Personal Independence Payment (PIP) Telephone Assessment
Written by the Editor Renata M Barnes.
Today my daughter had her PIP assessment over the phone. My daughter told me she had four reminder text messages saying that her phone call appointment was scheduled for 09.15 hrs yet the assessor phoned at 08.45 am and when my daughter did not pick up phoned again at 09.10 am (where is that 09.15 may I ask, did the assessor have cognitive impairment to not phone at the scheduled time)?
The assessor was made aware I was listening in as the call was on loudspeaker.
The duration of the call lasted one hour and ten minutes and in that time my daughter was asked the same questions which were on the questionnaire she submitted.
Breach of GDPR
The caller never said the call was being recorded even though by law they have to say. Furthermore, the assessor did not offer a copy of the call recording which means that the assessor may have been working from home or the call was not recorded at all.
My daughter suffers from Multiple Sclerosis which is a progressive disorder that there is no cure.
There is (HSCT) hematopoietic stem cell transplantation currently not available on the NHS, which aims to wipe out and regrow the immune system similar to Lemtrada Alemtuzumab treatment which my daughter had last year.
The assessor asked the same questions as what was on the form but went into some very alarming questions, some of which were so sensitive that could have caused a trigger in mental health patients, like have you ever had any suicidal thoughts or wanting to self-harm.
No one should be in a position to answer such a question because:
- It can cause a trigger and the person may not have had those thoughts before, but may now have a seed planted in their head to do it sometime in the future. When asking such a question you should not put those words directly into a person’s thoughts. It should be handled in a way of “how low do you feel on any given day” and “how do you feel when you are feeling low“? You should not say “have you had suicidal thoughts”? This is a TRIGGER. This type of questioning should only be done by a qualified professional, face-to-face (not over the phone).
- Secondly, the person being interviewed may not be truthful if there are many people present. Perhaps the person may not want to admit those thoughts in front of their carer, parent, or a total stranger. Someone who is feeling low and that question is asked, could theoretically not tell the truth to the person asking, yet the option would be there in their minds. One should never plant a seed in someone’s head. Only a professional psychologist or psychotherapist would assess a person’s mental health, not a complete stranger.
- The assessor should go by the medical evidence from the doctor’s reports and not ask these questions directly (by asking this question it is deemed as reversed psychology). Only a mental health professional should ask these questions. Talking about suicide is a taboo topic that is very sensitive, one needs to build trust between the person asking and the patient. People with suicidal thoughts may sometimes never admit to having them, so it is best to ask “how low a person is feeling” or “has ever felt” and open up a dialogue, rather than ask that question directly.
Does asking about suicide and related behaviors induce suicidal ideation? What is the evidence? https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24998511/
Degrading & Humiliating Questions
- Asking the person if they can wipe their posterior is degrading especially when admitting if one can or can’t to a stranger.
- What has that got to do with my daughter’s condition she is not in a wheelchair which was made clear at the beginning and is on her medical records. I understand that these questions may be asked but should be directed to the clinician and not the patient.
Work & Studying
PIP is a non-means tested benefit and when deciding a person’s eligibility for support their disability or condition and how it affects their life is taken into account. So what with the twenty questions such as “what is content marketing” etc? (what I have written now is called content).
- When my daughter was asked how she gets to university she said she takes a taxi. I noticed a pause from the assessor. So unless she was thinking that would cost an arm and leg, don’t tell me because I already know that is why I help my daughter pay for transportation. So despite telling the assessor my daughter does not walk far, why in the next line of questioning does the assessor ask how far can she walk in terms of a length of a bus? (I thought these questions were not relevant and were no longer being asked).
- When asked what work she does my daughter said marketing and how many hours per week. My daughter is the assistant editor of this website so she may work two hours one week or 16 hours the next. It depends on the assignments I give her. My daughter is not self-employed unlike myself. The assessor continued so what is my daughter’s role which she replied writing blog posts. Blog posts can take an hour or can take a whole day to do and it all depends on how many words are written and for what purpose. I have more than one website www.irenata.com I use a link wheel of websites to drive traffic from multiple directions. www.mrketingcardiff.com and www.ukcontentwriters.com to name a few.
- My daughter then was asked a question if there was a fire at the university how long would it take her to get out of the building? (How would she know that if she has never had a fire evacuation? The assessor continued to say this was a hypothetical question. This is ridiculous as how would my daughter know where she was at any given point in a worst-case scenario if the lifts did not work it would take her longer? How long is a piece of string? She could be on the top floor. (So does that mean if you escape a fire you have no problem with mobility).
My daughter was never asked about her stress levels although she did mention the frustration of her disability. Stress and frustration can coincide together but they can also have different meanings. The assessor did not go into too much detail other than how my daughter remembers to take her medication and who feeds the cat (yes that was asked). https://disabledentrepreneur.uk/stress-cognitive-function/
Stress is a complicated disorder in itself. Stress can be prolonged whilst frustration is short-term. The stress of rewriting a blog post or assignment due to a lack of concentration or increased fatigue can cause frustration.
My daughter was asked what medication she was on and the one medication the assessor said and I quote “Hold on I need to Google it“, this is no word of a lie and I can prove this was said, just don’t ask me how.
- . Who lives with you (why is that relevant)?
- How many bedrooms have you got? (and the point is what)?
- Who pays the bills?
- How long have you done online grocery shopping?
- So you have a cat, who feeds the cat, and why?
Final Thoughts From the Editor
I am really looking forward to my assessment because it will open a can of worms regarding the GP support I have not had.
My daughter’s call lasted over an hour, this is not going to happen with me as time is money and I already wasted one hour today listening in to a call that was pointless.
“The assessor insinuated because my daughter has a part-time job and is studying it may look like there is nothing wrong with her even though it is her physical well-being that is affected and not her mental health.
I did not think this should be used as a fit for work assessment, but more so as a health and well-being assessment and the prognosis of the ability to function from day to day.
I have disabilities but I still can work by managing my health in such a way it does not hinder me. It is the outside world I have a problem with, because of my OCD and social disconnection issues. However, if I was put in a situation where it was an emergency and had to leave my home, I would worry about the consequences of my disorder afterward. I have literally thrown away things I have not been able to salvage or disinfect. I am the happiest in my own company with my own surroundings.
I run several businesses online for my clients but that does not make me fit to work in the physical world. One should not draw conclusions about a person’s ability because from one day to the next the ability to function can be impaired.
For my own assessment, I have given them enough information, that I envisage my call will be halved. I most certainly will not answer questions like what my daughter was asked today, because they have enough evidence on file. I am not going to answer questions such as am I capable of wiping my own ar#e?
My daughter should have stated she documents her health online but for some reason omitted this. We will have to wait on the decision in 8 weeks’ time.
Multiple Sclerosis is an auto-immune disease that attacks healthy white cells. The lesions that can affect the brain and spinal cord can cause a wide range of potential symptoms, including problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation, or balance. It is an incurable disease with lifelong symptoms that can sometimes cause serious disability, although it can occasionally be mild. The average life expectancy is slightly reduced for people with MS and symptoms can be alleviated with different courses of treatments. In most cases, people get diagnosed in their 20s or 30s but it has been known that patients have shown symptoms as young as 15 years of age. In fact, it can develop at any age. It’s about 2 to 3 times more common in women than men.
MS is one of the most common causes of disability in younger adults.
The most common symptoms include:
- fatigue (discussed)
- vision problems (semi-discussed)
- numbness and tingling (discussed)
- muscle spasms, stiffness, and weakness (ms hugs -discussed)
- mobility problems (discussed)
- pain (discussed)
- problems with thinking, learning, and planning (not discussed)
- depression and anxiety (stress, anxiety, semi-discussed)
- sexual problems (other than contraception which was Googled by the assessor – Libido? not discussed)
- bladder problems (not discussed)
- bowel problems (not discussed)
- speech and swallowing difficulties (not discussed)
- relapses due to temperature, either too hot or too cold (and cost of living price rises –not discussed)
- cognitive impairment (concentration, balance, losing grip in hands – not discussed)
Other than fatigue, vision, numbness, and pain nothing else was discussed in the above list or the fact that stress and anxiety can cause MS relapses.
So why is the government somehow wanting people with disabilities to jump through hoops (quite literally) to prove they are disabled when their medical records should suffice?
I would have put a stop to the questioning and said so what do you know about multiple sclerosis or in my case OCD & cerebellar atrophy. Secondly, I would have said… so I gave you access to my medical records but clearly, you have not read them.
I reckon these assessors have to do something to sift through the scammers in this world, but the people that genuinely need help, are made to feel belittled, degraded, and inadequate just to get the extra bit of help.
With multiple sclerosis, the weather plays an important factor and people suffering from MS can relapse when the weather is too hot or too cold.
Therefore with the rise in the cost of living and keeping one’s home warm the extra bit of money helps. Yet this was not discussed, which tells me the assessor had no knowledge of Multiple Sclerosis.
The assessor said I quote so you are making an effort to work and let the disability stop you, sorry I am not being patronized even though it came across that way.
I did want to put my two penneth in, but I figured that it was best to keep my mouth shut and see what happens when the decision is made for my daughter.
The assessor should have:
- Stuck to the given scheduled time and not rang half an hour earlier.
- Said if the call was being recorded or not and asked the interviewee if they wanted a copy of the call recording.
- The assessor should have also introduced herself properly (which she did not) and said what she was qualified in (which again she didn’t).
- The assessor should have acknowledged the other person listening to the call but chose to ignore them (which was deemed unprofessional).
- The assessor should not ask extremely sensitive questions to cause a trigger.
- The assessor should have gone by the medical records to gain all the information she needed without humiliating the interviewee.
- The assessor should not have asked irrelevant questions such as who feeds the cat and why?
- The assessor should not have spoken about her own health issues as that is unprofessional.
- Asked how long the household did online shopping (how is that relevant to the claimant when we were in lockdown which had nothing to do with the claimant’s illness).
- Asked to explain what content was in my daughter’s job role.
As for me, let the circus begin, I can’t wait!
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