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:
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.
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.