I really don’t want to talk as if I think the state or the world owes me something. It owes me nothing. However it does hurt when it seems that the systems that are supposed to help you actually hit you down hardest when you most need help. On its own it shouldn’t be a big thing but when it seems to be the norm it gets too much on top of being ill already.
Recently I claimed for tax credits (for readers from abroad or who otherwise don’t know, this is a small benefit paid to those who are working but on a low income, have children, or have disabilities).
I had first claimed in Spring last year and my claim was rejected before they had even gathered all the information needed. I was so ill at the time I just let it go. I claimed again since starting my new job in November, because I am working part time on a very low salary. The first step is to fill out a form online to request a claim form, then to wait up to 2 weeks to receive the actual claim form.
Monday, I received an email saying that I am already in receipt of tax credits and if I believe this is not true, call this (expensive) number. I called this number and asked to be called back as the call was so expensive for me since I had no landline (can’t afford more bills) so had to call from a mobile. They refused and said they have no facility in the building to make outgoing calls, which I found very hard to believe.
I explained that I am not in receipt of tax credits. I was told that I do have a tax credits award and the award is nil. Right, so I’m not in receipt of tax credits. Yes, you have a tax credits award and the award is nil. Sigh….this could go on for a while. .. eventually I persuaded them to take the details of my change in circumstances. Then the operator’s computer froze so he transferred me to another operator without explaining any of the background and I had to repeat the entire process again. By this time I’d been on the call for about 30 minutes. They repeatedly asked the same questions and did not listen to my answers. I repeatedly told them I couldn’t afford this call and needed to be called back. I have a few pounds a day to live on and the call had taken just about all my food money for the week. The operator actually told me that because my phone bill does not arrive for a week or two they hadn’t cost me anything! At this point even I could not quite believe their determination to prove they had no responsibility for anything.
Then came to trying to claim for the disability element of tax credits. I was told that I wasn’t entitled unless I was already in receipt of PIP. I knew this was wrong – that is only one of the qualifying conditions. Online and paper documentation I had when I made my claim made this clear. The operator refused to budge. I insisted to speak to a manager. 5 minutes on hold. …
The manager immediately contradicted what the previous operator had said. But still insisted they would not consider the disability element unless I was in receipt of PIP. I pointed out that he, his colleague, the online and paper documentation each said something totally different, so I needed to know which was the case. He threatened to terminate the call and told me I was making things very difficult.
I suspect I was making it very difficult for him to continue reading from his script without listening to what I was actually asking…. 😦
Then I had to insist that he give me a straightforward answer – was it essential to be in receipt of PIP as he was saying, or was the written information around having a disability which puts you at a substantial disadvantage getting work, correct? He refused to answer and put me on hold. When he came back on the line he read a lengthy script about the qualifying conditions which confirmed that all the information I’d been given up to that point was wrong. Had I not insisted to this point, I would have been assessed incorrectly for the benefit. I still believe I will be assessed incorrectly because when I tried to tell him the reasons I qualified for the disability element and to ask what proof they needed of this, he talked and shouted over me and forbade me to speak otherwise he would terminate the call.
By the end of this process I had been on the phone 55 minutes to a cost to me of £25. I still had not been able to get an answer as to how to submit the documentation that would support my claim (and that would have supported the claim I had been rejected for last year, had I only been given the opportunity to provide it). I had been given different information about eligibility from each person I spoke to and from all the written information I had.
By the end of the call I was so distressed, panicked, angry, for seeing yet more financial problems …. this was the very last straw this week and I couldn’t cope anymore. I went home, cut and took a handful of pills, not enough to try to end it, though that was what I wanted at that time, but in order to make it stop and knock me out. All through the next day I didn’t leave the sofa and took more pills to sleep.
Stupid and childish not to be able to cope I know but there really comes a point you can’t go anymore and when you meet obstruction even where you should be able to get help you’re entitled to, sometimes you just crumble.