Applying for PIP: Our experience, part 2.

Husband was assessed by someone from Capita in our home for his assessment for PIP; after a slight hiccup as she could not find our house we got started.

To start the PIP assessment you have to show two kinds of identification; we chose Husband’s passport and birth certificate for this purpose.

The lady had a laptop where she wrote all her answers down and she stayed for about an hour.

I have mixed feelings about how Husband’s assessment went.

An hour is in my opinion not enough to accurately gauge someone’s needs and how well they function in everyday life in my opinion. Husband presents very well but does need a lot of support with everyday living – and how can you assess that from sitting across from him in a chair and asking questions? Surely you need to see what he does to cope with day to day living to make that assessment?

I’d read through our PIP form to remind myself what we said, and I stupidly assumed we would be asked about what we had put on the form. But when the lady started, she seemed to jump back and forth between different points, which threw me a bit.

She asked Husband about his mental health, how he coped at school (asking about support he was offered there) and how he copes with going out and meeting new people. Thank goodness I was there to be able to fill in extra information.

One particular point which irked me was when she was asking Husband about finances and how he copes with reading forms and correspondence. We stated on the form and Husband reiterated during the assessment that he isn’t able to read and understand his bank statements and do forms as he doesn’t understand them. I help him with this; when he does job applications I will read him the questions and he answers them, and I fill in forms for him. I read his bank statements when they come to see if there are any discrepancies as he doesn’t understand them.

Well this lady laboured this part in particular, asking Husband three times, ‘but do you think you could do it with support, if someone showed you what to do?’ and Husband answered no each time.

Couldn’t help but get a bit cross with her. We explained on the form that he struggles with this and why and that I am the one doing it. Husband said on the form that if he had to do it he wouldn’t understand what to do, or what the forms or numbers mean.

Was she trying to catch Husband out by making out that his support needs seem less than they are?

And what does that insinuate about me, exactly? That I’m somehow controlling everything and not giving Husband a chance to try?

Husband trusts me to do the right thing. I know his banking details and information but always ask before accessing this and I would never do something without his consent or without his knowledge. I have more than once in our relationship let him know that if he wants to sit with me as I go through things and have me explain things, I am more than happy to do that. If there is something I feel we need to do, I take the time to explain it to him so we can discuss what we do next. And everything I have ever done is in Husband’s best interest regarding money, bills, planning, applying for stuff, planning for the future.

And believe me I have looked as I know that you can get a Lasting Power of Attorney in place. I just don’t feel that would be appropriate for us at this time as he is capable of making his own decisions and I feel an LPA would make our relationship very uneven. We are husband and wife and as such equal in our relationship, and putting an LPA in place for Husband would shift the balance of the relationship away from Husband in my opinion.

Nevermind. It’s done now and we have to wait to hear what the DWP say. But I am bracing myself as I am fully prepared for having to appeal their decision if they turn our application down.

One thing to note is that this process does take time and that you need to be patient. I rang the PIP hotline on the 19th of May to start the process off, and we are still waiting for a decision. So this process is not for people who are impatient/have no income ><.

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Silver Squirrels Away – how it started.

We have lived in a precarious situation financially (in my opinion) since we both graduated from higher education in 2010.

I understand that everything is relative and that there are people even in our hometown whose financial situation is far more dire than ours. Nevertheless.

For three years I jobsearched for something permanent. I worked temp jobs, did agency work and summer jobs at home until I got my part time (But PERMANENT!!!!) university gig in the beginning of 2013 and later my other part-time, permanent job at the college in the start of 2014. I also did and still do self-employed work which is as and when it’s required.

Husband could either not find anything at all or worked casual jobs/Christmas temp jobs/summer temp jobs until he got his small part time job in 2013 and his volunteering which became a casual job in 2015.

Not going to go into the amount of crap he had to deal with during his time here, and what we went through as a couple, but may save it for another post. It deserves speaking about in detail.

Like walking around doing my work one night and spotting someone’s plate being put back on the rack in the work cafeteria. It had leftover rice and a naan bread on it. I was so hungry, I was almost at the end of my shift, but didn’t have any more food with me and no money to buy any. The food practically spoke to me. So I looked around. The place was empty. I sat down and ate the leftover food, putting the plate back in the rack before leaving.

During that time I was constantly on the prowl to up our income and to safeguard ourselves in case things went belly up. It involved saying ‘no’ a lot and working out what we could do instead to not do the thing/buy the thing, but to still have a good time.

I still very much do that today, just in case. Still looking over what we spend and looking out for us. Because you never know. Maybe I’ve become jaded but from what we’ve experienced, I don’t trust anything not unless it is in writing. Preferably in someone’s blood.

With my wages, Husband’s wages and the self-employed work I do now, we are keeping it together. But after having lived like this for so long, it’s now become a lifestyle choice, as well as a necessity.

Throughout that time and now, I have continued to ‘squirrel things away’ – doing little things, almost every day, to get us money or gift cards. This includes surveys, doing product trials and focus groups, selling things on eBay, writing reviews. I keep a spreadsheet of what I get and when and I do feel it adds up overall!

So I thought I’d do a few posts about the sites etc. I use and what my experience is with them.

 

An Assorted August.

Well! Back to work with a bang now. Term starts at the college on the 4th of September and I’ve been back at work since the 30th.

It’s been a mixed-bag summer and an Assorted August.

Good points about August were:

  • Visited Husband’s friend and fiance for a weekend, something he really needed. Feeling wanted and like he matters is so important for him.
  • Still being on vacation. I had a chance to relax and bar a few things I was able to do most of what I wanted on my list.
  • Visiting family back home in Norway for a week. We were able to visit my sister, brother, my mother and my best friend and her family in the space of a week. We were able to attend my brother’s Summer Festival at his house where he served home made chili and garlic sausages and homebrewed beer and cider. I was able to go to a flea market with my sister, just her and me. Husband had a lovely time and felt very calm when returning home; he spent a lot of time with my nephews which he enjoyed.
  • My sister and her family are so generous. Going back to the UK she sent 11 kilos of food with us and several pieces of clothing that she no longer wanted. Great for our food budget and great for me, as I’ve lost weight and now only two pairs of trousers fit me. Husband was finally given his 30th birthday present from them (it was a surprise) – a new computer they’d upgraded with more fans, space and a very good graphics card. He has spent the time since we got back tinkering with it and installing games on it.
  • We were under budget for our grocery spend again ❤

 

Things that could have been improved about August were:

  • Husband’s mental health and how upset he is about how work are treating him. Since my July post about his work, he has not been given any hours, so as of today he has not been given any hours for over a month. Going in at the beginning of the month with his time sheet and finding new staff there did not help either. So August has been spent spending time with him and family, trying to distract him from how rubbish he is feeling. It is really eroding his self-confidence and his faith in himself now. Words fail me in describing how upset I am about this and how I can tell it’s affecting him.
  • While at my brother’s party in Norway, something bit me on the leg; probably mosquitoes. The inside of my right ankle turned purplish-red and the whole ankle swelled up. The day after we got back it was so swollen and painful I couldn’t stand on it at all and so Husband went to the pharmacy for some advice. He came back with some hydro-cortisone cream and antihistamines to get it to calm down but it was still just as angry the day after, so went back to the pharmacy after work and asked if they could give me anything else for it. They took a look and advised going to the doctors as they were concerned it could have gotten infected. I went and was prescribed Flucloxacillin.  Am on it now and feel better already but buying the medicines has set us back £13.80. I understand, needs must, but not really what we need right now with Husband not working very much at all. Unexpected expenses are frustrating.

We are due to have Husband assessed for PIP on Monday and the day after we are meeting with Husband’s workplace together with the union to discuss his grievance. I would be lying if I said I was not anxious about these things but have to hold it together. For Husband’s sake.

Applying for PIP: Our experience – part 1.

Husband was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in August 2015. After receiving the confirmation, we knew this could help us as having the diagnosis confirmation would mean he could get more support such as through Remploy or through seeing a Disability Work Adviser at the *shudder* Jobcentre *shudder*. However it was not until this year that we were made aware by a family member that Husband might be eligible for PIP as I do support him with a lot of daily living activities and help him with his mobility.

(As an aside, from my experience, government agencies will not tell you you may be eligible for anything. You have to investigate this or find out for yourself, nothing seems to be just handed over in terms of information and advice. I also feel that they make the process of applying for these things so convoluted to deliberately deter people from applying. If Husband had not had people to help him with this he would not have applied for this – maybe that is the strategy of the current government?)

PIP or Personal Independence Payments are there to help people manage the costs of having a long term illness or disability. It’s comprised of two components, a daily living component and a mobility component.

Calling the PIP hotline:

You start the process by ringing the PIP hotline and asking for a form. I rang the PIP hotline on the 10th of May on Husband’s behalf as he gets flustered when asked a lot of questions as he needs time to answer. I was on hold for about 15 minutes; they are only open until 6pm and I get home from work at 5pm so I can imagine many people were in the same boat as us and trying to call before they closed.

Before you ring the website asks you to have some details ready; date of birth, contact details, your National Insurance number, your bank or building society account number and sort code and the name, address and phone number of your doctor or anyone else who they can contact about your condition. This did not apply to us as such but they also ask you about if you’ve stayed in a care home, hospital or been abroad for more than a certain length of time in the last five years.

The lady who answered had to confirm with Husband I was allowed to make the call on his behalf and read the declaration to him, but apart from that I did most of the call. I am glad I did as the lady who took our call was quite short with us I felt and did not seem that interested in what we had to say. I get that she probably has to follow a script but I would have felt quite intimidated if I’d have to deal with her again. The call took about 15 minutes to do.

At the end they said they would send the form to us in the post and they gave us a phone number to ring if the form had not arrived within two weeks.

The PIP form:

Our form arrived on the 23rd of May. Look at this beast of a form! Look at it!

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Allllllllllrighty then.

As it’s quite complicated and detailed, I dedicated time to do at least a page of it a night. Some of the pages do not apply to Husband so can be skipped (like helping with toileting or mobility issues).

If I had known about this I would have kept a log of the things I have supported Husband with, really kicking myself for not doing this now. Ah well, hindsight and all that.

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Lots of tick-boxes but you do have a chance to add additional information.

We were advised by different people to really labour what would happen if the support to do these everyday activities were not there and how this would impact him and his ability to live independently.

While I was working on it, I suddenly had a brainwave. When Husband was being assessed for Asperger’s Syndrome, I realized that the support tutor he used to have at college was still working there (I now work at the college he used to attend), and so I asked if she would write a letter on his behalf regarding how he presented as a teenager and what support she had. She wrote us a great and supportive letter, which I kept and now added a copy of to our PIP application. I also added copies of the diagnosis paperwork the psychiatrist sent us.

The support of Husband’s family was invaluable for getting the form done, especially husband’s sister whose little boy was diagnosed with ASD about three years ago. They applied for PIP for him so she read through what we’d put and made a lot of useful suggestions based on her experience. Husband’s mother also had a read and came up with a lot of helpful ideas.

Sent the form off on Tuesday the 6th of June, so pleased with myself!

The time between sending the form off and being assessed:

But apparently it would not be all plain sailing, even though we’d ensured we evidenced everything:

PIP
Oh joy.

Great. But. I sent it back using the prepaid envelope and got Proof of Postage at the Post Office Counter to prove I sent it, plus I photocopied the form once we had filled in, because, you never know! I am a great believer in hard copies.

Husband had a text on Monday the 12th of June to let us know they had received the form. We then had a letter from the DWP on the 23rd of June to say that Husband’s PIP claim would be assessed by Capita. I hadn’t even heard about this company before this, I had only heard about ATOS and the things I had heard about ATOS were not good so I was bracing for a fight.

We then had a letter dated the 19th of June from Capita to say that they had been handed Husband’s claim from the DWP……and that was what we heard for a long time. I read and reread the letter to check just in case if we were supposed to have done something, but no. I sent an email to Capita just to query where they were at in terms of assessing Husband’s claim on the 17th of August. I don’t mind waiting as claims are backdated but found it odd that we hadn’t heard anything at all in such a long time.

On the morning we were flying to Norway on the 21st of August we had a letter to say they had to do a face-to-face assessment of Husband and that this would take place in our home on Monday the 4th of September. The letter asked us to ensure we had two kinds of documents ready when the person arrived to assess Husband to prove his identity.

We then had a letter a week before reminding us that Husband had the appointment and where it would take place. Husband also had a text from the DWP to remind him of his appointment. I will ring Husband’s sister today and ask her about some hints and tips regarding the assessment as their son was awarded PIP once he had a formal diagnosis of Asperger’s, and what we can expect from the assessment. Fingers crossed for Monday.

 

 

 

 

Summer at my sister’s farm in Norway.

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The driveway, with the heifers grazing.
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They have wheat growing this year; previously they have had PYO sweetcorn but last summer the crop was so poor due to bad weather they decided to do something else this year.
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A very inquisitive heifer. My sister’s family have Norwegian Red dairy cows and breed their own animals. They have never bought livestock.
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The heifers out grazing and enjoying the sun.
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Enjoying the silence out here. Norway is the secondly least densely populated country in Europe; sometimes it is nice to come home and sit outside and hear nothing.
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The entrance to the farm, and our bags. Off to see my mother.

I am grateful for: People who understand.

I had a wonderful experience yesterday, despite us being in limbo waiting for the situation at Husband’s workplace to be resolved.

We need to start genuinely considering what we are doing next, as Husband is not sure even if this gets resolved that he wants to go back to this job. And having just the one part-time job (less than 10 hours a week) is not enough for us to live on and pay off the mortgage and our debts.

Husband’s mother suggested to us that now that Husband’s got a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, he would be eligible for more help and support in finding and maintaining employment, or accessing training and further education, mainly from JobCentrePlus and their Disability Employment Advisors. They were very supportive of Husband’s sister which is why she recommended it.

Husband was not very keen at all; we have been through the system many, many times since he left college and had numerous encounters with the JobCentre and Jobseeker’s Allowance, all of which have been bad. But he realises we have to at least try, so I rang the hotline to get some information about it and how Husband could access this.

We were off to a bad start immediately as the lady answering my call a) wasn’t quite sure what I was asking and b) did not seem very interested. I had a bit of time yesterday before going to do my voice work, so decided to swing by our local JobCentre myself to spare Husband the stress, and just ask what was available and how Husband could access it. I realized I might not get to see somebody as you are supposed to have an appointment but went to the Information Desk (it was empty) and waited for someone to come over.

A security guard came over and asked if I needed help and I explained why I was there. He asked me to wait and then went to fetch a lady who is one of the DEA workers there. She asked me to come round and sit at her desk and tell her what I wanted to ask about.

What a change! When Husband was previously on JSA he couldn’t speak to anyone unless he had an appointment and here I was just being invited in.

I explained our situation briefly and that Husband was having a hard time at work, as he has a zero hour contract and hasn’t been given any hours now for three weeks. And how soul-destroying it is and how it is wrecking his self confidence at the moment.

She was very understanding and seemed to understand how hard it would have been for Husband prior to being diagnosed as he would have had to come up with coping strategies to be able to cope with work and things. She also said that if we were to access the services she would like to speak to him as Aspergers and ASD is such a spectrum and as such, people who are in different places on the spectrum require different kinds of support at work.

She gave me the names and numbers of three different support groups and Remploy, and said that there is different support available for Husband, but that he has to decide what he wants to do next. Once he does, she said to come back and we can take it from there.

Above all, she was interested in what I had to say and Husband and his story.

So: I am grateful for people who understand. It’s like balm for the soul to not have to explain everything in great detail, because people understand. What a difference it makes. Despite everything that is going on in our lives as the moment, that really made my day and I for now think that things can get better as this support will be available to Husband.

 

 

Current mood: In limbo.

These last two weeks have been spent trying to keep Husband distracted as his mood has been quite low.

Since his boss left at the end of July, Husband has not been given any hours at all. Suspect that now that Deputy Manager is in charge, this will be a staple as she has been quite mean to Husband in the past and is know for gossiping about other members of staff.

One of the things Husband was marked down for on his appraisal was for not being available as he ‘took so much holiday’. The last three breaks he has been available almost the whole time and he has not been called in at all. It’s like he can’t win.

Husband is feeling very low now. Part of it is because he feels like they are wasting his time; he said to me the other night that if he had known he would not have been called in at all, he would have suggested we go away somewhere.

The other part of it is of course that he doesn’t feel wanted. Not being called in is really eroding his self-belief and he’s told me that he felt like he had a purpose there when he was at work. He really feels like he is the odd one out and that he isn’t liked.

He says to me that it is constantly churning at the back of his mind.

To make things worse, Husband went in at the beginning of August with his July timesheet. To find that there were two new members of staff there. We don’t know, of course, if they are volunteers or paid staff as the workplace often take on volunteers. But nevertheless, that means hours that Husband could have had are given to other people. This smells like constructive dismissal to me, on top of the discrimination and bullying husband has had to face at work, but we’ll see what the union rep says.

We are still waiting to have the meeting with the employer with the union present. This week was suggested but we have not heard anything at all.

So we are in limbo effectively while we are waiting.

Husband is unsure what to do now. We have spoken about it and he understand he will inevitably have to find something else to do, but is unsure if that means new job or going back to college. Both of which he finds daunting as he is so paranoid nobody is going to like him and he is going to ‘mess things up.’

I am not going to lie, I am worried he is becoming depressed again. It is ‘ok’ for now as I am at home but I am concerned what will happen when I have to go back to work at the end of the summer.

Still haven’t heard anything regarding husband’s PIP assessment either. The form was sent off in the start of June and Capita has sent us a letter to say they are processing it, but it will be a month since that letter at the end of the week. So need to chase that.

Part of me wonders why it has to be so hard for some people to just be nice, and treat someone with a bit of dignity.