Opinion

‘They make me feel like a criminal’: Your stories of DWP benefits assessments

Dozens of readers shared their stories of DWP benefits assessments after The Big Issue revealed a system 'set up to fail' disabled people.

The Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) in Norwich demonstrated outside the PIP offices in central Norwich in 2016. Image: Roger Blackwell/Flickr

The Big Issue is committed to shining a light on people’s experiences of navigating the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) benefits assessment with the Department for Work and Pensions and its contractors.

After publishing a series of exclusive stories in which former assessors told reporter Isabella McRae they believe disabled people are “set up to fail”, dozens of readers wrote in. Here are some of their stories.

I had a heart attack and was unable to claim job seekers’ allowance so was told to claim universal credit. I have £452 since March and keep being told because my wife earns £1,800 every 4 weeks so we are over the benefit threshold, even though I’ve never claimed in 45 years of paying in.

All I get is excuses from the DWP. So I’m having to rely on credit cards to keep my head above water and now I feel I’m being forced to take work during ill health. If anything happens to me I hope my family will hold the DWP to blame.

Colin D

My daughter has physical and learning disabilities and does receive the PIP benefit but I consider the points system is not realistic. She received one out of a possible 12 marks (the lowest) in respect of medication. 

Taking into consideration that she is unable to read or write, has limited speech, is unable to tell the time, has little understanding, lacks mental capacity, and is unable to open packaging, I would suggest 1 is on the low side. 

I also consider the government are at fault, allowing local authorities to charge the disabled for certain services and therefore taking money from benefits received.

Dennis R

I had been receiving PIP until late 2022 and after an assessment I was somehow found to be active for work. Despite the fact my health conditions had become worse, the payments were stopped. I have appealed and am awaiting an appointment date since February 2023. 

This decision has left me in a much worse place and has increased my already poor mental health. I know I’m not the only person this is happening to. 

Why do the DWP have this kind of power? My financial state is terrible, I’m in arrears with my fuel and rent again and this is bringing more stress on to me. I do feel vulnerable every day. I have gone from living on approximately £700 per month to £370 per month.

Name withheld

I was assessed back in 2017. Initially they wanted to send me into the centre of Birmingham for my assessment which would not have been easy for me. Eventually they sent an assessor to my home. In spite of my many problems relating to my spina bifida, I was refused. I appealed and was once again refused so I appealed to a tribunal. 

It took several months for a date to come through by which time I had to hand back my motability vehicle. I went to the tribunal and I was in there no more than ten minutes. The decision of the tribunal was to not only reinstate the motability component of PIP but also to award me the lower care component which I’d never received before.

SJ Tyler



My first encounter with a PIP assessor was so kind, my second was horrific. The report was complete lies. I had my PIP stopped for 11 months until tribunal, which I won, but in the meantime I’d had to leave my current job as I could no longer afford to pay for taxis. 

Then the pandemic happened, my PIP was extended, just about renewal time they told me they’d extended it until June 2024. I felt relief. A few weeks later they informed me that I’m having a telephone assessment in 10 days. They are playing with my head! I’m not homeless (yet) and I have a part time job, but these people are pushing me over the edge.

Christine H

I was initially denied PIP. I asked for the report and when it arrived I called them urgently. “You must have another claimant with the same name, or sent the wrong report!” I told them. It bore no resemblance to the interrogation I’d undergone. They checked, said it was mine. I said it didn’t match the recording I’d made of the process, it excluded the part where she told me to shut up and I pointed out I was only 25% of the way into listing my conditions, let alone any detail. 

I had to ask for a mandatory reconsideration. Denied! I appealed. Denied! Went to tribunal, the DWP didn’t bother turning up. The judge was fuming, she said I should have been given it first time, she was appalled at the process, that she wanted an explanation of their behaviour. I was numb with relief. 

I’d rather not have it, have my old life back. But I can’t. They make me feel like a criminal, they go out of their way to be obstructive. They lie and make up their own narrative. If they were under oath they’d be jailed for perjury. I read they spent 20% of the budget catching fraud, which runs at about 2 to 4%. The system is cruel, spiteful, vindictive, and abusive.

Eric C Hull

If anyone is called for one of these “assessments”, it is imperative that, if it is possible, they take someone with them. They are entitled to do so, and their companion can take note of all that occurs. In my own experience, both as a claimant and also attending with a friend, the presence of a witness makes the interview easier.

Hugh Foley

I had been awarded disability living allowance for life at the age of about 40. Then when the changes from DLA to PIP were implemented I was subjected to almost machine gun questions, even though part of my multiple health issues was my mental capacity to think. I had a carer sit in and she called a halt to the ‘verbal abuse’ (her words), and asked the assessor to leave. This continued every year for three years. 

Then a Dr was sent to assess me (he was retired) and said the interviews were damaging to my mental health and put me on a three-year break from them. However, my break will finish soon, and I’m already worried. I won’t let them interview me alone. I always have one of my carers with me to monitor my safety. If you can have a semi professional person attend and take notes, it really does help to control the attitudes of many of the assessors who come into your home.

Name withheld

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? We want to hear from you. Get in touch and tell us more.

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