Personal Independence Prison: Part 2.

Empty blue wheelchairs in a row.

Part 1 is available here.

Trigger Warning: mention of suicide.

The application process for PIP is long, humiliating, & drains both physical & mental energy to the point of exhaustion. Even after the final decision has been reached, the misery does not end; you then have to live with PIP. This means never being able to venture outside of the house without being constantly aware of security cameras, or fearing that a random stranger would report you as a fraud for being able to stand up, even if you had declared that you could do so at your review. Then there is the stigma that comes with PIP; that you are lazy, fraudulent, & a drain on society. The fact that without PIP I could not have afforded a wheelchair, without which I couldn’t have an education or job eludes most people.

Recently I got the dreaded brown envelope telling me it was time to reapply, extremely early & with a ridiculously tight deadline to return the paperwork. After some thought, I decided not to reapply. The minimal financial gains of PIP simply aren’t worth the horrendous effort for me now that I’m in a job that doesn’t pay me peanuts. However, what if the DWP took my non-response as a sign that my conditions had improved & I hadn’t told them, so they pursued me for fraud? Therefore, I had to call them to clarify why I was not re-applying, & was asked to return the form stating this in a box that after multiple scourings of the form I still could not find. I returned the form with my reasonings written on it, with a cover letter, & also mentioned the recorded phone call. Given that I am relinquishing payments it would not be cost-effective for them to make anything of it, but common sense does seem to elude them.

In the end, what should be a tool for the empowerment of disabled people has become a prison, & many are not fortunate enough to have my financial autonomy that enabled me to break free of it. It takes only a quick search to find many, many cases of individuals who have died while claiming or challenging PIP, whether it be from starvation, inability to care for themselves, a stress-related heart attack, or even suicide.

Edit: Several months after writing this piece, and completely out of the blue, I received a call from the DWP telling me that due to the pandemic, and the fact that I had already returned a signed form, I could now renew my PIP over the phone. I was asked to provide some information about my current condition and how it compared to my previous application a few years prior, and I was advised that since I was in a similar state physically, I didn’t need to provide any further medical evidence of my disability.

A couple of weeks after that, I received a letter confirming that I would be on the same level of PIP until 2024.

This system was much easier and less invasive for me, and was also far quicker and more efficient for them. Admittedly for new applications, or for conditions that had changed substantially, answering a few questions over the phone simply couldn’t capture the full extent of a disability, but in cases like mine I feel it worked reasonably well.

Unfortunately, my faith that the DWP will maintain this system much beyond the pandemic, however, is virtually non-existent. It may even be that in four years’ time, I make the same decision not to re-apply.

One thought on “Personal Independence Prison: Part 2.

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