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ESA/PIP Reasonable Adjustments/Safeguarding Issues (Anyone had similar Experiences Please)
Since February 2017 I have been signed off work because of my mental health caused by being a historic child sexual exploitation victim but also because of my physical health also in which I have had significant issues with my health in which I suffer with tremors in my hands due to one of my conditions and i am also dyslexic meaning that if paperwork is to be sent to me it has to be on 'Yellow Paper' as I suffer with 'Visual Distress' meaning I cannot read from white/cream paper as the words look like they are shaking making it had to fill or read those forms in, I therefore invoke reasonable adjustments to make sure I have the same access to services I require without being disadvantaged.
I invoked reasonable adjustments with the DWP immediately however this is where things started to go wrong for me, with both my ESA & PIP claims it took a significant amount of time to get me the correct accessible format paper work for me to be able to carry on my claim, numerous calls later and still there was no sign of the paperwork, at this point I was getting frustrated and what had been happening was staff members who went into my DWP profile were removing the alternative address for the Alternative Formats Team meaning my requests were practically getting ignored, however as I said this was only part of the issue.
I started to from March/April time notice a significant issue where I was getting delays of 8 weeks at first raising to 13 weeks in receiving any post at all from the DWP, I raised the issue with the DWP for me to get basically blamed for being a liar, I was told it was 'Royal Mails' fault and I was that concerned I was ringing up PIP & ESA on a daily basis to try get help and it sorted, for me to have access to the PIP enquiry line removed from me as i was classed as a 'Persistent Unruly Customer', My ESA claim was closed 3 times due to this issue and still no one believed me that it was happening.
My mental health was already affected by this time significantly by the entire process, the ignorance of 'We aren't at fault' and blaming this on everyone else but themselves. I put in verbal complaints to both ESA, PIP & Social Fund Management as the issue spanned 3 different departments, this is how and why I knew this was an internal issue because all their alternative format printing was based from the DWP's 'Alternative Formats Team' in Birkenhead. But the investigations that PIP did basically were a non starter as they believed their own team and the investigation was over. However ESA complaints team were also told the same but reacted more humanely and did try to help. The issues continued to persist and I wasn't letting it lie, so I started doing email complaints in which PIP actually responded to the complaints but still didn't investigate properly, ESA didn't respond to the complaints until March 2018 and Social Fund Management well they technically never responded at all and handled the complaints incorrectly from day 1.
As previously stated ESA eventually responded to the complaint however the senior executive made a very large mistake and said that a 13 week delay in receiving mail from the DWP was acceptable due to having reasonable adjustments on my claim. I contested the issue and was sent a revised letter saying it was unacceptable and this shows that even senior executives don't understand their duty under the equality act and public sector equalities duties.
I was able to use my knowledge from their to determine the source of the issues where my delays started and finished was in fact the 'Alternative Formats Team' I had stated this to all the teams when I recognised the issue however they weren't bothered at all.
It hit me that the delay that i faced was that significant that I couldn't be the only person affected by this issue, and why haven't we heard more about it from anyone, and why exactly was it happening because it was a clearly unusual delay.
In August of 2017 I got a letter after 2 weeks previously noticing that 5 staff members from the DWP accessed and looked at my professional profile on 'Linkedin' the letter was from the local compliance team in Leeds basically a fraud letter telling me I was going to be having a telephone call to discuss my claim, the first issue was it wasn't on yellow paper and the second issue was when I spoke to the compliance team they explained that I ran a Limited Company what they didn't understand that at the time was the different trading styles as I ran a Limited by Guarantee which means we were registered as a Non-Profit and now the organisation I founded is a registered charity, once I had clarified they shut down the fraud case immediately but the issue I have is why 5 employees of the DWP looked at my 'Linkedin' profile then this happens it isn't a coincidence.
It was the last thing I could take and around the same time I also had my case accepted by the Independent Case Examiners so I forced ESA's hand as all the issues would come to light through the investigation and this is when I 1st found out truly that there were as it was quoted 'Significant Delays' at the DWP's 'Alternative Format Team' what had hindered my claim, but without an apology I think they thought the issue would of been sorted.
I eventually had an assessment for my ESA however I stopped moving forward with my PIP claim as with everything going on I was finding it too stressful to manage and was nearing a complete breakdown.
The issues became somewhat better however I still seem to get delays in receiving some mail from the DWP, and It came to renewal of my ESA as I was only placed on it for 1 year, I was sent incorrect accessible forms and took from me advising them again to receiving the forms in the correct format 3 weeks meaning that my claim most likely was at risk of being closed again. I spoke to one of the WCA managers at Hull Benefit Processing Centre and explained the issue, in which he brought something interesting to the next conversation I had with him as he was advised by a Manager at the 'Alternative Formats Team' that the reason there had been delays previously was because the DWP & Xerox had in fact been in a contractual dispute with each other.
This then got reaffirmed by a PIP manager as I had decided to use my 13 month Mandatory Reconsideration process before I couldn't use it and had to start my claim from scratch. A manager at PIP in Manchester explained to me that he knew that there had been issues with Xerox and he understood that the contract had finished with them.
I decided to do some fact finding to find that the contract between the DWP & Xerox finished in December 2017 however what was unusual was this wasn't announced like when most other high valued contracts end with government bodies. Both Xerox and the DWP also tried to tell John Pring from Disability News Network that their hadn't been a DWP contract and when you search online it's on Xerox's website from 2007 about the contract.
For the past nearly 2 years now I have carried on fighting the DWP over this issue and seeing what you had happen to yourself also has determined me further to see this through to the end because yes If I have been the only person being vocal about this issue, I might be helping those who couldn't speak up about the issue, those who have been refused access to their sickness benefits because the system failed them.
Also for the past 2 years 2 hospital providers who I am under the care of also who used Xerox failed to comply with reasonable adjustments and this was because Xerox stated they couldn't print on yellow paper.
Throughout this entire process I have had a shocking experience not only as a disabled person, but also because of the levels of discrimination I faced, the absolute lack of care and compassion you'd expect from the government body that is suppose to help support some of our most vulnerable citizens and to face an absolute denial of understanding safeguarding especially when it relates to someone who suffers with their mental health because as a young person they were forced into prostitution a form of Child Sexual Exploitation and that trauma lives with me day to day but as you will be aware this country doesn't see that Child Sexual Exploitation can happen to a man or boy because that's what the media say their stories always focus on females rather than males.
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