I was one of the first to be ensnared in the thickets of the new Employment Support Allowance, the benefit that is replacing Incapacity Benefit. This is paid at a reduced rate until a medical opinion has been obtained by the DSS. I attended this medical in Dundee in May of last year.
There is a list of criteria the doctor has to consider, and he submits a report. This, along with a personal submission is considered by the DSS, who award a point score based on the information before them. The magic number is 15 points - match or beat this, and the benefit is payable. I, in the finest Eurovision tradition was awarded "null points,no points, keine Punkte". This felt very much like an insult being added to my injury, and I appealed the decision, albeit with zero faith in the process.
I received notification of the tribunal to consider my appeal, to be held in Dunfermline, a mere 60 mile round trip from home.
I half-heartedly prepared a few arguments, wrote some notes, and set off to D'line with Mrs Lucas driving.
I was grilled for 40 minutes in an austere church hall building, and then sent to await my fate in the company of a tremulous individual awaiting his audience with these modern Guardians of the Poor Law. My mood was abyssal at this point.
I was summoned back into the presence, and a certain lightness of the tone raised some hope. I was given the decision - I had been awarded 18 points, and was clean through the qualification barrier!
Despite my utter cynicism, the system had worked, admittedly only after months of stress, but hey! I will receive at least £25 per week additional benefit, and I think it will be back-dated. Additionally, I think I can now try my luck with Disability Living Allowance, which is the gateway to eligibility for many other payments.
If anyone reading this has one of ghastly events in their future, I'm happy to discuss my experience. I think the trick is to be clear, concise, 100% truthful and assertive. I'm used to Court type settings - I used to work in the Court system, and have often had to address a Court. If this isn't one of your skills - get a representive to speak for you. The doctor on my panel was a feisty old party, and I did have to (politely) take her on a couple of times.
It's nice to know the good guys win sometimes though, and I'm delighted.