Readers of these blogs may remember the heart-breaking story I posted last October:
My husband AB applied for PIP on 17 September 2013. The fact that his claim has still not been resolved correctly should give an insight into the difficulties we have encountered.
By October 2014 he was still waiting for an assessment appointment from Atos Healthcare. At this point we asked for help from our wonderful MP, Dr Sarah Wollaston. Thanks to her intervention, AB had a face to face consultation at home on 3 November 2014 and was supported in this by his COPD Nurse Specialist.
When he received his decision from the DWP Case Manager, we were surprised that he had been awarded only the standard rate of the mobility component. He fell short of an award of the daily living component at the standard rate by one point, scoring only 7 points. Considering the amount and quality of the supporting evidence that had been provided, this decision was completely unexpected.
A Mandatory Reconsideration didn’t alter the decision. This may have been due to the fact that the Case Manager ignored AB’s evidence, and didn’t wait for a further letter from his COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) Specialist Nurse as we had requested.
We made a request for an appeal to HMCTS Cardiff. Unfortunately, between the Tribunal Service and the DWP things started to go downhill rather rapidly.
Important documents were lost, the appeal bundle was never sent to AB’s representative, and important and very relevant evidence was delayed in being sent between the two establishments. I believe that certain evidence wasn’t seen by a Case Manager until after the appeal.
AB was given a hearing at Newton Abbot Magistrates Court. As this court did not meet the special needs he had indicated on the appeal form, we wrote to the Tribunal Service explaining why this venue would be difficult for us and asking for an alternative. Our request was refused.
AB’s representative was unable to attend on the day due to ill health, so we were very stressed in what, to us, was an extremely intimidating environment.
The Tribunal awarded AB the enhanced rate of the mobility component and maintained the daily living score at 7 points. Yet again we had to ask for Dr Wollaston’s help to get the DWP to pay the arrears owed.
After I had requested and read the Statement of Reasons and the Record of the Proceedings, I felt that there were several points that appeared to be in error.
We visited a very well known advice charity to see if they would help us ask for permission to appeal. Unfortunately, we were told not to bother.
At this point I wrote to the DWP confirming that AB’s daily living needs had increased 3 months previously. We submitted virtually the same evidence used in the original decision, mandatory reconsideration and appeal.
After a much fairer Health Care Partners (HCP) consultation, AB was awarded the enhanced rate for both components.
My complaints to the DWP regarding the delays and errors fell on deaf ears, so I escalated the complaint to the Independent Case Examiner (ICE). During a telephone conversation with the ICE adviser, I was even more convinced that the Tribunal had erred.
By now the application was late, but after studying copious amounts of case law from the superb BAILII Databases, I requested Leave to Appeal from the First-tier Tribunal. This was refused but with great help from the Avon & Bristol Law Centre, the Appeal to the Upper Tribunal was successful.
Upper Tribunal Judge Hemingway agreed that an error of law had occurred and remitted the case to a newly constituted First-tier Tribunal. The Secretary of State’s representative also supported the appeal.
I have submitted yet another written submission which will hopefully focus the new Tribunal and the DWP on the issues that are in question.
We are now just waiting for the date of the new hearing.
This has been an arduous and enduring journey and in terms of my health, I have paid a very high price. I have been so very close to giving up on many occasions.
The Happy Ending
I have just received this very welcome news, but why, oh why, does justice have to wait so long for the seriously disabled?
I thought you may like to be updated following the re-hearing of my husband’s PIP appeal.
After many conversations with the Tribunal Service, we were eventually allowed to have the appeal heard at our local court at Torquay. HMCTS were still insisting that we should travel to the Newton Abbot court despite the instructions from Upper Tribunal Judge Hemingway.
Unfortunately on the day, AB was unable to attend due to a further acute exacerbation of his COPD, having caught the virus that has plagued so many since before Christmas. The icy weather conditions we had at the time would certainly not have helped his symptoms.
Luckily I was supported by a family friend and the Tribunal were kind enough to allow both of us to give evidence on AB’s behalf.
AB was awarded the Enhanced rate for both components from the date of his original claim, 17 September 2013, a result that we are absolutely delighted with.
Thank you Sir Henry for taking an interest in our battle with the DWP. For now at least, we hope to have a period of peace and calm without the huge stress of the last few years.