Tuesday, June 07, 2005

So much for schedules...

I had it all timetabled out, got a new journal for the purpose - and end up spending all day in bed, when I wasn't on the toilet that is.

My throat is a raw mass of disgusting ulcers, it's so bad I couldn't swallow when I woke up - and there is so much cattarh down there I'm having difficulty breathing too.
*sigh* On top of that, I'm soooooo thirsty! I've managed to get through an entire bottle of cordial in one day - those things normally last me at least 2 weeks! and as if that's not bad enough, approximately 5-10 minutes after having a drink, I'm on the fecking toilet!

I ache like you wouldn't believe, the back of my mouth and throat feel like I have razors embedded in it that scrape the tissue when I swallow, I keep getting sinus headaches and feeling dizzy.

I'll be glad when I have this gastro endoscopy! at least then they can sort out whatever it is thats causing all this excess acid, wind and nausea. Perhaps it'll cut down on the amount of ulcer attacks I get as well.
*sigh* I guess I'll just have to try and stick to my timetable as much as possible, I need to get back to work. I'm sick of having to deal with the council with regards my benefits.
It may be a little harsh but I've sent them this letter:

To Whom It May Concern,

I am writing to you in complaint with regards to my housing/ council tax benefit (Benefits no. ########.)

I have repeatedly given you all the information that you have requested. You had already received my claim for housing/ council tax benefit on 22/09/04. It then took until 11/01/05 for you to process this claim because somehow my information was getting misplaced between the customer service booth in the town hall and your processing department – again, in the town hall.
This happened on so many occasions that I requested an explanation for the receipts I was being issued from the front desk detailing what information I had provided each time.

I was told that it was policy to ensure that I would not be penalised if I could prove I had given the information in at the time it was requested - but that I would still need to bring it in again as this information still needed to be seen by the person processing my claim.

It seems to me that perhaps a more efficient system needs to be put in place as the current one is obviously somewhat lacking.

On 17/03/05 I received a new claim form from yourselves with a request to fill in and return as soon as possible in order for you to check the details of my existing claim.
On
18/03/05 I did this - along with all requested bank slips, wage slips and proof of incapacity benefit. I know this because I am looking at my receipt as I type.

On
16/04/05 you sent me a BU sus1 in which you informed me that my landlord had indicated I was in arrears and that you were suspending my benefit as of 28/03/05.
I telephoned your department and was told that if an error had been made my landlord would need to write to you or I could provide proof in the form of receipts or bank statements.


On
25/04/05 my landlord did write and tell you an error had been made but instead of reinstating my benefit I received another letter from yourselves.

On 13/05/05 you sent me a BU sus(VF)1 in which you requested information of a cheque paid into my account, there was no mention made of the letter dated 16/04/05 yet the date of my claims suspension was exactly the same - 28/03/05.

If both enquiries were from the same information – why were both requests not made at the same time? It seems incredibly inefficient to drag out a claim in this manner. Surely by asking for all the necessary information at once it could be settled once and for all, thereby freeing up time for another claim to be dealt with.


I made an appointment to speak to one of your advisors on
23/05/05 I brought the entire file of correspondence between myself, my landlord and your department. This included payslips, bank statements, receipts, Dr's letters and all paperwork pertaining to the incapacity benefit and my illness in general.
This is what the CSO (Jackie Rimmer) wrote on the counter report:

Miss Stringer has called to the counter to chase up her claim which has been suspended.
We wrote to her on
13/05/2005, BU sus 1 letter, stating that she has not returned her claim form.
This was received in our office on
18/03/2005.

We also asked Miss Stringer about details of a cheque for £980.00 that was paid into her bank account on
11/01/2005 - this was a housing benefit payment from us -

We have now received all the information we have requested and have proof of her incapacity benefit.

Miss Stringer is not in arrears with her rent at the moment.

Would you please re-instate this claim as a matter of urgency as this matter is causing her a great deal of stress.

So you can imagine my surprise this morning when I opened a letter from yourselves dated 31/05/05 - a BU Inter(VF) Follow-up.

It starts by thanking me for returning the form you sent on 14/03/05.
Yes, that would be the form you originally claimed not to have received when you sent me form BU sus(VF)1 dated 13/05/05 as stated on the above extract of the customer services counter report.

It goes on to state that you need more information from me.
Despite that same report stating that:

We have now received all the information we have requested.

Nothing had been previously requested of me regarding the DLA and as it is usually disregarded as income by every other benefit I was not expecting any such request for information at all.

Since a request has been made however, once again I have to query why this was not previously asked of me.

Why is resolution of my claim being strung out in such a way?

At this moment in time I’m afraid I cannot give you this information as I have not yet received notification from the DWP regarding my claim for DLA. Nor do I have any idea when I will hear back from them.

What I can tell you is that every time there is a set back to my claim causing me stress and upset, it sets my recovery back by weeks if not months.
I have no problem with the staff on the front desk – Both Bob Pierson and Jackie Rimmer were courteous, understanding and made sure to go over everything in detail to ensure there were no errors.

It appears to be the processing department who find it difficult to do the same.

I would like you to bear in mind that I am not claiming benefit because I wish to avoid work, I am claiming benefit because I have paid my taxes and my national insurance so that should illness strike (as it so obviously has) and I am unable to work I would at least have the ability to keep a roof over my head!
I was forced to leave a well paying job and end up in a large amount of debt due to illness - the joy I feel every time I see my bank balance now is just indescribable - that 90% drop in income just does it for me every time!
Though to be fair, in such a busy department perhaps it has escaped your notice that I am not claiming benefits for kicks.

The fact that I cannot at present lead a ‘normal’ life is not helped by the fact that every time I have to make a phone call to your selves or organise for friends or family to accompany me into town so that I can try to chase up my claim, I am left physically, mentally and emotionally wrung out.

I can only assume that either I have been singled out for some kind of harassment or that your processing department is in fact grossly incompetent and every claimant has to undergo this drawn out ‘procedure’.
Needless to say, neither scenario reflects well upon your selves.

I would appreciate it if something could be sorted out as soon as possible so that I can concentrate on returning to a state of health conducive to work.

However, if this state of affairs continues I shall have no choice but to look at what legal or media based alternatives I have to encourage you to organise your department properly, because at present I am hard pressed to understand just what I have paid my national insurance contributions for.

Yours sincerely

Vicky Stringer.

I actually emailed this to them on friday, no doubt it will be ignored - but that's ok, I fully intend to both fax and post a copy tomorrow and I'm going to pop into the offices on wednesday to hand one in personally. Whilst awaiting some kind of response I also intend to go to the C.A.B. in Swinton with mum on Friday - I'm getting just a bit sick of all the fucking around from them.

I even recieved another letter this morning stating that they've recalculated my benefit due to a change in my income, my questions are "what change? when?"
If I were that incompetant at my job I'd have been fired by now.
I certainly wouldn't have the company holding the position open for me after nearly a years sickness! Especially when they are fully aware that I still have no estimate on the time it will take before I'm fit for work again.
If I wasn't already ill the stress of dealing with the benefits department at the town hall would certainly make me so!
Bastards.

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