So I thought that I would share my experience of a Personal Independence Payment – PIP home assessment and some tips on how you can make sure you get a fair shout.
So I recently got my award for Personal Independence Payment – PIP. While I am relieved that I was awarded the enhance rate of mobility, meaning I won’t lose my my motability car, I am upset that they have called me a liar regarding my mental health.
My assessment was arranged for Monday at 9am and they called me the Friday before to confirm that this was ok and that the assessor would call before they arrive.
Fast forward to Monday morning and I am startled by a bang bang bang on my door. It’s 8.30am surely they’re not that early I thought. I was still in bed, as I often am, so I had to haul myself out as quickly as I could and get to the door.
Tip 1. Always have someone with you.
I am fairly cut off if I’m honest and wasn’t able to find anyone to be there. In hindsight this was a big mistake. I’m a fairly anxious person in real life and when you’re startled by door banging before you even get going it was never going to go well.
I was greeted by a man let’s call him Mark. He said he was here to assess me and asked to come in and then proceeded to walk through anyway before I’d really answered.
Tip 2. Have ID ready the night before
He sat down and the first thing he did was show me his ID. Well I say ID it was a blank white card that said “Atos.”
He then asked for mine. I was lucky that my wallet was close by or I’d have been in trouble. After barely glancing at it he whipped his laptop out and started explaining that he’d ask me questions and I just answer truthfully.
Tip 3. They’re not doctors so don’t expect them to understand everything
Contrary to popular belief Atos and Capita do not use doctors to assess someone’s health. They use a mixture of Nurses, Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists instead. Not the wisest move in my opinion.
As I have said before I suffer from Functional Neurological Disorder – FND and Borderline Personality Disorder. I doubt that Mark’s occupational therapist training concentrated hard on these conditions, but hey maybe I’m wrong…
It was clear from the first question of; “Tell me what you suffer from that it was going to be a struggle.” He immediately asked me what FND even was.
Cue me trying to explain a complex psychological and neurological condition while simultaneously turning into a stuttering mess. All you can see is them typing away and facial expressions of doubt.
Tip 4. Write down answers beforehand
When you’re explaining how each condition affects you an example is always expected. My mind went completely blank. I knew in my head what I wanted to say but it got lost somewhere on the way to my mouth.
This results in them asking you a leading question like; “so it only affects you a bit.”
Tip 5. Remember they are not on your side, if they can minimise your condition they will.
Mark was the king of minimising and diminishing my health conditions. Regarding my mental health, I stated that have have made several suicide attempts that have resulted in hospitalisation and that yes I do still get suicidal thoughts. His response?
“Well your last one was March so you seem ok now.”
I was really upset by this and I can see from my decision letter this has been used against me.
Tip 6. Be firm if you can’t do something.
Mark was a little pushy if I’m honest. As you all know I am wheelchair bound. I cannot walk, I cannot feel anything below my knees in both legs. He asked me SIX time to stand up.
I explained that I cannot walk or stand but he just didn’t seem to get it. “But you can sometimes no?” By this point I was really upset and wishing I had someone there.
You must be firm and say I cannot do that or if I do that it will hurt me. You’re not obliged to do anything that will cause you pain.
When he finally decided to stop that line of questioning he took out a tailors measuring tape and proceeded to measure my calf. No he didn’t’ warn me either.
I have found that this is Atos and the Department for Work and Pensions way of checking whether wheelchair users are lying. If you’re calf circumference is over a limit they set, they can ask for more information to see if you are feigning.
Not only is this a ridiculous way of checking but it has now put me off carrying out physiotherapy on my legs. Whilst I cannot walk it’s still important to keep my leg muscles as healthy as possible to maintain good blood flow and general health.
If I had intensive physio and my calves were over their limit I’d be called a liar.
The only other assessment was lifting my hands to shoulder height and having him push down to check my resistance.
My result and Conclusion
The reason they have given me the standard rate of daily living is because the assessor stated that I was relaxed calm, made good eye contact and interacted well.
They say that although my health professional aka my psychiatrist has stated I suffer difficulties, they are basing their decision on the assessors report.
This is why having somewhere there is the MOST important tip I can give you. I sat there, nervous, sweating and stuttering looking at the the floor most of the time. I find social interaction with strangers very hard and upsetting. Especially when they arrive early and startle me.
I have asked for a mandatory reconsideration purely because my mental health is a major part of how I live my life and affects me in many ways.
Just remember you do not have to do anything you don’t feel comfortable with or that will cause you pain. You can be firm while remaining polite.
Hopefully these simple tips will help you in getting the help you need and deserve.
Call on the Government to act to help foodbanks
Just a quick request. I have set up a petition demanding the government provide immediate emergency funding to foodbanks. I would be really grateful if you could sign it and share with your friends and family.
For too long Foodbanks have been doing the government’s work for free. They rely on the goodwill of the public. The government has caused the rapid rise of food poverty and it long due they help now.
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