Claire

Claire

Claire opened the envelope, and it sat staring up at her: a big fat zero.

That was the assessment of the disability needs of her daughter, Emma by the PIP (Personal Independence Payment) assessor. Emma, who has Asperger’s syndrome and an IQ of 66. Emma, who can't take care of herself, or travel independently, or dress herself.

She had been receiving the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) but this was now being phased out and replaced by PIP. To get PIP, you had to fill in a 44-page assessment form and go along for an interview with an assessor. And the assessor wasn’t a medical professional, or even a social worker. They worked for a private company and were contracted by the Government.

So Claire completed the form, and she and Emma went to the interview. The assessor asked questions like “can she cook?”, Claire would answer that Emma couldn’t and the assessor would write down: yes, she can cook. Claire explained that Emma had hearing difficulties but, because she had an ear infection that day, she wasn’t wearing her hearing aids. The assessor wrote down that Emma’s hearing was fine.

And so it went on. That’s how you get to a score of zero. And a score of zero (or anything below 8) meant no allowance at all.

It would never come at a good time, but this was a terrible time – Claire was just coming out of an acrimonious divorce. Clearly, Claire would need to appeal but she didn’t have the knowledge or the emotional and financial wherewithal to do it. She had four weeks to appeal, and two weeks had already gone by.
Enter Paperweight. We provided a caseworker, Stephen, who is an expert in PIP appeals, to work with Claire. Stephen explained that Claire would have to counter the assessment point by point, providing documentation to support each point. So, for example, with Emma’s hearing difficulties, Claire had to take Emma to the Royal Free Hospital for a hearing test, and gather the numerous GP assessments of Emma’s hearing. Claire went back through Emma’s 20-year medical history, gathering all the psychologists’ reports and hospital assessments. “Drown them with paper” advised Stephen, and so Claire did: a file, 3 inches thick.

Claire doubted she had the emotional strength to attend the court hearing alone, so we arranged for someone to go with her. But there was to be no court hearing. When the Department of Work and Pensions received that 3-inch file meticulously detailing Emma’s needs, they agreed Emma was eligible for the maximum PIP allowance.

Claire now just wants to help Paperweight be available to other people who need it. She says “I'm very grateful to Paperweight. I gave a donation and if I can, I'll give some more money. Because I think they're doing a lovely job, and a very important job. Especially for people who are really down, people who have nowhere else to turn.”

Claire needed to appeal but she didn’t have the knowledge or the emotional and financial wherewithal to do it. She had four weeks to appeal, and two weeks had already gone by…

claire

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