Why, Many Lemons, have you associated a post about benefits with this photograph of appetizing smoked-salmon-based morsels? Random?! Read on people, all will become clear…
Applying for PIP is quite an involved process, with a 32 page application form – the ‘PIP2’ form – to fill out. You’ll also need to collate evidence that supports your application. As a lot of you I am sure are aware, there are many many cases of PIP not being awarded to people who really do satisfy the criteria. This, in my opinion, is for several reasons – assessors not having appropriate training, the lack of specificity in the application form, an absence of appropriate follow-up questions being asked during the assessment, and Judge’s decisions on the legal interpretation of PIP not being passed down to assessors.
So, I feel it is my duty to stress how important it is to do the following:
- Ensure you have a solid understanding of how to explain your difficulties in language that PIP understands.
- practice for your assessment as you would any other interview – you probably wouldn’t go into a job interview having not had a dummy run!
You need to do this in order to maximise your chances of being awarded what you qualify for and deserve.
But, this doesn’t mean I want you to get bogged down and panicky about the whole thing. I truly believe that if you tackle PIP in bite-size, individual pieces that you will be able to tackle this in a manageable way and feel in control. You can OWN it baby! (Queue Rocky Theme Tune !).
From my end, I shall be practicing what I preach – I will be aiding this bite-size approach by tackling the process as a series of easily-digestible parts. I will offer overall hints and tips on the application and assessment, but also dedicate one blog post to each individual question on the form, so you can tackle the application as a series of little bits and dip in-and-out without being overwhelmed.
Bite-size is the word of the day!
Some tips to start
There are now so many of us having to apply for PIP, due to the mandatory move from DLA. Therefore, to get my advice up onto the World Wide Web tout suite, you may notice that I have taken the liberty of simply duplicating the tips that are relevant – in fact damned important to know for your PIP application – from my blog post Top 12 tips to read before appealing your PIP award and added these alongside some new tips that are specific to the application process. Here ya go:
Number 1: Know what to expect
I think you’ll be much less anxious about the whole process if you know what to expect. So, here’s a quick rundown:
- Unless there are special circumstances, you start the application for PIP by phone. You can get someone else to ring up for you, as long as you are there in person to pass the identity check. You’ll be asked a series of questions in order to fill in the PIP1 form. For a head’s up of what you will be asked, you can download a copy of the PIP1 form here. You’ll need to supply, in addition to some basic info:
- what your health conditions are.
- The contact details of ‘the main healthcare professional that supports you’ (probably your neuro or your GP).
- Any additional social and health care professionals who you would like them to contact for further info on your illness, for example your GP, Physio, Occupational Therapist, MS nurse, counsellor etc.
- If you have concerns about returning the form on time due to a mental health or behavioural condition, learning difficulty, developmental disorder or memory problems, make sure you let them know. They should ask you about this as part of the phone call. For a list of conditions they will consider as means for, for example, additional support in filling out the application, see page 17 of the PIP1 form.
- Once you’ve registered to apply for PIP, you’ll get your PIP2 application form in the post, titled ‘How your disability affects you’. It should arrive within 2 weeks of your initial application phone call – if it doesn’t, chase it. You need to complete the form and send it, along with your supporting evidence, to the DwP within 1 month of the date on the letter that arrived with your PIP2 form, unless you have been granted extenuating circumstances.
- If the DWP decides that you require a face-to-face assessment for them to make a decision, then you will be sent a letter with the date of the assessment. More on this later, but rest-assured that if the assessment centre is too far for you to travel, or the date clashes with, for example, a medical appointment, you can ring them up to rearrange or to arrange a home assessment.
- The DwP should get back to you within 1 month with their decision once they have received your form and done a face-to-face assessment if required. They may well ring before you receive the decision in the post, or follow up the decision letter with a phone call. Either way, don’t feel pressured into saying anything at all during that phone call, for the reasons given in point 7. If you are not happy with the decision and wish to appeal, you can do this after this phone call, on your own terms.
Number 2: Put in the prep work
The best way to deal with PIP is to get your application and assessment spot-on at the very beginning. You can of course appeal your decision, and many people are having to do that, but ideally you will not need to.
It is of course dependent on the assessor as to which way things go, but I urge you to take the time and put as much effort as you can into understanding how best to to fill out the form and how best to deal with the assessment.
What do I mean by this? There are many ways that you can qualify as having difficulty with an activity. However, if you do not express your difficulties explicitly in one of these ways then you will not qualify. Take, for example, an invisible symptom like pain. If you can walk, say, up to 20m, but are in pain afterwards, then you do actually qualify for not being able to walk up to 20m.
Or, perhaps you do an activity a certain way with what PIP would consider to be an ‘aid or appliance’, but you do not mention, say, the sink next to the bath that doubles as a kind of ‘grab-rail’ when getting in and out. You may not mention this because in your mind it is not something put there by occupational health, nor is it on sale in a mobility shop. Nevertheless, if you do not mention this during your description of your difficulties, you may lose out on qualifying.
We’ll cover the specifics in later posts, but you get the gist.
Number 3: Get help from an experienced, qualified professional
Given Tip 2, if you can get help from someone with experience and knowledge in PIP applications, do not hesitate. This could be your local MS Society or MS Trust branch, your local CAB, or another disability organisation. Note that some branches of the CAB have an MS-society-funded advisor who specialises in exactly this kind of thing. Use them.
Number 4: Don’t be caught unawares – start your prep now
Bear in mind that when you ring up to apply for PIP, or when your circumstances change and you are made to reapply for PIP and not DLA, or when your postcode is up for the DLA to PIP move, the clock starts. You only have 28 days from receipt of the PIP2 application form to complete it and post it back along with your supporting evidence. This might come as a shock, especially given the amount of work one of these things can be.
I’d therefore strongly advise becoming familiar with the application form and starting to gather evidence before you are forced to, to give you a head start and confidence when you do embark on the application. You can download a sample of the PIP2 Application Form here to peruse. You may also want to start filling in a diary to understand how your condition affects your day. We tend to underestimate the impact that our conditions have, or forget the workarounds we use in order to function, so this can be a very fruitful exercise. You can find symptom diary templates all over the internet – here’s the MS Society’s diary template and the CAB’s diary template.
I round off this tip with some proverbs to really hammer it home, or perhaps get up your wick (Ha!) ‘there’s no time like the present’ and ‘a stitch in time saves nine’. There, I’ve done it now.
Number 5: Obtain ‘tailored’ Evidence
If you can get hold of evidence in addition to the letters you currently have in your possession, do it do it do it. If you can get hold of more specific evidence that reflects certain symptoms or difficulties, even better. This is something that you can start sorting out way before you’ve even been asked to apply for PIP, so get this ‘out the way’ or at least moving as early as possible.
MS Nurses and GP’s can be gold in these situations because they are the people who most likely see, hear and understand how your disability affects you. See if you can have a chat with them about how your disability affects your average day and whether they’d be willing to write a letter summarising this. If you have invisible symptoms, ask your healthcare professional whether they can emphasise these in the letter. Similarly, if you have had any referrals for symptoms or difficulties associated with your disability or mental health, ask your healthcare professional whether they can emphasise these in the letter, including an explanation of why the referrals were requested.
Number 6: Paper trail paper trail paper trail!!!
Photocopy any paperwork before you send it off to the DWP. You’ll want to refer back to your application form throughout the process, for example when preparing for your assessment, so make sure you have it to hand!
Send your PIP2 Application form Recorded Delivery and put that proof of postage in a safe place.
Number 7: Phone calls
You may receive a phone call from the DwP at any time during the process. If you are not prepared for the call, for example you are feeling very fatigued or in a lot of pain, don’t hesitate to let them know and finish the call, planning one with them in the near future at a specific date and time if possible. Also, do not feel rushed when you’re on the phone! Take your time and ask the caller to repeat themselves if you need clarification or some time to absorb the information. Look after yourself guys! It’s your right, your phone, your time.
Make a note of any phone calls you make with the DWP. Bear in mind that whatever you say during a phone call could be used later on (it’s very rare to be recorded, bu the assessor may make notes). So it’s worth keeping a pad of paper by the phone in case you get a call. In this way, you can make your own notes of what was said and contest anything later on if needed. If you’re concerned about a conversation you’ve had on the phone, consider writing down the content of the call within a letter, sign it, and send it recorded delivery to the DwP, keeping a copy for yourself.
In my next blog post I shall be offering up some overall guidance for how to approach the questions in the PIP2 application form, before diving into each activity individually and in detail. Watch this space, or, even better, sign up via the ‘Notify Me’ button on the right hand side of this page to receive an email when the next post is available.
And now a question for you
I am planning on creating a PIP workbook to guide you, in bitesize and self-contained steps, through what I consider to be this ‘project’ of completing a well-considered PIP application. If you’d be interested in this, please do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below so as I can guage interest. The same goes for if you have any ideas as to how this workbook could encapsulate your concerns and requirements. Be assured that I take on board each and every comment or suggestion. As always, you shape these endeavours.
Don’t forget to sign up via the ‘Notify Me’ button on the right hand side of this page if you’d like to receive an email when the next blog post is available. Rest-assured ManyLemons.com never spams.