The Three Stooges
So, the old saying goes that things come in threes. They weren’t wrong! What can only be compared to something like a carry-on movie, I’m going to talk about my joyous experience of applying for the three stooges, Personal Independent Payment, Universal Credit and a Blue Disability Badge.
When I first became unwell in April 2020, I had to ask my Dr for my first ever Fit note! I’d worked full-time since finishing university in 2010 and never had to ask for a fit note before, I thought they were still called sick notes but apparently that changed a few years ago. I remember before ringing the Dr’s I was building myself up to prove why I couldn’t work at that moment in time, I was thinking what if they don’t believe me? Would I have to go in and speak to them, I felt so ill I really didn’t want to do that. I was dreading it and put it off until the very last day I had, to do it. It was then that my friend Roxanne told me, you don’t have to worry, it’s of no benefit to the Dr whether you are at work or not if you’re saying you can’t work, they will respect that and in light of what you have been going through there will be no questions asked. As soon as she said that it seemed so obvious but I had never thought of it like that before. So, I rang and spoke to the receptionist she said she would speak to the Dr and get back to me. That afternoon I got a text message from the Dr’s surgery with a Fit note attached for 3 months!!! I was hoping I wouldn’t need that long but ms and Coronavirus had other ideas.
After my diagnosis in July, I was getting my head around things and I realised that I was going to be off work for quite a while and began to worry about the money side of things, a lot! What was going to happen? Between me and Ryan we would manage for so long but we couldn’t afford all the bills, the house, the car, school dinners, food, tv licence, urgh don’t even get me started with that, when was the last time the BBC made anything worth watching, £150 a year and all we get is the One show!! But aside from that, I really began to worry and became upset again and again at the thought. I remember crying one day to Ryan saying “Why did I have to become unwell? everything was fine before.” The term feeling sorry for yourself had been taken to a whole new level. But around that time was when Personal Independent Payments (PIP) were first mentioned to me. They do an assessment and award you what they feel will help contribute to daily living with a disability.
It got me thinking though, it wasn’t the governments fault I had an illness why should they pay me for being ill. I didn’t like the thought of it and put it to the back of my mind. As the weeks went by and I was still worrying about money, I thought what the hell, I’m sure most people apply at least, so I rang the number and requested an application pack.
The day it arrived I thought someone had crammed a house brick through the letterbox when I heard it thud on the floor, it was so big! It might have been easier to take the side of the house off to get it in, I can’t remember the exact number of pages now but it seemed like hundreds. It would certainly have given war and peace a run for its money. I took one glance at it and popped it back in the envelope and asked Ryan to help me gently lift it to one side (good job he has a fort-lift truck licence.) I heard my brain say NOPE! I thought I’ll come back to that later and I did on my birthday of all days. It was a sunny day I was sat out in the garden at the table and I began to fill it out, question after question after question. I’d answered so many questions I’d considered applying for a regular spot on the Chase as one of the Chasers, I had a name planned out and everything The Inflamer but I was too tired so went to bed for a nap instead.
I posted it a few days later once I’d managed to a source a lorry with a flatbed liner to transport it. I had read it’s usually between 8-10 weeks until they have an answer for you. So, I anxiously awaited….. and waited….. and waited….. 10 weeks came and went. I rang one day for an update and the lady told me that 8-10 weeks was incorrect it was now 14. Ok fair enough, but I really was starting to worry now my wages had reduced right down at work and would soon stop, what was I going to do??
I knew I wasn’t ready but I thought I’m desperate I’m going to have to go back to work. At this point I’d had my first injection and we were just starting the second lockdown for Coronavirus, GREAT TIMING! I’m sure I was living in some kind of dream world where I could pull the wool over my managers eyes and tell them they needed to let me back, but no I wasn’t that clever. In the politest possible way, they said no, it was too risky to my health, if Coronavirus wasn’t an issue then of course I could and they would adapt and do anything to help, but it wasn’t worth risking my life, for money. I had to agree with them but it was still so hard knowing what position you could potentially be getting in.
I felt down, money worries, not being able to return to work and ill I was still in fact unwell and feeling it. Times were hard and like the Phil Mitchell meme says “It’s sh*t innit” it was 100%. I started to think about the bills and if they could be reduced in anyway, so I first contacted Vodaphone who my phone contract is with, I explained the situation via online chat and he said give me a few minutes to see what I can do and this is what he said…. Martin Lewis step back we got the saving of the year here?!
“We can remove your online security which is £1 a month, how about that?” Hahaha, I had to laugh, I said “are you being serious £1 that’s it”, he said “yes”. Well, isn’t that wonderful, I’ll just ring work right now and hand in my notice.
I tired some other companies over that week but had no luck, so sacked it off. You see all these big named companies say they will help people with disabilities in times of need or people struggling financially, I can confirm this is 100% false they do not! The only people they look out for are themselves.
I’d had my first two injections now and realised with great sadness that I would need a blue disability badge to help with the hospital parking for my injections, I’ve mentioned before and I’ll say again that hospital parking is so bad and when your unwell and can’t walk far it’s worse. So, I looked it up online to see if I was eligible, I was so found my local council application and filled it in, sending a very unflattering picture attached. You have to pay £10 there and then, £10 I didn’t really have but would be worth it and off it went.
Around two weeks later I received an email to say I would have to go into Town for an in-person assessment. It was lockdown! I already had a compromised immune system but with having the monthly injections on top I was further at risk. I’d been advised to only go out if absolutely necessary. I telephoned to explain this and had one of the rudest and most upsetting phone calls ever. I explained that I shouldn’t really be going into town and could we do it over the phone, the answer was no. Then they said to me… “Well, if you shouldn’t be going out, then you don’t need a badge”, excuse me!!! What about the numerous hospital appointments I have each month? They weren’t interested. They also said to me “Just because you have ms doesn’t mean you need a badge. I know people with ms and they don’t have a badge”. WOW at this point I could feel myself getting upset and thought you know what ‘you’re seriously getting on my last nerve’ (website plug there), stuff the lot of you, said goodbye and put the phone down.
About three months later I wrote an email to the local council to say how hurt I was by the phone call; I didn’t complain as such I just said that maybe a little better phone manner and a different way of looking at assessments during a lockdown would benefit so many more people who were struggling to attend in-person. I received a phone call to say nothing other than wait for your PIP assessment to be complete and if you score so many points on mobility you are given a badge without question. I thought to myself there’s no chance I’m going through all that again.
So back to the money worries, I’d spoken to payroll at work about freezing my pension contributions to free up a little bit if cash and they told me to apply for universal credit, they should be able to help. OK, something else I’ve never done but really was feeling the pinch now, Warburtons bread had now been substituted for anything under 50p.
Well, I don’t know if anyone has ever applied for UC but ‘Oh my god’ what a performance that was. If I thought the PIP application was bad this was worse, it was all online which was great, but they wanted to know everything from what colour my toenails were to how times I pee a day!! Anyway, it took about 3 days filling it all in and I sent it off, Ryan had to fill it in too, I think for him they covered everything including how long his beard was in mm.
I didn’t hear anything for a month or so then received a ‘Journal notification’ they said I would receive a file on the 19th November stating how much I was entitled to. The 19th came I was excited as I had hardly any money left and had begun to tell family members that I wouldn’t be able to get them anything for Christmas. Mainly my Nieces and Nephews which was hard. I sat down opened the notification and in big fat bold writing at the top of the page it said:
‘YOURE PAYMENT THIS MONTH IS £0’
I was so upset I went to bed and cried, but Ryan told me that it just, is what it is and we would be fine. November along with the months May/June have been the worst months for me out of all of this. But those big girl pants came back out again and I carried on.
So December’s notification came and guess what the same message appeared at the top, I got in touch with them and said “It’s obvious I don’t qualify for any payments, please can I be taken off the list, thank you for trying but it’s just upsetting each month”, they actually told me ‘NO’ I would have to wait until my fitness to work paperwork came back and another decision made, I informed them by this point so much time had passed, I had asked work if I could work from home and they had said yes and would take me off sickness. They still haven’t taken me off their list though, I thought they would be glad I wasn’t asking for money anymore, but who knows the mind boggles!
The 14-week deadline arrived for PIP and I received a text saying I had a phone call scheduled for in two weeks time to do my assessment. I had the phone call and they said its usually around 4-weeks from here. That would take it well into January, so I knew Christmas wouldn’t be what I had hoped, after a crappy year I think everyone was hoping for a nice Christmas.
So now, it was one week to Christmas, I mustered what I had, I got my Nieces and Nephews, Ryan and my son’s present’s and we were going to my mums for dinner so I didn’t have to worry about food. I put money worries to one side and thought there’s just nothing I can do about it especially over Christmas.
For whatever reason I really don’t know I checked my online banking on Christmas morning and there in front of my eyes was a payment from PIP!!!!!! What a Christmas present, my faith in the Benefit system had been restored, as George Michael would have told me you’ve got to have faith, faith, faith!
A week or so after Christmas the completed PIP assessment came through in the post and low and behold, I’d scored enough points for a Blue Badge, so you know what, I filled in the application again. Only a few days later I received an email to say it had processed and I should receive it within the next 10 working days. So, to the lady that was rude to me from the Council, I’d just like to say stick this in your in-person assessment!
I haven’t had the best experience of applying for benefits, but I’m sure I haven’t had the worse and for all those Meal Loaf lovers out there… Two out of three ain’t bad!
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