Friday 31 January 2020


And my PIP form is in! After a couple of weeks of pretty intense activity. To be honest it went in the post last week. But y'know. REAL LIFE.

In the first instance we relied on the same sources as previously - the Benefit Advice Essentials Facebook group and our contact from our local Unemployed Workers Centre. All signs seemed to point towards approaching the form as if it was an entirely new application.

Yes, I've gone through the application process before. And yes I can do it again. But it's no one's idea of a good time, especially when you have to fit it in with your workload, hospital appointments, etc. And the thought of the amount of time it would take was beginning to stress me out.

Now several months ago I had to fill in a Work Capability Assessment form for Universal Credit. Around this time, I was chatting to a young woman in the infusion ward about the many hoops that we had to jump through to get the support we were entitled to. She mentioned that there was someone based at the Nottingham Citizens Advice Bureau whose time was paid for (at least part of the week) by the MS Society.

I never contacted him at the time and it turned out that I got the result I needed off my own back.

But for some reason I never deleted his contact details from my phone. So I arranged to go in and see him to talk about my PIP application.

Although I was outside of his geographical area, he said that he could use his own judgment. And the MS Society would prefer him to use his time to support people with MS wherever possible.

He also said that I should bring my form with the evidence I'd gathered so we could fill it in together.

In our meeting he talked for the first hour about everything from council tax reductions to Universal Credit to aids and adaptations, before we even got onto the subject of PIP.

Same as we did for my last application, he approached the form by looking towards a tribunal, getting it as watertight as possible at this early stage.

I should say that he has had a lot of experience filling in (and appealing) PIP applications. He even said that he was involved with the design of the PIP form. The thing about the reapplication form, the boxes are pretty small. So this guy basically scored through the questions that I wouldn't be answering and used the available space to get as much information down as possible.

I mean, who would even think to do that if they were filling in the form on their own?!

He also advised against the prevailing wisdom that this form should be filled in as if you're writing about your worst days. His argument was that, if you fill a form in saying that [for example] you can't get out of bed due to back pain, and then you turn up a tribunal, it immediately puts the rest of your form under scrutiny.

As well as all of this, he said that the fact I was in a relapse during my first assessment (and I then referenced it in my second application) probably wasn't as helpful as we first assumed. The assessor would judge it on a 3 months back, 8 months forwards basis. By that logic they can assume that I'll make a complete recovery and make a judgement accordingly. Interesting!

After going through all the sections and double checking that I was happy with what he'd written, he said that I could take the form home to send it when I got the last bit of evidence I was waiting for. Or he could send it for me as it stood, with additional evidence (a letter from my neuro) to follow.

Obviously I bit his hand off! And the relief was unbelievable.

So now we wait. Again.

Good luck as always to anybody else going through similar trials and tribulations.

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