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Applying for PIP

2 April 2017

Personal independence payment (PIP) is a relatively new benefit that replaces Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Everyone who currently claims DLA will be invited to claim PIP by March 2018. I recently received a letter asking me if I wanted to claim PIP as I have been entitled to DLA for a number of years now; I thought I would write about the process.

First of all, in order to make the claim I was required to make a phone call that would last about 25 minutes. This was my first stumbling block; I have a phone phobia, difficulty talking to strangers; auditory hallucinations which interrupt at inappropriate moments, concentration problems, memory problems and a tendency to dissociate when stressed. There was no alternative given to making this call so my partner tried phoning on my behalf. After a wait of 30 mins the call was answered. My partner asked if this phone call was necessary as I just wanted to ask for the PIP claim form to fill in and had multiple issues using the phone. My partner was told that there was no alternative, a number of questions must be answered or the claim form could not be sent. I was then made to speak on the phone briefly to confirm my partner was my partner, I was myself, and I was willing for my partner to speak on my behalf. I was told I would have to go back on the phone later to listen to and verbally sign a declaration.

There then followed about half an hour of questions which passed in a blur for me due to the stress involved. As it turns out, I was entitled to request a paper PIP1 form due to my difficulties using the phone but this request was denied on three separate occasions which is not unusual but is my legal entitlement as a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010. If you would like to know what questions are asked at this stage you can find them here but suffice it to know, the information required was basic and had already been entered into the DWP system on other occasions.

It seems odd that so much money, time and effort is put into employing staff to ask all these questions verbally when an electronic or paper form could be sent on request. With DLA you could apply online and save your work if you could only concentrate or type in short bursts. Now I have to endure a lengthy phone call where I have absolutely no chance of taking in all important information or giving completely accurate answers. This was illustrated when I was made to go back on the phone to listen to a declaration I needed to agree to. I had no idea what I agreed to as the words were gabbled at me really fast and I couldn’t take them in. I just said yes in spaces where it sounded like a yes might be needed and hoped I wasn’t signing my life or all my worldly possessions away.

One important thing to point out is you will be asked if you have a mental health condition, a behavioural condition, a learning difficulty, a developmental disorder or a memory problem. If you have one or more of these conditions you should be given extra time, on request, to fill in the massive PIP2 form which is sent to you after the phone call. The PIP2 form can be viewed here if you would like an idea of what you are getting yourself into. There is also an accompanying booklet telling you how to complete the form.

When filling in the information on the form it is really important to look at each area that is asked about and describe whether you can do this safely, to an acceptable standard, repeatedly and in a reasonable time and how your condition varies. You are asked to send in supporting evidence with your form. I tend not to do that and use the additional information section to list where such evidence can best be obtained and from whom.  I also type my answers to all the questions in a Word document which I print, cut out and Pritt-stick onto the form. This gives me much more room to give information, is more legible than my terrible handwriting, and can be saved and amended as necessary the next time I have to fill a PIP2 in.

The whole process of filling in the PIP2 was utterly soul destroying. You basically have to look hard at yourself and somehow communicate all the things you have difficulty with, even the stuff you don’t like to admit to yourself. Generally, I try to focus on the things I can do and have in place many, many structures, supports and controls that enable me to at least partly do some of the things I find difficult. The PIP2 form makes you very, very aware of how dependent, vulnerable and  incompetent you are as a functioning adult human, a fact I usually make every effort to avoid confronting.

Eventually, and very near the deadline, my PIP2 was completed. The next stage is to post this off (use recorded delivery as many forms get ‘lost’) and wait to hear if I need to attend a face to face assessment or can have a paper based assessment. Allegedly, if you are likely to become extremely distressed by a face to face assessment, every effort should be made to gather the required information via other means. I included in my additional information section that I would find a face to face assessment intensely distressing which would make me likely to dissociate or have a psychotic episode. I have listed the best people to give additional evidence of this on my behalf if required. All I can do now is wait and see what happens. I don’t feel very hopeful; I am aware of the massive Tory push to get people off ‘expensive’ disability benefits and have seen the criteria for them tightened, tightened some more and then tightened again in an effort to narrow the goal posts enough to let an ‘acceptable’ number of disabled people live with dignity and appropriate care. I will let you know how I get on in a future article.

I would strongly advise getting help if you decide to apply for PIP;  here are some online sources; I particularly recommend the Benefits and Work site:

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/sick-or-disabled-people-and-carers/pip/help-with-your-pip-claim/fill-in-form

https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/default/files/pdf/PIPGuidetoclaiming16March2017-1.pdf

Good luck!