Monday, 10 March 2014

I'm applying for ESA.

I thought I'd document the process as one week in I am already astounded.

Disclaimer: I am no longer a government employee therefore this is no ones business but mine. 

Monday 3rd March
Called ESA claim line and answered questions about employment, sickness and background. Call took 35 minutes. It should have cost the price of a local call but I used no more 0870 to find a number I could use from my mobile as that meant it was a free call.

Wednesday 5th March
Letter received from Preston benefit centre telling me my medical certificate that I sent them has run out and can I provide another one from 3 December to 9 December 2013. I have to send them another certificate by the 10th December if I am still sick. If I do not this will result in my payment being stopped or suspended. 

I have sent no certificates and am at a loss as to how you can suspend or stop something hasn't been started yet. As to how I go back in time to submit a med cert by 10th December, I am at a loss.

Text message received on same day saying my application for ESA has been successful.

Thursday 6th March
Letter received from Preston Benefits Centre telling me I must fill in a questionnaire which I don't have yet. 
Also included is the notification of a decision that I cannot back claim ESA to 13/11/13 which is when my SSP ran out. I cannot appeal this despite the reason I did not make the claim and get involved with this whole rigmarole being closely tied to why I am claiming ESA in the first place. 

Friday 7th March
Another letter from Preston Benefit Centre. It informs me that I will be paid ESA from 3rd December 2013. It tells me what I am entitled to. It's not a lot but I am claiming contributory component only as my parter works. It's a good thing he's not a kind man and not abusive or prone to withhold money for any other reason. This isn't the problem. The problem is that despite working at times 3 jobs at once for most of my 20's and never having claimed any benefit from anyone ever in my entire life, I am only entitled to one years worth of ESA on contributory level unless I am placed in a 'support' group. The letter doesn't inform me what a support group is. It does of course make mention of filling out the questionnaire and attending a work capability assessment. 

I am confused as to why when I have been paying more than my fair share of NI for most of my life I am only now entitled to one years help back when I really need it. 

Monday 9th January 
Two letters this morning. Let's start with the hilarious one. It is 16 pages of data, most of it a direct copy of the info I gave on the phone exactly one week ago. Except it days that 2 sections of information are missing, tax and employment. I flick through and can see no obvious gaps in the form, but the letter assures me that there is missing information in this personal statement I have made. So I ring up yet another 0845 number which is costing me money I don't have. 

Apparently it's okay. They now have this information. And this is where I'm mightily confused. Because surely in order to tell me I only qualify for contributory ESA for one year, you have to have my tax details? This is all somewhat confusing as the letter is date stamped 3rd March. It's taken a week to get to me which is confusing as Preston is in the same county. Who knows what order it issued itself incorrectly on. It also asks for, yep you guessed it, a medical certificate from the 3rd December. And pay slips. And and my SSP1. Which was issued by DWP. And which I now need to send to DWP.

This letter contains something interesting. Under Your Declaration it states:

  • Your doctor, or any doctor who has been treating you, being informed about the Secretary of State's determination on your limited capability for work
I have two questions. What qualifies the Secretary of State to assess whether I am capable for work and why does he get to override the decision of my doctor? And if the medical certificates which my doctor signs to say I am no fit for work are not to be considered worth the paper they are written on, since they can be over ridden, please tell me why I've been asked for the same medical certificate 3 times and counting.

Because, wait for it, another letter arrived this morning.

It says my last medical certificate ran out on 9th December. Despite, as I am sure I don't need to remind you, them sending me a letter 4 days ago telling me it was actually from the 3rd December they needed the medical certificate for.

At the bottom, under Important in type writer font it informs me:
If we do not receive a medical certificate or a reply to this form by 23rd December 2013 we will stop your benefit and you may have to attend a medical examination arranged by the Department of Work and Pensions.

The letter is dated 5th March 2014.

I need that time machine again.

I now have 5 letters. One request for a phone call which was actually unnecessary. A text message which told me I was entitled to ESA but no more and as such rendering it useless and a waste of money to send. One 16 page print out which didn't need to happen. 3 separate requests for the same medical certificate all required by December sometime and all with accompanying freepost envelopes. Which is very sweet and all but a freephone number would be sweeter. Time and money wasted on both sides definitely a factor.

Then there's the fact that the thing they've asked me for 3 times by their own admission is completely worthless as the Secretary of State is a better judge of my current state of health than my doctor is. Apparently.

And I'm knackered and confused and cross already and I haven't even got to this fabled questionnaire yet.

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