So we have already filled out the PIP Form For BPD and now you have a face-to-face meeting. The good news is most of these are being currently being done over the phone because face-to-face meetings are not possible. Each face-to-face meeting (or currently phonecall assessment) will be different because the answers to the questions you have to give will relate to your own personal health and how your conditions affect your daily life. On that note…
Legal Notice: You need to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth on any benefit form. While there are plenty of suggestions here for those of us with BPD you should see them as nothing more than the examples they are, any example printed here might not reflect your own personal illnesses and symptoms.
Before we get going with the assessment questions I think it is important to know some things. First up, the person doing the interview (The “Medical professional”) is not there to judge you, nor are they there to trip you up. Sure, some of the questions can have deeper meanings than you might think, but they are simply doing their job and nothing more. Besides, they don’t even get to make the final decision, that is done by someone in the DWP.
Before we break down each question here are some very useful tips…
- Tip 1: Have Your Photocopies for Your Form With You
If you only follow one of these tips make sure it is this one. Make sure you have a copy of your filled-in PIP application form with you. Many of the interview questions will be the same and your consistency is a big part of whether or not the claim will be awarded.
- Tip 2: Record the Interview for Your Own Record
While not always possible you are allowed to audio record the interview provided you (the claimant) inform the Assessment Provider in advance. This will be useful if you need to go to a tribunal and for your own record as well.
- Tip 3: Have a Break if You Need it
You don’t have to do the whole interview in one go, nor you have a set amount of time to answer. If you need time to write down the question and answer it in your head first you can do just that. Even if the interview lasts several hours, it takes as long as it takes for you personally.
- Tip 4: Give as much detail as you can
The key to your claim being awarded relies on the information they have and they only have the information you give them. Never use single word answers like ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ or ‘SOMETIMES’. Tell them in-depth about every little thing, especially when it comes to medications and how your condition affects your daily life.
- Tip 5: Listen VERY Carefully to Every Single Question
While this tip is the basics of any interview situation, it is especially true when it comes to your PIP assessment. You will soon come to see on this page that simple questions have deeper meanings, so listen to the questions being asked and consider every single question and piece of idle chit-chat as still part of the interview (which it most often is). So ANY answer you give will be noted.
Let Start The Interview…
The first few questions are always the simple ones and designed to help you relax a little…
They will check your details like name, address & phonenumber, plus the details of anyone you are with. Even if the interview is over the phone you might have someone with you and they will also have to give their details. It will help your case if someone is indeed there to help you communicate and even better of course if they have to answer the questions for you.
BPD Example: Even with mild BPD symptoms you might want to have someone with you during the interview as you might be feeling too depressed, stressed or anxious about the interview and give only short answers to the questions (see tip 4). Having someone next to you will help you feel relaxed, even if it just a close friend.
Now your details have been confirmed the interview will move quickly onto your symptoms. The easiest way to answer this question is with ‘Tip 1’ and simply read from your filled in PIP form. But do try and give them as much information as you can about every single symptom. Do you suffer from anxiety? Then tell them how much and why it affects your daily life. Also, remember to tell them of things you suffer with rarely even if it only happened once. Is one of the side effects of the medication you are on blackouts or feeling constantly tired? Tell them about that as well. Sometimes it’s easy to forget all the things you suffer from day in, day out, but it really is the key to getting your claim approved.
BPD Example: As with the PIP form don’t simply answer I have BPD as the “medical professional” doesn’t know what BPD is. Explain you have borderline personality disorder which means you suffer from things like Severe Depression, Explosive Anger, Severe Anxiety, Self-Harming, Extreme Emotional Mood Swings and even Psychosis on a daily basis.
The next question can be triggering for some. “Have you ever tried to harm yourself or commit suicide?” With BPD we can often experience both of those things, but something you might not think about at the time is how often you do so. With BPD it is common to think about committing suicide on a daily bases and you might not think of that in the interview. Any moment of self-harm should also be noted here and that includes: hurting yourself in any way(cutting, punching, burning), taking too many tablets, overeating, undereating, misusing alcohol or drugs and even excessively exercising. All those things are classed as self-harming and should be noted.
The next question is always about the treatment you are having and would like to have in the future. Would you like to have CBT or attend a TCs, but it is not available in your area? Then tell them, or if you are on any waiting list of any kind, especially with regards to charities like MIND. Are you with CAMHS, but they hardly talk to you? Tell them that as well, even if you have not heard from them in a while (which is often the case here in the UK).
The next question is “Are you on any form of medication?”. Again, you shouldn’t simply tell them you are on “medication X” and leave it there. You need to tell them what it is, what the side effects are and how that medication does and might affect your daily life. Are you on Fluoxetine? Then say “Yes, I take Fluoxetine and the side effects of using that are increased nervousness, severe anxiety, difficulty sleeping, nausea, diarrhoea, uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body, loss of appetite, excessive sweating and headaches (and those are just the common ones!) *an extra tip here is to write down the medication you are currently on and note down its side-effects before the interview takes place. But it should also have been something you added to your form.
We are just a few questions in and you might be starting to notice something, or getting that feeling of Déjà vu. Yes, all the questions being asked to you in this interview are the same as on the PIP form. Why? Because you only have this face-to-face interview so the DWP and get more information from you. Your PIP interview is not a medical assessment, it is simply an interview to gain more information. Sure, some of that information might be observational (when doing face-to-face meetings), but 99% of it will be your own words. Not those of your doctor, nor those of the so-called medical professional. Just yours or the person doing the answering for you.
The next question is often “Is it just your GP you are currently seeing?” If that is the case, do tell them ‘YES’, but explain why they are the only person you are seeing. Maybe you have emailed Mind, but they have not got back to you yet, maybe you are still under the care of CAMHS, but have not heard from them for a long time. Or maybe you have emailed a few therapists and waiting to hear back from them. Remember: The more information they get, the better your chances for approval.
Again, listen carefully to the next question “Do you live in a bungalow, flat or house?” If you live in a house there will be stairs. But maybe you sleep downstairs currently and there is a toilet downstairs as the medication you are on again causes blackouts which is a risk when going upstairs. If that is the case, tell them that. Answering “house” if you are only able to use a single floor of it will not help your case.
The next line of questions will relate to children and other members of the household. Do those other people depend on you, do they live and work around you because your condition effects them as well? This is especially true with BPD as your mood swings and emotional instability can make their lives difficult as well. If it does this is your chance to tell them.
The next question shocks some people. “Are you able to work or are you currently working?” Yes, you can indeed claim PIP and still be working. Many people don’t know that, but it is something you can do. Again, simply answering ‘NO’ here is not a good idea. You need to tell them why not, especially with regards to the mood stabilizers and anti-depressants many of us with BPD are on. Some of the side-effects actually tell you NOT to use machinery or drive while taking them which seriously affects your personal ability to work and indeed look for work.
The next line of questioning is always about your hobbies. They will ask “Do you do anything with your spare time?” Once again, simply answering “nothing” is not the way to go. If you do indeed do nothing, tell them why. Maybe the medication you are on affects the things you can do, maybe your anxiety is so high at the moment you can’t go out with friends even if you wanted to. One word answers are never the right answers when it comes to this assessment.
BPD Example: When it comes to common BPD symptoms even the simple act of watching TV, or using social media can be triggering to the point that it leads to even deeper levels of depression and can indeed get to the point that you have suicidal thoughts because of it! Even if this only happens some of the time it is worth telling the person doing the assessment.
The good news now is that all of the following questions come directly from the PIP form pages numbers: 12, 13, 16, 17, 18, 19, 22, 23, 26 & 27. Things like bathing, using the toilet, reading signs. You need to make sure the answers you give during your assessment are the same as your form or even deeper in information (Once again, hence the usefulness of the photocopied PIP form). Do make sure you listen carefully to each question and take note of any “chit-chat” question they might ask you. If your assessment person asks something like “Do you like those Findas microwave meals?” and you answer with “yeah,I do” in short it means you can use a microwave to cook a meal and prepare that said meal for yourself. Again try and tell them EXACTLY what you said in the sheet at the very least, then if you can add more information the better.
The only other question you need to be aware of here is when you have a face-to-face meeting and they ask you “How did you attend the meeting today?” Sadly you have probably already answered that question for them by simply walking through the door as they hold the interviews in a building with no parking and at least 200 meters away from the nearest car park. Also, telling them “I came on the bus” is almost certainly a sign that you can use public transport with no social anxiety. Oh!, before anyone asks: NO! They are not watching you from the window as you walk away from the building the meeting is in and they don’t watch you walking in either, that is a complete myth.
And that should be pretty much the end of the interview! See, it really wasn’t all that bad and way simpler if you absorbed all the information on this page. These interviews are indeed stressful as your future financial comfort could well rely on you getting it approved. But consider this: All you really need to do is tell the truth and give the DWP all the information you can so that they can make a decision. I wish you all the best of luck and if you feel you need more advice that isn’t mentioned here to get in touch with us via the contact page.