I have always known there was something different/not normal about me, when I was a child I thought I was just naughty but as I grew older I tried looking for answers. Doctors took me at face value and dismissed my problems.
Finally at 33 I decided to have a private assessment and was diagnosed in April with High Functioning Autism aka Aspergers.
I started the PIP process in Jan this year citing reasons of depression, anxiety and autism, going into detail for each category I experienced issues.
At the atos assessment it appears I came across too "normal" and was scored zero points in all areas and they criticised my lack of diagnosis. This was especially frustrating when I told them at the assessment my diagnosis was scheduled within the week and once I had the diagnosis I called them to wait until I had the report to make their decision. They ignored this request and sent out their decision before I got the report.
I then went through the mandatory reconsideration outlining why I thought they had misunderstood me and the very unsuited physiotherapist (I don't claim to have any physical difficulties) judged me just like a book by the cover. This included my full diagnostic report, notes from my councillor that saw me within 4 days of the atos assessment along with medical records and further explanation from me.
So I was shocked when the reconsideration came back with zero points again saying how the report doesn't matter as it was after my atos assessment and during that time I came across with no issues along with saying I can drive a manual car which means doing multiple things at once and so I should have no issues. This has left me feeling really low and made me question the fairness and honesty of this system and I don't know if I have the energy to take this to tribunal even though I have nothing to lose.
Any help or advice would be very much appreciated.
I've not been through this process myself and have not particular expertise. My inclination would be to say you definitely should go for it. As you say, you have nothing to lose, and it could be a blatantly, or even subtly, wrong decision on the part of ATOS that really should be corrected. You have to apply within a month, although I understand it may take a while for the tribunal to happen. You could feel very differently about it then and I hope you have more energy.
These seem worth reading if you haven't already:
I hope you find someone to support you in doing this. Good luck.
I have been through the process of applying for Pip and ESA and going to Tribunal. I have had successes and failures. If you do go ahead to Tribunal level be very aware that it is tough. Very tough. It damaged me considerably to the extent that I refused to reapply for well over a year afterwards before persuaded to try again. Then I had full support from Welfare Rights and was awarded. However the Tribunal was so horrendous that I am wary of any filling in of forms. I am in the process of redoing my own ESA forms ; if it doesn’t go as I hope then I doubt I can put myself through Tribunal again. I have every faith in Cab and Benefits and Work as suggested. And usually Welfare Rights are helpful if you can access them. As you already found out, at each stage, they will only process what you wrote in your original application. If you admit new evidence or circumstances change after that application, that isn’t taken into account. So it has been put to me more than once that it is better to reapply from scratch at a later date. However there are many success stories from people who have gone to Tribunal. I would strongly suggest that you don’t try to do this alone. It’s much better if you get backing from somewhere or someone especially if they are more “ official “ in nature like cab. It is a tough system, process and situation. Before you decide anything I suggest you take your application and supporting documents to Cab to get another opinion on your own personal circumstances, information and forms as they will have experience of both form filling and feedback from Tribunals. They may also support your application to Tribunal if that’s what you choose to do. Sorry to be negative but my own experience of Tribunal left me in a bad place ( I wasn’t diagnosed asd then) and you need to be aware that they question you very hard. I felt like I’d been severely interrogated and I couldn’t cope with that again. However... I hope others will respond, maybe they have had a more positive experience and outcome.
It's been a while since I posted here, but as I have been in exactly the same situation as you, I thought I'd respond to give you a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel (though, be warned, it is a very long and dark tunnel!)
I applied for PIP well over 18 months ago now. Like you, my reasons are late-diagnosed autism and the consequent anxiety and depression, and no other disabilities. I scored zero points at my ATOS assessment (done by an ex-paramedic!), and zero points following mandatory reconsideration. DWP had messed my claim up so badly that my first tribunal hearing had to be adjourned, followed by a 6 month wait for a second one. But at the second hearing a couple of weeks ago, I was finally awarded the enhanced rate of PIP plus the standard rate for the mobility component, albeit only for the next two and half years (I'm so looking forward to having to go through this all over again - aaargh!)
In addition, a friend of mine who, like me, was also diagnosed in his forties and initially scored zero points, was awarded pretty much the same at his tribunal hearing recently.
So, yes, I think that it is worth fighting - zero points is not such a lost cause as it might first appear.
There's no doubt in my mind at all that the assessment process is deliberately designed to deflect as many people as possible, regardless of how unjust this might be. Independent researchers and journalists (Private Eye has followed this well) have shown repeatedly that assessors are not sufficiently trained to make a fair judgement, have been caught deliberately disregarding and even outright lying about the evidence presented to them, and are sometimes working to meet undeclared targets for the number of people that they reject. I have yet to hear of anybody, with any disability, who received a significantly different decision at the mandatory referral stage - I can only conclude that it is just a stalling tactic, and yet another attempt to make people give up on their claim.
I won't lie to you, the tribunal process is lengthy and very nerve-wracking, but in the mean-time, you are no worse off than before your application, and should you win, the award will be back-dated to your application date, regardless of how long a period this is. My impression of the tribunal court staff was generally good, despite the process itself being so tough. The judges were assisted by doctors and psychologists with far better training than the ATOS assessor. Their questions were difficult to answer sometimes, but I could tell from the start that they were asking the right kind of questions to be able to understand my condition properly. I was also allowed to take a break whenever I felt I needed one, and the court clerk even had an unlimited supply of hankies to hand for the inevitable emotional moments (I hope the other people in the waiting room didn't get the wrong idea when I walked through in floods of tears after I was told I had won!)
In the meantime, if you decide to go ahead, I advise you to seek out someone from a disability advocacy service to help you out with the appeal process (but don't miss the deadline for appealing!) There are a lot of documents to deal with, and some of the courtroom talk about points of law would have been way over my head if I hadn't had an advocate with me at the tribunals. There may or may not be a representative from DWP at a hearing who might bring up those kind of things. There was one present at my first hearing but not the second - I think he might have been embarrassed to come back after the roasting the judge gave him at the first one! (sweet shadenfreud after the hell they've put me through!)
The only major difference for you that I can see is that your formal diagnosis came after your application for PIP. Common sense say that your diagnosis does back up your original case; autism is a life-long condition, therefore it confirms that you were autistic at the time of your application. However, that is common sense, not benefits law, so I would make a particular point of raising that if you're seeking advice from anywhere; as Misfit says, it might make more sense to claim from scratch if that evidence is inadmissable at appeal.
A search of the web should be able to turn up a suitable advocacy service near to you, but failing that, your local Citizen's Advice, NAS, or a branch of one of the mental health charities should be able to point you in the right direction. Do that ASAP, as any advocacy service is likely to have a busy waiting list of other PIP claimants!
please do go to tribunal. I am autistic and I get the enhanced daily living of PIP so don't give up and fight the decision.
the tories are doing this to screw autistic (and other disabled) people over so we need to take a stand against them. sorry to rant about politics I just really hate the tories as i'm a northerner. rant over!
Thank you so much to everyone that replied.
Following your comments and after talking to CAB, The National Autistic Society and Autism Anglia I am feeling a lot more positive about the tribunal.
I have now completed the SSCS form and will send this off tomorrow and have a meeting with CAB on Thursday and hopefully a meeting soon with Autism Anglia.
Thank you again
You will be looking at an extremely long wait for a tribunal though keep that in mind.
Glad to hear that you've found somewhere to get some help. Best of luck!