I’m Denise and I have bipolar disorder. Sometimes when it’s bad I’m not able to work. Tomorrow I’m going to parliament to talk to a committee of MPs about my experience of benefits assessments.
I’m feeling pretty nervous, but also excited as I see this as a chance to tell them what’s going wrong at the moment. I think it’s really important to tell these people how the assessment process feels for me, as a person with mental health problems and why it doesn’t work as it currently is.
When I had my PIP* assessment, the assessor was pleasant enough and fairly sympathetic. But she didn’t seem to have any expertise in mental health. I no longer had my support worker so I had to go alone. I just kept thinking, how was she supposed to understand how my mental health problems impact on my day-to-day life?
The questions they asked me were irrelevant.
How was I supposed to show her how my mental health problems really affect me with the questions they asked? It was very difficult to explain the extreme fluctuations I get with my bipolar disorder.
I know that lots of campaigners have also written to the people in parliament I’m seeing today about their experiences. The stories they provided gave clear evidence of the problems with assessments for PIP and ESA. I’m hoping that by going tomorrow I can add my voice to those stories and show why it’s so important that it’s changed and why the current system isn’t working.
And I hope the committee are listening. A group of us are going from Mind to explain what PIP and ESA assessments are like for people with mental health problems and I’ll be there with David from Oxfordshire Mind who sees people every day who are having a bad experience with their benefits assessments and helps them get the support they’re entitled to.
The benefits I received from PIP and ESA are my whole income and I rely on them.
When I have to reapply and I know an assessment is coming it adds extra stress and puts my mental health in trouble. The application process along with the assessment is deeply flawed and I can only access benefits if the assessments are fair. This is what we will make clear tomorrow.
If you would like to watch Denise and others share their experiences with the Work and Pensions Committee, it can be streamed here. We expect it to start at 9.30am (Wednesday 22nd November 2017).
*Personal Independence Payments (PIP) are a benefit to help people with extra costs caused by long term health problems.