PIP assessment points
Personal independence payment is a points-based disability benefit. By ‘points-based’ we mean that you will need to score a certain number of points to get an award. So how do you score points, and how many do you need? Good questions; we see some daft headlines on news and other websites that say that there is money waiting for you if you have this or that medical condition. That is not how it works though. PIP entitlement is based on how you are affected by your disability or medical conditions. There is an exception to this statement, which is covered at the end of this article.
No two people are affected in quite the same way by a medical condition, which is why the claim process tries to focus on how you are affected. The assessment is not an overall, or a subjective, assessment of whether things are difficult for you, whether you have help from family or friends, and it is not based on someone’s opinion of whether you are deserving or not. It is not based on financial need, so household income and savings are not asked about. You can be working full-time and/or have recently won the lottery, or equally, you can be in dire need of help – all are assessed by the same criteria.
What are these criteria?
The claim and assessment process looks at 10 activities that you would carry out at home, ‘daily living activities’, and 2 aspects of mobility, so something done outside the home. The 10 daily living activities are:
- Preparing food
- Taking nutrition, whether by tube or more usually, issues around eating and drinking.
- Taking medication, which includes how home therapy is managed, and aspects of monitoring a health condition.
- Washing and bathing, which is about bathing or showering.
- Managing toilet needs or incontinence.
- Dressing and undressing
- Communicating verbally
- Reading and understanding what you have read.
- Engaging with other people, face-to-face.
- Making budgeting decisions.
It is a similar story for the two Mobility activities, Planning and following journeys and Moving around. Broadly, the first is for those with difficulties caused by loss of vision, someone with relevant mental health difficulties; or, who needs to have someone with them as they follow the route of a journey, whether because of seizures, severe anxiety, or an inability to get around safely on their own. The last activity, Moving around, concerns the physical side of walking and it looks at the distance that you can walk on most days. You will be asked about walking aids that you use. It is another complex area, since the pain that you experience while walking is relevant, as are the stops you have to make, how often you can do that walking and the speed at which you walk.
Under each of these headings, there are between 4 and 7 statements, or ‘descriptors’. The assessor and DWP decision maker will choose one of these descriptors for each of the 12 activities, and for every claimant. At one end of the spectrum is a descriptor that says that you can manage the activity, while at the other is a descriptor that says that you cannot do it at all. The ones in between describe various degrees of inability.
Why do I need to know all this?
Looking at the descriptors for Preparing food should help to answer this. Knowing why and how you should score points under one of the headings will help ensure that you include what is relevant to your claim and to avoid including material that cannot affect or support your claim.
- Can prepare and cook a simple meal unaided. 0 points
- Needs to use an aid or appliance to be able to either prepare or cook a simple meal. 2
- Cannot cook a simple meal using a conventional cooker, but is able to do so using a microwave. 2
- Needs prompting to be able to either prepare or cook a simple meal. 2
- Needs supervision or assistance to either prepare or cook a simple meal. 4
- Cannot prepare and cook food. 8
If more than one of the above descriptors applies to you, then the higher score applies. There are websites and sections of specialist books which help by explaining how to interpret the words and phrases included in the descriptors. Words such as ‘supervision’, ‘assistance’ and ‘simple meal’ are defined in the PIP Regulations (an online search will take you to Part 1 of the 2013 Regulations on the gov.uk website. Many other concepts are defined and explained by decisions of the Upper Tribunal, whose decisions are binding on the local tribunals that would hear your appeal, and on DWP decision makers – this means that they cannot choose to do their own thing, they are ‘bound’ to interpret the law as laid down by the Upper Tribunal. These include important decisions such as how to assess ‘risk’, an example would be how a claim should be assessed for someone who could have a seizure while cooking, even though this is unlikely to happen. Can descriptor c) apply if you do not have a microwave? The answer is NO, which comes from the Upper Tribunal. You will see from Preparing food that it is not only physical limitations that can score points, but also mental health and cognitive/thinking difficulties as well.
OK, I see the importance of understanding the test, but it feels overwhelming
Looking in detail at even this one activity of Preparing food is beyond the scope of this article, so get help. The best option is to work on your claim with someone who knows the test and what everything means. You live with how your disability or medical conditions affect you, and you have almost certainly made adjustments to reduce the impact. Perhaps you have to sit down peel and chop vegetables, or you buy ready-prepared vegetables because you can no longer do that peeling and chopping. You might have been using aids or appliances to compensate for your reduced grip or strength. Perhaps you gave up on cooking because it became too dangerous. Does someone do all this for you now, or do you get by on ‘junk food’, crisps, sandwiches and chocolate? The point is that an experienced person will ask you questions under all these headings that you might not ask yourself, because your adjustments have become normal everyday life for you.
Where else can I get help?
The help could be someone in a local or national advice agency. There are really good people in such agencies, and there are people who should not be doing the work. There is a lot at stake with your claim, so it is reasonable to ask politely about their experience and/or training. Consider asking if they have done PIP tribunal appeals and whether you will receive a copy of the form content. Will they provide written advice on where you should score points, and what award you ought to receive? You can draw your own conclusions if they seem defensive. Similarly, if they will not be able to tell you what the result of your claim should be, once the form is filled in, how are you supposed to know if the DWP made the right decision? It would be a mistake to think that the Department and the assessors they sub-contract to are the specialist and will always get it right. As with anything, they include skilled and experienced professionals, as well as those who should not be doing the work. Which will you get?
We offer a national service but we charge for our work, and even though we accept payment of our fee by instalments, we recognise that our service will not be for everyone. You may want to, or need to, use a local service; we hope that you will be better equipped to assess these services. An alternative is to use help sheets that can be found online. These suggest questions that you should ask yourself. This option will work for some, but not for all. Certainly, any help is better than going it alone, for almost everyone.
You did not tell me how many points I need
True; a score of between 0 and 7 points, for daily living or mobility, will mean no award is made. Between 8 and 11 points will give you the ‘standard rate of that component (daily living or mobility), while 12 or more points will give you the enhanced rate.
When is PIP not points-based?
We said that there was an exception, which is that you will be passported to an award of enhanced rate of the daily living component if you are not expected to live for more than six months, and your consultant has signed a form DS1500 to confirm this. If you also have a claim for the mobility component of PIP, this is processed in the normal way, it is not passported.
You will find helpful information elsewhere on our website, as we hope that this article will have been helpful.