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Who Cares? Automated letters are bad form when so much is at stake

By Karen Anderson

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Hanging on the phone waiting for a response can be a frustrating experience.
Hanging on the phone waiting for a response can be a frustrating experience.

Karen Andreson, campaigner for the rights of unpaid carers, on the frustrations of dealing with bureaucracy.

I wrote last month about having to fill in our boy’s Personal Independence Payment (PIP) renewal form.

It was disappointing having rushed to get the completed form back to the DWP within a day or two of receiving it to clearly beat their deadline of one month, that when I tried phoning them several times over the next fortnight, holding for over twenty-five minutes each time, I didn’t make it through to speak to a human.

But worse to find on the mat on our return from a short holiday in the Scottish Borders a letter saying that they hadn’t received it and his benefits would be stopped.

A frantic weekend followed until their office opened again and I could phone and see if it had now arrived. I actually got through relatively quickly (fifteen minutes) to a nice man who checked and said that it wasn’t showing as having been received, but they were having issues with their post and our deadline had been extended by two months, but the letter went out automatically and couldn’t be stopped.

Karen Anderson.
Karen Anderson.

It wasn’t his fault I’m sure, but I wonder if whoever set that up ever thought what would happen to all the hard-pressed disabled people or their carers who would receive one of these automatic letters when they had done all they could to comply?

So, I have apparently to wait another couple of weeks and if I haven’t heard from them, embark on another assault on their phone system to see if it has arrived, or they will accept me sending in a copy of the photocopy I took before I sent in the original. See, I told you taking a copy was a good idea! It’s just all so wearing and would be beyond our son’s ability to cope if I wasn’t here to be his appointed advocate – and that scares me for the future.

Another scary thing for a lot of carers and their loved ones is the way England has rushed headlong into so called ‘Freedom Day’ on the 19th . Thankfully, in Scotland we are delaying throwing our masks in the bin for a while yet, but with Covid cases rising at an alarming rate and the threat of new variants being a real and present danger as the virus replicates at speed all over the UK, many people who are at higher risk or who are suffering distress at the idea of mixing again in the ‘new normal’ are being forced back into a self-imposed shielding as they feel this is the only way to stay safe.

When you see the crowds of folk at the likes of Wimbledon, the Euros and the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, it’s hard to view them as anything other than super-spreader events rather than the test events they have been billed as.

Although in my wee family we have been going back to our Sunday lunches out and have had our week away, it is not with huge confidence that all will be well. I think we will all be living more in hope than certainty for a long time to come. And I don’t think we will be going without our masks for several months yet, no matter what the Government says.

Karen is Mum to an autistic teenager and campaigns for the rights of unpaid carers to be supported in their caring role and involved in the decisions that affect their lives and the lives of the people they care for. You can find her on twitter @Karen4Carers.

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