Miriam’s letter poignantly describes the sorts of battles disabled people face every day in our country… this is our reality:
Dear Mr Cameron
On 16th August 2006 I was judged to be sufficiently disabled to warrant being awarded the higher rate mobility component and lower rate care component of Disability Living Allowance, indefinitely as my condition is not curable. I have severe Peripheral Vascular Disease. I was also in receipt of Incapacity Benefit at that time.
Within a few months it was decided, unbeknownst to me, that in fact I should have the middle rate care component. However, whoever was to have updated the records, forgot to tick some box somewhere and as a result the decision, though made, wasn’t acted on. This error came to light approximately a year or so later. The relevant department was more than willing to acknowledge that the award should have been back-dated. It was also willing to accept that it was at fault for not correctly updating the records at the time the original decision was made. It claimed, however, that as the error was over a year old, it would not pay the backdated benefit that would have been my due.
I have had to face ATOS and the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). I could not attend the local assessment centre as it is not wheelchair friendly. I was threatened with the loss of my sole source of income. I informed them that I did not refuse to undergo an assessment but that I could not attend the centre. I was left to wonder whether they would just stop my benefits until, just a week before the day I was due to attend the centre, they finally agreed to visit me at home. Mind you, I had to provide a letter from my doctor confirming that I could not attend the centre and I had 24 hours to provide the letter. After another lengthy conversation it was eventually agreed that I could fax the letter and I was provided with a fax number.
My surgery faxed the letter over. Thankfully, I checked to make sure ATOS had received the fax containing the letter as, despite my surgery having faxed it, they claimed not to have received it. So I asked my GPs’ office manager whether she would fax it again while I was on the phone to ATOS. This time, they received it. A few weeks later a doctor came to the house and I had my medical assessment, following which I was confirmed as being eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
A mobility scooter I bought with funds I had saved was wrecked by a man who was angry. The criminal damage ended up in court. The man was found guilty and I was awarded compensation for what effectively served as my legs – the paltry sum of £80, of which eventually I received only £75, as for some reason “administration” meant I had to forego £5 of the compensation. I suggest you try to buy a mobility scooter that can cope with the hills of Brighton for £80! I ended up having to save again for a considerable amount of time to replace the mobility scooter.
Then a young man decided to steal my car, just a couple of hours after it came back from its second MOT. I never saw the car again. The young man was found guilty and ordered to compensate me for the loss of my car – the paltry sum of £200, a sum I have yet to receive though the order was made in March of this year, which was, just as a matter of interest, 42 weeks after my car was stolen. Another interesting fact is that the compensation I was awarded was £38 less than I had paid to get the car through its MOT.
Had either man broken my legs, making it impossible for me to move around outside independently, the matter would have been dealt with differently. But your courts of law regarded my mobility scooter and my car as some bits of machinery. Victim Impact Statement? Utterly disregarded, as was the fact that both crimes effectively left me housebound, increased my dependency on others and doubled my weekly outgoings as a result. One of your Conservative MPs agreed to look into it. After months of unsatisfactory exchanges, in which Simon Kirby was silent except for when directly asked, I finally managed to get hold of the copies of his efforts on my behalf – a series of extremely garbled emails addressing nothing.
Then yet another letter from ATOS, informing me that unless I return the questionnaire by 7 July my benefits as a severely disabled individual will cease – except that surprisingly, there was no questionnaire. Yet more phone calls, chasing this questionnaire which eventually arrived. I answer the questionnaire. I post the questionnaire. On the 28th of August, I prepare to pay some outstanding bills only to discover that my ESA has ceased. It is the bank holiday weekend and so I have to wait till the following Tuesday only to hear that my sole source of income has ceased, as ATOS claim not to have received the questionnaire.
No ifs, no buts. Just cut off everything. No warning, no appeal, nothing. As a severely disabled individual I have to start the entire process of registering a new claim. I have to go through a period of a minimum of three months awaiting an assessment with ATOS. I have to apply for sick notes. I have to apply for housing benefit or risk losing my one bedroom residence.
Mr Cameron, I refuse! I will carry on with my life and do the things I can for as long as I can. I will use my phone, till it gets cut off. I will buy my food, till I can’t pay for it anymore. I will stay in this house, till they evict me. And once they evict me, I will leave. I’ll trundle in my wheelchair till it stops and there I will sit till it is all over. I’ve fought all my life – to look after my brothers while mum was at work; to stick by my children when their father walked out. I studied, worked and volunteered. I fought. I give up!
If David Cameron – or anyone else – wishes to contact Miriam, please use the contact form at https://janeyoung.me.uk/contact/ and include the name Miriam in the text box; your message will then be passed on…