A letter to Theresa May from a cancer patient who was turned down for PIP

Paige Garratt was just 22 when she was diagnosed with advanced, stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and lungs.

Last month, i published a story about how a benefits assessor visited her during her chemotherapy treatment and decided she was ‘not sick enough’ for Personal Independence Payment (PIP). She had lost all of her hair and was so ill during the home visit she couldn’t raise her head off the sofa. 

Here, Paige shares an open letter to the Prime Minister:

Dear Theresa May,

I cried when I opened the letter that said I wasn’t entitled to some help when I was extremely sick.

It’s hard to find the words to describe the panic and despair you feel having been diagnosed with cancer. It’s utterly, utterly, terrifying.

Can you imagine having to deal with everything cancer brings, then a stranger decides you’re not ‘sick enough’ for some financial help from the Government? 

It’s physically exhausting to go through round after round of chemotherapy and your body feels ravaged. There’s the nausea, brain fog, sleep problems and hair loss.

Then there’s the worries over the possible permanent damage – it was such a knock to be warned the treatment may rob me of my fertility at aged 22. It could have also affected my heart and lungs.

On top of that, you can’t go to work so you’re on basic statutory sick pay. But the bills still need paying, plus there’s the cost of the trips to the hospital (three times a week for my chemotherapy). 

The heating bills went up too and I needed new warmer clothing as the chemo gave me the chills. Knowing I wasn’t getting any support meant I had to force myself to go back to work when I still felt extremely ill – I shouldn’t have had to do this.

Can you imagine having to deal with everything cancer brings, including the stress of how you’ll pay your bills, then a stranger decides you’re not ‘sick enough’ for some financial help from the Government?

The very last thing cancer patients should be worrying about is finances – but that’s what your ‘austerity measures’ are doing to us.

The whole process of claiming was lengthy. It took two months to get a response to my initial application – and another month for the home visit to take place – and by this time I had used up all my savings.

Yet the benefits assessor decided I didn’t need any help with caring for myself while battling cancer and chemotherapy.

Then why did my mum have to take three months of work to take care of me, as I was unable to do basic things such as feed and wash myself some days?

On the home visit, the chemo had made my head so heavy I couldn’t hold it up without using my hands, so I had it rested on the arm of the sofa the whole time.

How could the person who assessed me genuinely not see that I was broken? She wrote down that my mental health did not seem to be affected. She didn’t even ask me how I was feeling.

The assessors are not blind – as human beings they must see when genuinely needy people are struggling. There’s just one reason they are making these decisions – because of your  ‘austerity measures’.

I was made to feel like I was lying, a fraud.

I am not. I am a hard working person who was working not one but two jobs, so that I could support myself and save up for a house deposit when I was struck by cancer.

Your Government says it wants to come down on the benefit scroungers who abuse the system. I am not one of them – your cut backs are hurting genuine people in need.

Because I had to spend all my savings I have to start from the bottom financially. How is this fair? I have paid my taxes to your Government and I deserve help when I need it. We all do.

The response to the story about me was overwhelming. A leading doctor said my case showed “our country has reached a new low of callousness”.

One person on Twitter suggested I hadn’t been clever enough to play the system. Why should cancer patients and other people with serious illnesses have to think like that on top of everything they’re dealing with?

How do you think it makes someone like me feel, when I read that private firms Independent Assessment Services (formerly known as Atos) and Capita raked in in more than £250 million for carrying out these gruelling medical assessments – a £40m increase in funding despite widespread concerns with the system? 

Mrs May, why are you rewarding them for making desperately ill people destitute? 

I went back to work at the bakery too soon, trying to manage two hours a day but standing on my feet all day completely knocked me. Then with my CLIC sargent social worker’s help, I managed to successfully appeal the decision and was awarded PIP in May this year. 

This was around seven months after I had first been diagnosed. People with cancer need the financial help when they’re off work sick and struggling.

The way I was treated by your Government added extra stress during the darkest days of my life.

People are dying because of benefit cut backs. Mrs May, will you reply to my question to you: Are you going to carry on treating sick and disabled people this way?

Paige finished her chemotherapy in March this year and a scan has shown she is in remission.

She said  “The whole experience of PIP has been so negative and de-humanising. I was made to feel like I’m doing something wrong for being ill.”

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesperson gave the usual crib sheet drivel as a response: “We are committed to supporting people with disabilities and health conditions. We support 1.88 million people through PIP and 1.97 million people through DLA. We have never spent more on benefits for disabled people and people with long-term health conditions, totalling over £50bn a year – up £7bn since 2010. Under PIP, 30% of claimants receive the highest rate of support, compared with 15 per cent under DLA.

“But we constantly seek to improve the quality of PIP assessments. We have commissioned to independent reviews of PIP, and most recently announced that we will pilot video recording of assessments, improving confidence in the assessment process. We will continue to reassess the quality of the process to ensure that it works well for everyone.”

Included in the amount spent on ‘benefits for disabled people’ is the extortionate and ever-rising cost of paying for inept, profiteering private companies to deliver the completely unfit for purpose assessments.

The DWP seem to think they are personally paying for ill and disabled people’s support. However, most have worked and contributed tax to the social security system, and should be able to reasonably expect support in their time of need. Yet all too often people are de-humanised, and treated without dignity, respect and compassion when they turn to the state provision they have contributed to, when they become vulnerable because of ill health.

The government has clearly mismanaged our public funds, because week after week I see people who are seriously ill and need crucial support being refused their lifeline by the state.

After five years and a lot of critical feedback from people going through the PIP process and from charities and allied associates, academics and shadow ministers, you would expect that it would ‘work well for everyone’ by now.

Related

Government guidelines for PIP assessment: a political redefinition of the word ‘objective’

Fear of losing disability support led a vulnerable man to a horrific suicide

Disabled mum took fatal overdose after she was refused PIP 

A man with multiple sclerosis lost his PIP award after assessment report was dishonestly edited during ‘audit’

 


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20 thoughts on “A letter to Theresa May from a cancer patient who was turned down for PIP

  1. Yet the young woman reiterates whot this government sais oh dear to be on the sick is that sick and to say that ones not one of those scrounging ones well we doing their work for them pointing out let’s be clear sick disable or mentally ill we in it together no more pointing to those who some think shouldn’t get benefits no stick together we are stronger yet she was assessed by a very highly trained hcp oh dear we must say tell all record when you can has this nurses union is leaving em get away with murder has that whot these hcp do assassin’ation of your character words shouldn’t fail but attack each one with complaints to their company and union but pointing out we not scrounging let that to them and use each other to fight back jeff3

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Horrendous ordeal to put someone through. The assessors who dealt with Paige’s claim should be ashamed of themselves. And they aren’t the only people who should be ashamed. The claim assessor whistleblower story posted recently on this site exposes how within the system claim assessors are given targets and incentives for refusing people’s claims That being the case then, the responsibility does indeed go back to the Government for approving such an inhuman policy.

    Unfortunately it seems these inhumane policies of incentivised decision making do exist, which effectively discards the more morally bearable possibility that such claim refusals are a result of systematic incompetence.

    I also want to express my admiration for Paige Garratt’s bravery and also her generosity of spirit in publicising her experience and taking up the issue directly with the government. I was happy to read that she is in remission and pray she continues to be all clear. I was also relieved to read she was eventually awarded PIP but she should never have had to go through 7 months of suffering without that support and should never have had to deal with the gruelling complexity of launching an appeal.

    This system is broken and needs to be fixed by people who are driven by compassion, not by people for whom statistical targets are a higher priority than alleviating people’s suffering. This is an affluent enough society that it should be perfectly manageable to provide support services without making the process so painful for so many people for whom things are already difficult to cope with.

    Thanks also to the author of this site who despite health difficulties continues to keep people informed of these injustices and who has been subjected to equally harrowing ordeals in dealing with the benefits system.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. With out people like you we would know nothing. Glad the government have not gagged you. Keep up the good work. Let’s hope all pip and ESA are video so the lies can stop. And the government can see them for what they are.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You are right, they give the same old drivel in response; ” we are committed to…”, We take our responsibility very” – No you are not and no you don’t!
    I am so ashamed that this is what we have become, so ashamed.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m physically disabled and ill from that chronic pain and was also turned down for PIP. They made up lies about me which I saw in a copy of their assessment which I requested. The woman who did my assessment had hatred in her eyes.

    Why do genuine people get treated so callously? Money grabbing Tory government.

    I’ve been ‘sanctioned’ twice and would have been homeless if not for my elderly mum. They kept refusing home visits (until this January) saying I wasn’t really ill enough.

    I’m used to it now though. I’ve been mistreated by doctors, the pain clinic, local council won’t renew my blue badge, the local college stole my money when they lied about supporting me in my studies (go to the OU if anyone is interested in further learning; they’re brilliant) and the DWP. Thankfully, my local job centre believe me and we were both surprised that my health update had not been done in YEARS on their computer system.

    After 11 years – from the unsupport and chronic illness – I AM WORN OUT and on the edge. We are frustrated and humiliated enough not being able to work and be independent WITHOUT a dictatorial government sticking the knife in.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Little Lord Oscar Dandelion Books and commented:
    My comment to this article –

    “I’m physically disabled and ill from that chronic pain and was also turned down for PIP. They made up lies about me which I saw in a copy of their assessment which I requested. The woman who did my assessment had hatred in her eyes.

    Why do genuine people get treated so callously? Money grabbing Tory government.

    I’ve been ‘sanctioned’ twice and would have been homeless if not for my elderly mum. They kept refusing home visits (until this January) saying I wasn’t really ill enough.

    I’m used to it now though. I’ve been mistreated by doctors, the pain clinic, local council won’t renew my blue badge, the local college stole my money when they lied about supporting me in my studies (go to the OU if anyone is interested in further learning; they’re brilliant) and the DWP. Thankfully, my local job centre believe me and we were both surprised that my health update had not been done in YEARS on their computer system.

    After 11 years – from the unsupport and chronic illness – I AM WORN OUT and on the edge. We are frustrated and humiliated enough not being able to work and be independent WITHOUT a dictatorial government sticking the knife in.”

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Luv, I’m going to skip over the outrageous political stuff because we know it’s stupid but it is what it is. And it should be different. And for something positive? She has a great bald head! Stunning face, great eyebrows! 👊🏻Cheers,H

    Like

    1. Yes it should be different. People are dying because it ‘is what it is’. The answer is not to accept ‘positives’ so thin, but to fight back. Fight back for others. Do what we can when we can. Raise awareness among the wider public. Bystander apathy is not an option, because sooner or later, the ‘stupid’ will affect you or your loved ones and friends.

      Like

    2. It isn’t appropriate to refer to such a serious situation as “it is what it is” and trivialise what Paige Garratt has gone through with a comment about how she looked during chemo-therapy. What you are calling ‘positive’ here seems crass and tasteless.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What these assessors and others who support these egregious regimes don’t get is that when they’ve sold off our Social Security they will be next once they have no use for them they’ll be sold off to staff some insurance based system This government has no problem stitching up its own when they’ve passed their ‘Use by’ date

    Liked by 1 person

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