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Personal Independence Payment is ableism disguised as access.

By Rosie J. SargentPublished 11 months ago Updated 11 months ago 7 min read
Vlada Karpovich: Pexels

Three days before I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy, I finally received my eagerly awaited Personal Independence Payment (PIP) review. I was born with Cerebral Palsy, and have spent many long hours waiting for tedious hospital appointments and check ups. On many occasions from a very young age, I have been poked and podded like a voodoo doll. I have also been under the knife more than once, and I'm certain that I will have to endure another cut at some point in my life. My disability is a neurological condition, there is (as of yet) no cure, this is my life, this is my normal.

Yet, on the 14th of January 2021, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decided I wasn't disabled anymore. I opened the letter so quickly as my condition had got considerably worse because of the pandemic. Naturally, I was expecting to be in a different band, and yet, it was in fact quite the opposite. I looked down at the long purple scars that cover my legs from my feet to my hips, and have done since the age of eight, and just started sobbing.

I re-read the letter again and again just to make sure I had read it correctly, and yep there it was 'We are stopping your payments because we believe...' It was the third lockdown, I had no job because of Miss Rona, and because of Miss Rona I couldn't just go and find a new job as guess what I'm disabled, so the job market is a limited one. I had not long moved into my little flat either, and all we had were the things for our newborn and a bed for us to sleep in.

My PIP was the only bit of money I was receiving at the time, I depended on this payment every four weeks. I was heavily pregnant and I felt like a failure. I felt like my entire disability, my existence, my experience that has been my disabled life had been robbed with this one awfully worded letter. I didn't know what to do, so... I just sat on my bed and sobbed. Sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

I rang my mum in a state, and she said [I quote]:

"Those bastards...they did this when you were in a wheelchair. In a bloody wheelchair!"

My mum to say the least was fuming, and well, so was my dad, and numerous friends. As it was lockdown they were only doing telephone reviews, and because I 'sounded okay' on the phone I wasn't disabled according to some able-bodied person in an office.

It angered me how because I sounded okay I wasn't disabled, according to the assessor. What are disabled people supposed to sound like? Why is there a criterion for disabilities when all disabilities are on an individual case-by-case basis? I was about to give birth and I felt so depressed and angry and depressed once again. The GP quickly put me on the anti-depressant and anxiety tablet Fluoxetine, which I am still taking to this day, and my mental health has been a great battle ever since.

It actually became a running joke for a while. Every time my legs would suddenly spasm or I would lose my balance, I would say 'Still not disabled though.' It was a strangely satirical way of dealing with it, but it helped me cope while I went through the system all over again.

To have to re-apply (as my appeal failed) was incredibly stressful and anxiety-inducing. If I'm completely honest, it felt like I was being gaslighted by the system. I started to doubt my own experience and question my abilities, it was awful, just awful. I struggle every day with my CP. I've nearly fallen over with my son in my arms more than once and yet I was still sitting there questioning everything because of this one letter. It had in an instant, changed everything.

When my application arrived I was instantly angry, just how they had worded certain questions screamed ingrained institutionalised ableism. It was infuriating, and dehumanising. I was being treated like a second-class citizen, (oh no, sorry I am being treated like a second-class citizen) and I realised how the system really sees disabled people in the UK. It had made me feel all kinds of negative and toxic emotions that would take more than a smudge stick of sage to get rid of.

And since then, it can't help but notice how much worse it is now for disabled people. Pre-lockdown, I started noticing more people mimicking my walk in public spaces, accusing me of being drunk. The most terrifying moment I had was after my shift at the hotel I was walking home as I lived in the Bath City Centre. As I got to my street, I heard "Oi wonky...wonkyyyyyyyyyyy," over and over again. I was outside my flat too scared to walk in because I couldn't see who was saying this to me as it was gone 11 pm. I was so scared, so I stood there for a few minutes as they continued to call me wonky, and then when I shouted back I had CP, the silence was haunting. I quickly went inside and cried. Sometimes when I'm falling asleep I can still hear it.

But still not disabled though yea?

Then mid lockdown, and this for me was the first obvious (not even trying to hide it anymore) discrimination. My partner is my career, and as such I can't go anywhere without him. We went to our local Tesco in Shaftesbury, and a worker said we weren't allowed in the store together, I told her of my disability, and how my partner was a career, and do you know what the response was?

"Oh you're not wearing a lanyard - so I didn't know"

I can tell you this now, no disabled person, not a single one wants to wear something that lets everyone know we are disabled. This stinks of fascist thinking. Replace disabled with Jew and you begin to see how problematic and disgusting of an idea it is...

Then just the other day, I was on Twitter as usual, and (like many other angry disabled people) saw this:

Screenshots exist hun x

The benefits system doesn't drain the economy, the World Economic Forum has proved this time and time again. The Tories have been coming for disabled people for years, and now they aren't even being subtle about it. Disabled people do want to work, but there aren't enough jobs that can accommodate our needs and don't even get me started on people who think accommodating for disabilities is a privilege.

I have free parking because I struggle to walk Barbarba, not because I'm lazy...

So let me tell you this cold harsh truth that I'm certain will stick in your head - You are ALL temporarily able. One day, if you are lucky enough to get there your body will give up on you. Or suddenly there's a hereditary disease you didn't know about, or you end up in a terrible accident. You're not better than I am because you have full use of your temporarily able body. At least I know, know differently and won't be affected psychologically :)

So make society accessible, it benefits EVERYONE. Put disabled people in charge of disabled people as they do in New Zealand. If you need someone to do the job I am right here, hello! Oh and here's the other thing, the inclusive table that disabled people still don't have a voice on?

Stop talking to us like we are children or we aren't in the room. My body might not work well, but I've got a sharp mind and a smart mouth that I am most certainly not afraid to use - ask my school teachers.

*Breathe Rosie - breathe*

Okay, I think I'm good...

My fellow disabled people never lose hope. Never ever. We've got this! We will make a change!

Anyway, I'm off to go and hit my neighbour with my walking stick as they still haven't offered the car parking space directly outside our flat despite me telling them many times I need it :)


Don't forget to leave some love, kinda need it these days to be honest. As always;

Stay safe, stay hopeful and stay blessed!

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About the Creator

Rosie J. Sargent

Hello, my lovelies! Welcome, I write everything from the very strange to the wonderful; daring and most certainly different. I am an avid coffee drinker and truth advocate.

Follow me on Twitter/X @rosiejsargent97

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