“It’s not enough that they’re cruel, they’re also incompetent with it and that makes it so much worse.”
My ex said that about the DWP sometime last year. I can’t remember over what, which is a worrying sign of how often they cause their victims stress and upset.
I’m still in pre-appeal limbo as far as PIP is concerned (occasionally sending them new and relevant letters from docs/specialists). But now my WCA has come up, and I’m having to try and deal with both benefits being “tested” at once.
My Work Capability Assessment was scheduled for the afternoon of the 11th of November. This didn’t happen. As soon as I got the letter with the date of my assessment, I called to request transport as it would be just too sensible for the assessment centre to be near an accessible station. I was told I needed a doctor’s letter for this. Fine. It took about a week and a half to secure an appointment, get the letter written up, and have it faxed over to the DWP, and then I called to see if it had been received. It had, but then I was told for the first time “We need three weeks to process it”. BUT I ONLY RECEIVED THE LETTER THREE WEEKS BEFORE THE APPOINTMENT DATE! They said they’d try to prioritise it, but the day before my assessment I was told that “it still hasn’t been checked by a medical professional”. That’s right, it requires a “medical professional” to read a letter stating that I can’t walk safely right now and can’t use stations without level access therefore can I please have a taxi to the assessment. My appointment was cancelled with authority, and I spent the day of the 11th a mess, full of anxiety and adrenaline built up for nothing, with no outlet, panicking that my new WCA and PIP appeal would be on the same day and both would therefore be cancelled. (DWP stress does interesting things to anxiety disorders.)
The DWP employee on the phone had been uncharacteristically reassuring, promising to phone me back personally when he heard any news of my rescheduled appointment. Any reassurance quickly dissipated from my mood when I got a form two swift and efficient days after my assessment should have been (how come they’re always quick with the bad things and not the things we need?). The form had questions (here paraphrased but not exaggerated): 1. Why didn’t you attend the assessment we had prearranged either by letter or by phone with you? 2. Why did you not let us know you could not attend your assessment as soon as you found out that you could not go?
The accusatory tone of the questions sent me into a spin. I felt like even though I could write “My assessment was cancelled by someone in your office on 10/11 because appropriate transport could not be arranged in time”, the wording still made it sound like it was my fault, and as one of thousands of claimants flailing around in the huge system designed to fuck them over, why would they believe me? Anxiety through the roof.
That afternoon I got a phone call from Frank, the kind DWP employee. As promised, he had called to check up on me and update me on the situation. I told him about the form, and he told me it was an automated letter, in this case an error and not to send it back. Okay then, I had a minor meltdown over nothing. Also would I like a normal taxi, or a wheelchair accessible one?
Another few days passed and Frank called again to tell me that I would have to be seen at Marylebone, not Neasden. But doesn’t Neasden have a lift? “Yes, but it’s policy that wheelchair users have to be seen on the ground floor.” Ah, so I’m guessing there’s a lift at Neasden, but no safety plan should wheelchair users need to be evacuated.
And now I have another WCA date. December 14th. I’m calling on the 7th to make sure there’s transport in place, and I’m calling Frank directly if not.
(Postscript: They forgot to send the taxi, any taxi. When a last minute taxi did arrive, it wasn’t a wheelchair accessible one either. Depressingly predictable.)