Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The benefit that was brought in to replace Disability Living Allowance. The benefit that supposedly makes living with a disability easier. The benefit that’s awarded to some on a silver platter, yet for others, it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
I was one of the lucky ones. I received my letter saying the assessment form would arrive in due course, then approximately three months later it made its way through the letterbox. In turn, as with any benefit application, I had to state what my disability was and how it affected me in excruciating detail. I wouldn’t have been surprised if it’d asked me how many times I farted in a day. It’s so painstakingly tedious that by the time I reached the end of my twenty-seven-page essay and written “Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy” a dozen times in every section, I felt like a part of my soul had died. Repetitive form-filling is one of the perks you get when you sign up to Cripples R Us.
Anyway, in case I was lying about being disabled, once the paper application had been approved, I then had the joy of a three-hour face-to-face interview. An assessor came to my house and I went through the whole rigmarole again. Presumably, the assessor took their notes away with them, put my case to a panel who determined I was indeed entitled to claim. Job done. Happy days.
Like I said, as drawn out as the process was, I got the result I wanted and the best bit is, I was a genuine applicant with valid reasons to claim. This is where the problem lies though. The Benefits System in this country is so easy to manipulate and so full of loopholes, you’re almost viewed as guilty of fraudulence before you’ve sent the initial form off. I totally appreciate there are many people who are on benefits because they ‘can’t be bothered’ to work, but I’d respect the system so much more if it hadn’t epically failed on a mammoth scale. Logic suggests PIP and its application process should’ve been more sophisticated than Disability Living Allowance, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. It seems to be a ludicrous box-ticking exercise with no rhyme or reason for its nonsensical outcomes.
My friend has three disabled children, all of whom need PIP to help them be as independent as possible. The fact she has to fill out the same form three times isn’t the issue, but the fact she has to reapply on her children’s behalf every ten years is. Disabilities don’t just wake up one morning, decide they have better places to be, pack their bags and leave. As much as we hope it would, nothing will have changed in the next decade or the decade after that. For people with life-long conditions, reapplying is a waste of time and energy.
Epic fail number two involves my other friend who, like me, has Cerebral Palsy. When the letter detailing her face-to-face appointment arrived, she realised she’d be on holiday. And so, due to her speech impediment her mum rang on her behalf to reschedule. She was then told the appointment could only be rearranged once and because my friend had the audacity to be on holiday, the appointment could be at an assessment centre anywhere in the country. Everyone knows that all disabled people do is sit at home, staring at the same four walls, in case we have any appointments to attend. Firstly, I find it ironic that we have a system in place whereby disabled people are punished for leading an independent life. Secondly, it’s stupid that we’re then expected to travel the country to attain what we need to maintain our independence when the fact of the matter is, we may not even be able to get ourselves out of bed in the morning let alone set out on a long journey.
I’m going to keep the next one short because, quite frankly, it’s unfathomably diabolical. My friend’s husband lost his battle with cancer in May. When he was unable to work, he applied for PIP. It was denied because, at that point, he was in receipt of Statutory Sick Pay. He reapplied when the cancer became terminal. This time it was rejected because he lived between the hospital and his home. Three months after her husband passed away, my friend received a letter from DWP in which they sent their condolences and asked if she’d still like to pursue his claim.
Department for Work and Pensions, I’d like to take the opportunity to remind you that the clue is in the title and yet Personal Independence Payment doesn’t do what it says on the tin. It’s not ‘Personal’ because it seems to be nothing more than a lucky draw as to which applications are accepted on any given day. It’s not ‘Independent’ because for many, independence is taken away as a result of their failed claim. It’s not always a ‘Payment’ because people who need it are going without it whilst you allow those who don’t to slip through the net.