The dreaded brown envelope, telling that my DLA was ending and that I needed to apply for PIP, landed on my doormat at the end of March. I had been awaiting its arrival for 3 years. It gave me just 3 weeks to apply, 2 of those weeks were school holiday and the form was due back on Easter Monday. So the first thing I had to do was ask for extra time. This took several days and I was given a 2 week extension, but in reality it was only 8 days so still a lot of pressure and I missed much of the school holidays as the form had to take priority.
Once the form was sent off, yet another draded wait for a face to face appointment. The appointment actually arrived quite quickly, but it was fora Saturday when I had another commitment and one I couldn’t cancel. So yet again we spent several days trying to contact them by phone to rearrange. My original appointment was for Wakefield which is 10 miles from home, the replacement appointment was for Barnsley 20 miles from home. The appointment also fell on a Bank Holiday weekend.
The assessment was awful, though not quite as bad as we had feared. Following the assessment we sent in a complaint as some of the issues were really unacceptable. Below is a copy of my complaint.
PIP Face to Face Complaint
I was sent a Face to Face appointment at quite short notice and had to change it. My original appointment was in Wakefield, 10 miles away, for the replacement appointment I was given Barnsley, 20 miles away. My local centre is in Leeds, 3 miles away. I was unable to refuse the Barnsley appointment as you cannot refuse if you are already changing an appointment.
This meant I had to allow an hour for travel each way, meaning I was exhausted before I even arrived at the appointment. I am unable to drive long distances or to travel independently. On arrival we were unable to park in the disabled spaces outside the door as 2 spaces we taken up by a delivery van. We had to park around the corner, I use a wheelchair so this distance was not an issue, but it was frustrating and without a wheelchair I wouldn’t have been able to get to the centre. We were then asked where we had parked and why we hadn’t parked outside.
The door to the centre was very heavy, I would have been unable to open it. The waiting area was unventilated and very hot and stuffy, we were told we could not have the door open because of safety, we did go outside to get some fresh air. I was kept waiting an hour after my appointment time in this area. The receptionist told us the previous appointment had over run, but then we were still kept waiting another half an hour after they left as the assessor was completing the report and did not want to rush it.
The receptionist kept telling us how hard working and committed the assessors are.
The toilet was supposed to be a disabled toilet, the door into the toilet was very heavy and on a strong spring and had to be held open to get in with wheelchair, the door could not be opened fully as it opened against the reception desk. There was not room inside to manoeuvre wheelchair or transfer to toilet if needed, the only way out of the toilet was backwards. My wheelchair is attendant propelled so we were able to do this, but anyone in an electric wheelchair or propelling themselves would not have been able to use the toilet.
The assessment room was at the end of a long corridor, I was in my wheelchair, but for anyone walking it would be a long walk. I was asked to get out of my wheelchair and walk into the room. It was only a few steps, but I am worried this will be misinterpreted if it states I walked into the room. I assumed when I was asked to get out that the room was not big enough for wheelchair, but it was.
The chairs provided in the room were very uncomfortable and sitting for an hour very painful. The assessor typed noisily and continuously during the assessment. We told her I have hearing problems and couldn’t hear over the noise, but she just told me to move closer and continued to do this. I had to ask for every question to be repeated and then still ask my husband what was said. She said she was typing the report as we went along, so why did I have to wait ½ hour after the previous person because she was typing the report.
I found it very difficult to answer the questions and provide a coherent answer, if my husband tried to help or to clarify something he was told to shut up. For many of the answers I was cut off and asked another question before finishing. My husband tried to explain the nature of ME and was told she knew what ME is and didn’t need to be told.
My husband also mentioned the after effect that the appointment would have and asked how that would be demonstrated in the report, I am not sure what she mumbled in reply.
After an hour of sitting I was asked to perform some simple exercises, she said don’t do anything you can’t do, but then kept asking me to try harder and that I could do more than I was.
The interview room was also very hot and stuffy with no ventilation and would have made a well person feel ill.
I found it very difficult to answer the questions and when she pushed for answers some of what I said probably contradicted other things and definitely would make it difficult to judge the effects of my disability and as stated previously we were not allowed to elaborate or clarify.
I was very distressed by the appointment and feel that I was not able to demonstrate the effects of my disability due to the environment, the long wait, the travelling and the pressure of the situation.
I know the assessors have a job to do, but it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to at least be friendly and understanding.
I wanted to record the assessment but could not meet the requirements needed to do this, but in reception there was a notice saying that recording is not allowed at that centre, this is very unfair. There were also notices about being pleasant to the assessor and trusting them to report your case accurately.
My condition and mental health have been badly affected by the experience and it is not something I would wish anyone else to have to experience.
My daughter was away with school last week and Rob and I had planned some peaceful time together. This of course was not to be as my PIP decision and response to my complaint arrived.
I was quite surprised and relieved at being awarded Standard rate care and standard mobility. Until I read the report. So many facts were wrong and many assumptions had been made, which were not acceptable, so we had no choice, but to respond to it. A standard award for mobility means that I can no longer have a Motability car so as well as asking for the claim to be looked at again we had to organise getting another car as mine has to go back by 10th September.
To be continued………..