Tuesday 26 June 2018

my PIP story pt.1

If you are applying for PIP, here are the main things I learned in almost 18 months spent in limbo-land.

Firstly I'm not an expert on Personal Independence Payment. If we look at the facts, I submitted two separate applications, both of which were turned down!

But I thought it might be useful for anyone going through the process to see all the steps I went through to get to my result.

At the very least it might show that, with a bit a massive amount of perseverence you can get the result you need.

1. It's not the same as Disability Living Allowance

I approached applying for PIP in much the same way as Disability Living Allowance. THIS WAS A MISTAKE. It really isn't the same beast and what was fine in the past (writing about you on your worst days) doesn't cut it anymore.

The really slippery buggers are the Yes / No / Sometimes multiple choice questions about issues you might have. And it's these which mean that the system is not a good fit for a fluctuating condition such as MS.

If you have to tick "Sometimes", what does that actually mean? A couple of days a week? Five out of seven? I'd say that if it's over 50% of the time there's a good case for just ticking "Yes".

2. Get an outside view

Ideally this would be someone who is not personally or emotionally invested. There may be an organisation near you which offers an advice service - Citizens Advice, MS Society local groups or Disability Direct will all be able to provide some support to people making claims.

One other great source of guidance and support is Benefit Advice Essentials - see their Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/MYBASEUK and their website at https://www.benefitadvice.org/

When application number one was turned down we worked with the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers Centre as they have a lot of experience of these sorts of cases.

They submitted a Mandatory Reconsideration for us and when it was knocked back, they went through my form. And advised me to apply again.

3. If at first you don't succeed...

As I mentioned at the time, the main reason I was advised to apply again was because a lot of things had changed between my application going in (January) and the decision being made (August). I couldn't include things like adaptations around the house or Cognitive behavioural therapy sessions in my appeals because they weren't on my original form.

Could I have informed the DWP in the interim? Yes, probably - but they might have asked me to apply again anyway.

I was lucky in that, between submitting my form in January and the Mandatory Consideration refusal in August, I was still getting DLA. Which meant that when I reapplied in September (and got a positive result in May this year), I effectively didn't lose any money.

However. It was undoubtedly touch and go, and I wouldn't recommend it as a way to achieving a positive mental attitude.

I worked up the second set of answers with our DUWC representative, then drafted up the form. THEN the representative went through the answers again before I filled in the form.

And he took a lot of it apart, showing where I could be said to have contradicted myself or undersold the problems I have.

I think this is something that a lot of people do, because the whole process is so difficult to get through psychologically. We naturally prefer to assert our independence and focus on the things we can do, because the other option is too depressing. And even if we prepare our application with a family member or a partner, it's difficult to expose or recognize those parts of our lives.

The DUWC representative asked some tough questions and I didn't like him for a lot of the process. But he explained that he wasn't even thinking that the form would get passed at the first attempt. He was helping me to write it with one eye on a tribunal.

By getting it watertight at this point I would be giving myself the best possible chance at a tribunal, where an independent panel would look at evidence from both sides. Following on from this...

4. Language is important

Again, you will feel more confident if you're sure that your answers are watertight. Does your answer for one question contradict what you have said elsewhere in the form? Could this be used to undermine your claim?

Filling in this form is a horrible thing to have to do. You are laying bare the worst parts of your lived experience. You may not want to acknowledge that the person you are writing about IS you.

Give yourself a good chunk of time - I ended up panicking and rushing mine.


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