Hi, in my attempt to be a supportive friend, and as a curious reporter too, I’ve been helping someone with their ongoing PIP renewal applications. We wanted to say how pressured it’s been, is, and more importantly, could be.
For the time I’ve known him, through him being homeless, to moving into recovery from addiction to various things and he’s always lived with severe mental ill-health. He now freely shares where he’s at, which he hadn’t been doing for years – a brilliant sign of how he’s approaching all this, in my humble opinion.
A brief background for this piece: he’s been receiving PIP for a couple of years, all great help, and around eight months ago, Xmas time, he got a text explaining there’s a review of his claim… Ok that’s fair.
A form was submitted, acknowledged, and nothing happened in terms of follow up. Three months later, in March, a follow up text explains they’re still reviewing.
Still nothing by June, so he makes a phone call. He finds out it’d been automatically rolled over for 12 months while review continued… Cool… Relief, or so we thought.
Then, interestingly, a new text arrives – “you need to have an appointment with our approved health professional.” Ok, we thought, so that was arranged.
Now here’s the link to the title of the piece. When he’d originally applied for PIP, years ago, via paper application with follow up phone interview, he was declined. but he’d had had the sense to tape that phone interview. When we appealed, he was able to use the taping to contradict what had been falsely – and what felt like fraudulently – written down by the health ‘professional’. They duly overturned the declined decision, agreed to his PIP allowance and everything was clear. He was in… only for what he was genuinely entitled to claim, nothing more. So… not the nicest experience to live through, being falsely represented to the DWP by someone he’d placed his trust in, but the process sorted itself out and he moved on understanding these things can and do happen.
Anyway, back to the here and now. It’s early August, the day came, we’d prepared all the ‘evidence’: medications, previous application’s, entitlement letters from when PIP was first agreed… We explained to the health professional that he’d record the interview, mainly because of his previous experience of someone falsely ‘documenting the chat’.
She understood and was compassionate and talked through the process, asked for his updates etc… She explained that she’d complete the paperwork and submit it to the DWP the following day, then it would likely be six weeks or so before anything further would happen.
A DWP text then confirms it’s in – her part of the bargain delivered, that’s good. He will continue to receive PIP for now… a quick turnaround in a clunky system.
All through these eight months, it’s been constantly worrying him, always at the back of his mind. He depends on the extra allowances, his free travel pass given his disability… What would happen if these were removed? A return to those dark, silent, fearful days of isolation, despair, and powerlessness over something he didn’t wish for; quietly drowning into debt with no lifebelt keeping him afloat.
He phoned me two days ago: “I’ve got a text, they’ve made a decision.” He sends me a copy, and I quote:
“Your PIP review is complete, you should receive your decision letter in 2 weeks. Once you receive your letter, contact us if you have any questions. Do not call before you get this letter as we will not be able to tell you the decision. Please remember to contact us if your circumstances change”
So I ask you as a reader, what do you think he’s thinking?
It’s difficult to watch him worry. It’s etched on his face, in his voice when we chat, in his demeanour, now he’s constantly thinking ifs and whats, hows and whys, they don’t believe me…
We’ve been living through this part of the process for eight months together, over two years altogether, and who knows, maybe more months to come.
My feeling is – the text is cruel; talk about ambiguity, leaving him hanging, every letterbox rattle deciding his future, yet will it rattle tomorrow, the day after, four day‘s later or the full fortnight? They were able to tell him decisions in June when he phoned, but not now.
All I can do is be the best friend I can, be available when he needs reassuring, be there when that envelope drops on the mat.
Christ, I feel sick thinking about that myself – the hope being pinned on one letter, the devastation if it reads badly, the pain of appealing what’s already well known, well documented by respective authorities, and at worst, a new way of life he wouldn’t wish on anyone else.
I pray it’s a positive rattle, yet it could turn into another type of rattle, but let’s not go there….
I’ll put my pen down for now, maybe my next piece will be a cost of living one… I pray it’s not a cost of life one….