I have not got a clue what I am doing.
A few weeks ago, I picked up a prescription and explained to the chemist that I didn't know what to write on the form. I'd previously not paid for prescriptions, but although in receipt of Personal Independence Payment I was not in receipt of Working Tax Credits- it turns out that my allocation of PIP was a notification of a change in circumstances, which in turn the WTC team at the Department for Work and Pensions used as an excuse to stop paying me WTC. I'm still in receipt of PIP, so to be on the safe side, I paid for the prescription. I looked online and it appeared that I in fact didn't have to pay, so I went back to the chemist and showed them my award of PIP on letterheaded DWP paper.
The chemist took this as acceptable proof that I didn't actually have to pay for prescriptions, so they refunded me that money.
Yesterday I got ANOTHER fine, to add to the dentist's fine of a few weeks ago (which is still under review- I forgot that it still needed paying despite this, so it doubled in price). This chemist's fine, to the tune of £51.60, also needs paying. It turns out, having rang the NHS charges helpline, that the chemist misinformed me. I should have paid, and was not eligible. WTC means free prescriptions, PIP does not.
As well as forgetting things due to memory difficulties- the reason I claim PIP in the first place- I frequently misinterpret information and make decisions based on what I think to be the case, but isn't. So the condition that causes me to be poor, which makes me eligible for some benefits, is the same condition that causes me to make mistakes which result in the fines.
I'm pretty sure I've made these mistakes before, (but of course, I wouldn't know for sure.) So presumably, I may get further fines, resulting in the loss of hundreds more pounds. I asked the NHS charges helpline about this- the chemists have apparently misinformed me and I have to pay for prescriptions. WTC was what made me eligible to get this for free, not DLA (Disability Living Allowance, which was stopped a year ago) or PIP (which I've been in receipt of for a few months). Fines are issued by a 'scanner,' by 'spot checks,' so at random the computer will check if people claiming free prescriptions are eligible, and if they aren't a fine will be issued.
A question: Why did the chemist let me claim for free if I'm not applicable? Surely working in a chemist, you'd have to know who is eligible for free prescriptions and who isn't, based on the benefits they say they receive?
The DWP will send me an HC1 form, or an HC2. I don't know which I'll receive, but these relate to health costs. Apparently, once filled and returned, this will give me free prescriptions for 12 months. If I get WTC, it won't be relevant, but if I don't it will 'act as a backup.' They say I should get a decision on WTC soon, after which I should work through the above. There's a 28 day hold on this fine in the meantime.
What frustrates me about this situation the most is that these benefits are there to promote independence and to assist with living costs. They are there to help, but I can't be the only person who needs these who doesn't actually understand how they work. I'm an intelligent enough bloke for most situations in life, but a system designed to help people on low incomes is more complicated than the job that I do, and harder than the treatment I've been through in the NHS relating to depression and confidence building. If you make an honest mistake it will cost you a good chunk of what the DWP give you.
One promising report comes from the Express: 9 out of 10 appeals for dental fines are successful. The article describes how simply 'ticking the wrong box' can result in a £100 fine.
Fines should be issued for people who purposely try to do over the system. If someone is asking for help with something they don't understand, and they still mess it up, the fines should be waived and the support should be put in place. I'm tired of being treated like a criminal.