Rip Them Off & Start Again
I’m not sure if this post is a self indulgent, self absorbed pile of shite or further evidence of the underhand ruthlessness of Local Authorities in ripping their disabled residents off.
One thing it does show (sadly) is that my transition from Dad to Project Manager is complete.
It’s 1.15 and I’ve been on the phone to various council departments since 11.30. I’ve got two more calls still to do. I went back to Steven’s first thing this morning to sort him out for my absence the rest of the day. If I’d stayed, I wouldn’t have had the time to make those calls, so decided to pay the support worker to cover the three hours this afternoon. Steven is bemused and still trying to work out what is going on. I sorted out the CDs, so the support worker can do the Wednesday disco tape instead of me. “Dad doesn’t do Tuesday tape anymore. Dad’s not Steven Neary’s Tuesday friend anymore”. He’s half right. I think I’ve only done the Tuesday tape twice since we got the keys to the new house. Quality, shared time sacrificed for the pleasure of bureaucratic personalisation. Whilst I was there, I did the support workers’ wages. I’ve queued them up until the end of December so at least I can be spared that job throughout Christmas. There’s still the November Personal Budget audit forms to do but I didn’t have the stamina for that today.
Back at my flat, the first call was to the Council Tax department. Despite getting Council Tax Benefit, Steven has received a bill for £80.55 to the end of the year. This struck me as odd because I’d paid his council tax on the old house until the end of the financial year and the banding on the new house is lower. If anything, he should be in credit. At first, the guy said he was unable to check the account on the old house but later confirmed that the credit had been transfered to the new address. So, what is this £80.55, I kept asking. Eventually, he is forced to admit to the big rip off. Steven is not getting the disabled discount at his new address. Their policy is, when someone moves, the disability marker is set to zero and the person has to reapply for the discount. Only, they don’t tell people. They just send you a bill for the full non discounted charge.
This isn’t a mistake or incompetence. This is a committee approved policy. A policy designed to get money out of disabled people when they really should be helped via the discount scheme. Hillingdon has form on this. Exactly the same thing happened back in April when Steven suddenly received a large bill for his care charges for 2016/17. The previous two years of receiving a personal budget, he wasn’t charged at all. After much stress and deep digging, it turned out that the council had a policy that at the start of each financial year, they reset the amount of disability related expenditure a person has to zero. Expenditure ignored, they are free to bump up the charges people are expected to contribute towards “care services”. But they don’t tell people. They just send out a bill and hope that people aren’t inquisitive or suitably threatened and pay up.
This is two different departments, the council tax department and the social care department. It suggests that a committee must have looked across the board at ways of ripping disabled people off. From every department the disabled person has to have contact with. I don’t know about you, but that is so ethically and morally bankrupt, it is shameful.
I could have been too busy, or too tired, or not alert enough and just paid up. I suspect hundreds of ratepayers do because they don’t know any different. Ironically, having finally got the council tax bloke to acknowledge the scam, sorting it out sounds reasonably straightforward. Steven doesn’t have to reapply for the disabled discount. And rather than owing £80.55, he is probably due a refund.
What do you do? If I was still just ” Dad” and got on with bopping away with Steven to a soundtrack of UB40 today, this would never have come to light and gotten sorted. Fun and loving engagement had to give way to project management.
Its not over. We normally watch Gladiators together after taping. It’s the 1993 semi final today and Helen Williams hurting her back after falling from Hang Tough. But I’ve had to pass that over to Des as I’ve still got the best part of two hours phone calls to do – the tenancy appeal, the damp and why Steven has an odd additional charge on his rent account.
Dad can’t sort that. Mr Project Manager might.