Hey everyone, how are you? I haven’t been on here much over the last week because I’ve been a bit preoccupied. I’ve had my PIP Tribunal.
For those who don’t live in the UK or who don’t know what PIP is, it’s called Personal Independence Payment, it’s a benefit that helps Disabled maintain and live a relatively independent and slightly normal life. It helps people via weekly payments, mobility aids and extra benefits such as a disabled parking badge for their car and bus/railcards. It really can make someone’s life so much better and easier than what it is. It’s supposed to “give” them a life.
Unfortunately, though, our government are making things so hard for people with Disabilities receive the help they really need and unfortunately, people with MS suffer a lot with this. Over a third with MS get turned down or denied PIP and I was one of those people.
You start off by ringing the DWP (Department of Working Pensions) and ask to make a claim for PIP. They then send out an application form which you have to fill out and send off (This is the first incredibly stressful and difficult stage) once you’ve filled that out you send it back to the DWP along with any evidence you have about your illness such as doctors notes, letters from GP’s, Physios etc.
Now I had all this information and more including letters from my Opticians, managers at work and even letters from my Councillor. I sent all my paperwork off to the DWP and waited to hear back.
They got back in touch with me about 3 weeks later saying that I needed to attend a “Face to Face” interview. I was a little disheartened when I saw this letter come through, I’ve heard all about the Face to Face interviews and some of them are very misleading. The “Nurses” seem like they are being sympathetic, supportive and generally nice when in actual fact, they’re watching your every move the second they see you or if anyone else is with them, they’re watching you.
I’m not going to go into my assessment because this post is about the Tribunal, so obviously you know that I’ve had to fight to this extent.
For the tribunal I had so much support and guidance from the charity called DIAL and also from the MS Society, other peoples experiences and youtube so I knew kind of what to expect, however it still made me feel very anxious and stress — which consequently made my symptoms a lot worse cause me to have a mini set back, after I was actually doing well — thank you DWP thank you very much!
The Day of the Tribunal – 8th August 2018
The day of the tribunal… I was awake at 5:30 going through all my documents thinking about what questions I’d be asked. My nerves weren’t actually too bad but I think that’s because I was mentally drained and physically exhausted from the last 48 hours.
The great thing about it was that I had amazing support with me on the day, my dad and my aunt came with me (They live over 100 miles away — they’re awesome) and also my Disability support worker joined us to help me too. I felt so supported and this really helped me, it didn’t help my nerves lets face it I was still terrified but just having them there really meant a lot.
My MS symptoms on the day were horrendous, whenever I’m bad or I’m put under stress that I have no control over then my symptoms just go crazy. I lost control over my left leg (using one crutch to drag it behind me), my whole body was riddled with fatigue and I just felt awful!
When we got to the Majestrates court we noticed that there was a disabled entrance (Thank you!!) — however when we got there we were told that their lift wasn’t working and that they didn’t have wheelchairs!! My Dad and Aunt were furious, it was like they were already out to get me — not to mention they don’t have accessibility for disabled people apart from a very steep ramp that I had to drag myself up!! I got just under half way up and broke down — it hit me!! I stood there a cried to my Dad and Aunt, I was just so overwhelmingly exhausted and just felt that I couldn’t go on, however, their words gave me the strength to keep going.. keep up the fight!!
Got in there, got past security and sat in the waiting area with everyone else — there were no signs to tell me where I needed to go. All of a sudden we saw my disability support worker who told us that we were waiting in the wrong section!!
Before we went into the courtroom (A big office room) we saw the clerk who briefly went through everything and explained what I was going to expect. They mentioned that there was a judge, a doctor and someone who was either disabled themselves or who knew about disabilities who were going to be questioning me. There was also someone from the DWP representing them, however, they were not allowed to interrogate me.
We then went into the room, I cried a lot throughout the whole process, I couldn’t help it, it just all came out! The judge started explaining obviously why we were there and it was almost as if they didn’t agree with what the DWP had awarded me (nothing!) in the first place.
They then introduced the doctor, the Disability associate, moving onto who I had brought with me and then finally introducing the DWP representative.
In all honesty, the questions are all a blur now, I think I was just so exhausted I’ve kind of blocked out the experience. I remember that the doctor asked me how I got to court (very important as they’re trying to find out how well you are and especially if you have an unpredictable condition/disability like MS.
The doctor then wanted to take me back to when I was first diagnosed etc — this was over 4 years ago may I add! I can’t remember last week let alone specific details from 4 years ago! They kept referring to the documents that I had presented and I answered the questions honestly and in detail — this is also important, don’t go over the top because they will know, also don’t give one worded answers because that won’t help you either.
We then moved onto the Disability associate, they wanted to ask me questions about my walking and daily living — for example, how many metres I could walk…
This 20-metre rule that PIP/DWP have released is just so ridiculous!! I’m asking all ‘normal’ people how many metres do you walk a day?? Do you measure? no? I didn’t think so!! When I was being asked about how many metres certain walks were I just broke down, It’s hard enough living with MS sometimes but then thinking about and measuring how many metres I walk on a daily basis is just absolutely crazy and this needs to be scrapped!! I’m doing some work with the MS Society to scrap the 20-metre rule and I’ll insert a link here if you’d like to sign their petition! Scrap 20m Rule PIP
I was then asked about my ‘good days’– my answer to these questions was this “I never have a ‘good’ full day with MS… I have a good 5-6 hours if I’m lucky and then I crash with fatigue!” most people with chronic, invisible illnesses don’t have good full days, I mean waking up in the morning, bouncing out of bed and then on the go all day then going out in the evening, still going. That doesn’t happen with me anymore and do you know I’m fine with that, I’ve adapted and yet I have people from the DWP telling me that I’m not ‘sick’ or ‘disabled’ enough to receive any help at all to enable me to live a slightly more normal life!
After all the questioning — went on for just over an hour the judge said that I’d done really well and that they were happy to give me my result on the day (they can either give it to you on the day or post it out to you) I asked for it to be on the day. I’d gone through enough mental and physical stress, I just wanted it to be over — at this point, I didn’t care if they didn’t award me with any help.
I had to wait outside for a little bit while they deliberated and decided on their result, then I was called back through.
I WON!!!! I was awarded standard rate mobility with PIP, this entails 22.56 pounds per week that’s paid every 4 weeks, a blue badge — disability parking badge, which means that I’ll be able to park in the disabled places and also I’m entitled to a bus pass.
The DWP representative was actually nice, they said that they agreed with the results and that I deserved it — this made me happy and also annoyed. it wasn’t their fault personally but because of the DWP not believing me at the assessment it has resulted in a lot of unnecessary stress causing my symptoms to worsen — the DWP need to realise what they put genuine people through who don’t want all the benefits — believe me, I don’t benefit from something that I don’t need them for, all I wanted was a little bit of help to enable me to live a slightly normal life as a 28-year-old!!
I have to say that everyone on the day was amazing! The judge, Doctor and Disability associate were supportive, understanding and patient with me. My Aunt knew as soon as we went in that they were going to be on my side and that was very reassuring.
Also, what you need to remember — DON’T GIVE UP!!! KEEP FIGHTING!! The DWP needs to be fought and be told what is happening to innocent people out there!! Also, this is YOUR tribunal.. the Judge, Doctor and Disability associate only want to hear from you mainly, they want to know how YOU feel and how YOUR condition affects you. Everything the DWP wrote in their report they disregard and start a ‘fresh’ decision.
My final words… It wasn’t very pleasant in fact it was horrid and I have had to allow my body to recover for the last 3-4 days!! this could of all been avoided if the DWP had actually believed me and all my evidence in the first place!!
I’m sorry for the really long blog post this week… but this needs to be spoken about and the DWP and the British Government need to be aware of whats going on!
My next post will be a lot more positive lol.. I hope you’ve all had a great week, as always leave your comments in the comments section and I’ll reply to you 🙂
All my love always