Tag Archives: ATOS

Bureaucracy – An Update

Some time ago, I attempted to explain the form filling nightmare that is the British benefits system. To be fair, I expected to fill out forms, just not as many as I did, nor did I expect to have to prove that I was not a Big Fat Liar. Three months on, however, I am in exactly the same situation I was in before I spent a considerable amount of my time writing my name and national insurance number over and over again.

If one thought that as policy makers, governments worked at a snails pace, it appears they work at a similar speed in all other areas under their remit. I am generalising here, incorrectly of course, for our Government is great, I am only talking about the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), and then I am not even really talking about the DWP, for they have passed my claim on to a contracted out company for assessment. My claim has been under their assessment for 92 days and they are yet to have looked at it. Let this be a lesson to you all, contracting out services works!

I have applied for something called Personal Independence Payment, which replaced the Disability Living Allowance. I am well aware that I do not need the full payment this benefit can offer. I do however, find that there are certain things that cost more money, now I’m a a disabled. Travelling costs more money and it is more difficult than it was before. I get more buses because I cannot walk as far, I even venture on the tube now, even more occasionally than that, is the luxury of a taxi because I get too tired to move and my back feels like it is going to snap; these may sound like small things to you, but they cause me no end of headaches. In my flat, I cannot properly clean and I cannot carry my groceries. I attempted the Hoover yesterday, and let me tell you, today, I very much ache, despite my double dosing last night. There are small adaptations to be sure, but adaptions that cost me money that I do not have, or ruin my few good hours a day with unnecessary pain.

It is not just your money I am after. I really and truly want the government to recognise me as ‘disabled’. It would well and truly make my disabled life much easier, if I were qualify for the national concessions. It would make my bus journey safer and it would give me more energy when I am being driven. It would mean that I would not always have to say why I am disabled.

I have been waiting for the outcome of my PIP claim, before I pursue local options, as it means that I would have to jump through less hoops.

I am becoming doubtful, that I will ever receive extra support. I mean, I get up and go to work, so why do I deserve any help?

I chased my claim last week, not by actually running after it, but by picking up the telephone and calling the DWP. After fifteen minutes, I was told that my claim had been received (they do not send acknowledgments or holding letters), and it had been forwarded to ATOS to process. It was forwarded to ATOS on the 26 September. Helpfully, I was told that this was a long time ago and it should have been processed by now, for this process should take between 6-8 weeks. I was then given a schpeel about the various stages of making a claim, and I was told that they may contact my Medically Trained People (paraphrasing) to see if I am truthful (paraphrasing again). That was exactly the same information I was given in September, and given the fact I had to provide contact details, I found this statement outrageously shocking. Oh, and I may be asked to attend a physical assessment. The DWP could not help me further, so I was given the telephone number of ATOS, to hasten a response directly.

Twenty minutes later, I spoke to a lady at ATOS, who informed me that they were in fact in receipt of my claim, and I needed to be aware that when my claim is being investigated, my Medically Trained People will be contacted and I may be asked to attend a physical assessment. I asked why it was taking so long, in my polite voice, stating the timescales I had just been given by the DWP, to which the the lady became agitated. According to her, the DWP had no right to say that to me, indeed, the DWP is to blame for the whole thing, because they underestimated the number of PIP claims to be processed when they introduced the new benefit, and presumably, contracted out the service. The lady was mad. I feel I calmed her down when I said “okay”. She then decided to tell me that when my claim is processed, I should expect for my Medically Trained People to be contacted and said I may be required to attend a physical assessment. It was good to know, because I had forgotten. We finished the conversation with me being told that there is no timescale by which my claim needs to be processed, when it is, I’ll be contacted by the post.

This is my first experience of the UK benefits system. I am very impressed by it.

I just know that when I finally receive the letter, the dog will have eaten it before I have a chance to read it.

EJB x

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The Cost Of Cancer

Once you have processed your diagnosis and your treatment, it is unfortunately necessary for one to deal with the life admin. Despite being stuck in this inexplicable twilight and having to come to terms with a diagnosis and prognosis, which is beyond unfathomable, I have had to learn that life goes on. Everything that existed before, continues to tick over. Bills, pay, money, living costs; these things still continue even though you have cancer, and they have to be managed because you hope at some point, having a bad credit rating will matter again.

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I have probably spent three months with my head stuck in the sand about much of this. Coming to terms with My Myeloma was enough to manage, without me beginning to consider how I could and can financially survive, maintaining my much needed level of comfort, whilst trying to survive within this bubble of cancer. I am now at a point where I have to deal with my finances. Cancer costs, in more ways than one.

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Thankfully, I am in a better situation than most. I am an employee, and my employer does take care of people like me and even others, who could do with a healthy dose of humble pie. Last week I had an occupational health referral and the lady on the other end of the phone was most perturbed, to begin with, about me continuing to do work when I feel able to do so. It did not take me long to get across the importance and weight my work means to me in my life. Continuing with some normality, for somebody who has had a job since they were 11 years old. In those early years, staking shelves really was a hoot. Continuing my work is not just about my sanity, it is also about me, continuing to give back and support those I respect. Despite me winning her over, or appearing to win her over, there is still a high probability that in the new year, I will move onto half pay. Six months really can fly when you are not having fun. I live in Dalston and I am a civil servant. Half pay will cover my rent and approximately two third of my bills. That’s it. It will not cover my food, my online entertainment services and my occasional acts of generosity. It would be a fair assessment to say that I have discovered Ocado and high end branded teabags at the wrong point in my life.

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Ever the pragmatist, this last week, I have started to investigate what Government funds are available to me. Once again, Macmillan Cancer Support have shown their worth in this area. For somebody who has never claimed any benefits, it looks and reads like a whole load of gobbledegook. I suspect I work in the right Government department, because the Department of Work and Pensions would be lost on me. I am surprised so many people are actually in receipt of benefits. The forms are endless. Take the Disability Living Allowance, the form, for which I could get Β£20 per week, is 42 pages long and has to be accompanied by evidence that I am sick and a list of things that I can and cannot do including the number of meals I can cook myself in a week. Crucially, microwaveable meals do not count as cooking. Phew. I am also going to apply for a Blue Parking Badge, just to save my legs and back on the occasions when I am am able to go to a shop and somebody has a car. Then the worst case scenario, is applying for Housing Benefit, if I do end up on half pay. I haven’t even begun to look at that form yet. Thank goodness for the welfare state.

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When I was first diagnosed, I thought I would end up saving money. In reality,this has not happened. I took a slight pay cut because I am not able to do some add on work, and in these dark times, sometimes, just sometimes, I just need a little pick me up. Some lipstick, some food or a taxi. Just things to make my life easier and keep me sane. I imagine these little perks will have to stop in 2013.

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Everything costs. Everything.

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Just keep paying your taxes people, because out there, there are some people like me, who actually need the help, and I am not even thinking about the NHS right now although clearly, I need that little beauty too.

EJB x

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