BEFORE YOU START: Please note that although I currently volunteer for both the Stroke Association and Age UK, the views expressed in this blog are strictly my own. I am not a spokesperson for either (or, indeed, for any) organisation. I am based in the UK and the blog therefore has a UK bias - I've tried to use the Glossary to explain any terms which might be ambiguous, but if you think there is anything I've missed, please message me. Lastly, you'll find typos here, although I do my best to correct them. There are reasons for this, which you'll discover as you read.

Thursday, 9 August 2018


In the UK, the primary disability benefit is PIP, or Personal Independence Payment, and the stated purpose is to help provide some funds for those little extras you have to fork out for because of your condition. I suppose taxis is an obvious example, although they don't really exist around here. If I took a taxi to Salisbury and back, it would cost me over £50, which would soon nullify the benefit.

Anyway, theyrun assessments for this benefit, basically to check you're as impaired as you say you are. I had mine at 10 o'clock this morning.

I know that PIP works on a points system. No points if you're ok at something, one point if you're not all that good at it, five points if....forget it! A lot of the points are scored if you're reliant on somebody else to do things for you. When you've finished, you tot up all the points, and if you score enough, you get the benefit. I spent yesterday morning reminding myself of all this, as well as looking at the specific areas covered by the PIP questionnaire. My main resource was here.

Having now had the assessment, I'm very glad that I looked at this site, since the questions asked at the assessment were very similar to those presented on the site. I took the time to prepare answers to the questions, to cite examples, and to commit many of those answers to memory. This was a very useful exercise because we go through 90% of life trying to be as "better" as possible, but there are a small number of instances when we need to tell it like it is. I'm glad I put that extra thought in.

One example was cooking. Can I prepare a simple meal? Well, on the face of it, yes I can. I can quite easily process that information, use the hob or oven, and come up with something vaguely edible. But think on for a moment. I'm one-handed, so if that simple meal involved getting something out of a jar, forget it. Slicing things, forget it. My cheese these days comes via an electric grater. Similarly with tins. For these I need to use my electric tin-opener. Even those tins with ring-pulls risk breaking my teeth instead! And then, after the meal, the washing-up. One-handed, so I can't wash dishes all that well. Once again I sidestep the problem by using a dishwasher. There's a pattern forming here - all these gadgets I'm using (or other people) to live a normal life. And I think that's what the PIP people are looking for - things you can't do unaided.

Plus, of course, things like socialising. I could be flippant and say that I never had much of a social life anyway, but actually, I used to work in London, and would sometimes go out with friends up there. I used to ride a bike, and many of the people I used to meet because of that, I don't even see any more, just because I no longer move in those circles. So, really, these things do require consideration.

So, my advice to anybody facing a PIP assessment is basically to look at the type of questions they ask. I've mentioned one source, but there are others. And deliberately take some effort to think about the answers, because the "headline" answer is not necessarily the most accurate. Having said that, I might have been assessed as "null points", so who am I to give advice????

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