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‘My PIP application was rejected because I could get into a taxi’

A woman who was diagnosed with a life changing condition claims she was rejected for personal independent payment (PIP) because she told assessors she was able to get into a taxi.

Gitanjali Gordon, 52, who lives in Blackpool, told i she applied for the benefit after she was diagnosed with achalasia, a rare incurable disorder of the food pipe within the oesophagus, which made it difficult for her to swallow food and drink.

She says the diagnosis came about after she began suffering from intense pain and suffered seizure-like symptoms. Ms Gordon then underwent a brain scan where a specialist told her that her nervous system was so badly damaged, that it was as “if she had been in a car crash.”

“It was difficult to even swallow water and I was told my nervous system was affecting the muscles which were controlling my organs. I was in a lot of pain and would get symptoms that were like a waking seizure,” she said.

Across her 15-year career in healthcare, she has worked in voluntary roles for more than 15 years and worked as a nurse in operating theatres in Calcutta, India, before she came over to the UK to live in Blackpool in 2002.

She says she worked throughout the pandemic as an apprentice associate nurse in London, but told i felt she had no choice but to leave after becoming ill with Covid and then suffering the seizure symptoms which led to her diagnosis.

Gitanjali Gordon, 52, claims she was rejected for personal independent payment (PIP) because she told assessors she was able to get into a taxi
Gitanjali Gordon when she was working as an apprentice associate nurse

Ms Gordon says she was even forced to rely on a food bank when she didn’t receive her salary while ill and at first, relied on Universal Credit, but was then advised she should apply for PIP after she left her nursing job in May 2022.

“When I had my PIP assessment, I was telling them that getting buses was a challenge because I would suddenly freeze and get symptoms like I was having a waking seizure,” she said. “This became more and more frequent.

“I told them I was too scared to go out anywhere and was practically housebound. They kept asking more and more questions and asked me what I would do if I had to go somewhere and I told them that if I needed to, I would use a taxi.

“I was then told my PIP had been rejected because I could get into a taxi so I wasn’t too ill.”

Ms Gordon says she supplied additional medical information in support of her PIP application, but the decision remained the same.

She says her condition still affects her and she relies on strong painkillers.

“We need real people in Westminster who know what it is like to be disadvantaged,” she said. “I realised that people need to be in politics to try and change things at the source.

“I needed PIP as I was too ill to work and was struggling. But I was denied PIP and have never had it.

“My view on PIP is that it is very necessary as it is like a safety net for people who are in a situation where they have no alternative but to jump from a building when the roof is on fire. If there is no safety net, it could be fatal.

“PIP and any support of this kind is so necessary when people are going through difficult times or are diagnosed with a serious condition as they need a safety net.

“People should not be treated like they are scroungers and deserve dignity and respect.”

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) told i that the customer applied for PIP in August 2022 and it was subsequently disallowed because they did not qualify. They stated use of public transport is not taken into consideration for PIP and the award decision was based on assessment alone.

The department said a mandatory reconsideration was registered in January 2023 and completed in February 2023 and the decision was not revised. It added the customer has not appealed this decision.

Further medical evidence was considered at mandatory reconsideration. however the decision was upheld.

The DWP added that PIP is awarded based on how conditions affect the claimant and is meant to cover the additional living costs incurred as a result of the health condition.

It says that anyone who disagrees with the decision of a mandatory reconsideration can appeal at an independent tribunal.

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