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“As A Benefit Claimant, You Are Presumed Guilty Of Fraud”

January 27, 2015

A case study from today’s Guardian on the effects of the PIP delays.

Penny Tyas, 57, a former accountant from Lymington, Hampshire, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the summer of 2013 and applied for PIP immediately. She filled in the form for the benefit in June, but did not receive her first payment until January 2014. In the intervening period she had been rejected for the benefit by Atos assessors, and the long delay contributed to a serious decline in her financial situation; she got into debt, was evicted and declared herself bankrupt.

At her lowest point, she and her 14-year-old son were surviving on food bank parcels and she was left with just 22p. She has kept those remaining coins and plans to turn them into jewellery to remind her of that “dire” time. “2013 was not a good year,” she says. She found the process of applying for the benefit exceptionally stressful, which caused a decline in her health. “You have to describe in detail the effect of your incurable, degenerative disease, and you know how much rests on the decision,” she says. She was asked if she could walk 50m. “I have been known to walk 100m, but I can’t walk that distance quickly, safely or as often as necessary,” she says. After the assessment, she was puzzled to discover that she had been judged capable of walking 200m, although no one had asked her to walk at all. She was refused the benefit. “In the UK you are meant to be innocent until proven guilty, but as a benefit claimant, you are presumed to be guilty of benefit fraud until you have proven over and over again that you really are a genuine case”, she says.

“Personal independence payment is not meant to be used to live on but to retain some independence,” she says – helping to pay for taxis, for shopping deliveries, for help at home. Without it, she was ineligible for other related benefits – discount railcards, free road tax, shopmobility services. Although it isn’t meant to be for living expenses, at the time her basic benefits were swallowed repaying debt she had got into when her condition was diagnosed, so the absence of the money was felt acutely.

While she waited her situation worsened. She wasn’t paying rent, got an eviction notice, and faced homelessness until she and her son were rehoused by the council. When she (repeatedly) rang Atos to ask when she was going to be assessed, she was told they couldn’t say.

She is angry that the diagnosis by neurologists of her incurable condition was not considered sufficient evidence for Atos to grant her the payments, until she launched tribunal proceedings. When they were finally granted, her payments were backdated, but she points out that retrospective payments aren’t very helpful if you don’t have anything to live on in the meantime. Her award was meant to continue until September 2016, but in August she was told she must reapply and was forced to go through the bureaucratic process again in order to secure her payments.






3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 27, 2015 3:09 pm

    The assessor for my PIP, also ATOS, made out I could walk 200m or more but I got enhanced because I was deemed not able to go on a route alone. I was aggressive to the assessor my first words to her comment of medical evidence been very old was it’s still fucking relevant even though they could have stopped it it would, IMHO been more proof of me meeting the requirements of enhanced rate. She finally stopped the assessment when I refused to hand over my walking stick to my son and told my daughter I would qualify for enhanced rate on both. I had a recording of that until my old PC gave up before I could back it up to the external HDD

  2. January 27, 2015 4:21 pm

    Reblogged this on sdbast.

  3. January 27, 2015 8:53 pm

    Reblogged this on Britain Isn't Eating.

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