Saturday, 4 February 2012

The lengths one has to go to to get Disability Living Allowance

The following is my letter appealing against the rejection of my claim for Disability Living Allowance.  It just goes to show how intrusive and how painful a process it can be for a person with mental health issues.

I disagree with your decision to decline my claim for Disability Living Allowance for the following reasons:

I believe I should be awarded the mobility component because:
  • I suffer with significant lower back problems due to a bulging disc problem and often require a stick to assist in walking.  The bulging disc can, without warning, apply pressure on my sciatic nerve causing severe pain in my lower back and legs.  This pain can be debilitating to the point that I am unable to walk and have been unable to wash or dress myself without help.  The lower back problem started in 2001 as a result of an injury at work.
  • The bulging disc can be treated with major surgery on my back to remove the disc and fusing the two vertebrae but all back surgery carries with it the risk of paralysis.  The mobility problem from which I suffer is preferable to the risk of possible paralysis, however small.
  • Weight loss could be of assistance but my psychiatric medications are causing significant weight gain and dieting and exercise alone are not a suitable answer.
I believe I should be awarded the care component because:
  • I have significant clinical risk in respect of suicide with three attempts since 7/10/08.  Overdoses taken on 7/10/08 and 12/2/10 both requiring time on the assessment ward at Basildon Hospital and an attempted hanging on 30/10/10, which I reported to my psychiatrist.
  • A “Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health” Clinical Risk Management Tool has recently been completed and has identified significant factors indicative of heightened suicide risk.  Some of the key factors are as follows:
    • previous attempts on life (as stated above)
    • major psychiatric diagnosis – recurrent depressive disorder (diagnosed in 1997 but present for 33 years since age 7) and adjustment disorder (depressive type)
    • expressing suicidal ideas – I have openly spoken about my wish for an assisted suicide in my column for Your Thurrock, a local news website, and in my conversations with acquaintances
    • considered/planned intent – I have hoarded medications over the course of a number of months from missed doses and the accumulated extra doses from packs of 30 pills prescribed for a 28-day period.  I have also downloaded several methods of suicide from the internet that I have kept should the need arise
    • believe no control over their life – at the present time, I am  finding it almost impossible to assert any control in my life because:
      • I suffer the stigma of mental ill health making it very hard to gain employment
      • I am constrained by my financial situation making it hard to make ends meet and pay to take courses that may help my chances of getting a job
      • I have an ongoing housing problem due to my wife’s wish for a divorce and getting little or no help from my local authority
      • I have legal worries due to the divorce proceedings
    • helplessness/hopelessness – due to the factors listed above, I have little hope and feel helpless due to having no control over the situations in which I find myself
    • separated/divorced – although I still live in the same flat as my wife, we have been effectively separated since 12/2/10 and are in the process of getting divorced
    • unemployed – I have been unemployed since 31/5/05, having had to leave my last job due to increasingly poor mental health
    • recent significant life events:
      • forthcoming divorce
      • ongoing housing problems with a threat of homelessness
      • significant financial pressures
      • forthcoming loss of primary carer due to divorce, secondary carer, my mother, lives approximately 2 hours away by public transport leading to drastically reduced contact and support
      • loss of pets following divorce – my pets are currently a significant protective factor in my life
      • possible loss of my voluntary work due to lack of funding – my work with Making Involvement Matter in Essex currently provides me with structure, focus and identity and is a major protective factor
  • I am prone to self-neglect – failing to eat properly, lack of positive social contacts (outside of my voluntary work colleagues) and, due to lack of adequate finances, I am unable to replace worn-out clothing.  My medications have the side effects of increasing my appetite and increased sweating so I have gained a lot of weight and I am usually surrounded by the smell of sweat.
  • A “Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health” Clinical Risk Management Tool has recently been completed and has identified significant factors indicative of neglect.  Some of the key factors are as follows:
    • living in inadequate accommodation – I am currently sharing a flat with my wife but am sleeping on the sofa in our living room as I cannot afford to buy a bed
    • pressure of eviction – I am under threat of losing my accommodation when my wife is given her own flat.  I am not getting the support from the local housing office, resulting in being removed from the housing list without adequate warning or reason for doing so.
    • difficulty managing physical health:
      • my bulging disc problem in my lower back is intermittent and unpredictable
      • I have a 14 year history of unexplained headaches/migraines and intermittent unexplained bleeding during urination
      • I suffer from hypertension and high cholesterol.
  • I am very socially isolated, rarely going out except for shopping, my voluntary work and trips to the local library to go onto the internet.  I am also socially excluded due to the stigma surrounding my mental health issues.  I cannot hide my mental health problem as I have done so much for mental health awareness in my local area that my problem is very much a matter of public record.
  • My social isolation is further worsened by the anxiety attacks that I get in confined areas with large numbers of people (the smaller the space, the fewer people I can comfortably be around).  The anxiety attacks were a side effect of a medication I was on a few years ago that heightened my existing social anxiety.  I am now on new medications but the anxiety attacks persist.
  • I am experiencing problems in my current therapeutic group but cannot leave without losing my place on the waiting list for one-to-one therapy
  • When I am in a depressive phase, I am prone to dangerous impulsive acts such as crossing busy roads without due care and attention and taking overdoses (my first overdose was an impulsive act, the second was partly impulsive and partly pre-meditated)
I hope that you will look favourably on my appeal based on the information listed above and the enclosed letter from my advocate.  A speedy decision would be appreciated due to the added stress the uncertainty is having on my mental health.

Myles Cook (Mr)

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