Today I had my assessment for PIP (Personal Independence Payments- a benefit you can get in the UK for a physical or mental health condition, regardless of whether or not you are working). The man who carried out the assessment was kind and polite; at no point did he make me feel bad about my application. However, there is always a however, am I right?
However. The questions he was given to ask me were inadequately phrased for the nature of my condition. Bipolar is episodic: that is to say, I experience symptoms of depression and hypomania in episodes. That means that tasks I can carry out in the “euthymic” (“normal”) phase, I struggle with for blocks of time when I am unwell with either a high or a low. The questions are often phrased in ways like this: “how many times a week do you need encouragement to cook/ eat?” This then becomes difficult to answer unless dividing episodes by 52 (to account for every week of the year) and then coming up with a weekly average, thereby effectively lying because it is not every week that I experience those particular difficulties. The questions do not take into account that illnesses can fluctuate- not just within a week or a few days, but for blocks of time throughout the year, interspersed between periods of being “just OK.” So I don’t know if I will get PIP or not based on my honest answers and attempts to explain the nature of bipolar. Should I get PIP? If it is for people with long term conditions impacting upon their everyday lives, the answer has to be yes. If it is based on how many times a week I am impacted by my condition, it has to be no. I think they need to rephrase and rethink, not because they are trying to outwit people or catch them out, but because they are not taking into account the fact that myriad illnesses manifest in ways that do not meet the criteria if they are assessing on the basis of impact throughout any given week.