The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has announced significant changes to its guidance for health professionals carrying out Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessments across the UK.
The updated guidelines published on GOV.UK include details on improved guidance for assessors on the significance of whether or not a claimant with a mental health condition is receiving medication. Assessors may incorrectly interpret the fact that a claimant with, for example depression, is not receiving any medication as evidence that their condition has very little effect on their daily living or mobility needs.
However, the updated guidance now points out that the severity of a mental health condition “does not necessarily correspond with the type or dosage of medication that the claimant is receiving”.
The guidance highlights that factors such as side effects, problems complying with a medication regimen or the medication not being effective for that individual may all result in someone with a severe condition not receiving medication.
It goes on to say that assessors should take into account the use of treatments such as psychological therapies instead of medication.
The change could mean that more people living with a ‘hidden condition’ such as stress, anxiety or depression, may now be eligible for PIP.
Whether that’s something recently diagnosed during 18 months of lockdown, or an underlying condition now coming to light, it’s important that everyone understands there is financial support available and now may be the best time to think about claiming PIP, a benefit many people have heard of. , but are not really sure who it can help or how to apply.
Claiming PIP for a mental health condition
The latest figures from the DWP show that on October 31, 2021 there were 2.8 million people across the UK claiming support through PIP for a number of conditions, with just over one in three claimants (35%) receiving the highest level of award.
The list of conditions the term ‘mental health’ covers is long and includes:
You may be eligible for PIP, and should consider making a claim to the DWP, if you have daily living needs because of a mental health condition.
You should also consider applying for PIP if you have difficulty moving around independently and unaided outside your home.
You could receive between £23.70 and £152.15 each week in support if you are aged 16 or over and have not yet reached State Pension age.
PIP is paid every four weeks, so that amounts to between £94.80 and £608.60 and could provide essential support that was considered otherwise unattainable.
Find out if you can claim PIP as a result of an ongoing mental health condition by looking at the criteria set out by the DWP below.
Who is eligible for PIP?
You don’t need to have worked or paid National Insurance contributions to qualify for PIP, and it doesn’t matter what your income is, if you have any savings or if you’re in or out of work – or on furlough.
You must also have a health condition or disability where you:
The DWP will evaluate the eligibility of your PIP claim over a period of 12 months, looking back for three months and forward for nine months – they must consider if your illness changes over time.
You usually need to have lived in the UK for at least two of the last three years and be in the country when you apply.
If you get or need help with any of the following because of your condition, you should consider applying for PIP:
preparing, cooking or eating food
managing your medication
washing, bathing or using the toilet
dressing and undressing
engaging and communicating with other people
reading and understanding written information
making decisions about money
planning a journey or following a route
moving around outside the house
What is classified as ‘help’ for a PIP claim
You are classified as needing help to do an activity if you need a person or a device to:
You may also be classified as needing help if you do an activity yourself but:
PIP test scoring criteria
The PIP scoring criteria awards points for a statement which applies to you for each activity
The DWP will decide which statement best fits your situation most of the time. You will get a set amount of points ranging from 0 -12 points for each activity.
The total number of points you get for each group of activities will decide whether you are entitled to PIP, and how much money you will receive.
To get the standard rate daily living component, you need to score 8 to 11 points in total for the daily living activities. You need 12 points to get the enhanced rate.
To get the standard rate mobility component, you need to score 8 to 11 points in total for the mobility activities. You need 12 points to get the enhanced rate.
How is PIP paid?
PIP is usually paid every four weeks unless you are terminally ill, in which case it is paid every week.
PIP will be paid directly into your bank, building society or credit union account.
PIP payment rates until April 2022
PIP is made up of two components – daily living and mobility.
Whether you get one or both of these and how much depends on how severely your condition affects you.
You can get the following amounts per week depending on your circumstances:
Standard rate: £60.00
Enhanced rate: £89.60
Standard rate: £23.70
Enhanced rate: £62.55
How are you assessed?
You will be assessed by an independent healthcare professional to help the DWP work out the level of help you need.
Face-to-face assessments have now restarted, however, you could also be invited to attend a telephone or video call consultation.
How do you make a claim for PIP?
You can make a new claim by contacting the DWP, you’ll find all the information you need to apply on the gov.uk website here.
Before you call, you will need:
your contact details, for example telephone number
your date of birth
your National Insurance number – this is on letters about tax, pensions and benefits
your bank or building society account number and sort code
your doctor or health worker’s name, address and telephone number
dates and addresses for any time you’ve spent abroad, in a care home or hospital
Once you have contacted the DWP, they will send you a document to complete which consists of 14 questions and a section for any additional information.
The questions focus on how your condition affects you – put as much relevant detail in as you can to help the assessor understand your physical and mental health needs.
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If you have difficulty filling in your form or understanding the questions, contact your local council and ask for help or Citizens Advice Scotland.
We have a breakdown of all 14 questions here and you can take an anonymous self-test online at Benefits and Work to see how many points you would be awarded for each response.
For more information about PIP, visit gov.uk here.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.