Recently, we received a copy of a letter from a Deaf mother to HMRC which made for difficult reading.
Melanie Morris’s letter, which we have published extracts from below, explains how her child tax credits were stopped and her struggle to get payments started again.
After the tax credits were stopped, Melanie faced a delay before she could contact HMRC by phone because she needed to find someone who understood sign language to make the phone call – only to find that HMRC wouldn’t accept the call from a third party.
Things then became farcical when she went with a hearing person to the tax office – which the website hadn’t mentioned had already been closed. On the window of the tax office was – surprise surprise – a phone number they could call…
Ultimately, it took her months to resolve her problem, which resulted in huge stress and exasperation for her and her family.
At the end of her letter, Melanie shows how this has made her feel when she asks HMRC to “Please, please, please STOP. STOP asking Deaf people to use their voice. STOP, sending complicated letters. STOP and think about how you treat DEAF customers badly. STOP AND THINK NOW.”
Further extracts from her letter are below but we’ve since found out (thanks to Linda Parkin at RAD, one of our supporters) that HMRC have made arrangements for Deaf people, and Deaf people can go to their web page and book an appointment with an interpreter.
However, HMRC haven’t been very good at publicising this. RAD have filmed the information in BSL and it can be found on this page of their website:http://royaldeaf.org.uk/information_advice_and_guidance/How_to_contact_HMRC/134
You can read extracts from the letter (divided into sections by asterisks *) which shows just how frustrating HMRC can be to deal with for a Deaf person, below…
Extracts from Melanie’s letter
On the 28th July, you sent me an eight page letter to tell me that my child tax credit had stopped.
When I received the letter I was very upset. It took me until the 12th September to find one hearing person that understood sign language to help me phone you to find out why my payments stopped.
My beautiful daughter Maura is 16 years old. She is severely disabled. She cannot read, write or walk but we love her dearly and want the best for her. It is not easy find people to care for her the way she understands. Maura is in full time education until she is 19 years old. She cannot undertake mainstream educational qualifications.
The hearing person agreed to meet me at the HMRC Tax Office in Leicester City on Friday morning. It was her day off.
The last time I was in Leicester City was a few years ago. The City is too busy and scary for a person like me. I do not like it but I made the journey because my daughter welfare is very important to me.
I got to the Tax Office first. It was closed down. I had checked on the internet to find out where is the office. The hearing person did the same. There was nothing on the internet to say the Tax Office had closed down since last June. What a waste of a journey.
On the Tax Office window, there was only telephone numbers given to call. So, here we go again, the TELEPHONE barrier again. No other options were given.
I was very embarrassed but I had to use my voice in the street to answer the security questions.
If I did not use my voice, the phone call would not be accepted.
Finally, finally, finally after an hour, HMRC agreed to backdate the credits to the date it was stopped and said they will not ask me to go through this again until my daughter is 19 years old.
When I said if I needed to contact them again, they said I could ask a friend, family, neighbor or CAB to make the phone call on my behalf.
How stupid is this after I spent an hour trying to explain about someone needing to understand sign language, HMRC not accepting third party phone calls. I wanted to SCREAM but had to keep my mouth shut because I was afraid they would stop my daughter’s payments.
HMRC please wake up. This is 2014.
You should not be discriminating people like me. You are embarrassing me. I am trying my best as a mother to take care of my daughter.
Instead you make me feel small and I hate having to beg hearing people who know sign language to do something I could do myself if you had a Tax Office with Advisors so people like me can visit or an email address or a video relay system.
This took nearly a year to sort out. It causes a lot of tears and fears for me, my partner because our daughter relies on us.
This phone call was the last straw. I am not dealing with this on my own anymore.
I am sending this letter to the Leicester Mercury, Citizen Eye, BBC Leicester and Deaf Opinions.
I am sure I am not the only Deaf person to experience this kind of embarrassing frustration.
Finally, after the phone call on Friday, the hearing person agreed to write this letter before she went home. I signed what I wanted to say and she typed it into written English for me.
Please remember, this hearing person was off duty. Her full time job is a freelance registered qualified BSL/English Interpreter. She did not ask for payment to do this job. I think she should send an invoice to you HMRC for doing your job for you.
So, this letter is a BIG HUGE COMPLAINT.
Please, please, please STOP.
STOP asking Deaf people to use their voice.
STOP, sending complicated letters.
STOP and think about how you treat DEAF customers badly.
STOP AND THINK NOW.
Please use modern technology so Deaf people can contact you directly.
But, one thing, thank you for being sensible and continuing the tax credits. Out of all this frustration, it was a HUGE RELIEF to know I can continue to provide for my daughter.
EMBARRASSED DEAF USER OF HMRC SERVICES
The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
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