Can I get a mobility car on standard rate PIP assessment?
We are talking here about getting a car using the Motability scheme, while having an award of the standard rate of the mobility component of personal independence payment (PIP). You probably know that Motability is a charity, not part of the Government or the DWP. The scheme allows for a qualifying award of PIP to be paid directly to Motability, and you may have to make additional payments to top up the personal independence payment (PIP) award, depending on the chosen vehicle.
The straight answer to the question in the title of this article, is no, you would need an award of the enhanced rate of PIP mobility, and to have at least 12 months of that award left.
In our experience, it is more difficult to get the right award for mobility than it is for a client to get the right award for the daily living component of PIP. This means that it is quite likely that you are on the wrong rate of mobility, or that you were wrongly refused an award at all; Why is it more difficult to get what you are entitled to?
- The daily living component is made up of 10 activities, so you have 10 potential sources of points. Statistically, there is more room for the DWP to get your assessment wrong but still get enough right for you to reach the 12 points needed for an award of the daily living component. Contrast this with the 2 activities that make up the mobility component – two chances to score points towards the 12 needed for enhanced rate and access to the Motability scheme.
- Essentially, the first of those two mobility activities concerns mental health or cognitive/thinking issues. Someone with uncontrolled epilepsy is likely to be correctly assessed for mobility and they get 12 points. A person with visual problems is also more likely to be assessed correctly. We find that it is the mental health and thinking limitations that are more likely to be scored too low or to be completely misunderstood. See below for more detail.
- The second mobility activity looks at your physical ability to walk. There are various reasons for this assessment often going wrong. For most people, the 12 points would be awarded if walking ability is no more than 20 metres. But the assessment should be about more than just a one-off walk of 20 metres, and do you know what 20 metres looks like anyway?
For the reasons listed above, your award of standard rate mobility could well be wrong, so to get access to the Motability scheme, you are going to have to fix your award first. See below for how to do this and why it is not nearly as risky as you may be thinking.
Looking at the two mobility activities
Planning and following journeys
It is worth remembering that with PIP, you can add together the score for both parts of mobility, so physical and mental health difficulties. The Government did not intend that people should score 10 or 12 points due to the effects of anxiety. The ruling to that effect was made in an Upper Tribunal in the case of MH and the Government responded to that ruling by trying to change the law. That new legislation was struck down as being discriminatory so that the ruling in MH again became the law.
There are different ways in which the assessor and decision maker can get the wrong assessment of how a person is affected by anxiety..
- They regularly award 4 points for descriptor (b) “Needs prompting to be able to undertake any journey to avoid overwhelming psychological distress to the claimant.”
This descriptor would be the right choice if ‘all’ the claimant needed was to be prompted to get through the door to leave home, and they could then go on their way independently. We do not see many people where that is the case. We see many more people who then go on to need someone with them to allow them to follow the route of a journey without being overwhelmed. If that had been accepted by the DWP, that would have scored 10 or 12 points, depending on whether there was a difference between their ability to manage alone on familiar or unfamiliar routes (see below).
- The three Upper Tribunal judges who decided the case of MH said that the threshold for scoring points due to anxiety is “a very high one”. You often see that quoted by the Department in appeal bundles, but we see many cases where they have misunderstood how the claimant is affected, or they wrongly assess whether the client would experience ‘overwhelming psychological distress’ if they were not accompanied. The case of MH gives helpful examples of the level of difficulty that falls short of qualifying, but we see many examples of where the assessor and decision maker set the bar much too high and deny people the points that they should have.
- Of course, getting 10 points for descriptor (d) “Cannot follow the route of an unfamiliar journey without another person”, is very helpful, but those 10 points will not give an award of enhanced rate mobility, without also adding points due to physical difficulties. We see cases where there are a few familiar places that the client can get to on their own, perhaps to the local shop and to the GP surgery. The DWP are quite capable of latching onto that ability and using it as a reason to award 10 points for a need to be accompanied on the route of an unfamiliar journey, but crucially, denying them the 12 points that would have been awarded if it had been accepted that they were restricted in the same way for most familiar journeys. A different Upper Tribunal decision makes it clear that being able to get to a limited number of familiar places does not prevent a claimant from scoring 12 points for descriptor (f) that relates to the route of familiar journeys.
- Turning to the physical side of walking, let us look at what difficulties should be taken into account. Your claim is at least straightforward if you cannot walk 20 metres, which is the length of two full-size buses parked nose to tail. However, life can be more complicated than that. The law states that other limitations are also relevant. Someone who can manage that distance but only while experiencing bad pain should be considered unable to walk the 20 metres, because they are not walking “to an acceptable standard”. If you can achieve the 20 metres but it takes very much longer than the next person, more than twice as long and should be considered unable to manage the 20 metres, because they cannot achieve the distance “within a reasonable time period”. The client who can manage the 20 metres but who could not do so again without recovering for an extended period should be considered unable to achieve the distance, because they cannot do so “repeatedly” (defined as, “as often as reasonably required”). The issue with PIP is always what the claimant can do on the majority of days, at least 50% of the time, as the law puts it. So, if, overall, you have more of the bad than better days, it is not your best day performance that is relevant. In practice, the DWP might apply the 50% rule correctly but we have never seen assessors or decision makers correctly apply any of these other rules correctly. “But if that’s what the law says ..” We know but that is how it is in practice. There is a reasonable chance that a tribunal will apply the law correctly but not the assessor or the DWP.
Your options for how to get the right mobility award
You probably have an existing award but if not, then get help with your new claim. Claiming with experienced and professional help will undoubtedly increase your chances of getting the right outcome first time, hopefully avoiding the need to challenge a decision. With all due respect, how would you know if the Department has made the right decision unless you have help? You are the expert on how you are affected but any faith in the DWP’s ability to ask all the right questions and apply the law correctly to those facts is in our opinion misplaced. Certainly, there are good assessors and decision makers out there, but we see evidence of poor work too often to have complete faith in the consistency of the system.
Could I lose what I have now if I ask for more?
Clients regularly tell us that they are worried about challenging a decision or reporting a change in their circumstances, for fear of losing the award they have now. Indeed, it is not uncommon for this to be put to clients as a possible outcome by the PIP agent that they speak to on the phone. If you ask for a reconsideration or report a change, they do have the power to leave things as they are, to add points or to take away some or all existing points. Almost without exception, they will only take points away if the evidence points that way, and any professional worth his or her salt is not going to let that happen. We have decades of experience and we can only recall one case where the client lost points, which was fixed on appeal. So, coming away worse off should not be a concern, provided that you get experienced and professional help.
Report a change of circumstances or wait for the renewal?
With that possibility out of the way, should you let your award run its course or should you report a change of circumstances? Two comments here; firstly, the guidance that came with your decision tells you to inform them of a (relevant) change to your circumstances, so they expect you to tell them, rather than wait. Secondly, if you are right in saying that your needs have changed, then you would be giving away money that should be yours if you wait for the Department to invite you to renew your claim. It could also look a little odd if you wait to tell them that things have worsened for you on a renewal claim, perhaps a little convenient. In their place, I might ask myself why, if needs have increased, they did not tell us sooner, why the claimant has waited until the renewal.
How do I know if the award I have is right or wrong?
The only way for us to know whether your award is right, and how strong a claim you have to a higher award, is for us to take you through the PIP test, asking all the questions that we would ask for the claim or reconsideration, exploring your answers with you so that we fully understand your needs and can properly advise you on how easy it would be to get what you are entitled to. Advising you on the points you ought to score is only part of it; we apply our experience to the information we gather, because you need to know the real-world chances of success. Some types of need are more likely to be accepted by the DWP than others, and it is the same with tribunals where we are talking about an appeal. We make a charge for that service, and that charge is then deducted in full from the fee for the piece of work if you go ahead with the mandatory reconsideration or change of circumstances claim.
And there you have it, how to get from where you are to where you should be, which could be the Motability car that you need.