Letters, Monday, July 30th, 2012

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Ordeal over claim for sickness benefit

I AM writing this letter knowing it will read true to a lot of people who have been through the assessment and appeal process for sickness benefit.

My problems are osteoarthritis in my knees, hips, lower back and neck. I get a lot of help from family, friends and neighbours with housework, shopping and laundry. So when I went for my assessment I couldn’t believe it when I was told I was fit for work.

My assessment took 26 minutes, so if the assessor is to be believed, it means she took just 60 seconds to examine my ankles, knees, hips, wrists, elbows, shoulders, back and neck. How can any medical person say that was a fair examination? She also put I had never been employed. Since leaving school at 15 (I am now 59) I have been employed on bin wagons, coal mines, shipyards, construction, steel works, factories and warehouses. All heavy physical work, which has led to my present condition.

I appealed straightaway, but had to send three appeals because I was told the first two were not received. Yet when I received the papers from the appeals hearing office, there they were, photocopies of the first two appeals, but not the third.

Then I was told I needed to get medical certificates while I waited for a hearing. They were emailed, but guess what – they were not received. So I had to phone my doctor to get his permission for someone from the benefit office to get the information over the phone.

Then there were regular problems with my payments. The letters that are sent as reminders as to when certificates are due always come too late. Then, come the hearing, more problems. They agreed I have problems with walking and sitting too long, but when I mentioned the letter a family member had written explaining the help she gives me with housework, shopping and laundry, the reply was “we are not concerned with any help you get.”

After being told my appeal was dismissed I asked the judge what I should do next. She said don’t do anything, the DWP will be in touch. This was wrong. My hearing was on July 6. I was told by the Job Centre on July 17 I should have gone to see them as soon as possible to avoid any problems making a claim for JSA. Guess what, the problems have started, but that’s a different letter.

I was give 12 points for problems with walking and sitting, I’m sure I would have received the three points needed if they had bothered to look properly at my means letter and the assessor’s obvious mistakes in her report.

Fred Kennedy, Seaham

Good candidate

I WELCOME Vera Baird’s joining the campaign for the new and role of Police and Crime Commissioner.

A very bright lady, whom I remember at the bar 30 years ago as Miss Taylor-Gooby.

She will have many excellent qualities to bring to the role, not least the independence of spirit nurtured at the bar, and in Parliament. She represented Redcar with some distinction.

I am encouraged that her sponsor, Miss Phillipson, recognises the need to protect people with a weak voice. As a long-suffering council tax payer, after 40 years of our Labour elective dictatorship, I find that I have no voice at all.

G. E. Brown, Sanford Court, Ashbrooke, Sunderland

Keys handed in

I AM writing to thank the person who handed some house keys, on a Guide Dogs for the Blind keyring to the driver of the No. 35 bus between Herrington Burn and the Beehive on July 15.

As a thank-you I have decided to make a donation to Guide Dogs for the Blind.

E. Nixon, Galashiels Grove, Shiney Row

Whiff of hypocrisy

THERE is a great hue and cry about regional pay and conditions being suggested for the public sector.

Apart from the fact that regional variations have existed for years in the private sector, there is also a whiff of hypocrisy coming from Labour over benefits.

Labour MP Seema Malhotra said on the July 16 edition of the Daily Politics show that there was a case for regional variations in benefits due to wide differences in housing costs.

If these variations are okay for the unemployed, why are they not for the public sector?
Keith O’Brien, St Chad’s Crescent, Middle Herrington, Sunderland

Office petition

ON behalf of the group of residents who raised the petition to save the Resorts Office, I would like to thank the 1,181 people who signed the petition and the local traders who gave us magnificent support.

I hope that the council takes note of the following statement on its website: “The views of local people in Sunderland really does matter and they do influence decisions that affect everything from how we provide services to the future of the whole city.”

Margaret Alexander, Sunderland

Baxter was a great player

FOOTBALL is a fantastic game and I’m the first to admit the game is about opinions. I’m a Glasgow Rangers fan and I would never ever say Celtic are a great team.

My father and grandfather were Rangers fans so it’s tradition that I would follow them and it’s the same with every other football team and their fans. A true Sunderland fan would never follow Newcastle.

But when facts are presented how can anyone disagree? Jim Baxter was a great player, playing 34 times for Scotland. Who can forget the 1967 game between England and Scotland where “Slim Jim” played “keepy-uppies” with the England World Cup winning team.

Ball, Stiles and the rest couldn’t get the ball off Jimmy Baxter – and he was a Sunderland player then.

Scott Andrews, Ryhope, Sunderland

The joys of golf

IT is the “Open Season” for golf. The song says “It went straight down the middle”. Mine never did and usually ended in the rough, the waata or the cemetery.

Mind you, no the wonder that dedicated golfers can’t find their balls when the likes of Little Billy thought that they had been lost and he had found them.

What I mean is that as a five-year-old, my mother would take me to my Auntie Annie Craggs, who had a paper shop at Pallion on the bank going down to Steels and Shorts Shipyard.

While they were gassing, Little Billy was taken for a walk past Shorts to Wearside Golf Course. Apart from not appreciating the danger of getting whacked by a golfer with a long drive, out of ignorance I believed that we had found a lost ball.

Late in life, I tried my hand at “pitch and putt” at Seaburn, when Seaburn had a miniature golf course. The ball just wouldn’t keep still so that I could whack it one.

When I did manage to make contact, I couldn’t find where it had disappeared to when hidden by a load of daisies an dandelion puff balls.

When I was about 18, I had a go a proper golf at Houghton Golf Club. My brothers-in-law, Charlie and Bob McCain, were good golfers, but sadly, Little Billy hadn’t a clue.

I was always trying to knock the skin off the ball.

Then I went to Boldon Golf Club. I was friendly with a pal called Jim Cook whose dad was treasurer of Boldon Golf Club. George Michelson was secretary.

The second hole was adjacent to the cemetery and “out of bounds”. I found that I had an natural slice and was frequently “out of bounds”. You can’t believe how often you just can’t get over a quarry.

Even if you are a “rabbit” like me, there is a lot of fun and good exercise in playing golf and you make some lovely friends.

One of the first days at Boldon, I didn’t know anybody and a chap asked me if I wanted a partner? It was a bloke called Dawson Hunter who played off scratch. Dawson was one of nature’s gentlemen and had time to give a few pointers to a novice.

Dawson was a miner and I saw him hit an “albatross” on the 17th green. If you know nowt about golf, that’s getting down a par five in two strokes.

So Missus, if you’ve never tried golf, give it a go and get away from all that stress and turmoil.

Little Billy Craggs

A big thank-you

I HAVE just returned home after a long stay in Sunderland Royal Hospital. I’d like to thank the many friends and neighbours for asking after me, and the beautiful cards received. I’ve read every one.

I can’t mention individuals by name – too many involved.

Besides, I certainly would hate to leave anyone out.

So my eternal gratitude is sent to you all.

Mrs M. Stephenson, Atlantis Road, Farringdon, Sunderland

Facts about the Gala

IN reply to the letter from John “The Pun” Watson, saying Durham Miners’ Gala should be scrapped, let’s look at the facts.

Thousands turn out every year to proudly remember the miners and their families.

Their heritage will live on longer than any other industry, owing to the fact they were close-knit communities.

Your observation about drunks rolling about all day. Try going to Newcastle or Sunderland on a weekend. I promise you will see a lot worse.

Next you will try and get Christmas stopped or the airshow.

If you really want something to complain about, try the giant dog toilet which is Herrington Country Park.

G. Worthington, Douglas Terrace, Penshaw

Search Party

AFTER my last Search Party appeal, I traced all the former pupils of Monkwearmouth School who I wanted to get in touch with for our latest reunion.

However, I would now like to make contact with the following members of the Class of ’79:

Sharon Armstrong, Penny Wood, Caroline Mosdell, Mark Vasey, Mark Curtis, John Massingham, Andrew Dyos, Pauline Lee, Wendy Corkin and Sandra Dunn.

They can contact me on the number below.

Kay Brewerton, Tel. 07745 704104