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The focus of this blog is simple - and that's the goal too. A more simple way of life. A life in tune with the rhythms of nature and of human nature. Where everything has its time and place and purpose, including us.

We have left the rat race behind and taken on new challenges. We aim to tread as lightly as we can upon the planet, to reconnect with nature, to eat good food, drink excellent wine, enjoy the best of company.... even if that is sometimes just our own! Please feel free to eavesdrop from time to time on our lives and see how we are doing and if you are ever in Extremadura... drop us an email and we'll give you directions.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

A Very Bad Show!

Yesterday was the culmination of a story that began last September. A stressful story that as it turns out was totally avoidable. However. I shall begin at the beginning.

After my son's injury he was awarded a Disability Living Allowance for two years, at which point he was to be re-assessed before any further award. Well last September they discontinued his allowance with no by-your-leave, no assessment or anything else. They simply wrote to him to say he was no longer disabled and therefore the allowance was discontinued. WELL! He appealed against the decision... here is the form he had to fill out... it's 134 pages long!


He is not the greatest of people for filling in forms and after several pages and a giant headache he gave the form to his wife to complete for him.

The response was the same as before... you are not disabled any more. Since he clearly IS disabled he had the doctor send a letter... an official letter which clearly states his medical condition - incomplete paraplegia. There was no response whatsoever to this.

The appeal went to a Tribunal which was scheduled for yesterday afternoon.


Jonathon asked me to go with him for moral support. The nature of Jonathon's injury means that his main day to day concern is with pain. He never has a pain free day but on some days the pain responds to the drugs he takes and he can cope. On those days he is able to walk with the aid of his leg splints and a stick, on those days he is able to go to work and he functions, as far as anyone can see, like a normal person. On those days he still has other problems to deal with, his injury robbed him of bladder and bowel control and most of his ability to feel any sensation below the waist.


Without his splints on he suffers from 'drop foot'... the inability to hold his feet at right angles to his legs and therefore without his splints walking is impossible. He has to be very careful that he doesn't injure himself in any way since he cannot feel his legs and feet it is easy to stub his toe for example without even realising. He actually sprained his ankle once and had no idea until it swelled up twice the size of his other ankle.


The day of the tribunal was not a good day... Jonathon was in a bit of pain so he had to use his wheelchair... we took his splints along to show them... there was never any intention to try and make out his injuries are worse than they actually are, yet from almost the first moment we arrived, the whole tone of questioning was very much designed to 'catch him out'. A panel of one judge, a doctor and a care professional then grilled Jonathon for an hour and twenty minutes.




The kinds of questions were really intimate and the same questions were asked over and over just in a different way. For example, they asked him how many days he suffered from pain on average. He replied three to four days a week. The response was "can you put that into percentages?" "Percentage of what?" he asked... "Oh well how much of a month are you in pain then?" Now even I was getting confused and my arithmetic is tons better than Jonathons.


It became very clear that they knew he had climbed Mt Kilimanjaro but instead of simply saying, oh we saw in the paper that you have climbed Kili tell us about that, they asked him if he had ever made an extra special effort to do something physical that would normally be beyond his abilities. Of course he told them about his Help for Heroes challenge and he explained about the support that he required for that trip... how he was taking twice his normal pain medications, that he had two sticks, porters to carry his kit and two helpers one walking either side of him, to support him and he took it very slowly and at the end was nearly collapsing with fatigue and emotion. In fact he did collapse on the way down. I was completely amazed to hear the care professional then say that they hadnt really achieved what they said they did, i.e to say they had walked up Mt Kiliminjaro was incorrect... that because of needing the extra support he and his injured colleagues had in fact not really done it at all! I was not supposed to talk to the tribunal being only emotional support for Jonathon but I'm afraid I had to interject. I tried not to get angry... I didn't want to spoil his chances of getting his award but I seriously could not believe what I was hearing.


The whole event forced Jonathon to concentrate on everything that he cannot do which is something he has never done, being trained by the army to focus on what he CAN DO. Without this CAN DO attitude his recovery would not have been so good and the psychological effects of this making him feel truly disabled may be much more far reaching than they realise. Jonathon had prepared a statement which he read out at the end of the tribunal which pretty much finished with him saying that he had not expected to be treated like this, having sustained his injuries in the service of his country, it was very emotional and we barely got out of there without totally breaking down.

Ten minutes later they called us back into the room to say that he had been awarded the allowance but at a lower level than previously and that it would run for 5 years at which time it would be re-assessed. The initial problem was because his wife had put on the form that he was able to walk 200 metres in 3 minutes (which even on a good day would be hard for Jonathon). Now why couldn't they have simply queried him about that up front...? Why the round about quizzing and questioning?

9 comments:

  1. How dreadful for all concerned! What a relief it must be that the "third degree" is OVER and your son prevailed. Kudos to him for presenting his case so well, despite the underhanded efforts to catch him out.

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  2. I am totally shocked at reading this, what a terrible nightmare to have to go through all that. It makes me so angry that they give handouts willy nilly to any economic immigrants who come here to milk the system, and a British citizen who has fought for his country is treated in this abominable fashion. I'm absolutely disgusted.

    I hope he has no more bother now, and he can get on with making the best of his situation.

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  3. Hell's teeth!

    First you fight for your country. Then you have to fight with your country.

    Even Franz Kafka's world made better sense than that.

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  4. Tell Jonathon "Thank you" from me...and "God Bless." It really is too bad that ignorance is not painful.

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  5. It is absolutely disgusting the way your son has been treated. Words fail me but good for him (and you) for not allowing them to bully him into submission.

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  6. Dear Billie Jane and Jonathon,

    I am so sorry that you were at the mercy of this sociopathic tribunal. Shame on them. It is criminal that they feel no shame for their heartless and ridiculous behavior. I regret that they will not be punished for their cruelty, stupidity and incompetence.

    Blessings to both of you.

    Jonathon, thank you for being the man that you are. You are a true inspiration and blessing to all of us.

    Bill
    U.S.A.

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  7. Pleased he got the DLA at last. I know quite a few people who have had to go to appeal and know how stressful it can be, sadly some people and their false claims have made it such a difficult process to access DLA for so many genuine claimants - it is one of those benefits that 'they' are always try to catch people out on. :(

    In a way we are lucky with our Joe (and I use the word 'lucky' with irony). His disabilities are profound and will not improve so we have a relatively staight forward claim that rarely needs renewing. I couldn't imagine going through all that you and your son have had to go through with each claim.

    Best wishes to him and thanks for all he has done serving for his country. It is a shame that his country is not quite so quick in helping him.

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  8. thank you all for your support and thank you from Jonathon too who is always suprised and humbled when strangers are concerned about what happened/happens to him. Bright and New... I knew that you would understand about the way the system works and we realise that there are those who would abuse it... but somehow I cant help but feel that there is a more dignified way of approaching the subject without traumatising the disabled person. Alas we felt like we had begged for his disability allowance and that has left us with a very nasty taste in our mouths.

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  9. I have to speak out in defence of the system here having worked inside it.

    There are some very unscrupulous people out there who frankly sponge, those who are very convincing at faking it. Since the European bill of human rights effectively makes it illegal for the Benefits Agency to 'stake out' without proof of wrongdoing it's very hard to catch people out. Of course if you have proof why do you need the stake out?

    You only have the time of the interview to catch people out, so the interview has to be designed to catch people out. Hence the different types of questioning. It's sadly one of the only ways to catch cheats who do cost the country one hell of a lot of money. In fact if you got rid of them then there would have been no need for Jonathon's interview at all and he would be paid more as well!

    Because you are dealing with very complex legal procedings if there are the slightest wrong doings or deviation from procedure a clever lawyer can get a clear case overturned at even greater cost to the tax payer, so its a one glove fits all approach.

    Add to that with every general election everyone wants to 'sort out' benefits, leading to an ever changing raft of rules and regulations you have a very unwieldy tool.

    Unfortunately, I couldn't work in a system that doesn't have a human touch so I left, but I do feel the system gets unfair criticism. It is a case of damned if you do damned if you don't.

    Jonathon's case is far from typical but I can tell you I dealt with worse things than this.

    Sadly at the end of the day it comes down to money. A lot of people were shuffled off the Jobseekers into Incapacity Benefit as is was at the time so the government could show a reduction in Jobseekers Allowance claimants and less unemployed. Now we are in a period of high unemployment and the system is strained so they are looking to save money where ever they can.

    The same thing happens with the NHS having to chose between drugs leading to a huge difference in treatments around the country.

    This is why I dislike the concept of money.

    Jonathon deserves more, so do a lot of people and unfortunately there just isn't enough to give. I'll not carry on any further as I can get a bit ranty about it.

    I loved reading about his expedition by the way, people who tackle things head on always get my admiration.

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