In my opinion, PIP forms are the most disgusting entity in the universe. I hate them, I cannot express my hatred enough and considering this blog is supposed to help and up build people, I’m not making a very good start on this entry.
But on a more serious level, PIP forms are really hard guys, I’m not trying to put you off, I just want you to be prepared and have someone on hand to help you. The thing is, the questions are so personal and they want so much detail that it’s very easy to let it drag you down into pretty bad depression. I know people who have been turned into emotional sobbing wrecks over these forms; I myself threw up and fainted on my first attempt at filling it out, which wasn’t the best of signs.
For someone like me, who is not used to being open and honest, it was really difficult to get everything down. I was extremely lucky having a friend who had filled out lots of these forms before and was able to help me through it. I’ll do my best now to give advice and tips on how best to get through it all.
So first off, try to find someone you trust/someone who knows about your problems and see if they can help you through this. These forms can make you very emotional and it can be dangerous to try going through them on your own especially if you are the type to self-harm or have suicidal tendencies.
With your form should come a little instruction booklet that gives you some tips on what to do. I got this little booklet back in October and I still haven’t read the whole thing so don’t panic if you start reading and think “I have no idea what this is talking about!” because it happens to everyone. You may think it’s a good idea to look through this book before you properly start filling in the form and to be honest, if you’re able to do that then yes, defiantly do! I on the other hand, simply could not do it, all the brain fog, stress and anxiety it was causing; I couldn’t get past the first page. What I did, Instead of reading the whole booklet, was just turn to each part that was relevant for the question I was on, then I could see what sort of things it was wanting me to write, so don’t feel bad if you can’t read it from cover to cover.
Your best bet when it comes to the actual form, is reading all the way through it, looking at the questions. Don’t tick or write anything yet, just get yourself acquainted with the kind of information you need to give. There are questions which require you to tick a box saying yes, no or sometimes/it varies, and on each section you also get a blank or lined box where you can add any “extra information” you think is needed.
Like I said, don’t write anything yet.
Now what you need to do is have a hunt through your house and try to drag out any information you can. You want letters from GP’s, Psychiatrists, surgeons, anything really. Anything at all that gives proof of the illnesses or difficulties you claim to have. A good idea is to ask a professional you see regularly to write out a summary of your care, of what they think you struggle with and basically just you from their point of view. This will really help with your claim. Now, take all of those papers and photocopy them, you can do this at home or there are places like libraries and post offices where you can copy documents for a price. Keep the copies together with your PIP form in a safe place, but try and keep them somewhere you can see them so you are reminded to continue with it, believe me, this is not the form you fill out in one day.
Make sure to put your original letters and information somewhere safe too as you may need more copies later on.
Now have a look on the form, on the first page of the form you fill out, there should be a part when it says when the form has to be returned by. Don’t let this panic you, I almost had a heart attack because my form got lost on the way to me and by the time I got it, I had only a week to complete it! They generally give you 1 month from when they send it and it has to be handed in by then, but if you start running out of time, either ring them yourself or ask someone else to ring for you and they will generally extend it by around 31 days.
I really hope you have a computer because this next bit requires one. If you don’t then I suggest a notebook you can use to add bullet points of information, you may wish to use a computer in a library or borrow a friends as it is so much easier and less tiring than writing it all out by hand.
Head back to the start of the form, there’s a section which asks you to write down people who may be able to attest to your illness/difficulties. I put down the doctor I see the most, not my GP as I’ve only seen him a handful of times. Of course for you, your GP may be the one you always see so by all means use them. Put the address of the doctors surgery and the telephone for the surgery too, no need to try and find the poor guys personal information!
For the other two, I put down my Care Coordinator with the mental health team I am with, as she knows everything there is to know about me, and I also put down my Art Psychotherapist who sees me on a weekly basis and can attest to the fact that I feel like garbage. These are the kinds of contacts you want to put down. You don’t have to fill all three spaces if you only have one or two people looking after you in a professional capacity, and if you have more, you can always put more contacts down on separate paper.
So you have the first part down, well done! Now open Microsoft word or something similar on your computer (or get your notepad ready) and start up a new document. The next section, you have to put down ALL and I mean ALL of your health conditions, even if you don’t have them anymore, put it down. Now the reason you are putting these on the computer instead of writing these straight onto the form is because you’d be surprised how much you forget and how many mistakes you may make.
Basically, pretend the form is an instruction booklet, like in an exam; you do the writing on a different sheet.
Write down all the issues you’ve ever face, if you had asthma as a kid, put it down, if you aren’t diagnosed but are currently having tests for something, put down that you are undergoing tests for suspected such and such.
They also want these in chronological order, which is another reason you don’t write them straight on the form, you’ll always miss something out. When writing down the date, you don’t need the exact day, but the year and if possible the month or general season is good to put down. Don’t put from when you were diagnosed, put from when you began to notice the symptoms. For example I wasn’t diagnosed with depression until 2015 but my symptoms and issues started in 2005. Huge difference right?
OK so you have what you think is all your problems, yes? Now leave that where it is, ignore it completely. Go to the next bit about medications you are taking.
This may be tricky with spellings and stuff; they don’t give medicines easy names at all, so your best bet is to go to your draw or cupboard or where ever it is that you keep your meds and grab the lot.
Then, sit down and go through them, put the name, the amount (E.G 40 MG), why you take it and when you started taking it. Put down medications you have taken in the past even if you’ve stopped them now, its important that they can see WHEN you started taking meds and exactly how many types you’ve been on/tried.
This section also asks for any upcoming treatment you are waiting for, so put in hospital visits, scans, physiotherapy and so on. They like this to be in chronological order, but as we are doing this on a computer/separate notepad, you can chuck it down any old way and fiddle with it later so no worries for now!
OK, next part.
Now we get on to the actual questions.
I won’t go through each question with you, but I will explain exactly the kind of information they are looking for and I’ll use the first one about preparing food (if the form hasn’t changed since I did it) as an example.
So the preparing food part wants to know exactly what you can and can’t do as well as what you find difficult.
You need to include things like how you feel when you have to prepare food, do you get anxious about it, have you been in the past (or are you now) anorexic/bulimic, how does this make preparing food more difficult for you. Are you scared of burning yourself, do you forget that you have left the oven on? Do you look blankly in cupboard wondering what to make? Do you tend to settle for easy food that requires little work and has very little nutritional value? I know I tend to just grab some cheese or a packet of crisps when I feel too tired to make anything worthwhile.
Are you accident prone because of zoning out, tending to cut yourself or burn yourself? Do you maybe use cooking as a way to harm yourself and require supervision? Does someone else primarily cook for you?
How good are you at lifting pots or pans with food/water in? Do you find it difficult; do you need to ask for assistance from someone? How do you feel when cooking, Panicky? Angry? Anxious? Why?
Always try to explain WHY you feel certain ways if you can. For example you may say “when cooking I feel anxious.” Which is true but something like “When cooking, I feel anxious because I worry about burning myself or the food, I also think the food I make will taste nasty and no one will want to eat it.” Will shed more light on your feelings.
Try to do this with as much of the form as possible, putting down feelings and then explaining them. Remember those English essays or exams when you had to explain everything until you bled the subject dry? Yeah, do that. You don’t need to waffle on loads though, you don’t have to keep repeating parts, just as long as you explain WHY things happen and WHY you feel certain ways, you should cover all that you need.
So that’s the first three questions/parts already done, awesome!
There are altogether 14 questions, which includes the first part about health professionals and your medical history, so you only have 11 left now!
As you go through each question, really pull it apart and bring out everything that you can. For example on the eating and drinking section, you may not have any physical difficulties and be able to use and knife and fork and chew solid food, but what about mental difficulties. If you have had or do have now any eating disorders, mention how they affect you. Even if you are no longer bulimic or anorexic, do you still find eating food difficult? Do you avoid meals if you can? Do you actually enjoy eating or do you only do it to make others happy? Does food taste good, or does it feel strange in your mouth? Do you chew for ages before actually swallowing? Do you pick at your food, taking a long time to get through it?
One thing I always forgot to put in was, did a family member have to remind me to do something either eating, washing dressing etc.? Do you need encouragement to do anything? Do they have to fight to get you to eat or get up and get dressed?
Again, this is why you do it on the computer, so you can add bits in!
As you go through the form you will go past various questions which have tick boxes. Now these may ask questions like “do you use a walking aid” or “do you avoid going out due to anxiety”, but if you read carefully, it says to include care you DON’T receive but NEED. If you struggle to walk, yes, you need a walking aid. If you get anxious about going out enough that you have at some point cancelled plans, yes, you have avoided going out due to anxiety. It doesn’t mean “are you paralysed or agoraphobic?” Every single question applies to you somehow; make sure you don’t forget that!
When you think you have the basis of answers for the pip form, ask someone else to go through it, preferably someone who knows you or who has a knowledge of the forms. Ask them to take a look and to add anything they think you’ve missed, you’d be so surprised at how much you forget about! Also ask them to write down anything that THEY have noticed about you, they may see things you don’t. They may notice that you get angrier at meal times, showing your hatred of eating, but you may not notice this at all.
Believe me some of the things my mum was putting down I was like “what I don’t do that!” Then she comes out with like 15 examples and I’m just like “huh… oh yeah.” It really pays to have an outside opinion.
Make sure all of the questions are answered as if you are talking, so write “I struggle” as opposed to “she/he struggles”.
You may find that a lot of what you have written out will NOT fit in the teeny spaces they give you on the form. Do not worry. I think I only filled in one of those boxes; the rest was all printed and sent separately. All you have to do, if this is the case, is write in each of the spaces you have for writing your answer “see separate sheet on question *blank*”.
So you have all the information written out, now you, as well as someone close to you, need to write out a personal statement, something that sums up why your life is hard, why you struggle and how important it is to you that you get this claim.
Aim to write something between 1 and 2 A4 pages; again, it’s a good idea to do this on the computer.
Once you have all of this information collated and you think you’ve made all the tweaks you can and added all the information you needed, print it out. Sign and date EVERY SINGLE PAGE. It’s tedious yes, but after doing that form, it’ll feel like a piece of cake.
Remember all those photocopies you had? Write your National Insurance number on all of those too. You’d be surprised how much can go missing in those offices, so putting a form of identity on them is a great idea.
There should be a piece of paper that came with the form with an address on it; this is what you need to put in the envelope they sent you. Make sure it’s in so that the address can be seen through the little plastic window; this is how you get it sent free-post, no stamp needed.
When putting all your other stuff in the envelope, make sure you don’t accidentally put them in front of the address!
Now send that nasty envelope on its way!
I will say this, there is a possibility that your claim is rejected, but don’t panic, a large percentage of forms are left unopened and put straight on the reject pile. They do this to see if you’re desperate enough to apply again. If they reject you, I know it’s a huge pain and you’ll be angry and upset, but it’s not the end of the world, you can either appeal or request another form. That’s another reason why you get it done on the computer, it means you can just print it out again and send it off rather than going through that whole ordeal of writing everything out again.
Top tip; DO NOT dwell on the form. I know that it’s easier said than done, and believe me; I did my fair share of worrying when I sent this off, but you really do need to try and forget about it. DO NOT read through the draft on your computer, the only reason you’re keeping that is in case you need to apply again in the future. If you start reading through it again ad again, you’ll notice mistakes and start to panic and just make everything a whole lot harder on yourself. Reading through it will also make you feel pretty rubbish because you are basically reading all the worst parts of your life.
Just send it off and try to relax, it’s out of your hands now, no point worrying, just take some time to rest while you wait for a reply, you have SO earned it!