Katie Lord finds claiming benefits to be a weary struggle mired in assessors’ lack of trust
Since I had to have two medical assessments before being considered for benefits, I have not been able to trust the Department for Work and Pensions although I am a genuine person with learning difficulties. Many people with learning difficulties have had these experiences too.
Ever since I moved to Brighton, all I wanted was a job to support myself. Finally, I got a job at a restaurant but the DWP was still suspicious about my claim. Eventually they stopped my benefits because of a small increase in my wages. What I find so offensive is that they didn’t let me know before withdrawing my benefits. However, I am receiving benefits again after a struggle.
After my first medical assessment to test my eligibility for receiving benefits, I believed it would be the last time a social security doctor would have to see me. Unfortunately, this was not the case because some years later I had to attend another assessment. Both times, I was made to feel like I was on trial.
The DWP will never leave me alone despite the fact that I undergo therapy with a clinical psychologist and a counsellor from the learning difficulties team, both of whom know I’m eligible and are very aware of my situation.
The fact that I have been summoned to see a social security doctor twice for assessment undermines my psychologist’s ability to assess me. The DWP may summon me again so I live in fear of losing my benefits and my financial freedom ending.
Many people including DWP staff and doctors see me as an articulate person, which is true up to a point. It is very easy to assume that people with learning difficulties do not take an interest in the world at large. But I do. In fact, I am interested in the government’s proposals to cut the number of people claiming incapacity benefit, which many people with learning difficulties claim.
I was concerned to hear that the government is considering rewarding GPs through their contracts for helping people to stay in, or return to, work despite some GPs’ reluctance to do this. I can’t imagine living on less money than what I’m getting now and fear that because of a lack of understanding my eligibility will be doubted again.
There is a lot of publicity about benefit fraud. There are posters everywhere, which is intimidating as it is a direct message aimed at people like me. But it is ridiculous because I can’t change having learning difficulties that make me reliant on benefits. I have carried this guilt about being dependent on state benefits for too long and it doesn’t do me any good.
The worry of losing my benefits is always there. All the publicity is unnerving, especially since I always seem to be targeted. How many other people with learning difficulties have felt as afraid as I have of having their benefits withdrawn? This needs to be addressed and there needs to be more awareness among politicians.
Katie Lord has learning difficulties