A terminally sick man has been made to feel humiliated after being handed a food bank voucher surrounded by delays to his benefit payments.
After the man was identified with having terminal cancer, he filled in the relevant forms, yet for three months was given no money at all.
His story was highlighted by the nonprofit organisation Macmillan Cancer Support, who said patients are having to wait weeks, or even months, to have their payments processed, even though The Department for Work and Pensions has raised questions over the robustness of the charities data.
The man had gone to his doctor after a diagnosis and treatment proceeded incredibly fast. They did an internal scan on the 23rd May and, on the same day they found that he had lower bowel cancer and, on the 24th May, doctors removed 90% of his lower bowel.
He was then contacted by the hospital on the 13th June, to give him the news that regrettably it was incurable and, it had gone to his liver, his stomach and, one or two other parts of his body.
The doctors preferred not to talk about how long he had to live, they said it could be 2 years, they said it could be 5 years; it could be whatever it took, the doctors said they didn’t like to set boundaries on it.
As an outcome of his illness, he made a claim for a Personal Independence payment and, for an individual who is suffering from a terminal illness, payments for PIPs should be exercised pretty swiftly.
The man’s doctor issued a DS1500 form, which the man had been informed since, makes your claim a priority with the PIPs department. The man filled in all the forms and, they went in the week of the 17th June and, then the man heard nothing from the PIPs department.
Macmillan began chasing it up and, they were informed it was with the decision makers. Even Citizens Advice pursued the PIPs department and, they were informed it was with the decision makers, everyone was told the same thing.
And when Macmillan head office got involved and, began talking to people, it turned out that it had at no time been with the decision makers, it was sat on a desk doing nothing. When the man found out what was really going on, it made him extremely distressed.
At the Citizens Advice Office they had got so frustrated because everyone they spoke to, told them the same thing, ‘We can’t do anything, it’s with the decision makers’.
A woman came back into the room and, handed the man a red piece of paper to take round to a food bank, so that himself and his partner could be issued with some food and, the man felt so ashamed because all he could get off anyone was a voucher for a food bank.
When he actually got the payment on the 10th September, they rewarded him the money owing, which was backdated to the 13th June and, something else the DWP kept saying, ‘Was don’t worry, it’s all backdated’, but it was three months this man had to remain in poverty prior to seeing any of his money.
The man said, ‘That every time you spoke to somebody on the phone, you felt like they were waiting for you to die before they did anything’.
‘You felt because the doctors wouldn’t set a time limit on it, which they simply don’t these days, that the DWP are just waiting to see what the outcome is’ and, when the man mentioned that to a person at PIPs he said, ‘Oh, no no, even if you die, the payment will be made’. And saying something like that doesn’t help because the person feels deceived.
The man’s consultant had said to go out and, for him to enjoy himself, but how do you enjoy yourself when you’re not getting what you’re entitled to?
The man was given an apology for the way that his case was handled and, he received some recompense about £150, but Macmillan believes that there are hundreds of terminally ill patients who are being affected and, this additional obstruction in benefits is coming up time and time again, because the system had been altered , but it was still the case that those who were priority, or anyone that was identified with a terminal illness this ‘special rule’ claim, that they should really have their money dealt with extremely swiftly, just to make their life as trouble-free as possible.
The idea of a ‘fast track’ process for terminally ill patients who are in need of the money urgently, because they clearly don’t have as long as the rest of us to live is still there, but the reality that the process has gone from 8 to 10 days to 8 to 10 weeks in fact is shocking and, we see from this man’s story, the anguish that causes.
The structure of the way things work was only altered in April, but are these teething problems going to settle down, are we going to see any indication that things are working better now? Sadly not and, Macmillan are talking to the DWP and, they’re working with them to obtain a resolution to make the process work more swiftly, but the level of alterations, like removing the old methods that used to be very straightforward to fill in and, posted through and, replacing them with lengthy phone calls, these things add to the hinderance and, plainly Macmillan don’t comprehend why the department wants to have a process that sadly takes so long.
The DWP was asked if they would do an interview and, they refused, but they said that Macmillan’s data wasn’t reliable on how many cases there are and, that Macmillan are not comparing ‘like with like’, there are differing benefits and different claim procedures.
Yet the idea is precisely the same, the predecessor benefit Disability Living Allowance had a ‘fast track’ process. The replacement benefit Personal Independence Payment has a ‘fast track’ process as well, so in that case the idea that has been talked about would be identical.
So, could it be believable that Ministers sat down and took the choice that terminally ill patients would have to wait 2 months for a benefit that they qualify to and, there’s plainly a bureaucratic mess up somewhere in the system and, one that they don’t have a grip on and, are not getting a grip on because there clearly is no commitment on what the timescale should be and, if it’s more complicated and, it takes a little more than 8 to 10 days, then perhaps that’s all right, but not when it’s 8 to 10 weeks.