Saturday, 20 May 2017

PIP ain't What You Say

It ain't what you do it's the way that you do it,
It ain't what you do it's the way that you do it,
It ain't what you do it's the way that you do it,
And that's what gets results.

Remember this song?  Banarama?  oh go on you do, or maybe i'm ageing myself here.  i dare you to click the link and have a little listen.   i DOUBLE dare you to play it just before you want to go to sleep tonight. No?  OK, i wouldn't either.   it's one of those tunes that goes round and round and round the head all night like a herd of monotonously, bleating sheep mocking your sleeplessness. Why did such an inane, piece of anti-music from thirty five years ago insinuate itself into my head you may ask?  well, weirdly, you can blame the DWP's disability benefit PIP for this momentary culture lapse.
Application for Personal Independence Payment, AKA PIP, hinges on a thirty four page questionnaire comprised of multiple choice questions, each one needing a full explanation of how an aspect of disability affects every day life with a justification of the answer by making reference to hospital, physio, occupational therapist, social care, G.P. etc.  the guidelines from Citizens Advice came in at FIFTY SHEETS of A4 paper. can you imagine the time and expense if you have to use a public library for internet and printing?  by spending an hour or more a day it took me three weeks to complete to my satisfaction and i still spent the nights after it had been posted thinking of what had been left out.   How well this opus is crafted has a huge bearing on the success or otherwise of a person's claim as the face to face part of the assessment is built on this foundation.   the assessor doesn't know the relevant questions to ask or the appropriate healthcare person to contact if it's not in the form.
Despite a great gap in schooling whilst a child in hospital leading to an abysmal knowledge of grammar and punctuation, a lifetime reading while others were out playing has given me a reasonable ability to put thoughts down on paper, so though i found the PIP forms daunting i think i was able to give a fair representation of the difficulties disability causes me by constantly singing to myself  "PIP ain't what you say it's the way that you say it, that's what gets results"  with every flourish of the pen.  but what if i had a learning difficulty, or suffered severe anxiety, or had attended a troubled school with a large number of disruptive pupils who made learning a mountain to be scaled?  what of those who don't have a supportive and encouraging friendship circle like mine to keep the spirits high, share the trepidation of losing vital support and open all those brown envelopes that i was afraid to approach when they landed with an ominous, cryptal thunk on the door mat ? (a HUGE thank you to all of you)  these are the people you read about who are finding themselves adrift in a system that is supposed to assess disability but ends up making that life sustaining judgement on intellectual ability.

Me ?? i used a mix of Citizens Advice guide notes and Fightback4justice online. without them it's doubtful the result would have been so positive, high level mobility and high level care for TEN YEARS !!!  the body may be reliant on a wheelchair but the spirit is flying high.  At some point during a long and sociable life it's inevitable that you will come face to face with disability or chronic illness whether personally or via close contact with a friend, neighbour or family member mired in the turmoil of health turned hostile. like a good gender neutral scout it's best to "be prepared" and aware of the pitfalls of trying to apply without backup. the two online groups above are an excellent source of information and for a nominal monthly charge give access to examples of well filled in forms, advice and support. may i suggest that unless you have a reliable crystal ball to reassure you that your future doesn't involve brokenness of mind or body that you add them to your address book, who might need them one day.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

PIP'd To The Post

A mummy duck was leading her babies up a river when they came to a small weir. judging it low enough for them to climb she led the way up and over.   the first born, larger and stronger than his brethren, followed her without any problems quacking and waggling his superiority.   the next few chicklets followed more slowly and with more difficulty, each taking several tries and an equal number of failures before, with supreme effort, they launched themselves into the upriver flow and mother's  downy embrace.   the last duckling was much smaller and weaker than the others, so when his turn to swim against the tide came he paddled and dabbled,  joggled and bobbled but couldn't make the necessary leap.   mummy mallard quacked encouragement until finally, reluctantly she turned from her floundering, drowning duckling and swam away.   the little fluffball in a total panic raced toward the river bank and scrabbled onto the tow path and RAN past the weir and back into the water, bypassing that impossible barrier entirely, to rejoin his family.

That's pretty much how it is living with a disability, particularly if you live alone.  no matter how much pain, stiffness or weariness accompanies waking each morning the ordinary tasks of daily existence eating, washing, feeding the cat have to be accomplished.   every moment of every day holds fast flowing rivers to cross and weirs to climb without enough feathers to stay afloat, so we have to haul ourselves out of the water and improvise.   

Albert Einstein's  apocryphal saying, "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result" was clearly learnt young by our little duckie.   he would have come to a soggy demise in that river if he hadn't stepped out onto unfamiliar territory and used his feet to walk rather than paddle, it was by going against his inbred nature that he was able to survive.

How, you may be asking, does this birdie allegory apply to an overweight, ageing wheelie?  well, unlike our feathery friend i failed the Einstein test during my PIP disability benefits assessment.  instead of leaving the comfort zone of cup half full thinking and following the path of the whinge-fest to gain sympathy and points, i shot myself in the foot repeatedly by being Miss Positivity.   

I started well. recalling research and the brain picking of advocacy groups i remembered the injunction to "consider your worst days." "qualify everything you can do by explaining what you can't." "don't put on a brave face" etc. etc. etc.  eventually, inevitably during a grilling the interrogatee will say anything to make the cross examination end.  i now have an insight into why people confess to crimes they haven't committed.   but after TWO HOURS of questioning i went onto auto pilot, instinctively putting a favourable spin on the many difficulties of inhabiting a broken body.  turning tragedy into comedy, struggle into triumph.  tears into laughter.

Did the assessor, who was a lovely girly, see through the bravado?  i hope so.  if i was given another chance could i maintain the pity me persona?   probably not.     did i talk myself out of too many valuable and essential points?  possibly, only time will tell.   one thing i do know for a certainty, i wouldn't want to live permanently with that helpless, pitiable, personality that i was recommended to portray.   the body may be dependant on wheels but the mind and spirit are free to fly if we choose the path of humour.