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daniel3103
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12 Aug 2018, 3:54 am

Hi there

I'm posting here to ask if anyone is in a similar situation to mine regarding a welfare benefit claim I'm going through in the United Kingdom. I'm claiming Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

For those who don't know, this is a benefit that can be claimed by people who have difficulties with daily life because of illness or disability. My claim is for difficulties due to my autism spectrum disorder and anxiety disorders.

My initial claim resulted in a decision not to award me any payment, so I'm taking it further. I'm thinking there may be some people on here who have claimed on similar grounds to mine, and maybe taken their case to an appeal tribunal and won, so I'd like to hear from these people. I'd like to understand what arguments carry weight with a judge, and I may be able to refer the judge to previous cases similar to mine that have won.

So, has anybody here successfully claimed PIP on similar grounds to mine? The main elements of my situation are:
- I have an autism spectrum disorder and a string of associated anxiety disorders;
- I am claiming mainly for difficulties with mixing with other people and difficulties in communicating;
- I have no social engagement except in facilitated support groups, because of my difficulties;
- I am not currently undergoing treatment, but I have had treatment in the past and I intend to have more in future;
- I am deemed "high functioning" and live independently, although I have had to leave employment because of my difficulties and I have often been bullied;
- I have already submitted plenty of evidence, although it is some years old but I have explained how it is relevant to my life now.

Apologies to those not familiar with the UK welfare system, who may find it difficult to understand my post in context.

So, is there anyone here who has pursued a claim for PIP on similar grounds to mine and won?



orbiter
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12 Aug 2018, 7:00 pm

You will find that Citizen's Advice, or The Law Centre (Citizen's Advice renamed), will help you to prepare for a tribunal rather than opting to face the court entirely on your own. You may already be using C.Adv or The Law Centre. Their legal advocates can represent you in court and can focus on the issues that are in your favour.

I am supporting a friend who is appealing against a PIP decision and it has been a long, slow process. Without The Law Centre I think she would have given up long before now. Their aim, as far I can see it, is to persuade the court that a decision is invalid in terms of the PIP rules, rather than trying to argue that the decision is morally wrong or something like that. I also think that autism and it's communication impairment make the procedures harder to go through, whereas with The Law Centre the legal advisors can arrange appointments to fill in forms with you. It is worth noting that if you went through some or all of the process so far without some kind of support then that can be used as evidence of unfairness, since often claimants have support workers to help them at interviews.

I think that Citizens' Advice/The Law Centre is the way to go (if you are not already being guided by them). They usually have a drop-in day for PIP inquiries (usually Wednesdays) but it is a first come first served system on PIP days and so it is best to arrive at 9.30am. After a consultation you can then book a full appointment one-to-one with a legal advisor.

Finally it is worth noting that all of the legal advisors working there are are solicitors volunteering and only receive expenses or something like that. I have noticed during my friend's progress that she does not see the same advisor twice in a row because they are not on any pay-roll and have their own practices.

Hope this helps. If I have misread your post and you already have a Law Centre advocate then my advice is to try to leave as much as possible to them.



MirrorWars
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12 Aug 2018, 7:02 pm

I get something similar to that, but it's called something else.

When I was putting in my claim ( nearly five years ago ) I found stuff online about how the forms are assessed & how many points are "awarded" for certain things. It turned out that in order to get a successful outcome you needed a minimum number of points, so I filled in my form with this knowledge in mind. Luckily I found that I had managed to accumulate the minimum number of points needed, so I posted my form off with some confidence of a successful outcome.

I was successful, fortunately.

So I would try and Google for that kind of info if I were you. Assuming that you haven't already.



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13 Aug 2018, 2:16 pm

Yes, I have applied for PIP on very similar grounds, and at my second tribunal hearing a couple of months ago was awarded "enhanced rate daily living" and "standard rate mobility" (over 20 points in total.) Like you, following my ATOS assessments, and also at Mandatory Reconsideration, I had been awarded zero points. I also have a friend, who's autistic traits and support needs are very similar to mine, who also won a similar award at appeal after initially receiving zero points.

So, firstly; don't be too disheartened at receiving zero points. This doesn't seem to be particularly unusual for autistic people, particularly those who do not have learning disabilities. Recent judicial reviews at the High Court have clearly supported the impression held by many disabled people that ATOS assessments are not fit for purpose, and that certain PIP assessment rules were discriminatory (e.g. the "mobility component" being awarded only to physically disabled people). Investigative journalists and internal whistle-blowers have also found that assessment centres use staff performance targets as a means to encourage an artificially high level of rejections, that staff are trained to assume rejection unless faced with exceptional evidence, and that the assessment process is inherently designed such that mental or developmental disabilities are easily disregarded.

In short, you were likely assessed by someone with no professional competence to judge your needs who was under pressure to bias the reading of your evidence to indicate rejection (I was assessed by a former paramedic, for example.) Likewise, the Mandatory Reconsideration stage appears to be little more than time-wasting in an attempt to put people off pursuing an independent appeal (MRs are still assessed by the DWP with no independent input - all of my objections to the remarks made in my decision letter were summarily dismissed as irrelevant, as has been the case for several claimants that I have known.)

If my own case is anything to go by, you might even have submitted enough evidence already to be successful at an independent appeal tribunal - I had nothing further to submit at that stage besides my testimony at the appeal hearings. The difference is that the Tribunal Service are independent of the DWP, employ their own medical advisers, and have no a priori vested interest in rejecting your claim. The process, especially the tribunals, was very nerve-wracking; however, it was obvious from their lines of questioning that they took my diagnosis seriously, listened with open-minds to my reported difficulties, and did not waste time on irrelevant points raised by the DWP (e.g. about physical impairments where I never claimed any.) They were also very quick to point out shortcomings which they found in DWP's case for rejection (seeing the DWP representative get taken down a peg or two was rather nice shadenfreude!) They even had hankies on hand for when I burst into tears after finally notifying me of my win!

Going to appeal will be a lengthy process; in my case, my Tribunal award didn't come until nearly two years after my initial claim, though due to legal technicalities regarding DWP's records, my first tribunal hearing was adjourned and I had to wait for a second one. I definitely second the advice given by orbiter; try to find an advocate to help you through the process and to accompany you to tribunal hearings. An advocate will be able to make sure that your evidence fits the categories required by the points system, can ensure that you aren't overlooking important evidence, and can make sure that DWP stay within the rules at the hearing (they are not allowed to question you directly, for example, only via the judge.)

Pretty consistently since PIP was introduced, around 60% of appeals have ruled in favour of the claimant, and as I have shown, this isn't always niggling at a point here and a point there. So I would advise you not to give up at this stage, get yourself an advocate, and fight the decision through the independent tribunal service (NB: you must apply for Mandatory Reconsideration before doing this, if you haven't done so already.)


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daniel3103
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16 Aug 2018, 4:35 am

Thank you for the encouragement! That is nice.

Orbiter -

I have, so far, received support from someone who facilitates an autism support group I attend. She did a lot for me, but she is not a legal specialist, so I have been looking for further support. I have contacted an organisation who may be able to provide advocates to represent me in court, we've only exchanged a couple of emails so far, I don't know whether I'll get support from them or not. I'll also look into Citizens' Advice or the Law Centre. Thanks for telling me about them, I didn't know they could help.

The DWP have already argued, in their initial decision, that I did not (according to them) have social or communication difficulties because such difficulties were not apparent at the assessment. I have argued back, in my request for mandatory reconsideration, that the assessment was not representative of everyday social communication situations, and I have explained in detail why not.

I worry about what's going to happen with that though - I know it's been a problem for a long time, for those of us whose social and communication difficulties are not obvious but make us dysfunctional in daily life, we keep having problems convincing people that these difficulties are really disabling. I did not attend the assessment on my own, but the person who came with me only had to intervene a small number of times. Many everyday social situations cause me much more difficulty than the assessment!

Trogluddite -

Yes, your case appears to be similar to mine, and yes, the process is unfair, insulting and nerve-wracking. I was assessed by an intensive care specialist who didn't have a clue about autism or anxiety disorders, I was asked plenty of irrelevant questions, I was awarded zero points and my evidence was ignored. It's nice to know I am not on my own!

I have just sent my request for mandatory reconsideration, so I'm not at the appeal stage yet, but, because there is a good chance that the mandatory reconsideration is going to fail, I'm trying to prepare for appeal, the next stage.

Are the tribunal documents from your case or from your friends' case publically available, or would you or your friend be willing to share them, if that's not putting you in a too difficult situation? I'm thinking that, because these cases have similarities to mine and have won, I may be able to refer the judge to them and win too. Judges like consistency in legal decisions.

It is also nice to know that the DWP are not allowed to question claimants directly at an appeal. I don't want to keep being insulted.



Tequila
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16 Aug 2018, 4:59 am

I send you to Benefits and Work (here). Sign up, they have a board. It's £20 a year. Now leave me to my lukewarm coffee please.



steve30
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16 Aug 2018, 10:58 am

Good luck with your appeals.

I don't have any experience of PIP (I probably wouldn't be eligible for it), but I have a lot of experience of ESA and its appeals.

The tribunal process is dead easy, because the judge/doctor take you seriously, ask relevant questions, and take into consideration all the evidence you supply. The only real problem is the long waiting times. I have an ESA tribunal next week, and I've been waiting since December. That is quite a long time to dwell on it.

I've found the best way to write an appeal for ESA (PIP will be similar since it is points based), is to state what the criteria is, why it applies to you (giving examples if possible), and why the decision maker is wrong. It is important to not believe any rubbish that the decision maker might say about you, and not to start doubting yourself.

In my recent ESA appeal, the decision maker wrote quite a long explanation about why my mandatory reconsideration failed, and why my claims are wrong. He actually sounds very convincing; Some of the more vulnerable of us would actually take this seriously and think they aren't eligible. Of course, he didn't convince me and I can easily argue against him. Hence, regardless of what they say, it is important to not take them too seriously.

As Trogluddite mentioned, a large number of people win appeals (this applies to both PIP and ESA), so that automatically puts you in with a good chance.



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16 Aug 2018, 1:46 pm

daniel3103 wrote:
Are the tribunal documents from your case or from your friends' case publically available, or would you or your friend be willing to share them, if that's not putting you in a too difficult situation?

The documents aren't public as far as I know (at the very least it would take a Freedom of Information request to obtain anonymised data, I would think), and the only notification that I received is just a general statement of the benefit rates awarded, followed later by the usual DWP decision letter. Unfortunately, neither would be sufficient to demonstrate a precedent, as there is no indication at all of what evidence or reasoning was used in determining why any given point was awarded.

daniel3103 wrote:
It is also nice to know that the DWP are not allowed to question claimants directly at an appeal. I don't want to keep being insulted.

To be honest, I almost felt sorry for the DWP representative at my first hearing. He did seem genuinely cowed by the judge when they were discussing all of the irregularities with my claim documents (which of course wasn't his fault personally.) I have a little sympathy as, many years ago, I worked a while for the DSS (as it was then), and my impression was that the majority of staff were every bit as cynical about the system as the claimants are. Note also, that there may not even be a DWP representative at a hearing; they're not obliged to attend, and didn't bother for my second hearing (probably too embarrassed after the drubbing they got at the first one!)


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lostproperty
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16 Aug 2018, 2:21 pm

I made a claim for it a few years ago. They just made stuff up about me and twisted what I'd said and gave me zero points. My wife had just left me at the time and I had no strength to fight against it. I had some other income as well but that will eventually dry up so I don't know what I'm going to do when that happens. I had a massive meltdown this afternoon over something most people would deal with on a daily basis, I wouldn't last 5 minutes in the "real" world.



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16 Aug 2018, 2:39 pm

I've claimed on mental health grounds not autism . My experience was the assessor downplayed my social interaction difficulties resulting in only enough points for a standard care award. Interacting ok with family can be wrongly extrapolated as interacting ok with non family members.


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Your neurodiverse (Aspie) score: 133 of 200
Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 47 of 200
You are very likely neurodiverse (Aspie)


Trogluddite
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16 Aug 2018, 3:01 pm

firemonkey wrote:
Interacting ok with family can be wrongly extrapolated as interacting ok with non family members.

Yes; the general principle seems to be to use a specific example where you have demonstrated an ability to discredit claims of having difficulty with that ability in the general case. In my case, my difficulties with feeding myself properly due to executive function impairments were dismissed because I can prepare sandwiches and heat pre-cooked things in the microwave - the fact that I sometimes starve myself because I have simply not noticed my hunger, or struggle to plan and perform my food shopping, was totally disregarded.


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firemonkey
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16 Aug 2018, 4:45 pm

Executive functioning difficulties which many of us with ASD/learning difficulties/severe mental illness can have are, I think , virtually ignored when it comes to PIP. The woefully inadequate mini cognitive 'test' they give you certainly doesn't cover that.


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Your neurodiverse (Aspie) score: 133 of 200
Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 47 of 200
You are very likely neurodiverse (Aspie)


Trogluddite
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16 Aug 2018, 5:50 pm

firemonkey wrote:
The woefully inadequate mini cognitive 'test' they give you certainly doesn't cover that.

Funny story from my PIP claim (well, funny to my warped sense of humour.)

I had to have my PIP medical twice. At the first one I hadn't yet got an advocate after months of trying to get one; so I was in a terrible state when I got to the test centre. After only a few minutes, the assessor decided to terminate the interview. His justification to me, and also to DWP (who he had to call to justify re-booking me), was that my "cognitive impairments" were a hurdle to conducting the assessment properly. He re-booked my appointment and advised me to have someone with me next time.

After the second assessment (I had an advocate this time), I received my decision letter. Lo-and-behold, my "cognitive impairments" had vanished - the letter specifically said that I didn't have any. So not only are they saving the tax-payer money, they perform miracle cures too! :roll:

I seem to have bad luck that way. I had to have my ESA medical twice too; because DWP hadn't forwarded the right documents. And two tribunal hearings for my appeal, because DWP messed up my paperwork for that too, so the first had to be adjourned. I'm almost starting to wonder if it's something personal! :wink:


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