If you have been reading any of my past posts, you will know that Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is the UK disability benefit as of 2013. It is run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). It is extremely difficult to be awarded this benefit without a tribunal, even if you are entitled to and need it.
The assessment felt more like an interrogation to a crime. The tribunal felt like a genuine interest in me and my needs. Majority of the tribunal discussed the document I had created before the tribunal date. So it turned out to be a useful document on how to win your tribunal.
I am going to write this article using the same section names that I did on the PIP tribunal document.
Do not be afraid to make a massive document, if it goes to the tribunal stage. PIP will send you a document through the post that is over 110 pages and not stapled. You do not have to keep your version short for them.
About the Categories
For this section, I made a note of what each PIP category. This is a bulleted list of the descriptors sent by the DWP. I did this to illustrate to PIP and DWP that I understood the descriptors and knew how they applied to my disability. To demonstrate this, I bullet-pointed what the descriptors took into consideration followed by what they did not. For example, stairs are not included in moving around. Similarly, the only way to get points for reading is if you cannot read more than two sentences.
Then, I proceeded to make the rest of the document with that in mind.
I have made a note of all of these and this is available for you to download. I recommend you print it out and attach it to your own file version. You can use this template at any stage, whether it is the initial PIP application or the tribunal. I think you will find it useful.
Response to DWP Letter
This will be useful if you are currently going through either Mandatory Reconsideration or the Tribunal stages. Highlight the errors that are made in the original report. Refer to the first category and their comments to further highlight what comments are wrong in the original report.
Use the information on the categories as your guide if you have to. Also, explain what happened in your assessment. There were many instances where my report stated I was asked to do an activity when I was not.
For example, it said in my report that I can pinch my thumb and finger together, which I cannot. It also said that I remained calm and could speak clearly, and it said I did not need an aid for certain categories when I said that I did.
See extract below:
DWP states that they feel I have no issues with grip as found on Page 55 of their document, that the medical letter on page 84 of their document states I can lift moderately heavy trays and that I can place my hands behind my back and head.
They state that I can wash my hair with my left hand but ignore the fact that I was not given the chance to elaborate that I cannot do this very well and must have my hair cut and maintained at a certain length for ease, which adds to my living costs but is necessary for some independence. On many times, I come out of the shower with parts of my hair looking unwashed.
They did not get me to stand on my tip toes or get me to crouch. I can crouch but it does exhaust me quickly. I cannot stand on my toes at all.
For the person reading it, especially if it is at the tribunal stage, make sure you reference the pages that you are commenting on. After this extract, I go on to reference page numbers that were sent to you by the DWP.
The DWP claim there is no issue with my grip but they only assessed me on the bases of grip on the assessors fingers. Fingers are stubby by nature and does not show my inability to grab a piece of cutlery. They were also being held still by the assessor which means that the little strength in my right hand would not be able to move her finger, unlike an item that is independent of someone else’s grip.
The assessor did not assess my ability to pinch my thumb and index finger together and this cannot be done on my right hand.
Other information DWP pages 65-69
For me, the pages 65-69 were handwritten by PIP, reporting on the “medical evidence” they had found or the lack thereof. It is hard to read, but it is also good to note the inaccuracies if you can.
While my pages were 65-69, yours could be elsewhere. To back up my case, I refer to references from letters I have asked family, friends, lecturers and professionals to write. These included observations of my daily life.
It is important to note that the letters DO NOT have to be from medical professionals if you cannot track anyone down, but people who know you and can comment about your disability within those categories.
As I said to someone this week, the medical professionals only see the surface. The ‘you’ at the appointment. They do not see the struggles that is cooking a meal or washing yourself, getting to the toilet, etc.
Your friends and family will see this and this puts them at an advantage that the medical professionals do not have, so do put that in your file. Use your friends and loved ones as references.
Page 66-67 shows the DWP or PIP have not been able to contact a GP for information on my condition.
Page 67 says they do not know what is planned for my Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral Palsy cannot be treated in the same way as a condition which can be cured. I told the assessor that I regularly take pain killers but this was not recorded. I do take paracetamol but I try to avoid it as I believe my body will become immune to it and always try to treat with applied heat first.
This can be a bath or microwavable bean pad. Often, I use 2 microwave bean pads on a couple of hours basis. This helps to ease the pain, though it doesn’t always make it go away. When this fails, I try and have a bath but it is not easy to schedule baths in due to the cost of hot water.
Here, I bullet-pointed, in detail, my struggles with each category and summarised each category by highlighting that I stuck solely to what was considered.
Extract from Preparing Food
5. I need assistance to serve most food. I cannot strain vegetables. And I cannot serve boiled rice and either have to spend £1 on microwavable rice for two people or ask someone to serve the rice for me but again the portion will be for 2 people. The only food I can serve myself is fish and chips; pizza and chips. This is not a healthy and balanced diet.
6. I can use a microwave. I occasionally require assistance. This was especially the case in my student flat when the microwave was installed around 5 foot 5 in the air. I am 5 foot 1.
7. I also require assistance if the item does not have something which I can easily grip (such is the case with items in a bowl) and cannot use an oven glove due to hygiene as the glove would touch the food. This is because the only way I could pick up the bowl would be to grab it from both inside and outside with my left hand. The thumb would be inside the bowl, my fingers out. This often causes spillage on the gloves and can contaminate my food.
1. This information hasn’t considered my cooking skills.
2. This information hasn’t considered whether I could use an oven.
DVLA Guidelines and my notes
This was included because the DWP stated that if I was as severely disabled as I indicated, then I should not be allowed to drive due to DVLA guidelines. This section I comment on the guidelines and reporting on my fitness to drive assessment before I got my licence, including explaining how each adaption works to meet those guidelines.
Essentially, if they attack your ability to drive or go to university, note down the journey and research you had to do in order to make that possible. Note the assistance and help you get.
Living situation and my notes
I used this to explain that the 3 minute walk to university was impossible for me by showing a map from my halls to my campus. Using word, I noted where I was likely to stop and how long for if I decided to walk.
I also showed what was included in my halls. This included access to a walk-in shower and how many roommates (ability to socialise category). I described my journey to find what type of halls I needed.
DWP File Summary
In this section, I summarise my points.
There is a lot that the DWP choose to ignore when it comes to my disability.
They chose to extend a 2 minute examination to a daily ability of how I can cope without considering that fingers are held in place by the assessor and are thicker than some handles on cutlery. They also did not look at the range of movement and my ability to turn items while they are in my hand.
If they had considered this, then I would have scored higher for the categories: Preparing Food, Eating and Nutrition, Managing a Health Condition, Dressing and undressing, and Washing and Bathing. They assumed that because I could grip a stubby finger and put my hand behind my back, I could cope in all areas.
In reality, those tasks are easy but tasks that require more movement, more grip, the material of the thing I am holding, the length of time, they all affect what I can and cannot do, as described in the “My disability explained” section.
Additionally, DWP gave the tribunal a poor printed copy of my annotation of their original assessment report. I had typed up the report, with the exact grammar mistakes and added comments to highlight faults. So I reprinted this and a blown-up version of the comments for the tribunal’s benefit.
For anyone who is applying to PIP or waiting on tribunal, good luck and I hope that this helps. It won’t be an easy process and you may well feel like giving up sometimes, but don’t. Over 74% of people win their PIP Appeals at tribunal stage.