Note: this page is regularly updated in line with developments. Last updated Feb 2020.
Background to Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
PIP was brought in under the Welfare Reform Act 2012. The purpose was to cut Disability Living Allowance (DLA) spending by 20%. For this reason, the then Chancellor George Osborne was booed at the 2012 Paralympics. With PIP, they abolished low rate care component which a lot of people with moderate disabilities relied on, and made the benefit test harsher.
The DWP doesn’t automatically transfer people from DLA, but makes people apply as a new PIP claim. According to DWP statistics, so far nearly half of DLA to PIP claimants have their benefit stopped or reduced.
PIP assessment is privatised, carried out by the for-profit companies Atos and Capita. The assessments are often done by physiotherapists, ambulancemen and other “health professionals” working to targets. The assessor companies are discredited and have been heavily criticised by disabled claimants, welfare organisations and MPs on the Work and Pensions Select Committee. See here A woman wrote on our blog: “The nurse who did my assessment finished her job the day I had my assessment because she said they twist and lie about everything she reports.”
What is PIP — Personal Independence Payment
PIP replaces DLA (Daily Living Allowance) for people between the ages of 16 and 64. PIP has no low care rate, but in many other ways it is like DLA. It has two components.
|Component||Weekly rate (up to March 2020)|
|Daily living – standard rate||£58.70|
|Daily living – enhanced rate||£87.65|
|Mobility – standard rate||£23.20|
|Mobility – enhanced rate||£61.20|
You can get PIP regardless of earnings, other income, savings or owning your own home. You can get PIP whether you are in or out of waged work. PIP is almost always paid on top of any other benefits or tax credits that you get. When you get PIP, severe disability premiums can be added to your ESA and other income-based benefits if you live by yourself.
Starting a new PIP claim (if you were not on DLA before)
To start your PIP claim, call: 0800 917 2222 (voice), textphone 0800 917 7777.
Be ready for questions in the phone call. If you want to do your claim in writing, not over the phone, ask for form PIP1 once you have started the phone call. (See example PIP1 form). If you have access needs, for example, you are visually impaired and want to use email, you are supposed to ask for this from the beginning. If possible, have a friend or other supporter with you so that you feel more confident to say what you want.
The questions you will be asked in this phone call are:
- your full name and date of birth
- your address and telephone number
- your National Insurance number
- your bank or building society account details
- your GP and other health professional’s details
- details of any recent stays in hospitals, care home or hospices
- details of any time you’ve spent out of the country
- nationality or immigration status
- if you are terminally ill you will need to discuss your health condition during this initial claim
During the call, they say things like there is no guarantee you will get benefit, but try not to let this get you down.
After registering your claim by phone or form PIP1, you will be sent form PIP2 asking about your daily living and mobility needs.
Filling in the PIP2 form
You need to prepare carefully according to the PIP rules. We suggest looking at the overall points system, and then more in detail about activities, such as preparing food. You can click on the activities and see how they are scored on the pipinfo welfare rights website.
You need to provide evidence for your daily living and your mobility needs. In other words, not just your illness or disability diagnosis, but how it affects you. Depending on your health condition/s, it’s worth checking what the organisation for that condition, has on its website about how to answer the PIP questions — many do.
At the end of the PIP2 form, you can start asking for exemption from the face-to-face exam, where it talks about coming to a face-to-face consultation. In that answer, you can explain why the face-to-face interview is too stressful for you, including a home visit which is also face-to-face. You can give any health reason, for example, risk of stroke due to stress, mental distress. You will need to attach supporting medical evidence such as from your GP. Try to make sure that the support letter clearly requests a paper-based assessment, not a home visit. Write “see letter from” (put the doctor’s name and date of letter) on that page of the form.
If the doctor or medical practitioner’s letter does not specifically say you should be exempted, they may not be aware this is possible. You can show them our leaflet.
The DWP guidance for PIP assessors, including on paper-based assessment, is paragraph 1.55 of this:
On the PIP2 form, you need to clearly state your mobility needs and include medical evidence. They often use that excuse of needing to judge your mobility level to say why you have to be seen. Here is some more info on the rules about planning and following journeys, for example, if you have agoraphobia: http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/pip-and-psychological-distress
If you are terminally ill they should fast-track your claim, see: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/sick-or-disabled-people-and-carers/pip/help-with-your-claim/how-to-claim-if-terminally-ill/
Being moved from DLA to PIP
Adults over 65. DLA continues for pensioners who were aged 65 before 8 April 2013. Some disabled people who reached age 65 recently, have not been told to change to PIP, and their DLA payments are continuing.
Children under 16. DLA doesn’t change for young children. See our page about DLA here.
Children coming up to 16 are moved over from DLA to PIP at age 16. See how to win paper-based assessment for teenagers here.
Note: The Scottish Government has announced that teenagers on DLA can stay on until age 18. This is one of the benefit improvements they have made under their devolved powers. See here
Adults. If you are on DLA, you get a letter from the DWP PIP team saying that your DLA is ending and if you wish, you can make a new claim for PIP. You are not guaranteed to receive PIP at the same rate as your previous DLA. So you need to prepare carefully according to the PIP points system. We suggest looking at the overall points system, and then more in detail about activities and how they are scored on the pipinfo welfare rights website. Depending on what your health condition/s is or are, it’s worth checking what advice the organisation or charity for that condition, has on its website about how to answer the PIP questions — many do.
Information for carers
If you are caring at least 35 hours a week for a sick, disabled or older person who gets either Attendance Allowance, DLA or PIP, check what benefits or other help (such as Council Tax exemption) you can get. Carer benefits are complicated and are reliant on the disabled person continuing to get their benefit, so get advice from Carers UK or your local carers’ centre. A single mother of a disabled daughter is challenging loss of benefit from being made to claim Universal Credit. Her Income Support was wrongly ended when her daughter’s DLA claim was temporarily stopped while being renewed.
Problems and pitfalls
The whole PIP test is discredited as it is an unfair and inaccurate way of assessing people’s needs. Issues that have been challenged include:
Being wrongly denied points. You should only be counted as able to do an activity, if you can do it reliably. Reliably: To be assessed as able to carry out an activity to the level described in a descriptor, a claimant must satisfy the descriptor “reliably”, that is: safely, to an acceptable standard, repeatedly and in reasonable time. https://pipinfo.net/issues/reliably
- We supported a successful legal challenge in 2017 by a woman with mental distress, to a government rule change which barred people with psychological distress from getting enhanced mobility component. See our blog post and more about the legal case. If you were denied enhanced mobility because of this rule, see advice from CPAG here.
- The MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Society is challenging the rule that if you can walk more than 20 metres, you do not get the high rate mobility component.
We also suggest to check the PIPinfo website which has information on activities, conditions and the issues which people have challenged at tribunal.
PIP assessment from paper evidence, exemption from interview
For more information about how to get exemption from the face-to-face exam, see here.
See Pamela‘s story on exemption for people with M.E.
You can ask Atos or Capita for a paper-based assessment as a “reasonable adjustment” for you under the Equality Act. The Equality Advisory Support Service has a template letter for this: https://www.equalityadvisoryservice.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/336
Getting medical evidence for exemption
We have produced a leaflet you can give your GP, psychiatrist, nurse, CPN, etc., on the rules they can quote in their support letters to be exempted from a face-to-face interview, see here.
Challenging the assessment before the DWP decision
Paper-based assessment often means that the assessor from Atos or Capita will ring your GP or others listed on your PIP2 form, to get their opinion. They may also send out a form for your doctor to fill in. If you know when your GP was contacted, Pamela told us that after the paper-based assessment has been done by Atos or Capita, there is a small window of time when you can request to see their report and can challenge the points or length of award:
“Once I knew the assessment had been done, I requested a copy of the report. The assessor had given me 21 points for care and 24 for mobility — but had recommended that my claim be reviewed in 3 years — with the justification that ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not incurable — which is incorrect.
“Having been ill for 27 years I then wrote to the DWP to challenge this before I got the decision letter setting out my benefit award. I addressed the letter to the Decision Maker and sent it to the PIP office dealing with my claim. I pointed to what my doctors had said about prognosis (what is likely to happen in future) and also sent the DWP information about the prognosis of ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I referred to the ME Association meeting, and also sent a copy of the section on prognosis from the Report to the Chief Medical Officer on CFS/ME 2002 which states that recovery after five years is rare.
“I had the decision in January and have been given an award of enhanced care and mobility for an ongoing period with review in 10 years which is obviously good news and a huge relief — the decision makers went with all the points the assessor had awarded.”
Challenging a PIP decision
First stage — mandatory reconsideration (MR)
You can challenge refusal of PIP or if your award is too low within one month of the decision. Go through the decision which the DWP has sent you. Check what the assessor has written or left out, and what is inaccurate. Make a list and say where you have evidence which shows that the DWP decision is wrong. See info from Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).
When the MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee asked for evidence about what was happening with ESA and PIP tests, PCS union (which includes DWP staff) said that DWP staff had been given a government target of 80% refusals of mandatory reconsiderations. The government had to issue a statement that they were dropping that target.
Second stage — appeal tribunal
If MR is refused the next stage is appeal tribunal. It won’t cost you anything to appeal. Appeal is not decided by the DWP, it is decided by the tribunal, which is independent and part of the court system under the Ministry of Justice.
We suggest looking at the advicenow guide (page 9 onwards) ‘How to win a PIP appeal’. Don’t give up as most people who get to appeal win:
Unsuccessful at first-tier tribunal?
If you lose your appeal at first-tier tribunal, there may be a legal issue which you can press, to take your case to the Upper Tribunal. The Upper Tribunal recently ruled about a case where a disabled person was wrongly refused PIP for “failure to attend” a face-to-face interview, when he had an epileptic seizure on the day of the interview and was taken to hospital. The first thing you can do is ask the first-tier tribunal for a statement of reasons for their decision (ask the clerk who deals with admin). Ask a law centre or welfare rights service about going to Upper Tribunal.
Ways to get attention on problems
We find the delays and bureaucracy unbearable in the appeals system. Remember that you can write to the DWP PIP team at any time raising problems with how your claim is being dealt with and enclosing medical evidence to prove what you are saying. As soon as problems start, we suggest going to your MP to ask them to back up your request for your situation to be looked at by the DWP (Find your MP). MP caseworkers regardless of political party are supposed to help all constituents. They have special contacts in the DWP dealing with cases.
If your MP caseworker has accepted a DWP reply that is unsatisfactory, you may want to tell them and ask them to pursue it further, as the government should be held accountable for the protections they announce, but which are not carried out.
You may not need to wait for the tribunal if you have substantial medical evidence for your appeal and send this in to the DWP. The DWP does sometimes accept your entitlement to benefit based on this. Look on your PIP letter which PIP team you should write to.
You may have a sympathetic medical professional who is ready to advocate for you such as your NHS mental health nurse from a psychological support service, or support worker. You can also ask your MP to take it up with the DWP, for example, if the lack of full benefit is affecting your health or situation.
Complaints about the PIP assessor
As well as going through the benefits system to complain, for example writing to the assessor company, you can also complain to the professional body where your assessor is registered about their unprofessional behaviour.
- Nurses. If your assessor was a nurse you can complain about them to the Nursing and Midwifery Council
- Occupational Therapist or paramedic or physiotherapists — Health and Care Professions Council
- Doctors — General Medical Council
You can write to the DWP at any time if your needs increase and you need more benefit. Your evidence will need to relate to the points scores and be verified by medical evidence from your GP, consultant, or other professionals.
Disabled mums and PIP
DLA included provision to get the care component if disabled mothers needed support from another person with supervising children, carrying laundry to wash children’s clothes, and so on. PIP is much narrower, focussed on what you can do for yourself, and doesn’t take your caring responsibilities into account. The general advice if you are pregnant or have a new baby, is to apply for your additional daily living and mobility needs to be met if you are not already receiving the maximum benefit. But bear in mind that having a baby or looking after a child may be looked at as an ability, you will need to evidence your additional needs in the same way as for your claim generally.
News about PIP
For more info on how legal challenges are changing the PIP rules, see our blog posts, or search “PIP legal challenge” online.
We hope this is helpful. Feedback and suggestions to improve our self-help info are always welcome.