I received my letter for Personal Independent Payments on the 17 October 2016.
I felt the letter was very difficult to understand and had very complicated words. I had to bring my letter to work so I could get support to understand what I needed to do.
The people I work with Rob and Alexia explained the letter to me. The letter said Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was ending and I needed to apply for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
I needed to call the Department for Work and Pensions by the 2 November 2016 to apply for PIP.
Alexia supported me to call the Department for Work and Pensions to tell them that I wanted to claim PIP. They asked very difficult questions and I had to get support to understand what they were saying to me. They also didn’t have any Easy Read information which really didn’t help me.
After the phone call, the Department for Work and Pensions said that they would send me a form asking me about how my disability affects me.
When I got the form, I brought it in to work and my manager Rob went through it with me, which took a really long time.
The form had lots of different sections and questions about how my disability affects my day-to-day life. For example, it asked me about how I mix with other people, how I make decisions about money, and how I manage my treatment.
I also had to put together evidence to support my application and prove that I have a learning disability and health conditions.
The Department for Work and Pensions said I should include as much information in my evidence as I could. I sent them lots of letters from my GP and my hospital.
I also included letters from Access to Work in my evidence to prove that I get money to pay for my support at work. Rob and Alexia also wrote letters to explain what support I receive and to back up my claim.
Then I posted everything. I had to send my evidence off with my ‘How Your Disability Affects You’ form before the 18 November.
Rob spent 8 hours or more doing the form with me and I was very lucky to get his support. Without this support, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.
This means I would have missed the Deadline date and my money would have been stopped.
After I sent my form off, I got a letter saying I needed to go to a face-to-face assessment on the 12th November 2016. The assessment lasted about 1 hour. During the assessment, I was asked very difficult questions which were hard to follow.
There are millions of people with different disabilities, and some people like me have hidden disabilities that can’t be recognised that easily.
I’m lucky to work for an organisation that understands my disability and my needs, and they give me excellent support.
Other people with a disability might not be so lucky. They might not have the same support as I do, so they might have to use other services like the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
Now that lots of people are trying to apply for PIP, these services will be really busy because lots of people will be going to them for support. This means the staff at these services might not be able to spend as much time supporting people, and they may not be able to see people on the same day.
Things can be especially difficult for people with hidden disabilities, because advice services might not understand their disability and so these people might not get the right level of support.
Something I found very stressful was that the deadline date for claiming PIP was quite soon – I only had a month to do my claim. This is really be difficult for people with a learning disability because it doesn’t leave them enough time to prepare, which can cause people stress that might affect their health.
What should the DWP do?
The Department for Work and Pensions needs to make things easier for people with a disability. To do this, they should produce Easy Read letters and forms for people who use their services. They also need to make this information available in other formats, like Braille.
I think the Department for Work and Pensions also needs to make their forms shorter so that they are easier to fill in. They should also give people more time to send off their paperwork because the deadline is too short. They should give people at least two months.
The staff at the Department for Work and Pensions also need to be more understanding and patient on the phone. When I spoke to them, I found them scary and I got very stressed and worried. I think they should try to be more friendly and not ask complicated questions.
Lastly, the Department for Work and Pensions need to make sure everyone has someone to help them to fill in the form and go with them to the face-to-face assessment. This is really important.
I hope that, in the future, the Department for Work and Pensions will improve the way they communicate with their disabled customers because we need that extra support. Until then, I hope that this blog will help other people applying for PIP so that they know what to expect.
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