Our Right First Time campaign highlights the key problems with the way brain injury survivors are being assessed for disability benefits.
Pensioner Joy Webb found supporting her son to apply for Personal Independence Payment ‘incredibly frustrating’.
Joy’s son Matthew, 45, from Plymouth, sustained a brain injury from intracranial pressure after a number of medical procedures associated with treating his leukaemia, which was diagnosed at the age of four.
The injury lowered his IQ and left him with learning difficulties, as well as a number of permanent cognitive and memory issues.
Joy, who is lives in Exeter and who is Matthew’s appointee, said she found the assessment form to be very arduous.
She said: “The first part of the assessment took me more than two days to complete.
“Although at least at that stage I was able to include some medical evidence and three contacts who could give more detailed evidence to fully show Matthew’s disabilities.”
Her confidence in the process quickly faded when she attended the face-to-face assessment with Matthew.
“The appointment was at 9am but by 9:15 we will were still waiting to be seen. This was distressing for both of us as it is a stressful situation already,” recalled Joy.
“When I asked why there was a delay, we were told that the assessor was still reading the evidence!
“Surely they should read it before the assessment time. How on earth would they be able to absorb so much information? They simply can’t. I was furious and incredibly frustrated.
“The government insists that all evidence is taken into account and that the professional will contact those names in the report but it simply isn’t the case.”
Joy, 71, said things continued to be bad when the appointment finally began.
She said: “The nurse, who wasn’t trained to understand the complex nature of brain injuries, was simply inadequate, she clearly hadn’t taken into account all the evidence I submitted.
“Matthew can seem like he understands but his problems are hidden. His life is often in chaos, he forgets things, can’t multi task at all and can’t learn new skills. After I pointed out to her that the questions she was asking wouldn’t capture the true reality of how Matthew is effected, she became agitated and emotional. Eventually she said she would only continue the assessment if I didn’t interrupt.
“Again this is counter to recommendations that appointees or partners of the applicants should be provided equal support.
“It was farce really. At one point the assessor told Matthew she was going to ask him a question towards the end of the session – presumably to test his memory. But then she forgot to ask the question herself!”
Joy and Matthew are still waiting to hear if their application has been successful but the experience has left them both feeling dismayed at the current system.
Joy said: “They really need to improve the way they assess people with brain injuries. It simply isn’t good enough in its current state.
People like my son rely on these payments, so the assessment needs to be fair, clear and most importantly accurate, from my experience it was none of these of things.”
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