PMDD, Major Depression, Social Anxiety, Fibromyalgia, M.E, and PTSD. One of those is bad enough. The impact on daily life is immense, with rest being organised round short activities, and being constantly dosed up on codeine, as many with Fibromyalgia and M.E will know. My depression can be so severe at times that I can barely talk and regularly battle with suicidal thoughts, and my social anxiety means I can only cope being with people for a short amount of time. It’s isolating, it’s painful, it’s a struggle.
My score in my PIP assessment? 0. I ‘appeared well’, presented myself well, had a ‘good grasp of language’, was a former teacher (as if this has anything to do with it)… it goes on. The errors and, frankly, lies in the report were staggering. I produced a 20 page report on everything they got wrong. Quite clearly not a single of word of it had been read for the Mandatory Consideration, which merely spat out exactly the same points as appeared in my assessment. A waste of time.
At the beginning of this year, I received a letter from DWP. No consideration of my mental state, no consideration for what might be going on for me. It stated that because I hadn’t notified them that my PIP had stopped (I had no idea I had to), they had been overpaying my ESA. I owed them £2500. I had one week to contact and they threatened court action. This pushed me to an edge I haven’t been to for a while. The woman from DWP who I spoke to on the phone was so concerned for my health, she contacted my GP and put a complaint forward herself, telling me there was no way I should have received a letter like this and in this way. Thus far, nothing has come from that complaint. I had one week to respond.
But one year on, I am still waiting for a tribunal date. I have contacted them four times, every time being told ‘should be in the next week or so.’ I’m financially struggling. The conditions I was working so hard to try to control by using my PIP benefit to get support (things like massage – a few sessions on the NHS really don’t help folk with ongoing pain, supplements, and saving for private psychotherapy – the mental health services have let me down badly, amongst other things) have all worsened. I can’t afford to do these things. I am juggling the basics. I, and so, so many people out there, am being penalised for being ill.
It is very interesting to read the responses DWP have given to Damian Green, who happens to be my local MP. He has been palmed off with the same nonsense that we are getting. There is no interest in helping, no interest in addressing the errors they have made, no recognition of what this is doing to people and how much this is impacting. And they have washed their hands of waiting times, simply blaming the tribunal service for the delays.
This has been a long, worrying, sometimes dangerous year. It’s hard enough managing these conditions and trying to stay on the planet. DWP’s cruelty does so, so much damage – from invalidating serious, debilitating conditions to pushing the disabled into debt. They are hoping that we are too weak to fight. They have taken so, so much out of me personally. But they haven’t taken my voice.