Turned down for Disability Living Allowance before applying for it…?

…in a manner of speaking.

Here’s a short and disturbing story (very likely a common one, too – there are many reports of similar situations around):

At a recent Hardest Hit meeting for people with disabilities in Newcastle, the woman* in the video below (who describes herself as severely to profoundly deaf and whom I talked with at some length after she spoke at a Local Cuts session) said she’d been told by her welfare rights advisors to expect her application for Disability Living Allowance to be turned down on first application.

She says in the video:

“What I find incredible is now is that I’m being told by professionals – “Well, you’ve got that far [completed an application form for DLA] but expect it to be turned down. That’s normal. You know, you’re going to have to go to appeal.””

She wasn’t sure what sort of hint she was supposed to take from this – either, that she wasn’t eligible for DLA at any rate (although she wondered why she’d be encouraged to apply or appeal at all if that was the case), or that the application process is now so stringent that many applicants are failed on first application as a matter of course (“that’s normal”) and their only hope lies in the second part of the process – appeal. That makes the application process even more complex and even more drawn-out and likely deters people from pursuing their claims. Already, this woman is worried about it, as well she might be.

“Well, what happens? I don’t know how appeal works. I’m going to need support and I’ll probably rely on Welfare Rights, or a charitable organisation might help me, but with the cuts, what support is going to be there? The problem is that everybody is needing more and more help with things like that, so the strain on the suppport services and charities is getting greater and greater… I mean – it’s almost like a fulltime job in itself, just trying to survive.”

As you’ll see in the video, this woman did have a job, but is one of the many people who have lost jobs in the public sector.  She was made redundant last month after more than 20 years at Newcastle City Council.

As she says – “I’m just one of loads of people who have lost their jobs – but a big proportion of people in there must be disabled. It couldn’t be a worse time [to lose your job], could it? (The northeast has the country’s highest unemployment rate).

There is a longer transcript from her talk and our discussion after the video.

“I’ve always had a hearing loss since I was quite young and it’s just gradually got worse as I’ve got older. And then I just woke up one day and the left ear had just gone. It was always bad, but now – nothing in that one.”

“I was an economic development officer at the council – it was around business support programmes. The council was going through lots of cuts – they’re having reshuffles, restructures and efficiencies and so [my redundancy] was all part of that. I was made redundant last month. I’m just getting the hang of signing on… I’d been working for the council for 23 years. To lose my financial independence, it’s quite awful.

“[Organisations] like Access to Work – they’ve helped me before with the equipment and hearing aids, but what happens if I do get through the doors and get a job? What kind of support is there then for me at work and making the job accessible if I need equipment?

“When we talk about the cuts… when you consider how many people in the population have a disability, it makes you wonder how many people who are being made redundant also have a disability. At that point, you’re thinking – we’re at a time when it couldn’t be worse to lose your job. Being disabled is hard enough and working with a disability is difficult, but being thrown out there and having to compete again with all the people who are able-bodied – there just isn’t the jobs and with all the cuts that are happening, we’re not having the support services around us that we had before.

“Where does that leave us for the future? For me, that’s quite scary, because that’s my financial independence gone… most people, when they think what they want out of life – being independent as much as we can, having a goood social life, being socially included – just the kind of the thing that everybody else would expect, so to me, that financial loss has taken an awful lot away for me.

“I’ve never had to rely so much on support as I am now. I’m going through the process of putting a DLA application in and I can see everybody’s face going Oooo. I can’t believe the things that are happening and I’ve had to have a lot of support just to fill in the form now. It’s taken me a year to get it complete, because I used to get so upset when I started filling it in because it was about what I can’t do, as opposed to what I can do. What I find incredible is now is that I’m being told by professionals now is – “Well, you’ve got that far, but expect it to be turned down. That’s normal. You know, you’re going to have to go to appeal.”

*name withheld.

Update 17 June: It gets better AND worse. The speaker in this video has just heard that she’s been awarded her DLA and has been given a “lifetime” award – which is of course not a lifetime award. She’ll be reassessed soon as DLA is phased out and personal independence payment is phased in. This is both fascinating and sadistic. How can it be cost-effective to award someone DLA after a year, then reassess them again, possibly within months, having just decided that they should be entitled to a lifetime award…? Who is this keeping in business? How can such instability help people plan and/or rebuild their lives? Will return to this story as the assessments continue… 

3 thoughts on “Turned down for Disability Living Allowance before applying for it…?

  1. While I feel for this women and her situation, the advisor is taking an unfair hit here for being realistic. It’s common knowledge now that DLA assessors are being encouraged to turn people down, and surely forewarned is forearmed? Whether she took a year (!) to fill out the form or did it in an afternoon, it is right that she was warned what the likely outcome was, and the need to prepare for it. I’d have hoped her advisor also explained the process rather than leaving her dangling with her fear. Often the ‘appeal’ is only a letter challenging the initial decision, and is (in my experience at least) generally successful without further action. Often the reasons for refusal are based on mis-reading the claimant’s answers or missing out whole parts of the original form.

    Half of my work as an independent benefit advisor is trying to calm people’s fears of the process, and help them get over their shame at needing help. I cannot do this by pretending the system is easier than it is, but by telling people the truth and supporting them through it.

    This kind of situation, repeated many times where I work, is one of the many reasons I’ve given up trying to defend the system as it exists (pre- or post- cuts), and started looking seriously at basic guaranteed income as a better alternative.

    • I must say this at the beginning I have never been out of work in my life. I have never signed on the dole, in my jobs I worked 50-60 hours a week. I worked hard and enjoyed what I did but when I was told to stop working by my doctor or i may end up in a wheelchair i had no choice but to stop. I have now been disabled for 5 years now i have 3 slipped discs which has left me with chronic back pain, that is pain that NEVER goes away morning noon and night it has destroyed my life!! i can hardly move around without being in extreme pain, anyway long story short first time I tried for the DLA I was turned down and then I had to go to an oral appeal despite crippling pain for weeks afterwards and them making me feel like a beggar I went and was awarded the high rate mobility DLA. The second time i had to re-aply or renew my DLA i was shocked and quite annoyed to be turned down yet again, despite doctors telling me i would have the pain for the rest of my life. This didn’t seem to matter I had to go through the same degrading process again but this time i was awarded high rate mobility DLA and lower carers allowance DLA. 2 weeks ago it was time for renewal and guess what?? i was yet again turned down!! and this morning I got the information to why i had been turned down i was gobsmacked to learn that the “dla doctor” that had been sent out to asses me had lied through her teeth in her report saying i was able to walk 600 meters at a time and was able to walk 60 meters in a minute!! I can hardly flippin walk!! so i’m now going to have to go the same crap all over again for the 3rd time now, despite me being in the same condition if not worse!!!!! they have now stopped paying me a penny until i can prove yet again that i am disabled, why can they not just look up my health records?? I am stressed out enough being in pain which is depressing enough, (i had to get extra medication this morning from my doc because of this) is there any way of receiving money to help me get through the 10 or 12 weeks it takes for them to make up their minds if i’m still disabled???

  2. I remember my mum being told exactly the same thing when she began her application in 1993, and it was what I was told in 2001 when I was considering applying (decided the stress of assessment would have taken too great a toll on my health). It’s always been harder than it should be to get disability benefits, but these days almost no illness or disability seems to be severe enough to be acknowledged.

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