Posted by: John Brace | 22 July 2019

PIP assessments are a strange place somewhere between the Great Escape and Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition

PIP assessments are a strange place somewhere between the Great Escape and Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition


After what Reverend Mike Loach said at that event about the media demonising people with disabilities I am writing and publishing this story to explain what life is like if you are a disabled person in the UK.

For mistakes the state made before I was born I was born disabled. There is no cure for the disabilities I have and I struggle and muddle through life in constant pain and yes I work.

Eleven years ago (2008) the Department for Work and Pensions decided the nature and extent of my disabilities was so great that I was awarded a lifetime award of Disability Living Allowance.

Despite a “lifetime” award because I am aged between 16 to 65 on a date in 2013, the state decided to reassess me.

This is the story of the second, third and fourth attempt at assessment at what I will refer to as the PIP centre.

The second attempt was cancelled at about 4 hours notice and arranged to the next day. We (Leonora and I) both arrived and I sat down.

The waiting area had two potted plants, various posters (including one stating a zero tolerance to abusive or threatening language), a radio, a reception area and various rooms and corridors ran off it.

One of things I suffer from sadly is migraines – which from time to time give me shooting stars in my vision. Something in the place triggered a very bad migraine which got worse when I got up when Leonora indicated to me that we were called.

Whereas the migraine is usually just shooting stars at the edge of my vision – this time getting up and starting to walk meant my vision went all because I lack the language to describe it properly like a Salvador Dali painting on me and I nearly walked into a door.

Something like a flashing dragon or a flashing snake with a forked tongue in a zigzagging line in your visual field can be most distracting.

So then we got into a room, permission to record had been asked for and granted in advance for the original appointment.

My vision and hearing weren’t really up to any assessment at this point.

However when Leonora got the tape recorders out – which is now known as doing a “Steve McQueen” in our household – this is the closest video clip I can find to as to what happened next where everybody else starts getting way too overexcited and shouting at each other. I’m the guy in the woolly hat just looking confused – whereas she is Steve McQueen.

I might point out that the government response to the Work and Pensions Committee report on PIP and ESA assessments states (in response to a recommendation that all PIP assessments are recorded), “For PIP assessments, claimants can currently audio record their face to face assessment if they provide appropriate equipment. The equipment must generate two copies at the end of the assessment; one for the claimant, the other for the Assessment provider. Media types that are acceptable are standard CD and audio tapes only.

While this arrangement means that claimants can in theory record their assessments, in practice the complexity and potential costs to claimants means that very few take up this option. We agree that this does not go far enough to help build trust in the system and therefore we intend to make recording the PIP assessment a standard part of the process.”

Please accept YouTube cookies to play this video. By accepting you will be accessing content from YouTube, a service provided by an external third party.

YouTube privacy policy

If you accept this notice, your choice will be saved and the page will refresh.

So then the third appointment got rearranged to a fourth last Friday aftetrnoon.

We were kept waiting for around 2 hours past the appointment time. This time the paperwork was there for the recording and the person doing the assessment was happy for it to be recorded.

However at the fourth attempt the state has determined it is unable to assess me.

The whole way the fourth attempt started though reminded me of Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition – except replace the word Spanish with disability.

Please accept YouTube cookies to play this video. By accepting you will be accessing content from YouTube, a service provided by an external third party.

YouTube privacy policy

If you accept this notice, your choice will be saved and the page will refresh.

If you click on any of the buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people.


  1. Well we come into the mine field, i was [ sorry i forget what it was called] for a few years, i had back problems, ie i found it hard to walk, i had an accident why i was at works trial system to get me into a proper job, i fell off a low roof and did my back in, took me three goes to get on the system, and even had the trick played on me where the lady taking the assessment went into the wrong room and said to me pull a chair up, then said oh sorry its the wrong room its next door! bitch! so after a few years the goverment changed the ruls and stopped my money, i went out and tried to kill myself, as i thought i can’t work in this much pain so what’s the point of living. I stopped myself at the last minute and went back to my doctor who put me on more drugs, and back to signing on. and one day when i was in bed and i turned over a pain shot up my back and i heard a loud crack, i thought oh god i will never walk again, but it turned out what ever had been moved to make me limp everywhere had gone back in place, i have been working for over four years now, ok doing three jobs and working 14 hour days , the last holiday i had was last August, which was four days.
    But i also work with people who are disabled, i amdisabled as i am deaf in one ear, but i also see poeple who are fit enough to work but just don’t want to, i know people who get a new car every year paid for out of my taxes and there’s nothing wrong with them, they just don’t want to work, i see a young chap around where i live on a mobility scooter and i have seen that very same chap running in and out of shops, nothing wrong with him, I read somewhere or heard it on the radio they want to class fat people with a disability, they are not disabled they are fat, the problem is too many people over the years have been milking the system and it needs to stop, so only genuine disabled folk get what they need in the way of money or health care. So some better system of assessing people needs to be brought in.
    But i would like to know does the UK have the biggest number of disabled people in the world with the amount of shops that cater for them!
    John good luck on you’re quest

    • Thanks for your comment.

      My last hearing screening test result was that I have an impairment in the speech range in one ear. So I understand (to a degree).

      I’ve been working since I was 14 though.

      In answer to your point as to disability – when I was a child I was in and out of hospital as an inpatient. After one particular severe asthma attack (I was in hospital a number of times as a child) I ended up in an oxygen tent in hospital – my point is that the NHS and modern healthcare when a child leads to people with disabilities living longer as in times gone by we just simply wouldn’t be here as adults.

      I’m pretty sure though that one day fate will catch up to me and this hot weather ain’t helping as it’s like the air is too sticky (for want of a better word to describe it).

      There’s been a lot of prejudice in the past by employers towards disabled people working and a lot of barriers put in their way. It’s too easy though just to give up.

      I suppose I’m lucky that I’m self-employed and in the main I can control my work environment and make reasonable adjustments more than most can.

      There shouldn’t be all this hate aimed at disabled people. That kind of attitude never leads to good outcomes for society.