When Gillian Tarn offered to help vulnerable friends navigate the benefits system, she could not believe the draconian and inhuman system she encountered

Last year, two of my friends were called in for a reassessment of their benefits (Our benefits system is now a racket for cheating the poor, 2 January). Both suffer from arthritis and mental health issues. Both, following their health assessment reviews, had their benefits terminated. Both appealed and thanks to an independent judge and doctor had their benefits reinstated – and then some six months later were called for a further health assessment. It was this point that I offered to help. As a former headteacher, I am used to dealing with authority and to completing complex forms. I began by making phone calls to establish why my friends had been summoned yet again – three assessments in 18 months. I was passed from pillar to post: call centres in Hull, Doncaster and York. No one could tell me why, but advised that we must attend or risk losing benefits.

For Ms K’s assessment, we made the 18-mile trip to York. En route we got a phone call to say that our appointment was delayed one and a half hours. For Mr K’s appointment in...

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Mental health is a level of psychological well-being, or an absence of a mental disorder; it is the "psychological state of someone who is functioning at a satisfactory level of emotional and behavioral adjustment".