Yesterday morning, I had my Personal Independent Payment -PIP- Tribunal. PIP is a UK disability benefit. So today, I “Beared Up” (Phrase stolen from one of my lecturers as they heard about my tribunal). Ready to fight the injustice of PIP. I put on my armour, not knowing if I would come out the courtroom unscathed or whether I would be burned. Dad was by my side, supporting me and letting me know it would be okay no matter the outcome.
All my close friends and family, along with the professionals who have supported me, know the result. So now, it is time to tell all you lovely people who have been following my journey from the beginning. And a special shout-out to my dad who supported me throughout the whole process, and Silver Yew whose own experience of this process has given me insight and support throughout the journey.
But, I am going to ask you to wait a little while longer—at least until the end of this post ;).
We were in a civil justice court building. The usher and the clerk, who greeted us, were nice and pleasant. The clerk clearly explained what was going on and what we should expect at the tribunal.
I had three people on my panel:
- The Judge, a lovely lady;
- a doctor, and
- a disability specialist.
A representative from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) was absent. The doctor and the disability specialist were quiet throughout most of the proceedings.
As I headed into the courtroom… even though my dad was present, he didn’t need to intervene or answer any of the questions for me because I was able to keep calm and answer myself. Mostly because I was being treated with respect! But knowing he was there was a massive comfort all the same.
The Judge asked me the majority of the questions. However, what surprised me was that the questions she asked mostly involved the information I had sent in, rather than what the DWP had sent in.
Prior to the tribunal, I looked at the intimidating 111-page document that the DWP sends through the post when you appeal and wrote a response document. This document was 30-pages and addressed the categories as defined by the DWP.
I applied all my struggles to the definitions and highlighted that I stuck to the definitions. I think this really helped my case as the majority of questions were in relation to my response document. You might have an idea as to where this is going now :p.
I will go into further detail about this response document in another post but if you are heading to Tribunal, I recommend that you create one.
The fact that they looked so close to my response, took into account factors that are not necessary within those categories but affect those categories made me feel like a human being. Something I am not used to when it regards the PIP benefit.
But here is the thing, the panel not only managed to treat me like a human but also as an equal with thought, feeling and integratory.
The Judge was very honest with me and said from the beginning that she did not believe that I would be entitled to any points on reading. After explaining the definitions, I understand and accept that.
But she did not say anything else about the other categories before the tribunal began.
Unlike the interrogation from the PIP assessment, the Judge acknowledged that these questions could be tough and sensitive for me. She even asked for my permission to ask an embarrassing question on inconsonance.
She asked my permission! The luxury!
They told me I could take breaks and even offered me water. I know it may seem like I am over-reacting to these tiny things, but it is just because of the sheer difference from the original assessment and the tribunal.
I believed they would go through all the categories and sub-categories in full detail, but that was not the case. Not because they were trying to be difficult but because they really didn’t need to.
The judge asked a few questions on my care. This included taking medication, being able to take a bath, and toiletry needs. They asked me if there were any solutions to this problem and let me explain why I think these solutions wouldn’t work.
They also asked about my struggle to socialise and how I found crowded environments. I don’t recall them asking about my ability to eat.
I think this is because they had all the information they need from the documentation in front of them.
Mobility was the part that I was most concerned about. For the last year, I have bought my Motability car, but as it ages, I fear what will happen if it fails the MOT. How would I get a new car and get it adapted?
The panel also showed concern for my mobility.
The panel asked about how far I could walk. They looked at the case in my file where I mention to the original assessor that sometimes I need to sit on the floor. I gave my then recent example of sitting on the floor in Sainsbury’s during the original assessment.
It was hard to imagine back to a year ago—when @lizzierobinsons and I went shopping. But going to the university for over 4 years, I knew how far it was to walk from the car park to the shop.
The Judge digged further into this, realising that I used a lift to get to Sainsbury’s. This meant that I would have had a few seconds break. She asked how long it took me to walk from the lift and if I stopped to get a trolly. The judge realised that the trolly would have supported my ability to walk so the fact that I still needed to sit where I stood showed that I could not walk far.
They also took into account that I could not walk 3 minutes up that hill to university from my accommodation.
They also asked how I used my laptop bag as a walking aid to support me as I move from room to room around the university.
The hardest explanation for me to explain was why I needed a satnav for a familiar journey. Even though it isn’t an aid, in one sense, I treated it as one. Once they realised that my anxiety rocketed if I was late, or lost, I think they understood part of it… although why I can’t remember routes is lost on me.
No one on the panel tried to trip me up or trick me into giving the answer that would lower my points. They listened. The panel considered whether there were any alternatives that could help with these issues, the regularity of them and what else could influence my experience.
The moment you have all been patiently waiting for. The results!
I did it! I beat PIP at their own game and was awarded enhanced rate on both Care Component and Mobility Component. So, I get over £3000 backpay at some point for the 13 months that I did not receive the enhanced rate.
The award is indefinite which means my next assessment doesn’t have a rough date, PIP can call me back when they feel like it but I doubt it will be any time soon. However, it also means that if they don’t decide to do that, I have at least 10 years hassle-free.
I think what really did it for me was the general feeling that they were listening to me. They responded to my answers with questions relating to them rather than brushing my answers under the carpet. After that, they moved on to the next question/category—only returning for clarification later if a thought came to them.
As I said, I recommend that anyone going through this process make a response document. I will write more about that in my next post.
PIP can learn from Tribunal
There has clearly been massive errors by the DWP and the PIP assessment. I believe that PIP can learn from the tribunal.
I believe that if PIP carried out my assessment in the same way—letting me expand on my answers, listening, and treating me as a person—there would have been no need for me to appeal. There was no “we’ll get back to how this affects your daily life later” from the panel. And it was such a relief!
I also feel that they need a panel of professional people. One to listen and assess, the others to bring their professional knowledge of the condition—also with the intention of listening to the claimant.
I don’t see that happening anytime soon, but you can dream.
The first thing I am going to do, once I receive the confirmation from the DWP, is get back onto the Motability scheme. Get a new car on the scheme.
Motability have been great, they paid for a few weeks of my car before I had to buy it in the hope that I would win the Mandatory Notice. But I would also like the comfort of knowing that if there is something wrong with the car, I can get it fixed as it is essentially a lease vehicle.
Yesterday, I had the support of all my family, friends and the professionals who have worked with me. Along with people who have followed my story. It is amazing to know that on that day, I had many people holding my hand and supporting me as I prepared to fight.
While the armour is now off, it is not discarded—just left in reserves for the next battle. This time I know what I am up against. But will they?
Here’s hoping it will gather dust for 10 year!
Dad and I ordered from Domino’s to celebrate the results and this hurdle in life finally being over.
It was such a relief knowing that there were so many people who had my back today so I thank you all. Love you all so much!
Before you go…
Let me share some of the songs that demonstrate how I feel around about now: