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Last year JT Hughes published a report on how the Motability cuts will affect disabled drivers in Shropshire, following the government’s introduction of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) in April 2013. The feedback from the article was alarming (and the controversy continues) with reports of disturbing incidents during the PIP process.
It was reported earlier this month, by the Disability News Service that a disabled woman from London had been left sitting in her own urine for almost two hours. This occurred during a PIP assessment, when a healthcare professional ignored the situation in order to carry on filling out a disability benefit assessment form.
The horrifying experience happened to 59-year-old Maria Lane, who called it "devastating". She wanted to speak out about what had happened in order to prevent other disabled people from experiencing similar situations.
As she was filling out her Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment with a female assessor at an assessment centre in Enfield, North London, Maria realised she had had an accident. It was just 10 minutes into the assessment process, and Maria both showed and told the assessor that her bladder had been emptied into her incontinence pad. Urine could be seen leaking through her trousers.
However, although it should have been clear that Maria needed help, the assessor simply looked at where Maria was leaking, and then continued typing. The assessor works for Atos, a government contractor, who has since launched their own investigation into the matter.
After initially telling the assessor of the problem, and being ignored, Maria then had to stay sitting with her overflowing incontinence pad for almost two further hours, answering lengthy questions.
Throughout the interview the assessor warned her that, if she failed to complete any of the questions, she would be required to come back for another assessment. The meeting, however, was one that Maria couldn't afford to lose as a result of the impact her PIP money has on helping her to cope with her disabilities. She currently has to spend around £55 on incontinence pads each week.
Maria has a number of long-term disabilities and health conditions including osteoarthritis, diabetes, sciatica, slipped disc, depression and high blood pressure. Because of her severe incontinence, Maria has to wear pads as a permanent precaution and is awaiting a major operation on her bladder.
As Maria said when speaking with the Disability News Service, "Once your bladder starts, you have to go. It will continue, no stopping, and then it leaks. I have no control over it... if you’re nervous, it is worse."
She continued, "I showed her [that I had leaked]. She must have seen, it was all over my trousers. She ignored me completely, or she didn’t believe me... She heard me alright because I showed [the leak and my pads] to her. She looked for a second and then went back to her report. She was like a robot. She had no emotions.”
There was also an examination of Maria's physical abilities, in which the assessor put a seat behind Maria, just in case she fell during the process. This did happen at one point, and Maria claims the assessor pulled her arms about and caused her terrible pain. The experience has impacted her confidence, and has left her feeling devastated and embarrassed. She was quoted as saying: "She took all my rights, all my dignity. It was inhuman to allow me to sit there."
The Department of Work and Pensions has described the account as being "very concerning", noting "all claimants deserve an objective, accurate and high-quality service."
JT Hughes would like to hear from anyone in Shropshire and Powys who can share their experiences (good or bad) during a PIP assessment. Please share in the comments box below, or on our Facebook page.