When does reform become dangerous?
Over three years ago the Conservatives began to roll out personal independence payments (PIP) – in essence, the mandatory, mass re-testing of disabled and chronically ill people – and the answer is getting stark.
Are you entitled to Personal Independance Payment?
Personal independence payments assessment is designed to punish the poor and ill, regardless if it is a legitimate claim or not. Everyone is thrown into one basket.
A report released by the Muscular Dystrophy UK is the latest piece of evidence to expose an administrative catastrophe: appointments canceled at the last minute, lost applications, year-long delays.
Two in five respondents report being sent to an assessment centre that wasn’t accessible for disabled people. This is designed purposely to save the government money as the people that genuinely want help may give up in the process of fighting back. Not everyone knows how to appeal and if the government makes it hard for them to claim and appeal, the disabled person will just simply just give up. The assement is designed to break you down.
Since the pandemic interviews have been suspended but prior to the lockdown and my own personal experience once you manage to make it inside the building, the picture is as dire: widespread reports of assessors – employed by private firms hired by the Department for Work and Pensions – who showed no respect for disabled people, (this is especially true in my case and the humiliation I personally felt and the length of time I had to stand ), while some didn’t even understand the condition they were testing (one man, with muscular dystrophy, pointed out that the word “progressive” means “muscles don’t come back”).
Once you are at the interview you will be asked to answer a series of questions and perform endurance manoeuvers to see if you can balance on your feet, walk or how mobile you are etc. My daughter’s neurologist wrote in his report my daughter has a spastic gate and the assessor undermined the neurologist report saying my daughter could walk fine.
You will also be asked questions about your finances and if you are coping or if you are in rent arrears and credit card debt to mental health issues. I was asked what I do for a living and did not elaborate on it other than to say I do web design.
I think this form of questioning is to intimidate and degrade you.
Just because one can manage finances does not make you a healthy person. Even if you spend 60 hours or more on the internet working as some entrepreneurs do will not make that person any less disabled.
Even if the person who is an entrepreneur but disabled could successfully trade online would not mean that because they are successful at what they do that there is nothing wrong with them.
I just have a problem with interacting physically and germ contamination, I have no problem being online.
I was personally asked about my toilet hygiene and routine and if I sat on the toilet and how I wiped my you know what and how I maneuvered around in the bathroom. I felt humiliated and felt the whole ordeal very upsetting and I still have anxiety about it to this day. So you can imagine my fear and anxiety of another assessment next year.
One woman, with a muscle-wasting disease, said that she developed panic attacks after her assessment. She is now under the care of a mental health team and doesn’t leave her house.
That the government deliberately built PIP with tightened criteria – and is sitting by as the system descends into disarray – becomes grimmer still when you consider that this is being done to a benefit tied to other essential disability services that people cannot live without.
Without PIP a disabled person can’t access anything from carer’s allowance to severe disability premium. If that isn’t enough, anyone who is rejected – or bumped down to the standard rate – is also barred from the Motability scheme for an accessible car or powered wheelchair.
Sarah, a nurse with progressive muscle wasting and weakness, was seven months pregnant – and was forced to hand back her Motability car. The 29-year-old had been receiving the higher rate of disability living allowance (the predecessor to PIP), but after being reassessed she was knocked down to the standard rate – despite her condition deteriorating.
Sarah could not take her fatigue medicine without affecting her pregnancy, and her disability meant she was at risk of falling when she walksed, and permanent damage. “That vehicle was a lifeline to me,” she says. “I’ve lost my independence.”
Sarah appealed and was due at a tribunal but found it was canceled with just two days’ notice – and no explanation.
The government is skewing benefits appeals against disabled people.
It took the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith and a budget hole of billions to get the mainstream media to shine a light on the disaster of PIP – or many politicians to find a conscience. One cut to the benefit is stopped. A new secretary of state is hired. And the news cycle moves on. The disabled can’t. For many, things are only getting worse.
Between 400 and 500 adapted cars, powered wheelchairs, and scooters are being taken away from disabled people every week. Independence went – with a maximum of seven weeks to hand your lifeline back. As an insight into the logic, let alone empathy, in this system, that’s notably less time than it takes to go to appeal or even to get the results of mandatory reconsideration – meaning the DWP’s ruling can be overturned, but the disabled person’s car or wheelchair will already have been taken. (At the last count, 60% of appeals against PIP were successful).
Darran uses a wheelchair – and has a degenerative muscle wasting disease – but last year was downgraded on PIP and lost his car. In his own words, it left him “housebound and isolated”, and he scraped together the deposit for another accessible vehicle. The DWP later informed Darran that its decision had been “mistaken”, and his old car would be returned. “My £2,000 deposit is non-refundable,” he says. “I’ve lost that money.”
This is starting to look like a game played by the ‘Dr. Evil’s’ of this world with repercussions on ordinary disabled people’s lives. Take away benefits and the sick become destitute. Remove a car or wheelchair and disabled people become housebound. It’s happening right now – and what’s worse, most of the public won’t even know it, not unless people fight for their rights and have advocates speaking on their behalf.
Note From the Editor.
For me I have severe OCD I cannot be around people and my symptoms have only got worse since the pandemic.
“I am paranoid about germs“.
I even registered a domain name www.germawareness.co.uk as I think Saliva, Postal System, and Cross Contamination play an important role in spreading germs.
I also have severe depression and the only way I manage is if I self isolate. The only person I can be around is my daughter and she too is disabled with MS.
I can understand why the government has put a tight reign on the benefit and that is to stop people scamming the system. I know of one person personally, that would walk with a walking stick for show but when he was drunk he could walk perfectly normally. The government needs to send out spies on scammers that claim to have bad backs but go grocery shopping when they think no one is looking.
I am the modern-day female version of ‘Howard Hughes’ he suffered from severe OCD and self-isolated.
“I can function to a certain degree, but only in my own quarantined environment and if I have surplus disposable gloves and litres of Dettol Disinfectant on hand if I have intrusive thoughts and my OCD is playing up. I also have a designated area no one can enter or touch”.
I used to be able to venture out but now I have anxiety and panic attacks at the sheer thought of seeing other people. I am fine online but physically is a no-no for me. I used to enjoy going out with my daughter once a month when she had her monthly blood and urine tests done but that all stopped not only because my OCD has worsened but because the hospital has strict rules and that the patient should come in on their own unless they are severely disabled.
Obviously, if my daughter needed urgent emergency assistance outside of my home I would have to bite the bullet and no doubt in my mind burn all my clothing when I came home. My daughter’s being is a high priority to me so I would have to sacrifice my own just to help her, knowing I had a counteracting measure in place to ease my anxiety but that would be in exceptional circumstances.
I remember when I had my last assessment and the assessor claimed there was nothing wrong with me. She insisted on touching my photo ID even though I told her I had OCD and I had to stand for one and half hours as I did not want to sit down on public seating (This is humiliation, discrimination and if it causes harm under duress is also against the human rights act).
She also asked me if I had any suicidal thoughts, well in my opinion that is like handing someone a loaded gun. You simply do not put those thoughts into someone’s head if they say they have severe depression. Whatever is in the medical notes should suffice and some unqualified assessor should not plant a seed into someone’s head. Even if I had suicidal thoughts I would not admit to them, not that I have had, just saying.
(I have a reason to live and hopefully, there may be a cure for my OCD someday). I have set goals and am doing my best to achieve them.
But for someone more vulnerable than myself this is highly unprofessional to ask about suicide.
(I should have recorded the interview).
Imagine the applicant going home after the interview and then attempting their own life all because the assessor gave them the idea.
My assessment is up for renewal next year and there is no way I am going to go as I cannot venture out because of my mental health. I also found out that the DWP Agency Capita employs school leavers who have no professional qualifications. I know this as a fact as my daughter as it happens, knows one of them and they are really good friends. The other thing is this particular person actually spoke about people she had assessed to my daughter.
One can obviously see I am stressing about it a year ahead of my time but if I had enough money and I would not depend on PIP to help me buy disposable gloves and disinfectant at alarming levels.
#personalindependancepayment #pip #disabilityallowance #mobilityallowance #tribunals #pipassessment #pipassessor #capita
The Editor Suffers From OCD & Cerebellar Atrophy. She is an Entrepreneur & Published Author, she writes content on a range of topics, including politics, current affairs, health and business. She is an advocate for Mental Health, Human Rights & Disability Discrimination.
Whilst her disabilities can be challenging she has adapted her life around her health and documents her journey online.
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