I called the first entry in my PIP diary The Saga Begins. I had no idea how prophetic that would be. What I expected to be a fairly straight forward enterprise has turned into a nightmare. Surely as someone with a fairly static impairment that will never improve, that was previously been awarded a life time award for Disability Living Allowance and who has huge piles of supporting evidence my transition from DLA to the new Personal Independence Payment, both created to help disabled people with the extra costs of day to day life, should have been an example of the system working at it's best. I now know how the system has been designed to work against all claimants, and to break the will of those trying to legitimately claim a benefit society deems essential to their lives. Previously I have told of the huge amount of work it takes to fill in the forms required to receive PIP, the reams of evidence collated and sent off, and how this evidence can be misunderstood by the medical assessors involved in vetting claims. All of this is nothing compared to the hoops to jump through to challenge a PIP award.
As I said in my last entry, my award had mistakenly confused a medical term and after ringing to inform the DWP I was told this would be corrected. This sadly was totally wrong. On July 6th I was rang by the DWP, a courtesy call apparently, asking if I had sent any supporting evidence for my challenge to the assessor's award. I was shocked as no one had informed me I needed to send any. I was informed to needed to get my GP to write a letter explaining my treatment, and send this to the DWP asap. Off I trotted to my GP and requested a letter. It would take 10 days, which would make it tight as I only had two weeks to complete my challenge to the findings. Then my GP contacted me to inform me they do not send out information for the DWP unless requested by them directly. They could send me a basic list of my medical history but not discuss specific treatments. I contacted the DWP but they insist they do not contact any medical professionals directly and it is entirely up the claimant to gather any evidence. So firmly stuck between a rock and hard place. In a panic I printed up the page of my claim forms where I describe in detail the treatment in question, that clearly explains I require it doing for me every day and I cannot do it without assistance, plus I Googled it and printed up information on who has the treatment and what it entails. I sent this off immediately to the DWP, and it was signed for on July 10th.
After two weeks I received a letter informing me my Mandatory Reconsideration, the official name of a challenge to a PIP award, had failed and my award stood, primarily as I had sent no supporting evidence. Eh? I rang up and it appears all of my evidence had been lost. Also not only had they made the same mistake in my reassessment but added a new one, making the confusion about the treatment in question even greater. I now have to make a legal appeal to a tribunal, which I must complete within one month of the mandatory reconsideration. Again, I collate all of my evidence, fill in another detailed form, trot off to the Citizen's Advice Service to gain their assistance and support in my claim, put the whole lot in a brown envelope and spent nearly a tenner posting it recorded delivery. I now have to wait for a date to attend this appeal, where I will hopefully be able to make my case and explain the simple mistake understanding a basic medical term that has led to all of this stress and work.
To say stress is an understatement. I've had so many sleepless nights. Should I even try to fight the award? Did they misunderstand my claim or is it something darker? Is the system so difficult as it is designed to make people give up? Obviously I started talking about my experiences on social media and I was stunned at the response. So many disabled people are going through exactly the same experience. Or worse. People who so obviously are entitled to this support are being denied it, and have to battle hard to challenge the DWP. These aren't these fictional fraudsters, there are real disabled people who are totally entitled to PIP. They are who PIP was designed to help. Yet we are thrust into a situation where we are having to fight to prove our impairments, battle to describe what that they mean to our lives and give out deeply personal and private information to anyone who asks.
Anyone who imagines the PIP process is fair and will support those in most need is fooling themselves. As far as I can see, from my own experience and the stories of far too many others, it has been set up to make it as hard as possible to prove you are entitled to a tiny financial payout that is designed to help towards the huge costs of being disabled. Trust me, being disabled ain't cheap. It isn't easy either, and with the implementation of PIP and it's procedures, it's got a hell of a lot harder..