We’ve done your PIP review and turned you down again. Without involving you. Or something

I am confused. Any insight into the situation described in this post would be more than welcome:

Below, we have more evidence – as if we needed it – that the Personal Independence Payment application system is a complete bureaucratic shambles.

I’ve posted below a letter which was received last Friday by Sean (named changed), a man in his 50s who has an Asperger’s diagnosis and serious depression and anxiety. Sean applied for PIP earlier this year. He’s had a very difficult time of it. After an unpleasant face-to-face PIP assessment in April, his PIP application was turned down in July. I’ve been following Sean’s disastrous experience of the failed PIP application “system” for a while.

Now there comes a bizarre twist. Last week – just a week after Sean received his PIP rejection letter – Sean received a letter from the DWP which said that as a result of a request made by Sean, the DWP had reviewed its decision not to award Sean PIP (and found against him again). People who want to challenge a PIP decision must ask the DWP to go through a process of reviewing an original award decision before the PIP applicant can appeal that decision at a tribunal. This extra review step is called Mandatory Reconsideration. If people want this review, they can contact the DWP explaining why they think the original decision was wrong. I’m guessing the letter Sean received is a Mandatory Reconsideration decision letter (about a mandatory reconsideration he hadn’t requested yet), but am not sure. I get very confused about all of this myself. Feel free to share views on the letter.

The problem is that Sean never actually asked the DWP to carry out this review. He has yet to ask for a review of any kind (even though the letter says he asked for this one). He certainly didn’t ask the DWP to review a PIP decision that was made in May, as the letter says. That’s because in May, Sean still had no idea whether he’d been awarded PIP or not. He’d only just had his face-to-face assessment. The decision about his application had not been made. He only received a letter informing him of the outcome of his application towards the end of July. Still, he got this letter. It says the review of Sean’s PIP rejection is done and dusted, and that the answer to Sean’s request for PIP is still No:

MR_decision_letter

You can imagine how Sean felt when this letter turned up. He’d only just found out that his application for PIP had been denied. Then he got this letter which made him think that the review step – his chance to explain in detail why he should be awarded PIP – had gone ahead without him. He was very upset when he rang me to talk about it last Friday. It’s no wonder that this process drives people to the brink.

So.

I suppose there are several possible explanations for this We’ve Done Your Review Already letter. Let’s float a few:

1) The DWP has made an administrative mistake. The DWP’s systems have generated this letter in error.

2) The DWP has actually carried out a review of Sean’s PIP application decision without telling him and before he had the chance to write a letter outlining the reasons why he wanted a review of the decision to reject his PIP application, or to send in more supporting information.

3) The DWP has confused Sean with another PIP applicant who had asked the DWP to review a PIP application decision that was made in May.

4) Something else. Feel free to propose ideas. I’m not being as flippant as I seem to be when I say that I really don’t know what I am looking at a lot of the time when it comes to the DWP bureaucracy.

The problem is that Sean must ring the DWP to find out exactly what has happened. There’s a number on the letter. At the time of writing, though, he was simply too stressed to do that. He said that he was on the verge of giving up. He says that a lot these days.

That’s why I’m posting this, really – so that people can get an idea of the ruinous drip-drip effect that this bungling and punitive bureaucracy has on people who must apply for disability benefits (or benefits of any kind for that matter). For so many people, every step of the process is fraught, paper-heavy and – as in this instance – nonsensical. The DWP throws curve balls like the one described in the post and people can’t cope. Some members of the general populace seem to be under the impression that getting these benefits is easy. I beg to differ. So often I find that every step in the process is a major obstacle. The process just goes on and on. The language in letters is heavy-handed in the extreme. Let’s not forget either that a lot of people who apply for PIP find everyday life difficult enough as it is. Sean has very little support. He and his partner lost their social worker some years ago because of funding cuts. The systems that he and other people in his situation use to apply for support should be streamlined and user-friendly, not cumbersome and error-prone. As it stands, the process and people running it ooze contempt.

Let’s recap Sean’s experience with the PIP application system.

Sean was receiving Disability Living Allowance for his serious mental health and cognitive conditions. He received a letter out of the blue in January which opened with a sentence in bold lettering: Your Disability Living Allowance Is Ending (you can imagine how people respond when they see that sentence. It’s the first line of text that they see when they open the letter). The letter instructed Sean to call a number to ask about applying for PIP (he finds making phone calls difficult). Two weeks later, he received a letter which said that if he didn’t make his PIP claim, his DLA money would stop. Under real pressure now, he found someone to help fill in the forms and send them. Then one day, an officer from the assessing company Capita rang out of nowhere and asked Sean if he could attend a face-to-face assessment the very next morning (Sean couldn’t. He needed to find someone to drive him to the assessment centre and to accompany him to the assessment to help him cope with the stress of the meeting). Another face-to-face assessment date was set. Sean attended that face-to-face meeting, but the assessment was cut short, because Sean clearly couldn’t cope with the pressure or the format. He became angry and upset. No adjustments were made for his Asperger’s or anxiety. A couple of months later, he received a letter which said he wouldn’t receive PIP because he didn’t comply at the disastrous face-to-face assessment. About a week after that, he got the letter above – a letter which he took to mean that his chance at a review of his PIP rejection had gone ahead without him. Every step of this process has been a mess.

I’ve been in touch with Sean about all of this since about January. It’s August now. His DLA has stopped and he has no PIP. The thing just goes on and on without end. The bureaucracy – and its failures, more to the point – takes over people’s lives completely. Every single one of these steps has caused endless distress for Sean and required no end of phone calls to try and sort things out (I know this, because I’ve made some of those calls myself). The whole system is Z-grade and tawdry. You’d never believe that it’s a modern-day offering for disabled people who require assistance. There’s certainly no room for people with complex mental health conditions in it. You can see why people just give up on these PIP applications. Suppose that’s the government’s aim.

21 thoughts on “We’ve done your PIP review and turned you down again. Without involving you. Or something

  1. not supprised, my daughter got a text one day from dwp saying had all info needed then capita called saying file closed and need a new assestment. and every person we spoke to at dwp contracticted them selves.

    then capita assesor said 1st one was not finished by that assesor which is why a 2nd one! Now nearly 4 months on since 1st assestment and 3 since 2nd still waiting to hear if pip successful. She also has aspergers, fibro. depression and anxiety, and was on a life time award of dla.

    • And this is supposed to be a system for people in our society who have support needs. Pity they don’t get the gold-plated streamlined support service that the financial sector does.

    • Thanks Jayne – good post and that is outrageous. This thing is not fit for purpose. I know people know that but still.

  2. Increasingly over time the forms that people have to fill in to access benefits have become ever more complex and long. I remember in the 80s or early 90s when the forms to claim housing benefit went from a simple three or four page form to one that was something like 16 pages, asking a lot more questions, (many of them completely irrelevant for the purposes of claiming housing benefit, and were basically just a data mining exercise – but only someone in the know would know those questions need not be answered). Seemingly some of the questions on these forms are deliberately vague or ambivalent, adding to the confusion of even people with an excellent grasp of language.

    I think you have it on the button when you ‘Suppose that’s the government’s aim’ as though that might sound sort of ‘conspiracy theory-ish’ I don’t think it’s far of the mark that making the system extremely complex and confusing is deliberately designed to deter people from applying for those benefits they are entitled to.

    I remember reading an article in the 80s comparing and contrasting the social security systems in the UK and Australia. In both countries there were various benefits that could be claimed, but whereas it was the potential claimants responsibility to find out and claim those benefits in the UK, the situation in Australia was that someone working for the social security system was responsible for making people aware of the benefits they could claim. No doubt this has all changed now, as I know that the social security regime in Australia is about on a par with the UK, (indeed, the UK is copying a lot of ideas that have been used in Australia, as well as a few that were tried, (and quickly dropped) in Scandinavian countries in the 90s, (Workfare being one)).

    Surely a system that puts into place a social security system, (if indeed it warrants being called that now) where processes to access help are so complicated, confusing and labyrinthine to the point that truly vulnerable people give up on claiming those benefits they need to live a decent life is at best heartless, and at worst deliberately cruel.

  3. Not specific to the proceedings discussed above but on the matter of PIP assessments, Disability News Service reports that Capita have suspended one of their PIP assessors after what she posted about Social Security claimants on her Facebook page.

    That is not without precedent, as the case of former Atos employee Anthony Treasure bears witness.

    And these people have been entrusted with the well-being of vulnerable people.

    Dude Swheatie of Kwug

    • Yes good link and you can certainly see government’s contempt generally for people who require this system. The whole process is more or less a shrine to that contempt.

      • the way Vulnerable people are treated by the DWP is unacceptable and they know it.
        I just hope Sean will get the justice he deserves.
        Good on you for highlighting this injustice Kate.

  4. It’s disturbing really the way this sort of treatment of some of the most vulnerable people has become the new ‘normal’ in society.
    Yet where really, amongst the broader public is the rejection of any of this ?
    Regrets yes, when some tragic incident hits the headlines. But these are soon forgotten, and the system carries on regardless.

  5. all I can say is that I feel for Sean because he must be feeling very insecure right now.
    I mean this Government is brutal in the way they go about reforming the welfare state.
    I’m increasingly worried about the incoming changes to housing benefit and whether I’ll find myself eventually in rent arrears and facing eviction?
    I spoke to some from customer services at Brent Council about it and he reckons I should be OK
    but I’m not sure.
    but this isn’t about me so I’ll get back to Sean.
    I don’t know what to suggest Kate?
    The only viable suggestion is that he puts in an appeal and wait to see what the DWP Say?
    Its worth a try.
    good on you Kate for taking on Sean’s case.
    Keep up the good work against the bad work from the DWP.

  6. I think the whole system IS set up to bully vulnerable mentally ill people into withdrawing claims, or to feel incapable of making them at all in the first place. My experience certainly bears that out as does Seans’ and I’m sure thousands of others. I have a brilliant NHS therapist and a very determined benefits advisor and we are being lied to and ignored, I can only imagine what it must be like for those not in a position to get any help. To use a film quote, they are just pissing on us without even the courtesy of calling it rain. Our voices don’t get heard as we either can’t shout loud enough or people don’t want to hear or believe it. Thanks Kate for the work you are doing, this is no conspiracy theory, it’s very real.

  7. A theory has just occurred to me, Adding up just my and Sean’s experiences I think I might know what’s going on. There is a script now for anyone with non psychotic mental illness tranferring from DLA to PIP. The steps are something like, save time at DWP by not reading application or supporting evidence and just forwarding client details straight to ATOS/Maximus who are under instruction to firstly force a withdrawal by denying a home visit, then passing you if you are able to turn up at a centre.

    Assume that client will ask for a mandatory reconsideration and refuse.

    I have been sent 3 letters now with refusals for home visits, sent the same day my advisor rang them. Each time they have either promised to review the evidence or wait for further evidence to be sent. The letters have been dated THE SAME DAY.

    I think there is a computer programme where someone at the DWP or ATOS clicks, “send on to next stage” where the computer generates a standardised refusal letter. Whoever designed this programme has fucked up, there is supposed to be a delay on sending the letters, but they are going out immediately instead!

    I don’t think ANYONE at the DWP is reading ANYTHING! We know that there have been massive staff cuts within the DWP. Perhaps all the ‘subjective easy rejection’ cases are now just handled by computer?

    • There is certainly reason to believe that this system has malfunctioning systems at the centre of it. So many things are nonsensical or incredibly inconsistent.

    • I have a suspicion that people with tendency to suicidal problems are targeted also. In case it will work and they out of the system. I had my benefits stopped for no reason half a year after such episode caused by the Work Program representative. They stopped all my benefits suddenly – when I’ve phoned belfast they told me “is was me” who have told them to stop my benefits… guess what, I didn’t. They have reinstated everything, but already there was a delay with my housing benefit. I really think they have hoped I will be out of the system for the eternity..

  8. An administrative cock-up is highly likely. so suggestions 1-3 all seem possible.

    I suggest you save time and money phoning a DWP call centre (that likely won’t know much more than ‘computer says no’) and get an appeal started now. Suspect DWP will label this a review or something similar and still drag out doing a formal MR

    I have been going through assessment process for changing from IB to ESA for over 4 years now. On 21 Dec last year I was told my payments were being stopped (for 2nd time) from February (but they kept paying until early March) It took 2 phone calls and 5 recorded delivery letters to get to MR decision by end of April. I am still waiting for HMCTS to confirm a Tribunal date.

    I had a situation similar to Sean’s 2 years ago; with an ATOS home visit being ended prematurely. Although I was told by the ATOS female as she ran for the door I would have a 2nd appointment, an ATOS manager alleged I refused to co-operate and DWP stopped payments. DWP didn’t even supply the ATOS manager’s allegation to the Tribunal.

    It sounds like Sean has good grounds for winning an appeal, but suspect the Tribunal will just push it back to have the assessment repeated

    Once I get a Tribunal hearing and have my information on record, I hope to take some time out to write a full account of everything I experienced, hopefully to inform and assist anyone else trapped in a similar kafkaesque horror

  9. Pingback: DWP to disabled man: We’re sticking with the Mandatory Reconsideration we did without you. No PIP for you | Kate Belgrave

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  12. I recieved my ‘rejection letter’ today and the reasons seem to be woefully common. I was clean, could speak cogently and despite using a walking stick was ‘able to walk unaided into the consultation’. It was obvious that the assessor (a RGN) had no knowledge or previous experience of my condition (Bilateral Vestibular Hypo function) and was completely unimpressed when I asked about their experience of patients with the condition. I am waiting to be contacted by DWP or their agent to process a review. I feel a letter to my MP coming on…though I do have thirty years legal experience which may come in handy. If your case is genuine do not give up!

  13. Pingback: Why does it take the DWP so long to process sick notes? Why must people put up with such useless systems? | Kate Belgrave

  14. Hi, I phoned up for my PIP claim last week. They were most helpful. I told them about my conditions and they said I must be a genuine case. They said as I was genuine I did not need an assessment. They then asked my bank details and lol and behold my pip payments started this week. They said i would not have to have a review as i was telling the truth 🙂

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