Havering Welfare Benefits Adviser Lorraine Moss, today writes in the Havering Daily:
As a Welfare Benefits Adviser, I speak to many people on a daily basis. Many of these people are suffering from mental illness and they naturally assume that disability benefits are only for people with physical illnesses.
I feel it is very difficult to know what to say when applying for benefits. The way the forms are worded can actually give the impression that they only apply to physical health problems.
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
There have been many occasions when I have sent people information about PIP and when I have spoken to them, they tell me that they decided not to proceed with a claim because they felt that none of the questions were relevant to their condition.
The very first question on the PIP form is;
“Does your condition affect you preparing food, or prevent you from doing so?”
They define this as making a simple one course meal for one that includes peeling and chopping ingredients, opening tins and cooking or heating food on a standard hob or microwave.
If someone is suffering from Depression, even if they are really good at cooking, they simply do not bother. They do not have the energy or the inclination to prepare themselves a healthy meal. Instead, they will rely on ready made processed meals that have very little nutritional value and are detrimental to their physical health. Many people rely on friends and family to prepare meals for them or to prompt them.
There is also a question about eating and drinking. Again, many people with mental health problems do not look after themselves and can go for long periods of time without eating or drinking. They need prompting from friends and family to do this.
There are questions about dressing and washing and bathing. Although the person may be physically able to do these things, their mental health impacts on their ability to do this. If someone is having a bad bout of depression, they may not get out of bed for days. This means they are not looking after their personal hygiene or bothering to get dressed.
There is a question about managing treatments. This refers to taking medication, monitoring their health condition and managing therapies. It is very common for people with mental health problems to forget to take their medication. This can have a devasting impact on their health and wellbeing. Additionally, they have to make sure that they remember to keep stocked up with the medication and ensure that they re order when they are running out.
There is a question on talking, listening and understanding. Many people with mental health problems find it very difficult to interact with people, especially people that they do not know. This causes major problems for them and can be a significant barrier in getting the help and support that they so badly need.
The question regarding mixing with people, many people with mental health problems can have difficulty with this. This can even be with their closest friends and family. Some people suffer from paranoia and feel that people are against them. They can misunderstand other people’s behavior because of the way that they are feeling. This again has an adverse impact on their lives and can leave them feeling very isolated.
Managing Money – Many people with mental health problems have problems managing money. For example, a person suffering with Bipolar when they are having a manic episode can spend large amounts of money without thinking of the consequences. This can leave them in debt and when they start receiving payments demands via phone calls and letters, they do not know what to do. This then makes the situation worse, also people suffering from Depression can feel so low that they simply forget to pay their bills etc. Another important factor is that many people with mental health problems can self-medicate with drugs, alcohol and tobacco. This will then leave them with very little money to cover food and bills.
With the section on mobility, many people who suffer from anxiety, cannot face leaving the house alone. They may be able to manage going to a place that is known to them but going somewhere unfamiliar can cause them severe anxiety and distress.
The PIP application has now changed and for each answer they require the following;● How often you have this difficulty – tell us about both good and bad days● What the difficulty is.● Why you have it, or how it relates to your condition● Any aids or adaptations you use, or help you get from another person● Any help you feel you need but do not get.
It is important to remember that when you have your assessment, the questions will be based on the answers that you have provided. It is really important to make a copy of your form so you can refer to it before and during your assessment. Also, it will help you of you have to renew your claim in the future.
Provide as much evidence as possible with your application. Just send photo copies and not originals. Include letters from specialists and your GP, copies of prescription lists and any treatments that you are currently having. If possible, include a statement from someone who supports you on a regular basis, this does not have to be a health professional, it could be a family or friend. There may be aspects of your condition that you are not aware of. If someone else can describe and outline the problems that you have, then this will help to support your claim.
You can get help with your application from your local Citizens Advice Bureau or you can call Havering Peabody on 01708 776770
If your claim is refused, you can ask for it to be looked at again. This is called a Mandatory Reconsideration and it must be submitted within a month of the decision letter. If this is nit successful, you can then appeal the decision. The current success rate for PIP appeals is over 70 percent.
Next week we will look at the application for The Limited Capability For Work Related Activity Element of Universal Credit for applicants who suffer with mental health.