An Open Letter To Esther McVey

Dear Esther McVey;

I am disabled. I live within your constituency. I claim disability benefits. I am one of the people you have screwed over during your time as Secretary of State, so I’m going use my blog to address you personally.

I have been claiming ESA for 4 years. I had been claiming PIP for a little over a year. I claim/claimed these benefits because I have borderline personality disorder, agoraphobia with panic disorder, and Scheuermann’s disease. Now I doubt you even have a clue what 3 of the 4 illnesses are but they are incredibly debilitating. I have no emotional “skin” if you will. I am emotionally unstable, I am too anxious to leave the house, I am plagued by panic attacks everyday, and I have bad back pain every single day. I am the type of person who needs the support of these benefits, and one day I’m sure I’ll be forced to claim universal credit instead of ESA. Regardless of the title of the benefit; I (like many others) rely on the benefits which you claim are wonderful and helping us all move forward. I am being an advocate for all of the disabled individuals that RELY on these benefits.

The benefits system is a farce. That’s the reality of it. Nothing about the benefit system is beneficial anymore. Let me put this to you: Up until January I was claiming PIP (Standard Daily Living Component) because I need help being independent. Since my claim was awarded my situation has deteriorated yet upon my assessment in January I was awarded 0 points for everything. I was chastised for using my PIP to become more independent and got told because I was trying to become more independent I was no longer entitled and I clearly don’t need any help. I do; as proven by my complete lack of independence since having my PIP taken from me. In the assessment they cherry picked things I said and based a lot of their decision on things I’ve done once in a 4 month period despite claiming the assessment is based on the majority of days. I asked for a mandatory reconsideration (which I’m sure was something you introduced) and put forward everything I disagreed with, pointed out everything that was incorrect and I described all the issues I face according to their own descriptors. The response I got to my mandatory reconsideration was a repeat of everything they said to begin with and I was told that the assessors are trained professionals and therefore everything I sent was ignored because I mustn’t be being honest. Granted it wasn’t worded as such, but it said along the lines of everything I said in my paperwork was found to be inaccurate in the face to face assessment. Which is incorrect because in the assessment I told them all the prompting and support I need and they ignored it. What are you doing to fix this? I see little to no work being done in this area? Whilst I don’t claim universal credit I find it laughable that you can call anything you’ve done to the benefit system as positive. I am not alone in suddenly being told I’m fine by PIP assessors, it’s happening nationwide.

Then to add insult to injury the appeal/tribunal process is an average of a year long. When I lost my PIP I lost £222 per 4 weeks, but I also lost approx. £125 per fortnight from my severe disability premium. That’s a total of about £472 per month less which has left me in a lot of debt and I’m expected to continue living like this for 12 months minimum. This means I’m having to postpone my spinal fusion which would correct my Scheuermann’s kyphosis, I’ve had to postpone my driving lessons/test meaning I’m trapped at home by my agoraphobia, I’ve had to put my life on hold for 12 months which means I’m going to be held back during the most import years of my life. I’m 20 years old and had my PIP not been stopped I’d have had my spine straightened and been back in therapy, and work, by the time I turned 21. Now I have to watch as my friends go far in life waiting to possibly get my independence back and if I don’t, I have to continue with absolutely no quality of life. This is one of the systems you stand by and I want to know if that makes you proud?

A lot of people advised I contact my local MP for some support during my tribunal, but what does one do when their local MP is the reason nobody is able to claim PIP anymore? Who do I turn to when you encourage the disgusting assessment procedures that allow disabled individuals to suffer.

I wasn’t going to contact you, I felt it a waste of time but now that you’re in the limelight perhaps you’ll be interested in listening to the disabled public and redeeming yourself as secretary of state by fixing the flawed benefit systems. I’ve read a two things you said that I’d really like to draw some attention to during this plea for change:

  1. The rise of food banks was positive and expected… the rise of food banks isn’t positive, it’s because the benefit system is failing the country to the point people can’t even afford to feed themselves. And I know you said there’s no robust evidence suggesting this is because of welfare cuts but, I think you’ll find if you did some independent research and actually spoke to people then you would see the two are closely linked.
  2. You vowed to take 300,000 people’s disability benefits claiming ‘bodies heal’… I hope you know that for short term illnesses a full ESA claim isn’t usually awarded, they are given basic ESA if sick notes are provided. It’s only for long term illnesses you’ll be awarded a full claim and they will decide if you need reassessing and when. The same can be said for PIP, they can call you back for another assessment whenever they like so it’s wholly possible to award someone PIP for a 6 week period, a 6 month period, or a 6 year period depending and when/if a person shall heal. You should know that if someone is well enough to work they will be made to work, and if they’re ill enough to make a claim then the DWP staff are capable of deciding how long for; you’re the Secretary of State.

These shouldn’t be the words of the Secretary of State, you should be a lot more aware of what’s going on through out the nation and you should be a lot more compassionate, although I suppose it’s nice for you to be able to eat whatever you want, whenever you want whilst other people have to skip meals or eat plain pasta from a foodbank. 65% of these cases are overturned at tribunal so why can’t we work toward preventing it having to go to tribunal in the first place and in turn prevent people going hungry or killing themselves from the severe depression these situations cause.

Yours sincerely;

An incredibly disgruntled benefits claimant.

Image from Wikipedia

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