Why this government is failing the disabled AND the taxpayer (DLA vs PIP)

wheelchair at seaham (holga)
I have seen a number of news items recently, including periodicals which should know better, saying something like this:

 

“Disability Living Allowance, the benefit that helps with the extra costs of being disabled, is being replaced by PIP. PIP will have regular face-to-face assessments, rather than DLA which was based on self-assessment questionnaires.

 

This makes it sound like DLA was an easy benefit to get, that it didn’t require any medical evidence, and that the fraud level therefore must have been high. It is plain misleading, and the truth of what is happening is being buried under debates about Wizard of Oz songs in the charts.

 

Let me tell you the real deal with DLA.

 

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In 2008, when I first realised I was disabled enough to qualify for DLA, I filled in a questionnaire. It was relatively simple, with tick boxes, and you were given the option to write a little more. I ticked the ones applying to me (I couldn’t cook a meal for myself), and briefly explained the nature of my illness and why that meant that I was physically unable to cook for myself. You were asked for your GP’s details, so I assumed they would phone my GP to confirm my illness and the extent of my disability.

 

They didn’t phone. They just refused my claim.

 

The letter said, “You do not qualify for DLA Lower Rate Care because you can cook a meal for yourself.”

 

Just that.

 

They had not met me or contacted anyone who had examined me. They just looked at my description of my disability and called me a liar.

 

I quickly discovered that this was not an unusual case: most people were turned down initially, and you had to go to a tribunal in order to get the right decision. I learnt that although the form appeared simple enough, you would not have a chance of getting your award unless you provided medical evidence from a doctor. Why they had not written that on the guidance notes, I just don’t know. In cases where they weren’t sure, they had their own medical examiner who assessed the claimant in person.

 

So I appealed and provided them with a letter from my specialist who knew me and my condition well and had written up the notes of my latest appointment with him. He confirmed everything I’d said on the form.

 

In due course I had a reply from the DWP: it was still a no. This time they had called both me and my doctor a liar.

 

I got mad, so I went to tribunal for further appeal.

 

At any point during this process, they could have sent the DWP’s own medical examiner to my house. They often do this as a matter of routine, in cases where the level of disability is in doubt. One lady who worked for the CAB described to me how the DWP medical assessor pressurised her to raise her hands above her head, even though she had said the pain from her Fibromyalgia was too severe. She broke down from his questioning and bullying tactics, but didn’t raise her hands above her head: partly because it would have caused her unbearable pain and made her Fibromyalgia worse, and partly because if she had done it, he would have ticked it off on his sheet as ‘can raise hands above head, no problem’ and she wouldn’t have got the benefit. As it was, he marked it down on his sheet as ‘refused to cooperate with the assessment’ and she had to appeal at tribunal (she won).

 

When I went into the tribunal that day, three people (only one of whom was a doctor) questioned me. They didn’t only question me about my disability, but about my motives. “Don’t you want to get better?” they asked, as though disability were a lifestyle choice. “You will want to learn how to cook for yourself, won’t you?”

 

I broke. I cried, and felt like a hypochondriac. I would have walked out (or rather, been wheeled out) there and then, had my degree-educated, thoroughly-researched husband not been there beside me, answering for me when I couldn’t face any more. I won my tribunal. I didn’t feel triumphant; I felt traumatised.

No wonder the statistics said those without CAB advice or legal support were far less likely to win their tribunal. They will have been bullied right out of there. And now, with the government cutting legal aid, I dare say those numbers of tribunal successes will be kept at a government-pleasing low, irrespective of whether or not the DWP make the right decisions.

 

I was shocked at the effect that the DLA tribunal had on me. I had spent hours scrabbling around the internet to try and work out why on earth the DWP were refusing genuine claimants, and what were the ‘right’ words to describe your disability, all in order to get the £900-a-year benefit for Lower Rate Care. (Despite needing a wheelchair for any distance over 200 metres, I would not have qualified for the mobility component).

 

The stress of the appeal, the being labelled a liar and scrounger knocked me. The emotional strain contributed to a worsening of my physical illness. I can quite understand why those who have mental illnesses are significantly in danger of committing suicide when they receive a wrong judgement from the DWP.

 

A few months after the end of the appeal, the brown envelope came again – I had to reapply. The rate of fraud for this particular benefit has always been extremely low: even the DWP’s own figures estimated it at 0.5%. Frankly, I could understand why. The hoops are so hard to jump through.

 

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Under DLA, if your condition was variable or non-permanent, you were reassessed – regularly. This is nothing new. The only cases where people were not reassessed for DLA were cases where it would have been a waste of taxpayers’ money to do so, (for example, congenital blindness.) Now the taxpayer will be paying for such people to go through the stress of constantly being reassessed for PIP; presumably to check for the miraculous. (This also gives the government the option to further change the qualifying criteria for PIP in the future, excluding more disabled people from receiving help.)

 

I will say it again: DLA was never awarded on self-assessment alone: you always had to provide written medical evidence from your doctor. They always had the option of sending their own DWP medical assessors – which they frequently did – and they always had the option to contact your GP and converse with them, which as far as I can tell, they didn’t.

 

It was only in cases of severe and irreversible disability that they didn’t constantly reassess. This seems like a good use of the taxpayer’s money, not a bad one.

 

And remember, DLA is a benefit to help disabled people with the extra costs of everyday living. it is not an out-of-work benefit: indeed, many people use their DLA to put towards hiring a car so that they can get to work more easily. (This is the motorbility scheme: not quite the same as saying ‘disabled people get a free car’).

 

So what has changed?

 

The biggest change is the descriptors for who qualifies as disabled.

 

Can’t cook a meal for yourself? Under DLA: disabled. Under PIP? Not disabled. No benefit.
Can’t walk more than 100 metres? Under DLA: disabled. Under PIP? Not disabled. No benefit.

 

And what of the claims that the government want to help the most needy?

 

What this means is that they will continue to give the benefit – the same amount of money, not an increased amount – to those who can’t walk more than 20 metres.

 

But to all those who can only walk 100 metres (From a non-disabled space in the car park to the supermarket, but not inside the supermarket, and not the return journey to the car) – no help.
All those who can only walk 51 metres (from your front door, across the other side of the road and back again) – no help.
All those who can walk only 25 metres (from your front door, across the other side of the road, but not back again) – benefit cut in half.
All those who are too ill to cook a meal for themselves – no help.

 

The government will give support to those who can’t walk 20 metres, this is true.

 

But only if you come, once a year or so, to an assessment centre that may or may not have disabled access, run by an organisation (Atos) that has secret targets to keep the payouts as low as possible, (yet no penalty if their decision is found to be wrong at tribunal). You will then be seen for 30 minutes or so by a nurse or Occupational Therapist (doctors are expensive so kept to a minimum), who may have no knowledge whatsoever about your particular condition and the complexities of it. You better hope you look ill on the day.

 

It will mean a continual fear of not knowing whether you will get your money.

 

It will mean that the most vulnerable in our society will feel sick to their stomach every time that brown envelope comes in.
 

It will mean a cut of £2bn on disability allowance, but an increase of almost £1bn to pay Atos to administrate these changes.
 

It will mean 500,000 disabled people losing all of their benefit, just so that the government could say they were targeting scroungers and could then afford to give a tax cut to the richest in society.
 

This is what the changes will mean. Just so we’re clear.

 
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77 Responses to Why this government is failing the disabled AND the taxpayer (DLA vs PIP)

  1. james 23rd January, 2015 at 1:54 am #

    Fellow Christian here and disabled since birth my condition as got worse as i have got older now 27. Used to work at ages 19 to 21, not only is the dwp failing me bu the medical profession too, so many horror stories i don’t even wakt go into it, but i qm being made out to be a lier too,i just hope that genuine disablity claimants are heqrd i have nerve damage all over qnd periferql nuropathy qnd nerve praxiq forgive the errors

    • Tanya 28th January, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

      I’m really sorry to hear of your struggle. I’m praying for you today.

  2. Rose 7th January, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

    I had very experiences applying for DLA some years ago . Sometimes suffering from severe chest pain that carried on for over an hour – examining Doctor ignored and refused to call for an ambulance. I was refused DLA…Later a different Doctor was working again on behalf of the DLA he was very kind and promised that his decision would be available that afternoon and instructed his `assistant` to take money from his drawer to cover taxi fare home for me. She was hesitant explaining that only bus fare was allowed he said to her `It is my money give it to her she was too ill to have been attending her` That evening his remains was found in the nearby park…May God Bless him he did as promised and made available his report…I got my DLA

    • Tanya 13th January, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

      Oh gosh – that’s quite a story. DLA is so stressful – for all concerned, it seems.

  3. Troy 22nd November, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

    According to Iain Ducan Smith disabled people do not exist in the UK anymore,yes there people abusing the system but I feel he has used that as an excuse to get public opinion on side as knew that at no other time would an attack on `every` on the disabled would have the support it has in 2014.Its sad that the general public has allowed this government to carry on with this and I who has worked since 16 until aged 52 when suddenly my health failed me.I have paid tens of thousands of pounds in tax`s whilst being based abroad on behalf of a British company.I lost my DLA based on questions designed for every applicant to fail.Of course most disabled can cook and it looks now that all disabled people really should have had home care that would have cost the tax payer to have that visit.
    PIP is not a fair system its been introduced for the public to understand to why claimants are refused thus preventing a public out cry.If i was still healthy and working I would be disgusted to whats being done to every genuine disabled person but unfortunately for me I too have become a victim of politics and vote collecting for the General election in 2015,I just hope some people sleep well and thank heavens they are not disabled.

    • Tanya 26th November, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

      I am really saddened to hear your story, which is so typical of many others. I am hoping that perhaps things will change after the election – because you’re right – the system is completely broken.

      • Troy 26th November, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

        Thank you for your kind words.The public`s anger at the banks has been deflected by this government onto the poor and disabled and with a very successful result as the real culprits are not within reach of the public and not in shouting distance so its easier to target people who they can see everyday, and even doubt if a person is really disabled or are they faking it?I was once a very fit person and always thought that at 52 I would still be able to do natural things such as walking to the shops, no amount of money will help me walk in the way as I once did without thinking or without pain,but the spitefulness of Government and some members of the public has told me that Britain really has turned into a me me me society and the Tory government is saying that work pays,work all your life,pay into the system and reach 64 retire and walk off into the sunset for most that might happen but for some its cut short and a once worker then becomes a scrounger.
        I hope that Labour are saving the best card for last and at the general election declares what IDS has done to the genuine disabled is nothing short of victimization and leave it to medical Doctors to decide the who can work, and who can not work for genuine human reasons.

        • Tanya 3rd December, 2014 at 5:57 pm #

          I echo your hope. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  4. Val 12th March, 2014 at 1:11 am #

    If you need to claim PIP you should always take someone with you. Everything that is wrong with you written, preferably typed out by GP what you suffer from. If you get any other expert help from specialist take all the appointment letters with you.
    The main thing and this is what everybody is getting wrong, when they ask you to do something, you say you can’t. If they ask you how far you can walk tell them 15 ft on a good day not 15ft on a bad day! Treat all questions as if it’s your worst day and if they say so what’s a bad day like you go from there. Never be too proud to admit what you are actually feeling to these people. If they see you walk, you can walk.
    They should never pressurise anyone into doing something they can’t do. So when you walk in with your “other” person, that’s your witness to proceedings. I think they call it your Mr McKenzie.

    • Tanya 20th March, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

      Thanks, Val – helpful advice.

  5. james 16th December, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    thanks Tanya

    good advice you are giving to people with
    loads of problems

  6. Rosie 2nd December, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    I’m 21 and been deaf since I was 15, I have a lot of medical problems, Im epileptic and have fits constantly which I cannot control I have a 18 month old son who I struggle to look after and his dad does most of the work, my spine has been damaged due to having a cesarian section, and my discs are bulging onto my nerves, which means I cannot bend my back completely as it physically kills me to do this as it hurts like hell, I also have a knee condition I have had since I was 10 and its getting worse everyday, my knee dislocates up to 4 times a week awaiting a operation wich may or may not keep me in a wheelchair, I cannot walk more than 20 meters I am on crutches all the time and can hardly get up stairs I need help all the time, my partner is doing all the work, I cannot cook a meal for myself, I cannot undeerstanrd instrwuctins as im dislexsic and cannot follow them properly I cannot get into the oven as this requires me to bend my back which I physically cannot do, and i cannot hear the timer on the oven go of i cant look at lights as it sets of my fits and i cannot stand up for long, i went for a medical with atos, i got made to try touch my toes as i got presserd into doing this, it killed me and i broke down crying, i got made to walk round the room and i couldn’t sit down for 5 minutes, i dislocated my knee by doing this and it hurt, even checked my hearing by standing so far saying something and standing close, i could only hear when stood right next to me, my experience at the medical was awful, i went home that day crying hoping i never ad to do that again, i had my reply back and been turned down my dad and partner are now helping me appeal, which im really unsure to do as if it was anything like the medical i don’t want to be put through that aagain, i really hate being treated like im lying, im at the hospital at least once a week and under 8 different specialised doctors, yet this still doesn’t count?? i cannot put my son in n out of his cot ive been un able to cook his meals or sit on floor and play, this hurts me enough im 21 and should be able to do things with my child provide for him without help, im really thankful for my partner, the things he does i just wish that i can do them to x

    • Tanya 3rd December, 2013 at 10:03 am #

      This made me so sad to read. It is ridiculous that you were turned down – just ludicrous. I would definitely advise getting someone from the Citizens Advice Bureau to help you appeal. So much of the system is just being able to say the right words and terms, and it really makes a difference when you have an advisor who knows the system. Failing that, the Benefits and Work website is a really good resource – do check it out.

      I will be telling my MP about your case. This is not right.

      Sending you much love.

  7. John chilton 19th August, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    Would be really grateful for some advice on pip I have cerebrovascular disease with old cerebellar stroke, bilateral small vessel disease of the brain,hemicrania continua and Chrones disease can’t cook a meal for myself and my wife has to bathe me I lie in bed all day because I have got an excruciating headache that I’ve had for 11 months and really hope we here something from pip very soon:)

    • Tanya 21st August, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

      Thank you so much for stopping by. I am so sorry to hear you are so ill. The best resource I’ve found for help on benefits, especially DLA and pip is http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/ – do check them out.

      • John chilton 1st September, 2013 at 9:29 am #

        Hi Tanya, this is Nina josh Wife he can’t use the computer because of his disabilities I am very grateful for your reply nice to know were not alone 🙂

        • John chilton 1st September, 2013 at 9:30 am #

          I meant Johns wife sorry!

  8. John chilton 19th August, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    I too have brain disease which is affecting my life have been turned down twice and also for an appeal need them to recognise that I truly are not well

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