Admitting I claim full housing benefit and Universal Credit in Hertfordshire is a risk. There is a real disgust of disabled people and anyone claiming benefit. Every eighteen months or so I fight to keep my Personal Independence Payment although I do qualify for it on many different grounds.
I’ve not always been this disabled. I used to run a modelling agency in Watford. Appearing on TV with famous people like Jodie Kidd. Strutting my stuff and showing teenagers how to do the walk. I got huge debts, mental health issues and had some medical physical problems. Eating disorders were becoming fashionable and I fell out of love with the industry, it had to close.
I didn’t stop working though. I retrained at West Herts College. Becoming a qualified electrician, I now hold City & Guilds certificates in electrical installation and engineering. I have toiled alongside men from all around the world whilst on construction sites. I helped install electrics on projects such as the Samuel Lithgow Youth Centre in central London.
I’m now going to be big-headed and also claim that I can read music and play the guitar. Having mainly taught myself I’m not great but I have performed in Charter Place and Watford Pump House singing. A woman of many talents and master of none.
I can no longer do any of those things. Medical devices put in me to save time in theatre at Watford General Hospital and through St Albans City Hospital have caused an autoimmune response. It affects my eyes, ears and maybe the reason I can’t even shift simple fungal infections. Dr Hextal, I’ve spoken with other patients of yours…it’s not just me and they too have the strange fungus.
The devices are causing a great deal of pain. They are around my bladder and rectum. I’ve been complaining about them since they were put in, in 2002. I wasn’t informed at all about the Stapled Hemorrhroidopexy and have never really recovered. It’s been a slow decline. The last few years involving giving up work altogether, now sat on full benefits because the NHS refuses to do anything other than get paid for not treating me.
I wasn’t really suitable for the devices. I was born with lung disease and a very small defect in my heart. I have an underlying condition called Ehlers Danlos and had extensive endometriosis before the hysterectomy. There were no follow ups for either devices fitted, no follow ups.
The NHS trusts just moved me from one hospital to another. Thankfully I found a TVT bladder sling support group on Facebook and became a little more informed. Now I am angry. Doctors never swab me. However, they have been eager to examine the area physically regardless of my pain level. Now that I refuse examination this is noted on paperwork clearly and is always mentioned in letters.
My nhs medical files are huge and I look incredibly ill on paper, but if you saw me on a good day, unless I was in my wheelchair and/or using my stick you wouldn’t know. I present well. I put my best face on however, I rarely leave the house.
I haven’t had a good day this year yet. It’s March. It seems silly but I cannot stand any pressure on my body – shoes, tight clothes etc So I prefer to sit in very loose clothes at home near a loo. If I go out I wear a large pad. The NHS will not help with the cost of these so they are used sparingly.
I’m heavily medicated with Fentanyl and OxyNorm but try not to take too much as my mind is the only thing which works – well, as long as I have HRT it does work. I was told this week, by my chemist, that because of Brexit the NHS has run out of my HRT so I’m in a rush to write this lol.
I have to argue for most of my medication and have given up asking for certain prescriptions. I suffer from POTS when I’m not well. Any sort of physical effort can cause faints. So even pushing out wind can make me pass out, so I must keep my pain medication as low as possible for my own safety.
I moved recently to a lovely new home. I wasn’t able to climb the stairs in my old house. The situation had become quite sad. My wonderful daughter helped me move my bed downstairs. I could then get myself something to eat, answer the door and look out on the garden.
There was a toilet downstairs with a tiny hand basin. As I had a downstairs toilet it was considered to be ‘level access living’. As both my children had left home, I requested that I be downsized to a smaller property as I was falling foul of the bedroom tax.
I wasn’t using upstairs; three bedrooms were lying empty. Occupational Therapists, Care Workers and my doctor wrote reports supporting the move. I was put on the bidding system. As I was under fifty, I wasn’t eligible for a bungalow.
The bidding system was strange. It was only accessible online. You could only bid via a computer not a phone. I could bid on what they put up for me to bid on. I put a bid in for a one bed flat opposite my GP. I waited eagerly to hear if I would be moving to something smaller and more manageable. I got turned down because I owed £73 rent.
I phoned Three Rivers District Council to complain about housing allocation, I was told they didn’t have a line for that. I asked if I could complain over the phone about how I was being treated. I was told they don’t have a complaints department. They have 160 staff. By law they should have taken the complaint down on the phone. However, I did follow their rules and after much effort produced a fair and reasonable complaint.
Three Rivers District Council made me email the complaint to their enquiries line. The council upheld the position that I didn’t need housing… I got to complaints stage two before giving up. Health and housing situation just took their toll on me. It was also very embarrassing. I felt that the office staff would read about my complaint. I was just trying to move into a home more suitable for me and challenge a housing benefit decision.
I was using the Homeswapper page, for social housing tenants and was on the council bidding system. Eventually I did find an exchange, outside of their systems, on Facebook and moved home.
Giving my three-bed house to a very lovely family who had been stuck in a two bedroomed flat was a good feeling. They were overjoyed. Some families had offered me money to exchange with them, the situation desperate – but I felt if you are able to offer me thousands of pounds why do you need the property? I’m judgemental like that
In total it had taken me two and a half years to move home. I was pleased to be away from Three Rivers District Council but I didn’t want to leave South Oxhey. My daughter is there. As soon as I moved into my new home they put an eviction notice on me because of rent arrears. I tried to point out I’d just moved in.
Universal Credit payment didn’t come straight in for my rent. It had been misallocated to another rent account before getting into mine to pay the rent. WCHT knew the reason for the late payment but still attempted to evict me. I think this action was appalling. I am thankful to still have a roof over my head.
Thankfully a charity called HertsMindLink helped me. I ended up paying an extra weeks rent but at least I’ve still got my home. Although they are refusing to remove the order which doesn’t feel very secure, I’ve called discrimination against disabled people. They didn’t accept that.
I worry if I were to go back into hospital. I must stay well so I can fill out the forms, so I dont’ lose my home. If you don’t phone in for your benefits they will get stopped. You have to be ‘proactive’ for the current benefit system under Single Fraud Investigation Service.
But disabled people are supposed to be Protected Under UN Convention under Anti-Discrimination and Equality Laws. These laws state that any organisation over fifteen people must provide access to facilities and services for certain protected groups.
Disabled people are one of these groups. As such they are to be given assistance in achieving equality. Funding ought to be allocated accordingly by Governments and Local Authorities. The UK ratified this treaty before EU law and as such sits within The Equality Act 2010 in UK law.
For instance, ‘Age’ is a protective group, as is ‘Disabled’ and ‘Race’ – so it is appropriate for our local council to send out extra literature to ensure that no one is being discriminated against when they go for housing, education, healthcare or any other service with the borough.
Extra literature may be printed in different languages or leaflets sent around old folk’s homes to ensure they have access to a complaints line, healthcare services and leisure activities within the borough. This ensures their quality of life mentally, socially and physically.
Article 6 specifically deals with women with disabilities. It says clearly, they should be given specific consideration. Disabled women fall under ‘Disabled’ and ‘Sex’ brackets of protection under the same laws as a non-English speaking, disabled person who would come under the protected status of ‘Disabled’ and ‘Race’. Some disabled women fall under three or four categories as they may be old and English not their first language.
Generally the laws are used to stop discrimination and ensure equality for everyone living in the borough (and those ‘visiting’) with services and facilities.
Watford Borough Council tend avoid the term ‘Sex’ and use the word ‘Gender’. I will continue to use the term ‘Sex’. Gender in itself is protected under the laws for those whom have undergone sex transformation.
Councils do have to prove that they are monitoring the services they provide. This ensures that equality laws are being adhered to. So when I look through the councils reports and see that they are not making any allowances for disabled people to assess housing, I feel concerned.
The main areas of consideration for extra funding has gone towards ‘Age’ and ‘Race’. This isn’t me being paranoid, you can see them yourself as they are still up on their council pages. I’ve done the research.
In June or July 2014 TRDC implemented a plan to catch fraudulent claimants of housing benefit. It was called SFIS or Single Fraud Investigation Service. The scope of the experiment was to catch people claiming housing benefit illegally. It was put over all HB claimants, disabled people were not excluded.
It was just after the implementation of the bedroom tax in 2012 who to any single mum with children coming and going was a nightmare. They put the rents up the area. The job centre sent my son for work at UPS they gave him a contract for full time work for 15 hours. UPS and government think that 15 hours is a full time job – that is why employment figures are down.
My son had trouble giving me anything for keep as his journey from South Oxhey to Watford took up most of his pay. I had to prove all this. I was continually under investigation. Being asked over and over again for the same information.
I wasn’t well but I was running a little market, one day a week. Also I tried to bring in some money by selling things on ebay but it wasn’t enough to cover rent and live. The council would not make up the shortfall, but according to their rules they should.
Then the council told me they had overpaid me but I knew that I had told them every coming and going. I knew I had not claimed anything fraudulently but they are making me pay it back. It has bugged me that this amount, in total £3500 has gone down as me claiming illegally.
Since they implemented the SFPI the council have found a few fraudsters. There were higher value frauds discovered before the implementation though. Now the council are doing single fathers and mothers for hundred pounds of fraud. Before they were catching whole families and council workers who were creaming off thousands. Last year they clawed back just £400,000.
However, one benefit assessor in London was able to get away from over £1million. So why are TRDC concentrating just on housing benefit claimants? Newham council are investigating a £9million housing allocation fraud instigated by some of the council workers themselves.
My benefit assessor was Jan Dobrowolski. Who is Jan Dobrowolski? The only person around here with that name seems to have died in 1975. His grave is in Welwyn Garden City. Perhaps the police could look into that?
It all makes, what is left, of my sphincter grate.
The only Jan Dobrowolski I can find online who could have a link with the council works in mathematical modelling at Leeds University. He has heavy links with Ireland and Pakistan. Could it be the same person? The one thing this ‘scientist’ is working on is the ‘ring of finite burden’. Coincidence? It would make a good spy thriller!
There is something smelly in Three Rivers District Council and it is no longer me as I now have access to a bath. There is something smelly in Herts County Council and Watford Borough council where the housing and facilities are concerned.
But right now we need to make sure that equality rights for disabled people and women are upheld. By doing so we are really protecting the most vulnerable amongst us.