PIP appeal hearing date arrives before the PIP appeal papers
I wondered what I had let myself in for. Lee had been awarded zero points and lived alone, so must be managing in some form. He offered to set up a standing order towards the cost of his PIP appeal, but it was hard to see how he would manage this. Lee suffers with a combination of anxiety, depression, psychosis, PTSD and back pain. He had been first on the scene of a horrific road traffic accident and was plainly troubled by this, plus he had been raped while in prison, and life was clearly difficult for him, even with his two dogs for company.
We were somewhat taken aback when the notice of hearing arrived in August because I had not seen appeal papers at that point, and neither had Lee. These are supposed to be supplied by the DWP and evidently the tribunal office had received theirs or the appeal would not have been listed. The tribunal clerk said that they could not supply me with a copy of their bundle and that I must ask the Department, which left me no choice but to request a postponement, with Lee’s agreement.
Five weeks later, we were notified of the new date, in October, so the pressure was still on. When Lee and I had been through the PIP test, my advice was that he should have had awards of the enhanced rate of both components of PIP. We had a very brief hand-written letter from Lee’s GP, which was helpful. Talking to Lee about people I might take witness statements from, he gave me the names of four women; I am not quite sure why this came as a slight surprise. I ended up taking statements from three of them, but it was a male friend who came with us to the hearing in October. Most of my clients are up and down England so that contact is by email, phone and post, but Lee lived about 40 minutes from the office. I needed paperwork from him and there was not a day to lose, so I went round on my way from work. It was a filthy night and this was new territory for me, so I was glad of the Google directions through the bike headset. Finding a flat in a complex can be enormous fun, but for once I went straight to the right door. Lee didn’t have a lot materially and didn’t look to be in great shape, but he seemed pleased to see me for the first time, and his dogs looked happy too.
We said in our written submission to the tribunal that there was a need for prompting with activities such as preparing food, taking his medication, washing, dressing, engaging socially and making budgeting decisions and there was support for this from the witnesses and a 2018 ESA assessment report. The tribunal understood this and we went from zero points to 13 for the daily living component. They understood about his anxiety too but it was clear to me during the closing stages of the hearing that they were only persuaded that he needed someone with him on unfamiliar journeys. This would have given Lee 10 points for mobility, so standard rate, but we wanted the enhanced rate, so we needed the tribunal to accept that there was also a need for that person when going to familiar places too.
Thank goodness for ESA
The tribunal had not mentioned the brief ESA assessment report that we had sent in, which explained how he had qualified for the ESA support group. My last question to Lee during the hearing concerned what the nurse had written in her last paragraph about him being distracted by the voices and his thoughts, that he tried to concentrate but couldn’t. She went on to say that he cannot concentrate on anything and that it takes time to dismiss the thoughts and ignore the voices. This was written in April 2018, whereas the PIP tribunal had to look at how things were around the time of the decision in February 2019. I asked Lee to compare how these symptoms were affecting him during these two periods and how that distraction impacted on him crossing roads, even in familiar areas. Lee explained about the near misses, cars having to break and sound their horns, as well as being hit by a bus when he had tried to cross in the face of traffic. You could see that Lee’s point had hit home with the tribunal.
He got a five-year award of the enhanced rate of both components. Lee had felt bad about not being able to pay anything towards my costs as the work went along, and insisted on paying more than I had asked for. His arrears dated back to October 2018 and were quite substantial, partly because they eventually included severe disability and enhanced disability premiums on his ESA, also backdated to 2018. His weekly income went from £111 to £343. He planned to have fitted carpet in his living room. I never did find out why there was an extra 3p on the end of his transfer amount.