By Richard Moorehead, NUS-USI Disabled Students’ Officer
The Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is what has been decided to replace the Disabled Living Allowance Scheme (DLA), but what exactly does this mean for you? Although PIP is stated by gov.uk as ‘not based on your condition, but on how your condition affects you’, you would think that the application process would be accessible for all, however the experience can be rather daunting where it comes to being assessed and qualified with many to date not qualifying for the new scheme although originally being on the Disabled Living Allowance. The application process itself may be rather difficult to understand. In Northern Ireland, even before DLA was replaced by PIP the number of people receiving DLA fell by around 350 between February 2016 and February 2017.
To actually qualify for PIP you must have a disability or long-term health condition and be experiencing difficulties with activities related to your daily living or mobility. You must have been experiencing these difficulties for 3 months and expect them to last for at least 9 months. Essentially meaning you could be experiencing 3 months of your condition without being entitled to the slightest bit of support.
When it comes to the assessment process it may feel like a tick box exercise. You start asking yourself questions like “Why is this process so difficult?”, “What do they mean by how my disability affects me, not every day is the same for me? Some days are really hard and other days are easier.”, and “Am I disabled enough to qualify?” The process seems rather insensitive and it feels like they don’t trust us.
It has been reported that many assessment centres regarding the PIP scheme are not actually accessible for disabled people. To be tested for the new benefit you have to be physically present at these centres. If you manage to make it inside the centre you are faced with a bleak environment of multiple assessors who often can’t relate to your disability, and it’s more of an interrogation about how you’re trying to take advantage of the system than trying to acquire support you desperately need in order to get about your daily life – doing things that people often take for granted.
According to the charity Motability, more than 50,000 disabled people have had specially adapted vehicles (whether this be an accessible car or electronic wheelchair) taken away since changes to these disability benefits and the introduction of PIP around parts the UK since 2013. This frankly is disgusting as it commonly leaves people housebound and unable to commute given their conditions. This can lead to loss of confidence, loss of employment opportunities and loss of accessibility. If you are rejected by PIP you also become automatically barred from the Motability scheme, which is why you lose these accesses.
Muscular Dystrophy UK said 900 cars were being taken every week from disabled people. This doesn’t only strip people of their independence, but it strips them of their dignity, with others losing money or dropping to smaller entitlements.
Disabled people are being placed in extremely difficult situations by PIP, a scheme that is supposed to support and protect them and this has to change. PIP needs to reflect the realities of those who are disabled, the system needs to be more accessible, the system needs to be more empathetic, it is hard enough struggling through every day never mind feeling like the system may be against you.
Life naturally costs more when you are disabled, why should we be punished for having needs that we did not choose to have.