The process of applying for Personal Independence Payment (PIP) in the UK has been marred with controversy, leaving many who are perfectly entitled to the benefit too scared to even apply. For those new to the system, PIP has replaced Disability Living Allowance as the non-means-tested disability benefit in the UK. PIP is a benefit available to cover the extra costs of being disabled.
In my case the costs include the extra childcare needed for my toddler, the hire of a powerchair to get me around, and a cleaner/housekeeper to come weekly to keep the house in order. Because I can’t work anything more than an hour or so a week, these costs need to be covered somehow.
I started my application process in April 2019. My face-to-face assessment happened about 3 months later, with the decision letter arriving at the end of August.
The initial decision letter
The decision letter from the DWP stated the assessor did not feel I had any difficulty with any aspect of daily living or mobility and therefore was awarded zero points.
To say I was angry was an understatement. What this letter was effectively saying was that all my description of the difficulties I have with washing and bathing, cooking (or the lack of) was a complete lie. They brushed over the fact that I can only wash once, maybe twice a week due to the extreme fatigue caused by showering. They ignored the fact that I use a wheelchair for any distance more than about 20 metres as the fatigue and dizziness caused my covering anything more than this leaves me seriously unwell for days after. On top of all this, they made wild assumptions based on some of the abilities I do still have, to warrant not giving any help for other things.
In their opinion, the fact I can drive my manual car means I can therefore walk as far as I wish. The fact that there was “no evidence of fatigue, pain or dizziness” means that therefore I can’t have any difficulties with cooking, cleaning or washing. The fact that I can raise my arms above my head apparently means I should have no problems washing myself on a daily basis.
Related: Mummying and M.E. – My M.E. story
I was angry for not just myself but for all the other sufferers of invisible illness out there. All the other people who live with disabling M.E. but purely aren’t believed. Shocking.
What I did next:
Anyway, after a few days spent crying with anger over the situation, I got investigating the process of appealing a PIP decision.
Of course, the DWP do not make this easy to find. I spoke to everyone I knew, in the hope that someone would know someone who could help me. Luckily I was put in contact with various support networks in the local area, all of whom were happy to help me.
I’ve written this article in the hope it may help some other people who are in the same situation as me.
How I appealed my PIP decision:
I contacted the DWP to ask for a copy of the assessor’s report. This is a print-out of what was written by the health professional at the face to face assessment, with the assessors assumptions and decisions written after. The face to face assessment had been an hour long appointment led by a health professional. They had asked several questions about all aspects of my daily living and mobility and had written this all down. This is then sent to the DWP for the assessors to make the decision.
Upon receiving the assessor’s report (in between swearing profusely and yet more tears of anger) I made notes as to where the assessor had either missed out key pieces of evidence, or had made assumptions that were wildly untrue.
I got in contact with the various local support groups I had been given the details of. I explained the whole situation to each of them over the phone and was told what I needed to do next to appeal the decision.
I got in contact with the local MP via email. Note: many support groups online do suggest doing this and yes, I very much encourage it too. However, I made sure my email to the MP was clear and succinct. There was not going to be any point in writing an essay to him as he likely wouldn’t read it all. I wrote a very brief summary of the situation and then simply asked what I needed from him: a letter of support for my appeal.
I got hold of as much extra supporting evidence I could. This included an occupational therapy report, a letter from the GP, and then the supporting letter from the MP. I made sure my National Insurance number and name were written on each piece of paper. Last thing I wanted to find out was that the DWP had somehow lost some of my supporting evidence!
I downloaded the mandatory reconsideration form from the government website.
You can write your own separate letter with the different sections if you wish, but I found this form to be the easiest way to do it. Again, make the answers clear and succinct.
“Section 3. You awarded me … points. However, I should have earnt… points because…”
Post off your mandatory reconsideration form and supporting evidence to the DWP within a month of the decision letter. Make sure you have photocopied everything you have sent off and checked each page has your name and National Insurance number on.
I’m not going to lie, the whole process of applying for PIP and then appealing it, was hugely stressful. There were many tears. And many days of wondering even if it was all worth it, considering the amount you get isn’t actually that much. But the principle was behind it all and I wasn’t going to let some jobsworth decide I didn’t actually deserve the support I was rightly owed.
Reconsideration Decision Letter:
I received my mandatory reconsideration decision letter mid-October, 6 weeks after the original decision letter. Unfortunately this makes me one of the lucky ones, as many people spend months, if not years, fighting their PIP decision.
The DWP have stated they now are awarding me 13 points for the daily living component, and 12 points for the mobility component, giving me the enhanced rate of payment for both, until 2023.
To anyone out there who is either starting the process of applying for PIP, or is appealing their decision, good luck.
Until next time,
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