I have dealt with depression and anxiety since my teens, and in the last few years struggled a lot.
My Mr suggested applying for PIP – which is a payment from the Government to help people with disabilities, mental health issues and long term illnesses afford all the extras that go along with their condition. It’s means tested and requires an interview in person.
I filled out about a million forms, submitted evidence in the form of a letter from my doctor and from the mental health centre at the hospital where I did CBT and psychotherapy.
My assessment interview was ‘near me’ in that it was in London, on the other side of town. Bizarrely it was done by a physiotherapist – obvious choice to assess someone with a mental health issue.
I was rejected on the basis I was able to walk – the application form and interview were very obsessed with mobility as a factor. Except that on my very worst days getting out of bed is impossible. So I can’t walk on those days, I can’t eat, sleep, talk, function at all.
It’s a really bizarre and completely illogical way of deciding whether or not to award someone the benefit of some money to assist in managing their condition. There are days when my anxiety is so bad I can’t use public transport so this money would have been useful to cover a cab to the doctor’s or hospital.
It affects my ability to work and manage the basic things, we’d discussed how having even a small amount would help cover costs when I’m too ill.
But no, a physiotherapist and the worst assessment ideas ever mean that I, like hundreds of others with all sorts of complex and exhausting conditions, are denied even the smallest assistance.
There are plenty of people for whom this is even more devastating – they need that money to survive. But more and more disabled and terminally ill people are being found “fit for work” by these assessments and stripped of their benefits. Never mind that there are no jobs for these people, that employers won’t employ people who need lots of flexibility to attend appointments.
Disabled workers take less sick leave than your average employee, as they feel they have to prove something, and it is illegal to discriminate, but it still happens. It’s just not given as the reason they didn’t get the job. Hidden conditions, invisible illnesses or disabilities, mental health conditions are even harder to prove discrimination against, and likely to receive less empathy.
My last full time permanent job ended because of a complete lack of understanding and support in my attempts to manage my health and continue working. Now I temp and the Mr covers much of our expenses while I look for something longer term.
I don’t expect the government to support me, I don’t intend to demand benefits and sit at home. I want to work, the stimulation and mental exercise of work is good for me. But a little extra to help out during the really bad days isn’t a lot to ask for.
This new system is so flawed that it’s already caused deaths, some people genuinely can’t work, and probably contributes to so many conditions worsening and costing the NHS more money to treat and manage.
It’s cruel and unfair and dangerous. The people behind it, many of them with zero medical knowledge, should be ashamed.