouldn't have been as bad if the pocket had been more than nine stitches across - it felt like all I was doing was changing wool. On which note, it should not surprise anyone that I hated the Fair Isle pocket (pink with green dots, in the middle) with a fiery fiery vengeance and hope to get away with doing as little of that as possible in the future.

The cluttered nature of the photo is because my flat is very small. I have a bedroom, a bathroom, and a living room with a kitchenette counter. The needle case is 25inches square. Even on the tidiest of days, I do not have 25inches square of floor space in the bedroom or the bathroom, and it was pushing it to make space in the living room.

I was pleased to find that my iron still works - I haven't ironed anything since I got ill. I am very impressed that I did not burn myself or mess up the knitting with it. The inner and outer panels of the needle case fitted together nicely, which reassures me that I did it right - even though in the picture on the pattern it looks more rectangle than square. I've sewn the two panels together neatly and it looks good. Now it's just a matter of sewing on the pockets. I'm humming and hawing about whether I should stitch the pockets on using the colours used for each of them - could get tricky on the stripy pocket mind - or if I should use the remainder of the pale blue yarn.

Next project - little sister wants a hat. Unfortunately I had to put up with a certain amount of rubbish from her earlier today and am feeling less than inclined to put time and effort into such a thing. But, I have to knit something. I already feel strange not working on this...

Oh, and to whomsoever of my readers it may apply, happy father's day.

Edited 21.35 to add tags.

Monday, June 11, 2007


My stress has wound down several more notches, thanks to fantastic support from Steve, and from my family and friends here, and also (I realise this sounds cheesy) because of the blogger support.

A commenter on an earlier post linked me to Benefits And Work, and a quick Paypal of £16.50 later, there was an absolute wealth of useful information at my fingertips.

As well as all this information and support, I believe I've established the difference between a Reconsideration and an Appeal. I'm not doing an Appeal. An Appeal is a scary thing full of solicitors and panels and hearings and tribunals, yeeech. I'm doing a Reconsideration, which as I understand it, just means that a different Decision Maker will look at my case in 28 days time from when I phoned them. I can use those 28 days to submit any additional, supplemental or new evidence that I would like a Decision Maker to look at. Or not. But either way, it doesn't have to involve comprehension of legalese on my part.

I've had a good think about what evidence I would like to include that they don't already have. Here's my list:

- A step-by-step refutation of their reasons for the non-award decision ("you said [this], in fact the case is [this], as backed up by [evidence].") although I can't make a start on this until I get their written list of reasons, which could take another week from now.

- The report from the specialist ME/CFS clinic at the hospital. It's over a year old, but it includes such handy phrases as "Mary has classic chronic fatigue syndrome" as well as information about my pain and activity levels. I already have the patient copy of this document.

- A proper written explanation of the issues with the locum doing the GP's report, including a reminder that I flagged this issue at the time and well before they made the decision to not award DLA, or in other words, that I'm not making up issues because I'm all upset by their decision.

- A written statement from Steve regarding my care and mobility needs from his perspective as someone who sometimes looks after me. Mum already did one (albeit a short one), as part of my original renewal forms. I'd ask Pip too, but he's got a lot on his plate at the moment.

- The forms and GP's Report (by my actual proper GP) for my successful Incapacity Benefit renewal back in February. I have requested to be sent these, although I am warned it may take "a few days" as they have "probably gone to the storage facility already".

I also rang my GP's surgery and asked if I could have a copy of my notes for the last three years. Unfortunately the receptionist said I had to ask my GP, or in real terms, I had to ask the infamous Dr M. It was agreed that Dr M would call me back, which she did, when I was in the middle of my nap and in no position to deal with anything let alone start insisting. She told me that my notes would only be relevant if I went to an Appeal and my solicitor made a formal request for them. I do not have it in me to fight her. So I do not have access to my medical records. However, I'm toying with appropriate wording to explain in my Reconsideration covering letter that I believe there may be additional supporting evidence for my claim in my medical notes, but have been unable to gain access to them. Not sure.

Hopefully, this will be enough.

In better news...

I've finished the cable pocket on the knitted knitting needle case. Only one real hiccup, that was when I started looking at the wrong place on the page and knitted the final few rows that should have been on the Fair Isle pocket onto the end of the cable pocket. But it was easy enough to undo. Oh, and if anyone knows of an insanely simple explanation of Fair Isle online, please do recommend it in the comments.

My houseplant is still thriving. At this rate, it will see me through moving to Steve's (still no date set so don't get excited), which will be the third house-move it's done with me.

For dinner I had salad and a lasagne. Asda own-brand straightforward lasagne (in other words, not Extra Value or Low Fat or any other faff), microwaveable, £1, and it tastes bloody lovely. I would go so far as to say it's the nicest microwave lasagne I've had, and trust me, I know what I'm talking about. I shall have to buy more.

And now I'm off to bed, and I have ALL the bed to myself. Swings and roundabouts...

Thursday, June 07, 2007

... and they're off!

Ladies and gentlemen, the screwups have commenced!

The DLA unit have sent me a set of irrelevant forms - the ones for if you are reporting a change in your condition that may affect your DLA entitlement.

They maintain that these forms would not have been sent if they hadn't been very specifically asked for. They did not have an answer to "why would we have asked for the "my condition has changed" forms, when the whole point of calling you was to outline that my condition has not changed at all?" other than to insist the incompetence (or as I tactfully phrased it "a misunderstanding, a bit of crossed wires") cannot possibly have been at their end.

If there is some poor sod out there who, on Monday, requested forms DLA454 to report a change in circumstances, and has instead received something along the lines of "so you'd like us to reconsider our decision..." then I'm really sorry. I don't have it in me to concurrently run an dispute about their decision regarding my DLA award, AND a complaint.

They told me on the phone that I have four weeks in which to put together as much additional information as possible for the reconsideration. However, the Evidence they are sending (all the evidence used to make their decision and the reasons for this decision) will not be with me for another 10-14 days. So if the third of these four weeks is a Bad Week for me, I'm screwed. There is no possibility of an extension.

I've been let down by DIAL as well. Possibly they're very busy, possibly they remember me as being all capable and independent from the work days, maybe they just don't like me - but the manager phoned me back and pretty much brushed me off with "you can deal with that yourself, because it's not a full-on appeal, just a reconsideration". Oh. Sorry to have bothered them. Obviously I phoned them for the fun of it, rather than because I'm at a stage of "please, please, somebody help me, I really cannot deal with this on my own, I have no resources, I don't know what's happening, and I don't know what to do..."

With this in mind I have sent money to the folk at Benefits and Work (with thanks to an anonymous commenter on an earlier post for flagging them) so that I can look at some of their handy online resources including titles like "Appealing against a Disability Living Allowance decision".

I wish there was some way that I could just, I don't know, sell a kidney or something and have someone take over all this Aaargh-ness.

On the happier side:

I've completed the inner panel of the knitting needle case and have started on the pockets.

One of the pockets requires beads, and I've just won the perfect ones from eBay.

I also won a new top from eBay (little bit of shopping therapy a couple of days ago). The top, plus my beads, plus the postage for each, totals about £5. Bargain.

Being back home has meant popping in to see Pip and the Littlun for a cuppa. Littlun gave me kisses and cuddles. Spontaneous ones as well, not the "go give (visitor) cuddles!" kind (which always make me feel uncomfortable - kids don't HAVE to cuddle me, you know?). I also got offered a slice of apple, which was yummy, and about a third of a chocolate biscuit, but it was a bit... slimy, so I turned it down in the politest manner possible. Still, he's learning about sharing.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Stop the clock

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.

Saturday, June 02, 2007


This morning I got a phone call from my mum. In a wonderful piece of timing with me being on holiday (so I don't have my file) AND it being a Saturday (so all helplines etc are closed), a letter has turned up from the Department of Work and Pensions.

I have been turned down for Disability Living Allowance.

Not reduced, but turned down flat.

Option 1: I have magically been cured. I'll go out and get a 40-hour-a-week job now, and start living my social life to the max too. I have to go shopping now, to get some new trainers for the marathons I'll be running this summer.

Option 2: The effects the illness has on my life are the same as ever, but the discrepancies between what I wrote on my forms about my condition and day-to-day life, and what the woman standing in for "my GP" wrote on her forms, has led them to think that one or the other of us is telling porkies. Obviously people with medical degrees don't ever make mistakes or get things wrong, therefore my statements are the ones which are wrong, and I need no help whatsoever with my care or mobility needs.

I have just under a month (28 days starting from the date their letter was written) to try and sort this mess out. Steve was going to be taking me home next week anyway, but now it will be nearer the beginning of the week than the end.

1. Draft some letters to the DWP. I may be able to find some templates online to help with this once I've got my head together.
2. Contact the ME/CFS clinic at the hospital who gave me the definite diagnosis of "yes, you have classic ME" and ask if they can reassess me.
3. Contact DIAL and see if they can help me.
3(b). If DIAL can't help, call Pip and arrange for him to help me lay siege to the Citizen's Advice Bureau (unfortunately the local CAB have broken email and don't answer the phone due to terminal understaffing, so you have to go in person and a wait of four hours or more should be prepared for).
4. Go through all my accounts and carefully plan my expenditure for the next year, eg exactly how much will be needed for rent, bills, etc.
5. Learn how to knit socks.

Other thoughts:
At least I've already done this once. When I lost my job, and the lovely income that went with it, I managed to trim things down until my outgoings were essential bills (rent, council tax, electric, water, landline phone line rental) plus £15 a week for everything else - from food to transport to phone calls/internet to toothpaste to Christmas presents. It wasn't much of a lifestyle, granted, and involved a lot of Lidl's pasta, but I definitely survived and I damn well will again.

Plus, I have the long-term incapacity benefit award (as supported by Dr W...) so at least there is a fixed income I can rely on, rather than trying to live out of savings.

Forecast: Sunny spells, but with intermittent tears and mood swings for a while. Warning! Warning! Flooding may occur.