aka Personal Independence Payment (the new DLA).
I previously wrote about my experience of the PIP application process and how I found filling the form in. Post can be found here.
Step 2 is the face to face assessment.
I was not looking forward to this. Recently, there once again have been horror stories in the press about how awful these assessments are, how they are in buildings that are not disabled friendly and stories where people reported having to crawl on theirs hands and knees to get up the front steps to the building because they would not put out an access ramp as the person was not in a wheelchair. With seeing all this I really was wondering what was I going to be faced with.
The face to face assessment is carried out by a company who work on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and were formerly ATOS but not anymore. My appointment was 9am so would be over and done with so I could enjoy the rest of the day rather than wait, wonder and scare myself silly wondering what to expect.
Arriving early my heart sank. To get from the car to the door and into the building there was a rather small but very dangerous obstacle. The group of people smoking right at the door (some may say this is a good thing as the person doing the assessment would see just how unstable my lungs are because I would get wheezy being exposed to all the smoke!). To be honest I didnt care if I was seen wheezy or not- but a quick dash and holding my breath I got in the door relatively unharmed.
You are all sat in a waiting room together as there are several assessors so multiple people can be seen at once. I was the only one who turned up alone, but you could’ve family members with you or a rep to act on your behalf I assume and ensure that the assessor receives all the information about you.
Anyway hearing my name called and a walk down what seemed like the longest corridor I entered the room and introduced to the assessor. A nurse assessed me who it turns out used to work on the ward next to the ward I used to work on.
The assessment was not what I was expecting at all. I thought I was going to need to justify everything I had written in my forms but it wasn’t like that. The nurse used the form as a general guide to structure the assessment but we spoke about the various areas and aspects of daily living where I explained the difficulties and adaptations I had made to be able to achieve the different tasks. She didnt ask me to replicate any of them or show her how I do certain things. The only thing she did ask me to do was to do my peak flow. She handed me the peak flow but I gave it straight back to her and got my own one out. Why did I do that? The peak flow she gave me was so old it had the old scale on it rather then the new EU scale which we use in the UK so the values would be different. I guess with that she knew I knew my condition well. She was also intrigued by my portable nebuliser. I don’t know if she asked to see it to really check it is something I always carry or it was her curiosity at seeing one. By the end of the assessment she said she was going to recommend that I am awarded PIP and would hear in about a week or two.
What would my advice be to people who may have an assessment coming up?
I would say just be yourself. They are not setting out to trick you, or test you but to understand better how your condition effects you and in what ways. It was good to explain certain aspects like the issues i have with eating because of allergies and there was not really a section in the form where I could write about that. She could also see how bad my shakes are which is very difficult to write down in a form how it appears and impacts on what I do.
I found that being there meant I could explain more about different aspects which perhaps I had not explained in the form because space did not allow or there was not a section for it. In the waiting room at the start I overheard people saying to each other how they need to lay it on thick so the assessor sees things and sees how they can’t do something because they are so unwell. I felt conflicted by this because I am sure whatever condition they have is hard to live with but they shouldn’t be making it seem worse than it is just to get more money if their condition is not as bad.
Having had the assessment I felt that what I spoke about to the nurse reflected what I had written in the form and what my Dr’s and nurses had written in their letters to. Being honest is my main thing because there is no point on lying about it as either you will trip yourself up or your medical letters will not be saying the same thing. If everything is coming from the same hymn sheet then all will be ok.
The horror stories you hear I do think are just that horror stories as my experience has been far from what I have read or heard in the press. It really was not stressful at all and I felt they made the whole process very easy and straight forward.
They say it takes a week or two to hear back but another post will follow about the award and what it all means!