Posted by: John Brace | 6th January 2020

What is the 2nd lesson on trust (DWP and the unidentified flying onion)?

What is the 2nd lesson on trust (DWP and the unidentified flying onion)?

                                              

Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX

Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX which was the venue for First-tier Tribunal hearings

This is a continuation of articles about trust and the first can be read here.

Regular readers of this blog will know the backstory as to the start of a First-tier Tribunal (Social Entitlement Chamber) about DLA and PIP.

After being nagged repeatedly by HMCTS (who presumably didn’ t have the courtesy to ask for an extension to the requirement to do it within 28 days) the DWP responded on the 16th December, which considering the Christmas post took till the 27th December to arrive.

Rather annoyingly, whereas the DWP gets 28 days from receiving the appeal (which it exceeded), the 1 month deadline to respond to the DWP starts when the DWP sends its response not when it is received.

There’s no order prohibiting publication of anything sent but I’m going to quote from some matters that will hopefully shed light on the process for those that come after me and hopefully concentrate on the policy side rather than the legal side.

The numbered bundle comes to 182 pages, but there are further pages (32) numbered A-Z, then AA to FF plus a two page unsigned DWP letter.

I am of course leaving the representation of this to Leonora as I have had three years+ of one part of the First-tier Tribunal/Upper Tribunal system first have three members of the judiciary declare me as exceptionally unreasonable (with disagreement over when), then consider this by an Upper Tribunal Judge to be unlawful, but then want to have another go at whether it was a good idea to go down that route!

Whereas in this matter (which hopefully will be concluded more quickly) DWP with many, many squiggles on a page appear to be describing the process of being (or not being) entitled to benefits as akin to the Krypton Factor* (but without the pretty tracksuits).

*Apologies to those reading this who don’t understand the reference.

I will quote however from one sentence from page I:-

“The mental state examination showed Mr Brace’s memory; cognition and intellect were such that he would have no difficulties with activities which require cognitive skills.”

Memory – Well let me tell you what happened yesterday (as this is written on Sunday and published on Monday yesterday confusingly means Saturday) in a fruit and vegetable shop in Preston. Leonora entered the fruit and veg store with me behind her. An onion falls down hitting her hard on the head and falls at my feet.

Cognition – There is an onion at my feet – why is it there?

Intellect – What is the reason for the onion at my feet?

Now that’s all fine, but below is a scene from Alice in Wonderland that sums up how I was feeling at this point towards the person who caused the onion to fall (closest I could get to a literary interpretation of a meltdown).

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Alice in Wonderland – Painting the Roses Red and Queen of Hearts

The problem is with a temperament like mine, just to be clear I don’t quite go all out “Hulk smash” – but I get defensive of Leonora and being that well masculine (if I’m being polite) and that snaps people out of whatever they were doing.

Partly as unidentified flying onions is something I’m not used to dealing with and partly because on reflection I probably am rather poor at dealing with such situations as it provokes an emotional response which short circuits rational decision making.

Believe me I get shouted at, threatened (last time I was at Liverpool Town Hall by a Liverpool City Council employee), shot at, death threats, all kinds of stupid stuff in my job as a journalist reporting on local government and I can deal with those calmly and usually rationally – so why can’t I deal with an onion?

It’s not the onion I can’t deal with – the onion is just a symbol – it’s the carelessness of other people that causes people I care about to get hurt that sends me into that frame of mind. This of course ties into the theme of this which is trust.

If someone (or a group) hurts or mistreats someone we trust, there’s a whole social etiquette about what happens next (sorry being a good first step).

After that Upper Tribunal appeal on a rational level I want to but on an emotional level I can’t trust the judiciary not to let emotion cloud their decision-making enough into making a doubly unlawful decision. I have to trust Leonora to deal with matters as my representative.

As to the DWP – much like the onion incident – it’s not possible for me to objective on such a political matter that I have strong feelings about.

Frankly I know too much about the policy side and this isn’t meant as a sweeping political statement about the civil service, policy – or whether public services should be contracted and subcontracted out to the private sector. Or even whether it is ethical or moral to grant people disability benefits on an indefinite or lifetime basis for disabilities that are lifelong that the State caused (ironically one of those disabilities makes me resistant to change) then stop and deliberately subject people to prolonged and (as detailed above) unlawful uncertainty.

I just know in my gut – that the way this is happening to me is about as wrong as onions repeatedly hitting me on my head and that perhaps the lesson learnt is that we need to have patience and treat each other with respect and dignity.

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Responses

  1. I feel your pain and stress.
    At pip tribunal last week they questioned my Wifes capability to attend. ( which is a choice not a requirement).
    In spite of the fact it would have a serious adverse effect on her wellbeing, and with copious amounts of doctors supporting information they doubted her.
    I was furious, cant they see the system makes ill people worse, makes them want to give up.

    • Hi thanks for your comment.

      The system may be designed to make people give up (unfortunately due to the way I am it has the opposite effect).

      Probably what I’d guess most people don’t know is the role of the Tribunal is an inquisitorial one.

      “I didn’t expect a kind of Spanish inquisition” – “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”

      • Thanks for the reply ,John.
        When so many of the facts are already produced but not taken into account by a health professional it is unnecessary to ‘quiz’ a person with no self awareness of their condition in the hope of ‘ catching them out’.
        It is little wonder to me that we read horror stories that stem from such considered cruelty.
        Its a humiliating and degrading experience performed by people who bask in their own good health and obvious good wealth .
        Yup, still furious!

        • Thanks William.

          Thanks for your comment.

          I know it’s frustrating.

          Sadly in the end it boils down to not what health professionals’ opinions are (to be honest the legal profession or the DWP can not only pay somebody to give them an opinion that they want to hear but also rubbish the opinions of others) but an interpretation as to the new legal definition of either:-

          a) the “worthy” disabled – who the government deem to be financially rewarded and

          b) the rest.

          That’s a policy decision – based on a whole set of criteria designed on paper that don’t work in the real world.

          The political equivalent of trying to bash square pegs into round holes.

          It’s also tied in to an overarching policy position of trying to force those with disabilities to be “productive” and generate more tax revenue.

          I realise that is overly simplistic.

          To be this is unfortunately the world I already live in and work in – the world I report on.


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