Can You Help Please?

Published by: Maureen J on 6th Apr 2017 | View all blogs by Maureen J

Yesterday, April 5th I had a telephone call from a lady with whom I have been in regular correspondence over the last fifteen years, although we have met only twice face to face; while attending the same meetings as supporters for the same campaign. Sufficient to say she’s a tough and feisty individual in her eighty-first year and suffers ill-health because of a chronic lung condition as well as profound deafness, and has had to contend with more than a few adversities in her lifetime.          

 Four years ago she moved from Newbridge-on-Wye, Powys, in Wales to Swindon in Wiltshire. Newbridge-on-Wye is administered by Powys County Council (PCC). When Margaret left Newbridge-on-Wye for Swindon, she duly gave notice to PCC and also paid Royal Mail to have her mail redirected. That was the start of yet another nightmare.

          Her mail from PCC did not get forwarded because their official envelopes have a logo – NOT TO BE REDIRECTED. As a result, letters notifying Margaret that she was in arrears and owed money to PCC did not get to her so PCC hit on the bright idea of deducting £10 per week from her state pension - ad infinitum. Since she cannot get anyone at PCC to give her more details, she does not know how long this will continue.

            She has sought help from the local Citizens’ Advice Board (CAB) – which requires  her to change buses twice in each direction from her home, but her interviewer, a man, was so unsympathetic and overbearing she had to leave; her breathing became so laboured  she became frightened of something worse happening.

            To whom and where else can this poor lady turn?  This was the kind of problem that we in COPP (Carmarthenshire Older People’s Partnership) used to try to help deal with, but since we disbanded in 2010, there has been a vacuum.

            When the Welsh Government announced they were appointing the first The Older People’s Champion, it was hailed as a great step in the right direction. It was a false hope. The appointee was a great talker, but did little more than talk. I was contacted by several people who were given the same bland response to their plea for help – ‘Sorry, the commissioner cannot get involved with individual cases.’

            This was untrue as I sat on the advisory board responsible for drawing up the parameters within which the commissioner would operate. We made it clear that the commissioner WOULD/MUST be involved at individual level because no two cases are exactly the same. 

            Some MPs get involved in such cases, but it seems that they have limited influence – or perhaps they have as much influence as the effort they are prepared to expend. If anyone has more ideas or avenues that Margaret can explore, please get in touch and I will pass on the information.  Sadly, the lady is not on the internet so we depend on the telephone or the postman.     

Comments

6 Comments

  • LJ E
    by LJ E 23 days ago
    I was wondering if Age Concern might be able to help. Possibly a letter, from her doctor, to 'Whom it may concern' that this lady's health is being compromised by the ongoing worry this protracted matter is causing her, through no fault of her own.

    Her MP is definitely an avenue I would pursue. Hopefully the MP will be proactive. You do have to make a point of keeping the matter fresh in the MPs mind....don't just visit the 'surgery once, go back to find out what progress has been made.

    Writing to a number of Executives/Directors/Managers, any/all those in high office within PCC. Sending the same letter but addressing it by name to each and every one (this may take some investigation to find the names but usually going on the PCC website will help). You could perhaps do this for her as she doesn't use the Internet.
    The letter must point out, in the strongest possible terms, how stressful and upsetting this whole matter has been for this elderly, frail lady.

    If, after doing all this there is no suitable and satisfactory conclusion go to the local Press.

    I hope these few suggestions prove helpful. I would be interested to know how your friend gets on.
  • Maureen J
    by Maureen J 22 days ago
    Thank you for your suggestions.

    When Margaret lived in Newbridge-on-Wye she was able to make better contact and use her own ancient but dependable old car, but her new address has left her more vulnerable. She made the move thinking it would be better, little realising it would be the reverse. Apparently her address means she is awkwardly placed when it comes to local authorities and MPs. Betwixt and between - with no one accepting responsibility. When I tried sending emails on her behalf, I was told - politely, they could not deal with a third person (mind you own business?).

    She tried Age Concern but described them as 'worse than useless'. I wish I lived nearer but living in south-west Wales means a three/four hour drive in each direction so the telephone has to suffice - but is little use when it comes to paper-work. Papers have to be photo-copied and sent by post. The postal services leave much to be desired when it comes to reliability - too many letters going astray and the cost is prohibitive. But I will certainly pass on your words. Thank you so much for taking the trouble to reply.
  • Mary B
    by Mary B 20 days ago
    Maureen I would suggest that she contacts whoever had been her local PCC councillor in Newbridge-on-Wye. If they are good they will be able to sort this out for her. She should be able to make contact by phone. She has clearly missed out on a lot of letters that have not reached her and she needs to be brought up-to-date. It's a very sad situation for your friend and I am very sorry to read what has happened to her.....
    Please let us know how things progress......
  • Christine B
    by Christine B 19 days ago
    Hi all - hope you don't mind me butting in - presumably Maureen's friend has written to PCC and complained about the appalling lack of service? And that she has kept copies of all correspondence? If so, then the best thing that she can do is to complain to the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales at 1 Ffordd yr Hen Gae, Pencoed CF35 5LJ. I admit that this is a time consuming exercise, but it is a "last resort" and certainly PCC needs to change its policy of labelling their letters "not to be redirected" - how stupid is that?

    Hope this extra bit may help as I appreciate Maureen's friend is profoundly deaf.....but does she have an "advocate" that can assist her? By that, I mean someone she knows and can trust?

    My heartfelt good wishes to Maureen's friend and hope it all gets sorted soon!
  • Maureen J
    by Maureen J 19 days ago
    Hello Mary and Christine. Thank you so much for your contributions. I will copy all into a letter and send them to Margaret. I will also phone her to alert her to the promised mailings.

    I am deeply grateful to Maureen as well - and to all three of you a sincere thank you for taking the time to answer a call for help.
  • Christine B
    by Christine B 18 days ago
    You're very welcome Maureen - I just hope that Margaret will soon(ish) be able to resolve this matter and put this awful experience behind her :-)
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