The festive season may seem a long time ago now, but for many of us it was the hardest period of time imaginable. I, like many others, am still waiting for the decision on my Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claim. I've been blogging on this subject for nearly two years now, since my first installment – I'm Broken, Britain: An Open Letter From an Anonymous Benefit Claimant. Twenty-two months on, and with this, my tenth blog, I am still without any money and no closer to finding out my fate. It simply never ends.
My own struggles are mirrored in the numerous tragedies I see, either personally or through the news reports on Universal Credit or PIP. The case of Reggie Duff was recently coered by the BBC. It's a story of humiliation and fear. The PIP process left me in the same place, not just financially, but also in terms of relationship and my self worth.
My family have had little choice than to pick up all of the slack left by the PIP process, from feeding me, clothing me, doing my washing, and my travel. For anyone with any sense of personal pride, this erosion of the most basic levels of independence is perhaps the most painful part of the whole process. It’s easier to go without, even when it's the essentials, than it is to ask for help from family on an extended basis. When you’re long-term ill or disabled, a sense of stubbornness and pride often creeps in, so to have this pulled from under you – to have to literally ask those around you for the most basic of financial help – really does start to chip away at mental health.
My own tribunal date is set for mid-March. It'll mark 25 months of waiting without any money coming in. My health is bad anyway, which is why I was awarded indefinite Disability Living Allowance in the first place. The chances of it improving are highly unlikely, much as I hate to admit it. But under the PIP process, I was awarded zero points across board in its wilfully narrow criteria.
Within my waiting period, my health deteriorated. This year I have come out in all sorts of skin conditions, most likely connected to stress and lack of self-care. My hands are now in state of perpetual bleeding due to the rips and tears. Now have to contend with an invading rash and set of rather violent-looking spots. I would go to the doctors to get this looked at, but I live in one of the worst areas for patient/doctor access.
I have, ironically, become very acquainted with my own medical records though. For the past two years I've had all manner of paperwork sent to me. The tribunal process is pretty intrusive. Every single detail of my life and medical information has been dredged up in duplicate and distributed to all sorts of people and offices. When I need medical information to help me, it is unavailable. When it is there to punish me, it appears in duplicate. This is how austerity Britain functions.
The worst aspect to this whole rigmarole is just how much it's changed the dynamic of my relationship with my partner. They have had to work longer hours just so we can survive, which means we rarely see each other. They have had to walk the tightrope of offering to pay for everything, at the risk of alienating me and crushing my fragile sense of self-esteem further. They now pay for all of my medication, my travel and my dietary needs. We are no longer a partnership, and we've both spotted this.
My partner recently said that they have no problem or reticence in helping me, but they can no longer emotionally take the physical wincing that I unwittingly do every time the subject of money comes up, or when they are forced to pay for yet another thing for me. If we do happen to go out, which is rare, I am given pocket money just so I can be seen to go to my wallet to pay for something.
I have one more month of wait to find out what we're going to be dealing with, but I know all too well that there are so many others in similar circumstances who aren't afforded the relationships that I have. There is no doubt in my mind that, if not for the close and unconditional family support I receive, I'd be yet another grim mortality statistic. Coming to terms with that sense of vulnerability really hits home, in more ways than one.
The author of these blogs wishes to remain anonymous, but they are on Twitter at @ImBrokenBritain.
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