PIP – The Ordeal
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is extra money to help you with everyday life if you’ve an illness, disability or mental health condition. This blog was written anonymously by a SANE campaigner.
The government frequently speaks of improving facilities for mental health provision. To the majority of service users, this is empty rhetoric, for their replacement from DLA to PIP is based upon the assumption that the claimant is attempting to deceive the system, rather than the acceptance that they are telling the truth, unless proved otherwise.
For me the first part of the process was to endure the ordeal of detailing all the debilitating aspects of the disorders that I suffer from. To explain these painful and deeply troubling factors, and in such fine detail, is distressing enough. Together with evidence from my various consultants, doctors and nurses, I submitted well over 60 pages of evidence. The professionals’ descriptions of how my life is affected were clear and undeniable.
My initial assessment was, frankly, horrific. The health professional, who was responsible for the whole process of the evaluation, turned out to be a general nurse, with no apparent understanding of my mental health needs, let alone the capacity to comprehend the interaction of my mental and physical health disorders. It became rapidly apparent that she was not even taking into account the exhaustive medical reports that my health professionals had submitted. I found this to be staggering.
The environment was one of foreboding, and a source of acute and distressing paranoia. Her attitude was of mistrust as I described my chronic psychological pain, and as a consequence, my ability to expand upon these elements, became increasingly fractured, and anxiety provoking. She even opined that I had declined a muscular – skeletal examination, where in reality, I had been informed that this wasn’t necessary, as I had described my physical disabilities with sufficient clarity! At the conclusion of the appraisal, I was left extremely distressed.
The ‘supposed’ evidence resulted in my benefit being cut by half. To put this into context, I was forced into a precarious financial position where I couldn’t meet the demands of my rent and the payment of bills. Thankfully, my Mother, friends and family were able to assist, so saving my wife and me from eviction and ensuing monetary hardship. We were extremely fortunate to have been assisted in that way, as a frightening proportion of claimants are left destitute with their benefits removed altogether. The distress and hardship that this causes is incalculable. To be left without the means to live in today’s society is as deeply troubling as it is deplorable.
Continuing the process
The second part of the process was the ‘mandatory reconsideration.’ I felt that I would be given the opportunity to describe my conditions and needs with greater clarity. The procedure was by telephone, and I initially perceived that the assessor was more sympathetic to my claim. In fact, she inferred that the level of my benefit would be restored. However, I was subsequently informed that the original decision was to be upheld! I was left both paranoid and dejected, as now, for the second time, no-one had appreciated the severity and impact of my diagnoses. All the health professionals responsible for my care were shocked by this outcome. Providentially, I was then guided to receive legal assistance from a charity called ‘Community Law.’ I was assisted by a wonderful, compassionate legal support worker, who advised me go to appeal. With great diligence and care, he prepared a submission on my behalf, explaining in detail how the assessors had evaluated my case incorrectly. His knowledge and assistance proved pivotal.
Eventually, some ten months after the original paperwork was received, I was called to the appeal hearing. I was accompanied by my Community Psychiatric Nurse and my support worker, who were an essential part of my mental and physical care team. Despite the fact that they are professional clinical staff, adhering to strict regulatory bodies, their evidence was to be put under great scrutiny, as though their medical integrity was in doubt.
The atmosphere was intimidating, to say the least. My representatives and I were told to sit at one end of a vast table, opposite the presiding judge, senior physician, and disability worker. Collectively we were questioned in fine detail by the panel, asked to describe how my various diagnoses affect me both day and night. I felt as though my whole existence was being analysed. However, after a painfully protracted period, I was asked to leave the room. The agony persisted! Then, after 15 minutes, I was asked to re-enter the appeal court room. To my amazement, I had at last been listened to, as the evidence offered by my nurses was acknowledged, and my benefit was reinstated to the correct level.
The relief was overwhelming but it amazed me that the cost of this protracted process was exorbitant, and ultimately unnecessary. For many, their outcome is the antithesis of mine. They feel beaten by the system, pushed into spiralling debt and poverty. Their mental and physical health affected to the point of social isolation, and tragically, suicide. Immersed in despair so overwhelming that life cannot continue. How can we live in a society where the most vulnerable are persecuted to such a perverse extent?
The ministers who are responsible for this welfare system have blood on their hands.