Hi. My name’s Cel and I’m a disabled trans woman.
I had to drop out of uni in 2014 after a cancer diagnosis. I then claimed ESA as I was too unwell to work. I’ve had to give up my last 6 jobs due to disability, so it’s not as if I haven’t fought against being too sick to work. Not that that should matter, but given the rising hate of disabled people in the UK, it does.
Three months after I claimed ESA, on 20th August 2014, a man called me from the DWP’s fraud team. He insisted over the telephone that “you are a fraud” and told me I had to stop my claim. I asked him in what way he considered me a fraud and he refused to answer. He insisted that the problem is that I *am* a fraud rather than anything I had done was fraudulent.
He was looking at my case file at the time he called, so he knew I was trans. I then naturally took this as he considered my trans status to be fraudulent. I used to work for Citizens Advice before I became too ill, so I knew that the next step from the DWP would be an interview under caution, with a DWP fraud representative accompanied by the police. While it is not illegal to be trans in the UK, and indeed I have a GRC which means I should never be treated as a male prisoner, I was made very afraid by his threats. In addition I am multiply disabled and would have a very hard time physically and mentally, even if detained only for a short time.
I had a trans woman friend who was told to detransition by her lawyer, and later died in a male prison. In Golden Dawn areas in Greece trans women were rounded up and told to detransition or face male prison or worse. Thus I was terrified by his threat, whether he could actually carry it out or not.
The DWP fraud rep’s name was Graham – he refused to give me his surname. Bindmans lawyers indicated he has involved himself in the cases of trans women claiming welfare before.
Graham stated he would write to me, but no letters ever appeared.
Since that ‘phone call in 2014 my mental health has got much worse. I feel like his threat is still hanging over me. I was not paid any ESA at all until January 2016. Trans peoplehave numerous restrictions on our accounts that mean thatusually the DWP cannot access them and thus cannot take any information from us. I have called the DWP perhaps 30 timesduring the course of this claim. Calling them is extordinarily difficult for me, as after Graham’s call using the telephone gives me extreme anxiety. Each call I made resulted in an average of 2 callbacks from the DWP, however it was extremely rare that the person from the DWP could access my account. I have only been able to talk to someone with access to my account I believe twice in this time, having spent perhaps 30 hours on the ‘phone and a further several days waiting by the ‘phone for callbacks.
Although this system of restricted accounts is intended to protect trans claimants, it has theexact opposite effect. It did not stop Graham calling and threatening me. Indeed, the DWP restrictions protected Graham, as there was no recording made of his call. Only after a years’ digging did my lawyers find proof that the call happened at all.
The only way I can forward any information to the DWP is through my lawyers. This includes sick certificates, as the DWP loses approximately 50% of the sick certificates I send.
The DWP finally decided to send me a “Capacity for Work” form, to assess my claim, this August. That is 26 months after me making the claim. As I am homeless and unwell, and my advocate was away, I was not able to fill in this form by their deadline of the 16th. I asked for a two week extention but have not been granted that.
Instead the DWP will not let me submit a form for consideration. They are going to assess me on 1st September. (Edit: my lawyers got this rebooked for 13th September, but the DWP refuse to rebook it as my advocate is still too ill to attend). Going to this would stop me from moving into a new place, which I am due to do on that day, ending 22 months of homelessness.
Assessing claimants without letting them fill in forms is designed to reject claims. I was assessed for PIP without being given the opportunity to fill in a form. Most of the assessors report was fabricated. I was given 0 points. When I recieved the letter I attempted suicide.
At the moment I feel extremely suicidal. All of this is having a terminal effect on my mental health. I am posting this online as a record of my treatment and, if I do not survive, as an explanation why not.
I have also experienced other transphobic violence during the last two years. When I was sent to hospital on another occasion due to suicidality, the consultant called me a “transvestite”, and stated that, contrary to overwhelming evidence, being a member of a minority has no effect on mental health. When I have sought treatment for ongoing post-operative pain, Charing Cross gender clinic has told me it is because of my sexuality – heterosexual trans women apparently do not experience post-op problems.
If I feel well enough I will have to fundraise in order to not become homeless again. This is always accompanied by accusations of fraud by nameless internet strangers. Hopefully this may deflect some of their criticisms and explain why I have been driven to fundraise.
It is increasingly becoming acceptable again to publically espouse some of the tenets of eugenics towards disabled people. I am publishing this so that fellow-travellers of those pushing such policiescan at least no longer claim they are ignorant of how the welfare system treats claimants.