So, we got the forms and I spent years having to fill out all kinds of paperwork so we must nearly be there?
Firstly the DLA form itself. Only took 5 days for it to arrive. Only? Well this was their super fast service so goodness knows how long it would have taken by 'normal service'. I can only think that they must have been overstocked because rather than just sending me one form two arrived (with a third to arrive a few days later). Well I suppose it's better that than nothing.
So what is the form? Well it's 40 pages long for a start. Fortunately the language isn't too hard (indeed it has a 'Plain English Commission' stamp on the back) but the form itself is a nightmare.
First problem – it is blatantly written with physical rather than mental problems in mind. It is simply not appropriate for mental health sufferers at all.
Second problem – it is far too intrusive. I'm sorry but to judge whether someone needs help I see absolutely no reason why the department of Works and Pensions need details of what drugs are prescribed and at what dosage. It's not as though the forms go to a doctor to be judged – they simply go to someone who follows a form and awards 'points'. And we're only on page 4.
However there is a much bigger problem than that – and that's the fact that my son simply couldn't fill in the form alone. Not only is it a lot of pressure for him to fill in a detailed form correctly, but it's also a very harrowing experience.
His schizophrenia results in him suffering from extreme paranoia and one of the most difficult things in the world for him to do is talk about himself, his feelings about things and their effect. Not only is the form pressing him to relive anything and everything that he finds difficult but also there's the detail. Can't prepare food yourself – well how often and how many minutes each day do you need care with that. Etc etc etc down to how often do you go to the toilet each day!
Fortunately we had the extra form so rather than having to sit next to each other leaning over one form (which he would find incredibly difficult) we were able to sit comfortably with a form each so I could help him fill it in. After an hour the form was done, but that wasn't the end of it.
As I said one of the problems with this form is how he had to relive a lot of difficult things, and more to the point think about what he had problems with. Now surely it's obvious to anyone that making someone suffering from paranoia go through that is a bad thing? And it was.
He changed. For maybe a week he was still affected by filling in the form. He was subdued (more than normal), he was strangely distant, and he had a lot of problems with both eating and sleeping. He has suffered eating disorders before (due to paranoia about the food) and I have to be very careful with him and food but for the best part of a week I was worried that having to think so much about what problems he had was going to be disasterous for him.
Fortunately it wore off and he's back, but how can I explain the worry that I went through whilst he was 'down', let alone what it did to him? Why the hell does someone who is to all intents and purposes completely incapacitated have to go through this? Surely there should be an easier way, especially as he's known to his GP, local Mental health unit, the head Psychologist locally, etc etc. Why can't their simply be a brief form for his GP to sign? I mean as changes to the NHS are going to leave funding in the hands of GP's surely they are trustworthy enough to comment on the disability levels of their patients?
That's just one benefit, now we have another form to fill in for another benefit. I haven't had the guts to even open the form yet because I'm afraid of what we'll have to go through; and also that they want him to be seen by an independent doctor to 'judge' him. How dare they, really how dare they! It took him three months of intensive therapy from a wonderful psychologist to even be able to talk in her presence yet he will have to go and see a stranger!
Oh yes, I didn't mention how long it will take to get an answer re his DLA. Obviously with his benefits being stopped by someone nameless for some unknown reason they'll sort this out quickly. Obviously. Nope – it will take up to three months!
Thank you so much, DWP, for cocking up his benefits in the first place then causing so much disruption and pain in correcting YOUR errors.
Remember – 3 times as much in benefits is unclaimed as is taken in mistakes/fraud. There's a reason many people just don't apply for benefits that they are fully entitled to – it's simply too much for some to actually go through with and that is a disgrace.