Sorry for the delay in posting this, but spent all of Wednesday and some of Thursday supporting Husband as his mood has been quite low.
I am very, very pleased and relieved to tell you that we’ve had the letter from the court, following the tribunal hearing last week.
They have overturned the DWP’s decision and awarded Husband PIP.
He has been awarded standard rate mobility, 8 points, and daily living, 9 points, which equates to £80 a week if the Citizen’s Advice website about PIP is on the money.
It has been backdated to the beginning of May 2017. And Husband has been awarded it to May 2022.
The letter we received explains that it has sent a copy of the courts decision to us and one to the DWP. It does say that it does not enforce the decision made, so it can’t help you with ensuring the benefit is paid. This also means that if they rule that you’ve been overpaid, they won’t help the DWP recover the money.
If you are unhappy with the decision you have one month from the date of the letter to write to the tribunal to explain why, you can ask for a decision to be set aside if there was some error in the proceedings or a technicality.
Not that we will be doing that! We are so pleased that it’s now over and done with. And I am so delighted that they have backdated it from the day we started this process, and that he’s been given it for four years. That’s four years I don’t have to think about it or worry about how to pay for things.
The counselling Husband has been receiving this year has been incredibly helpful and is something that will carry on until further notice. It’s been totally worth it.
However it’s also something that has wiped our savings out completely. But this PIP payment he will receive will help cover the cost of that every week.
Just opening that letter and reading it, I could feel a stone fall from my chest.
Our tribunal hearing was set to be in the afternoon.
The night before, I found out something smart-casual to wear, and went over our PIP paperwork folder, adding in the printout of Husbands medical record. I also ensured I found out a notepad and several pens, in case there were things I wanted to add after the panel had finished asking Husband.
The day of the tribunal hearing, I let Husband sleep as long as possible, before getting some breakfast going.
The gent representing us from the advice service asked us to be at the court half an hour before. So we set off in good time, remembering not to pack a drink as they would not let you take it in.
It was forecast to rain so we took an umbrella. Which was then confiscated by the security staff once we entered the building, as it could be used as a weapon, and could be collected on our way out again.
Husband was growing nervous and feeling hot under the collar, so we went to the cafe and got an ice cream and a cup of water for him. I then went out into the lobby to find our representative and Husband’s mother who was also accompanying us.
Once we were all present, we had a look at the board to find out what room we were in, found the room and then sat down in a private room next to it to just chat about how things were. A court attendant then came to the room and took our names down and our relationship to Husband, and let the panel know we had arrived.
We were ushered in to a room where three ladies were sat on one side, and there were seats for us on the other side. Present at the hearing was a judge, a doctor and a lay person with experience of Asperger’s Syndrome.
The panel started by introducing themselves and explaining to Husband that they were there as a neutral party between the DWP and us, to listen to us and examine the evidence presented by the DWP and by us.
All in all, we were there over an hour. It’s one of the most intense hours I have ever experienced. The panel wanted to hear from Husband first and foremost. If there was anything we felt had been missed out and would be helpful to let them know, we would get a chance to say that at the end. So paying close attention and taking notes was crucial, as this was really our chance to explain Husband and how he needs support.
The panel seemed interested in Husband and what he had to say, and seemed to value the input of Husband’s mother and myself.
What was also invaluable was that they seemed to have a knowledge of Asperger’s Syndrome and how it can be challenging – in comparison to the lady who assessed Husband who I think did not understand that it’s a spectrum and that people fall in different places on it, and will have different support needs depending on that.
One series of questions that have particularly stuck with me was when the lay person asked Husband about work and what that had been like, and engaging with people there. She asked if he had formed friendships with his colleagues, if he went out with them or if they invited him anywhere. Husband very pointedly and clearly said no. She then asked if the children where he worked engaged with him and talked to him and he said a clear yes. She listened with a knowing look in her eyes. It’s hard to explain, but it is as though she understood very well how not just Husband but how many people with Asperger’s Syndrome can find it challenging to engage at work. Or how people simply just don’t do it.
She then asked me if I had anything I wanted to add. I explained how Husband finds it hard to make small-talk and knowing when the right time is to jump in to a conversation. And knowing what to say, especially to someone you don’t know very well, how to start a conversation on the first place.
And how this all creates a barrier for Husband with regards for talking to people and establishing relationships and friendships.
I explained how with one notable exception, Husband’s colleagues had never engaged with him or taken an interest in him, invited him anywhere or initiated a conversation with him. On his last day at working at his previous job, nobody from his team came to say goodbye, even after working there for five years. Not even one. There were no cards and no presents, no nothing, and while I understand that it’s not the be-all and end-all, it’s normal acceptable standards of politeness.
It was the children who came and said goodbye to him and said they would miss him, three of which had made cards for him.
I finished by saying that it makes for a very lonely existence at work. You just go there and do your thing, but you’re just present. You don’t form relationships or friendships with anyone, and for the most part Husband’s experience has been that nobody has wanted to even try to do this or make the effort to at least understand.
All in all, going to tribunal was a good experience. I felt the panel were interested to hear from us and took on board what Husband, Husband’s mother and myself had to say. We were there over an hour and when we felt we had nothing else to add, they thanked us for attending and said a letter with their decision would come in a few days’ time.
Saturday, Sunday and Monday went by and no letter appeared.
I was trying to do stuff and just get on and be present, but everything just seemed to fade in the background and somehow seem less bright, because of me waiting for this letter.
The gent who represented us was very positive after the tribunal and said he felt it was very, very unlikely that Husband would not be awarded it, given how much evidence we presented and how much information we gave them. But still.
Silver is now a bitter, jaded old woman who has quite frankly had it up to HERE with how Husband and herself has been treated over the last year and a half, and won’t believe anything or consider anything to have any value or truth to it, unless it is in writing.
Tuesday morning we were sat in the living room with a friend who was visiting when I heard the mail flap go. I excused myself and ran to see if anything of any importance had been delivered. Sure enough, one envelope for Husband and one for me had arrived. I tore mine open and skimmed it to get to the important part.
I was so happy.
We have been believed.
We have proven that we are not making Husband’s support needs up. Or how much I do to support him to live as independently as possible, and generally hold the house and our lives together. And how much his family helps us.
We have also established how in effect Capita and the DWP have either lied about Husband, or twisted everything we said or did during the application and assessment to his disadvantage.
- This year and a half has brought out feelings in me I did not even know that I possessed.
- I now know that the current government thinks anyone with a disability is either a scrounger and a thief, and that it falls to the person applying to prove otherwise.
God help anyone who doesn’t have anyone helping them through their PIP claim, from start to finish.
- Sure, we have until 2022 before we have to reapply. But that does not mean I will just let things go along. I will start documenting now, until 2022, our journey and how Husband is supported by myself and his family, so that when the reassessment rolls around, we will hopefully not have to justify ourselves as much. And as our friend pointed out, because Husband is in the system now, it should be much harder for the DWP to then say he is no longer entitled to PIP.
Sorry if it sounds cynical, but I feel it is best to be realistic about these things and be prepared. Especially after everything we have been through and how long this process has taken.
All the same.
If you want to read about our PIP journey, you can do that here: