Tag Archives: PIP

Judge, Jury and Executioner?

The day I got back home from my hernia operation, I received a letter from the Tribunal Service.

Probably the best ‘dreaded brown envelope’ I’ve ever had.

Without my knowledge, a PIP Appeals Hearing had been held in my absence and to cut a long story short, I won the case. And so ends 11 months of diabolical stress.

This would not have happened without the support of Stuart and Marie Nixon, and my MP, Anna McMorrin.

A reader of my blog put me in touch with Anna and she took up my case, expediting it through the system.

However, I could not obtain crucial evidence from my MS nurse, as the DWP had told them it would be disregarded. I have since found out GP’s and MP’s themselves are also being told that their evidence will be similarly disregarded.

This goes completely against the DWP’s own published guidelines:

From the DWP’s own PIP guidance booklet

Sending in additional supporting evidence

We want to use the widest range of evidence when we assess PIP claims to
ensure awards are made correctly and claimants are paid promptly.
It is very important that claimants provide us with any relevant evidence or
information they already have that explains how their condition affects them.

Information that will help us to assess a PIP claim
Reports about the claimant from:
• specialist nurses
• community psychiatric nurses
• social workers
• occupational therapists
• GPs
• hospital doctors
• physiotherapists
• support worker

Not only that, the DWP has admitted that Capita PIP assessors do not need expertise in medical conditions they assess.

So let me get this straight. We cannot submit medical evidence from those who know us best. And then they send us an assessor who has no real knowledge of our condition.

I call this out as blatant discrimination. It’s a guaranteed no-win situation.

Although my case has been resolved, this does not end here.

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12 Minutes …

For many of us going through the DLA to PIP process, it’s a devastating slide into everything we never wanted to face.

What can’t you do. And why?

After years of muddling through, re-adapting, making concessions for MS, we have to admit our endless ‘shortcomings’. Our failings.

We realise, sometimes with a huge thud, just what we can’t do. I plunged into a deep depression, because I actually thought I was doing ok, bar walking into walls and falling asleep at the slightest opportunity.

My forms took weeks to fill in. Painstaking. Personal, hideously personal. Numerous extra pages of ‘Cont. Info’ were included.

48 pages in all. Basically, my entire life in one document.

As a birthday present last week, a huge pile of tribunal papers arrived along with cards and flowers. Nice touch.

Buried in amongst over a hundred pages, I discovered that my form had a ‘considered/writing up time’ of 12 minutes.

I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty impressive. To read a compressed life with MS, all 48 pages, plus consider them and write a response in 12 minutes is speedy by anyone’s standard. Bearing in mind it’s not a new claim, but a transition from a lifetime award for DLA.

The result?

A face-to-face consideration was required. Which happened – apparently – although neither me nor my witness recognise the meeting she refers to. And this ‘health care professional’ appears to have the upper hand in my forthcoming tribunal.

Her ‘evidence’ is the ‘truth’. She was here, in my house, for 50 minutes in total. That includes losing her way (my mum directed her on the phone), coming in, setting up her laptop, talking to me (without looking at me), packing up and leaving.

It appears my entire tribunal rests upon her ‘clinical’ finding and ‘observations’.

I’m impressed.

To destroy someone’s life in 50 minutes is bad enough, but the lead-in took 12.

I am that insignificant. All my pain, my symptoms, my life being turned on its head. Not only that, the end of my planned future, being sacked from work, the endless relapses, the invasive treatments I’ve had. Not to mention their side-effects (hello, Fatty-Puff-Me).

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the person who knows me and my MS probably better than most, my wonderful MS nurse, cannot write a statement for the tribunal. Aside from the logistical nightmare that this would cause for the under-funded department, they have been ‘told’ by the DWP that their evidence is ‘meaningless’ and ‘patient-directed’ so therefore inadmissible.

So I face a tribunal based almost solely upon evidence of someone who does not know me, triggered by someone in an office who does not know me.

Ok.

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Trials and Tribunals

Hmm.

What do you think would happen if you missed a DWP deadline, with no explanation?

Yep, you’d be ‘struck off’ and told to apply again, if at all.

Since first being contacted for my transition from DLA to PIP in October last year, I have hit all deadlines bar one – I was extremely ill and needed a couple of extra weeks to complete the forms.

The DWP were swiftly informed and sent out re-adjusted timelines accordingly.

Since then, I have had a decision, had a home visit, had another decision, had a mandatory reconsideration and been turned down on the points I made.

So now it’s going to a tribunal. I duly sent off the forms and had a letter back from the HM Courts & Tribunals Service. The DWP had 28 days to send a response.

That date was 3rd August. Hearing nothing, I phoned the Tribunals Service for information. I discovered the DWP has ignored them and will be sent a letter to prompt them for a response. Anyone here ever had a gentle ‘prompt’ letter with no sanctions attached?

This letter will give them an extra 14 days to respond. If they still ignore my case, a judge will decide how best to proceed.

If the DWP had responded on time, a likely tribunal would be held at the end of November this year, a full 14 months after first starting this endless, pointless paper trail. 22 weeks is the standard waiting time from lodging an appeal to it being heard.

With their non-response, it’ll probably be Christmas Eve.

To be fair, the woman I spoke to at the Tribunals Service was amazing; my story is nothing she has not heard before. Day after day she takes similar phone-calls, digging down in to the whole ‘lifetime’ award scenario for incurable illness, such as MS.

As an unexpected aside, a wonderful regular reader of my blog met my MP at a local event last week and outlined my case to her, even giving her my blog address. Long story short, I have since contacted my MP’s office and hopefully they will be taking up my fight, alongside my fantastically patient supporters who helped me fill in all the forms.

I’ve just dug out a letter from Capita about my home assessment. Clearly stated, there is the line, ‘if you fail to attend without a good reason, the decision-maker at the DWP is likely to refuse your claim’.

One rule for them ..?

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Ta Da! Unveiling The Five-Year-Plan …

You know me, I love a challenge.

Over the years I’ve been blogging, I’ve considered learning the saxaphone, finding out how to cook rice properly and going to one of those women who hold coloured swatches up to your face and then let you know if you should wear ‘Summer’ or ‘Autumn’ shades.

None of which has happened, unsurprisingly.

So now The Teenager is making his own way in the world at University (apart from when he’s not, aka the three-month-summer-break-at-mum’s), I’ve got a few pockets of time on my hands. And what better way to fill them than with a PhD. Yup, I’m going for it, even though I’m also gearing up for a PIP tribunal, which is definitely the more terrifying prospect.

It’s quite probably the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever had, apart from deciding all by myself that I’m a ‘Winter’ shade, which makes me look like an eerie Celtic ghoul.

I’ve taken the first tentative steps, sending in a proposal. I found out there are now Postgraduate Loans, for the first time. Karma? When I blogged about it before, you guys were beyond encouraging and that in itself gives me courage.

I would take it over five years, part-time, as I still need to work. It could end in failure, and maybe I’ll walk away with an MPhil after a couple of years, but it’s still an achievement.

And therein lies the nub; I have a great job but no career – I can’t work my way up as the only person above me is Grumpy Boss. I’ve resigned myself to living out my days without a significant other, besides the cat (and I’m half-way to 90 in August, gah).

It’s not about feeling sorry for myself; I’m actually getting quite excited now, the more I look over my proposal (which includes writing a novel with MS firmly at its centre). I just need a focus, another routine besides work and lying on the sofa. Pinballing between the two is bringing me down.

I’m not the most accomplished academic writer in the world, but I’m a trier. The best thing about writing, as opposed to speaking (garbled, often), is that I can delete, delete, delete. Giving myself five years to write a novel means I can factor in the inevitable relapses, the brain fog and the days when I just can’t move.

So now I’m daydreaming a lot in work, during these long hot days when I tuck myself into the nearest shadow and lurk until I cool down. I see myself, pen in hand, fresh notebook page in front of me, jotting down Very Important Points.

If I ever went out in normal society (work doesn’t count, believe me), I would wear a beret and lots of beads. And green reading glasses.

I would look v. v. intelligent, but if anyone looked a bit closer, they’d probably see I was only googling ‘how to cook rice’.

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Appealing for sanity?

Well.

I have now, at the last minute, submitted my appeal to Her Majesty’s Courts.

Stuff just got serious.

I got turned down at the Mandatory Reconsideration stage, due in large part to some person coming to my house and writing fiction/ticking off a list about me.

There were lies and then there were the downright lies. It’s one thing to assess my MS in less than 40 minutes (which is bizarre and actually completely impossible), it was another thing to doubt my witness.

So we are both wrong. And probably lying. As it happens, I am going through a particularly difficult MS flare up – not new, happens every couple of months or so (as reported).

Redial back, and after my Mandatory Reconsideration notice, I was willing (if I had the energy) to throw in the towel.

They didn’t believe me.

I had Alemtuzumab treatment, the strongest licensed treatment, at present, for MS. Three times, when we usually have two and that’s enough.

Each course costs at least £30,000.

I have a rapidly-evolving type of MS, hence the aggressive and brutal treatment. Basically, it removes your immune system. Easy?

Not really. Not at all.

And now, in amongst a further MRI to assess my MS, I am awaiting my day in court. And there was me thinking MS was brutal.

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