We want to see reform of the PIP assessment

The Government recently announced changes to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) that would tighten up access to PIP for disabled people. We are concerned that this will result in disabled people missing out on vital support to help meet some of the additional costs they face as a result of their impairment or condition, on average £550 a month.

Figures today show that 65 per cent of claimants are successful at tribunal when they challenge a decision on their PIP assessment.

This shows that the PIP assessment is not currently working effectively for disabled people. Below, Abbi, a young disabled woman, shares her experiences of the process of applying for PIP.

Abbi’s story

When the little brown envelope informing me of the need to apply for PIP dropped through my letterbox, I was nervous.

Since first qualifying for Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in 2009, my health has deteriorated. Both the benefit itself and the access to the higher rate for the mobility component have made coping with this significantly easier.

With my mobility continuing to deteriorate, the thought of being rejected for PIP (as has happened to many of my disabled friends and contacts) filled me with fear.

“It did not seem to have been designed for disabled people”

Applying for PIP was a complicated process and one which did not seem to have been designed for disabled people. First, I had to spend 45 minutes on hold to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to confirm that I wished to apply. Ironically, I only had time for such a call because I was off work for health reasons.

I have a hearing impairment and once the phone was answered, I found it very difficult to hear the speaker. However, a request to conduct the conversation over email rather than by phone was refused.

The rest of the process told a similar story. I filled out an application form which did not leave sufficient space for me to detail all of my conditions and medications.

“My assessment took one and a half hours”

I had to reschedule my first assessment due to access issues and was told that assessments can only be rescheduled once. If I was unwell on the day of the rescheduled assessment, I would have to apply again.

Upon arrival at the assessment centre, a sign on the door informed me that my assessment would take no more than 20 minutes, yet my assessor did not appear to have any of the information which I had painstakingly written out in my application form. Instead, she expected me to answer every question again, verbally.

My impairments are complex, but nowhere near as complex as those of other disabled people I know. My assessment took one and a half hours.

The PIP system remains inefficient

When the news came, I was incredibly relieved to hear that I would be awarded the equivalent of what I was awarded under DLA. I still have access to both the services and the funding which permit my independence. I can plan for a future, even as my mobility deteriorates.

However, when I read the Atos report on my health, I found multiple serious errors. It included the suggestion that I experience one of my most disabling conditions ‘once a month’.

I don’t understand the confusing series of deadlines by which I was supposed to have submitted different documents or why those documents were so blatantly dismissed.

Four years after its foundation, the PIP system remains inefficient, inept and, in many cases, potentially harmful to the mental and physical health of many disabled people in the UK. I am immensely grateful for the assistance and security which my PIP award affords me but, as the government threatens further cuts to PIP, I remain fearful for others who have yet to apply.

With one week to go until changes to PIP come into place, we are calling on Government to think again. We are briefing government officials about why it is so important that they don’t go ahead with these changes.

Instead, we want to see reform of the PIP assessment so that it accurately captures the range and level of disabled people’s extra costs.

We want to hear why PIP is important to you or your experiences of getting PIP. If you’d like to share your story, please comment below or email stories@scope.org.uk.

For further information about PIP, visit Scope’s website or call our helpline for free on 0808 800 3333.