There’s some good news for anyone who’s lost out after being transferred from Disability Living Allowance to the government’s new Personal Independence Payment: following a High Court ruling, every single one of the 1.6 million PIP claims that’s so far been made has to be reconsidered.
Why is this happening?
PIP breaks down its benefit into 2 elements: mobility and daily living, both of which are paid at either a standard or higher enhanced rate. To be eligible for the Motability car leasing scheme, you have to receive the enhanced rate. As Richard Lowes investigated recently, many people who had received Motability cars under the old Disability Living Allowance were losing them when they were moved over to PIP.
Under the rules of PIP, you were eligible to the enhanced rate of the mobility element if you were unable to take a familiar journey on your own, unless that was due to psychological distress. Those claiming PIP due to mental health problems were being discriminated against; finding it too hard to follow a familiar journey because of your anxiety, depression or any other mental health issue was not seen as enough of a disability to entitle you to the benefit. This was a change from the rules of the old Disability Living Allowance that is currently being phased out.
Back in November 2016, a tribunal criticised this decision but was overruled by the government. However, in December 2017, the High Court ruled against the government, stating that these rules “blatantly discriminate” against those with mental health problems and were in breach of their human rights. The government has said this week that they won’t appeal against the High Court’s decision.
What does it mean for PIP claimants?
Every single PIP award is now going to be reviewed to see how this judgement affects it. Due to the nature of the ruling, the people most likely to benefit will likely both:
a) Not be receiving the higher rate of Mobility PIP;
b) Be unable to follow a familiar journey due to psychological distress.
If the reconsideration of your award shows that you were wrongly denied the enhanced Mobility element because your mental health problems weren’t properly assessed, then you should be awarded PIP backdated to the tribunal decision on 28 November 2016. Around 220,000 people are expected to be affected. This could mean thousands of pounds will be paid to claimants wrongly denied the benefit.
This is a big win for the many campaigners who believe that PIP is fundamentally flawed and it’s great news for many disabled people.
What do I need to do?
The Department of Work and Pensions will go through every one of the 1.6 million PIP claims that have been made so far to see who’s been denied the benefit they rightly deserve. The DWP has announced that they’ll prioritise those who’ve wrongly been disallowed PIP completely over claimants who are receiving smaller amounts than they deserve, but they will get to everyone eventually. The government estimates that the cost of these missed payments will hit £3.7bn by 2023. There’s no word yet on how much it’ll cost to review all 1.6 million claims, although we know that the government wasted £181,000 on legal fees fighting this judgement before they gave up.
One important thing to note is that the government has promised that no-one will have to undergo a new face to face assessment. These assessments are often distressing, always stressful and universally dreaded by anyone who has to go through them. Instead, case managers will review the claims, contacting the claimant or their GP if they require further information.
Is there any downside?
There doesn’t appear to be. It seems like this can only be a good thing, where people who’ve been wrongly denied the help they deserve will finally get restitution.
There’s no suggestion that any of the claims to be reviewed will be reduced, but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a tiny corner of my brain that remembers that reviewed claims can be adjusted down as well as up. There’s also no indication yet of how long this review process is likely to take, so we don’t yet know when people will start receiving their payments; it could easily be years.
And whilst campaigners are delighted with this victory, many feel it is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the numerous problems with PIP. Mark Atkinson, chief executive of disability Scope, said: “It’s vital that the fundamentally flawed PIP assessment is radically overhauled so it accurately identifies the extra costs disabled people face.”
Who can claim PIP?
You must be aged from 16 to 64 and have a long-term health condition or disability that causes difficulties with daily living or moving around. Daily living activities are defined as things like preparing or eating food, washing, bathing and using the toilet, dressing and undressing, reading and communicating. The mobility part of PIP provides financial help to assist with going out or moving around. If you receive the enhanced rate of mobility PIP, you should be eligible to lease a car under the Motability scheme.
How do I claim PIP?
To claim PIP you first need to contact the Department of Work and Pensions on 0800 917 2222 by telephone or 0800 917 7777 if you use textphone.
You’ll then be sent a detailed form to fill out, explaining how your disability affects your daily life and mobility. After you return the form, you’ll be invited to a meeting with a health professional who’ll assess the level of help you need. This meeting can be stressful, but there’s lots of advice available on how best to prepare for it.
Finally, you’ll receive a letter from the DWP advising what benefit you’ll receive. The rates (Jan 2018) are as follows:
Daily living is either ‘standard’ (£55.65) or ‘enhanced’ (£83.10);
Mobility is either ‘standard’ (£22) or ‘enhanced’ (£58).
It’s also worth exploring whether you or your carer might be eligible for any other financial support.
What should I do if I think my PIP award is wrong for any other reason?
If you don’t agree with the PIP decision, then you can challenge it. You have to do this within 1 month of the decision. You need to explain why you disagree with the decision and ask for a reconsideration. It’s best to use specific examples of why you disagree. The Citizens Advice Bureau provides great advice on how best to appeal against a decision you believe is unfair.
It’s very important to be aware though that a new decision can adjust your benefits down as well as up, and a decision on your PIP can have a knock-on effect on other benefits like Employment and Support Allowance.
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