Well, it took long enough but here is the text of the letter that the Complaints & Correspondence Manager for the DWP sent to my MP last week:
Thank you for your letter dated 21 October about the need for an appointee … for your constituent, Mrs. F.
Firstly, I apologise for the length of time it has taken to reply but as explained during my telephone call to your office we needed to obtain legal guidance about this matter to ensure we actioned Mrs. F’s case correctly.
We have contacted both Motability Operations and our legal group about her circumstances. Although a signature is desirable for validation reasons, (it) is not actually required for a claim to be classed as valid.
Motability Operations tend to follow our lead on whether an appointee is required. They have confirmed that if we are content that Mrs. F can manage her affairs they would amend the contract accordingly. They would ask the customer to write to them explaining the situation and in this case would accept why a signature could not be provided.
As explained, … the Manager responsible for Mrs. F’s case is going to contact the appointee about relinquishing the appointeeship to enable Mrs. F to deal with her own affairs. Once this has been done responsibility for dealing with her DLA and her Motability agreement will lie with Mrs. F.
I hope this info will prove useful for anyone else who, like me, has a functioning brain despite being unable to hold a pen.
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Edit: I’ve forgotten to put the original text of my complaint to Rob Wilson on here, which might be useful for people who want to raise their own issues with the DWP. You’ll find it below:
I have motor neurone disease and as a result am paralysed. As such, I am unable to hold a pen and therefore unable to sign documents. Because of this, against my better judgement, I agreed last year to my friend, H, becoming my appointee for DWP purposes. To do this, I had no choice but to declare that I am incapable of managing my affairs. At the time, my survival rested on my receipt of benefits so I allowed this to happen only to facilitate my financial security. I no longer rely on means-tested benefits but still receive Disability Living Allowance and Incapacity Benefit.
In April of this year I began the process of applying for a wheelchair accessible vehicle through the Motability contract hire scheme. Recently, my DWP appointee was informed by Motability Operations that it would be her who would be held legally responsible for the car, not me. For obvious reasons, neither H nor I were willing for this to happen. I am more than capable of taking responsibility for my own car plus she has no wish to have any liability for a car which she has no control over the use of.
I informed the DWP that my friend was no longer willing to be my appointee over the phone and submitted the forms with a ‘P.P.’ signature, as instructed by the vehicle supplier. However, when they submitted the forms to the DWP the process ground to a halt. My mother telephoned the DWP to inquire what the problem was. They refused to divulge any information to her or me and informed her that if I was unable to sign the form then I would be unable to have a car on the Motability scheme.
Because I am unable to travel by any means other than an adapted wheelchair accessible vehicle, H has reluctantly agreed to sign for the car. We contacted Motability Operations who informed us that H will remain under contract for the car even if she withdraws from her appointeeship. This responsibility can only be transferred to my next appointee or me, if the DWP assess me to be capable of running my own life. This then returns full circle to the fact that the DWP only provide me with two options; my signature, which I am physically incapable of providing or relinquishing my rights to yet another person when I am a fully competent and intelligent human being.
I find the lack of understanding by the DWP to be astounding at a time when all political parties claim to be working towards enabling disabled people to live independent and fulfilling lives, free from discrimination. The DWP are clearly in breach of the Equality Act 2010 by not making reasonable adjustments to the service that they provide to the public as a whole. Their lack of anticipation of service users who have brains that function but hands that do not results in abuse towards the claimant, the appointee and the DWP’s own procedures and systems. For me (or anyone in my position) to claim that I am incapable of managing my affairs is fraudulent yet I am forced by the state to lie or I cannot receive any of the benefits to which I am entitled. An appointee is bound by the terms of their appointeeship to inform the DWP if the claimant becomes capable of managing their own affairs; if they do this then the claimant is left with no way of handling their own life. Therefore the appointee has to collude with the falsehood. In addition to this, an appointee who has no right to stop a competent person from living life however they choose is still liable for any fraud, etc. perpetrated by the claimant. This leaves him/her in an extremely vulnerable position.
Surely I should not have to hand over my autonomy to someone else because the DWP have not anticipated my inability to hold a pen and sign? I am not disabled by my muscles not working; I am disabled by the DWP’s lack of adequate provision to all of their service users.