Category Archives: finances

No fight left

It’s been 5 weeks since the human rights organization Liberty said they might be interested in taking my disability discrimination case and I finally managed to get through to their advice line on Thursday.  It wasn’t good news.  They’re not going to represent me after all and I’m absolutely gutted.

It’s 2017.  How can the Equality Act, which is supposed to protect my rights and treat everyone equally, allow me, as a disabled woman, to be treated differently to everyone else?  How can everyone else be paid a health insurance until they’re 65 but allow mine to stop at 60 leaving me with five years to live in abject poverty?  The unfairness of that makes my blood boil and the fact that no-one gives a shit makes me even more furious.

I’ve tried every single avenue in the past two years and gotten nowhere.  And I’m exhausted.  I seem to’ve spent my entire life fighting and I’m not sure I’ve got any fight left.

I fought to have my depression recognized as a teenager.
I fought for five years to have my back pain recognized as a physical, not a psychological, problem.
I fought for a year to stop my ex-husband taking my home off me.
I fought to have my M.E. recognized as a physical, not a mental, illness.
I fought to receive even basic medical care, and failed.
I fought to receive basic social care, and failed.
I fought to be ill health retired from my job.
I fought to receive welfare benefits for the first 8 years of my illness.
I fought to keep my Permanent Health Insurance for the first 6 years of my illness.
I fought the builder who agreed to sell me a house, took £4000 of my money then raised the price of the house by £50,000 which I couldn’t afford, and lost.
I fought to have my EDS diagnosed.
I fought to have my MCAD diagnosed.
I lost the fight to have either illness treated in any way.
I fought the company who installed my gas fire and gave me carbon monoxide poisoning.
I fought my Permanent Health Insurance company for two years when they tried to take my money off me.
I fought when the Government said I was fit for work and tried to take my sickness benefits off me.
I fought my Permanent Health Insurance company when they tried to take my money off me for a second time.
And I’ve fought every single day of the past 23 years just to survive.

I’m so tired.  So tired of having to do everything alone and not receiving any help.  Tired of no-one giving a crap.  Tired of being treated like I don’t matter.  Tired of being ripped off.  Tired of the injustice, the money worries and the hardship.  Tired of the fight.

I don’t know where to go from here.  I suppose I should just give up but I’m left with this boiling rage that I can be shit on from a great height and I’m just supposed to lie down in the muck and die.  I can’t accept it.  It’s not right.  It’s not FAIR goddammit!  And I hate unfairness.

So if anyone has any bright ideas let me know.  Or if anyone has a friend or relative working for a Legal 500 law firm who specializes in discrimination cases and who hasn’t already ignored me, let me know that too.  Or pray, if you think it will do any good.  I need some help, I need it now and I don’t care where it comes from!

 

 

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Pension Victory

….not for me before you all start cheering, but a victory which will hopefully add weight to my own battle against pension inequality.

As I wrote about here, the human rights organization Liberty may be interested in looking into the discrimination I am facing in respect of an income protection policy I’m claiming on.  Everything was fine until 2011 when the Government changed the retirement age for women of my age from 60 to 67.  I won’t now receive my state pension until I’m 67, yet my PHI policy (which forms the bulk of my income) still ends at 60 meaning I have a seven year gap with nothing but £100 a week state sickness benefit to live on.

If I were a man my current policy would have ended at 65 as back in 1992 men’s PHI policies ended later than women’s as this reflected the differences in retirement ages.  If I were a healthy woman and not claiming on my policy I could simply switch to a new policy which reflects the new retirment age for women and my PHI would carry on until I was 65.  So as a disabled woman I am the only section of society whose PHI still ends at 60, which is blatantly discriminatory.

You’d think I’d be covered by the Equality Act, which after all exists to ensure everyone is treated equally, but you’d be wrong.  There is an exclusion in the Act which says that insurance policies are exempt from discrimination law.  It’s scandalous and I’ve been trying to find someone, anyone, to take on the (massive and hugely wealthy) insurance industry on my behalf for years with no success until Liberty recently said they might be interested.

They have been fighting a pension discrimination case for a gay couple for the past five years.  There was an exemption clause in the Equality Act which allowed same sex spouses to be treated differently to heterosexual spouses when it came to pension benefits, but this week the battle was won and gay people’s spouses are now entitled to the same pension rights as heterosexual couples.  The fact that the High Court found an exemption in the Equality Act to be discriminatory has important implications for my own circumstance and next week I’m getting in touch with Liberty again to see if they’ve now made a firm decision to tackle my PHI case.  I’ll let you all know how I get on!

Liberty & Hope

I have a Permanent Health Insurance policy (PHI) which I took out in 1992.  These types of insurances provide you with an income should you be unable to work due to ill-health and mine has been paying out for many years.  Thank God for it, because if I’d had to survive on state benefits when I became ill I would have lost my home (if you rent a house in the UK you get housing benefit, if you have a ginormous mortgage you get diddly shit).  My policy ends at 60 when I was supposed to retire and receive the State Pension.

However, in 2011 the Government changed the retirement age for women in the UK from 60 to 67, which has massively impacted my finances.  My insurers have refused to extend my PHI to the new retirement age and I wrote about how it’s affected me in this blog post and this one.   The change in the retirement age discriminates against me as a disabled woman and I’ve been trying for 6 years now to get someone to take on my case.  No-one has helped.  Not my MP, not HM Treasury, not the Equality Advisory Service, not the Disabled Law Society,  not the Financial Conduct Authority nor the Financial Ombudsman or any of the ten specialist Solicitors I’ve approached.  They all agree I’m being discriminated against but there is a clause in the Equality Act which excludes existing insurance policies, which basically means I can be treated differently to everyone else in the country and it is lawful.

The unfairness of this has, at times, driven me demented.  Either Equality Laws apply to everyone or they don’t.  You can’t cherry pick who can be discriminated against and who can’t.  Just because I took out my policy pre-2011 shouldn’t mean it’s OK to treat me differently to healthy people, or differently to disabled men whose PHI policies already extended to 65.  I now face seven years in my sixties where I will have to survive off £100 per week Employment & Support Allowance, which barely pays my Tesco grocery bill let alone my gas, electric, council tax, house, car and mobility scooter insurance & breakdown cover, TV licence, petrol (no buses where I live and it’s not like I can bike the 60 miles for my Hospital appointments!), water rates, internet (without which I couldn’t physically survive as I live 7 miles from my nearest shop so get everything online, even my prescriptions) or the help I need, eg. someone to clean my house.  If I don’t get the law changed I will face several years of abject poverty.

My very, very last hope was to contact the Human Rights organization Liberty.  They specialize in unlawful killings, torture, deportation and other more pressing issues than mine and I didn’t think for a million years they’d be interested in disability or sex discrimination, so I literally wept yesterday when they said they might fight my corner for me.  They are, apparently, already dealing with a pension age discrimination case and mine would tie in with that.  So I’ve had to send them all my details and then play the waiting game to see if they will help.  Please God may they help, because I’ve no-one else to turn to.

They are interested in hearing from anyone else in the same position as me, so if you live in the UK and are claiming on a PHI policy which still ends at 60 please let me know via the comments and I’ll email you.

Permanent Health Insurance update

This post only relates to the UK, so if you live overseas feel free to put the telly on 😉

Luckily, before I got M.E. back in 1994 and before I knew I had either EDS or MCAD, I took out a Permanent Health Insurance Policy (PHI) which pays a proportion of your salary should you be unable to work due to illness (minus any ill-health retirement pension from your job and any welfare benefits to which you’re entitled).  I wrote about it in this post last year.

My PHI has paid out successfully for many years and was due to end when I reached 60, because when I took the policy out that was the default retirement age (DRA) for women.  After that the state pension, and my small private pension, would kick in.  However, in 2011 the Government in their wisdom increased the DRA for women to 67 literally overnight which means I am going to have to live between the ages of 60 to 67 on Employment & Support Allowance, which currently stands at £108 per week.  This barely covers my Tesco grocery bill let alone anything else and I’m now terrified for my financial future.

I feel I am being discriminated against on the grounds of:

  • Sex: Men can, and have always been able to, have a PHI until they’re 65.  I am being treated differently to men.
  • Disability: If I were healthy and still in full time employment I would be able to either extend my existing policy until 65, or failing that take out a new policy until 65 (my current insurers offer them on their website).  However, as I am disabled and claiming on my policy this isn’t open to me.

So I’m basically being treated differently to disabled men, and differently to both healthy men and women which is blatantly unfair and against the law to boot.  At least, I thought it was against the law until I discovered there is a get-out clause in the Equality Act 2010 which says that existing insurance policies are exempt from equality laws.  I seriously couldn’t believe my ears when I heard that little gem – how can it be fair to discriminate against disabled women just because the discrimination started pre-2011?!!  I’m being discriminated against now in 2016 and silly me thought there were laws against that.

I have tried everything, and I do mean everything, to get my PHI increased until the new retirement age and have had no luck whatsoever.  I’ve contacted:

  • HM Treasury, which overseas the insurance industry, who told me if I felt I’d been mis-sold my policy to take it up with my insurers.  I pointed out the policy hadn’t been mis-sold, the government had changed the goalposts, which fell on deaf ears and they insisted a further 3 times that if I felt my policy had been mis-sold to take it up with my insurers.
  • My insurers told me to get stuffed.  It wasn’t their fault the government had changed the goalposts.
  • The Equality Advisory Service told me I was being discriminated against, but because of the get-out clause in the Equality Act I should contact a Solicitor for advice.
  • I contacted 10 of the top solicitors in the country (one of whom specializes in PHI cases and works with the ME Association) who deal with equality issues and none of them would take my case because I have no money with which to pay them the hundreds of thousands of pounds it would cost to bring a case against the Government.  I have no money because I am too ill to work FFS!
  • The Financial Conduct Authority, who also oversea the insurance industry, told me to take the matter up with the Financial Ombudsman’s Service.
  • I contacted the Financial Ombudsman’s Service who said my insurance company had done nothing wrong and I was being discriminated against by the Government.
  • In desperation this week I emailed the shadow Pensions Minister, Debbie Abrahams and so far haven’t even had an automated reply.  It does not bode well.

In addition, I’ve contacted:

  • The Guardian newspaper
  • Watchdog
  • BBC Breakfast news
  • Panorama
  • WASPI (women against state pension inequality campaign)

none of whom have even bothered to reply to my correspondence.

The unfairness of the situation makes me LIVID.  I didn’t want to rely on state benefits should I become too unwell to work and did the right thing by taking out an insurance so this wouldn’t happen.   The Government put the kibosh on it, breaking just about every equality law known to man, but are allowed to get away with it because no-one will stand up to them on my behalf and I don’t have the resources to stand up to them myself.  And I now face several years of abject poverty as a result of their actions.  It’s so unjust (I would double underline unjust if only I knew how).

I don’t know where else to turn.  The only person I haven’t contacted so far as been Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert from This Morning, but feel so disheartened and exhausted from two years of trying to get someone to help and getting nowhere that I currently don’t have the energy or the will.

When I think of the 7 years of poverty ahead of me I literally have panic attacks and have absolutely no idea how I’m going to manage.  It looks like I have 10 years to find myself a rich husband or, failing that, winning lottery numbers!

The insurance saga

I took out a Permanent Health Insurance policy (PHi) in my early twenties, which would provide me with a proportion of my salary if I were ever too unwell to work.  If I hadn’t had this policy I would absolutely have lost my home when I got sick, because I don’t have a spouse’s income to rely on and state welfare payments like housing benefit are only given to people in rented accommodation not to those who own their homes (even if it’s the bank who actually owns it and you have a ginormous mortgage).

I started claiming on the policy in 1994 and it paid out without any problems until 2010, when all out of the blue the Insurance company wrote and said they’d been overpaying me and were reducing my weekly income by 1/3.  I can barely manage on the full amount so you can imagine my desperation.  To cut a very long story short, I referred the issue to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).  For those outside the UK, the FOS is a regulatory body set up by the Government to help protect Consumers from unscrupulous and illegal business practices.  It consists of a team of Adjudicators who initially look at your case and try to resolve it.  If it can’t be resolved they refer it to the Chief Ombudsman.  The case took two horrendously stressful years to sort out but thankfully the FO Adjudicator ruled in my favour, her recommendation was agreed by my Insurers and my money was re-instated in full.

I was under the impression that this Financial Ombudsman’s Service decision was legally binding so thought the matter had been put to bed once and for all.  Think again Jak.

Since 2012 my insurers have been paying me what I’m owed, but in May this year all out of the blue I received a letter to say they had been overpaying me and were reducing my income by 1/3.  You have got to be freakin kidding me.

I wrote and told them that this matter had been settled by the FOS back in 2012 and, as this decision was legally binding they had to re-instate my money pronto.  They declined, so I had to start their formal complaints procedure.  Four months down the line and they are still “looking into it” despite the fact there is nothing to look into.

I contacted the FOS in June to ask their advice on the latest saga and they have been useless, ignoring my email and telephone messages.  Last week, in absolute desperation and already overdrawn at the bank, I found the email address of the Chief Ombudsman online and emailed her, outlining my case and begging for help.  Although I didn’t receive a reply, it must have reached her because on Tuesday I received a phone call from one of the Adjudicators apologising for the delay in answering my correspondence and offering to go over my case.

I was mortified to learn that the Adjudication back in 2012 is not legally binding.  Only an actual Chief Ombudsman’s Decision is legally binding and, as both the insurers and I had agreed with the Adjudicator’s recommendations, my case hadn’t had to go to the Chief Ombudsman.  In addition, the Adjudicator’s recommendation isn’t forward thinking – in other words it only works up to the date of the agreement between the parties.  My insurers could have changed their minds the week after and I would have had to start the process all over again.  It’s fucking outrageous and basically means an Adjudicator’s decision isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

Because the previous FOS decision isn’t legally binding I can’t enforce it through the Courts, so I’ve had to make a totally new complaint and start the process all over again.  It took me 3½ hours Wednesday morning to gather all my paperwork together and email it to the Adjudicator (thankfully I still had most of the relevant documents scanned and saved on my laptop from last time), but there is no guarantee that this decision will go in my favour and I have no clue how long the process will take.

The stress of the 2010-2012 case was what caused my Mast Cell Disease to explode – I’d never had anaphylaxis before in my life until then.  God knows what’s going to happen this time as my health is much more precarious these days, not to mention the fact I’m now going through peri-menopause and have the added stress of caring for my parents.

I simply can’t believe I’m having to go through this a second time.  As if life with 3 exhausting, painful and crippling diseases isn’t hard enough these fuckers are trying to plunge me into poverty, yet are still happy to take my premiums every  month thank you very much.  Wish me luck, my financial future depends on the next few months.