Guardian, 4 January 2018

"Benefits ordeal has left me ashamed of my country" (Letter, The Guardian, 4 January 2018)

Last year, two of my friends were called in for a reassessment of their benefits. Both suffer from arthritis and mental health issues. Both, following their health assessment reviews, had their benefits terminated. Both appealed and thanks to an independent judge and doctor had their benefits reinstated – and then some six months later were called for a further health assessment. It was this point that I offered to help. As a former headteacher, I am used to dealing with authority and to completing complex forms. I began by making phone calls to establish why my friends had been summoned yet again – three assessments in 18 months. I was passed from pillar to post: call centres in Hull, Doncaster and York. No one could tell me why, but advised that we must attend or risk losing benefits.

For Ms K’s assessment, we made the 18-mile trip to York. En route we got a phone call to say that our appointment was delayed one and a half hours. For Mr K’s appointment in York, we arrived to be told that it had been cancelled and he would receive another in due course. In both cases, benefits were allowed. However, the process was inhuman, causing extreme anxiety in already vulnerable people who have no additional financial resources to draw on. If I hadn’t seen this draconian process with my own eyes, I would not have believed my country capable of behaving like this. I am ashamed.

Gillian Tarn, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

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