The Tyranny of the PIP Overlords

James DaviesAnd how I suffered from their wrath…..

My name is James Davies, I am 24 years old. I am a recent cochlear implantee (as of Feb 2013) prior to that I have always worn hearing aids. I live in the South of England in rural Surrey, employed as a Project Engineer for a respectable company.

I started the process of applying to PIP some point late May 2014, I had realised that I needed some form of help as I gained more independence (I was moving out) and needed some financial help. My friends at the time (deaf peers) recommended me to apply for DLA (they didn’t know at that point it was called PIP) and that it was a fairly straightforward process.

So I started my research, in this I found that DLA no longer exists for adults, it was re-named PIP and changed under the new Tory government. Ok I thought, just a new name and system.

First problem I came across was pretty obvious. The only way I could get the application form was contacting them via phone, now obviously I can’t do this at all. So I thought ok I’ll look for an email address since this is the internet age and surely they would have one. NOPE, zero zilch nada… no form of email contact to request an application form is listed.

So thus I contacted a charity in Farnborough called deafPLUS who agreed to phone on my behalf, I had to take some time off work just to make a bloody phone call to claim a FORM! Even that was stressful, due to them asking repeatedly to talk to me (suppose they didn’t realise deafness existed lol) and the woman who helped trying to explain that I could not hear the phone and she was speaking on my behalf. Anyway I managed to get that form request submitted and it came in the post around June 2014.

I read through the booklet that came with questions, It was immediately clear that it was based on a point scoring system to which I thought was detrimental to deaf people like myself. I was already sceptical that I would have any chance of getting this benefit.

The questions are very vague, and not very straightforward. I had no idea what to put, so I put some answers that I guess answered the question more directly. I suppose this was a mistake, I could have answered the question however I wanted, adding more information related to how my deafness effects me in the question they ask.

There was not much information on the internet from deaf people who have applied for PIP (relatively new at the time) for me to use to my advantage.

I felt this form was impossible, none of the questions really help a deaf person to portray their problems and why I feel I am entitled to PIP.

After I had filled it in it felt like had barely answered some of the questions.

I received an answer in November 2014, formally rejecting my application for PIP. I was devastated, I had no chance with this system. My problems in everyday life could not be explained in this restrictive form.

Ironically, the letter stated that I would be phoned up and explained why I hadn’t received the benefit. Huh? Did this guy even read my application? He would have read that I CANNOT use a phone, let alone hear very well….

I cannot remember but I think they phoned me on my mobile, obviously I couldn’t answer the phone. I was at work as well, no one could have possibly picked it up for me, it is my personal matters too.

After that phone call I don’t think I received anything. That was it.

Now I know I could have appealed against the decision but I was so disheartened by the process and I felt I would never win, the questions and acceptance criteria is flawed.

I have since this not tried to reapply, I missed the 1 month appeal time.

I hope to try again with some help.

Problems with PIP

Liz Partridge, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer

Liz Partridge, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer

We are becoming increasingly concerned about the experiences of deaf young people trying to claim the benefit Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Our concerns:

It is quite extraordinary that the application process for a benefit that is designed to help people with a disability is not accessible for all those with a disability, such as some deaf young people. It makes a massive assumption that everyone has a phone and can use a telephone to make a request for an application. Yes, you read that right, deaf young people are expected to call up for an application form, or if they are unable to do so, ask a family member to call on their behalf. Talk about stripping a young person’s independence from them at the very outset! There is a textphone option but to be honest the likelihood of anyone under 30 owning a textphone is very remote! Alternative, ways of applying for the benefit such as via email or the website are not promoted or encouraged. It is shocking that deaf young people are having to hurdle…or maybe it’s more appropriate to say ‘pole vault’ their way over barriers that should not be there in the first place. And this is before they’ve even made it to their assessment!

  • You need a BSL interpreter at the assessment? They might forget to book it and ask you to continue with the assessment anyway!

We are aware of a case where communication support was not provided at an assessment, despite it being requested and that request agreed to. When it was clear the communication support had not been arranged, the assessor suggested the meeting go on without it! This demonstrates an extreme lack of deaf awareness which could jeopardise the chances of the deaf young person being awarded PIP and which causes considerable stress to the deaf young person involved.

  • If you are deaf you may not qualify for PIP but if you go to the effort of taking legal action against this decision, they might change their minds and apologise!

We are aware of a number of cases where an assessor and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has determined that a deaf young person is ineligible for PIP. The deaf young people in these cases have had to take legal action about the decisions. In one case the decision was reversed, the deaf young person was awarded PIP and the DWP apologised to the deaf young person and their family. The other case is currently ongoing. These cases have placed a great deal of stress on the deaf young people involved.

What we are doing about it
We are currently asking the Government what they are doing to improve the experiences for deaf young people in this process and continue to work with deaf young people to challenge any decisions where appropriate.

Share your story
If you are a deaf young person aged between 16 and 25 and have experienced difficulties claiming PIP, please let us know about it – email campaigns@ndcs.org.uk