The Big Issue is shining a light on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) disability benefits system. George Mitchell, 49, was refused personal independence payment (PIP) and had money “mistakenly” deducted from his universal credit, which has left him unable to afford food. This is his story.
I am relying on food banks because universal credit is not enough money to live on. My doctor recently declared me unfit to work because of my health conditions, but I was refused disability benefits by the DWP and it could be several months before I can appeal the decision at tribunal.
I have been in and out of homelessness for a number of years, but I recently moved into supported housing. My support worker encouraged me to apply for PIP in January because I was struggling with my health.
For the last 15 years, I’ve been a fundraiser for various charities and was working at Centrepoint at the time. My legs were not coping and investigations found arthritis in my knees. I was struggling with other health conditions too, but these weren’t diagnosed yet, so I was refused PIP.
I then went to mandatory reconsideration, and it was refused again. Since then, more health problems have come to light. I have fibromyalgia which was recently diagnosed, and I’m on the “suspected cancer pathway” and need more investigations to exclude that.
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I was approved for the limited capability for work and work-related activity (LCWRA) element of universal credit after getting that diagnosis. If the process for PIP had been clearer and easier to get through, I would have the support I need right now. But as it stands I’m having to survive on food banks.