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Thread: PIP Decision- nil points- fizzing at reasons

  1. #1
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    PIP Decision- nil points- fizzing at reasons

    Hello! (first post)- mini rant below. Sorry.

    I've been on ESA (support group, no face-to-face assessments yet, thank heavens) for almost 2 years due to serious depression which I've had since my second breakdown. I finally succumbed to family pressure (had been avoiding as couldn't face repeating the anxiety I face with the ESA process) as I need the extra money and applied for PIP on 15th July. Had my assessment interview around 10th October. Got my decision letter a week ago (sent 6 months to the day). DWP rang and I've asked to make a written reconsideration although he was all for just taking my brief moan as what he'd pass on...Have already received my assessment report- must have gone straight out after I asked, give them their due.

    I'm physically tip top but my daily functioning is really poor. I was given no points. My own calculation, as I had the descriptors while applying, was at least 10. I had used both the DWP's own scoring mechanism and online advice to complete the questionnaire making it clear where my 'normal' functioning was on their scale and supporting this with several examples for each. My first reaction was that DM's reasons given were all out of context, took no account of the lack of motivation nor anxiety in lots of situations. All I know is that the assessor was a nurse. No idea of what type or experience with mental illness.

    I've just acquired a Support Worker who's going to get Benefit Rights involved but I might have to do the reconsideration myself due to time. I've had another look at the DWP's guidance to staff and providers, and I've noticed the following about my decision. Can you tell me if these were legit?

    1. The original clerical/decision maker had decided that after reading the form that more information was required, hence the face-to-face. However, under evidence used for the decision, no mention of my questionnaire nor trace of it in the evidence used to make the decision. Seems like neither the hp nor the Decision Maker read it. Or is it usual not to add this to the list of evidence?

    2. I did submit copies of the letters from my GP and psychiatrist from my ESA claim. They confirm my diagnosis, meds and severity of my condition, albeit with little about my day to day functioning. This wasn't mentioned either as evidence that was part of the decision. Nor were my 3 professionals (gp, psychiatrist and clinical psychologist) ever asked to provide any further details (I gave consent). The guidance notes suggest that Atos or whoever are meant to ask for it where it would help inform their decision. If (no.1), should they have asked?

    2. No mention of the fact that I had to be accompanied to attend and had a lift to get there due to anxiety. The physical manifestation of anxiety though out the assessment was noted by the HP- was actually worse than I thought it was. This fits with my questionnaire answers. Given so many people have their ability to get to the centre as a reason for denying a claim, shouldn't this be supporting evidence in my favour?

    3. Given the severity of my diagnosis which includes anxiety, should I even have been asked to interview? The guidance notes make mention that how stressful the assessment would to the applicant to be considered beforehand. My questionnaire (do you see a pattern?) explained how I get stressed over even routine appointments with people I know. I spent the 2 weeks between the letter and interview in a terrible state.

    3. The decision and good chunks of the assessment are out of context e.g. I said I have 2 really bad weeks approx every 2 months. That's when I'm in bed all the time sleeping with loo trips being it, contemplating suicide on and off. However, the rest of the time my day to day functioning is affected a lot every day and was described as such in both the questionnaire and to the hp.

    4. I may be physically able to manage all of the descriptors but I don't because of how the depression works. My lack of motivation plus the anxiety of situations seems oddly ignored. I can slice, dice, follow a recipe but if I'm not eating lunch because there's no sandwich left for me and I've run out of my little tins of spaghetti to reheat (which on poorer days even opening them doesn't happen) because I'm too embarrassed to say so because I forgot to buy them earlier in the week and despite the fact I live within 100m of a bakers, a co-op and a sandwich shop and have the money to buy a sandwich as has happened for the past 3 days... (again, had been explained in questionnaire and in the assessment). There's multiple examples of this- basically every section/ descriptor.

    I'm so angry that I've waited 6 months and haven't been assessed either fairly nor to their own guideline standards. I don't care now if I'm eventually eligible or not but I'll jolly well aim for an Appeal if that's what it takes for me to get a considered decision.

    Anyhow, trying to put it all into a mental box until Monday- to juggle it with moving house due to homelessness and domestic violence, my usual depression and a stinking cold!

    Meh.

    Many thanks to anyone reads this.


  2. #2
    Hard to comment without knowing what the reasons and details of why you failed. Have you got the assessors report and or a sheet giving the reasons why you were declined for PIP. That is what you'd need to home in on and give reasons of why you feel they have missed your care needs.

    During the assessment you'd be asked a number of questiosn aobut your typical day to day life, could any of your responses have given the wrong impression of your capability?

    Could be the nurse simply didn't have a good enough understanding of MH issues. In relation to medical notes as supporting confirmation, often they don't mention anything about the care needs , but simply confirm a diagnosis, so aren't of much help in a PIP claim. The DWP have the option to ask medical staff for further info, but it's not a legal requirement as far as I'm aware.

    Just wondering if you happened to mention at any time during the assessment, that if you failed the assessment you'd make sure you'd definitely be making an appeal or anything along these lines. Because the way you've written it on here could tend to suggest you can find the motivation to do something if you want to.

    Why not let your support worker have a read at the decision notes etc, and then sit down with you and put your reconsideration request together. He/she might be able to quickly identify both where and why things went wrong if experienced in these type of claims.

  3. #3

    Reply (part 1)

    Welcome to the forums, ThinksTooMuch. It sounds as if life and health are throwing up many challenges for you at the moment.


    As seriouslyfedup has said, it is difficult to comment with any great insight as we do not have your assessment report, PIP2 questionnaire or supporting medical evidence. Even if we had those things, it is impossible to offer detailed advice in a forum context. However, I wanted to offer those observations I can based on what you wrote.

    If you haven't already found it, you may find the thread where I posted a lot of information about PIP, including my experiences of the PIP assessment process helpful.


    Understanding the decision

    It is a shame that the phone call from DWP left you unclear why you scored 0 points. The aim of these calls, which should be made to everyone who fails to qualify for PIP or whose rates are reduced after reassessment, is to help the claimant understand the reasons for the decision. My understanding was that the Case Manager (as decision makers on PIP claims are called) who made the decision should make this call personally, but maybe this is not happening in practice. However, I appreciate that it is hard to have a fully informed conversation when you don't have all the evidence used to reach the decision in front of you.

    Well done for saying that you would make a written reconsideration request once you've had chance to review and comment on the evidence. A reconsideration is far more likely to change the decision if it is a reasoned submission on relevant points, rather than "I'm not happy, look at it again".


    Concerns about procedure

    Most of the points you raise in your post are about the procedure followed. It is human nature to focus on everything that you feel was not done correctly. However, it is crucial to remember that the aim of any application, reconsideration request or appeal for benefit is to demonstrate that it is more likely than not (balance of probabilities, i.e. the civil standard of proof) that you reach the criteria for award of benefit.


    Concerns and complaints about the procedures followed are rarely of any consequence when challenging the decision. Guidance and best practice should not be departed from, so you should consider taking any comments and concerns about the assessment process to ATOS's complaints process (and, if relevant, any comments and concerns about the decision making process to DWP's complaints process). If you don't raise these points in a complaint, they cannot be acted on. However, any procedual points are only likely to be relevant to the decision reached if the combined effect of the departures from the guidance either infringed your human rights or left the decision erring in law.


    Procedural arguments really must be framed in terms of the relevant legal tests if they are to have any chance of succeeding in changing the decision, so I will term them 'legal' arguments. Breach of human rights is not just a loss of dignity - it must be one or more identified breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights, interpreted in line with the Human Rights Act 1998, the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and the case law of the domestic courts. The main error of law argument deployed in benefits matters is breach of natural justice, which is a much more specific thing than "it was unfair".

    Whilst 'legal' arguments can be deployed at any stage of the process, they are usually saved for the Upper Tribunal and the courts because they are the only arguments that are acceptable at those stages. You are still at a stage where you can make 'factual' arguments about relevant information that was missed or misunderstood which can, if accepted, change the decision and lead to an award of benefit. If any of the 'legal' arguments succeed, the usual effect is that the matter is sent back for a stage to be repeated, so successfully showing the assessment was legally defective, which is far from easy, is likely just to result in a fresh assessment.


    Recommended approach for reconsideration (and, if necessary, the First-tier Tribunal)

    My strong recommendation is to base your reconsideration request on using the available evidence to show it is more likely than not you satisfy the criteria for benefit, including by introducing relevant new evidence when that is possible within the limited time allowed. So far as possible, leave any procedural matters for complaints to ATOS and/or DWP.

    The aim of your reconsideration request is to establish your case, not attack everything you think is wrong with the assessment report. It was stressed in my legal training that what you leave out is almost as important as what you include. You don't want to submerge your strong points in a lot of material of dubious relevance.

    Any complaints about the overall fairness and appropriateness of the PIP tests must be handled via the political process. It is the Government and Parliament that decide how the benefits system is to work and make the detailed regulations to implement it, and only Parliament can change those laws.


    The PIP points allocation mechanism

    It is crucial to understand the PIP points allocation mechanism, as it does not use the simple "best fit" approach from ESA. The PIP system is hard to describe briefly, though it is based around the proportion of days each scoring descriptor applies. A full description is in regulation 7(1) of The Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/377).

    The majority of PIP points are likely to be awarded under regulations 7(1)(a) and (b), which can be summarised together as take all the scoring descriptors that apply on more than half of days, and award the one with the highest number of points. The regulation 7(1)(c) process, which is difficult to summarise, is only used if no scoring descriptors for the activity are satisfied on more than half of days.

    When you made your own calculation, did you do so using the PIP mechanism, or "best fit"? With a varying condition such as yours, the PIP points allocation mechanism can produce a rather lower result than "best fit".


    Once you understand how the PIP points allocation mechanism works, it is clear that claimants must explain clearly the proportion of time they are affected by various functional problems to stand the best chance of success. It sounds like you did a good job explaining the functional issues you face in your PIP2, but it is crucial the assessor can understand the proportion of time you are affected by those issues.

    You talk about very severe issues for around two weeks every two months, but, bearing in mind the PIP points scoring system focuses primarily on the effects of your condition for the majority of the time, those issues may well be of no consequence other than clarifying the assessor's mental picture of the issues you face. Bearing in mind how the points system works, it would be entirely understandable if little about those two severe weeks found their way into the assessment report.


    General / Second point 2 / Second point 3: Did the assessor and Case Manager understand the context of your problems?

    You felt that the decision maker had not placed their concerns in context and that the assessor may not have had much mental health experience. However, you also commented that the assessor observed your anxiety issues carefully at the assessment, which is inevitably a stressful situation, noting these issues were more severe than your own assessment of how you were, also that they supported your explanation of your condition.

    This suggests that the assessor was taking careful note of the sort of symptoms you had reported in your PIP2, and made observations that were more favourable for your case than your self-assessment of that situation would have been. Any assessment process is inevitably a snapshot, but the observation part of the assessment sounds as if it was kind to you.

    The system for allocating points looks primarily at functional effects that are with you more than half the time, as I explained under the previous heading. This may mean that important parts of your condition feature little in the assessment report. One of the purposes of the assessment report is to distil the available evidence into a summary of those matters relevant to the legal tests. Important matters that are of limited relevance to the legal tests may well not appear in the report.


    Being accompanied to the assessment does little more than confirm you need support because of your mental health in some contexts. Ability to get to the assessment centre is more an issue for ESA, which is assessed in a work-related context where the ability to turn up for work is clearly important.

    The PIP assessment is in a wider everyday life context, so how you reached a particular place at a particular time is not, by itself, as important as for ESA. It is doubtful that the failure to mention being accompanied to the assessment report is of any relevance.

  4. #4

    Reply (part 2)

    Point 1: Did the Case Manager use the PIP2?

    The PIP2 questionnaire is primarily to inform the assessment process. The assessor takes the PIP2, any other evidence available and the face to face assessment (if one was conducted) and writes a report for the Case Manager. Part of the assessor's task is attempting to resolve any conflicts in the evidence using their medical experience (which, as you noted, is not always that relevant to the claimant's issues) and likely having met the claimant.

    The Case Manager is likely to base most if not all of their reasoning on the assessment report, and will likely make no direct use of the PIP2, so the PIP2 is unlikely to feature in the list of evidence used on the decision letter.


    It is far from ideal that mental health cases are being handled by assessors with very little mental health experience - it would be better if ATOS followed Capita in trying to match the assessor's experience with the claimant's issues, though, as the DWP Response to the Disability Benefits Consortium report on PIP Assessment Providers notes (bottom of page 13, continuing over the page) many applicants have several health conditions, it is not always clear which is the primary condition, and it is the overall effects of the condition that matters anyway. The PIP assessor is not trying to diagnose you, but reach a view on the functional effects of your condition.

    I recommend you read that DWP response. As would be expected from such a document, it makes very careful and clever use of words, based on an "all will be well" viewpoint that turned out not to be the case in practice (for a laugh, read the summary of the service level agreement points on the time taken for assessments in the middle of page 15), but it nevertheless reveals a lot about the philosophy behind the PIP assessment process.


    First point 2: Medical evidence

    It is always a good idea to submit factual medical evidence that confirms the diagnosis/diagnoses, medication, symptoms and their severity, and, if possible, gives an assessment of the prognosis. However, as you acknowledge, this kind of evidence rarely covers the functional effects of your health problems.

    Sometimes, claimants have functional assessments available, for example occupational therapy reports or care plans. If available, this evidence is clearly relevant to the assessment process and, if sufficiently comprehensive, may allow an assessment report to be prepared without a face to face assessment.


    As you say, the guidance asks the assessment providers to request further evidence if it will help them inform their conclusions. I suspect that the evidence you provided was accepted in full so far as it went, leaving no doubt about diagnosis, medication and severity of your condition, so there was no need to call for further evidence on those points.

    It is unlikely your GP, psychiatrist or clinical psychologist has make a functional assessment, so contacting any of these people was unlikely to produce evidence to bolster functional conclusions in the report. It is not unreasonable to expect you to have provided a copy of any available functional assessments with your PIP2.


    The assessment provider is unlikely to call for additional functional assessment information if they feel secure in their conclusions. I provided the contact details of my neurological physiotherapist, who takes a functional based rehabilitative approach. I had provided two consultant's letters covering history, key symptoms, diagnosis, medication and prognosis. The assessor, a physiotherapist in my case, clearly felt able to use that evidence alongside my PIP2 and her assessment findings to provide a fully-reasoned assessment report without contacting my physiotherapist.


    Usually, the assessment providers seek medical evidence when there is some doubt over a factual matter. It sounds as if the letters you enclosed with your claim dealt adequately with the medical facts.


    First point 3 / Point 4: Severity and cause of functional effects / evidential matters

    As you acknowledge, the PIP assessment is about the functional effects of your condition(s). It is immaterial whether a particular functional effect is of physical or mental origin. My physical disabilities and your mental health problems cause broadly similar functional effects with preparing and cooking food even though the underlying causes are very different.


    This brings me back to a key point I made earlier in this reply. It is for the claimant to show they more likely than not satisfy the criteria for award of benefit. Lawyers call this "discharging the evidential burden" - showing that you meet the criteria to the necessary standard, which, in this case, is "more likely than not".


    Part of the evidence for a PIP decision is usually the results of a face to face assessment. Unfortunately, certain conditions, including many mental health conditions, often result in few if any direct observational findings at an assessment. You can't directly measure someone's mood, fatigue or pain levels - at most you can make some indirect observations (such as the uses made of language as a proxy for mood) and ask the claimant direct questions about these issues.

    Even more unfortunate for the genuine claimant is that mixed in with genuine claims are fraudulent claims from those who know that certain conditions, including some common and potentially very disabling conditions like ME, fibromyalgia, depression and chronic pain (including back pain) fall into the category of producing few if any directly observable effects. As is so often the case, the fraudsters make things harder for those who are genuine, in this case by making it harder for a genuine claimant to satisfy the assessor that they more likely than not face the severity and breadth of the functional effects they claim to face.

    Claimants might lack full insight into their condition and its effects, or find it too painful to think about certain aspects of their symptoms and the resulting functional effects. These problems are maybe more likely when the claimant has mental health problems.

    Without a face to face assessment, it would be even harder for the genuine claimant to satisfy the assessor about the functional effects they face, also for the assessor to be satisfied nothing has been missed due to the claimant's understandable reticence or lack of self-insight. The option to proceed as a paper only assessment exists primarily for those cases where the paper evidence is conclusive, for example if good quality functional reports are available from social services or a care provider. Whilst the face to face assessment was clearly distressing for you, there would have been no functional assessment available other than your own self-assessment without that assessment, making it almost impossible for the assessment provider to complete their report.


    With any variable condition, the assessment can only be a snapshot - and it may well be a snapshot at the better end of the scale, as the claimant may be too unwell to undergo assessment when they are at their worst.



    Imagine I'm a decision maker who aims to be fair, but has to be a little sceptical because I know some people are trying to trick me. Ask yourself how you can show me that what you say is more likely than not to be true. Maybe you could consider that I likely have no doubts you are telling the truth, but can only find for you if you can show me you are more likely than not to be correct in what you say - ideally by producing supporting evidence. This is the mindset with which you should write your reconsideration request.

    I often describe making good benefit claims as painting a picture in the decision maker's mind. If the decision maker has a clear and coherent image of the problems you face, it is easier for them to agree with what you say. This also acts as a reminder that overall impression of the functional issues you have under each activity matters more than the details in the assessment report.


    I realise you are in the homelessness system due to domestic violence, which might well mean you are living by yourself. However, that doesn't mean there is no supporting evidence available.

    You mention your family, and whilst it is better for any evidence to come from independent sources, maybe one or more family members could write something about those functional effects of your health problems that they have noticed.

    There might be relevant matters in your medical notes that your GP could write a factual report on if you can provide him/her with a list. For example, you mention lacking the motivation to eat, which might mean you have problems maintaining a healthy weight. Would there be anything in your medical notes about weight or nutrition issues?

    You mention domestic violence. If you have been working with a trusted police officer or social worker, who is familiar with the functional effects the violence has had on you, you might feel able to ask that person for a report. However, it may well be best to keep anything within this very difficult and sensitive area within that process, rather than opening it up to external scrutiny. It is far more important that you feel safe and supported, not that you obtain evidence. To that end, nothing in this reply aims to do anything other than offer suggestions - it is for you to decide what to do.


    Unfortunately, you give little further information about your other functional issues, so I cannot offer many further suggestions where you might look. It would be well worth brainstorming about where you can obtain relevant evidence to support your arguments at reconsideration.


    I wish you well.

  5. #5
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    I want to say a big thank you to all three of you in giving me lots of feedback on the process of which I certainly wasn't aware.

    Apologies for coming across as a 'nippy sweetie wife' for wont of a better phrase- I'd put the decision aside for the weekend (ala my mindfulness training) then made the big mistake of Googling it on Friday night while I was on a 36 hour insomnia roll from my meds. Although I'm very glad I did as I only had a basic understanding of the reconsideration process from one of the posts on this forum that I'd bookmarked. I was extremely naive...

    I haven't read what you've all written in detail yet however, I'm going to work though it all in formulating my reconsideration. I'll fill you in with answers to your questions as I go through it.

    As for the Dv issue, it's causing a heck of a lot of additional stress on top of being ill but I've not not mentioned it on the PIP2 as it's not relevant to my claim. I've been working with my therapist in defusing the situation before it escalates (it's the family member I and my mother have been living with since becoming homeless on a power kick) but we're getting the keys to a new flat tomorrow which I could cry in happiness for. Although I don't recommend a triple bill of depression, homelessness and dv as a route to jump the council housing queue...

    Thanks again for all your support regardless of outcome. I'm determined to kick dwp behind but assume I won't get be awarded the payment as that's the realistic rather than pessimistic outcome and I don't want it eating at me for the next 3 months or however long it takes.
    Last edited by ThinksTooMuch; 01-26-2014 at 06:11 PM.

  6. #6
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    @seriouslyfedup- During the assessment you'd be asked a number of questions about your typical day to day life, could any of your responses have given the wrong impression of your capability?

    There are contradictions in behaviour which can seem odd but they're in a knot of various anxieties/ motivational abilities:
    She goes to the gym 2 times a week and will go swimming 2 times a week as encouraged by the GP
    She likes art which includes watercolours and oil painting. Stopped doing this for 18 months due to medical condition. Lack of motivation.
    She likes to use the computer for general browsing
    She likes to walk the dog twice a day


    My GP referred me a twice a week GP referral gym class after each of my 2 breakdowns, the second time I requested it as the first had been a really positive experience. I live 2 mins away from the gym. It was graded exercise in a small group recovering from various illness and operations with a supportive trainer. After the first 24 sessions of each, I kept going as I need the time slot and guilt of not showing up to make me go. It's also a nice little social group of 2-3 that I've known now for several years and the staff know me and my depression and are brilliant. If I'm not doing so well, I can't go. I get so tired that leaving the house at all is difficult to impossible and I feel like my lungs have shrunk (all psychosomatic). I haven't been now in 2 weeks and since the assessment, I think I went about 4 times in 3 months max as I wasn't doing so great. I could go any of the 5 1/2 days that it's open but my anxiety means that it's the 10-11 am Tues or Thurs slot or bust.

    After my first breakdown, I did a college art course while I recovered and got into watercolour painting and began selling some of my work via Etsy (all hmrc legit). My GP has one of my watercolours hanging outside his surgery office that he bought. I managed a bit of painting for a month or so as relaxation/daily structure a month or so after my second breakdown but haven't painted since then. I've touched a notebook or piece of paper to even scribble perhaps 5 times since as my confidence is shot to pieces. My GP always asks if I've done anything but I just can't.

    I do use the computer to stave off boredom. I was an education/language/geography nut before i got sick who devoured books. I find reading books and newspapers really hard concentration-wise. The words sort of blur of the page. I can do a scan but I'll read words all wrong getting the wrong gist of a headline. Online articles are shorter and easier for me to see/concentrate on with the screen. This next bit is weird but you might understand- I sometimes watch Youtube videos of very minor surgery - lancings, ent etc because it gives me an emotional reaction that I ordinarily seem to be lacking due to the depression. Even if it's an 'eww' it's better than numbness. Self-medicating really. I have an obsession over collecting a particular type of pin badge that I've been buying on ebay and then cataloging and searching the history for. It started as some relaxing nostalgia after my second bout then I felt good about my 'mission of archiving them' and have developed a real knowledge about them. But it all gets me tired and frustrated and spending ridiculous amounts of money (that I haven't completely admitted to my mother) although I'm not in debt due to it. But it's perversely made me very anxious because of the money (I've managed to stop buying anymore and am actively getting rid of them and not collecting something else as it had become unhealthy). I've got totally fixated on it. I tend to develop one fixation or another, regardless of the practicality I assume because my brain is crying out for some kind of stimulation. As I'm isolated, the internet is my source of information. However, I avoid my email even though a friend might have emailed then feel really guilty at the delay which causes me to avoid it more. I haven't logged on to Facebook for perhaps 12 months because of embarrassment of my situation/ guilt at not reading/replying to messages. Getting to the library needs company or a lift to it's carpark to go. I rarely go at all and even rarer that I'm able to take myself.

    Mum has a small dog, Benny, who was got during my first period of bad depression partly for company during the day when everyone else is at work. He has 3 walks a day. I try to do 2 of them to make me get out of the house (30 min frisbee throwing session at lunch and 15 min after dinner empty) Both within about a 300m radius of my house and centering around our local park which is next to the gym 2 mins away. Rarely, I'll go a couple of miles on well known routes I've known for years on days that I'm feeling a better than my usual as the dog's slightly overweight (and I feel guilty I'm not walking him as long the rest of the time). But that's been perhaps 3 days in the past month. Some of the evening walks are with my mother, most/all of them during the Summer due to the lighter nights meaning longer walks. Weekends are almost always with mum as are her holidays from work. I would never just go for a stroll without him or human company due to anxiety. If I'm functioning well below my usual depressed state, I'll drag myself out at lunch if no one else is available for the sake of the dog's bladder and it'll be as short as I can make it for him to do his business. If someone is in at lunch due to being off work then I'll ask them to do it when my depression/anxiety is bad. We live in a flat and don't have a garden to let him out into.

    Could be the nurse simply didn't have a good enough understanding of MH issues?

    He said he 'understood' mental health. I have no idea of his professional qualification other than 'nurse'.

    Just wondering if you happened to mention at any time during the assessment, that if you failed the assessment you'd make sure you'd definitely be making an appeal or anything along these lines.

    No. I was stressed up to my eyeballs with the interview and just wanted to get the assessment done and get away- we were there 1 1/2 hours!

    Why not let your support worker have a read at the decision notes etc, and then sit down with you and put your reconsideration request together

    I will. I think the questions everyone's asked will help me provide a proper level of detail to my reconsideration. I'll email my mother so she can print out the forum at work and then I can take all your comments and my answers to her when I see her on Tuesday (hoping she doesn't read the bit about the badges...)

    I'll reply to everyone else in turn

  7. #7
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    @Flymo Pt 2


    (for a laugh, read the summary of the service level agreement points on the time taken for assessments in the middle of page 15)

    I shall save this nugget for later in the week..

    Sometimes, claimants have functional assessments available, for example occupational therapy reports or care plans. If available, this evidence is clearly relevant to the assessment process and, if sufficiently comprehensive, may allow an assessment report to be prepared without a face to face assessment.

    Ah- While I'm due to see the OT on a regular basis, I don't have a care plan yet (assuming I even get one?). Won't have it for the resubmission but will keep in mind should an appeal be required.

    It is unlikely your GP, psychiatrist or clinical psychologist has make a functional assessment, so contacting any of these people was unlikely to produce evidence to bolster functional conclusions in the report. It is not unreasonable to expect you to have provided a copy of any available functional assessments with your PIP2.

    I didn't/don't have anything. I had an informal plan of action with my psychotherapist but we were starting on such a basic level as accepting a complement and actually answering a question straight without a 2 hour a detour while I avoided it... that the function side of things is only now being looked at whilst I've just begun freaking myself out with occasional, completely unplanned, spontaneous interactions in safe places like shaking hands when I met my replacement psychiatrist. I've never offered my hand first, even when I was healthy! It was like a phantom limb!


    Even more unfortunate for the genuine claimant is that mixed in with genuine claims are fraudulent claims from those who know that certain conditions, including some common and potentially very disabling conditions like ME, fibromyalgia, depression and chronic pain (including back pain) fall into the category of producing few if any directly observable effects. As is so often the case, the fraudsters make things harder for those who are genuine, in this case by making it harder for a genuine claimant to satisfy the assessor that they more likely than not face the severity and breadth of the functional effects they claim to face.

    I do sympathise with the difficulty- Mother works with clients who often have mental health problems and says its often the ones who need it most that don't get it because they can't go through the right hoops but the ones who are absolutely fine from daily observation of their comings and goings get it. But there's not anything they can do as you have to take what they say at face value...Pot calling kettle black here, methinks...

    With any variable condition, the assessment can only be a snapshot - and it may well be a snapshot at the better end of the scale, as the claimant may be too unwell to undergo assessment when they are at their worst.

    I know I tend to 'underplay' my depression. It's a habit because you don't look ill, don't sound ill and you think no one really wants to know how you are. I'll find the only time I'm being 100% honest is when I'm at crisis point and I'm having to say I'm a bit suicidilly (I do actually use that word- sounds a little less scary for the listener). I'm reasonably well spoken because I've learned to be in order to teach kids and later ESL students. I also go into automatic formal interview mode unless I'm really relaxed with a person (not even with my gp). It was also surprisingly hard to talk about the really bad bits since mum was in the room. You don't want her to hear you talk about suicide. She doesn't want to hear it. She's had to deal with attempts at work (the clients, not the workers).

    You mention your family, and whilst it is better for any evidence to come from independent sources, maybe one or more family members could write something about those functional effects of your health problems that they have noticed.

    That would certainly work! Mum has training in mental health through her work. Describes me as having the functioning of a 10 year old...

    There might be relevant matters in your medical notes that your GP could write a factual report on if you can provide him/her with a list. For example, you mention lacking the motivation to eat, which might mean you have problems maintaining a healthy weight. Would there be anything in your medical notes about weight or nutrition issues?

    I'd lost a stone in about a month when I first became unwell as I'd stopped eating enough/living on fizzy juice and crisps- although I'd put on well over a stone before that since I'd left home as I was abroad and making a thorough survey of the local cuisine. Mum keeps me well fed. She's a post-war cook making most things from fresh, home- made- soup- most- nights- of- the- week- in- winter mum. If I'm feeling a bit better than normal, I go for fruit juice and fruit and eat better naturally but this is rare so she makes sure I'm getting 3 meals a day (except for weekdays when I'm on my own and less well than usual as above and she doesn't know...)

    I'd done the whole fizzy juice and crisps/chocolate thing before my first breakdown when I didn't know I was getting sick- I thought I was just a bit run down and needing a change of job/scene. I'd buy breakfast and lunch on the way to/at work then smuggle in some fizzy juice and a chocolate bar into the house I was a lodger in as I felt horrible about not being able to cook/ look after myself. My preference for sugary hot chocolate, pretzels (I'd go the Pret I walked past every morning), then panini etc for lunch meant I wasn't starving by any means but I was helped a lot by having to go to work as I worked in central London so I didn't need to make any effort to find food. I needed the sugar to physically get me through the busy office job I had. But the depression/fatigue once I'd got off the bus home was completely overwhelming.

    You mention domestic violence.
    Things have (hopefully) resolved by being rehomed. The culprit is the person whose home my mother and I are living in after her marriage came to a screeching halt last year after her ex had become engaged to an internet 'friend' and she found out, despite still being being together albeit by a thread. They stayed in the marital home.

    The person we live with has made it very clear many times that this is their home as its their name on the lease. As well as daily verbal abuse, aimed at my depression and lesser financial and practical help around the house, they've hit me several times in the past 12 months. Each argument, at least weekly before I learned some deescalation techniques from my therapist, would make my mood plummet and therefore my functioning. But there's no submittable evidence to support that in particular.

    I'd always said that if I met a man who hit me or even tried to, I'd be out of there without a second's hesitation. But there's so many other factors aside from yourself you think of, perhaps other family members you'd never see again, repercussions of her losing her job. I didn't even think of it as domestic violence until I was telling my therapist about it. She never actually told me it was because as I was telling her the penny dropped and I realised that if it was anyone else telling me, I'd have no hesitation in calling it such. Anyone experiencing it from whatever source must tell someone and get out of it but I really now understand how many ties, even imaginary or unhelpful, can stop someone from leaving such a situation. It was only when we finally went to see housing as I'd been threatened with sudden eviction for the umpteenth time and it wasn't really helping my mood any, and I was describing the home situation with the Housing Officer that the words 'Domestic Violence' were actually used- and by her. It was a really surreal moment to be nodding in recognition that it was actually a part of my life. 'Luckily' for mum, she just gets the 'not her home' and really rude language at times. But she confided in me that as she got older, if she was still with them she'd be at real risk of elder abuse... Anyhow, beginning of the end of tomorrow with the keys to the new house. Should be moved completely in a couple of weeks.

    Since I've answered all the questions (I think), and I can't see the screen anymore due to eye fatigue and blurbles, I'll leave it there.
    The main thing I'm taking away, although there are lots of other things, is that I need to be far more specific about the frequency of my functioning levels and be more specific about the context where the context of my functioning is due to the depression?

    Night all!

  8. #8
    Hi Thinks Too Much. Glad the forum has been of some help. Flymo's given you an excellent explanation of lots of things to consider which can make a difference in applicatons and assesssments. For my part I was just throwing a couple of basic possibilities into the mix, for you to consider.

    And I do agree with him when he says what you leave out to avoid creating confusion on the part of the person reading your paperwork is jsut as important. The people reading these applications are only human like you and I, and faced with an overload of info and a limited time to read it, can very easily start skim reading and easily miss important information if they're buried in amongst a load of info not relevant to the point you're trying to get over.

    Glad you're feeling a bit more positive about the process and hope things work out well with your reconsideration.

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