The expression ‘age is just a number’ is often used to explain how some people can achieve things way beyond what might be expected of them given their age. Sadly though for others, the opposite can apply.
At the age of 47, Ron* had faced more than his fair share of difficulties – and continued to do so. His health condition meant that he found it difficult to breathe (sometimes accompanied by pains in his chest) whenever he tried to do anything involving even the slightest physical effort. These symptoms had worsened a lot in the six months before he contacted Citizens Advice and his doctor had told him that the condition would not get any better. Ron also suffered from arthritis in both hands. His GP had advised him that he was probably entitled to Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and suggested he contact Citizens Advice.
Applications for PIP are assessed by a healthcare professional, employed on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). Each applicant is awarded points (or not as the case may be) according to the applicant’s ability to carry out a range of daily living activities and mobility activities. So, Ron’s application would have to show to what extent his health condition limits his ability to carry out these activities and how much help he might need. He would also be required to attend the assessment in person.
The advisor helping Ron to complete the application form made sure that it reflected the following.
i) Ron cannot manage cooking tasks such as peeling vegetables or safely grip saucepans due to the arthritis; he cannot stand over a hot stove as he feels unsteady; he largely eats microwaved meals as a result.
ii) He cannot cut up food easily due to the arthritis so sticks to soft food.
iii) He would not be able to get in or out of a bath or shower that hadn’t been adapted.
iv) He cannot get up from a toilet that hadn’t been adapted without assistance. He has difficulty getting dressed.
v) He cannot walk more than 20 meters before he has to rest due to pain/ breathlessness. He uses a stick to steady himself and only attempts very short journeys as he knows all the places where he can stop and rest.
The advisor explained to Ron that it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t actually receive help with most tasks and has to manage most things himself (he lives alone). If help is ‘reasonably required’ to perform the tasks then he can score points.
So, what might Ron ‘reasonably’ expect to receive? It’s not possible to say exactly what Ron will get (and how long he will receive it for) before his application has been considered by the DWP. The complexities of the process make it very difficult for someone as affected by his condition as Ron is to get what he deserves. What it will boil down to at the end of the day is whether the DWP’s healthcare professional believes what Ron says in his application – and the DWP’s track record is poor in terms of making this judgement call over the last five years or so.
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