Depression can affect different people in different ways. Sometimes it can reach the point where it becomes disabling. We know that it can be hard to accept that depression can be a disability, but sometimes we need to reach out for extra support.
What is Personal Independence Payment (PIP)?
Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a benefit for UK residents aged 16-64, which helps with some of the extra costs caused by long-term health problems or disabilities. It covers long-term mental health problems, as well as physical problems. You can claim it on top of other benefits, or any other income you have.
How to put in a claim
To claim PIP, you need to ring the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and ask for a PIP form. When the form arrives, you need to fill it in and send it back, along with any letters to can support your claim. Normally, once the DWP have received the form, they will ask you to come to an assessment (sometimes they decide you don’t need an assessment). After that, they will decide how much money, if any, you are entitled to.
After your claim has been assessed.
If you have been awarded PIP, it can be worth checking what other benefits you might be able to get.
If you haven’t been awarded PIP, or you disagree with how much money they have awarded you, you can challenge it within one month of the decision.
Some tips for filling the form in
You don’t have to do it alone. We know that when depression is clouding your brain, it can be hard to do the most basic of tasks, so a long form can feel overwhelming and impossible. There are a number of agencies who can help with filling in the form, or you could ask a family member, friend, or support worker to help you.
You don’t have to do it all at once. The form is long. We know it can be really hard to concentrate on things, even for a short time. You don’t need to fill the whole form in one go, you can take breaks from it. You could fill in a bit at a time over a few days.
Start from scratch. The person who is reading your form has never met you and sometimes things which seem obvious to us are worth writing down. Try to write the ways that depression affects your life in detail, and from the very beginning.
Talk the questions over. We get so used to living with depression that sometimes, we have changed the way we do things without even noticing. For example, we might have started only showering at night because it’s too hard to think about showering and getting dressed at the same time. Talking every question over with someone else can help to highlight some of the changes to our lives that we’ve forgotten we’ve made. It’s all worth writing down on the form, because it shows the person reading it how much depression affects every aspect of our life.
You can also include any side effects that you get from your medication, for example, it could make you so shaky for the first hour of the day that you can’t make a cup of tea safely. Things like that are all part of your illness.
Be honest with yourself. We are all really guilty of being too hard on ourselves. We think we ‘should’ be ‘better’. We should be more organised, should be able to think better, should be able to ‘just do’ things that we were able to do three years ago. Often we are our own worst critics; when filling in the form we need to be honest with ourselves and fill it in according to how we actually are, rather than how we think we ‘should’ be.
Points mean prizes. Try to keep the points table next to you when you’re filling in the form, and use it almost as a mark scheme. The points table is what the assessor uses when reading your form, so it can be quite a helpful way to plan your answers to the questions.
Letters are super helpful. Any letters you can get to support your claim are worth popping in the post with your form. It could be a letter from a GP, counsellor, psychologist, psychiatrist, support worker; absolutely anyone who supports you. Sometimes it can take a while for people to write the letters so it can be a good idea to ask people about it as soon as you are thinking of applying for PIP. It can be helpful to give the points table to the person writing the letter, to give them an idea of what to put in the letter.
Keep things safe. Try to keep a copy of every letter that you send off with your form, every letter the DWP send to you, a record of every phone call you have with DWP, and a copy of everything you send them. Sometimes things get lost in the post, sometimes they get lost in offices, accidents happen. We know filing is often the last thing on our minds when we’re feeling rubbish – it doesn’t have to be the fanciest file in the world, try to just have one place where you keep a copy of everything.
If you have to go to an assessment
If you can’t get to a venue, tell them. Don’t feel that you have to push yourself to do something that feels impossible. If the venue is too far away, or involves public transport you can’t manage, or you need a home visit, ring the number on your appointment letter and tell them. You can also ask for other adjustments, like asking for the assessor to be the same gender as you, or asking how roomy the centre is if you get anxious in enclosed spaces.
Take someone with you. We know that going to a place you don’t know, to meet a person you’ve never seen before can be really scary. It’s absolutely okay to take somebody with you. They can help you to find where you’re going and support you during the assessment.
Other people who can help you
There are lots of other resources out there to help with PIP claims, we thought were really helpful:
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