This is Peter, I’ve known him for a few years, through our mutual campaigning on Facebook to raise awareness of issues that affect disabled people.
Peter also has multiple health conditions – ME/CFS, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, chronic depression, painful nerve entrapments, and arthritic wear in his neck. These conditions leave him exhausted and debilitated for much of the time. Even doing the most simple tasks can severely exhaust him. Not only is Peter’s mobility substantially restricted at all times, there are many days when he is not even able to leave his bed due to profound fatigue, a lack of energy and physical strength. He is unable to work, due to my impact of his health conditions.
For seven years, Peter received Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and then Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Under both awards, Peter also qualified for the enhanced mobility component. This meant that he could use this part of his lifefine benefit to lease a mobility car from the Motability scheme.
However, Peter was reassessed in January and despite the fact that Peter’s conditions are chronic, the assessor surprisingly decided that he now needs a lower level of support. This meant that Peter’s income was immediately cut by £50 per week.
Peter has appealed unsuccessfully through the Mandatory Reconsideration process, and is now going appeal the Department for Work and Pension’s decision at a tribunal court. However, the wait for appeals is currently long, and Peter has been told that his won’t likely happen until after Christmas 2018. In the mean time, Motability are taking back his car as they are no longer getting payments from the benefit agency.
The loss of income is becoming a struggle, but Peter tells me that the loss of his mobility car is absolutely devastating. He says: “A car gives someone like me freedom, it is autonomous mobility. I have no idea how I’m going to cope. Getting to and from bus stops is very hard. Buses end up causing me such pain and harm, that I cannot do anything once I’ve been on a journey. Taxis might be ok for one or two trips per week, but the cost soon becomes intolerable, and they restrict getting out of the house to just 2 or 3 times a week.
He added “I am appealing with the support of Disability Solutions West Midlands. They have an excellent record of overturning 90% of decisions on appeal, and on the evidence, they say my case is a good one. Therefore, once I finally get my appeal heard it is very likely I will have everything reinstated.”
Meanwhile, Peter is hoping to use crowd fund support to help him buy a car to help him over the difficulties and barriers he faces over the next six months or so. Without this support, Peter will be effectively housebound and unable to do everyday things, such as shopping, visiting the doctor and hospital, visiting friends, going for coffee or enjoying the outdoors. All of these things are vital his ongoing therapy, and basic inclusion in his community and wider society.
Thousands of disabled people have already lost their specialist Motability vehicles because of the cruel Conservative cuts to PIP, and sadly, many more are likely to be affected.
Personal Independence Payment is a non means tested benefit for people with a long-term health condition or impairment, whether physical, sensory, mental, cognitive, intellectual, or any combination of these. It is an essential financial support towards the extra costs that ill and disabled people face, to help them lead as full, active and independent lives as possible.
However, I’ve written at length about how the assessment process is unfit for purpose, and is creating distress and causing harm to disabled people. See for example: Government guidelines for PIP assessment: a political redefinition of the word ‘objective’, which discusses how, prior to the introduction of PIP, Esther McVey stated that of the initial 560,000 claimants to be reassessed by October 2015, 330,000 of these are targeted to either lose their benefit altogether or see their payments reduced.
Of course the ever-shrinking category of “those with the greatest need” simply reflects a government that has made a partisan political decision to cut disabled people’s essential income to fund a financial gift to the wealthiest citizens. There is no justification for this decision, nor is it “fair.”
That article also discusses government guidelines for PIP assessors or ‘health care professionals’. The PIP assessment is geared towards looking for “inconsistencies” in “functional limitations”. For example, if you say you can’t sit unaided for half an hour, but then say that you watch soaps on TV, it will be assumed you sit unaided for at least half an hour to watch TV, and that will be classed as a “discrepancy between the reported need and the actual needs of the claimant.”
The whole assessment is set up and designed to look for “inconsistencies.” In other words, the assessor is looking for any excuse to justify a decision that you are not among those in “greatest need” for a PIP award. The entire process happens within a framework of reducing welfare costs, after all. This makes a mockery of the government’s fondness for using the word “objective.”
As someone who went through a PIP assessment last year, I know how harrowing and utterly unfair they can be. I was awarded basic rate. I was one point short of an enhanced level award. In a report concerning the decision, I was told that because I had a degree (I graduated in 1996, Master’s in 2007), because I worked as a social worker (until becoming too ill to work in 2010), and because I had a driving licence in 1993 (I can no longer drive because of flicker induced seizures), I had “no evident cognitive difficulties” caused by my conditions. It seemed inconceivable to the assessor that my illness, which arose after I graduated, has caused cognitive difficulties since 2010.
Assessors use any irrational and outrageous excuse they can to award the lowest amount possible.
I manage my health care and hospital appointments, shopping and so on because my son and other family members support me by taking me themselves. I’ve been unable to drive for a few years now.
However, Peter depends on his motability vehicle to get out to appointments, to shop and to meet friends. Without his car he will be trapped in the house, and the loss will cause him hardship and distress. That’s why I thought a crowdfund appeal would be appropriate.
The appeal is to raise £1,500 to help replace the loss of PIP payments and replace or keep Peter’s essential mobility car, so he can stay mobile and remain able to leave the house.
Please add your support for Peter here at Just Giving (Click).